Monday, April 18, 2016

News and a pocket of fun

My friends,

I have all sorts of news. I'll start with the good stuff.

The Best News: Finally, after months of prayer and hard work, I experienced some relief from my neurological symptoms last week, and for a few glorious days, I felt like I'd been released from prison.

The timing of this pocket of relief couldn't have been more perfect. My sister-in-law, who is training for the 2016 Olympics in Calgary, Canada, was in town with my brother to compete in her first heptathlon of the season at the Mt. Sac Invitational track meet. My dad and some dear family friends also happened to be in town last week, so we all attended her two-day meet together at my Alma Mater, Azusa Pacific University, where I reunited with some of my old teammates. I have all sorts of photos from that meet that I'll share later in this post.

The Disappointing News: I'm fighting a new infection, the presence of which seems to have reversed the progress I made last week. This has been the story of the semester — just as I'm seeing glimmers of healing, a new infection swoops in and devours them — and it's a narrative that has me discouraged. Would you pray that my immune system kicks into gear and I return to the place of freedom-from-prison that I felt last week?

The Other Disappointing-yet-Actionable News: I got another piece of this crazy health puzzle: the results of my more extensive genetic testing came back this week. Prior to ordering the test, I expected to have a number of genetic mutations because illnesses like mine are usually caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I just didn't expect to have so many genetic mutations.

Of the 20 genes that were tested, 14 are mutated, and some of the mutations I have are especially blahblahblahblahughughugh. (I tried to think of a word to describe how I feel about these mutations, and that's the only thing I could think of). I'm hopeful I will be able to take action to compensate for some of these genetic defects, though I imagine doing so effectively will require a lot of research and a really good doctor. If you think of it, please pray for wisdom for me and my doctors as I take steps toward addressing the genetic component of my illness.

The Change-of-Plans News: Many of you have been praying about the new treatment I intended to try last Friday. At the last minute, I decided to postpone the treatment for at least a week so I could ride the wave of relief I was enjoying. I didn't want to throw myself back into prison if I could enjoy the break from my neurological symptoms that I so desperately needed. I'm especially glad I postponed treatment, because dealing with its aftermath while also dealing with a new infection would have been too difficult. I appreciate your continued prayer as I figure out the best timing to move forward with the treatment.

Okay, that's all the news I got, man. Now, for the feel-good stuff: track meet photos.


On Wednesday morning, when my dad and I pulled into Azusa Pacific University, our old friend Simon called my dad's phone. I answered since my dad was driving, "Hey, Sarah!" Si said. "We're here."

WHAT?! You're HERE here? Like, at the meet?

Si, his wife Taylor, and their baby, Joanna, live in Arizona, and they were the last people I expected to see at the meet. But they were on a road trip to central California, and since they are our honorary siblings, they took a two-day pitstop in Azusa for the meet.

And oh sweet heavens, it was glorious to see them.

From left to right: me, Daddio, Taylor and Baby Jo, Simon, and my brother Aaron
Brother Aaron and our star athlete, Natasha

Over the course of our two days together, I got enough baby snuggles to fill my Baby Snuggle Tank...

..And enough girl time to fill my Girl Time Tank. Both tanks are very important and make life approximately 30 times sunnier.

We hadn't seen Baby Jo in 6 months, and we were all enamored with her. 

While I was snapping photos of Dad and Jo, Simon decided it would be nice to get a photo of Dad and Jo's twin hair-dos.

Dad's always such a good sport.

Oh my sweet heavens. How are we to handle the sweetness?

 Joanna liked to play with her sock. She'd twist and pull it and twist some more, until it was upside down. After awhile, Simon would notice her sock needed fixing, and he'd carefully return it to its upright and locked position (he's a pilot, see).

Years ago, after realizing afresh that God created good earthly fathers and mothers to teach us about His heart for us, I started practicing the discipline of noticing moms and dads caring for their kids. Whenever I saw a dad rocking a distraught baby on an airplane, or a mom laughing with delight over her child's attempt at a knock-knock joke, or a dad jumping up and down cheering when his daughter scored a goal, I imagined I was the child in the scenario and God was the parent.

As I sat there watching Simon and Joanna, I imagined God carefully sliding my sock around so it fit just right, and it hit me, the way it always does when I watch good parents and kids: God cares about the way our socks fit. And if he cares about that, certainly he cares about the big stuff, like betrayal, financial hardship, relational discord, sickness, and injustice in the workplace. Good moms and dads can remind us to pray with the confidence that God cares about everything we bring before him.


Okay, now for some action shots, but first, a disclaimer: I really need to invest in a good lens if I'm to capture any decent action shots. These will do, for now.

Oh hello, spongy Old Friend:

You are the holder of my team's puke, sweat, snot, and tears, and I love you for it. 

The Mt. Sac Invitational is a prestigious meet where many of the world's best athletes have their debut spring performances. All events are held at Mt. Sac College, with the exception of the heptathlon and decathlon, which APU hosts. 

On the first day of the heptathlon, the girls compete in the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, and 200-meter sprint. 

Tash had a great high jump on Wednesday — she went 1.86 meters (that's 6'1), and was only out-jumped by one other athlete.

The day is action-packed, so the athletes don't get much time between events. Here, Tash has come straight from the high jump and is warming up for the shot put. 
Notice the men in the dirt where the shot put will land. The man on the right with the rake is my friend, Bryan Clay. We trained together, and he is great. He's also an Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon. You can read about him and my other teammates here. The man in the blue shirt standing on the left side of the dirt pit is Ashton Eaton, another Olympic gold medalist and the current world record holder in the decathlon. They were a few of many Olympic athletes at this meet. 

I'm telling you: Azusa Pacific Track meets are the place to be if you want to watch some of the world's best athletes do their thing.

Hey brother Marc: do you see the girl in the red hat on the far left of the above photo? She ran track with you at Liberty and was at APU for the California Invitational!

One of my favorite parts of returning to APU this time of the year is seeing some of my old teammates. Some are coaching, some are helping run the meet, and some are just chilling, so I was unable to get a photo of all of us.

These are some of my favorite guys in the whole wide world (you can read about them and why I love them here). 

It's funny how after all these years, being with them still feels like home.

Left to right: Matt Sparks (we call him Sparks), my fellow hurdler and training partner; Rob Jarvis (I call him Jarv), and Bibi
And it's funny how after all these years, we still speculate about what kind of athletic performances we've got in us. And always, at every reunion meet, somebody's gotta do something crazy to find out. 

Last spring we decided we'd all join in the madness and compete in this year's Bryan Clay Invitational. I'd do the shot put (naturally); Bibi would do...something — we hadn't decided; and Sparks would do the long jump. Sparks started training in April of last year, and even sent us video footage of his training to spur us on in our own training regimes. 

Bibi responded to Sparks' video footage with this photo of his training regime:


 And I responded with a picture of a bag of potato chips I'd just polished off:

"I'm going for the high momentum/inertia approach to my event," Bibi said. I agreed.

None of us ended up formally competing last week, but Bibi wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to showcase the effects of those cheeseburgers (or something like that), so he and Bryan had a little javelin showdown. 

Bryan was nursing a knee injury....

And Bibi was sporting his work clothes...

...But it didn't matter, because these two have still. got it.  

Meanwhile, Tash was killing it in the 200-meter sprint. Oh man, these girls are starting to feel the pain right about here:

But the pain of the 200 is nothing compared to the pain of the 800-meter race. Here's the schedule of events on the second day of the hep:

Day 2: long jump, javelin, 800-meter race

The 800-meter race is arguably the most difficult race in all of track and field, and is rivaled only by the 400-meter hurdles (in my humble opinion). Having to run the 800 after six events spread over two days requires guts upon guts upon G.U.T.S.
The start of the 800

And man are these girls gutsy. When they'd all fallen across the finish line, I wanted to weep. So I did. There are some things I don't fight anymore now that I'm settling into my 30s. 

After the meet, we celebrated by eating. And the day after that, we ate some more:

Gosh you guys, I'll tell you what: last week was just what the doctor ordered. 

And there's this: Tash, you are the gutsiest, most faithful inspiration out on that track, and I'm glad to call you sister.

Happy Monday, friends. 

Cheering for ya,


© by scj

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