Update: The In Darkness Sing blog at JenniferSaake is experiencing prolonged technical issues, so I'm temporarily posting back here on my old Stroke of Grace blog. (You will notice many typos in older posts. I intentionally never corrected them, as they helped document my cognitive abilities at various stages of recovery.)

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jennifer remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months, God clarified Jennifer's theology on healing and showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jennifer is currently writing more books and stays active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com. (Please see temporary update note above!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thankfulness Overflows (GIVEAWAY LINK, Bulgarian painting)

My daughter chooses to lead a minimalistic lifestyle, making gift-giving challenging for her parents. Last year she "adopted" a foster child, asking us to provide Christmas gifts to this little boy, rather than to receive anything for herself.

This year I heard about ANM (Advancing Native Missions) and knew it was a perfect fit for our girl. By telling you about ANM, they gifted two goats and 12 chickens ($116 value) to a needy community on our daughter's behalf. She was so very excited when I told her about today's blogging opportunity! 


More important than my girl's beaming grin, is the fact that ANM delivers hope through the Gospel, by equipping field missionaries in meeting the tangible needs of communities while they are sharing about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a way to exhibit your thankfulness, or to express grace toward the less fortunate this year, please consider ANM by ordering their gift catalog for yourself. You will find 20 simple ways to transform lives inside this catalog … all in the name of Jesus. 

Request a mailed catalog: https://advancingnativemissions.com/request-anm-catalog/

Advancing Native Missions gifting catalog donations directly impact families around the world.  That’s something to feel good about this holiday season. ANM has been around for a long time and has excellent financial accountability.  It’s all on their website.


This is a great project for kids who can give a chicken ($3), a Bible ($5), sports equipment like a soccer ball ($10), or shoes ($15). Starting for as little as $7 you can help build a school, give toward the gift of healthcare, or provide nutrition and supplies for a pregnant mother and coming child. If you have a little more to give, support a full-time Christian worker, supply a missionary with bicycle or motorcycle transportation, dig a well, or supply a sewing machine or animals, such as goats or beehives, to help families earn sustainable incomes. 

ORGANIZATIONS WEBPAGE: https://advancingnativemissions.com/

Before November 30, you are also invited to register for this GIVEAWAY for a painting created by an ANM partner in Bulgaria! https://www.blessedfreebies.com/advancing-native-missions-giveaway.html



P.S, Happy 78th birthday Daddy! I reflected on thankfulness concerning my stroke journey, back in August. 





Sunday, October 25, 2020

9 Year Rebirthday, Whatever

At this hour nine years ago, I was unresponsive and had just been rushed to the hospital via ambulance. As my family tearfully gathered and started absorbing the news, doctors confirmed that I was still alive, but questioned if I could even survive until the next morning.
My husband and 11-year-old clung to one another. Our eight-year-old understood that something serious had happened to her Mom, but failed to grasp the gravity, knowing hospitals help people, so surely everything would be fine in a few days. Our five-year-old was upset that nobody would let him see Mommy.

Six hours in, after I repeatedly vomited on my husband and was intubated to keep from drowning in my own fluids, a nurse gave Rick his first glimmer of hope. "Her coloring is looking much better," she informed him. I was still unconscious, but finally able to give my first weak hand squeeze in response to verbal command. 

I was awake for hours last night, crying and praying for each family member. They all lost so much that day! Three children brutally lost the innocence of childhood. In a moment, my husband plunged into the fire of years of grief as single father of four (one child with severe special needs, physically and emotionally), rather than a happily married father of three.

Last night, when my mind started wandering into ICU and rehab nightmare memories, I made the conscious choice to adopt a "whatever" attitude, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these thingsPhilippians 4:8.

It has been tough, but God has carried us through. Today, I'm choosing to keep my eyes on Jesus, thanking Him for the blessings along the way. I'm thankful Rick stood by me! (I have many stroke friends, and non-stroke friends, whose spouses called it quits when the years got painful.) I'm thankful for our kids. I'm thankful that we are all together. 

I'm thankful for all four of our parents who pitched in and prayed us through those early years with everything from moving kids into their homes for months (and carrying on schooling), to years of countless medical rides (I averaged about three appointments per day for many months after I was released from the hospital and became mobile enough to no longer have home visit care). Mom also became Nana's Taxi Service (rather than me being Mom's Taxi) for school, and church, and extra-curricular, and LOTS of medical for the kids. 

I'm thankful to several different church families for loving on us through those early months with meals, gifts, house cleaning, a manicure and pedicure, and sending folks (some I had never even met) to babysit me when I couldn't even toilet on my own. 

I am thankful for Ms. Kathy, her faithful friendship and YEARS of weekly home cleaning blessings to keep our family functional. I'm thankful for Shelly for her listening ears and being my on-call ride back up.

I'm thankful for our new neighborhood in Arizona and the amazing neighbors God has surrounded us with on this little "cove" at the end of our street this past year. I'm especially thankful for our next door neighbors, Terry for help whenever Rick isn't home, and Carolyn for helping with my lack of organizational skills, so that book writing seems like a feasible dream again. (Find our book progress announcements at fb.com/DeceptionUnmasked.)

In one of the stroke groups I participate on in Facebook, a young man who is about 16 months out from his strokes was bemoaning the (commonly-held belief) news his doctor had given him, that the progress he reached by two-years would likely be all the recovery he would ever see. I am SO THANKFUL I'm not forever stuck at where I was at two years! My reply included:
That's a TOTAL LIE! Never give up! I'm 9 years out and still progressing. 
The first two years do bring the fastest improvements, that's why it is important to take advantage of therapy as early and often as you can. But, long after insurance stops paying, push yourself however you can... [I listed specific ideas for pushing, here.]  
I can no longer measure in day-over-day or week-over-week units. The scale is now month-over-month or year-over-year, but I do plenty of things today that still didn't seem possible at this time last year!

Parts of my brain are 48 years old. I remember several details of childhood. I remember meeting Rick and our courtship. I remember our wedding, our infertility journey, the births of each of our living miracles. Some of the research world for ME/CFS. What it was like to have the freedom of driving a car. The joy of homeschooling our kids. Much of the process of publishing my first book.

Parts of my brain are rewiring and relearning, now at the skill level of a nine-year old child. A year ago my left arm was still incapable of swimming in a fully extended stroke. Now I can manage several fairly normal-looking, short (backyard pool) laps. I still don't have great geographical skills, but I've become fairly competent at basic map-reading. I can add two plus two and know they equal four now, but it take 3-10 times longer to do basic household paperwork (filling out medical forms, filing papers in a filing cabinet) than it used to (and I was already slow due to ME/CFS). I'm sill unhealthfully naive, much too-easily influenced, but not quite as gullible as I was in the early years. I walk with a cane or walker, but I am thankful that I now do walk!

Some memories (even of people) and bodily functions are forever missing.  I have various muscle groups still partially or fully paralyzed, especially invisible/internal ones like those related to proper digestion. I still have nerve pain and weakened muscles (like entire left side of back) prone to regular muscle spasms. I have neurological conditions that cause me to clench my teeth so hard I have worn away the enamel off several biting surfaces. 

I remember riding in a car three or four months after the stroke and passing a favorite restaurant. I started crying (I cried, hysterically, about EVERYTHING at that point) because I saw that it had closed sometime during my hospital months. Rick was startled and shaken to discover that I had absolutely no idea that it had been gone for a good six months before I ever stroked.Though it becomes less common with each passing year, we still stumble across areas of my history and knowledge-base that were erased that day. Events in the weeks, months, even up to two years prior to the strokes are especially hit and miss. 

Short term memory is so much better today than it was at first, but almost daily I have to ask clarification about facts that I know I should know, but simply can't remember what I've been told. The "note" feature on my phone is a hugely important tool. My family laughs at the number of daily alarms I set for myself, but when they ask what each alarm is for, I tell them to read the attached label, because I don't remember either.

I do clearly remember walking into the chiropractor's office that October 25 morning in 2011. I remember random conversation with the doctor, jokes we casually chatted as we prepared for my neck adjustment. I remember his words to "Just relax, Trust me." as he coaxed me to lay the full weight of my head into his hands.

My "go-to" verses this year are "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil" Proverbs 3:5-7. It is 2020 afterall (my poor brother is digging up his septic tank today, fairly fittig for the crazy year we are all living!), so maybe this would be a great verse for you to memorize too. Another passage of deep conviction is the "whatever" passage in Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Water cup "stained glass" cross

Friday, August 21, 2020

Asking for a Thankful Heart

I made Mimi's Cafe Corn Chowder for my daughter tonight. The recipe says prep time is "10 minutes".

That step took me over 70 minutes. The cognitive effort of following a recipe, getting proper execution of all the right steps, in the correct order, is still really overwhelming for my brain, exhausting for my body.

I'm exhausted. The kitchen looks like a tornado hit it. My feet are sore and swollen from standing for over an hour. I snapped at my sweet hubby in the process. And clean up is likely to take me a good couple of hours. 
(ETA Our sweet 14-year-old has jumped in to clean the kitchen, so I can head to bed!)

It is so easy to get discouraged by how tediously slow I am about everything, until I remember that I'm doing all these things at all, when doctors said I would be dead or a vegetable, never walk again, etc. I'm asking God for a thankful heart!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Time?

Time moves crazily during quarantine! I planned to post a week ago and did not even realize a second week had gone by. Sorry about that.


I've quietly celebrated another physical birthday with my family since last post. My "public birthday" is October 25, my stroke anniversary, my re-birthday, the day my life experienced a hard reset and I had to begin relearning how to breath, swallow, move my body, sit up, walk, talk, see, hear, and think. 

Several newly wired parts of my brain will begin turning "nine years old" this fall. This shell of my physical body just turned 48 several days ago.

My family bought me the Bible I really wanted. It is 17-point font, designed for visual impairment. As this picture demonstrates, a chapter number fills my wedding ring! Though my eyes are no longer the issue, my brain is so much happier making sense of this giant print.

Our biggest news this week is that, after ten months and 5 attempted contracts, our Reno house is finally sold. We are so thankful to now only be paying one mortgage again! 

Crazy issues ranging from repairing a significant builder flaw not uncovered until inspection (thank you, LORD, that our roof never fell on our heads during our 15 years there), to several different attempting buyer loan issues, to COVID, stalled this sale for the better part of a year. We are beyond relieved that the Reno house is finally completely behind us! We are excited for the new family who gets to live there now. We loved that house, have many happy memories there, but are glad to fully be able to focus here now. 


Our "new" (to us, built about 30 years ago) house is significantly smaller and has many features we specifically thought we did not want in a house (such as stairs I need to climb each day), but we have seen over and over why this is the specific house God prepared for us for this season of our lives. 

The backyard swimming pool means I don't need to pay for water therapy 💦 or a gym membership anymore because our youngest (pictured on pool float) has taken on an active role as my physical therapist. So nice!

God, we thank You for supplying all our needs through this transition.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Clarifying a Piece of Purpose in Our Move

Before my strokes, I was a published author. Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake was written before this brain damage. (Free first chapter PDF, Amazon book link, and audio CD)

I have been struggling to write my next book since strokes (coming up on 9 years, this fall). 

Thanks to the talents of my sweet new next-door neighbor Carolyn Howell, I am thrilled to announce that we are actually writing our next book! We anticipate being ready to shop for a publisher by end of first quarter, next year (2021).


My cognitive function is limited to basic addition (a far improvement from the days I couldn't add 2 plus 2!), so I write and regularly loose track of files. Every task now takes me anywhere between 3-10 times longer than it should (simple blog posts like this typically take 2 or 3 days to complete). 

So when I first told my family about our plan to write this book, they tried to be supportive, but knew how I now lack the organizational skills required for writing a full book. "This time will be different," I said, "because I am not going to be actually writing this book."

"Interesting strategy, Mom. Successfully writing a book, by not writing a book," questioned our oldest.

Carolyn's skills as a technical writer initially led us to think I would give her tons of notes I've been gathering for years and she would organize them into book format, based on an outline we designed together. In reality, we are equally contributing to all aspects of the project. 

Carolyn works full time and is very dedicated to her job, but she takes her lunch hour each day to meet with me, for prayer and book research. (Yes, we practice social distancing, adding another interesting twist to the process.) Some days we meet for a couple hours together after work. Lots of email and texts fly between us early in the morning, late at night, and over weekends. When Rick wakes up in the morning to see me texting, his first words have consistently become. "Good morning, Carolyn!"

This is a physically and mentally taxing process for me, but I have such excitement over the way God is really pulling this book together. For the first time since my strokes, I have real hope that God will use my written words to accomplish His purpose through another book. Carolyn's and my co-writing technique is highly unconventional, but God has paired us together so beautifully!


2 Corinthians 11:14 says satan disguises himself, masquerading as an angel of light. Using Jesus’ “I AM” statements in John as our measure, we unmask counterfeit thoughts, practices, and experiences that ensnare us. Worshipping God in spirit and truth brings us freedom and teaches us to discern lies.

2 Corinthians 11:14 says satan disguises himself, masquerading as an angel of light. Using Jesus’ “I AM” statements in John as our measure, we unmask counterfeit thoughts, practices, and experiences that ensnare us. Worshiping God in spirit and truth brings us freedom and teaches us to discern lies.

P.S. My main author page is Harvesting HOPE from Heartache with "InfertilityMom," author Jennifer Saake at https://www.facebook.com/HarvestingHope/ and I  offer an interactive group where we can encourage one another at .https://www.facebook.com/groups/InDarknessSing/ if you would like to join there as well. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Eyes


Yesterday I saw my new Neuro-Opthalmologist (brain doctor who specializes in vision issues). It was only a 2 1/2 hour appointment.

"Only" is literal. My shortest ever neur-op appointment before this was 3 1/2 hours. My longest was 9 hours. Typically these appointments have run in the 5-6 hour range.

In Reno I saw my Neuo-Opthalmologist at least yearly, over recent years. Right after strokes it was every 6 weeks, then I got to 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, then finally we got to yearly. I expected to continue being followed by neuro-op for life.

Yesterday's new doctor seemed rather befuddled to examine me, in contrast to the records she had read. She repeatedly made comments like, "I don't have to tell you what a LOOOOONNNGGG WAAAAY you have come." She declared my recovery  "remarkable," and decided she didn't even need to do her full battery of planned testing.

She does want me to come back Monday to see the regular eye doctor. I definitely need glasses and will follow with him for yearly exams. Unless he sees a need to send me back her way, I'm done with Neuro opthalmologist appointments for good now!

Always in the past, when I've had my eyes dilated (see first picture) it has taken hours or days longer for the left (more stroked) eye to loose it's dilation, so my kids were looking forward to capturing a wonkey, lopsided eye picture this morning. I disappointed them by having equally restored pupils already, upon wakening this morning!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

New Beginnings

Of the past 14 months, I have spent all but about 7 weeks in Arizona. (And of the 4 months prior to last May, had made 3 trips, totaling about 3 1/2 weeks, down here.) So it is fair to say that my daughter and I have spent the majority of the past year and a half here now, though we didn't make the final and official move until mid September of last year. (The family had to move in stages, due to school and work, but we were finally all five back together by the evening of my husband's 50th birthday in November.) 
With that being said, this post will be my final regular mention of our 17- or 20-year-old's health issues. They are both adults (or almost!) now, and need to make their own decisions about what is being shared about their own stories. So unless their health issues are directly impacting mine, or there is an urgent and critical prayer need that arises, this post is my line in the sand, separating my stroke recovery journey from their ongoing health issues. I cannot thank you enough for your prayer support, cheer-leading, and encouragement, over the past wild three and a half years with two out of three kids in medical crisis.

The move did little to significantly impact our young adult son's health, for the positive or negative. If anything, the physical strain of the move itself produced slight setback, but that's hard to judge as he had already been mostly housebound, primarily bed-bound, since Thanksgiving of 2018 (and in and out of bed, but still trying to attend high school then college, and to hold a job, for more than a year and a half before that). In nine months here, he has managed to unpack about 2/3 of his meager possessions, nearly all memorabilia and non-essential items, having been left in Nevada, where he spent his childhood.

The change to lower elevation has been life-restoratively positive for our daughter, who has gone from passing out 2-4 times per DAY (and was often out for LONG stretches of 5-90 MINUTES) up in Reno, to now only averaging one faint per MONTH (often out for only SECONDS). Vision and hearing both continue to improve. She was able to successfully attend a few months of school down here, before the pandemic sent everyone into quarantine. We eagerly await news about how the school district plans to conduct her Senior year of high school.

We are very thankful that both kids have fantastic medical teams down here, as do I. We firmly believe that God brought each and every family member down here on purpose, for His purposes. As we tell our 14-year-old (who is blessedly healthy and recently promoted from 8th grade, without ceremony of course) that there are no "tag-alongs" in this move. Over coming weeks I'll be sharing what we are starting to discover some parts of God's plan for us to include.