Sunday, June 17, 2018

Delight

My senior year of high school, a newspaper reporter called our house to interview my dad about my track season. When he asked my dad what it would mean to him if I won the state track meet in my two hurdling events, my dad said, “We delight in Sarah whether she wins or not.”


I have always known my dad’s delight in me. I knew it when I was five-years-old and he laughed uproariously at my childish jokes. I knew it when I was in sixth grade and he prayed with me before every track meet. I knew it when he drove me 15 hours to my college in California, the sunroof open to the starry sky above us. I knew it when I told him I had been accepted into my dream graduate program in philosophy and his “That is absolutely wonderful!” skipped across the room with joy. And I knew it when I got sick and was no longer able to run fast, or pursue degrees, or even carry a full-time job, and his eyes still lit up when he saw me.

When I was empty, weak, and unimpressive, with little to offer the world, my dad delighted in me. His delight helps me understand the heart of Father God, who rejoices in us when we have nothing to give Him but our tender, broken hearts.

Thank you, Dad, for using your life to point me to the heart of God.

I love you.

Happy Father's Day, Daddio!




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© by scj

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Livestream Q&A Announcement

It's here! It's here! (Well, almost). I'm hosting my very first livestream Q&A session on Thursday June 14th over on Instagram. Details about the livestream are on yesterday's Instagram post.



You can follow me on Instagram @SarahJacksonPanther

This is for all of you who have questions about my health journey — DNRS, other treatments I've tried, medications, doctors etc.

If you know anyone who may be interested in DNRS or other facets of the healing journey, would you tag them below?!

I'm excited to see you Thursday, June 14th!

Cheering for you, Home Skillets,

Sarah


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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Goodness and Mercy


Today is a big day for me. On this day two years ago, I had been sick for six years, and my body had begun rejecting all treatments. I was miserable, hopeless, and desperate to find a doctor who could help. With the help of a friend, I scheduled an appointment with a new specialist for this day, June 6th.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I felt God’s still small voice say, “You're fighting so frantically to get healthy that you’re not giving Me a chance to help you. Rest, and let Me fight for you.”

I considered the voice before deciding to proceed with the appointment, determined to do whatever it took to find relief.

And then, my friend and ride to the out-of-town appointment fell ill with the stomach flu, and I knew God had used the stomach bug to keep me from going to the specialist because he had something else in mind for me.

That day, I was struck by Psalm 23:6: "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”

I have always had a tendency to chase goodness and mercy — to strive, to reach, to clench my fist around anything that seems excellent and desirable.

But for the follower of Jesus, goodness and mercy are our shadows, present wherever the Son is.

I knew God was asking me to stop chasing the goodness of health so I could discover the joy of watching goodness and mercy pursue me, and I cancelled all my doctors appointments.

Two weeks later, God led me to DNRS.

Not quite two years later, I’ve done 18 months of DNRS training and have seen glorious healing.


As I heal, I continue to be tempted to rush after anything that might accelerate my healing, and I have to think back to this day, two years ago, and remember to rest in the knowledge that God's goodness and mercy are always chasing me.

For me, this means asking God what He is doing in my life, waiting for His answer, and then joining Him in His work.

It often looks different than I think, but working with Him, according to His good purposes, always brings deep, wondrous joy.

Today, I'm thankful for a God who is advocate, Father, and friend, the source of all goodness, mercy, rest, and joy.



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© by scj

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: The Church

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses. 

My healthy, church-going friends: this post is especially for you, and I think it’s the most important.

I have talked with hundreds of Health Warriors over the years, and most of them have reported the same thing:

The church is not rallying around Warriors with chronic invisible illness the way they are for others with more familiar, visible challenges. 

I have talked with hundreds of Health Warriors over the years, and they have almost all fought their health battles without ongoing church support.

Recently, I took an informal poll on my Instagram to see how often my followers' churches organized meal-giving for them during their illness, and 83% of participants did not receive a single meal during their years-long battles with chronic invisible illness.

Here is the reality: if the Church is not helping these Warriors, it is likely that very few others are; and if others aren't helping them get food, they will not eat. They are just too sick. In fact, if you were to investigate some of their conditions, you would discover official medical research comparing their physical incapacitation to cancer and AIDS.

But eating is not the only thing Health Warriors need help with. They have to research and select good doctors; visit doctors, sometimes five times a week; sift through relevant medical research; and talk on the phone with insurance companies to sort out bills. They need prayer, cleaned houses, regular encouragement, and big sums of money to pay for relentless medical bills.

I love the Church so very much — it has been the single most life-giving community I have known — so I know the Church wants to help our invisible Health Warriors, but I think a few things are interfering:

1) Because Health Warriors with chronic invisible illness are confined to their homes almost around the clock, they are invisible to the church, and thus the church forgets about them, or does not know about them to begin with. Furthermore, Health Warriors are often reticent to make their needs visible because of the rejection they've experienced in the past upon asking for help and the shame their limitation evokes.

2) If the church does know about their Health Warriors, they do not understand the scope of need and the lack of support, and therefore do not step into a supporting role.

I think there are many other contributing factors related to church culture, priorities etc., but I won't explore those here. Instead, I want to suggest a few ways you might advocate on behalf of Health Warriors with CII in your church family.

1) Give them visibility by telling the elders and deacons about them and their needs.

2) Assemble a team of people who can rally around your Health Warriors. Because Health Warriors have so many needs over a long period of time (years, usually), it's important to create a team big enough to make the service project sustainable.

3) Start an official ministry to Health Warriors that delivers meals, cleans houses, raises money for medical bills, prays, and sends notes of encouragement.

4) Start a Go-Fund-Me for a friend's medical bills and be intentional about promoting it. Or, start a Facebook group inviting people to donate for a Health Warrior's medical bills. I did this awhile back for a friend who needed an iron transfusion, and the response was wonderful — more immediate than a GoFundMe. Best of all, it gave her needs visibility, and her church stepped up and paid for her next iron transfusion.

5) Talk to your Health Warriors and ask them how you can help. When they share their needs, follow through. They will struggle to ask you again if you do not follow through, since your lack of help feels like rejection, and they struggle to carry the burden of rejection on top of everything else they are carrying.


If you belong to a church, would you pray about how you and your church body might bring visibility and support to the people with chronic invisible illness in your church body? For your reference, here is a list of chronic invisible illnesses to look for:
  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • Lyme Disease
  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) (this is also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but ME is a preferable title since Chronic Fatigue is so wildly misleading)
  • Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
  • Ulcerative Colitis
This is list is not even close to comprehensive, so if you have something to add to it, please put it in the comments below!


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© by scj

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Grace for Monday Mornings

I'm doin' a new thing, friends, and I am just so excited about it! It's called "Grace for Monday Mornings." Here's the deal, on Monday mornings I will write all my email friends a short story or reflection that I hope will encourage you, and fill you, and sometimes make you laugh.


If we aren't email friends yet, you can sign up by going to my Contact Page and subscribing (toward the bottom of the page).

Or, if you are on a laptop, you can subscribe in the margin to the right of this post where it says, "Let's be Email Friends!".

I promise I won't send you any spam or give your email away — no way José!

Our first Grace for Mondays is this Monday. I hope to see you over there!

In Christ,

Sarah

© by scj

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Doctors

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illnesses. Today, I want to address the pervasive fallacy that a doctor's inability to diagnose or effectively treat an illness is an indication that the illness is not real.

Because we live in a world of advanced medicine, it can be easy to assume doctors have all the answers to our medical quandaries. And yet, just a few decades ago scientists referred to the immune system as "the black box" because there was so little known about it.

Think back to the year the Health Warrior you know got sick, and then google "medical advances in [enter the few years after they got sick]" and you'll find a profusion of breathtaking medical discoveries from that time period. Then search for medical discoveries in the few years after that period, and, if you can, search for medical discoveries in the few years after that. The point? Medical practices are always changing with new discoveries, and there is still an extraordinary amount we need to discover about the human body and our environment before we can assign infallibility to our doctors. 

For example, it's only been in the last several years that scientists have effectively dismantled previous theories of the brain having fixed hardware. They are still exploring the implications of newly-discovered neuroplasticity for healing chronic disease.

Other relevant gaps in medical research include confusion about the nature of the link between the Epstein Barr virus and a constellation of diseases; uncertainty about why 40% of patients infected with bacteria causing Lyme disease do not recover after the standard round of antibiotics; and the need for a cure for something as commonplace as a virus.

The medical community is a tremendous resource, without which I would not have seen incredible improvement in my health. Moreover, some of the best cheerleaders on my long journey of diagnosing and treating my illness were doctors. And yet, it is helpful when a Health Warrior's community acknowledges that the mysterious, idiosyncratic complexities of the body, when paired with the large gaps in medical research, make it entirely possible, perhaps even plausible, that your Health Warriors' undiagnosed challenges stem from real illness, despite a doctor's inability to diagnose or effectively treat.


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© by scj

Monday, May 21, 2018

An Opportunity for You

My Friends,

Boy do I have a guh-reat opportunity for you.

My sister, Rebecca, is getting a graduate degree in counseling and is conducting a study on romantic heartbreak and the change in outlook that so many experience after heartbreak. 

She needs participants to interview for her study, which is where you come in. If you have experienced romantic heartbreak and a subsequent change in outlook on life, she would love to interview you about your experiences. If you are open to participating in a confidential interview, you can email her at Jacksonrebec [at] gmail [dot] com

There are two very good reasons to participate in this study:

1) You will get to talk to my brilliant, funny sister. 

2) You will contribute to important research that will change people's lives. 

Here's my sister in a short video about the study:





*Update: So many of you reached out to my sister, that she now has enough participants for the current phase of her study! If you are interested in participating but haven't yet contacted her, she will need participants for the second phase of her study, so she would chat with you about when that might be and what it would look like. Thank you so much for all your help! Thanks for considering this, friends o' mine!

Happy Monday,

Sarah



© by scj

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Exaggerating

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that they exaggerate their challenges. 

When I first met my husband he asked me what it was like to be in my body. Despite the fact that my symptoms were much improved, I still struggled to describe my experience of being embodied.

There is nothing from my life before illness that I could use as a point of reference to help him understand what it feels like to have neurological, immune, digestive, and endocrine dysfunction. And I'm a words person. I taught college writing for seven years, and I love trying to put words to something especially hard to describe. I have found it impossible, however, to do anything other than minimize my experience of illness. My best guess is the Health Warriors you know are in the same boat.

I want to try to help you understand, though, because Health Warriors yearn for the understanding of loved ones. Here is a sneak peek into what it's like to be them (a heads up to my DNRS friends, I list a few symptoms below):

The suffering of the chronic illness Health Warrior is holistic — they are suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Because chronic illness, and all its accompanying challenges, has wounded every part of their person, there is no facet of their existence that they can crawl into to escape their suffering.

In all likelihood, the Warrior with chronic invisible illness is depressed and suffers from severe PTSD.  It is difficult to describe what it's like to live with PTSD, but one way to think of it is to remember how your body felt when you woke up from your very worst nightmare (remember the trembling, the coursing adrenaline, the profuse sweat, the racing heart, the terror, the awful thoughts that were both frozen and racing?), and then imagine what it would be like if your body felt like that all the time, plus the relentless pain, vertigo, nausea, weakness (etc.) caused by systemic illness.

Additionally, the Health Warrior is probably in debt; cannot work or is suffering through a part-time job; cannot date, if she's single; cannot invest in her marriage, kids, and other relationships the way she wants. She has lost friendships because of the toll her suffering takes on those closest to her; she has lost her sense of dignity as she wastes away in bed; and she fights shame because of her limitations and the disappointment and doubt of others. She often feels as if she has been abandoned by God; and in all likelihood, her church is not supporting her the way she needs (more on this next week). Moreover, she cannot do anything to ease her suffering, like exercise, eat good food, go out with friends, watch a movie (lots of people with chronic illness can't process sound very well), talk on the phone, or distract herself with work.

There are a few earthly things that mitigate her suffering, though: your understanding, your compassion, your support, and your belief in her — in both her testimony of her challenges and her ability to persevere. 


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© by scj

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Appearances

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that if they don't seem sick, they probably aren't.

Don't let the way Health Warriors look and act fool you; they have become experts at masking their suffering.

It is essential that people with chronic invisible illness occasionally have social interaction, because without time up among the living, it is hard to go on living. In order to make a couple hours of social interaction possible every now and then, the Health Warrior must rest for days, or weeks, before and after the event.

In order to avoid creating a spectacle at the event, the Health Warrior must pretend to feel much better than she does; if she were to act the way she feels, she would punctuate party conversation with weeping and whimpering in the fetal position. She probably doesn't want to unmask her suffering for a few reasons: 1) People have accused her of pretending to be sick to get attention; 2) In the past, when she has let others see her suffering, they have responded to her with indifference, skepticism, or painful platitudes (e.g., "Just think positive thoughts to make it go away"); 3) She feels embarrassed or ashamed of her challenges.

So she pushes ahead, acting with great skill and looking pretty good (one of the features of chronic invisible illness is just how outwardly 'invisible' it is). However, she often suffers a lot of backlash for any social outing. Since others can't see her physical suffering or the grit and rest required to leave the house, it is easy for them to assume that she isn't as sick as she says she is. But she needs people to believe her. She needs them to grieve with her, advocate for her, and pray for her. Her community is integral to her physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental healing.



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© by scj

Monday, May 7, 2018

Changes

My dear friends,

Two-thirds of kids in the U.S. foster care system will die, become homeless, or go to jail within two years of aging out of the foster system. There are currently over 400,000 kids in our system. My husband's nonprofit, Impacting Hearts, is a mentorship program that creates communities in which Orange County foster kids experience stability, love, and a sense of belonging.

Together, Jay and his volunteer leaders have learned that when a foster child discovers he is loved and valued by God, he becomes a new person. For the first time in his life, he begins working toward self-sustaining adulthood by taking full advantage of the educational, therapeutic, and vocational opportunities the state offers him. He tackles hard life-changes, like leaving the gang he is in, with persistence and hope. He invites the accountability of others as he works to overcome his addictions. He treats others with renewed dignity and kindness.

My husband Jay, our wonderful Impacting Hearts leader
This month is Foster Care Awareness Month. If you're wanting to support foster youth in some way this month, and if you're the praying sort, here is how you might help: pray for Impacting Hearts' kids and leaders for the month of May. Running a ministry requires a lot — recruiting and training volunteer leaders, fundraising, event-planning and more — but nothing has influenced our kiddos more than prayer, because nobody wants them to discover their belovedness and value more than God does.

If you want to learn more about Impacting Hearts, you can read my post HERE or visit their website HERE.

Thank you to those of you who have supported this ministry over the last year!

I hope your week is off to a lovely start, my friends!

I'm cheering for you,

Sarah


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© by scj

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Aria and Ayva

Jay and I recently took a trip to Portland and got to spend time with our adorable, brilliant, advanced-beyond-her-months niece, Aria.


Aria loves Jay.


She loves Roo.


She loves empty, plastic Easter eggs (just wait until you are older, Aria, when Easter eggs are FILLED WITH CANDY).


She loves petting the fuzzy fox in her book.




She loves walking, with the help of any willing human or truck.


She loves foraging for interesting objects about the house.


And glory of glories, she loves me (does it get any better than this?!!)!


And now, she has the sweetest little cousin to love: Ayva Lee Jackson, born to my littlest brother and his wife on April 17, 2018.


I'll tell you what: auntie-hood is even better than I imagined.

Happy Saturday, friends.

-Sarah




© by scj

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: "It's All Mental"

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that much of, if not all of, their illness is in their heads.

My Health Warrior friends often lament the skepticism friends and family have about their illnesses. These skeptics think their sick loved ones are so mentally unstable that they have created, or believed, wild narratives about getting sick, or are so lazy they prefer lying in bed everyday to working.

This is puzzling, because before these Health Warriors got sick, they were not lazy and were not inclined to shirk their responsibilities; instead, they were industrious, independent, reasonable, and truthful. People trusted them. Even those who doubt their illness trusted them.

Here is a helpful test for discerning whether or not someone is lying about their health challenges:

Did they show signs of delusion before they got sick? Were they liars? Or were they honest, hard-working, reliable people? If the latter, then there is a good chance they are not lying about their illness. Trust them. They are the same trustworthy people they were before they got sick.

I also want to clarify misconceptions about the perceived the laziness of people with chronic invisible illness: they are likely fighting the hardest battle of their life, with more grit than they have ever before had to conjure up. It's just that now, unlike their days of health and working in a normal job, their work does not reap dividends; there is little to no evidence of it; it is thankless. And yet, they persevere. This, I think, is a powerful sign of a good work ethic: continuing to work hard without any hint at reward.

I'm cheering for you, Health Warriors! You are practicing some of life's best stuff: patience, perseverance, and hope. 


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© by scj