Friday, February 26, 2016


Lately, I've been imagining what you, my pray-ers, might look like in the spiritual realm when you are praying for me. Sometimes you are warriors with gleaming swords and sturdy shields, fighting off grotesque enemies. Sometimes I am in a dark, cramped womb, and you are the midwives pulling me into the blazing light. Sometimes you have hoisted the weight of my cross up upon your shoulders, alongside your own heavy cross, and together we stagger forward. And sometimes we are all on the bank of a creek that's meandering through a mountain meadow. I am resting on a blanket, and together we are listening to the water rush over smooth rocks when, gloriously, you begin unpacking a picnic basket full of fixings for a tea party. I suppose this last scene is a better depiction of companionship than prayer*, but your prayers have made me feel so not alone.

It's the craziest thing: I wouldn't wish this journey on anyone, and yet, sometimes I feel like I'm especially blessed because of it. I'm specially blessed because now I know what it's like to be hoisted onto the sturdy shoulders of the praying Saints and carried again and again to the feet of Jesus. It is a most wondrous experience.

Your prayers continue to bear much fruit. My health continues to incrementally improve, and a couple of days ago my body let me begin my trampoline therapy. It is every bit as fun as I thought it would be to bounce in the sunshine while the squirrels scurry and the birds sing:

My mom told me that when I was a baby my favorite thing was jumping in my crib. I've always a-loved a-bouncin'

I've also been able to start taking short, easy walks. I love being out among all the blooming things!

On Tuesday, I met with a new doctor, Dr. K., who specializes in helping patients like me. He's in high demand — people come to see him from all over the world — so it's wild that I got to consult with him. Here's how it happened:

My friend, A, who has been like a ministering angel to me this year, has a friend, M, whose multiple sclerosis was reversed with Dr. K's help. A wondered if Dr. K. could help me so she reached out to M who just happened to be having lunch with Dr. K. the day she got A's text. She'd known Dr. K. for years but had never had lunch with him. Today was different, though. "I'll tell him about Sarah's case," she said.

"I want to see Sarah," Dr. K. told M, after he'd heard the details of my case. And then a few days after that I had an appointment scheduled with him.

When we met on Tuesday, some of his first words to me were, "I have a daughter your age and I am going to do everything I can to help you." Then he walked me through his assessment of my case. His perspective and methods are unlike anything I've encountered thus far (they both give me hope and make me nervous), so he's given me a lot to think and pray about.

Dr. K. is a Christian who once struggled with incapacitating chronic illness, so he knows the psychological and spiritual warfare that accompany physical hardship. And so after he'd outlined his treatment plan for me, he reoriented me to the redemptive, sovereign work of God in my life and the sufficiency of his grace. He reminded me how to pray, and he quoted scripture, and it was like God was whispering in his ear, telling him exactly what I needed to hear.

I've had doctors encourage me before. "You can do this," they say. "You've got the goods to beat this." It always puts a little pep in my step for awhile. But I've never had a doctor act as prophet the way Dr. K. did. It was wondrous and glorious, and I imagine it was the result of all of your prayers.

Thank you for faithfully praying.

I hope you are all having a splendid Friday.

I'm cheering for ya, home skillets.


P.S. Gosh, I love living here:
Sunset Sentinels

*And goodness, perhaps most of my imaginings are wildly inaccurate!

© by scj

Monday, February 22, 2016


A few days ago I attempted to put my new mini trampoline together. After much huffing and puffing and little success, I noticed a bright red tag attached to the frame of the trampoline:

"Warning, serious injury or death could occur when assembling. ALWAYS assemble with the help of someone else."

I decided death by mini trampoline was not in my top three ideal death scenarios, which, by the way are:

Ideal #1: die in my sleep late at night

Ideal #2: die in my sleep early in the morning

Ideal #3: die in my sleep while napping

There is no room for diversity or imagination in these scenarios. 

So yesterday my friend Sean came over to assemble the trampoline for me. I am happy to report that there were no serious injuries or deaths, and now I've got myself a fully assembled MINI TRAMPOLINE!

Let the rebounding* begin. 

My daily health regimen is long, tiring, and thankless; and I'll tell you what: I just need to let loose on a trampoline right about now. I need to bounce and let my hair fly and appendages flail in the great outdoors. I am so happy to be adding mini-trampoline-bouncing to my regime.

My body is not ready to do any sort of bouncing yet, but just standing on the trampoline and gently bobbing up and down is makin' me smile. It may turn out that trampoline-jumping, like laughter, is some of the best medicine. Hmm, maybe we should ALL become rebounders and form a sort of mini-trampoline gang. What say you?

I hope your Monday is shaping up, my friends.

I'm cheering for you.


P.S. Today is a two steps back kind of day (it's also the full moon which historically makes me considerably sicker) and I'm struggling. If you think of it, please pray for enough improvement and productivity that I can endure my long day tomorrow.

*Rebounding is supposed to help the lymph system drain. You can read more about it here.

© by scj

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Progress and discovery: an update

My friends,

You continue to be my most favorite cheer leaders. Today I received this in the mail:

A friend who is very well-acquainted with the horrors of disease sent this to me, along with a note reminding me that laughter is wonderful medicine. What a delightful gift (and oh! I love The Far Side!). My mail prayer a few weeks back has been answered far above and beyond anything I imagined, and I have many of you to thank for that. Thank you for listening to the prompting of the Spirit, and thank you for using your resources to encourage me. My cup is running over, cascading, pooling, refreshing my spirit.

I'm really thankful to report that my health has taken a couple of tiny steps forward over the last couple of weeks. Of course I'd love to see big steps forward, and I'd especially love it if I could avoid taking steps backward; but as per usual, this journey is more like the cha-cha than a hurdle race. One step forward; one step backward; and every now and then, two glorious steps forward. I continue to learn to live patiently in the moment, scouring it for glimmers of God's goodness. This week I'm especially thankful for the sunlight that falls across my bed each afternoon, and the breeze that tousles the palms outside my window.

As I rest and recuperate, I've been trying to put together a working theory explaining why I've regressed so much this winter. Last fall I experienced healing to the extent that I was able to maintain a [part-time] work life, social life, and church life. I gradually became more active, and although I still had many bad days and weeks, I had a handful of days on which my body felt almost normal. I was on a good trajectory, which is why this recent flare-up is just so strange and unexpected.

But the doctor I talked to two weeks ago had good theories that have since been corroborated by my research and observations of my body.

Here's what he observed: the two new medications I tried in late December and early January were very high in sulfur, as was the autoimmune paleo diet (the Wahls Protocol) I began in January. Normally, these high-in-sulfur treatments have terrific results in people like me, but my doctor suspects I have a genetic mutation impeding my body's ability to eliminate sulfur. Here's the thing about sulfur-based treatments:

"When the body metabolizes sulfur compounds it produces ammonia as a byproduct.  Ammonia is toxic to the body but most individuals are able to easily excrete it through the urine. Unfortunately, some individuals have particular genetic mutations that do not allow them to effectively metabolize and eliminate ammonia." (Read complete article here).

So here's our working theory:

I can't eliminate sulfur, nor can I eliminate ammonia. Thus, I've had poison (ammonia) circulating in my body for several weeks now. The presence of the ammonia has thrown my immune system off balance which has allowed the viruses and bacteria in my body to activate. The doctor also thinks I have an upper G.I. tract infection that's the source of many of my neurological symptoms.

At this point, taking an antibiotic seems like one of the worst things I can do, so we're having to very carefully and systematically address these problems with creative medical alternatives. Our first steps are to try to clear the sulfur and ammonia. I think we're making incremental progress in this area. At least I'm hopeful we are. Sometimes the steps forward are so small they're virtually imperceptible, so I'm asking God to give me eyes to see them.

The G.I. tract infection makes eating very difficult. The foods I can eat are also limited by my current sulfur intolerance (SO many foods have sulfur!) and my additional, long list of allergies. Right now, there are about 5 foods I can eat. As a result, my body is not getting the nutrition it needs, and I'm seeing some of my symptoms grow correspondingly worse. I'm considering getting nutritional IVs, but my body is so sensitive right now, I'm not sure it could handle them.

So I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place in a number of ways, which is why I need your continued prayer. I think I'm going to start a new tincture this weekend, and I'm hopeful it will help my G.I. tract infection. If it's going to make me worse, however, then I want to stop taking it immediately. Please pray for wisdom for next steps.

And finally, many of you have been praying God would give me wisdom about whether or not to proceed with my PhD studies this semester. Thus far, I feel like God is directing me to continue them. It's actually pretty wild how he's enabled me to keep at my studies in the midst of such a horrible flare-up. It's not uncommon for me to feel scarily sick one day, and then, the next day, have enough strength that I can push through my symptoms and attend class. And boy, I'm loving being back in the classroom as a student. I feel like a fish thrown back into the water.

Okie doke, I think that's it for now.

Thank you for your prayerful support, gifts in the mail, and notes of encouragement.

You are my favorites.

Love you all,


© by scj

Monday, February 15, 2016


Today, because it's Monday, and because I love you, I give you this photo:
This cat belongs to a friend of a friend. His name is Albert, and he has become an overnight internet sensation. Obviously he is really happy about it. 

Happy Monday!

© by scj

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy things

1. Today I got a package in the mail addressed to "Princess Sarah Jackson."

My name means princess. It also means "one who laughs." The gift inside the package has turned me into a laughing princess:

A princess tiara! When I unwrapped the tiara, I laughed with delight and then placed it atop my head, next to my bed rest bun. I have been chuckling with delight every time I catch  my reflection in the mirror.

Whoever sent this: THANK YOU. It is my most favorite Valentine's Day gift of life. I shall wear it throughout the day feeling like a child of the most high King.

2. I got a book in the mail several days ago about soul care. It's also from a mysterious sender, so I want to say "thank you thank you!" to whomever sent it. Checking the mail has become funner than fun lately.

3. I have a friend named Tanya who got very sick ten years ago and spent years in bed fighting lyme, Epstein Barr, and a host of other issues before returning to health. When I  met her I was in the early stages of my sickness and my hope of healing was rather deflated. She'd only known me a few days but she promised, "I'll hold your hope for you." And she has.

Where Tanya and I first met, in Colorado. She and her husband are in the blue and red.

Years later, she is one of my dearest friends and most comforting comforts on this journey. Somehow, in the midst of caring for her family and going to graduate school, Tanya finds time to text or talk on the phone anytime I need to. When I have questions about symptoms or treatment options, she has helpful answers. When I'm dealing with something emotionally heavy, she helps me process. When I'm scared, she comforts me. When I cannot put words to a physical or emotional experience, she can. When I need to have a good belly laugh, you better bet your bottom dollar she makes me laugh till I cry.

She is insightful, incisive, wise, and kind, and her friendship makes me grateful and happy. Also: I love her.

4. Last weekend, while I was in bed, the trees donned their finest frills, and now my drive to work is full of glorious spring scenery. Lately, I have a habit of pulling over on my way home from work to take photos of these fragrant blooms.

5. I have a student – let's call her B – who is motivated, hard-working, and thoughtful. She cares a lot about developing as a thinker and writer, and she looks for ways to fold her writing and thinking into God's Kingdom purposes. She's exactly the kind of student you'd imagine finding at Biola University.

Last semester, B — and she's given me permission to share this — asked me and her classmates to pray for financial provision for this spring semester's tuition costs. We prayed for a couple of weeks before she came back to us with good news.

Her mom had been at the salon when she shared B's next-semester college plans with her hair lady. "We're trying to raise money for her spring semester tuition," she said. "We're still short quite a bit."

Some time later, B's mom got a call. It turns out another customer in the hair salon overheard B's mom talking about her tuition fundraising efforts and perked up. This customer has a friend who runs a non-profit that helps students like B. Soooo, this non-profit helped B pay her spring tuition, and now B is at Biola.

I have her again this semester, and I'm just so happy about the way God provided for her.

6. As I've researched holistic approaches to healing, I continue to encounter something called "rebounding." Basically, it's jumping gently on a trampoline in order to give the lymph system a little extra gravitational help as it flushes out toxins. I ordered a mini-trampoline last week and it's just arrived, and let me tell you what:  I CANNOT wait until I can start bouncing on this thing.

7. I have another friend, Jessica, whom I've known since my first week teaching at Biola.

Hers is a friendship I will cherish for my whole life. She is a wise confidant, intentional encourager, and thoughtful gift-giver. She is a woman of both being and acting — she has taught me what it looks like to "mourn with those who mourn," and has also been a constant source of help. Over the years she has offered to call doctors and insurance agents on my behalf; she has offered to drive clear across LA to take me to the airport when I've returned to Washington for medical care; she has offered to drive me eight hours north to a lab that could test me for lyme; and most recently she offered to drive me to Redmond for healing prayer. Oh, you guys, I feel like I won the friendship lottery, straight from God's glorious treasure trove.

8. I've had a team of friends rally around me this month as I recover. One friend has been an errand-runner. A number of friends, including my roommate, have been grocery-shoppers. And last week, a dear friend cooked me food to last quite awhile. I just wish I had more than mere words to thank them all. Which is why I should write a song. Yes, a song. Something like this (imagine a groovy hip hop beat):

Roses are red, red, red
Violets are blue, blue, blue,
My fridge is full of squash,
and my heart is full, too, too, too.
My pants have been tailored
and my pantry restocked
thanks to my busy busy friends
who always take time to stop.
and help me, help me, help me.

Ooohhhh yeeeeeeeahhhhh.

 9. Sisters are one of the best things of life, and boy, I'm thankful for mine.

It's hard to put words to sisterhood, so I'm not going to try today. I'll just say I love my sister somethin' fierce, and I'm happy-happy-happy God decided to give her to me.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends of mine.


Princess Sarah ;)

© by scj

Friday, February 5, 2016

Glorious things

My friends, 

Here is a glorious thing: many of you have been praying desperate, around-the-clock prayers for my health this week. You've been praying for relief, for healing, and that some way, somehow, I could get into a doctor this week. The difficulty with seeing a doctor is I need to see a very particular kind of doctor who is familiar with my case and who doesn't have a three-month wait list. These doctors are very rare.

There is one doctor, besides the doctor who just closed his practice, who is familiar with my case. He helped me a lot this summer. But when I called to make an appointment with him last month, I couldn't get into see him until March. This week, though, I'm desperate to see him. It feels like my entire life depends on seeing him. 

So Wednesday I called his office twice to see if he had any cancellations before March, but nobody answered. I called again first thing yesterday morning. No answer. And then again, at lunch time. This time, his office assistant answered. And what do you know: he had a cancellation yesterday at 2:15.

Talking to him was so helpful. One of the difficulties of the flare-up of the last several weeks is I've been trying to navigate it and look toward next steps without a doctor's guidance. The doctor I talked to yesterday gave me ideas for steps I should and shouldn't take, and he has some sensible ideas about why I've regressed so much. I'm hopeful his protocol will help me heal without making me sicker first.  Please pray that it's effective and gentle.

There's something else: Wednesday night I was terribly sick. I knew I had to teach Thursday morning, but I couldn't get out of bed to do my dishes Wednesday evening, so teaching seemed like an impossibility. But Thursday, when I woke up, my symptoms were much quieter. It felt like whatever is attacking my insides wasn't as angry — like the hand of God had very quickly and miraculously calmed my insides enough that I could teach before resuming my bed rest. 

At one point yesterday afternoon, I got a stressful email, and within minutes I felt my symptoms ratchet up. Man, I thought, how am I going to make it through the semester if this is how stress affects me? Seconds after the discouraging thought, peace flooded my body, and my symptoms suddenly quieted. I've never felt anything quite like it. 

So GLORY HALLELUJAH. God is at work and I am so grateful. 

Thank you for praying.

I do have another prayer request. Yesterday the doctor read my most recent test results and informed me I have a genetic defect that makes me more susceptible to mold-related illnesses. This means I'll have to be extra careful to avoid mold exposure. Here's the kicker: my 3-hour PhD classroom smells strongly of mold, and by the time the class was almost over this week, I felt terrible. My doctor humorously forbade me from being in that room again for an extended period of time.

I can't stay in the class if my health doesn't improve, and if it does improve, the only way I can stay is if we can move the class to a different building. Please pray that God would use this mold situation to clarify my next steps with regards to the PhD class.

Thank you, friends.


UPDATE: I've just gotten the most gracious, proactive responses from my professor and the head of the PhD program, and they are going to do whatever they can to get us into a mold-free environment. My goodness, all these answers to prayer!

© by scj

Thursday, February 4, 2016

You guys

My friends, yesterday marked a scary turn in my health, and I've run into the end of myself. But you people: you're amazing. 

Yesterday my phone buzzed throughout the day with texts of encouragement from you, although you didn't know how bad things had gotten. A friend in Africa. A friend in Singapore. A friend down the street. Our cleaning lady with a Spanish prayer. Family scattered across the globe.

Last night my housemate prayed over me for an hour straight. Last week a friend from India, who's prayed for me faithfully as he's fought cancer, brought me a cake from his homeland. Right now I'm snuggled under a quilt one of you made. To my right is a pile of books on CD from one of you. Another of you emailed me this week about sending me another encouraging audio book. Another of you is trying to find organic lamb liver to cook for me (doctor's orders). My favorite pillow was hand-stitched by one of you. Some of my favorite jewelry is from you — gifts, to add sparkle to dark weeks. My fridge and pantry are full of groceries you've bought for me. This week many of you have emailed me medical leadsinformation that may help, potential doctors to replace mine.

There's more, so much more. You are knock-my-socks-off friends, and I am so thankful for you. Facebook says it's Friends Day (they made us individualized "friend" videos to prove it), so Happy Friends Day to my wonderful, marvelous, glorious friends who are the hands, feet, arms, and mouth of God to me.

I just love you guys. You are the best.



© by scj