Category: Faith (Page 1 of 2)

Jesus Help!

What a week.

After an amazingly “stable” (for us) month with very few drop episodes (faints), we are in a storm! R. was 12-days episode-free when she went down Monday afternoon, the first of eight document-able drops in these past 4 1/2 days.

We’ve been in one ambulance, and two emergency rooms, for her. My baby girl (age 16) got poked and prodded with 10 needles over two days, just to get one tiny blood sample and run a single liter of fluids. (More tiny needles too, because EMTs always do a finger prick to verify stable blood sugars, but those are nothing like the 7 failed IV attempts!)

We managed to create emergency code calls at school every day we attended school this week. The one day we didn’t go to school, we visited the hospital for a planned procedure, and she passed out in the food court there, creating a hospital code call with six emergency responders immediately jumping into action.

The school also had to call an ambulance for me on Monday after her first event. (I couldn’t find her when the emergency announcement went out Monday, so ended up “running” – if you could call it that in my post-stroke condition – down five different long school hallways before I got to her.) I spent three hours in urgent care, had a steroid shot, two breathing treatments, and am now on a week of home Prednisone and a shiny new inhaler, for exercise-induced brochio constriction. God has been gracious in allowing me to be there for R. all week, in spite of steroids that typically are emotionally crippling, and ongoing asthma attacks.

What we are thankful for today:

1. R. can still see.

2. R. can still hear.

3. R. continues to wake up.
Fifty-eight times over the past 8 months and 3 days, she’s gone down, but regained awareness within an hour and a half or less (sometimes in as little as seconds, often within minutes) each time.
Every time we see those beautiful brown eyes flutter open, or hear her tired and frustrated “Hi,” upon comprehension of what has happened again, I breathe a prayer of relief and utter thanks.
Every. Single. Time.

Prayer needs:

1. This situation is progressing. We have some of the very best doctors in the world currently trying to crack the mystery. God already KNOWS exactly every detail of what and why. He can bring hidden things to light. In a word, He can heal.

2. R. is a trooper, but she is hurting.
This is a brilliant, talented, funny, amazing young lady, who no longer is allowed independence to even shower or use the restroom alone (as she has gone down doing both). Driving, preforming, babysitting, summer camp, pretty much any normal teen activity, is totally out of question right now.
Our historically straight-A student has missed so much school this year, that school administration and teachers are working creatively to help her even earn high enough grades to even qualify for course credits so that we can count some of her sophomore studies toward graduation requirements.
Physically, she has a migraine headache that has not dropped below a 4 pain threshold (often much higher) since February 18.
She is utterly discouraged, embarrassed, and overwhelmed, in addition to the terrifying unknown and bodily suffering.

3. Our entire family is feeling hard pressed. R’s bothers (19, 13) are watching their sister get worse and worse. We all are feeling helpless, are fighting hopelessness. It is scary and confusing.
Our oldest has his own mystery medical struggles that have kept him primarily bed-bound since last fall. While the battle isn’t as intense, it is a continual struggle, without many more answers for J. than R.
Rick and I feel at such loss for the next steps God would have us take. In one sense, our marriage has been driven closer than ever, as we cling to each other at the foot of the cross. In other ways, the pressure on our marriage is so incredibly intense and we struggle in many ways!

“Restore” has been my word for this season. It is my heart’s cry. Would you please join us in praying for this?

Fifty

Jennifer Saake Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, 2019

Birds sing more on cloudy days! From a 1960 picture book called “Why Do Birds Sing?”

This week we documented R.’s 5oth drop episode (faint) in the past 7 1/2 months. As bad as that sounds, things are getting far better, episodes are getting shorter, farther apart, and less consistent. We have a great (and growing) team of amazing doctors, in three states, who are now working together, fighting for and with us. R.’s eyesight is dramatically and rapidly improving, and we believe we are getting close to a better balance between her combination of multiple medications. Thank You, Lord!

A specific prayer request is for God to clearly lead and open and close doors in His way, His timing, concerning some ordered testing for both R. and 19-year-old son J., and another upcoming medical trip. The tests need to happen before the trip, but right now that scheduling isn’t looking possible, so we either need both kids to get quick cancellation spots (seems the ideal, yet more impossible option, from our perspective), or we need to delay the trip (not at all our preference).

#migraine #cerebellum #PosturalOrthostaticTachycardSyndrome #POTS #EhlersDanlosSyndrome #ConnectiveTissueDisorder #CollegenDisorder #EDS #hypoxia #altitude

More 50s

This isn’t the only “50” in my life. Over Palm Sunday weekend, I had the dream-of-a-lifetime honor of serving as a faculty member at the fiftieth anniversary of the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.

Tree Tops

At this conference in the awe-inspiring California Redwoods, I got to teach a workshop entitled Praise, Worship, Jubilee! (notes to be posted under my writing link soon) about the 50-year-cycle God established when the Israelites entered the Promised Land after the Exodus.

I was also blessed to get to co-lead a workshop on critique  groups with one of my dearest friends, Deb Gruelle. We spent three days together before going over to conference, doing lots of resting plus workshop planning. There we spent nearly a week as roommates, learning, laughing, and soaking in the joy of being with 300 other Jesus-loving word nerds.

Tree Midsection. Base of branches to top of nearby street lamp.

I have been excited about and planning (even packing!) for my Mount Hermon trip for two years. On multiple occasions, I seriously considered canceling, even within the final week before I left, due to R.’s health. Months ago, before things got really bad or I had any idea of how long this storm would last, our daughter made me promise I would still go “even if I’m in the hospital at that time.”

Base of Trees

Why I Went

Just nine days before going, R. and I were flying home from two weeks out-of-state for another hospital. I went because I felt unshakable conviction that I needed to go  – I did not have peace from the Lord NOT to go, so at my times of greatest doubt, it became an obedience issue to Him. I also went because I knew it would shatter my daughter’s dream to see me give up mine. With incredible support from my husband Rick and my extended family, I went in R.’s honor.

See that far-off grove of trees in the middle? They are the same ones it took me three close up shots to post here. For scale, the little black dot at the upper end of the left path, is a full grown adult person!

Though R. had 3 significant medical events during the ten days I was away from home, including two phone calls where people on scene called me in California to coordinate emergency care, rather than reaching out to Rick or my mom here in town, as had been the pre-arranged plan, I was undergirded by the Lord with incredible peace all week. I so needed the mental and emotional reprieve from the daily grind of full-time care giving, and I gained so much  from that week spiritually, and in means of writing career learning!

Blessings

Hours were spent with countless writers who took time to pray with me for my family. Sweet fellowship included multiple late-night talks with one precious bereaved mom who had been through much of the same medical roller coaster we are riding right now, including trips to hospitals all across the country. DeeDee poured over lab results with me, talked doctor and facility options, and fought passionately by my side by giving me her hard-earned ideas of what to do and what to avoid, in order to keep my daughter alive.

DeeDee’s K. was born 2 1/2 months before R. Our girls share a common underlying condition that led to her daughter’s fatal complications a little over a year ago. As you think of DeeDee, please keep this precious woman and her family in your prayers. As hard as R.’s journey is for us, our pain is nothing like what it is like for these two precious parents and two younger siblings to go on without K!

Fear

Because of a joke I made to my husband two years ago, and his serious reply, I have spent well over a year mentally, physically (with physical therapy), and emotionally training for the Mount Hermon ropes course. One area of my brain severely impacted by my strokes was my balance center. Walking past a landing with three of four stairs below makes me feel like I’m falling.

By God’s grace I did eight (well successfully did seven, and had to tush-scoot across the eighth, then get rescued by a pull lift attached to my harness to get off) elements (obstacles) at 1- 30- and 60- feet off the ground, two zip lines, and an 80-foot bungee jump. I was slow, I got myself utterly stuck that one time because I didn’t have the physical strength to manage, and I had a full blown panic attack at 3am the day of the scheduled adventure, but I can now say I’ve done it.

Thank you for the custom butterfly and Rose, Tee and facebook.com/WoodburningByGeorge !

Every Thought Captive

That one element where I got stuck was physically more than I could handle, but the battle was mostly an emotional one. I basically said a Bible verse out loud for each step I took. It took me a good 5 minutes, with three people checking my safety equipment, before I said, “OK God, this is a literal leap of faith!” closed my eyes, and stepped off the platform 60-feet in the air, for that first zip line.

Ropes teammate, sweet children’s author Rondi DeBoer.

The second zip line and the bungee jump from 80-feet, each only took about 2 minutes, and one extra safety check. Take THAT strokes! (Kathy, yes I do PT so that I can do life!) My only injury of the day was a stubbed toe! My physical therapist is astounded I came home in such great shape.

The next morning at breakfast, it was announced that an anonymous “Jennifer Saake Badge of Courage” donation of $5,000 was being made to Mount Hermon because of the battle that God carried me through. Amazing! Thank you to all my friends who did the course with me, cheered me on over the course of the exhausting two and a half hour even, and to the generous donor(s).

www.laurachristianson.com/laura/

I’ve worked with Laura Christianson for over 2 decades, but finally got to hug her in person for the very first time this month! I also was encouraged by her smiling face sitting on a bench directly in my field of vision, while I was stuck on that 8th element.

Coming Home

When I flew home from conference a week ago Tuesday, I had about 75 minutes to repack, grab medicine refills, sign school papers, and hug my boys. When Rick walked in the door from a long day at work, we loaded R. in the car and did 11 hours of driving, several hours at a children’s hospital (in response to one of those injuries while I was at conference), and managed a few hours sleep, all within the next 23 hours. Rick made it to work on Thursday, while Ruth and I both slept most of the day, returning to school on Friday.

I’ve never been a “staff member of the month” before!

After being away from work for a month (2-week medical trip, school closed for spring break, 10 days of Mount Hermon travel, a whirlwind emergency trip, a day of “playing hookie”), returning to school was a bit of a culture shock for me. I returned to some tough issues that made me feel like giving up. Then I was surprised by this (pictured —> ) encouragement…

I signed an “intent to return” form this week, very thankful God has provided a way for me to be physically present at R.’s school AND actually be making a difference there for the school community. While I am very tired, I am in awe that my physical health is sustaining (and even continuing to improve!) and am thankful that my medication that was threatened to be dropped last week has been renewed for another year. Please pray that I can mentally and physically better learn to manage work, health, home, family, and writing, while keeping my relationship with Jesus my very top priority.

When They Say You Are Crazy

A year ago today, R (soon to turn 16) was having surgery to remove all cartilages from her 4 lowest left ribs, along with a little bit of sharped bone. Little did we know that in May, she would have another rib surgery on the other side, along with that accompanying hospitalization.

Then 30+ faints over the past 4 months and 1 day.

Or to 2 concussions, blindness, hair loss, significant hearing loss, and some memory issues.

Ten hospital night stays broken up between 4 different hospitals.

Seven ambulance rides (including a 4-hour ambulance ride to one out-of-state hospital).

Seen in 5 different hospital systems in 3 different states.

Undergone many more pokes, tests, draws and scans than anyone should have in a lifetime.

Not In Her Head

After a dozen tests and appointments in another big hospital, we have confirmation on some suspected conditions, as well as some new diagnoses. Multiple doctors in two different state have been telling us that her symptoms were only physical manifestations of emotional trauma. (Once this theory was proposed by one doctor, everyone who encountered her chart thereafter, jumped on that premise. We’ve been battling this mindset for months now, while watching our daughter continue to physically deteriorate, growing worse by the day.)

We would not settle for the “emotional” answer, even when a panel of a dozen doctors in one hospital room included a passionate young intern who fought tears as she proclaimed, “Until you can believe, and help your daughter accept the fact, that there is a psychological basis for her illness, she will not, can not, start to get better!” Let it be known that she has at least four document-able PHYSICAL health issues at play here! I am so thankful God did not allow us to settle for that garbage-can explanation!

How To Pray

If you are praying with us, we are specifically asking God to continue to give our current doctors great wisdom and insight, and to bring hidden things to light. While all the guys stay here for work and school, I will fly R. back again in another week and a half for even more testing. (My husband’s job has been so flexible in allowing Rick needed time off and the ability to work remotely. Thank you also to family members who are significantly aiding with transportation and medical costs!)

Less than 24 hours after our last appointment and diagnosis there, our oldest was tentatively diagnosed, back here at home, with a separate serious issue. We are in a 2-week testing phase to see if we can confirm his working diagnosis, or if a new approach will need to be taken with his care. If he has what his doctor thinks it is, the answers are hard, but we would finally know what we are up against. If he doesn’t respond favorably to treatment trials, we will wave to expand the search into other specialty field and do some deep digging!

God is good ALL THE TIME. We are in a wild storm, but my Jesus walks on water and will hold us every step of His perfect way!

First Adult Job

With all else going on, I will be starting a new job on Monday morning! Because we were getting so many emergency calls from the school each week, we got to the point, around Thanksgiving, that any time our daughter was on campus, I would also be at the school. My days were typically spent sitting in the front office or clinic all day, volunteering however I could, while waiting for medical code calls to be announced every time our girl fainted.

By being on campus, I was immediately available for feedback as the school’s emergency response team evaluated each situation to consider ambulance need. After a few weeks on campus, I was asked to apply for an open position. I soon filled out my first job application in over 20 years (for a job I did not get offered back then). My interview was shortly before Christmas. It is exciting to have a reason to be there each day, other than waiting for my girl to go down!

 

 

Not THAT Thick

Have you ever said, “I wish there was something more I could do than pray”?

Lately God keeps impressing on my heart that prayer can be much like “digging through the Berlin Wall with a spoon”. Prayer feels so ineffective at times!

I looked up facts about the Berlin wall. I expected it to measure many feet thick, like The Great Wall of China or something. While I could never find actual wall thickness dimensions, the picture evidence shows that, as boarder walls go, this one really wasn’t THAT thick!

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/how-the-berlin-wall-fell-a-chronology-1.1987852

Photo credit: Irish Times

It was tall, stretched on for miles, was stationed with watch towers, armed guards, attack dogs, anti-vehicle trenches, and more.

But the depth of the wall itself? Not that impressive. Only barbed wire in some places!

Tactics

That’s the thing about the enemy. He traffics in intimidation.

Sure, he has multiple tools of the trade, but when it comes to what appears to be the hardest thing of all, yes there is work required, and the progress might seem neither swift nor evident, but the barrier is far more fragile than the devil would have us believe!

So get on your knees and start digging with renewed fervor. Sharpen your blunt weapon of prayer by way of vigorous and repetitive use. As you faithfully erode the foundations of your insurmountable wall by prayer, you are leaving cracks and inviting God to do the heavy work of tearing down, not just your wall, but removing every enemy blockade that accompanies your barrier!

Crisis Amidst Crisis

If you’ve been following along on our 15-year-old’s medical saga of the past two months, you know things are rather crazy in our home. I’m sad to say that this faint-free spell only lasted a week. We’ve had code blue calls from her school the past two days in a row again.

Our nerves are so tightly strung that the phone can’t ring or a door open without us physically jumping, every muscle tightly wound, ready to respond to the next medical crisis. Rick called to say, “I love you,” yesterday, and instead of answering the phone with my typical “Hi Handsome,” I saw his number on the screen and grabbed it with a panicked, “Is everything OK?” God is the anchor we are clinging to, but this is HARD!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

While our 18-year-old was driving our girl and me to her doctor yesterday, our son nearly had to pull over the car because of sudden, rather intense chest pain and trouble breathing. He got us safely to her doctor, I called my mom to come take over with R., then I rode along with J. who was able to drive himself to urgent care two blocks away. A breathing treatment did wonders and our oldest is now carrying an asthma inhaler. So thankful this medical issue was quickly addressed and had a cut and dry solution!

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Bald Blind BEAUTIFUL

Yesterday, our daughter posted a selfie on instagram. In her own words, her hair “was falling out in handfulls, and I told myself I wasn’t going to loose my hair to sickness or medications, and if I was going to be bald it would be because I was confident enough to not feel like I need my hair to protect me or make me beautiful and to be able to shave it off myself, so that’s exactly what I did”.

In synopsis, since September 8, we have been in two ambulances, three emergency rooms, countless doctor’s offices, and inpatient in hospitals in two states, three times. We know a ton of information about what is NOT going on, but no clear answers about why she is struggling.

She hasn’t fainted in three weeks now. She is still totally blind (lost eyesight within 48 hours). Over half of her hair fell out, in individual strand cascading like a waterfall, (over two weeks) then in huge chunks as large as 4×6 inches of baldness at once (over 36 hours)! We broke down and shaved the remaining hair on Wednesday after another huge section on the side of her head came off with the beanie she wore to school on Wednesday to camouflage the large patch missing off the back of her head. One area fell out in a nearly-perfect heart shape, so once we shaved her remaining hair to ¼ inch, the bald heart looked intentional.

Today will be our third doctor’s appointment of the week. She is very frustrated by the amount of school she is missing. We are tying to emphasize that our priority is her well-being. The teachers, school staff, and her counselor are being fantastically supportive. The school started her on learning Braille on Wednesday and started mobility safety training with her VI (visual impairment) teacher today.

We are on the waiting list for a referral to an “undiagnosed conditions” program out of state. Please join us in praying that she will be accepted into the program (they receive so many applications that only a small fraction of kids actually get in). Also pray for doctors to have wisdom to figure out what’s going on and be able to help her. According to God’s perfect will and timing, we are simply requesting full healing for our girl, whether He wants to accomplish that through the common grace of medical aid, or to move miraculously to bring about dramatic healing that glorifies His name by leaving the medical community without explanation!

It is a HARD road we are walking. (If you don’t know the backstory, I told more at missed-deadlines and literal.) We are clinging to God’s grace through the darkness.

I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
– Psalm 142:5 (NIV)

Life

My strokes happened 6 years, 10 months ago, during a chiropractic neck manipulation, in Reno, Nevada, USA. On October 25, 2018, we will hit my 7-year “re-birthday” or stroke-a-versary.

I initially started my “Stroke of Grace” blog with the several-times-per week, weary detailing of the early years of my catastrophic stroke recovery journey. As I’ve gotten farther and farther away from the moment-by-moment shock and anguish of being plunged from able-bodied, into instantly trying to survive while being considered medically too fragile to sustain life, my blogging has become more infrequent, but has progressively focused less on stroke realities and more on the great grace God has been unveiling through the process. I’ve moved from primarily focusing on physical deficits, to my own name-based domain where I share many aspects of life, in anticipation of future book projects.

This week it occurs to me that I haven’t given my physical therapists, nurses, doctors, other stroke survivors, and families of Strokies, a very recent look into post-stroke realities. This post isn’t meant as a “downer,” but is an intentional attempt to contextualize the Grace aspect of my posts, against the ongoing physical struggle of post-stroke life. For those looking to hear about weight, hair, pain, eyes, ears, walking, exercise / therapy, emotions, family, ongoing upkeep, and a sample week, here you go!

Weight:

In 2010 and 2011 (pre-stroke) I was intentionally working hard at loosing the 40 pounds I weighed heavier than my medically prescribed “ideal” for height /age / gender. While I have faced a, sometimes highly debilitating, chronic illness since my teens, I did NOT smoke, drink, do drugs, take birth control pills, or engage in any behavior that put me at risk for heart attack or stroke. Those 40 pounds were my biggest health enemy, so I was safely and steadily whittling them away. As a late 39th birthday gift to myself, I bought a lovely leather jacket in my ideal size. I had been eyeing it for months, but waited to make the investment in celebration of that accomplished weight loss goal.

I had little time, a week I think, to enjoy the jacket while it fit properly. I soon was on a feeding tube and RAPIDLY loosing weight. It was estimated that my body was initially burning about 5,000 calories a day, just to sustain life in the face of such massive brain injury. As we transitioned to oral food, my regular meals were supplemented with 6 Boost-laden, full-fat, ice cream shakes per day. By the time I left the hospital around Christmas, I was about 20-pounds UNDER weight and the new leather jacket hung limply on my skeletal frame. (Since I couldn’t coax my left arm into a coat sleeve anyway, I wasn’t initially very aware of this loss.)

Gradually brain function stabilized and caloric requirements reduced. Since I had so much ground to regain, I keep those early eating patterns the hospital had trained me to develop. I gained back that lost 20 and kept right on going, also regaining my hard-fought 40 pound loss. Since my energies went to sleep and therapy, I focus little on the “vanity” of numbers on a scale.

Around 2014 – 2016, I began to put some thought back into food choices and prevented further gain, even whittling away at the excess weight again. By early July, 2017, I was nearing my goal range of 125-133. I was at 134 one week, and one a dime, GAINED 15 pounds within 10 days.

Since we were traveling, and I was indulging in soda (not part of my normal diet), I thought this sudden jump must be a combination of fluid retention from air flight, and short-lived poor eating choices that would soon reverse. However, within about 13 months, I pack on a total of 45 pounds, breaking my all-time highest weight record (far heavier than my highest pregnancy weight).

This brings us within a few weeks of today. After seeing my primary care provider, specialists in several different fields, and running huge batteries of tests, the conclusion is that my thyroid and other functions seem fairly stable. A nutritionist and bariatric (weight) doctor are now coaching me. The current working theory is that I had still been taking in between 2,000 – 3,000 calories on an average day. Most individual food choices were of excellent quality, I was just so messed up in my perception of hunger and intake verses calorie expense, that, upon aging (I turned 45 the month I started rapidly gaining), and with continued brain connection improvement reducing energy fuel needs, that something flipped in my body’s inability to cope with so much extra nutrition.

I’m now keeping a food log of every single thing I eat or drink, measuring portions and recoding everything. (MyFitnessPal, an app I tried to understand a few years back but still couldn’t quite grasp yet, has been the best tool in this round of this fight!) Without factoring in my twice-a-week water therapy, my body seems to burn around 1,400 – 1,450 calories per day right now, so my current daily goal range is to consume between 1,200 – 1,400 calories daily. I have already lost a little weight even during these first couple highly stressful weeks I’ve been starting to pay attention to these numbers. (My plan is to start logging in earnest next week, when my schedule becomes more predictable again.)

I have no significantly changed my fluid intake pattern, but by charting everything we have discovered that I typically drink two to three times the average daily recommended 64 ounces. My doctor says that for many people this would be a problem, throwing off electrolytes and dangerously diluting various needed elements in the body, but that my levels are exactly where they need to be, so I should keep listen to my body’s accurate fluid demands.

Fun Facts: Altoids Arctic mints are 5 calories. A stalk of celery is 6 calories, and your body uses 1 calorie to digest it, for a net gain of 5 calories.

This Week:

The past week has been pretty intense.

A week ago Thursday, found me at the eye doctor with a sudden onset of a painfully crusty infection that required two different kinds of antibiotic drops and gel, treatments 5 times a day, through Tuesday. I guess this is the result of all the massive west coast wildfires and how my eye, with a still profoundly effected tear duct, reacted to the prolonged on slot of smoke allergies.

The swelling and eye infection wasn’t clearing up quite as fast as it should have been, but I started mega doses of steroids on Monday (in preparation for my year MRI and CT scans on Wednesday) and the eye infection responded beautifully to the steroids and was totally clear by Tuesday!

Wednesday I took 167 mg (starting dose is 4 mg) of Prednisone and mythelPredniSolone within 13 hours, YUCK!!! Plus 50 mg Benadryl. I then went and did the tests and got “fun” contrast dye pumped into my veins. I think the CT tech thought I was being over dramatic when I winced and cried out as he pushed the dye, but I felt a little validated when that particular vein was visibly bruised on Thursday, showing clear evidence that the IV push had actually been as painful as I had acted!

I had planned on a much longer post tonight, but I will need to hit topics of family, emotions, therapy, walking, eyes, ears, hair, business, writing, and pain, in another post, along with pictures. I’m currently on Benadryl again and too brain-exhausted to type clearly. Tonight, yes, more than 78 hours after testing (but also 14 hours after my final step-down lowest dose of steroids) I went and welted out in hives. *sigh*

Since hubby is out of town, both our adult son and my parents are on stand-by to take me into ER overnight, if needed. I’m praying that Benadryl will kick in, I’ll soon be asleep, and there will be no further need for medical intervention!!!

Yesterday I posted to facebook:

I haven’t slept much since Monday. Tomorrow is last dose of steroids. 
TIRED. OH-SO-EXHAUSTED!

This morning I posted this praise update.

Life:

I was asked Thursday, “If you got offered the reset button for your life, would you push it?”.
My firm reply was simply, “NOPE!”

Later I added, “If you had asked me 2, 3, or 5 years ago, the answer likely might have been different, but now I realize I’m living the best “reset” God perfectly planned for me and I’m so very thankful, now, that I wasn’t given that option then!”

Redeeming Heartache, Restoring Hope

Ongoing Heartache:

We’ve taken six trips to an out-of-state children’s hospital, in seven months. Our daughter has been under general anesthesia three times in the past five months. She has had two major surgeries, each followed by several days of inpatient recovery.

I’m in the midst of medical testing for something that probably is not a HUGE deal. Yet it “could be” as serious as cancer. I’ve gained 40 pounds in 10 months, all while trying to eat fairly carefully. As a result, nearly my entire closet is painfully uncomfortable or simply doesn’t fit at all.

I’ve been justifying many concerning symptoms to myself, all year. It currently seems likely that thyroid gland that is aging out of happiness (thanks doc, I feel old now). The more stroked side, but only that left side, at the base of my throat, has become a large lump.  We drew a bunch of blood work this week. (I should have received digital results yesterday, if normal, but did not. The office confirms that they have received the results. So now I wait for the doctor to call.) I will have an ultrasound of my thyroid and the lymph nodes in my neck, next week.

Life is Hard, but God is good!

I know this is only a season. It’s been a long season indeed. Chronic illness, infertility, business loss, failed adoptions, miscarriages, financial struggles, another’s incompetence leading to my injury and strokes, marriage difficulty, church family losses, grueling years or therapy and rehabilitation, family health disasters, job struggles, coming face-to-face with childhood pain, and the list goes on…

Yet, in the midst of the trials, there has been much blessing. The gifts of living children added to our family, amazing friends, God’s constant provision with never a day lacking food on our table or a roof over our heads, a published book, access to quality medical care when needed (not always when wanted, nor how desired, but always according to God’s riches), restored marriage, a wide assortment of wise Bible teachers who have spoken into our lives, and this list also continues much longer than a single blog post could ever allow.

We have never been aware of God’s presence more than we are right now!

Yes, there are trials, but compared to where our family was emotionally, even a year ago, we are healing and growing. God is carrying us through!

If you followed my old InfertilityMom blog, you may remember our flood damage saga. It took a little over 14 months, but we finally have a floor, wall, and mantel again!

Restoration

We still have a few details to finish up as we restore our damaged house, but I’m actually in no hurry to clean up the last few projects. Now that the BIG messes and losses are gone, the little things actually make me smile. They are a visible reminder that God’s still working on me, bringing hope, healing, and deliverance to my family. Seeing the huge hurdles get overcome, has left me confident that the loose ends will eventually be put to right too, in our physical home, and in our family!

 

Imagine Heaven: Giveaway and Promo Code

For the first couple years after my near death experience, I was so anxious to get to Heaven, that I was suicidal. I felt I should “help God” to get me back There as soon as possible. Compared to that one tiny glimpse of God’s glory, my whole lifetime on this earth, past or future, seemed non-consequential.

Daily, I begged God to drain the intensity from my memories, just so I could manage living here, while better understanding what awaited me There. These infinite concepts are too wonderful for me to rationalize and process within the limiting confines of time.  As one friend’s husband put it, after she relayed the story I shared with her, “It is God’s protection, His grace, that we don’t grasp the reality of Heaven. Every Christian would be suicidal, if we really knew!”

Paul, the human author of much of the New Testament, felt Heaven to be far superior (see Philippians 1:21-23, below) too! The difference was my longing for Heaven was not just a “looking forward” emotion, but a “can’t function here” desperation.

  Quote

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

It took a lllooooooooooooooooooooonnnggg time for me to become convinced that my young family needed me, to get to the place of understanding that if God hadn’t called me Home “when He had the chance,” that it was not my right to thwart His timing by taking my life into my own hands. It took years before I arrived at a certainty of knowing I would remain here for as long as He wanted me to stay.

Just because I am here now, does not mean that thoughts about death never cross my mind anymore, though they are far much less frequent, and the focus has changed, as well as how I process them. When those thoughts come, like in the dark of night, I have learned not to welcome them, not to entertain them, not to ponder or dwell on them, but to instead take them captive, straight to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Because I am convinced to re-engage into my family’s life, I was delighted when my 12-year-old invited me on a date to watch a movie together, over his school spring break, earlier this month. He picked the day and place, I picked the time and show. I chose the life story of Mercy Me‘s lead singer, Bart Miller, songwriter of the runaway hit, I Can Only Imagine.

Bear (what we have called our youngest, since birth) was deeply moved by Bart’s story. My pre-teen was especially mesmerized by the way Bart, at about his own age, began finding journaling to be a healing exercise, how Bart created a record of God’s amazing grace throughout his life. My son was in awe when I showed him the 16 hard-bound journals that lined the top of our bookshelf, chronicling our decade journey to parenthood. He has taken up journaling as a result.

It was fun to be able to give Bear the I Can Only Imagine refillable leather notebook, in order to begin to create his own library of prayers, thoughts, and questions and start to see the pattern of God at work in his life. His young heart needs to process much, as he continues to unpack the trauma that shattered his world six and a half years ago, and sorts through the emotional journey middle school creates.

I love that the leather binding will last Bear for decades, while the 128-page interior notebook is replaceable, so that he can chronicle paper notebook, after notebook, without using up this fantastic journal, nor creating the storage crisis my writing habit did. My son was stunned to be entrusted with such an adult treasure, handcrafted in Haiti. Each notebook is unique and helps to support sustainable and dignified employment.

This summer, Bear and I will together explore the I Can Only Imagine 4-Episode Video Series, featuring Bart sharing his personal testimony, containing select scenes from the movie we so enjoyed (and watched before this review opportunity presented itself – in fact I only took the opportunity to explore this package because the movie had been so powerful to us), each episode is approximately 12 minutes.

Along with the video, we’ll be exploring the companion  28-day study of Jesus’s life and ministry (that can serve as a video series participant’s guide for your small group, or be effective as a standalone study). Bear and I will embark on a journey through the Gospels to discover Jesus’ encounters with broken people. Each day will include scripture, reflective questions, and prayer—all working together to reveal God’s incredible heart for us. We are excited! Click on this banner to enter to win your own copy of this study journal:

Yes, I did receive free products from FrontGateMedia and CityOnAHillStudio, from the I Can Only Imagine line, in exchange for sharing my genuine opinions. Click on this link and use Promo Code: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal for yourself!

As I watched the movie, I was blessed to realize, 6 1/2 years and close to 100-counseling-hours later, God has answered my prayers, softening my memories to the point that they almost feel “second hand” now, like an experience someone else told me about. It does not feel as if I am going crazy anymore. I no longer live fighting the weight of a wonder too great to process. My soul is finally peaceful concerning Heaven, because now, I can only imagine. Thank you Lord!

Once again, the giveaway link is blessedfreebies.com/indescribablestudygiveaway.html

And the the promotional code is: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal from cityonahillstudio.com/shop-3/i-can-only-imagine/

What’s In A Name?

“Your Dad’s name for you is Fer? Yeah, that’s got to be the lie!”

We were playing Three Truths and A Lie, the get-to-know-you group game where every person share four short and unlikely “facts” about themselves. Each member of group then makes their best guess to pick out the one fictional story in the mix.

They unanimously picked the first fact I shared, to label as mythical.

“Nope. Mom calls me Jenni, and Dad calls me Fer. That’s been 100% true of their in-private nicknames for me, for as long as I can remember!”

I love my Daddy. I love that I’ve had a special nickname from him.

Given those two choices, however, I ever-so-thankful that it was Mom‘s name that stuck with the rest of the world! For decades, I’ve gone by the name “Jenni” to all who have known me in person, even online, if you’ve known me well at all.

“Jennifer” was reserved for business ventures. It was a quick give-away when I answered the phone to a “Jennifer” request, that I would be talking to a stranger, likely a medically-related call. I occasionally got “Jennifer” letters too, often about my book, but from my first reply as “Jenni,” the formality I equated as comparable to “Mrs. Saake” was quickly dropped.

This all changed in January of this year.

After a lifetime of loss, I found myself again. Rather, God found me and put me back together again.

I realized, through counseling, that most of my worst memories were as unseen as my Dad’s name was unheard. These were my realities alone, and even though the evidence was there, even those who knew me best, had little idea of these unseen and unheard parts of my everyday life.

So, in a grace-drenched decision, I announced that God had been gracious (meaning of the name “Jenni” when I dug back far enough) to carry me through these decades of brokenness, and I am now closing that chapter of pain. God has restored my full identity, and in celebration of this fact, I’m slowly asking friends to honor this renewal by transitioning to my full name, “Jennifer” (meaning, among other things, blessed).

When I say this is a grace-soaked transition, I mean no one is to get tense, hyper, nor upset over slipping into old habits. Friends call me “Jenni, I mean Jennifer. Sorry!” often when I wouldn’t have even caught the problem myself. My ears are used to “Jenni,” so at times “Jennifer” sounds (or reads, in type) foreign still to me.

I am re-learning how to introduce myself. It’s socially acceptable to say. “Hi. I’m Jennifer. You may call me Jenni.” “Hi. I’m Jenni. Please call me Jennifer,” is a little awkward! My tongue doesn’t always catch the transition of my heart and mind in time. I really stumbled over my first few self-introductions in January and February!

Now, I try my best and when I forget, no big deal.

If I remember, I smile because I remembered. If I forget, I smile because hearing my “mistake” simply reminds me of the specific reason that I want to do it differently, and that I will probably get that chance the next three times I meet this person and apologize with my typical, “I’m sorry I’m so bad at names. I’m Jennifer. Could you please remind me of your name AGAIN?”

Old habits die hard, but in no way cancel my reality! What God has renewed is not broken by a childhood nickname. This “name change,” is simply my declaration of what God has restored. In this I greatly rejoice.

 

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