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Tired

I just took my final 4 mg dose on methylPredniSolone! I can’t say how glad I am to be DONE with these six days of mega steroids (Wednesday was 167 mg within 13 hours)! 
Yesterday was rough. Water therapy consisted on sitting on the pool steps for 45 minutes and struggling just to stay upright and not throw up, in the buffeting waves produced by 20 ladies doing the water aerobics I typically fully participate in. 
I was EXHAUSTED all day yesterday and was in bed for the night by 7:30. I got close to 10 hours of pretty solid sleep (awake several times, but usually just long enough to pray for my husband on his men’s retreat, then roll back over and quickly fall back asleep, as opposed to many several-hour stretches of wakefulness this week) and since I’ve not slept more than a very few hours in any 24 since Monday, this was an AMAZING gift! I’m still far from feeling 100% today, but SO MUCH BETTER this morning than yesterday!

The Glasses

It’s been nearly 7 years now. When will the startling “firsts” and painful reminders stop catching us by surprise?

Does ANYONE know the name, artist, or source of this picture, pretty please??? I found the picture on Facebook, do not own copyright, but am risking posting it here because the image moves me and I want to track down the person to credit!

We attended a wedding on Saturday. The couple met just weeks before I stroked. My mind had the hardest time reconciling between their reality of the past almost seven years, and ours!

I cleaned my husband’s dresser yesterday. Not only did I find my old medication list and dosage schedule from the rehab hospital, but I also found something that really took me for an unexpected turn.

I gathered a few pair of glasses, my husband’s old prescriptions and some sun glasses, and put them together in a basket. When I showed him one of the two cases I had put with them, I commented that the soft case had a pair of glasses inside.

“That’s weird,” he replied, unzipping the pouch.

We both froze as he pulled out the pair of glasses I had worn to the chiropractor on the morning of October 25, 2011.

Until that moment, neither of us had thought any more of the hospital’s name emblazoned on that little black caddy, than as advertising swag. As if on fire, the case instantly burned our minds and hearts with the realization that the hospital had placed my glasses in that case when the ambulance deposited me in the emergency room.

Just last week I had wondered what ever happened to those glasses. Little did I know that I slept within eight feet of their resting place each night!

No, the prescription no longer offers me any benefit. Yes, it was time for new glasses anyway. These frames are still in great shape (after all, they have been well persevered in a dark, padded bag for nearly seven years!), and since they were fairly new when I entered the hospital, I think I’ll take them to my eye exam and try to get new lenses in them.

On the topic of stroke reality, here’s my pretty foot after a little boy dropped a soda can on it over a week ago.

Yes, a soda can. 

I don’t have proper circulation anymore. Blood likes to pool in my stroked foot.

 

Giveaway Link and Movie Review – Paul: Apostle Of Christ

I  wanted to see Paul: Apostle Of Christ, the movie, in theaters, when it released in May. I’m glad I waited to view the DVD.

Why am I glad I waited? I’m an ugly crier. I made it almost to the end, before I was a blubbering mess. Then I had to go back and watch the closing two scenes I had been crying too hard to fully appreciate the first time. You can’t do that in the theater.

 

Paul: Apostle of Christ is presented in my very favorite genera. It is based on known solid facts and accounts of real people, and researched cultural realities of time and place, woven together with “could-have-been” fictional people and plot lines. This film’s retelling of the final years of Paul’s life, and Dr, Luke’s endeavor to write an account on the Acts of the apostles, seems faithful to the historical and Biblical realities that marked this significant period of early church history.

Paul (Faulkner), who goes from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to Christ’s most influential apostle, is spending his last days in a dark and bleak prison cell awaiting execution by Emperor Nero. Luke(Caviezel), his friend and physician, risks his life when he ventures into Rome to visit him. Paul is under the watchful eye of Mauritius (Martinez), the prison’s prefect, who seeks to understand how this broken old man can pose such a threat. But before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the church. Their faith challenged an empire. But their words changed the world.

Kudos to the entire team responsible for lifting this story from the black and white pages of Scripture, and challenging our minds to move beyond the cobweb corners of dusty history books, in order to better grasp the lives of the first generation that was called to live for Christ without ever having see Him in flesh. While this movie is fantastic for any adult interested in history and/or the Bible, I believe it could especially benefit (older) middle school, high school, and college students, who are seeking an emotional understanding of this period of history. Please be aware that the PG13 rating is well merited. While the majority of the goriest depictions, such as Christians fed to wild beasts in Nero’s circus, or the beheading of Paul, are only alluded to, while visual portrayal is left to the imagination, there are some rather gruesome scenes.

The movie opens  (and similar scenes continue throughout the movie), by portraying the horror of “Roman candles,” human beings doused in oil and mounted to stakes to be burned alive, as light for the streets. Another potentially stomach-lurching sight, illustrates injuries Paul obtains via flogging. There are several instances of verbal abuse and physical violence played out. The directors did an admirable job of balancing enough details to let viewers begin to understand, without showing more than needed to convey the idea, but this is absolutely not a movie suitable for young children!

The story-lines are intricate and detailed. Especially with many scene set in dark environments like a dungeon, and less-than-optimal hearing capability on my part, I had to watch the film twice to start grasping some of the nuances. Being well-versed in the Scriptural side of the story, and relatively familial with the historical context, many cultural and fictional elements of the script took three plays before I felt I had a good grasp on story line. I do not see this as a fault of the movie-maker, rather I mention to let you know that this isn’t a light movie to be played in the background while your focus is divided. It is a real thinker’s movie. I expect to discover missed details and glean deeper understanding every time I watch it again.

Movie stats:

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY:Andrew Hyatt

PRODUCED BY:T.J. Berden and David Zelon

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS:Eric Groth, Rick Jackson, Harrison Powell and Jim Caviezel

STARRING:Jim Caviezel, James Faulkner, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley and John Lynch

Follow along at:

facebook.com/paulmovie and

instagrman.com/paulmovie.

 

I did receive my DVD copy for free, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Enjoy a free digital download with DVD or Blue Ray purchase.

Fill out this form to be entered for a chance to win a copy of the #PaulMovie of your own. (Odds of winning depend on number of entries competing for the five copies being given away.)

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Breaking Up With Bed

On this date of July, 2010, I wrote this resignation letter:

Dear Bed,
You are a faithful friend. We spend many more hours together than most. I know you well and am thankful for your comfort. But may I be honest and say I really would prefer to spend much less time together from here on out? It’s not you, it’s me. I really would like to move on from this dependent relationship!

Today, I wrote this prayer:

Lord, thank You that chronic illness is in a more manageable season for me right now. Thank You that You did grant the desire of my heart to need less hours in bed that year, blessing my kids and husband to get to know a fairly normal-energied mom/wife for several months. Thank you that every day I’m gaining a little more ground from the strokes that put me down harder than I’d ever been before, less than 16 months after this day of desperation. God, You are good! You are faithful!

What’s New

It’s 95% sure…

…that I do NOT have thyroid cancer. I do have multiple thyroid nodules that are likely benign. The very fact that there are multiple, points to a greater likelihood that we are dealing with auto-immune thyroid issues. Finding only one nodule would have slightly upped the cancer concerns.

I haven’t intentionally left you on this cliff hanger. My primary care doctor left her practice quite unexpectedly, before I could even see her to follow up on the test. I’ve been working hard to find a new provider for continuation of care. I see my new PCP about a week and a half into July, followed by a new endocrinologist in August.

Are you in Northern Nevada?

5:30. Please contact me to join our information and announcement group if you want local group attendance details.

If so, I would really like to meet you, in person, early tomorrow evening!

I’ll be facilitating the new Life Writer group in Midtown Reno. We so hope you can come!

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!

 

Hannah’s Prayer Ministries

In the mid 1990s, Rick and I accidentally started an international infertility and pregnancy loss support ministry called Hannah’s Prayer (HP). HP has gone through a series of ministry focuses over the years, from local support group chapters (from Canada, to the United Kingdom, to South Africa), lending libraries, and a print newsletter, to Ladies In Waiting (founded by John and Julie Donahue) email groups, our massivee Community Forums (over 70 topic-specific message boards), and the HELD blog.

With Mother’ Day coming, it seems only fitting to announce that the heartbeat of HP over these past few years, our Community Forums, now has its own Facebook page – facebook.com/HPCommunityForums ! I’m so excited to see what God is up to next, with this newest generation of HP leadership!

Mother’s Day, hmmm

If there is a single date on my calendar that carries conflicted emotions, it is the second Sunday of each May. Here are some of my realities as we approach Mother’s Day, 2018:

  • Today is Grandma Dorothy birthday. Mom has been grieving her own mother’s death for 15 Mother’s Days now.
  • I am beyond thankful to still have my mom, especially after an assortment of medical scares, for both of us, over recent years. She is 75. How many more Mays will we have together?
  • I am a long-awaited, grateful mother to three living miracles here on earth, ages 12, 15, 18.
  • Thank you for this beautiful memory card, Kathe Wunnenberg!

    I am a mother to three children (and possibly more – several suspected early miscarriages where possible pregnancies were not medically confirm-able), awaiting me in Heaven.

  • I feel guilty for having, physical reminders to honor them with, when so many friends long for the title “mother” even to a Heaven-born child.
  • I survived a decade of  temperature charts, pills, shots, surgeries, raised and dashed hopes, the cycles of infertility and recurrent losses.
  • Our losses were both miscarriages and adoption losses (dozens of adoption leads, with 7 specific children forever in my heart and prayers).
  • I’m an infertility and loss author. Infertility was my very identity for over a decade! (You can still find me on Twitter, Pinterest, eBay, and many other places, as InfertilityMom, the identity I took in trying to make some sense of the change in my world, once God sent living children.)
  • Seven years of primary infertility, waiting to bring home our living 4 1/2 pound miracle (who is now 6 feet tall).
  • Three years, and more losses, to add our only living daughter to the family.
  • Two years of postpartum depression after bringing home our little girl.
  • The shocking realization that we truly had no control over “planning” our family, when God sent our third living child, an absolutely unplanned pregnancy, when we truly thought we were done with our journey to parenthood and were trying to prevent pregnancy, for medical reasons.
  • My 18-year-old is taking finals from his freshman year of college. Time moves SO much faster, this side of infertility. I’m sure I was just taking him to the library for preschool story-time last week.
  • My high school freshman is preparing for our 6th trip to an out-of-state children’s hospital, in 7 months. Please pray for us next week, as she undergoes her second major surgery of 2018. Her health challenges have certainly made me feel I have “earned” my motherhood status, through hours and hours of medical research, telephone calls, housing / school / insurance arrangements. (Not bad for a strokie mom!)
  • My middle schooler has spend the past seven years dealing with a recurrent influx of family medical traumas, unlike many adults have coped with, even once. Sixth grade is already a hard age to be. My heart aches for him every day!
  • I have many after-infertility mom friends, dealing with all kinds of parenting issues, impacting physical, emotional, mental, legal, spiritual, relational, and academic aspects of their lives. Mom guilt can be intense!
  • I have friend enduring all stages of the infertility journey.
  • I have several friends who will never know motherhood, either by aging out of fertility, or surgical end of these dreams.
  • I have friends who desperately want to get married and raise kids, yet remain single.
  • I have a friend who is facing this Mother’s Day after the death of her only daughter, and the long-term estrangement of her only son.
  • I have many friend grieving the deaths of their mothers.
  • I have friends who have really sad (non-existent, abandoned, or terribly hard) relationships with their moms.
  • I have several single mom friends who astound me as they carry all the weight of parenthood, often while facing their own significant health struggles too.
  • I have friend dealing with motherhood pain from both ends of the spectrum, in relation to person of origin AND offspring.

For most of my mothering years I struggled with the true belief I was a “bad mom.” I think infertility-survivor guilt played a huge part here. The rejection of failed adoptions too, thinking maybe there was something all those decision makers had seen in me, making not a good candidate for motherhood. I had years to critically evaluate how others parented, to write a script of how I would do things differently. When I repeatedly failed at meeting my own expectations of perfection, the standard of “good motherhood” was unattainable.

This thought greatly intensified after my strokes, when the kids were raised by my in-laws for eight months. I was convinced this separation was because it was my husband’s chance to take the kids away from me, rather than understanding that I was truly incapable of physically caring for even my own needs during that season.

My intensive counseling year began in February of last year. The week before Mother’s Day, I was challenged to ask Jesus His thoughts on my motherhood journey, starting with my belief I was bad for my kids and they would be better off without me. I was stunned by His response.

In a stream of words that left me truly breathless, Truth pored from my lips in a several minute cascade that left me sobbing and forever changed. “A good mom…” statements toppled, one after another, from my own mouth, as God described me to my own ears. I realized, for the first time, that my imperfections were not failing my children, but that I was simply human and exactly who my kids needed in a mother.

Mother’s Day. I still don’t know exactly what to make of you.

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/

6 1/2 years

This evening, 6 1/2 years back, I was in the Emergency Room with a migraine headache. I had been fighting it for over a week, had seen my primary doctor, received two pain shots, and was still hurting. (I had experienced several migraines lasting 20-30 days in the past, due to messed up hormones, so we were far from our “worst case scenario” yet.) 

My doctor sent me to ER because I was tired of trying to tough out the pain. I had been hospitalized less than two weeks prior, due to suspected heart-related symptoms, that turned out to be pancreatitis (unrelated to this headache). I was tired, done with pain, on overload, ready for a break. Relief, please!

My primary care office took my recent struggles into account and felt I could use more assistance in overcoming this headache than I typically asked for.  My hubby dropped everything at work, to join me at the hospital for the second time in two weeks. (In 25+ years of marriage, he’s made it to nearly every hospital trip I’ve needed to take, even if I’ve only been there a few hours).

Because I had rarely bothered to take one of my horrid migraines to ER, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ER gave me heavy-duty, hospital-supervision-only, pain meds, quickly followed by steroids, when I had an allergic reaction to the pain medication. They then conducted an extensive neurological evaluation, including a CaT scan, just to rule out anything that shouldn’t be happening, like a brain tumor or an impending stroke.

In the end, I was sent home with a fully clean bill of health, other than a migraine that still was not relieved (thanks to aforementioned allergic reaction).  My head, heart (thanks to testing less than two weeks prior), and arteries all looked fantastic. I had no determinable risk of impending stroke.

About 18 hours later, my husband was called away from work once again, this time to race the ambulance to the regional stroke center, praying his 39-year-old wife would still be alive by the time he got there. (Had we had the opportunity to pursue a lawsuit, the fact that my arteries were sound the prior evening, that I was seeking chiropractic care for the common complaint of migraine and had no stroke risk upon entering the chiropractor’s office, would have certainly come into play in trial testimony.) If you wish to read the story of what happened 6 1/2 years ago tomorrow morning, I’ve detailed it at JenniferSaake.com/stroke/.

This morning I texted my dear friend, Kendra, who stroked a little over 5 1/2 months after I did. When she hit her 6-year mark a little over a week ago, the anniversary hit her harder than expected. I knew she would totally understand this mornings emotions. “Tomorrow is my half year mark. No idea why the emotions of these landmarks can still catch me by such surprise and trip me up.”

The thing is, I’m (finally) ever-so-thankful to still be here, blessed to be engaged in the life of my family. We are relearning to embrace life and experience joy again. I still have notable deficits, but at 6 1/2 years out, I’ve gained back far more than what remains lost. I’m a living, breathing, walking, talking miracle! If anyone gets how many “will never”s God has absolutely blown out of the water with my life, it is me.

Yet, as Kendra replied concerning these anniversaries and the unanticipated emotions they stir up, “They are such wonky days, for sure.”

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