Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Things: Spring

A random list to celebrate the day before the day before the weekend:

1. A girlfriend of mine lives alone and sleeps with a butcher knife under her pillow, because: burglars. Awhile back, her new cleaning lady found the knife under the pillow and brought it into the kitchen to be washed, no questions asked. It was then that my friend knew she would keep the cleaning lady forever and ever, amen.

2. A sign you are getting older: when you and your girlfreeens are getting ready to go out and someone adds "pluck chin hairs" to the list of preparatory to-dos.

3. Last week, I was able to go on a short walk and discovered that the roses had bloomed while I was in bed. My neighbors are especially fond of roses, so every home has buffets of them lining the lawn. I was tempted to walk up into their yards to sniff-sample each variety, and was delighted to find one home with a bush hanging over the sidewalk. I must have stood at that bush for five minutes, drinking in every fragrant bloom.

4. My little brother and his wife are the only of my siblings with a front yard, so they are the first to carry on our family's Christmas tree --> Easter cross tradition.

Doesn't it look great?

5. I went to church last Sunday. I told you that already, but it was such a glorious experience, I had to tell you again.

6. One afternoon last week I was lying in bed feeling rather achy with longing. I longed to exercise, to play, to socialize, to dance, to work full time, to go to school full time, to travel, to find and marry a good man, to have babies, to eat chocolate and pasta and enchiladas and drink coffee thick with cream. All the longing swelled and caught in my throat and I was tempted to have a good pity party. Living with all those unsatisfied desires can make me feel like I've gotten the short end of the stick. But then I had a revelation:

I wouldn't have desire if the object of that desire didn't first exist. I wouldn't long for chocolate, for example, if cocoa beans-turned-to-chocolate didn't exist. We have so many desires because the world is full of so many objects of desire. Everywhere we look, God has created people, things, and opportunities that awaken deep longing because they are good and beautiful. And isn't it marvelous that God filled the world with so many glorious things when he didn't have to?

Isn't it marvelous that he made coffee beans, and taste buds, and white sandy beaches, and music, and mountain springs, and endocrine systems, and hands for holding, and eyes for gazing, and hearts for loving, and bodies for procreating, and minds for learning?

God's generosity is lavish, and our desires can be reminders of all the dazzling gifts he didn't have to put in the world but did. I think this means that our desires, unsatisfied though they may be, can ultimately be celebratory signposts pointing to God's goodness. Some of us just happen to get extra regular signpost-reminders. ;)

Happy Thursday, friends of mine.

Cheering for you, Home Skillets. 


P.S. Thank you for all your prayers. I haven't seen any improvement yet, but I'm relieved to have so many people pleading for healing on my behalf.

© by scj

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Prayer Request

My friends,

I'd thought I'd taken a couple of baby healing steps last week, and I was able to go to church and Grace Group on Sunday for the first time all semester. But Sunday night I woke up with what seems to be a stomach bug, and since then, my health has quickly spiraled back into a terrible place. The bug has triggered a new layer of symptoms, but it's also worsened my preexisting symptoms. Because of my body's fragility and my immune dysfunction, my body struggles to fight any sort of bug, so I'm hoping you can pray more specifically for me as I fight this. I fear this bug could drag on for quite some time, and I'm not sure I have the physical and mental stamina to endure it on top of my other health problems. Please also pray that it won't cause any complications.

Thanks, you guys.


For an update, click here!

© by scj

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Because He Lives

Over the years, it's become tradition to post this Easter blog from the archives. Happy, glorious, wondrous Easter, my dear ones!

A Forward: 

When I was a little girl my mom would tiptoe into my bedroom after I’d snuggled under my comforter, sit on the edge of my bed, and rub my back while singing the old hymn, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow…”

At the tender age of eight, I’d never had to “face tomorrow.” “Tomorrow” was full of tree forts, mud pies, homemade kites, and jellybeans. I loved tomorrow. It stood sparkling on the horizon, all swollen with fragrant hope.

But then I grew up, and “today” began to sag and crack under the weight of adulthood: chronic illness, years in bed, a pile of overwhelmingly large medical bills. “Today” often extinguishes tomorrow’s sparkle, and some days tomorrow seems downright dreadful.

But in the darkest moments I remember my mom singing the hymn from my childhood: “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” It’s a promise I’ve clung to these six hard years, and it’s proven to be a sturdy promise strong enough to stand on and bold enough to whisper truth in my ear: “There are worse things than a sick body…”

Humankind, with all its goodness and beauty, is infected with something dark and sinister. We lie, cheat, and steal; we harbor hatred and perpetuate injustice; we often love ourselves better than we love other people. No matter our resolve to live and love perfectly, we fall short.

And it gets worse. One day, we will all most certainly die. There is no circumventing or reversing this reality. It’s a curse under which we all labor: eventually the universe will crush us, and we know it.

Death and a soul that’s marred by badness: these are worse than a sick body. Sickness comes and goes, but I’m stuck with my soul for life. And then I’m stuck with death forever.

Tomorrow’s not looking so great…

Except that today we celebrate Easter.

Today we remember the historical moment thousands of years ago when the Roman guards looked in Jesus’ tomb and saw it was empty.

Today we remember the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw the crucified Jesus walking around, breathing easily, fully alive.

And today we celebrate the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection for all who love and obey him: because he lives, all the bad stuff in our souls doesn’t have a future. Because he lives, death won’t have the last word. Because he lives, we can know God. We can face yesterday, today, and ten thousand tomorrows with God at our side, on our side.

It’s the story of the ages that’s changed my life. It could change yours, too, if it hasn't already.


Late Saturday night, the day before Easter, I was about to climb into my childhood bed when my mom came to the bedroom door with light in her eyes.

"Guess what we need to do?" she asked me and my little sister, who was spending the night

"It's tradition!" she said, "And this is our last chance to do it before Aaron moves."

My mom has always tried to cultivate a culture of celebration in our house by creating traditions.  Our Easter tradition is one of my favorites.

Every Easter when we were kids my mom taught us about trees. Sturdy trees, slight trees, blossoming trees, and a forbidden tree.

She explained that long before the pine trees stood erect on the distant horizon, or the willow trees bowed beneath the blue sky, God existed, all by himself.

He didn't need people, or planets, or atoms to exist, but he wanted to create people and planets made of atoms, so he used words to make things appear from nowhere.

His life-breath spread stars across the sky, coaxed trees from the ground, and kissed life into man.

He loved the things he spoke into existence, but he was especially fond of the man and woman he created, my mom explained.

He showed them his love in many ways.  He gave them special namesAdam and Eve — and he let them live in a verdant paradise teeming with magnificent animals. It was cool and lush, and full of trees bearing fragrant fruit exploding with flavor. 

He also gave man and woman souls, created in His image.  Their souls were marvelousthey could create, imagine, and recognize beauty, goodness, and truth.  But most marvelous of all was their ability to love.  

They could choose to love and enjoy God's goodness, truth, and beauty, if they wanted, but God would never force them to love him. Love never forces others to reciprocate.  And Love is most delighted when the people he loves choose to love him back. So he gave them an opportunity to choose Him: He created a tree loaded with fruit that he asked Adam and Eve not to eat.  He hoped they would love him enough to trust and obey him.  

But when a crafty serpent enticed Adam and Eve with the prospect of becoming like God if they ate from the forbidden tree, they listened. They liked his proposal, so they they plucked the fruit and ate it. Their love for self motivated them rather than a love for God, and when their focus became inward they turned their backs to God.  

Anyone who rejects God is shunning the source of life and goodness, and choosing death and badness, my mom explained. That's why eating the fruit from the forbidden tree changed everything. Death, badness, ugliness, and lies—all the opposite of God—infected all humans and the earth they lived on.

It grieved God's loving heart.

Humans chose death and separation from God, and God's justice demanded they got what they chose. But God’s mercy drove him to make plans involving another tree. He would die in our place on this tree in order to satisfy God's justice, making it possible for humans to enjoy God's life and love forever, once again.

My mom wanted us to remember how Jesus hung on the hard, splintery wood of the tree, his broken body food—Bread—for us. Bread that, if we choose it, would satisfy our deepest soul hungers, giving us life and restored relationship with God.

And so every January we would cut the branches off our Christmas tree, and then saw the trunk in half. As our tiny fingers stripped the tree of its branches we would remember the day Jesus put on skin and came to earth so he could give us Life, Himself. 

We would store the trunk’s pieces in our garage until the day before Easter when we would fashion the two pieces of the trunk into the shape of a cross, and stick it in a bucket full of dirt and rocks.

My favorite job was placing flowers in the bucket at the base of the cross, a reminder that neither of the death-bearing trees had the last word because the Bread of Life gives us new life-that-conquers-death.

Then we would fasten a sign to the cross declaring "He is Risen!"  

And we would put the cross in our front yard.

Early the next morning the Easter sun would spill over the tips of the pine trees and cut through the darkness, 

an announcement to the world that darkness and death are no longer the victors, 

because He Lives.

© by scj

Monday, March 21, 2016



About five years ago I noticed I'd randomly throw my arms open wide when I was outside. I think it was my body's way of keeping me open to the world — of inviting it in even though it was full of viruses, and mold, and abuse, and accidents, and all sorts of scary things. This fall a friend who deals with ulcerative colitis told me her doctor recommended she throw her arms open when she went walking. "It will help your body heal," her doctor said. It turns out there's science behind this: what we do with our bodies affects our brains and spirits. Aren't we gloriously created?!

 (Thanks to my sneaky photographing friend Sean for capturing this shot!)

And hey, studies suggest this helps with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, too!

I say we all take a moment to welcome spring with our arms spread wide. Get those endorphins flowing!

And if you're feeling reeeally spring-y (and even — or maybe especially – if you're not), do a little dancin'. Here's proof it will help your mood:

Happy Spring, folks.


P.S. I tried to go to church on Palm Sunday — I was just so hopeful— but my body poo-pooed the idea and I had to leave church after a few minutes. Would you pray God would give me a pocket of well-enough-being to celebrate Easter? Thank you, my friends.

© by scj

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A well in the desert

I've gotten into a predictable rhythm this semester. Every weekday but Tuesday I teach a class first thing in the morning and then spend the rest of the day in bed. Saturday and Sunday are all-bed days. Tuesday is my activity-filled day during which I teach, attend my 3-hour PhD class, and tutor.

The time I spend in bed the rest of the week makes Tuesday possible. That, and the grace of God. I often imagine Jesus is standing at the helm of my body-vessel and quieting the stormy wind and waves on Tuesdays just enough that I can make it through the day.

I find myself living for Tuesdays because I get to be up among the living. Looking forward to them gets me through my weekly grind. Yesterday, though, I couldn't push through my symptoms, and I had to leave my PhD class early. I was heavy with disappointment.

Shortly after I got home from class, the afternoon sun flooded my bed with light. I slipped out of my dress clothes and into some comfy shorts, and I laid in that sunny patch for hour, breathing, and praying, and thinking through the month.

My disease is a shape-shifting disease, so every day my symptoms are a bit different. Many of them are constant. These are like the base of a cake. But the icing on the cake? It changes flavors and colors daily, sometimes minute by minute.

Side note: to make this already-terrible analogy more apt, please imagine the cake is made of poop and the icing is made of tar.

I really have no category for the symptoms I have most days, so they're hard to describe. I find myself comparing them to other diseases I've read about. A few months ago I started reading a book about a girl who had a brain infection and subsequent surgery to remove part of her brain and skull. I had to stop reading the book because her symptoms were so similar to some of mine. Descriptions of chemo also resonate with me.

Yesterday I felt the way I imagine stage four cancer feels — like every cell has been invaded by an insidious enemy that intends to kill. Sometimes, when I feel like this, I wish the earth would crack open and swallow me. I read the Psalms on these days. They make me feel less alone.

Recently, bearing my physical burdens has been especially hard. The last month has been full of grief anniversaries for me. Date after date after date marking crushing disappointments and painful discoveries. The turning of the season has also brought with it weather and smells that trigger sorrowful memories. Lately, I feel like grief has become a constant companion — a shadow I cannot shake.

And yet Psalm 23 reminds me that goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Goodness and Mercy are the stickiest shadows of all.

And goodness: there have been so many good things this month.

My sister came to visit me last weekend.

She ran errands, washed dishes, drove me to the doctor, rubbed my back, and made me laugh. Having her was a tremendous gift. Rebecca, I love you times one million zillion.

This month I've had so many people lay their hands on me and pray for me; my PhD program director has taken special measures to support me and my health needs as I study; my dear aunt has daily emailed me beautiful prayers for healing and refreshment; a dear friend has agreed to help me research possible medications and treatments since I'm so inundated with medical research; and you guys, I know I've said it before, but THE ORANGE TREES ARE BLOOMING and I am in olfactory heaven.

All of this is like manna in the desert, delivered daily to sustain me. Sometimes, though, I need more than manna. Sometimes I need water. Water gushing from a rock, pooling in a sandy divot, gurgling out of a spring. Without water, I feel like I might just wither up and turn to dust.

Yesterday, I realized it's been a long while since I've stumbled across a well in the desert, and I am parched. I was too tired to ask God to put a well in my near future, but many of you have been asking on my behalf. And God, he's listening.

Today he gave me a well in the desert.

Though I didn't feel well when I taught this morning, I didn't feel as "cancerous" as I did yesterday. Shortly after I got home, my servant-hearted friend, Sean, picked me up to take me to the doctor. It was in the 80s here today, so we opened the sun roof, rolled down the windows, blasted Coldplay's new album, and drank in that orange blossom air.

After my appointment, my friend Sean and I noted that the beach was close. And gosh, that ocean air smelled good. "I think I could go to the beach for a few minutes as long as I could lie down," I said. "It could be good for my body to breathe in that sea breeze."

So we drove to beach and headed for the water's edge where we stood with our faces tipped to the sun and let the waves lick our toes while the breeze tousled and teased.

If my body had let me, I would've stood there watching the water for hours. Whenever I come to the beach I'm stunned afresh that God invented this stuff. This shimmering, undulating, life-sustaining body that thrashes, and foams, and gurgles, and roars, and bends the light into ribbons of color tells us something about God's mind. Wild.

Sean was a photo journalist extraordinaire today

After a few minutes at the water's edge I needed to lie down, so I snuggled into the sand. But gosh, that water beckoned; and my symptoms had, strangely, begun to quiet, so after awhile, I walked back to the water. And oh! I longed to go swimming, to feel normal and alive. I turned to Sean: "I wonder if my body would let me swim...? I wish I'd brought my suit..."

"Why don't you go in anyway?" he said. "Just see if your body can handle it. If not, come back and lie down."

So I did.




I walked into the ocean, wearing a pencil skirt, and I let the waves rush over my tired body; and the sun chased away grief's shadow, and the seagulls sang, and for a few minutes I forgot I was stuck in a sick body.

 It was glorious.

Thank you for those of you who have been praying God would give me this well in the desert.

I love you, and I'm cheering for you,


© by scj

Sunday, March 6, 2016


A couple of years ago, I started the spiritual practice of imagining what the Trinity might be doing in relation to me when I am resting in bed. I always start by asking God to give me pictures that help me understand his love and care for me. Sometimes he gives me startlingly vivid pictures; other times, he's quieter and I try to let scripture inform my imaginings.

I often imagine Jesus is cradling me and murmuring prayers to the Father on my behalf in a language I can't understand. The Father is always standing over us, sheltering us with wings woven together with fragrant, feathered beams of light. Somehow, he stretches to the heavens but is still just a few feet from me. He is so tender and responsive to the prayers of the Son. 

The Holy Spirit is breathing into me, praying. I think he must be giving me spiritual CPR. With each breath, a thread of light appears in my spirit and begins to grow longer and thicker. Soon, each thread splits into several threads of light, each of them also growing longer, thicker. Before long, my entire soul is glowing with veins of light — a spiritual cardiovascular system carrying Divine Life to my starved spaces.

It's a practice that is transforming my prayer life and helping me live more fully out of my divine daughter-ship and beloved-ness.

Today I've been praying for those of you who have sent me prayer requests (keep 'em coming!). I'm especially praying that you would know the protective favor of the Father, the tender care of the Son, and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Sunday, my friends.

I'm cheering and praying for you today, Skillets.



© by scj

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


My friends,

This week I've regressed considerably, and my symptoms are often horrific. After getting so sick in January, I had hope that this semester would go something like this:

1. I ask you all to pray me out of this crisis
2. You pray
3. I gradually and continuously heal and tell you about each step of healing so we can celebrate answered prayer together.

But this journey continues to be so up and down, with far more downs than ups. I am not continuously healing — at least not in any discernible way — and so rather than continue to post updates detailing my ups and downs, I think I'm just going to ask you a really big favor:

Would you commit to praying for me through the end of the semester? This is journey is hard. I have no words, it's so very hard. And I know that even when there are signs of healing, I'll need you to continue to fight for me in the spiritual realm because of the likelihood of subsequent regression.

A student in my PhD program had a heart attack a week ago and almost died. His major organs stopped working, along with his heart, and the doctor told his wife there was no hope. She needed to let him go. She asked if they'd keep him hooked up to his life lines just two more hours, so the doctor did. Before the two hours were up, her husband woke up and was lucid. He was so excited to see her.

For the next week a massive crew of Christians prayed for him. First we prayed for his kidneys, and lo and behold, his kidneys started working. Then we prayed for another organ, and it started working. And so on and so forth until he was healthy enough to be discharged. The doctors are baffled. They've never seen anything like it.

I keep clinging to this hope that the same thing might happen with me. Maybe, with enough prayer, I'll see improvements every day, week, and month. Maybe, with enough prayer, I'll heal enough that every day isn't an excruciating battle. And maybe, one day, with enough prayer, I'll improve enough that I can return to a semi-normal life. Maybe it will be the sort of thing that baffles onlookers, that makes them wonder at a God who reaches into our dusty, dying bodies, and restores them.

I realize that God may not heal me. Somehow, a life of sickness may be God's best for me. It has been for many people before me. Because somehow, a life of sickness can do the same thing as a miraculous physical healing: it can make people wonder at a God who reaches into our hearts and restores them in the face of ongoing suffering. I suppose it's easier for me to accept the possibility of lots more sickness with all of you praying. Surely God must be doing something really good through all this if he's allowing, or causing, this sickness in spite of your fervent prayers.

But I'm still hoping for healing.

My semester ends the last week of May. If you would commit to praying for these things through May, I'd be so grateful:

1. Healing

2. Protection from the Enemy

3. Mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical stamina

4. Protection from greater sickness. I'm know that my current illness could morph into something worse. And to be honest, my doctor is surprised and encouraged that it hasn't. I imagine it hasn't because of your prayers.

5. Wisdom for me and my doctors as we determine what treatments to try. Protection from treatments that will do more harm than good.

And of course, I want to know how I can pray for you. I murmur prayers for you throughout the day when you come to mind. And when you email me, I pray for you. I don't know lots of you, but I love getting your emails. So keep sending prayer requests.

Thank you, my friends.

I'm cheering for ya, Home Skillets. 


P.S. The jasmine and orange trees are in bloom here this week. Windows are one of man's best inventions, and I'll bet heaven smells better than southern California right now. That BOGGLES my mind.

© by scj