Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sister's visit, day 1: In sickness and in health

I'd like to start this post off with some plain, old fashioned bragging.

If you were to hug me right now you'd probably think to yourself, "My, but the shirt Sarah's wearing is so soft. I imagine it's also quite lightweight and breathable — a real must for this glorious SoCal sunshine."

Then you'd probably step back to take a good look at my soft, lightweight, and breathable shirt. You'd no doubt notice it's a Nike women's tennis shirt that's super cute. So cute, in fact, that, if you're a girl, it's likely you'd decide to take up tennis then and there, just so you could start wearing cute shirts like the one I'm wearing.

If you're a guy, then I have no idea what you'd think upon seeing the shirt I'm wearing. I imagine you'd also be tempted to take up tennis. The shirt is generally inspiring.

[This photo of me wearing said shirt has been temporarily removed; I will repost it soon. In the meantime, please use your imagination.] 

Isn't it cute? My sister produced it. She's the reason you just signed up for tennis lessons.

Anyway, my sister just flew back to Oregon after a weekend visit with me, and I'm missing her already. So I'm wearing the shirt she recently gave me, and smiling while I blog about what a talented product creation-ist she is.

I have lots of other stuff to blog about, too. So I'll break our sister's weekend up into a couple of posts. Mostly because we had a funeral for a hummingbird on Saturday that deserves its own post. But I'll get to that later. First, day one (and a half) of our sister's weekend:

I picked my sister up on Thursday afternoon, and first things first, we went shopping.

We were so excited to see each other, and so engrossed in catching up and tackling our shopping list, that we only took one picture. But you can imagine the evening was full of sisterly chatter, cute clothes, and funky jewelry.

On Friday, we did what sisters do when they haven't seen each other in a few months: we lounged in our pj's, watched T.V., did coconut oil hair masks, and snacked. It was good for our souls. And our hair.

One bag of chips, 1/2 a bag of cashews, and a few fistfuls of raisins later, we rolled off the couch, put on our Friday night finery, and joined some of my closest girlfriends for an event I'd planned a few weeks back: a "Toast to God's Goodness."

Do you remember in the book of Exodus, shortly after God splits the Red sea in half, when Miriam leads the Israelites in song? She pulls out her tambourine, and I imagine she spins and laughs, her hair flying in the wind, as she and her people sing praise to a good God.

Together, they remember the good things he'd done for them — how he'd rescued them from slavery, and thrown their enemies into the sea. And then they looked forward to the promised land God would surely give them. They were certain of the good things God would do, because of the good things he'd already done.

Our experience of God's goodness should buoy our faith in a good, gift-filled future.

And so I've made it a practice to occasionally raise my glass, instead of my tambourine (mostly because I don't own one), in remembrance of the ways I've experienced God's goodness.

My first toast to God's goodness was with my roommates, 3 1/2 years ago.

The first ceremonial toast, with my roomies

At the time, the Holy Spirit had begun to talk to me more clearly and frequently than he ever had. He'd told me to quit my job, move, and do lots of other risky, unpredictable things. And gosh, things started a changin'.

It was one of the most exciting periods of my life. I felt like I was flying down a river, swept up in a current that was leading me somewhere wild and divine. I couldn't wait to see where God was taking me. But I also had bouts of anxiety about where, exactly, this winding river was running. What if it led somewhere. . . scary?

So I resolved to rest, and trust in the current by pressing into God's goodness. The toast with my roommates was an occasion to choose trust — to look back at the good things God had done, and look forward to the good, unknown gifts he'd give in the future.


And boy, did adventurous things happen that year. I moved to a new city, and got a new job. And a year after my first toast to God's goodness, I toasted to God's goodness again, this time with my fiance on our engagement day. Together, we looked back at God's good, guiding hand in our lives, and looked toward a good future of serving him together. I can't remember ever feeling so full in my 25 years of living.

And then, in the ensuing months, I contracted what turned out to be chronic illness, and I broke off my engagement. And, for years, I cried myself to sleep, and wished the ground would swallow me whole before I awoke the next morning.

But the ground never swallowed me whole, and each morning I'd have to bravely face the day. And I'm swallowing hard and blinking fast, even as I type, because I remember how, during that first year of illness, I'd wake up every morning and feel the Spirit of God hovering over my bed, tenderly watching me.

I remember how it would take every last ounce of energy to roll out of bed and eat breakfast, and how I'd sense Jesus sitting next to me while I ate, so I'd never be alone. I remember how I learned to talk to him during that time more intimately than I'd ever talked to anyone. I'd tell him I hated where the river had led, and how felt like my heart was bleeding, and my body dying.

Over and over again, he'd listen, and draw close, and if he talked, he'd remind me he was the Lover of my soul. And in those moments, I learned he was good. More good than I'd ever dreamed, back when my life looked the way I wanted it to.

And now, as I'm feeling strong and healthy, I've wanted to look back, surrounded by my friends and sister, and thank God for the good things he did, and is doing, through my illness and broken engagement. I've wanted to thank him for the ways I saw him preparing my life for illness 3 1/2 years ago — for prompting me to quit my old job, move, and shuffle grad programs, so that my work, school, and finances would accommodate the years of illness I couldn't foresee.

My girls
I've wanted to thank him, surrounded by some of my community, for using the sharp scalpel of suffering to do renovative surgery on my soul. I've wanted to thank him for teaching me the certainty of his tender, relentless love. I've wanted to thank him for his financial and medical provisions over the years. I've wanted to thank him for my family, who walked this journey with me. I've wanted to thank him for teaching my soul to rest. I've wanted to thank him for recently renewed health.

I've wanted to toast to his goodness that will, no doubt, touch every part of my future.

So here's to a God who is always good — in sickness, and in health; in loss, and in gain; in life, and in death. And here's to my illness, because it gave me clearest glimmers of how wide, deep, and high is God's goodness — a goodness that makes me want to spin and shake a tambourine, my hair flying in the wind.


© by scj


  1. I love the thankfulness of the tough stuff. My story is different than yours in detail but very similar in living to tell the tale and seeing God's hand in every piece. Thanks for sharing your story so we can rejoice with you.

  2. Thank you for rejoicing with me, Jenny! Isn't it grand to "live to tell the tale"? I love this mission of the Christian life: living to tell the tale. That's good stuff.