Sunday, September 27, 2015

September Updates

My friends,

Welp, fall is officially here. At least that's the word on the street. I've seen nary a trace of her since the 23rd rolled around. Maybe she got lost en route to the southwest from her summer vacation in Bora Bora? Or maybe Summer didn't feel like he had a good enough run this year, thanks to El Niño, and bribed Fall to stay away a little longer?

I'll tell you what: whatever the case, we are dying to wear scarfs and boots and ALL THE CUTE CLOTHES down here, so while you cozy up in your layers and your fuzzy fleece, just take pity on us sweating it out down here, too hot to drink pumpkin spice lattes.

But don't take too much pity on us. Because today I read out by the pool, in my swimsuit, and in four months I will be wearing the exact same swimsuit while I read out by the pool. And then, four months after that, I will still be out by the pool. Come winter, we Orange Countians will be blessing the sun that's causing all these heat waves. Yes sirree, we surely will.

I do love these hot summer nights

One day very soon I hope to sit down in my glorious AC and finish blogging about my brother's wedding and our adventures in Florida, but it may be awhile yet. My brother just sent me all 900 photos in his wedding album, and our friend Pam Long and I took approximately 800 photos of our family adventures, so I've got my photo-sorting work cut out for me.

In the meantime, I want to update those of you who have joined me in praying about a number of big things the last several months.

1. A new place to live. 

Before I began looking for a new place to live in California this summer, many of you were praying for wisdom about whether or not I should even return to California after my stay in Washington. I've been so sick it made a lot of sense to quit everything and move in with my folks. Deep down, though, I felt a prompting to return to California. As the summer unfolded, my doctors, family members, and some close friends also thought that I should return to teach if my body would let me. Teaching gives me such joy and a sense of purpose, both of which are integral to physical healing.

So I bought a ticket back to California with the hope that God would heal me just enough that I could teach part-time at Biola come the end of August.

Three weeks before school started I still hadn't found a new place to live. Around this time, one of my doctors found markers in my lab work indicating that at least one of the layers of my illness is caused by biotoxins. He suspected mold exposure and told me to find a new place to live upon returning to California. This made my search for housing more urgent.

But all of the housing opportunities I pursued fell through. I began to second-guess my decision to return to California. Had I misunderstood God's leading? One morning in August I woke up feeling especially burdened. If God didn't provide housing that day or the next, then I'd have to contact my supervisors to tell them I wouldn't be returning to teach. I laid in bed for awhile that morning, listening for God's voice, straining to hear any morsel of direction.

I didn't hear a thing, so I rolled out of bed and checked my Facebook messages. There, in my inbox, was a message from a new friend from church. She'd recently bought a condo and wanted to rent the room. Would I be interested?

My housing needs have become numerous and specific over the years as a result of my health problems. And glory of glories, this housing opportunity met every single one of my needs. I'm especially hopeful that it's mold-free as it was recently gutted, rebuilt, and inspected by all sorts of experts.

This gift of new housing has bubbled over with extra, unnecessary blessings, too. I live two blocks from a park, I can hear the birds from my bedroom window, and I even got to bring my piano!

I'm almost done with the piano decor! I just need add a small frame atop the books and re-situate the bottom of the cherry blossoms branches

I love my housemate. She is considerate, fun, and says delightful things such as when we divvied up gardening responsibilities the other night: "What if you were the queen of the back patio and I were the queen of the front?"

I moved into the condo the first week of school with just a suitcase, and then, a week after returning from Florida, moved completely out of my old place. As of yesterday, I am almost all settled in my new place. I feel enormous relief and gratitude for God's faithful, timely provision.

2. Dancing at the wedding. 

The day of my little brother's wedding I felt remarkably stronger than I'd felt the previous week, but I still didn't feel well. After the ceremony, while mingling with guests over appetizers, I wondered how in tarnation I'd make it through the whole reception. But then, when I sat down to eat dinner, something marvelous happened. I felt a heavy physical weight lift. The dizziness, nausea, fatigue, pain, and fever sweats all instantly grew quiet and suddenly I felt light like I haven't felt in ages. I was overcome by an urge to dance.

So I did.

Taken by Trenholm Photography

You guys. I danced and danced. I had to take breaks, of course, but I wasn't relegated to the sidelines. And when a series of swing dance songs came on, a terrific lead asked me to dance, and we spun and we spun and we spun. There is little in this world that's better than dancing with a good lead. And boy was it glorious to feel the room spinning from dancing instead of sickness. And holy smokes, was it marvelous to sweat from moving instead of fevers. It was a wedding miracle.

Taken by Trenholm Photography

It really was. I haven't felt anything like that on this journey of sickness. So thank you for caring and praying that I'd be able to dance. I feel swaddled in your love.

3. Flying to and from the wedding

We all made it to Florida just fine, with no hiccups. We didn't realize what a feat this was until after the wedding when my sister, my brother and his wife, and I all missed our connecting flights to our respective homes. My sister's airline temporarily lost her luggage, and my brother and his wife's luggage was permanently lost.

I missed my connecting flight in Dallas because of weather (HOLY.TURBULENCE.), but not before first sprinting through the airport like a crazy former 400-meter hurdler. When I arrived at the gate, gasping for breath, I'd just missed my flight. I slid into line at the gate's front desk where the man in front of me began chewing out the gate agent. He'd also missed his flight and wanted on the next flight.

"I'm sorry, sir," the agent responded, "but there are no more seats on the next flight. There's nothing I can do to help you." Furious, the man stomped off. A few seconds later I stepped up to the desk and the gate agent looked up at me, smiling. "A seat on the next flight just opened up. Here's your boarding pass. You board in 20 minutes."

I just love being a child of the King.

4. Healing

I am delighted to report that since the wedding four weeks ago I have seen significant improvements in my health. My journey of healing is still an erratic saw-tooth journey, and I'm still only at about 20% of normal most days, but I feel considerable physical relief — kind of like the relief you feel when a really high fever finally breaks.

Slowly, I'm able to be more active; I recover from activity faster; and my horrific "I don't know how much more of this I can handle" episodes have been less frequent and intense the last two weeks. I do still feel way worse during the full moon and after pushing my body harder than usual; but otherwise, I'm grateful for this healing trend and am so hopeful it continues.

5. Moving

Many of you were praying I'd have the physical stamina to move into my new place after starting work and going to Florida. Fortunately, I have a team of three old friends who made this move much easier for me. They brought packing supplies, food, and a U-Haul; and they did the heavy lifting and big decision-making. In just one day they boxed me up and moved me out. And they did it with three kids under the age of four in tow.

Three of the sweetest, most flexible babies you'll ever meet, just hanging out in the heat on moving day

Andrea, Johnny, and Patrick: you are extravagantly generous. Thank you for making it possible for me to live in this new home. You guys are my favorite moving dream team. I love love love you.

Man, that's a lot of answered prayer in a short period of time, isn't it?! I wish words weren't so reductionistic and I could more adequately convey how grateful I am for your steady prayers, but "Thank you" is all I got. So thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

I love you guys.

And as always, I'm cheering for ya.

Happy, thankful, glorious Sunday,


© by scj

Monday, September 14, 2015

Young'uns (and happy Monday)

Today I was loading groceries into my car when a black BMW pulled into the spot opposite mine. Mr. Muscles stepped out of the car and swaggered toward the store. When he was halfway to the entrance, a curvy blond in boyfriend jeans and chunky heels walked out of the store. He checked her out and she met his gaze for about five seconds, which, in dating years, is A LIFETIME. Lots of singles DIE before they ever make it to five seconds of romantic stranger eye contact.

Our girl kept walking to her car but had Mr. Muscles craning his neck all the way into the grocery store. He took one last look before walking inside and she gave him a smile that said, “Baby, you know I got it.” Daaaang, guuuurl. That’s.done. And daaaang, guy; you missed your chance.

I climbed in the car and backed out of my spot when I noticed Mr. Muscles was back. He’d “forgotten” something in his car. Well shoot, I don’t want to miss this. I pulled back into my spot and “did some work” on my phone, which is spy code for “I peered into my rear view mirror.” He was gone. He’d chickened out and returned to the store. I backed out of the spot again. Then I spotted him at the girl’s car. She’d rolled down her window and they were chatting. How’d he get over there without me seeing? I pulled back into the spot and got back on my “phone.”

They chatted for a few minutes. Get it, guy; geeeet it. But I couldn’t see. He’d backed into my blind spot. Did he get it? Her number, I mean? A minute later he walked back into the store. Was he holding his phone? Ag! This darn blind spot! I’d missed the climax of my afternoon drama.

I backed out of my parking spot for a third time, and then noticed the gal had a Biola student sticker on the back of her Mercedes SUV. Dare I pull in and out of my spot for a FOURTH time and go tap on her window myself? “Um, excuse me, but I must know, did he get your number after all that?”

But I didn’t. I am turning 31 this week, and although I’ve had many ideas of what I would be when I grew up, I did not foresee becoming the old cat lady who peers through her blinds to spy on the next door neighbors; or, if you will, the rear view mirror lady who backs in and out of her parking spot three times to spy on the young'uns across the way. No, I certainly did not. And I’d rather not let random Biola students in on the development just yet. I’ll keep it between you and me.

Also, there’s this: you just never know who’s on the sidelines cheering for you.

Happy Monday, folks.


© by scj

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Littlest brother's Wedding, Part 1

Marc, my special littlest brother,

Because I am the oldest of the Jackson clan and you are the youngest, I remember when you were a baby. You had dimpled little arms and legs that you wiggled in an erratic dance we affectionately termed "The Wabi Wabi."

Marc on the day he was born, with big brother Aaron

Those Wabi Wabi years didn't last very long. Before I knew it, you were a toddler waddling all over the house, your protruding tummy peeking out from under your cotton striped t-shirt. You had the best belly of any of our siblings, mostly because of your outie belly button. Its plumpness was unparalleled.

We loved pretending your belly was an elevator button panel in an imaginary game in which we pretended we were riding an elevator. I'd press your belly button — "Plooop!" — and it would send us flying up to the 8th floor and then back down to the 3rd floor. 

Marc and I

And then you entered childhood. You spent much of your childhood pushing your favorite fire truck all over the house. You could get that thing up to breakneck speeds. And break our necks we almost did on a number of occasions. You'd come hurtling through the house, sometimes straight at us, and we'd have to fly into the air as you sped beneath our flailing bodies. No doubt those early years prepared me for my college hurdling career.

And then you became a teenager. Your chin sprouted hairs (just a few, at first) and your voice croaked, and we discovered you had an uncanny ability to impersonate people. 

We enjoyed regular family dinners together during those years. Some nights, one thing would lead to another, and you'd end up out of your seat doing your best Nacho Libre impersonation:

"Beneath the clothes we find the man, and beneath the man we find his...nucleus."

And now you are a man, Marc, and as Nacho reminds us, you have a nucleus, a core, an inner part of you from which all of your actions flow. 

And the verdict is in, Marc: your core is trustworthy. You are hard-working, tender, loyal, generous, and full of integrity.

You are a good man. 

Watching you grow into a good man has been a great joy. And yet, you’ve given me greater joy still. 

Because you have discovered that if being a good man is your life's biggest dream, then your life will be very small. 

A good man, if he’s lucky, can leave a legacy. Maybe his grandchildren will remember him for his kindness. Maybe his community will value him for his compassion. But his legacy can only be so long, his life story only so great. Because eventually his great great great great grandchildren and his community will forget his name.

Even the grandest life stories are nothing more than sound bites if they are authored by mere men. 

But you, Marc, have invited Jesus to write your story. And now he has grafted your story into his sweeping, Eternal Story.

It's the Story of the ages — a story that spans the whole of history. It’s a story in which humankind’s selfish rebellion ruptures and mars the good world God has created. It's a story in which all the good men and women try to push back the darkness of humankind’s selfishness and pride, but their efforts are like scooping water out of a sinking canoe with a teaspoon. 

It’s a story in which it looks like all hope is lost. Until God himself enters our story, claims it for his own, redeems all the bad parts, and pens unimaginably glorious new parts yet unread. In this new story we can stop worrying about being good men and women and can instead enter into a marriage relationship with the perfect King of Glory who refashions our inner selves to look like him. 

And you, Marc, are becoming like the King of Glory, Jesus of Nazareth. You are learning to fold your desires, will, and plans up into his desires, will and plans for you.  

You are investing your life's resources in eternal things — in purposes that will last forever and ever. This brings me truest joy.  

And now you have met a woman — a good woman — whose life ambition is to participate in God’s glorious Gospel story. 

 You two are merging lives, resources, and plans, and Jaime, we are delighted. We are delighted to watch your new story together unfold.

There are lots of things I hope for your marriage, Marc and Jaime. 

I hope you laugh till you feel like you've done hundreds of crunches. I hope you adventure to new parts of the world and see things that grow your compassion for others. I hope you enjoy lazy Saturday breakfasts and know the satisfaction of serving your local church as a twosome. I hope you have impromptu dance parties, complete with the Wabi Wabi. 

I hope you grow in your ability to love each other with a sacrificial love that lays aside your own needs for the needs of your partner. I hope you learn to delight in each other's differences. I hope your marriage teaches you to love God more and more for who he is rather than for what he gives you.

And I hope that one day, when you get to heaven, a long, layered line of people is waiting to welcome you to your truest home. In my dream for you, these are people who are in heaven because your married lives made the faithful, gracious, and transformative love of Jesus Christ real to them. These people will be your eternal legacy. 

Marc and Jaime, if your single lives are any indicator of your married future — and I believe they are — then your eternal legacy will ripple across history. It will stretch from earth to heaven. I can't wait to watch it unfold. I'll be cheering for you every step of the way.

 I love you both.

Happy happiest of wedding days.


Big sister Sarah


*The featured wedding photos are not mine, with the exception of the first one. I snagged the rest from Marc and Jaime's Facebook pages since I was too busy to snap photos of my own. When the wedding photographer posts his photos, I'll be sure to link to his website.

© by scj

Florida, Day 1: a practice-run and a rehearsal dinner

Well, it's official: the Jackson clan has grown from 7 to 8 members. We are delighted to introduce Jaime Lee Jackson, Marc Andrew Jackson's bride:

Sister Rebecca on the left and Sister Jaime in the Middle

Isn't she just beautiful? Unfortunately, I don't have a great photo of the bride and groom since I left my camera at the rental house the day of the wedding, but I'm going to round up some iPhone photos to give y'all a sneak peek of the wedding in my next post. But first, here's a look at festivities leading up to the wedding.

Friday evening and Saturday morning my siblings attended bachelor and bachelorette parties at beachfront hotels. I flew in Friday night and needed to rest, so I didn't attend, but word on the street is that the two groups of young folk had a smashing time swimming, strolling the beach, and engaging in late-night hotel shenanigans.

Side note: my body did fairly well on my flights from Orange County to south Florida. So many of you were praying throughout the week, and my body pulled out of crisis mode just in time to fly. For months I'd feared my health wouldn't let me attend the wedding, but I made it to the wedding destination safe and sound! Thank you for praying.

Daddy-o picked me up from the Fort Myers airport

My dad and I spent Saturday morning lounging with my dad in our rental home's pool. Florida is hot and HUMID this time of year, so the water was our favorite place to be.

Backyard pools in south Florida have bug nets. I think they may also function as alligator nets...

While Dad and I swam, Mom and our dear friend, Mrs. D., worked inside to finalize details for that evening's rehearsal dinner.

I didn't snag a photo of the ladies while they were working because I was in the pool, so when I got out of the pool I asked them to reenact their work. Within seconds they were in action mode, brainstorming solutions for seating charts and re-organizing name-tags.

"Um, ladies?" I said. "Are you acting? Because you don't have to be this convincing; I'm just snapping still shots." They didn't answer. They were too busy solving problems. Sometimes, pretending to take care of business turns into some seriously real taking care of business. 

We've known Mrs. D. for almost three decades. She, her husband and two girls lived three doors down from us for most of our lives. We home schooled, attended church, baked scones, threw slumber parties, built forts, played house, rode bikes, and weathered high school and community college together. They are like family to us. We love them very much.

Saturday afternoon we all migrated to the wedding venue for the rehearsal.

Sister and I ready to rehearse!

The ceremony space hadn't been converted for the wedding yet, but was still quite lovely and comfortable. We enjoyed chatting before and after our rehearsal. The air hummed with our excitement.

The venue was situated on a lake encircled by palms. The ceremony would take place in a front lounge room the staff would convert into a space fit for a wedding ceremony. Just beyond the ceremony space was the reception area with floor-to-ceiling windows and sweeping lake views. It had a central dance floor under a sparkling chandelier. It boasted the primest of prime lake views.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the venue's grounds, with the exception of a drive-by photo:

The venue isn't pictured here but was situated on the far left side of this lake

My dad would officiate the wedding, so he guided the rehearsal.

You can see a sliver of the dining room through the arched entryway. The lake is just yards beyond the dining room.

Have you ever seen a handsomer couple?

After the rehearsal the wedding party, extended family, and out-of-town guests enjoyed dinner together. The room swirled with conversation between new friends, old friends, and family.

Picured: Mrs. D's girls, Elizabeth and Anne (on left and right) and our dear friend, Jena -- three of my most favorite girls

Upper left: dad and lifelong friend, Phil; upper right: sister Rebecca and friend of the groom, Corey; lower left: life long friend Dirk (son of Phil) and wife, Brittany; lower right: brother Aaron and his wife, Natasha

These four ladies. They've been friends for years upon years. Everyone needs ladies like this in their lives.

Throughout the evening we celebrated Marc and Jaime's lives with a slide show, a surprise music video, and words of affirmation from the bridal party.

 The slide show chronicled Marc and Jaime's growing up years. It was striking to see how many loyal, loving friends both the bride and groom have grown up with.

Pictured: my mom and dad, brother and Jaime, and Jaime's sister, Jill, who made the slide show

Toward the end of the night the groomsmen and bridesmaids lined up to express their value for the bride and groom, highlighting particularly admirable aspects of their respective characters.

Upper left: Marc's former roommate; lower right: sister of the bride

Upper right: brother of the bride and his wife; lower right: sister flanked by twin friends of the groom

The night closed with a bang — claps of thunder, flashes of lightening, and a tropical downpour. It's monsoon season in south Florida right now, so this sort of weather isn't unusual. It was a dramatic end to a wonderful evening.

Coming up: the wedddinnnng! Stay tuned.

Happy weekend, my friends!

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


P.S. I've gotten photos from so many different sources, it will be hard to give photo credit where credit is due throughout this series of Florida posts. Thanks to everyone who contributed their photos to my collection!

© by scj

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Prayer as I travel

My friends,

I'm hoping you'll join me in prayer over a few things in the next week.:

1. That my most miserable symptoms would lessen (even disappear) as I travel to Florida this Friday for my brother's wedding (I return on Wednesday, the 9th). Many of you have been praying that I'd be able to dance at the wedding, but this week I'm feeling rather desperate to just make the trip and then remain upright for the festivities. Wouldn't it be grand if I could do it all?!

2. Grace to live in the now. When my symptoms flare up as they have this week, it's hard for me to focus on my external world because I'm so focused on bearing the waves of yuckyness that wash over my body. Usually, it takes every ounce of focus and stamina I've got to get through these waves. I'd so love to have the presence of mind to be able to notice and enjoy the details of this weekend. I want to remember this weekend's wedding festivities.

3. That my anxiety about flying while so sick will lessen. Because my central nervous system is already not functioning correctly, anxiety makes me feel sicker.

4. The layover between my connecting flight is short. Please pray that my body would allow me to make it from plane to plane.

5.  I'd so love to have a keen sense of God's presence and peace this week.

Today my friend posted a selfie on Instagram in which she is wearing a pink shirt to support a friend with cancer. Other friends have also been posting photos in support of this same friend with cancer. Seeing this photos has me realizing afresh how wonderful it is to have my very own support team who has rallied around me for five years in prayer and encouragement. That is such a long time to be getting prayer requests for the same person about the same issue. I know it can be tiring to bear my burden with me in prayer and support, so thank you so much for sticking with me through it.

I love you guys,


© by scj