#MSWillNotDefeatMe


Over the last month, I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years (27 years for one)…. It should be a time for excitement as we reminisce about past adventures, unfortunately, it has been a struggle.  I’ve shared my diagnosis and the most devastating part is not being able to remember….

When they ask “What’s it like living with MS?” Uhm…there’s just not a simple answer.  To those who don’t see me every day, they don’t know the subtle changes taking place.  They figure all must be well since I am still walking.  I mean isn’t MS all about not being able to walk and constant pain?  The truth is there is so much more to it….

When I try to describe the occasional physical and daily mental difficulties I experience because of MS, it is often met with some interesting responses. They have stemmed from “eat healthier”, to “eat more potassium” for the spasms in my legs, to try those pills on TV to help with memory, to “take B12” for the exhaustion. When I explain, I do some of those things already but they simply don’t work, They look at me like I have 12 heads!   After all, it works for them so it should for me too.

Some people just don’t seem to understand that those of us living with MS aren’t like them. We have a damaged Central Nervous System and our immune system is in chaos causing our own body to attack us. Some of the damaged areas to our nerves have healed well over time but some haven’t and new damage appears all the time.

The exhaustion I experience isn’t always because I didn’t sleep well the night before or because we aren’t eating nutritionally. It’s a debilitating symptom which isn’t always remedied with natural herbs and better sleep. Those things can help, but it’s not a “fix”. Catch me between 1PM – 3PM and you might find me falling asleep mid-sentence.

The loss of memory is something i will have to live with FOREVER!  Some things come back – you know those random things – but maybe only a snapshot instead of the whole movie.  LOL.  I’m learning to be honest about it and thankfully most people understand.

A trip to the mall is exhausting!  Some days just making my way across the parking lot of the grocery store presents a challenge.  When I am with my mom I always say, I wish I could walk as fast as she does at 82!

Through it all, I have learned to look this disease of MS square in the eyes and say, “I am not defeated because of you and regardless of what happens in life I am thankful for each new day I am given.”  A friend said to me recently, “God has a plan for you through all of this, just remain faithful”.  My recovery and working the steps has helped tremendously with this process.  I am turning things over and waiting for God to tell me what to do!

We will never understand all the why’s in life. Why MS? Why now? Why me?

No matter what the storm is you are going through; face it and be determined to be thankful as you go through it. Yes, it is possible to be thankful even in the most horrible of circumstances, but it’s a choice; and you have it within you to make the choice. You can stand up (even if only on the inside) and say, “I refuse to be defeated by MS (or whatever storm you are experiencing).”

Strength isn’t measured by the amount of things I can do or by how big my muscles are, it’s determined by the attitude I have while going through the difficult times in life. You are doing it. You are making it. Square your shoulders back and hold your head up high today because you are STRONG even though your body is weak!

This is MS Awareness Month and his has been my mantra lately.  I’ve had more days then I can count where the reality of MS has hit me. From struggling to walk with an ache in my legs, to brain fog which never seems to end to not be able to process thoughts, words or sentences.  God has placed loving people in my life who help me through the struggles.  It is his plan and even though some days I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…. I will hold onto my faith.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

How To Turn Challenges into Opportunities

I have been talking a lot lately about my struggles.  Of trying to decide if the glass is half empty or half full?  My vision has been blurred (and not just by the glaucoma) with the struggle to process thoughts, find my passion and to stay focused. Do you look at the world through rose-colored glasses? Some days I do.

We’ve all heard those sayings, right?  We may have actually felt the distinct difference between viewing life with a positive perspective and viewing it with a negative one.  Positive beliefs draw more positive things, right?

My struggles with emotions is real… some days I want to curl up in a ball and cry for no apparent reason.  Then there are days when I feel like the movie “50 Dates”, you know the one where she keeps reliving the same day and is always happy.  All of these challenges hold opportunity but the key is learning how to change the mindset.

When it comes to facing life’s challenges—because we all have them—we have the change to reframe them,  appreciating how struggles help us build strength and resilience. I could be a world-class weight lifter if that was the case.  LOL.  The key is to train our minds to view these challenges in a more positive light by first reflecting on our lives, identifying those tough times, and understanding how they shaped us and made us stronger.

As I reflect on the past challenges, those I can remember, I struggle with understanding them but I do see how they have made a huge impact on my life.  I can see how the negative mindset has led me on the path of relapse and had me looking at life as if I was a victim.  As I moved into recovery, I am slowly able to embrace the positive in all of life’s challenges and move forward.

In every challenge—and in the time which follows—we build strength and resilience. We don’t have the power to change the past, but we do have the power to find the positive within the past and use it to create a greater impact today.

Thank you for sticking with me during these challenges… my blog posts tend to ramble, my Thirty One business continues despite my bad days, and The Angel Connection is starting to grow.  I guess you are wondering where is the challenge, right?  For me, the challenge in finding my passion and deciding where I want to head in the future.  How am I moving forward?  I am reflecting on these key questions:

What are you learning? How are you growing?

I’m looking for the growth from each difficulty especially in my relapse and my MS diagnosis.  I’m trying to identify new knowledge I’ve gained, relationships I’ve built, or personal growth I’ve experienced. The truth is I’m moving forward despite these challenges, which means I’m strong and resilient, right? I need to open my eyes to the positive outcomes.  I know the lessons I have learned will help me to find my passion again and decide the direction for my business.

How does this challenge reinforce what you are grateful for in your life?

Practicing gratitude has been BIG during my recovery.  I have felt ungrateful for all of the problems which came from my relapse.  I felt resentful.  I needed to find gratitude for what it’s given me and what it’s shown me. As I  look at everything in my life—the big and little things—and learn to appreciate them, it is those things which will help me during the tough times.

What boundaries will you put in place in your life to avoid future challenges and allow yourself to grow?

With the lessons you learn and the strength you build, consider whether there are ways you can adjust your mindset or actions to prevent future challenges. Sometimes life events are out of your control, but other times, you can make changes to move you toward a life of growth, positivity, and purpose.  My MS may be out of my control but continuing in recovery is something I can work on daily.

Today’s post has been a ramble, a way for me to share not only my personal struggles but to try and reframe it to help someone else.  It you are struggling to discover your strength and resilience today, try these simple steps:

  • Use the above questions to look at a challenge from your past. How has this challenge made you stronger and more resilient?  Believe it or not, it has!
  • Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Focus on the positive in your life, no matter what the circumstances. Large or small, it doesn’t matter.

Now, think about one way you can live out your purpose today—and then do it! It could be as simple as a random act of kindness or buying someone a coffee.  Living with purpose requires strength and resilience. Tap into those and challenge yourself to grow further.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Brain Jumble

letters
The cloudy cold dreary weather causes people to struggle with changes in their mood, and pain in their joints.  For me, add to it how it wrecks havoc on my foggy brain.   There was a time when I think my body just needs some oiling (lots of supplements/vitamins), and could definitely need some repairing but on those cold and dreary days….…I think a new one is the only thing that will help!
At the age of 61, some would say it is normal to forget appointments, people’s names, a movie I already watched (maybe more than once) or even what was said a few minutes ago….. the reality is my brain as seen on my MRI scans is filled with holes scattered all over the place. Some are bigger than others but definitely more than just the few which come with aging.
I love this explanation from a fellow MS blogger “I imagine words bouncing around in my brain, sliding from hole to hole and hitting road blocks in hopes of finding a way of escape. It’s kind of like they are stuck in a perpetual reality game of Chutes and Ladders.”   It is so true.  Combine that mess with missing memories and some days I feel like the movie “50 First Dates”.  Yup, I had to look up the name because I couldn’t remember it.  If you haven’t seen it, it is about a girl who doesn’t remember so each day is a new day.  An average day for me includes not remembering things BUT there are those crazy radon thoughts which find their way through the maze of detours.  It is those crazy random thoughts on a good day which make some think, I’m okay!
What happens to the thoughts and memories which don’t find a place to call home?  Do they just keep rattling around forever?  It’s such a weird feeling to know the words or the things I’m trying to remember are there somewhere…. stuck so they can’t seem to connect with my tongue.  Therapists wanted to call it selective memory or that I am repressing bad things.  What about the good memories?
I know I frustrate people from time to time with my long pauses, lack of complex vocabulary and not remembering things.  I frustrate myself.  I used to be able to multi-task, juggling lots of things and remember clearly important events (as well as random nonsense) in my life.  Most memories of my childhood seemed to be missing after my addiction so I adjusted or at least I thought I had.  I always said I probably burnt out more brain cells than I thought during my many years of using drugs.  Then along came the MS.   Only recently have they determined loss of memory can be a key factor in the diagnosis of MS so were the gaps in memory addiction or MS.  Guess we will never know…
I struggle to remember things when talking to my old HS classmates. I struggle to remember growing up.  I struggle to remember the birth of my daughter.  I struggle to remember the work and people I met doing social work for 20 plus years.  I struggle to remember my wedding.  I struggle to remember my accomplishments even looking at pictures or plaques seem like someone else.  I struggle with my business to remember prints, products, fellow consultants and even customers/hostess who have been with me for my almost 8 years in business.
I struggle to remember time frames so it may have been weeks/months since I talked to you but to me, it may be less than a week.  Some days I can’t remember anything at all, then some days I remember bits and pieces.  When people tell me things I have said or done, it seems so foreign to me. Like it was a different person – a person I can’t identify with now.  The memories I do have take on a different picture than those of the people around me – some things have fallen into the potholes of my brain still trying to find a way out.
I’m thankful for the people who are patient with me.  I thankful for the ones who give me the space and time I need to piece things together even when I get things all mixed up.  I’m learning to say “ I’m collecting my thoughts” which is so true some days.  I’m learning to be honest and say “I don’t remember” of course the blank stare I give when people talk is often a clue.  I truly know what it’s like to sift through words, thoughts and ideas as I attempt to make sense of things.
But that’s my world now…a jumbled up 3-dimensional word search game. The bad thing about it is someone keeps switching the game board and jumbling up all the words. I feel like they see I have made progress with my puzzle and then come along mixing up all of the pieces.  Just when I think I have things solved, BAM…there’s a new arrangement of letters, pieces and words to sort through.
Today’s blog was a rambling jumble of thoughts as I come to terms with living life with MS.  There are days I try to act like it isn’t there – things are normal (whatever that may be).  There are days when I am unable to move because my muscles don’t know what to do.  There are days when I actually do remember, and can function as if the MS is only a blip on the radar.  Most days, I’m just trying to sift through a sea of letters and words in my brain searching for…what was it again? Pancakes? Trashcans? Envelopes?
Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

When You Feel You’re Not Enough


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message……

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

When I was six years old, I skipped off to school with a new box of crayons, a Swiss-polka-dotted dress, and fresh hope that I would be smart. But first grade only confirmed my greatest fear. I was “not enough.”

As soon as my first-grade teacher held up that initial spelling flashcard, I knew I was in trouble. We lined up our miniature wooden chairs in a row like a choo-choo train. The teacher held up a spelling flashcard for us to identify the word. If we missed the word, we had to go to the caboose. I spent most of the first grade in the caboose. I just couldn’t spell to save my life. For some reason, I especially had trouble with the word the.

I’ll help her, my teacher must have thought. She made me a nametag that read

t-h-e, and I had to wear it for two weeks. Students came up to me and asked, “Why are you wearing that tag?” “Is your name ‘The’?” “You must be stupid.” “What’s wrong with you?”

Well, I learned how to spell the word the, but that’s not all I learned. I learned I wasn’t as smart as everybody else, and once again, not enough. And even though I ended up doing well in school, many times I’ve still felt like that little girl in the caboose of the spelling train.

Moses was a man who felt he wasn’t good enough. When God spoke to him through a burning bush and called him to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage, he had a big case of the “not good enoughs.”

That’s when he had a one-sided argument with God. Moses told God he was the wrong man for the job. He wasn’t brave enough, strong enough, smart enough, eloquent enough, charismatic enough, or confident enough.

At one point, Moses said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:13-15).

Moses was 80 years old when he had his argument with God at the burning bush. But even the weakest knees in the hands of I AM can become a mighty force to be reckoned with.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that you too, at one time or another, will struggle with feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy just like Moses did. And the underlying statement feeding the sense of worthlessness is “I’m not __________ enough.” You can fill that blank in with any number of qualities.

But here’s what we need to remember: Whatever we feel we are not, God is. He is the God who fills in our gaps; He is I AM who fills in our blanks.

When we say, “I’m not strong enough,” God says, “I AM.”
When we say, “I’m not wise enough,” God says, “I AM.”
When we say, “I’m not bold enough,” God says, “I AM.”
When we say, “I’m not smart enough,” God says, “I AM.”
When we say, “I’m not good enough,” God says, “I AM.”

Once we let go of the lies that we are not enough and take hold of the truth that we are more than enough because of Jesus’s presence and power in us, then we will be set free from paralyzing insecurity and be on our way to experiencing courageous confidence to do everything He calls us to do. It’s time get out of the caboose and sit up front with the Chief Engineer.

You want to know something amazing? One of my greatest weakness as a child was spelling words. And now that is what God has called me to do today…write with words. I stand with Paul who lamented about his weakness: “But he [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

That’s what happens when we allow God to fill in our blanks. He turns what we perceive as our greatest weakness into our greatest strengths.

What is God calling you to do today? In what areas do you feel that you’re not enough? Oh friend, because of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross, and His power in you, you are more than enough! Don’t forget it.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

NOTE:  Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

The Surrendered Giver


Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message…..

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, NIV).

My husband is a surrendered giver. I struggle with giving. I tend to blame my reluctance to give on the fact that I grew up in a shack on the edge of town. My mother often worked two and three jobs a day just to put food on the table. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a middle-class family, lived in a very nice house in a beautiful neighborhood, and never had to worry about having his needs met. You can see where my rationalizations took me. Yep – to a place of sin.

God wants us to surrender everything we have to Him because the reality is that giving is the antidote to selfishness. I can choose to be selfish or selfless. But I need to live in a way that searches for opportunities to be generous. Over the years, Dan has taught me so much about what it means to be a surrendered giver.

We are to give as much as we are able to give. Two years ago, we downsized so that we would have more money to give away. We both drive older used cars. There is nothing wrong with buying a new car or a bigger house – unless it affects our ability to give.

The church in Macedonia saw giving as a privilege. We need to do the same.

We need to look for opportunities to give. Love gives. For God so loved the church that He … gave! A surrendered giver gives out of gratitude for what God has done in his life and is willing to stretch and develop a generosity reflex when presented with a need.

Jesus measures what we give by what we have left. Do you tithe the ten percent we are challenged to give? How would you respond if Jesus asked you to double your tithe? Whoa! That is a lot to ask – right?

We have a friend who attended a conference where the speaker challenged each attendee to double their tithes and see what God would do in their lives. Our friend accepted the challenge and has seen his business mushroom into a huge success. Today, he not only gives a double tithe, but he also gives to meet the needs of many in our community. He is also one of the most humble and unassuming people I have ever met.

Another friend has a great way to look for opportunities to give. He has two accounts. One for his living expenses and then there is his God account. He is a Day Trader. Each morning he gets up and says, “Where are we going to give today, Lord?” I know this attitude absolutely delights the Father who is the ultimate surrendered giver.

The reality is that if my checkbook does not reflect my faith, I have an immature faith. God does not need my money. He wants me to give so He can bless me!

How about you? What kind of giver are you?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!