Monday, July 2, 2018

Good Men

Whenever we go to the beach Jay is my zink-face MaGhee because he started wearing toxin-free sunscreen for me, and why is natural sunscreen so zinky?! He also cooks us recipes from Against All Grain, because I married a good cook, HALLELUJAH. If he talks in his sleep, it’s to tell me how much he loves me. The other day, a man spoke to me disrespectfully, like I was lesser than he was, and Jay walked up to him and kindly asked him not to talk to me like that, because my Best Guy is a strong defender of anyone who is pushed into the margins.





Single gals, there are still good men out there. On dating apps, even (We met on Bumble, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!). These are men whose deep love for God spills into an abiding love for their gals, whose character is built of strong stuff like integrity, discipline, humility, and faithfulness. These guys are playful, funny, smart, and hard-working, and they look at their gals and think, “She is exactly what I’ve always wanted.” With these guys, it won’t matter if you’re physically limited, insecure, or riddled with weaknesses (e.g., ALL OF US), they will love you just the way you are.

It will be hard if you enter into a lifelong marital covenant with a guy like this, because covenants are hard. Covenant holds a glaring light up to our wounds and weaknesses, and in a covenant there’s no running and hiding. But a good guy will press into the hard stuff of intimacy and growth, his heart faithful to Jesus and tender to you. When I entered my 30s single, I wondered if my standards were too high, like maybe I was unreasonable to hold out for a really good guy. But now I know, ladies: you don't need to settle for anything but a good man.


Photo Credit: Rachel Dale Photography


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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Brave


"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves." -Cheryl Strayed

If we want to be brave, we must observe the false stories we tell ourselves, and then replace them with the truest, most beautiful stories of all.

Last night, I sat down and identified some of the fear-fueling stories I often believe:

"You are not enough."

"She has so much more to offer."

"This tough circumstance will never change."

"I cannot handle any more of this hardship."

And then I wrote out the truest story I know:

The God who sculpted the mountains and breathed the stars across the sky delights in me, has called me by name, and now I am His child. Because I am His, I am worthy; I can do anything He asks me to do; and the future is as bright as His promises:

"I will never leave you or turn my back on you."

"I will fight for you."

"When you are at your weakest, I will make you strong."

"I am turning every bad thing into a blessing."

"I will give you the very best gifts."

"My heart for you will never, ever change: you will always be my beloved."

When Christ transplants us from darkness and isolation into His Story of hope and belonging, we have every reason in the world to be brave, and every assurance that he will use our bravery to change the world.




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Being

Aria, my one-year-old niece, is a gathering point for my big family. We love to sit in a circle on the floor and watch her do WONDROUS, MIRACULOUS, ADORABLE things. You guys, she DANCES. And she walks ALL BY HERSELF. She coos and mimics our silly baby talk, and when we smile, she smiles back with eyes full of sunshine, and sometimes she waves hello, and HOW IS SHE SO BRILLIANT?!


I have seen hundreds of babies crawl, coo, and smile in my lifetime, but Aria is especially special, because she is ours.

Often, when we are sitting and watching her, I imagine God is doing the same thing with me. "Just look!" God says, as He leans in close. "SHE IS BREATHING! With her HEART BEATING! And sitting there being WONDROUS!"

In that moment, it does not matter that my body is not ready to exercise my gifts in a full-time job, or serve weekly in my local church, or finish all the projects I've been dreaming about.

The world tells me I am valuable when I DO DO DO DO, but God delights in my BEING because He sees me the way my family sees Aria: I am especially special to Him because I am His. The first and best thing I can do with my life is learn to rest in His love without feeling the need to prop myself up with my doing. I can just be, in His presence.






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Thursday, June 28, 2018

But Then God

 Loss can feel like the push that sends us falling off the side of a cliff, failing and disoriented. But there are three little words that form a ledge, jutting from the side of the cliff and catching us before we fall into the gut of a ravine:

“But then God.”

These three words are all throughout the Bible:

The small nation of Israel was surrounded by enemies, vulnerable and afraid, but then God raised up judges — leaders to protect and guide the nation to safety and prosperity (Judges 2).

We were lost in the dark, alone and afraid, having run away from God, but then God came to us to show us that Jesus is the way back to Him. (Hebrews 7).

We were in a bad way, but then God made it good.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially lost and low, I look back on my life and gather up all the "But then God" moments.

I was too weak to cook food, but then God sent someone to my door with a hot meal.

I was alone, but then God sent a friend.

I was sick, but then God began to heal me.



Sometimes, though, "But then God" looks different than I think it will.

Jonah’s story exemplifies this:

Jonah was angry with God for giving the horrible people of the city of Nineveh a second chance, so he settled under a lush tree to sulk in the shade, but then God sent a worm to gobble up the shady leaves, and Jonah got angry at the tree. God used Jonah’s response to the barren tree as an object lesson: “Why is it okay for you to grow angry with this tree but it’s not okay for me to grow tender toward the people of Nineveh?” (Jonah 4)

God took Jonah’s shade to give him a deeper understanding of His love. It was a good exchange, but a painful one.

I think the painful "But then God" moments are the most world-changing:

"I was healthy and active, but then God used pervasive sickness to teach me his steady, tender love."

"I was happy but then God used deep depression to cultivate in me a deep compassion for others."

Your loss is not the end of the story. There is a "But then God" around the bend. It may look and feel different than you think it will, but it will always give you more than you could have hoped or imagined. We can rest in this.




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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Giveaway Announcement!!

GIVEAWAY ANNOUNCEMENT! A few weeks ago I told Jay I wished I could send all of you sunshiny care packages, because care packages nourish the soul in such a special way and we are all fighting hard battles — both the health warriors and the other kinds of warriors (we are all HOPE warriors, aren’t we?!) “If only I could be an encouragement fairy,” I told Jay. And then I realized: I CAN be an encouragement fairy! (I almost had Jay take a photo of me wearing fairy wings with an aluminum foil fairy wand for this post, you guys). So I dragged him to Anthropologie on the hunt for goodies you might like.


So this week I’m making my Encouragement Fairy debut over on Instagram. For giveaway details, find me on Instagram @SarahJacksonPanther and then find this ⬆️ photo on my profile.

The giveaway closes Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at midnight, PST.

Seeeee you over there!

-Sarah



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Friday, June 22, 2018

A very special anniversary

Yesterday marked my two-year anniversary of starting The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS).

When I started the program, my body was so riddled with infection and so reactive to treatments and foods that I wondered if I would live very long. After years of exhaustive efforts to heal, I had almost given up hope of healing. Almost.

But then I learned that many people with chronic invisible illness have injured limbic systems that impede their ability to heal, and I embarked on a journey of healing my brain. You can watch my YouTube series about my journey with DNRS HERE.

When I started DNRS, every moment of every day was a neurological firestorm, I could eat just five foods, and I was almost always sitting or lying down. Every now and then could force myself to go on a short walk, from which I spent days recovering.

This week, I've gone running twice; gone to yoga twice; eaten pizza, ice cream, and Mexican food; explored beaches and beach towns on foot; and danced to live music in the park with my husband.

Exploring the butterfly garden in downtown San Juan Capistrano

Dancin'

And you guys. I HAVE A HUSBAND. I'd given up home of being married because of my health challenges, but we met several months into my brain rehabilitation program, and he wanted to be with me no matter what, and so one year and one day ago, he bent a knee and put a ring on it. We realized later he'd proposed on my one-year anniversary of beginning DNRS. Yesterday really is the BEST DAY OF LIFE.


To celebrate the healing victories God has so graciously granted, we had a magical unicorn rainbow party because OBVIOUSLY.


Jay and I have been having so much summer fun this week that we haven't paid attention to the dates, so it wasn't until his mom reminded us what day it was that we realized we needed to do something special.

Thankfully, I have a DNRS celebration box packed with goodies to celebrate DNRS victories and anniversaries:



(Yes, that is a miniature poop piñata in my celebration box. If you have suffered from chronic invisible illness, then you know, THERE IS NO AREA OF HEALING OFF LIMITS FROM CELEBRATING.😂)

I got most of my celebration goodies from the dollar store, including the ingredients for our magical unicorn rainbow party:


I love that I get to do this healing journey with Jay

If we had been planners extraordinaire, we would have made a special dinner with an indulgent dessert, but we need to go to the grocery store, so we scrounged up vegetables and brats, which was still a win, because when I started DNRS the only vegetable my body tolerated was squash, and brats were a far-off dreamy dream.

Also, I ate half a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels yesterday afternoon, so the indulgent dessert part was pretty much taken care of.

You guys, I could have never imagined the joy my future would hold. There's still healing work to do, but the hope of more joy makes me eager to dig in.

If you, or someone you love, suffers from chronic invisible illness, I cannot recommend this brain rehabilitation program enough. It’s self-directed, after a week of brain boot camp (available on DVD for those who are too sick to attend, like I was), and it has healed, or greatly improved, people with POTS, lyme, fibromyalgia, CIRS, PTSD, ME, MCS and so much more. It’s called the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), and you can investigate it at RetrainingTheBrain.com. (I don’t work for DNRS or partner with them financially; I just want all my Health Warriors to know about this life-changing program.)

Thank you, Jesus, for 2-year anniversaries!


....
You can read about how Jay and I met HERE.
You can read about our wedding HERE


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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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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My Body, My Friend

Six months into my journey with chronic invisible illness, I started referring to my body as a “she”:

“She’s especially bossy today.”

“She won’t cooperate.”

“She’s got a mind of her own.”

The body that carried me through 10 years of competitive running and three graduate programs developed a mind of her own, making it difficult to shower, wash dishes, or even eat (because, it turns out, eating requires sitting up).

It did not take long before she started feeling like the Enemy.

I did not mean to treat her badly, but my heart’s anger toward her seeped into my thoughts, and I often found myself pushing her to do more than she could and then berating her for her limitations.

I started treating her like the Enemy.

When I first got sick, I held onto hope that I would heal. I was young and the first two doctors I saw assured me “it would pass.”

But as one year morphed into two, and then two into four, my hope of healing shriveled, like the forgotten geranium that sat on my college apartment balcony, brittle and brown, with drooping, spindly arms.

The challenges of chronic illness — the isolation, punctured hope, relentless suffering, and loss of friendships, work, and adventure — plunge the sufferer into inky, cold darkness that settles, like lead, in every crevice of life.

Here is the thing about life in the dark:

It is impossible to survive it without a friend.

I have had several friends sit with me in the darkness, their presence one of my greatest comforts; but my friends are warriors with their own battles to fight, and sometimes — lots of times — I found myself alone in the dark, my Enemy-body my only earthly companion.

And I knew that somehow, I needed to change my belief that my body was the Enemy. Somehow, I needed to make her my friend.

So I began to notice the ways she served me well.

I noticed how my taste buds uncorked the zip of fresh cherries and the woody warmth of apple cider.

I noticed how my olfactory glands opened me to the sensuous grace of spring — to jasmine, plumeria, and roses streaked with sunset hues.



I noticed how my brain generated imaginative thoughts that spilled into stories, and my deft fingers plucked fragrant summer basil from my garden.

I noticed how my vocal cords enabled the magic of conversation; my skin absorbed the glorious warmth of sunshine; my arms returned the embrace of a loved one; and my ears opened me to the melodies of Mozart, Beyoncé, and the songbird outside my window.

For months I observed my body, gathering data like fireflies in a mason jar, and as the light intensified, I watched my affection for my body grow.

It grew and grew, until it seeped into my thoughts, and I began caring for her with tenderness and speaking to her kindly. When she was especially weary, I was more keen to accommodate her, with gratitude for all she had already done for me; and when, in the midst of activity, I was overcome by incapacitating symptoms, I found myself speaking words of encouragement aloud:

“I know, Body, you have served me so well today and are tired. Thank you for all you’ve done.” 

As I settled into the comfort of friendship with my body, I found my love for her didn’t swallow my grief over my physical limitations.

Grief ebbed and flowed like the tide, but my body and I began to grieve together. Tears, deep breathing, poetry-writing: these steps on the journey of grief were all made possible by my body.

Author Anne Lamott writes about the time her friend, Sue, told her she was dying of cancer and described the effects of the illness on her person.

“I have what everyone wants,” [Sue] said. “But no one would be willing to pay.”

“What do you have?” 

“…I got forced into loving myself.”

Illness is unspeakably difficult, but it gives us an unexpected, breath-taking blessing.

It teaches us that the nightmare can become the gift: our Limitations can be guides that grab us by the hand and usher us into the breath-taking joy of being human, bodies and all. 




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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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