Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Verdict is In

The verdict is in: my sinus infection is healing up nicely, which means, come Monday morning, I'll be on the operating table.

These tonsils are coming out, baby.

Haaaaaaaallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Haalle.luu.jah!!!!

*bring it up a key*

Haaaaaaaallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Haalle.luu.jah!!!!

*Aaaand one key higher*

Haaaaaaaallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Haalle.luu.jah!!!!

*Glasses break and windows shatter*.

Whew, I just had to get that out.  Who knows if I'll be able to sing like that when my tonsils are gone.

This morning when I heard the doctor tell me my sinuses looked good I was terribly thankful.  In fact, never before have I been so grateful to have someone pry open my nose with a long thin tool, look up my nostrils with little light on their head, and nod reassuringly. Emphasis on the nodding reassuringly.

However, the gratitude quickly dissipated and was replaced with fear and trembling when I was given a waiver to sign, indicating possible infection, excessive bleeding, loss of taste, change in voice, and sudden violent death on the operating table.

Okay, so it didn't list sudden violent death as a possibility, but that's only because the person who drafted the waiver never read Reader's Digest as a child.  If they had then they would have known that horrible, gruesome things can happen to anyone anywhere.

Those Reader's Digests will always, always come back to haunt me.

The reality is, although I'm so thankful for this surgery and the prospect of no longer living with chronic infection, I'm also kind of nervous to go under anesthesia.

I'm not sure how it is that the girl who used to jump off bridges and out of an airplane for kicks is afraid of going under.  But I am.  I guess this is what happens in old age.  I'm much more aware of my frailty, and the fallibility of other human beings—even experts, like surgeons and anesthesiologists.

We are weak and flawed, this is true.  But it's also true that I have a wildly active imagination.  Dreaming up tragically horrifying, far-fetched hypotheticals is one of my special gifts.

So I'm trying to reign in my imagination and dwell instead on good and true things.  Like the fact that my freezer is stuffed with popsicles and smoothie-making ingredients.  And the fact that my mama is coming to be my nurse.  And the fact that, if all goes as planned, I'll be able to join my family for vacation this summer (WHOO HOO!).  And the fact that God will not be asleep at his desk when I'm in surgery Monday morning.

And the fact that a lot of you have been praying for me these last two years as I've worked my way back to health.  Thank you for that.  I wish I had words adequate to express how thankful I am for all of you.

Well, I feel better already.  It's looking to be a good summer, folks.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat a heaping plate of roast beef before next week's liquid diet.

© by scj

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Terribly Uninteresting Post

I have nothing meaningful nor interesting to post today.  If this doesn't rivet, compel, and entice you to keep on reading, then just skip to the bottom before you click away, and read the last paragraph.

I'm a week out from my scheduled tonsillectomy, and I've come down with a sinus infection.  And tonsillitis.  Nothing new there.  The sinus infection, however, is very unusual.  I haven't gotten one in years.  The absence of sinus infections these last few years is strange because I have a deviated septum which makes me a prime victim for the infection-loving germs that cause sinus infections.  I'm also the daughter of a regular sinus-infection sufferer, and I got a lot of said parent's allergy DNA, so I should have more sinus infections than I do.  Yes, the absence of sinus infections in the last two years is certainly mysterious... I just wrote 'sinus infections' seven times.  Make that eight.

Are you still reading?


Because I want to tell you that this sinus infection is more than just mysterious.  It's a right pain in the rear end.  Or the 'rahrah end', as my neighbor and dear friend used to say.  It always sounded so sophisticated when she said it, and she didn't even have a British accent.  But if she did, she would have been the most sophisticated speaker of synonyms for 'butt' in the whole neighborhood.  And the most motivational.  Because, for the life of me, I cannot hear her say 'rahrah end' without also cheering,  "Rah Rah shishcabob, yoooooou can do this!"  Which may or may not be a legitimate cheer.  I'm too groggy to tell.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that my doctor will not operate on me next Monday, the 2nd, if I have a sinus infection.  This is borderline devastating news.

I need to get these tonsils out.  Asap.  Like, yesterday.  Not only because my body will be very relieved to not have to fight the infection it's been fighting the last 21 months, but because my family is going on vacation in a month, and I want to go.  I NEED TO GO.

All five of us kids will be there, including my sister-in-law (that is so fun to write).  The odds of all of us being free to travel the same week of the year are astounding, I tell you. Astounding.  Who knows when this will happen again.

But I can't fly for a month after my surgery, so if I have to push it back (to who knows when!) then I won't get to go on vacation with the ol' familia.  And my soul needs this.  My mind needs this.  My body needs this.  Basically I'm trying to tell you that I need this.

I also need to enter the school year without tonsils.  This is vital to my sanity, and, as far as I can tell, my physical health.

But then again, I'm not God, and I could be wrong about this whole tonsil scenario.  And that's what I've been trying to remind myself this week.  It's a pretty easy thing to remember when I do silly things like run into walls and drop glasses.

Here are two of the 5 billion pieces that my glass shattered into when I dropped it yesterday.  I have never seen anything explode like that.  It was epic.  Cleaning it up, however, was not.  I tried to pretend I was a little girl searching for diamonds in order to semi enjoy the activity.  It sort of worked.

The harder thing to remember deep down in my heart is that God is good, powerful, and with me—fighting for me.  So I speak these true words into the silence of my room often. It's become a mantra, of sorts.

Who knows but that my body's not ready for surgery, and this is God's way of intervening to save me from unnecessary suffering.

And who knows but that there's somebody I need to meet that I wouldn't meet if I had surgery on Monday, or somebody who needs to know about the Gospel of Jesus that I wouldn't run into if things went the way I've planned.

So I keep prying open my clenched fist and handing God my life-map about every five minutes or so.  I also beg him to heal me by my pre-op appointment this Thursday so I can proceed with the surgery with confidence.

I'd love it if you'd pray with me.

And while we're on the subject, I have lots and lots of time to pray this week.  So I'd love to pray for you. Just leave a comment or shoot me an email at

If we haven't met, I'd love to meet you this way.

Can't wait to hear from you!



This is a Netti Pot, designed to alleviate sinus infection symptoms.  I have one that is no longer useable, so I had to buy a new one.  This coupon was taped to it.  It's these little provisions that remind me of God's active care for us.

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© by scj

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Devouring Daydreams

When I was a little kid I loved to sneak away from the noise of the afternoon neighborhood play and settle onto my bed for a good old fashioned daydream.

I dreamt up a cake-making/party-planning business; devised a brownie-selling scheme to earn enough money to visit Russia with my best friend (we hoped to find ourselves an orphan to raise); and came up with a strategy to sell rice krispie treats to earn money for the American Girl Doll I wanted.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood I lost my propensity to dream up baking-related business ventures, but I didn't lose my propensity to daydream.

It's just that now I'm prone to daydream about a life better than one I currently have.

I imagine myself completing the Iron Man triathlon, living in the Andes mountains, and dancing in "The Lion King" on Broadway.

These trips to the land of 'If Only' are grand while they last, but I know that when I'm living in this fantasy world I miss out on the joys of living in my body, here in this world.

It's my body and its five senses that enable me to most fully engage and enjoy the grace that is around me.

It's my body that allows me to relish the sherbet-streaked sunset sky,

and savor the honeyed sweetness of my cuppa tea,

and enjoy the satisfaction of a particularly good sneeze.

So I'd like to avoid fantasizing in a way that devours the joys of living in a body, and would like to instead learn to be fully present in this body God gave me.

Learning new physical activities is one of the best ways I've found to do this.

Which is why, last Tuesday, you could have found me and two friends tripping across the park, hula hoops in hand, eager to put them to use.

Hula hooping is actually great for your core, and it burns a lot more calories than you'd expect.

It's also very awkward if you haven't done it in decades, like me.

Thankfully my friend, Meg, is a hula hooper extraordinaire and could give me some advice:

"Pay attention to the way the hoop feels as it travels around your waist.  After awhile your body will figure out how to keep it there," she said.

So I noticed.

Around and around it went.

In front,

to the side,


to the side;

Rolling slow and steady; rhythmic.

And then I noticed,

how my chest rose and fell with my breaths,

how the water in the hoop sloshed and swirled,

and how the light crept through the trees and landed on my shoulders.

© by scj

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Heart Like His

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 before 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'd make 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'd position 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:


There was never a race when I didn't hear those words, urging me through pain, 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 to 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.  It's hard to believe he's the God-who-sticks close—that he'll provide for my needs, and that he 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 much-needed 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 even 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 blows my mind and makes my heart doubt it's that he delights in me, just the way I am.

But for 27 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 compelled 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 last year because I was too sick to do it myself, and then bought me flowers for my beloved patio when you visited two weeks ago.  I smile with satisfaction every time I water them.

Two weeks ago, at the beach

My fingertips 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.  It's living 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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thank God for the Fleas

I've been thinking about my tonsils this semester.  A lot. I lead such a profound thought life.

I've made good progress in rebuilding my health this year, but my tonsils continue to give me problems, thus slowing down my recovery process, and making me dead tired and utterly spacey.  The fatigue makes me feel inept, and makes my body feel like the enemy.

So I'm getting my tonsils out next month.

In the meantime I am prone to lie on my bed daydreaming about a giant vacuum that sucks them out of my throat, victorious and smug.

When my tonsil vacuum daydreams are over I spend a lot of time blaming my tonsils.

I blame them when, in my state of fatigue, I spill bags of flour, burn coconut curry chicken, and fling raw turkey on the floor.

I blame them when I sit down to grade a pile of papers and just.can't.

I blame them when I get in the shower still wearing clothes, or try to drive away in someone else's car before realizing it's not mine.

Just kidding.

I blame the voices inside my head when that happens.

If I'm not blaming my tonsils, I may be worrying about my tonsillectomy.

I hear tonsillectomies hurt.  Really bad.  And they require anesthesia.  Oh dear. And I knew a girl once whose tonsillectomy changed the sound of her voice.  Now I'm nervous the same will happen to me. My voice is my auditory 'fingerprint,' if you will.  If it changes I'm afraid I'll feel like Sandy or Sally, instead of Sarah.

Naturally, all this thinking about tonsils seeps into my conversations with close friends and family members.  Not too long ago my sister had a dream about a giant tonsil. It was chasing her.

So today I've decided enough is enough.  I need to stop thinking about tonsils.

Instead, I will think about fleas.

Clearly positive thinking is one my strengths.

It's actually not all bad.  And that, I guess, is the point of this post.

When I was in high school I read about Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who was thrown into a concentration camp for hiding Jews in her house during World War II.

In her book The Hiding Place Corrie describes the condition of the barracks she, her sister Betsie, and the other female prisoners shared at Ravensbruck Camp.

They were worked so hard that many of the women died; fights often broke out among the women; and the barracks stunk.  Oh how they stunk—of rotting corpses, defecation, and dirty bodies.

But worst of all were the fleas.  The barracks were so thick with them they were almost unbearable.

One day, after reading the admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to rejoice in all things, Betsie suggested they thank God for the fleas.  It took some convincing, but Corrie eventually bowed in thanks with Betsie for the wretched fleas, trusting that a supremely good God was working to use even the fleas for their good and his glory.

During their time at Ravensbruck Betsie and Corrie started a Bible study with the other prisoners.  The studies were encouraging and nourishing, but risky. If the guards found out about them the women would be beaten and even killed.

For some reason, though, the guards did not visit their barracks, allowing the women complete freedom to pray and read the Word.  Their barracks became a place of fellowship; their studies a time of refuge.

Later the ladies discovered the reason the guards left their barracks unattended.  You guessed it: the fleas.

I know I can't compare my tonsils to a flea-infested prison cell, but I do want to take my cue from Betsie and Corrie.  Like them, I want to be the kind of person who thanks God for the ways he makes ugly things beautiful, and unpleasant things glorious.

And if I really believe that God's goodness has the last word in my life, then I ought to thank him for his pervasive goodness, even when it looks different than I think it should.  This is one way I can foster faith.

So I want to thank God that, in his all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect goodness, he's allowed my tonsils to slow my recovery these 20 months, thus necessitating this unpleasant and expensive surgery.  He's got to be doing something really good with this.

I just can't see it yet.

Who knows, maybe getting my tonsils out will give me the singing voice I've always wanted.

Watch out Adele: soon I could be Someone Like You.

© by scj

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Things: Road Trip!

Praise to the God who delivers us from trials and tribulations.

I have finished grading.

I've been belting this song this week:

It puts things in perspective.

And now that I'm free as a bird I'm off to visit an old friend, Andrea.

I met Andrea almost nine years ago at a father/daughter camp that my dad and I attended as one last 'hurrah' before I moved down to L.A. to attend Azusa Pacific University.

I was nervous about two things that first day of camp: 1. Living in a cabin with a bunch of strangers for a week.  2. Moving 1,000 miles from home to go to college a couple of weeks later.  So you can imagine my sweet relief when I walked into my assigned cabin, introduced myself, and discovered that one of the other daughters—bubbly, kind, and hospitable Andrea—was going to be a junior at Azusa Pacific.  I wouldn't be all alone down in big, busy L.A. after all, and this whole cabin thing could be just grand.

My scanner isn't working, so I've taken pictures of pictures with my iPhone.  I'm on the far left, and Andrea is right next to me.  Our cabin (and our dads) ditched camp one day and went on a field trip to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Shakespeare festival, and home to these cute-as-a-bug's-ear headbands.

All it took was a trip to the swimming hole, a few rounds of the plastic cup game (clap clap, pound-the-table, take-the-cup-and-move-it), and a trip or two across the ropes course for me to fall in love with Andrea for life.

Here we are about to perform a father/daughter rap for the camp.  It was an epic affair. Andrea is third from the left in the black shirt.  I now own the red hat she is wearing.  It is my favorite hand-me-down hat, in case you were asking yourself about that.

Our dad-dizzles.  Mine is on the far left, apparently working up his rap fever.  Andrea's dad is the fourth dad from the left.  He's an amazing tennis player, as is Andrea.

Nine years later Andrea's married and living in a home of her own with a guest room that's all set up for me this weekend.  And so I'm off to visit my dear friend out in wine country where the sun shines fierce and dry.

I'll take a picture or two for you.

Happy Thursday!


© by scj

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shaking Our Fists at God

Posted simultaneously at Positively Human

On April 14th I watched my little brother, Aaron, marry his college sweetheart.
I loved watching him laugh when he said “I do” too early while repeating his vows.

I loved watching his bride beam when they were pronounced man and wife.

And I loved watching close friends and family interact over dinner at the reception celebration.

As I observed these people who have traversed the years with my family I thought about their life stories.  And as I reflected on the ways our stories have intersected, I was struck that each of their stories were smeared with the bloody brushstrokes of suffering.

There was the mother whose son had estranged himself from her, the man whose father was murdered when he was just a boy, and the woman whose husband left her for another man.

I have a friend named Matt who hears stories like these and wants to know how an all-powerful and perfectly good God could permit such horrible evils. According to Matt, the evil in the world is proof that God doesn’t exist. Matt’s argument, called the problem of evil by philosophers, goes something like this:

1. There are horrible evils in the world that an all-powerful and perfectly good God would have no justifying reason to permit.

2. An all-powerful and perfectly good God wouldn’t permit evil without a justifying reason to permit it.

3. So, God does not exist.

Whenever friends like Matt want to discuss the problem of evil I have a couple of responses.

First, I explain that without God we can’t say evil is evil, or that it’s horrible. The fact that almost everyone everywhere thinks molesting children is objectively wrong is indicative of the existence of some standard of good and evil outside of us—a standard, I argue, that can only be explained by the existence of God. Without this standard our feeling that killing Jews or raping women is wrong is nothing more than a feeling of unpleasantness. Thus, without God the problem of evil becomes instead a problem of clashing personal preferences and ideals.

I also argue that God did have a justifying reason to create the world the way he did. God’s perfect love and goodness compelled him to bestow upon us the greatest dignity he could when he created us: he gave us free will.

Our ability to choose freely allows us to be relational—to love God and others genuinely because love, by nature, cannot be forced. It is our free will that opens us up to, what even many atheists will agree is, the best experience in the world—mutually loving relationships.

But our free will also gave us the choice to reject God, the source of all life and goodness. Humanity’s rejection of God in the Garden of Eden infected the world with death and badness. The problem of evil is not God’s fault; we are to blame.

My responses often give my friends something to think about, but they are never completely satisfying.

I think this is because when we hurt deeply we’re not shaking our fists at our friends, demanding they explain how God can be good and allow such pain.

We’re shaking our fists at God.

We want him to respond. He is, after all, the one who created this place.

The thing that sets Christianity apart from any other faith is that God did respond to our blaming, questioning, and fist-shaking.

The cross of Christ is God’s response to the problem of evil. On the cross, Jesus confronted suffering and death in the most intimate way possible: he experienced cosmically what our sin necessitated—what we deserved—far beyond the physical.

The biblical picture of God on the cross yelling to heaven “Why?!” assures us God isn’t watching us suffer from a distance, shaking his head and clicking his tongue at us when we question him about our pain. He has experienced its devastation beyond what we have ever experienced, and identifies with us in our suffering.

The cross also assures us God is fighting for us, even as we suffer. Fighting to rescue us from darkness, to resurrect us from death, and to redeem us from slavery to sin. Fighting to purify, beautify and glorify us, so that suffering will not have the last word in our lives.

And this why I can look around a room full of stories of suffering, and see eyes full of light and laughter instead of defeat and despair, and friends dancing into the night, their souls unfettered.

Because our stories, still smeared with the bloody brushstrokes of suffering, have been grafted into God’s sweeping story of redemption, and in this story he uses blood to make broken lives new.

© by scj