Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday Matters: San Antonio and Brain Boot Camp

My friends!

Thank you for praying for my trips to San Antonio and Portland. I arrived in Portland last night after a wonderful stay with my brother.

Portland, you are glorious

I'd been so sick in the weeks preceding my trip to San Antonio that the effort it took to pack my bags made me shake with fatigue, and the night before flying, my arms cramped from the effort it took to wash my hair. Things were not looking hopeful!

But I flew to San Antonio on Thursday without horrific neurological symptoms, and my body was strong enough to navigate the crowded airport. My flights were unusually smooth (all of 'em), so my nervous system wasn't as stressed as it often is when flying. I had a connecting flight yesterday in Denver that I came close to missing (my body is so weak that missing connecting flights is a big deal), but I made it with eight minutes to spare. Yay for traveling that goes as planned!

My dear friend, Chris, used his frequent flier miles to get me my tickets to and from San Antonio, and he made sure I was in first class for all three legs of my trip. And you, guys, it was a game changer. I was able to skip the long lines at the airport, and my brain had fewer stimuli to process once on the plane since first class is so much roomier and quieter. I even had a seat without a row on my way to San Antonio (#introvertsdream)! I hadn't realized the degree to which the crowded, noisy movement in coach sent my limbic system into fight-or-flight, thus making it even harder for my brain to process the experience of turbulence.

Chris: thank you one million, zillion for taking care of me this weekend!

Chris and me. The top photo is from our track days at APU (we were teammates); and the bottom is from last fall

In my happy little lone seat on the plane, with my furry nephew, Copper, waiting for me in San Antonio!

Leg room!

Once in San Antonio, my body did pretty well. I did have some neurological symptoms flare up, but I was able to push through them and stay engaged the entire weekend. Marc and Jaime were most gracious hosts and gladly accommodated my need to spend most of the time resting on the couch. 


There are very few people with whom I would feel comfortable spending the weekend, given how sensitive and needy my body is right now, and Marc and Jaime are at the top of the list!

My little brother, Marc, has always had a special ability to make me laugh deep belly laughs, and since my body has been under so much stress the last several months, I haven't had a deep belly laugh in awhile. I relished all the laughs he provoked throughout the weekend!

I wasn't well enough to go to church on Sunday morning, so we listened to one of my dad's sermons instead

My sister-in-law, Jaime, is the hostess with the mostess. She is exceedingly thoughtful, others-oriented, and is a fantastic cook. She's also kind, playful, and a guh-reat one to laugh with. All I can say is: WELL DONE, LITTLE BROTHER; we always knew you were brilliant. Together, Marc and Jaime are a dynamic duo and the fragrance of Christ to all who meet them.

A friend saw this photo and wondered if I used Copper to wash the car. I didn't. ;)


Marc and Jaime's puppy, Copper, is the cutest dog in all the land. I do not exaggerate. You may remember that Abi is my first doggie love, but Copper has become THE doggie love of my life. His personality is as cute as his little face, if you can believe it, and I spent the weekend smothering him with snuggles.

Everyone who sees Copper wants to pet him. He loves it; everybody is his friend!

I am not the only one who forced Copper into a snuggle or two:

video


What a glorious trip. Thank you, Marc and Jaime, for such a wonderful visit!

Now that I'm at my folks' house, I'm jumping into the next phase of my treatment, and I covet your prayers.

Many of you have been praying for wisdom for me as I try to figure out which doctors to visit and treatments to try. I have so many issues — mold poisoning; a chronic viral co-infection and consequent immune, endocrine, digestive, and nervous system disorders; chemical sensitivities; food sensitivities; chronic pain; a chronic GI tract infection etc. — that it's hard to figure out where to turn and what to try. There are SO many forms of treatment I could try.  When I'm as sick as I was this semester, I feel desperate to try anything and everything RIGHT NOW OR ELSE I MAY DIE. And yet, patience and discernment are so important when treating a body as sensitive as mine.

About a month ago I realized I was doing everything I could to get healthy, without pausing to give God a chance to work on my behalf. I was striving, striving, striving, and I eventually felt a deep conviction to be still and wait for God to direct me, so I cancelled appointments for treatment and tests at two different clinics. As soon as I did, I felt a deep peace flood my body and spirit.

Since then, it seems as though God is directing me to re-train my limbic system. Often, in patients like me, the limbic system can get stuck in fight-flight-or-freeze mode, making it very difficult for the body to heal. For the next six months I will be working diligently to heal my limbic system using a system that's proven to be hugely effective in patients like me. In fact, many patients begin to see improvements in their health within days of starting the program.

Today I begin four days of Brain Boot Camp, in which I will spend hours and hours kick-starting this process of healing my limbic system. Would you pray for me as I begin brain boot camp? Perhaps you could pray, "Yay, God, for limbic systems! Would you use this program to heal Sarah's?"

Thank you, my friends!

Happy Tuesday,

Sarah


© by scj

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day, Daddi-o

A letter to my dad, to honor him this Father's Day:

Dear Dad,

I vividly remember my first 400-meter hurdle race at the collegiate level. I remember the bright stadium lights, the spongy red track, and the surge of adrenaline and nausea I'd come to expect before every race. But most of all, I remember that you weren't there, because, for the first time in my life, I was racing 1,000 miles away from home.

I'd never raced without you in the crowd.

Somehow, in the midst of pastoring a growing church, teaching at the seminary, and pursuing a doctorate, you were at every single one of my pre-college track meets, starting with the all-city meet when I was in 5th grade.

Dad calling someone with the results from one of my high school meets

You made sure I had gatorade and snacks before the meet and then watched me warm-up from the sidelines. When it came time for my race you positioned yourself on the home stretch where you knew I would hurt the most. I'd round that final curve with vomit rising, breathing labored, muscles screaming in pain, and ears utterly deaf to the shouting stadium-crowd.  All I heard was you, cheering:

"COME ON, SARAH JACKSON!!!!"

There was never a college race when I didn't remember those words urging me through pain and drowning out hundreds of other voices.

Now that my track days are over and I'm learning what it is to battle loss and discouragement in this life-race toward an eternal prize, I find myself remembering your voice shouting my name.

You've helped me understand the fierce and tender love of God the Father as I run toward my heaven-home, Dad.

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that the God who sculpted the mountains and breathed the stars in the sky even knows my name, much less calls it. Sometimes it's hard to believe he's the God-who-sticks close—that he will provide for my needs and wants to be intimately involved with my life.

But when I remember the way you bought me the expensive sets of track shoes I needed each year; or the way you'd make me a big lunch before track meets and give me a timely pep talk; or the way you'd take time off work, drive hours and hours, and book hotels for my out-of-town meets, my little heart gulps big from the glimpses you've given me of Father God's heart.  If he is infinitely more good than you, how much more must he love me?

Dad hugging me after a race

My senior year of high school I had lofty ambitions for the state track meet. Month after month you watched me pour myself into training for my senior season. You watched me work and worry, and work some more.

And then one day a reporter called the house to interview you about my season and you told him something I'll never forget:

"We delight in Sarah, whether she runs fast or not."

If there is one thing about God that my heart often struggles to believe it's that he delights in me, just the way I am.

But for 31 years you have delighted in me, Dad, slowly teaching me that when God calls himself Father he means he takes joy and pleasure in me, and in being my Papa.

You taught me this when you'd scoop my little girl self into your arms and spin and bounce me back to my bedroom at bedtime; when you laughed deep and pleased at my girlish attempts to crack jokes; and when, after a long day at work, you'd wrestle with us kids on the living room floor and tickle us till we were breathless from laughter.

Dad and I in SoCal, checking out colleges my senior year of high school

As I grew older I saw the way your delight in me impelled you to protect and care for me.

You showed me my value when you warned my first boyfriend that if he ever did anything disrespectful to me he'd have you to face.  My heart still surges with gratitude when I remember that.

You showed me I can rest in your care when you outfitted my kitchen with new appliances four years ago because I was too sick to do it myself, and then bought me flowers for my beloved patio when you visited last year.  I smile with satisfaction every time I water them.

At the beach

I could tap-tap away at these keys for hours and hours, remembering the ways you've taught me the love of the Father, Dad.

 One of my favorite pictures: after college graduation

I know, though, that the greatest gratitude I can express for you is not strings of symbols on a blank page: what you yearn for most is that I would live a life devoted to God, the greatest and truest Father.

When I left home for college nine years ago you gave me a necklace with a delicate gold heart pendant.  You also wrote an accompanying letter expressing your love for me and your hope that I would always say yes to Jesus.  You closed the letter with a postscript:

"I hope you always entrust the human version of the enclosed gift to our Father in heaven.  'Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life' (Proverbs 4:23)."



I wear that heart necklace often, and when I do I try to center my heart on the Father in heaven whose love, amazingly, eclipses yours.

And when this life-race wearies and daunts me, I imagine Him cheering me on through doubt and despair toward victory over pain: his voice the only one I can hear amidst the din of other voices.

Thank you for teaching me to listen for His voice and trust His heart, Dad.

I love you.

Happy Father's Day,

Your Sarah Christine



© by scj

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Traveling

My friends,

I'm preparing to fly to my folks' house for the summer, where I will rest, explore some new treatments, and try to get on a trajectory of healing.

I've been looking forward to this trip, but unfortunately, after making a little bit of healing progress last month, my health regressed considerably, and I find myself, once again, preparing for a flight I'm not sure my body will be able to handle.

Would you pray for my flights? When I was feeling a bit better a few weeks ago, I got wild and crazy and decided to fly to Texas to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and furry nephew, Copper, before going to the PNW. I leave for Texas this Thursday (and oh my goodness, I am so excited!) and will fly to Portland the following Monday. I'm asking God for a few things as I prepare to leave:

1) Enough health that I can navigate the airports and fly without misery. I'd love to even ENJOY the traveling experience!

2) Health enough that I'm not cooped up in bed when I'm with my brother and sister-in-law. In the past, God has given me pockets of enough relief to participate in life at pivotal moments, so I'm praying he'll do the same with this trip.

3) Safety, no missed connecting flights, and no turbulence on my flights. Because of my neurological disorder, normal sights and sounds send my body into fight or flight mode — the buzzing of my phone, the rattling of the washing machine, the sight of the neighbor lady outside my window. A few days ago I was outside and saw a bush from which a few odd-looking, unfamiliar berries were hanging, and my body went into fight or flight mode because walking past weird-looking berries is THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH HERE IN LOS ANGELES. That's what my body thought, anyway. There ain't nothin' that won't make me go into fight or flight, pals. Except hugs from friends. And sunshine. And gentle breezes. And the smell of jasmine.

Naturally, turbulence sends my nervous system into such a tizzy, I feel like my circuitry is going to blow. The last time I was on a turbulent flight, I felt electrical shocks bouncing all over my body for hours after the flight.

The problem with all this crazy nervous system stuff, is it worsens my vertigo, neurological nausea, and nerve pain. It also affects all my other ailing systems and puts a damper on this whole healing thing. I wish I could somehow will the fight or flight away, or think enough positive thoughts (or practice enough mindfulness) to wrangle my nervous system into control; but this is a physiological issue over which I have little control, so I'm relying on God to care for my nervous system in ways I cannot.

4) Protection from more sickness. Planes are so germy, and my immune system's a-needin' some help these days.


Thank you for your continued prayers, friends.

I so hope I heal enough this summer that I can see some of you PNW friends when I'm there.

Much love,

Sarah




© by scj

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thank you

My dear, wonderful praying friends,

Spring 2015 was the most horrific health season I'd experienced in my six years of illness. I didn't blog much about what was going on in my body that semester, but I often felt like I was dying. When I finally found doctors who helped me get on a trajectory of healing in the late summer and fall, I told God I could never, ever endure that kind of physical suffering again and begged him to protect me from it.

But then, this last January, after some consecutive treatments-gone-awry, my health spiraled back into that nightmarish place, and now I find myself wrapping up a semester of physical and psychological suffering comparable to last spring.

I could never, ever have made it through this semester without you.

Your presence, prayers, and encouragement were a word-defying gift to me.

There were so many things I was afraid would happen this semester that didn't because God is good and you were praying.

Every morning, when I walked down the stairs to grab a water bottle before heading to work for the morning, I felt my legs buckling beneath my weight, and I wondered if I would fall down the stairs and injure myself. I only fell once, but I didn't injure myself.

There were lots of mornings when, in the middle of teaching, the world grew dark and I knew I was seconds away from passing out, but I never did.

As the list of foods my body could tolerate dwindled, I wondered if my already-slender frame would become emaciated from a lack of calories and nutrition, but it didn't.

I spent at least 21 hours of every day in bed almost everyday this semester, and I could have been plagued by panic attacks from the horror of it all and the havoc the viruses wreaked in my nervous system, but I wasn't.

A number of times my eyesight dimmed and I momentarily lost my hearing, and although the viruses infecting me can cause blindness and deafness, I can still see and hear.

Many times, while I was resting in bed, I felt like I was on the brink of a seizure. It was a strange sensation, sort of like when a sneeze builds up, but I never seized.

In December, one of my doctors told me that if I ever have to get chemo, one of the viruses infecting me could very easily blind me. Last month, one of my doctors had me screened for breast cancer because of a few new, alarming symptoms, but we didn't find breast cancer, and I didn't have to get chemo.

There were a handful of times when I knew how vulnerable I was to more infections — how very near to death I could be in a body too weak for antibiotics, but you guys, I didn't die. I am tempted to couch this in humor somehow, because it feels uncomfortable and easily misunderstood, but those of you who are sick like I am know: we are fighting for our lives here.

So many other things could have gone wrong, but didn't; and I am alive, and now, more than ever, life is so fiercely beautiful.

Because my health problems have been so serious, I seriously considered quitting school and taking a break from work, but every time I decided I should quit, God made it clear that I shouldn't. I'm not sure why, exactly, but he was clear, so I decided to stay the course, and all of you prayed.

All of you prayed and prayed and prayed, and you read prayer update after prayer update, and you ran my errands, and you made me food, and you sent me gifts and notes of encouragement, and you took me to doctors appointments, and I made it through another unspeakably difficult season.

A few days ago I turned in my grades, and now, it is officially summer, and I can rest and explore new treatments that will, hopefully, pull me out of this pit.

And so my dear, wonderful, praying friends, cheers to you for praying me to the finish line:

I finished my last batch of grading on Monday


I am unspeakably grateful for you, and I love you.


-Sarah


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Salt and Pepper

Sister is in town for the weekend, so we decided to go on a picnic Friday evening.

When I opened the front door upon hearing her knock, I laughed to see that she was the pepper to my salt:

We're even wearing the same shirt!

Life is always more flavorful when she's around.

We set up camp next to a pond at a park down the street, and we spent the evening talking and resting.




And then, just before the sunset, we got up to toss the frisbee around.


You guys, my body let me toss the frisbee around!! Unfortunately, that little bit of exertion did worsen my neurological symptoms, and the last couple of days my body has been pretty unhappy, so I am clinging to the memory of being up moving around under a summer sky. Steps backward can be more bearable if they're the result of a good time.

Also, all this time in bed has made it easy to gobble up a few seasons of The Great British Bake Off, and I feel like I am really beginning to master the British vernacular. For example, I'm chuffed to have my sis in town; I'm gutted to be feeling so lousy this weekend; I'm cross with myself for . . . well, I'm not cross with myself about anything today; and after I sliced open a cantaloupe this morning, I binned the seeds.

Speaking British makes me feel so 'fisticated.

Cheers, my friends!

Happy Saturday,

Sarah



© by scj

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Progress

I have a pile of grading the height of a chubby, bearded yard gnome; and I really should be making my way through at least a few inches of it today. Naturally, I've spent the morning watching Youtube videos and taking frequent trips to the kitchen, and I have now turned to blogging.

My grading started okay. The key to convincing yourself to grade in May is to make yourself comfortable, so I did. I nestled in my anti-gravity chair in the sunshine, a cup of lemon water in my handy-dandy cup holder, and a bowl of raspberries within arm's reach. But as soon as I sat down, I realized there were so.many.other important things to do, starting with snapping photos of everything on the patio. It all went downhill from there.

Grading Photography, Exhibit A:


This is a candid grading selfie, if ever there were such a thing. English teachers, please, please, please snap a selfie while you're grading and send it to me. It will give me so much joy.

Grading photography, Exhibit B:


A student gave me this plant last fall, and when I potted it, the little beauty was traumatized. Within weeks, the trauma had turned her luscious, budded stems into a few black, spindly arms. The poor thing belonged in The Lion King's "Elephant Graveyard."

Normally, I love gardening, but I was far too preoccupied with my health to try to resuscitate her. But lo and behold: several months later, those black, spindly arms sprouted waxy leaves; and a month after that, flowers burst forth.

I've taken comfort in my hydrangeas this spring as I struggle to climb out of the nightmarish pit of sickness. I often feel like the only way I will get healthy is if I work my tail off. And it is so much work to get healthy. Some weeks I'll put in a full 25 hours of work researching, strategizing, talking to insurance agents, going to the doctor, and completing daily medical regimes; and in the midst of all that work, it's easy to forget that God could heal me without my help. My hydrangea is a daily reminder that dying things can sprout life without my assistance.

Many of you have sent me notes of encouragement over the last couple of weeks as I wrap up the semester. Thank you. I'm really delighted to tell you that I have made some hopeful improvements lately.

The herbs in April helped, of course, but a few weeks ago, my body rejected them, and I spiraled back into the pit the week before my nerve-wracking test. I imagine the fear of what the test might reveal suppressed my immune system even more than usual, and the viruses took advantage of the weakness. When the test results were favorable, the burden on my immune system lifted, and I began to feel a bit better.

The herbs I took last month seem to have quieted my GI tract infection enough that my body can once again tolerate some of the tinctures that helped me heal some in the summer and fall, so I've resumed taking them. Little by little, I inch forward (then backward, then forward, then backward — the cha-cha continues, but I am SO grateful for those steps forward!), and every now and then, I'm able to participate in life in more normal ways.

I recently enjoyed an afternoon at the beach after one of my doctor's appointments with Sean, my friend and doctor's appointment chauffeur, and since it was a blustery day, we flew kites.


Everyone, meet Skippy, the happiest little tail-wagging kite in all the land.


Also, I imagine Sean will be happy if he never hears Mary Poppin's "Let's Go Fly a Kite" ever again...

Mr. Sun finally made an appearance!

Last weekend a friend and colleague, whose name means Queen of the Fairies, hosted a garden dinner party for a handful of faculty.


After dinner we sat around a campfire for hours, talking and drinking hot rose water tea (isn't that just what you would expect from the Queen of Fairies?!), and though it was a full moon,  my body held up remarkably well. The outing gave me such hope, and hope is such a powerful healer.

This week is finals week, so many of us — faculty and students alike — are blitzed with work, and we are exhausted. We are drooping, dragging, crawling across the finish line, but WE ARE STILL MOVING.

My (girl)friends, there is a trick to making it out the door at 7 A.M. on a Monday in May with optimism about the long day ahead: a fancy hair-do.


A fancy hairdo can make a girl stand a little straighter; and good, open posture tells your brain you are strong, which makes it increase your testosterone levels and lower your cortisol levels, which tells you that YOU ARE WOMAN AND YOU WILL OVERCOME.

Never underestimate the power of a good hairdo.

Also, a big breakfast will do wonders for the spirit (and the waistline):


Girls, the above hairdo is so easy (maybe I'll do a tutorial), and one of its many benefits is if you nap in it, you will wake up with Queen Elsa hair, which may well inspire you to leeeeet.it.go, whatever it is:


(Please forgive the inordinate number of selfies in this post).

Anyway, good things are happening over here, and for the first time in many months, I feel hopeful that one day I will return to decent health. I've even dared to hope that I might heal enough this summer to go on occasional outings. I'm trying to manage my hope because I'm still so weak and symptomatic (I'm guessing I'm functioning at about 5% of normal), but you guys: I would love to go dancing, and hiking, and walking through the countryside this summer.

Would you pray that my body continues on a healing trajectory? And would you continue to pray for wisdom for me as I try to figure out which treatments to try this summer? And finally, on Friday I see another specialist about a follow-up test to the one I got earlier this month. Would you pray for insight for the specialist and me as we discuss my case?

Thank you for your faithful prayers and wonderful encouragement this semester, my friends!

Cheering for you,

SJ


P.S. I turned in the final paper for my PhD class last week:


This paper, as with all of the work for this class, was a collective effort, because I surely would not have made it through this class without all of your fervent, faithful prayers for my health. Thank you, dear ones!




© by scj

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Results

My friends,

Thank you for your prayers these last couple of days. As this test drew nearer, my anxiety grew heavier and more pervasive, affecting both my waking hours and sleep. But when I climbed in bed Monday night, after many of you had started praying for me, I slept peacefully, without bad dreams, for the first time in awhile.

I am happy to report that the test I underwent yesterday revealed nothing life-altering. The test is not conclusive, however, so I will meet with another specialist later this month to discuss having a second test done which will give us definitive results. As far as I understand, the odds of this second test being negative are much higher because the first test was negative, so I'm expericing a measure of relief. I appreciate your continued prayers as I look toward meeting with this specialist in late May.

In the meantime, my chronic symptoms have been particularly unrelenting, and I suspect the herbs that have given me pockets of relief the last few weeks have stopped working. This is not uncommon with illnesses like mine. Often, something will work for a few weeks or months before my body grows accustomed to it and I have to find some other form of treatment.

Right now, my plan is to begin a new form of treatment on May 25th. I'm nervous, as I always am, because I'm not sure how my body will respond; but I'm hopeful, too. These treatments will take awhile to work — I imagine I'll need 60-100 treatments in all before I see real improvement — but I'm hoping I'll see incremental improvement along the way. I have read that patients like me find the first 15 treatments (and the days following them) particularly hard, so I appreciate your prayers for special grace as I will likely experience what we sickies call "a healing crisis."

I'm still not positive this form of treatment is the right next step, but it seems like it. Would you pray that the Lord would make it clear if this isn't the best next step for me?

Thank you, my friends.

And to all my teacher people: we are in the home stretch. We can do this. Soon we will be sipping iced tea on the back patio with months of glorious rest stretching ahead of us. Lord, help us get there.

-Sarah

P.S. There was a giant photo — of blossom-bedecked trees stretching toward a spring sky — embedded in the ceiling of the doctor's office yesterday, so when I laid on the table, I felt like I was at the park watching the sunlight dance through the trees. It was glorious.

P.P.S. My dear friend took me to the doctor yesterday, and before we went inside, she grabbed my hand and prayed for me. And you guys, this sickness and all its complications are a nightmare, but yesterday, as my friend and I sat there holding hands and praying, I felt like I was especially blessed. Like, more blessed than all my healthy friends, because I was there, in the car, listening to my loving friend pray fervently for me.

God is always turning the nightmare into a gift, isn't he?

P.P.P.S. Raspberries in the sunshine with Harry Potter: there is no better way to end a hard day, my friends.




© by scj

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tomorrow

All my Pray-ers,

I'm wearing my favorite night shirt as I prepare to climb in bed. It's the hole-iest pajama top I own — white, oversized cotton with long, holey sleeves, a bright red Adidas logo across the chest, and a holey hood I wear when the weather dips below 65-degrees — but it's my favorite because it used to be my dad's. 

My dad is broad and muscular, with big biceps I liked to wrap my hands around when I was a little girl. "Flex, Daddy, flex!" I'd exclaim as I gripped his arm. I always giggled with delight when I felt his rubbery muscles turn to steel.

I feel small tonight in his big, cotton shirt.

And actually, I feel small in lots of ways tonight. Tomorrow I'll undergo a significant and unexpected medical test to explore potential causes for new symptoms, and I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of my disease. It towers menacingly and threatens to devour, and on the days it's especially hard for me to be a warrior, I feel like a tender little morsel.

And last week I discovered one of my dearest friends will be moving 5,000 miles across the ocean, and though I got three messages last month from girlfriends I met when I traveled to Spain, the world doesn't feel small today. It feels enormous. And I feel tiny and frail, and I wonder if I'll ever have the health to fly 5,000 miles across the globe to visit my dear friend.

And the papers to grade are piled high, and the PhD assignments feel far too long, and my body has been especially unhappy the last few days, and life's injustices and inconveniences are so invasive, and there is not enough of me to carry all this . . . and I do not like feeling so small.

But the smallness I feel in my dad's shirt? It is good. It is good because it reminds me I have a big, strong dad who loves me.

Yesterday I went on an easy walk down the street. I drank in the jasmine and stopped to take a photo of my neighbor's plumeria bush, its white petaled stars forming perfumed constellations in the fading light. But most of the time I looked up at the sky. Its cathedral dome glowed with layers of dusky rose, lavender, and indigo. And I'm wondering, as my eyelids grow heavy with sleep, if inhabiting this great big cathedral-planet is a taste of what it might be like to wear God's shirt, its vastness reminding us of how small we are, yet teaching us that we have a big, strong Father.

I'm imagining God the Father sitting with me tonight as I look toward tomorrow's test. The Son and Spirit are here too, praying, advocating on my behalf. And I'm wondering if you would join us in prayer about my test tomorrow. Would you pray for peace for me, wise doctors, and good test results? I don't think I've ever felt so anxious about test results before, and I covet your prayer support.

Thank you, my friends.

I'm praying for those of you who also feel small tonight. I'm praying, especially, that the bigness of life would remind you that God is biggest of all.

Cheering for you,

Sarah


P.S. This came in the mail this evening:


A dear, wonderful friend who has faithfully prayed for me made this for me. I have it displayed on my piano, across from my princess crown:

There's a mirror right above this, and sometimes I put the crown on, look in the mirror, and quote Psalm 103: "Praise the Lord...who redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion, and satisfies your years with good things."

Isn't the prayer on this canvas beautiful?

 
I've been praying it throughout the evening. And look at the reminder at the bottom. Some days I really do need reminding. 

Thank you, sweet Ann; this is such a treasure.



© by scj

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day, Mom


Dear Mom,

Remember those cat eye sunglasses with the *very* colorful rims? I was in fifth grade when you wore them. In public. And you didn't care what other people thought. You didn't listen to my stammering protests or pay attention to the most recent fashion magazines. You just donned them with confidence and style. I think you may have even danced your way into the mall with those things on your head, just in case people hadn't already noticed them.

I love you for that.

I love that you've always marched — or danced — to the rhythm of your own drummer. You haven't tried to cram your soul into the stifling corsets of silly expectations, reductionistic roles, or cultural “coolness.”
 

Your tenacious commitment to be who God calls you to be is evident beyond your daring sunglass choices.

It was evident when you stood alone before the city council to challenge an unethical education mandate.

It was evident when you stood up for the woman in your musical theater group whose male director felt her gender and youth made it okay for him to invade her privacy and publicly degrade her.

It was evident when you brought the four of us kids to the courthouse to participate in silent protests on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. You wanted to show us that there are some things in the world worth fighting for, and that it is possible fight in a quiet and respectful way.

When people drove by honking and yelling profanities at us, we watched you smile graciously, with dignity. When a man walked past and accused you of brainwashing us, you engaged him respectfully but didn't back down. Because you know it isn't brainwashing to instill in your kids a value for our most fundamental right—the right to live—and it isn't brainwashing to raise your kids with a sense of justice and a commitment to action when the world goes topsy turvy.

You taught us how to do the right thing, but you also taught us that life is for having fun.

When we studied world religions you thought it would be fun to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Booths, and so we made a booth—or sukkah—in our backyard and ate our meals in it that week.
When we grew older and were stressed from school, or irritated with each other, you'd show us how to throw back our heads and laugh and let the stress and irritation drain from our spirits, like air from a balloon.

And when you met people who had come from other countries to create a better life in America, you'd invite them to our house for holidays. They'd bring authentic cuisine from their country, and they'd teach us new words; and we learned that the world is big and grand and full of new friends.
I could go on and on, Mom; you taught us so many things.

You taught us that empty amphitheaters in foreign countries are for dancing,

that empty dishwashers are for loading,

and that empty plots of land are for gardening.


You taught us that we were more important than your sleep when we'd wake up sick in the middle of the night; and you taught us that paint, foam, and cardboard are for creating Halloween costumes, doll houses, and Christmas presents.



A few years ago, little brother Marc was driving onto his college campus with his buddy. As they crawled across speed bumps Marc noticed a male student about his age standing alone and looking despondent.

Go talk to him. The Holy Spirit prompted Marc to do something unusual and even embarrassing.

He turned to his friend and asked him to stop the car, and then he walked over to the student and introduced himself. After talking awhile, the student told Marc he was fighting despair and wondering if life was worth living. Marc got his phone number so they could hang out, and he walked back to the car one friend richer.

Marc reminded me of you that day, Mom.

Like you, he has become a man who heeds the voice of the Spirit, even when it's uncomfortable. Like you, he knows that we all — the immigrant, the grocery clerk, the marginalized student, the librarian, the homeless, the next-door neighbor — belong to each other.

This is because we learn more from watching lives lived than we learn from powerful rhetoric and substantive textbooks.

We grew up imitating you, Mom, and you have always marched to the beat of the Maker of music —the One wired you to dance, stand up for the oppressed, initiate new friendships, and wear zany sunglasses.

And so today, on Mother's Day, telling you I'm thankful for you just doesn't cut it.

But I am.

I'm thankful for you,

I love you,

and I hope I'm like you when I grow up.

Thank you for being such a marvelous mother.

Happy Mother's Day,

Your Sarah Christine



© by scj

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Elizabeths

Last night I had another pocket of relief(ish) from my neurological symptoms, and I felt well enough for a girlfriend, Elizabeth, to come over for a girls night. Elizabeth is one of a kind. I met her a year and half ago at my church's women's Bible study, and two months after meeting, I fell desperately, scarily sick. From that point on, I've probably seen her an average of once every four months due to the limitations of my illness. Even so, she has remained a faithful, supportive friend in my life, despite only two months of friendship foundation.

Last night she brought the movie Brooklyn, along with berries and apricots for dessert. We talked for hours before starting the movie, and when the movie's credits rolled, we could've talked for hours longer. My vertigo started getting bossy, though, so we called it a night. But what a gift those hours together were.

............

I got a package last week (another answer to my mail prayer!) from one of my dearest childhood girlfriends, another Elizabeth, and its contents had me gasping aloud with delight.

Content 1: Silly Putty — for playing.


One of the many griefs of perpetual bed rest is the inability to play. Play is such an important part of emotional and mental health, and without it, life loses lots of its sparkle. But I'll tell what's perfect for bed rest play: silly putty for making sculptures, and bubbles, and loud snapping noises. Oh my sweet heavens, I love feeling like a kid again.

Content 2: A Puppy — because I want one. Thankfully, this puppy is the hypo-est of hypoallergenic puppies.


I've put him on my nightstand to keep me company throughout the day. I still haven't named him, because I need to find the perfect name. Any suggestions? I should tell you that this puppy is playful, affectionate, and smart, and I'm thinking his name should reflect these qualities.

Content 3: Chapstick — this is an essential.


Content 4: A card filled with kind, encouraging words.


I have this card displayed next to the last card Elizabeth gave me, because she is one of the best card choosers, fillers, and senders of life.


Golly, I'm thankful for my ELIZABETHS!


Happy weekend, folks.

I'm cheering for ya, Home Skillets.

-Sarah


P.S. The pockets of relief continue. They have become the rest between "sets" of loud symptoms, and I'm so thankful for them. I'm hoping they'll carry me through the end of the semester before I turn my attention back to the treatments I've been investigating. I'm hoping to move forward with the first of these treatments the last week of May or first week of June.

Thank you for continuing to pray for me, my friends.


© by scj

Friday, April 22, 2016

Beach and Chips

Yesterday my friend Sean took me to one of my many weekly doctor's appointments, and afterward, I was feeling well enough to head to the beach. Hip-hip-HOORAY!


This trip I had the foresight to wear a swimsuit, so I enjoyed splashing in the waves sans work clothes.

If you are using a desktop and you click on this photo, it will get big; and, if you are like me, then its bigness will make you feel like you have taken a virtual trip to the beach.



And you guys: my symptoms were so quiet yesterday afternoon, I almost forgot I was sick. Yesterday's pocket of relief makes for three relief-pockets in nine days. I am so hopeful this becomes a trend.

After spending a few hours in the sun, I was happy and fried to a crisp. Unfortunately, after so many months in bed, I forgot that backs are prime real estate for sunburns, so my back stayed sunscreen-free. My legs, on the other hand, were lathered in sunscreen, so today I look rather like a strawberry that has been dipped in white chocolate.

Sean and I could've stayed at the beach hours longer, but we plan our lives around traffic down here, so we hit the road before the traffic could get too bad. On the way home, we took a detour to Whole Foods where I promptly marched to the chip aisle.

For months now I have been craving — and I mean CRAVING — some sort of comfort food. I want chocolate, I want macaroni and cheese, I want toast with butter, I want tea with cream, I want enchiladas, I want a heaping bowl of peanut butter ice cream with chocolate fudge and whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles and crushed peanuts and basically, my body is sad and it needs a food pacifier.

But alas, I stick to squash and turkey, and my body thanks me for it. Yesterday, though, I decided to branch out and try sweet potato chips cooked in coconut oil. I'm not sure if my body can tolerate either ingredient, but I went ahead and bought four bags (which, incidentally, bear my name. How could I NOT buy almost every bag on the shelf?!) and then ate an entire bag of sweet and salty Jackson goodness on the way home.


It's so fun being a grown-up.

Also, this picture cracks me up. I believe this is what they call an "action shot."

I hope your weekend is full of rest and joy, my friends.

Happy Friday!

-Sarah



© by scj

Thursday, April 21, 2016

End of the semester

Today I accidentally showed up to work an hour early. "But where all the students? Why is there so much parking? And why is the sun just now peeking over the hills?"

My friends, the time has finally come: end-of-the-semester dementia is working its mischief, and I am thankful I at least remembered to put pants on before slipping on my shoes this morning, which does not always happen for me in almost-May.

Let us all have a moment of silent prayer for teachers around the world showing up to class at the wrong time, on a Saturday, without wearing pants, and their shoes on the wrong feet. And then let's adore my CUTEST FURRY NEPHEW, Copper because: happiness.



Peace be with you, all you educators of young minds.

I'm cheering for you (and I'm wearing pants).

 -SJ



© by scj