Starting October 25 of 2011, "InfertilityMom," 39-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes, all due to vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office. The largest two strokes were brain stem and cerebellum bleeds. Jenni remained hospitalized until nearly Christmas 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 but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care (please read more and watch short video). Jenni is now walking (with a cane or wheeled walker), has recovered much eye-sight, some hearing, partial use of her hands, cares for most of her own personal/toiletry needs, and is currently writing three books, maintains multiple blogs, and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Near the five-year recovery mark, Jenni has renewed her pre-stroke excitement about the unique Lilla Rose hair Flexi eight jewelry she sells and has finally regained enough hand/arm function to regularly use! (The biggest ongoing losses at the 4 1/2-year point of recovery are left-side nerve pain, inability to drive, loss of homeschool teaching capability, significant sound processing issues (often triggering nausea), and some profound physical ability limitations such as a limp, balance challenges, clumsy use of right hand and only large motor function in left hand.) Here is her resume.

Since Jenni's chiropractor carried no insurance and moved out of the country soon after the accident (thus avoiding any legal or financial consequences), if you would like to help contribute to the Saake (pronounced like the two small words, say and key) family's massive financial needs (medical expenses alone are estimated to cost between $1- and $1.5- Million in Jenni's lifetime), please visit Jennifer Saake's Stroke Survivor GoFundMe Page. (This support information has been added in direct response to several reader requests.) The Saakes sincerely thank you for your prayers and if God prompts and equipts you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Jenni is clinging to God's grace through the entire experience. Here is her unfolding story, documented in her own words (typing with only her right hand), as she perceives it happening in real time, messy, honest and to the glory of God...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Simply Doing

If you had asked my 6 months ago, shortly after I came home from the hospital, if I would have still have been so challenged by everyday tasks (translation, simply unable to do most tasks and happy to "help" much as a child would, when other adults are willing to let me step in and make the project they could have easily cared for, take much longer with a much messier outcome) I would have thought you were crazy. Surely I could preform a simple task, like follow 3 simple steps on the back of a cake mix, by now! And if will power alone were enough, I would have ditched the walker long ago. But this is not the case!

My mom just came over to bake cupcakes for my son's birthday party tonight, because I simply could not. I'll have to recruit our middle child to frost them once they have cooled (our oldest is sick) because I cannot figure out a workable option to do that myself either. This is when the strokes really make me upset, when they stand between me and doig the simple things I want to, should be able to do, used to be able to do, for my kids.

We have figured out a battle plan with the blood thinners and my ear surgery is scheduled for later July. My parents are back home and my mom is practically living here, helping us get caught back on household thing that have fallen behind. I need to go now and help our 6-year-old finish getting ready for his 3 guests to arrive. :) My husband is a saint to oversee these birthday parties!
“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.” - Psalm 138:8

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ear Surgery, Therapy & Nuerology

We had an eventful and rather unexpected outcome to today's hearing appointment. It was decided that I would just skip over hearing aids for now and move right into exploratory surgery of my left ear. Our otolaryngologist (ear / nose / throat doctor or ENT) did not push us into this decision, but was very open to questions, candidly shared the pro and cons of several choices, and is fairly confident that he can help me via this route.

There is mild nerve damage (in both ears) that will not be able to be addressed with present technology. The bigger concern is that there seems to be something that is preventing the nerve's capable function from being realized, resulting in dramatic hearing loss in that left ear.

Since I am already at the end range of hearing loss that current aids might even be able to assist, we have chosen to try to address it sooner rather than later, as I likely will continue to loose hearing as I age. Hopefully this surgery will extend the number of years until I need hearing aids, though it is likely I will still need them fairly early in life, maybe even in addition to the surgery.

The surgery was initially to be scheduled for TOMORROW morning, but since I am on blood thinners, we are needing to establish a game plan with my prescribing doctor first. I must be off the blood thinners (or on ones with a much shorter half life) for a full week before surgery can efficiently be preformed.

At this point, I am to take my medication daily, for the rest of my life. So surgery is currently being delayed indefinitely, contingent on whatever medication decision is made by my first surgeon who placed the stents. How frustrating to need surgery due to the strokes, but be unable to seek surgery at this time, also due to the strokes!

My physical therapist, who has has been so wonderful, and I talked via phone this week. Emotionally, I would have liked to go back to him in July, for further rehabilitation. Medically, he highly encouraged me to consider a different therapy location and a therapist specializing in neuro impairments. As a result, I am scheduled at another facility for both occupational and physical therapy, starting  the morning of the 9th of July.

That same day (in the afternoon) I am to see my neurologist again. We will talk about my emotional fluctuations, the possibility of trying to regain my driver's license, and I'm sure whatever else he has on his agenda.

I seem to be doing very well, emotionally, today, after having a very bad last few days. Worrying about Rick last night could have been the start of a "breakthrough" like I've been praying for. I woke up, not even tempted to cry this morning (almost unheard of in recent months!), so thankful am I that he is OK. I have been dealing with PBA today, laughing uncontrollably at times, but the depression seems better. I'll give it some time to prove the change, but right now I am hopeful!

Here is the verse that has been playing through my mind since yesterday morning's post,:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9


Monday, June 25, 2012

Thankful for the Man I Love

Tonight Rick had a meeting after work. He had reminded me before he left this morning, but I had forgotten. When he was an hour late getting home and not answering his cell phone, I really started to panic. I started picturing car accidents, or Rick in a hospital bed, or how I would manage without Him.

Rick just called and all is well. I am so thankful! (I am feeling kind of silly for my memory deficit right now!) I just want to say publicly, I love my husband and am so thankful for him!

8 Months

Today marks eight months since the first strokes.

Depression angrily reared its ugly head again yesterday, very suddenly.

I am just so exhausted. Slept most of the past 14 hours and still didn't want to get out of bed. Knowing my kids needed me was the only motivation to eventually drag myself from under the covers. I'm so glad they are home! I hear the voice of the Accuser telling me they don't really need me, and so far, I can call it for the lie it is.

I haven't been able to bring myself to touch food since lunch yesterday. I will try to eat a little breakfast (based on the clock, should I say "lunch"?) here in a bit. Just the though makes my stomach want to revolt.

They say stroke recovery is a life-time endeavor. Can I be honest and say I'm ready to quit and give up now? A lifetime is so indefinite and seem like such a very long time right now. I need closure, a finish line. I can't do this indefinitely. Yuck!

There's been quite a bit of drama over the cutting of my Facebook list, dozens of PMs and I'm just getting started. :( I had no idea this process would be so painful and terribly stressful. Let me reiterate that I'm not literally "unfriending" anyone, just taking you off a list, but that doesn't change your status in my mind! Out of nearly 1,000 names, only around 50 will be "easy" cuts, meaning I can't identify the person at all. The rest are rather agonizing, folks I have been in their weddings or they have been in mine, ladies I have walked with through the intimacy of infertility or pregnancy/infant death and sometimes the joy of long-awaited new birth or adoption with, people in the fellowship of illness together. I have several great author friends who wouldn;t recognize me if we passed each other on the street too!

I have created pages for each of these topics, hoping to stay in touch with as many distance friends, from as many different walks as possible, but apparently this isn't adequate enough for most people. I ache, and shed many tears, over the hurt feelings, but I simply am stretched too thin, have invested my heart deeply in so may people, and I just can't keep giving on that level, especially with the deficits my brain now must cope with. Any one friendship and I would not be making this step, but multiply the level of deep relationships hundreds of times over and you might begin to understand why this move toward a buffer of a little more privacy is necessary.

My FB profile will now primarily be limited to extended family and local, in-person friends (how I coordinate ride, childcare, stay informed of local news, etc. - selfish on my part, perhaps). If you fall outside these descriptions, you will probably be removed from my profile list, not out of personal spite, but simply because this will not be the usage of my profile anymore. I'm trying to keep friendships, but in a more manageable and organized fashion. I am not set out to hurt anyone, and I am sorry if you feel I should not have gone about this change or should have handled it in a different fashion. Honestly, the process is not undertaken lightly on my end and I'm doing the best I know how to do. Please feel free to join as many of my pages (linked in the previous post) as you would like, and I look forward to staying in touch that way!

As for progress reports, I am seeing more double vision again, not nearly as badly as before, but hard work to bring two images into focus mostly as one, much of the time (I am chalking this up to stress?), have been in non-stop pretty severe heads pain for over two weeks, my left arm is hurting more as it continues to clamp itself down into a fist, pulled up to my chest, and I've reverted from the cane trials to a full-time walker again. I was pretty sore all day yesterday. just from trying to sit still on that hard bench at church yesterday morning. Yes, I am more than a little discouraged at the moment. :( I go back to have my ear checked again tomorrow. (There is still no word on insurance and the hearing aids.)

I am doing the shutter-sighs several times a day, again. I still feel "two brains" quite profoundly, where I can know something in my head, but that does nothing for how it impacts my heart. Until this past weekend, I seemed to be doing better emotionally, but that has crumbled away in this latest wave of fear and insecurity. I need to be re-assured of truth over and over because my head and heart are feeding me so much falsity. A friend told me yesterday, that physically I am doing so much better, walking, talking and more and improved memory. I have to take her word for it at this point!

Praises:
- Our kids are still home!
- My husband is striving to lead our family, through some very dark waters, with love and grace.
- I at least have the help of a brain-chemical-balancing anti-depressant to take a little of the edge off.
- Our church family and so many other friends are continuing to walk the journey with us, so many months into the process.
- Extended families are striving to fill in the gap where I fall so terribly short.
- God promises to  never leave me or forsake me.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. - Ephesian 6:11-18

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cane!

I have been using my cane around the house this afternoon! I still need the walker or wheelchair any time I leave the house (unless I have Rick's arm) or when Rick or another adult isn't home to spot me, but I am thrilled to walk around familiar territory without feeling so "caged in." I really can't regulate my speed at all, but hope this skill will be refined with time.

I may not be walking, unaided, by my birthday next month, but using a cane is a pretty exciting leap forward, and more than a month before my goal date of walking. I think if were to see someone else walking with a cane, I would still count that as "walking," wouldn't you? I still hope to be assistance-free in the end, but I think this will be one of the last stages before we get there?


Just as Jesus supernaturally walked on water, it is by His power, and just as miraculously, that my lame feet are being empowered to walk steadily on solid ground once again, like Peter, by keeping my eyes only on the Lord.  Please remember that He gets the credit when that day comes!

When I went from my heavy-duty walker to a lighter weight one, my therapist warned me that I was at unusually high risk of falling and that this would increase any time we stepped down to less stable support. I am not nearly as stable with the cane as I was with the walker, but I know I won't learn if I don't try. Hopefully, when I restart physical therapy next month, we will make significant progress.

I had really felt I had plateaued, or even regressed, physically, over this past month. I still think the lack of therapy has been detrimental compared where I could have been otherwise.  I am just very thankful for the continued healing of my brain. Maybe not at the speed we desire, but healing and slowly, some progress, none-the-less!

I can tell I have been walking more because my entire left leg really aches (from hip to ankle) and the arch of my right foot hurts from weight distribution too. I can tell that I don't bear weight evenly when the right foot (less impacted) starts burning like fire and this reminds me (not so subtly) to shift my weight more onto my left leg. The right foot doesn't hurt as much today as it did when I tried cane walking for a couple of hours yesterday (though my left leg aches much more), so this makes me wonder if maybe I am standing straighter now?

My paralyzed (or "impacted" or "effected" or whatever it should be called) left foot is much more prone to tripping without the walker, but the leg does seems to be moving fairly well, as long as I remember to, and can control, the bending of my left knee. So if I get enough lift on my leg with each step, I don't seem to trip as much. Moving toward a transition to the cane gives new meaning to the term, "step of faith."

I have been fighting an all-over headache today. This is different from, and in addition to, my jaw pain triggered headache. I'm thinking it is probably related to tensed-up muscles in my neck and shoulders as I work with the cane?

The paralysis of my left arm is much more evident today, as my arm is no longer kept busy grasping the handle of a walker, and readily draws up to my chest as I concentrate on balance. I have to stop and really think about what I'm doing to start walking with it dropped down to my side again. My hand is looking bluer/darker and more curled by the week. :(

I had thought it would be much easier to carry light-weight things one I exchanged the walker for a cane, but my right (stronger) hand still has to support my body weight/stability with the cane and my left hand struggles to grasp. If I can get my hand to support the weight of an empty cup, it is too unsteady to keep from spilling the contents once the cup is filled. I tried to pick up a hand-full of chips, left-handed, today, and I ended up with a hand full of greasy crumbs, as I couldn't control the strength of my grasp and I instantly crushed them as soon as I tried to pick them up!

On the positive news front, the kids and Rick play a game on the drive to church each Sunday, to see who can be the first to spot a goose or a wild horse. I have been straining to see one for many months, but often I can't see it until long after one of the kids calls it, if at all. Last Sunday, I was the first family member to see a heard of wild horses up in the hills. I was so excited at this evidence of God's hand to heal my eyes!

God's carried me a long way since the week in ICU or my months in the hospital! We are far from the finish line yet, but not bad for someone who wasn't even expected to live last year!

I had my second morning in months where I did not wake up terribly depressed, with ugly thoughts racing through my mind, one morning this week! I had another morning where the thoughts started out by running rampant, but after fixing my mind on the words of the Lord in a devotional book, the ugliness significantly and rather rapidly receded. This has not been my normal experience of recent months, so it was of great relief!

 As I have explained to Rick, everyone encourages you to "fight" the strokes. It is so hard to stay in that mindset without ending up fighting God's plan or people too, even/especially those you most love!  The closer the relationship before the strokes, the harder to let someone see the depth of my brokenness and vulnerability now. I had no idea that strokes would be even more of an emotional and spiritual battle than a physical one!

Writing is very slow going, but finally seems to be progressing (one-handed) a bit again. Thank you for praying! http://www.HarvestingHope.blogspot.com

Here's a list I put on Facebook this week, since I am trying to take my friends list down to just people I know well, usually in person, but I don't want to loose touch with you in the process! Some of my "friends" have been around since I first joined FB and are really only following me because of my book, but since I didn't know to set up a page for that at first, they ended up on my personal friend list even though we don't actually even know each other. The same has been true of chronic illness over the years. For all those I don't know in person, I hope you can find a home on one, or more, of these pages:
- Stroke updates: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stroke-of-Grace-by-Jennifer-Saake/339888582731687
- Infertility, miscarriage or pregnancy / infant loss: https://www.facebook.com/HannahsHopeBook
- Current Book Project and Drawing on the Holy Spirit and Fruit of the Spirit in troubled times: https://www.facebook.com/HarvestingHope
- Future Book Project on the Life of the Apostle Paul and chronic pain/illness (friends with ME/CFS or other related illnesses may want to go here): https://www.facebook.com/GivenMeaThorn
- Fun and encouraging Beauty Tips, inside and out https://www.facebook.com/innerbeautygirlz
- Author Friends (published, yet-to-be-published, and serious bloggers): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennis-Journal/404112829631073

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. - Matthew 14:25
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. - Matthew 14:29
The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. - Matthew 15:31 (I've fallen into pretty much every one of these categories at some point over the past 8 months! Thankful to God for His healing thus far and waiting, with expectation, for more yet to come! Praise the Lord!)


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Score: Laundry One, Jenni Zero

I was reduced to sobs this morning, by half a pile of laundry and one unfolded flat bed sheet.

I had been folding for nearly an hour already. I use the term "folding" loosely because the folded clothes might not have looked a whole lot better than the unfolded pile. But anyway, when I got half way down the pile, I spent over 10 minutes trying to fold that flat sheet and my husband happened to walk into the room at that moment, to see me firmly biting my lip, a technique I have given in to (or biting my tongue) to try to prevent or stop tears when I am working hard not to cry or to stop tears once they have started.

He asked me what was wrong and that's all it took for the tears to start flowing, regardless of the deep, white tooth marks on my lip. He asked why I didn't ask for help, and in utter frustration I sobbed out that I didn't want to haft to ask for help for something so simple.

Poor Rick. After folding the sheet for me, he just sat there holding my hand while I sobbed and gulped and chewed hard on my tongue, telling me he was sorry that things were so different now. What a guy!

He waited until tears were past to leave for work, then he moved my walker out of the way (I hate how it literally comes between us) and just held me in a big hug. Of course I nearly started crying again, good tears just from the comfort, but it felt so good to be loved and supported/encouraged in this way! My primary love language is physical touch so it meant the world to me to be comforted like this.

The laundry pile is still only half folded (along with the pile still in the washer) but we are getting it slowly figured out, I think. I can't safely do the laundry on my feet (using the walker or appliances for balance, I still fall too easily). I've tried sitting on the floor and can't reach well.  This week I've been sitting in my wheel chair to move laundry, and while the chair isn't terribly maneuverable due to the confines of the small laundry area, at least it feels fairly safe, even it it is still quite a struggle.

I never imagined I would be reduced to tears over a "simple" pile of laundry!

My mouth's numbness is really bugging me this week. The inability to really feel my cheek was quite annoying while I tried to read to my kids yesterday. I seem to have some feeling (at least of pressure) in my teeth again, but the left side of my tongue and side of my cheek lack muscle control, causing them to feel fairly numb (I can feel pain in my tongue and front of my lip if I bite them) and them both to feel swollen.

I still often need to repeat myself or be "translated" for when I talk to folks. Words sound fairly clear to my own ears but I know what I'm saying too. When I was trying to read a long chapter book, the words did not sound so clear, even to me. It felt like my cheek kept getting in the way of my teeth and tongue. I guess I expected to have more feeling and control back by now. No one can really tell me what, when, or really even if to expect improvement.

My head and jaw are still very, very painful.While I had a bit of TMJ before, as I've described to my  mom, my very best days now are about like my worst days before the strokes. My bad days now, well I won't even go there...

On a bit of a different note, while I did have some minor memory issues a couple years ago, due to the cognitive impact of ME/CFS, it was nothing like the short term memory loss from these strokes! I can remember, in detail, thing that happened years ago (I'm so thankful to still have memories of my pre-stroke life with Rick and each of the kids), but can't reliably remember thing that were said or done 10 minutes ago.

I guess this is a result of the whole mild impact of the strokes to the right brain (home of long term memories) and significant impact to the left brain (houses short term memory). My six-year-old has figured out this deficit quickly and regularly argues with me when I ask him to do things telling me, "But Mom, you just said..." and since I honestly can't remember even having a previous conversation, much less saying or thinking something opposite, I have to often take his word for things, unless what I know he is telling me is contradictory to anything I would normally ever think or say. It has got to be very frustrating to my family or anyone who talks with me, but I think our son is learning to manipulate by taking advantage of the circumstances too!

I feel like I could be a whole host of cartoon characters:
Dory from the Nemo movie, "I suffer from short term memory loss. At least I think I do..."
Pooh Bear, "Think, think, think..."
Matter
Of course, now that I go to tell you my extensive list of favorite quotes, now I can't remember them! Hopefully, more to come in future posts.

I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. - Psalm 77:3
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. - Psalm 77:11
They remember that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. - Psalm 78:35
I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. - Psalm 119:52
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. -  Psalm 143:5

God's Words: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. - Isaiah 43:25
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  - Isaiah 46:9
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. - Habakkuk 3:2


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jehovah

From Facebook Today
Do you want to follow me on Facebook? I would love to connect with you (for these blog updates and more) at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stroke-of-Grace-by-Jennifer-Saake/339888582731687. Or you are welcome to select the little blue "join this site" option, here on the blog, over to the right sidebar (or both)! :)

Thank you to whomever sent the surprise in yesterday's mail. We are a little stunned yet! It is a Reno postmark, so that narrows our possibilities down to only half the people we know, or so. ;) Since we can't thank you in person, we hope you are seeing this today. We have to pray about how wisely to use it yet. Thank you for being the hands of Jesus and for one more reminder that none of this catches God by surprise. He's got it covered and He's got a plan. Our Daddy owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).  <3
Sacrifice thank offerings to God... and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. - Psalm 50:14-15 (NIV)


Monday, June 18, 2012

Sweet Peace

Long-awaited peace and joy finally flooded my heart yesterday. We went up to Lake Tahoe and it was beautiful! The night came and went and the kids are still here. :) I felt the most relaxed I have felt any time since the strokes, driving home from the lake yesterday afternoon. Thoughts like tangibly feeling some stress "melt" off my shoulders and the word "magical" went through my mind as I reflected on the day and my eyes devoured the scenery of the ride, handsome husband at the wheel, kids tucked safely in the back seat.

I have taking to sighing frequently oven the last several weeks. It's kind of a breathing issue, like gasping for oxygen and it is a broken, gaspy effort, much like catching or exhaling my breath like I do when I'm crying . But I think there has been an emotional element as well. I didn't catch myself sighing even once yesterday. 

This week is going to be all about reestablishing routine. The kids and I have already talked through some attitude issues and how they need to be addressed. After breakfast we will try to figure out how to tackle laundry together (something I can not do on my own) and the youngest will learn how to fold. R. and I need to continue working on the school room, as I am able. And I need to research standardized achievement tests for all kids. (Anyone have a link?)

Rick plans to grill tonight, so all I need to do for dinner is send J. digging through the freezer for some meat to start thawing, then come up with an idea for a side dish. We have an appointment with the lawyer tomorrow.

I woke up feeling a bit anxious this morning, but even my anxiety level felt lower than other mornings. Still not "easy" to cope with, but more manageable.  Grace!

I'm still in quite a lot of pain with my "headache" but one thing at a time. I have been fitted for a night guard, that hopefully will bring some relief soon.

I certainly won't say life is "normal" yet, but it is moving closer toward a "new normal" finally, I think! Thanking God for His faithfulness.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. - Psalm 51:12

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our Kids Are Home!

That's all. I'm just saying that they are home and I'm a little bit excited! ;)

It has been 10 days shy of 8 VERY LONG months. They are finally home now, I think to stay! :) We are very thankful!

Praise God!

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. - Psalm 113:9

Grumpy

I'm not in a good mood this morning. Honestly, I don't see the point of all this therapy/exercise. I am doing it, but things I found challenging months ago is still hard. I am doing it, but I seem to be loosing my left arm anyway. (Today it could hardly hold me up for one of the "easier" exercises I have been doing successfully for months.) I'm doing it, but I am not allowed to try walking on my own so I'm not seeing any improvement there. Why keep pushing myself then? For what? I just want to throw in the towel!

I have had a headache and worsened jaw pain since Saturday. Today I woke up with pretty much every major joint on my left side (knee, hip, shoulder) anywhere from "grumpy" to outright screaming in pain. I went back to bed after hubby left for work and slept for another hour and a half. That helped some of the physical a bit, but not the emotional. I have been sobbing much of the morning. It has not been pretty.

Our kids are supposed to come home today (for good). I am scared to hope, to get excited. And so I wait and the day stretches out long before me. I feel like I will forever have to prove myself now, that I am qualified to care for my kids or it will be decided for me that I am not a good enough mom so they will be taken away again. It will be hard to relax into motherhood with that weight on my shoulders! I'm thankful that they are coming home, more than it is possible to say, but I am scared too.

I know these first few days will be rough, in there own way, as we readjust to being together again. Not so rough that I would rather have the kids stay gone, but hard none-the-less. I am weary of relearning over and over every time they come and go. I am not looking forward to living that part again. Rick held me this morning and tried to sympathize with some of the fear. I so needed that! I'm trying to tell myself that this part of the trial ends today, but it is hard to believe that as I am still living it.

Please pray for Kendra, hitting her 2-month mark since her strokes, today. Please pray also for the needs of Sarah, Sue, Debbie and Carrissa's little sister. God knows the details. They are all life-changing prayer needs!

LORD, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. - Isaiah 26:16
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.[Proverbs 3:11-12]
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
- Hebrews 12:1-11 (NIV)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Date and Hand

Rick and I had a wonderful and much-needed date night last night. The only semi fiasco came when I was chewing a nut, started to laugh and sprayed it across the table and Rick (who is allergic to said walnuts)! I started to cry, then laugh, then cry again and laugh some more. This was a super fancy restaurant, folks, and I was like a bull in a china shop.

Rick was afraid I would totally loose control of my emotions and he would have to take me home during only the salad course. I was afraid it would get really ugly too, but by God's grace, we survived (Rick, thank you for handling it all with such grace, dignity, kindness and humor) and I made it through the rest of the meal without spilling my water, setting fire to the table or anything like that


I was so nervous, it felt like a first date again. I still have much to re-learn about social graces and conducting myself in public!

I haven't gotten nearly as much writing done this week as I was hoping. I was too emotional Monday (crying) and Tuesday (laughing) to get much of anything accomplished. I spent much of yesterday editing and did very little new writing. I'm not quite sure where today has gone. I did more editing this morning, then took a 3-hour nap this afternoon. Rick works very late tonight (10 or 11 PM) and I tend to do my best writing in the evening, so I'm hopeful that once I get this posted I will be able to get at least a couple more sections written tonight. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will give me wisdom, clarity and flow through me!

The kids are scheduled to finally come home for good, tomorrow, baring any unforeseen complications! :) We did get most of their schooling supplies ordered and plan to start back up in about a month. We have a summer filled with birthday parties as I was in no shape to consider parties last winter, so we are celebrating half birthdays this year. (All three kids have birthdays within a 5-week span, with Christmas in the middle. They only have a big "friends party" every 3 years anyway, and this was the year they had all be counting down toward and waiting for, so it is a pretty big deal in our house.) Rick is a brave man to take on sleep-overs 3 weekends in a row! Then VBS.

Also scheduled to restart therapies in July. My left hand is almost always drawn to my chest now, and while it still it offers a little limited movement, it has become significantly less functional. It is now turning purple like my left foot (that continues to be paralyzed, as evidenced by a second drearily unsuccessful attempt to wear sandals out to dinner last night). Both the foot and hand are noticeably swollen and retaining fluid, though the left hand post-surgical swelling of several weeks is finally down enough to squeeze on wedding rings. I don't know how long I will be able to keep wearing them? 

My left hand typically prefers to clench into a tight first that leaves the muscles in my hand and arm aching, unless I make a conscious effort to unfurl my fingers. I sleep with a toilet paper tube in my hand to give some relief to tired muscles through the night.

If I hold anything in that hand, my hand is not willing to release again when I want to let go. I must pry it away from my left with my right, or someone else has to forceably take the item from me. I have weakened grasp when I try to hold anything, but a super grip when I try to let anything go!

I am afraid I am loosing any real, usable function of my arm. Somehow I thought the the progress I had already made by now was all for gain. I had no idea that some losses would progress with time. This ongoing loss is terribly disheartening. It is good to know that, even as my hand withers, God's hands remain mighty!

I just spoke to my behavior therapist and am to call her back in two weeks to check again on insurance approval and hopefully to be able to schedule our first session! :) Praise God!
He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. - Joshua 4:24
For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. - Job 5:18
 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.- Job 12:10
Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. -  Psalm 108:6
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. - Psalm 111:7
Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. - Psalm 119:73
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -  Isaiah 41:10

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. - 1 Peter 5:6

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Golden

I think the dark storm clouds of depression have rolled back a bit again. Thank YOU, Lord!!! Yesterday was the first day, in quite a while, where I made it through the whole day without crying! I felt the sting in my eyes a few times and really had to fight the tears off, but I was successful in fighting them and I did not entertain dark thought through the morning, so that is a MAJOR step forward!

I woke up this morning feeling so exhausted from the battle yesterday, but for the first morning in a much longer time than even the crying, I didn't awake to dark, negative thoughts bombarding me faster than I could beg God to let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in His sight.

On one hand, I was so very weary and battle worn that I felt like I could understand, "In my weakness He is my strength," on a whole new level because I know the victories yesterday were not of me and totally of God! On the other hand, it was the first morning, in a very long time, I have woken up and one of the first thoughts to run through my head was, "This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

No, I didn't make it through the entire morning, this morning, without tears. But I did hold a brief conversation with Rick that normally would have made me crumble (not because of him, but because of my own lack of coping skills) and I got through that conversation with dry eyes. Not anywhere near where I want to be yet, but baby steps. Thank you for your ongoing prayers! Please keep them coming.

I know PBA is still a separate issue from the actual depression, because it is not uncommon for me to break out giggling (or crying) for no real reason. Rick will ask me what's so funny and sometimes I don't even have a clue. Yesterday, I was sitting in my chair, found myself laughing, then kept laughing over and over because I though laughing the first time, for no reason, had been so funny. I am glad I was on my own when that happened, because I never could have explained it to anyone else if they had been here!

The same was true of crying Monday, the tears kept pouring even though there was really no trigger. I frequently laugh at things Rick says or does, even when I really feel neutral or sad about it. Never knowing how I will react or what (if anything) will set me off, and how, is still really frustrating and confusing!

Found, posted to Facebook today.

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.


- 1 Peter 1:7


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Links

This is my blog (sure, you are more than welcome to read it too), so sometimes I just need to record things that may only be meaningful to me or those closest to me. Bolded, below, you will find the one thing I actually posted intentionally for the public today, along with this song:





You may be bored by some of this. But, of course, you are welcome to read anything here. 


First, I am thrilled with the collection of verses posted at Not Alone . More great "God With Us" stuff like I've been looking for. Thank you.

I'm still, somewhat, avoiding mirrors because I don't like the reminder of all that has been lost. I am trying hard to see myself as "beautiful" through God's eyes, because he knit me together from a one-of-a-kind pattern. But as mirrors go, isn't this a pretty one with a great reminder (and on sale this month too)? Everything Beautiful or Beauty in His Time (not on sale, but still a pretty good price and so precious!On Sunday, for the first time I remember, since  the strokes, I was really able to study myself in a mirror and then conclude, "I actually look kind of pretty."

I know the circumstances are very different, but this article, called Tomorrow: Complete Cycle of Grief, about grief and the passage of time, strikes a chord with me. It resonates as I picture my own future, holding my growing children, maybe sitting on a couch to hold children of their own (I hope I am strong enough for that someday!), limping across a stage, maybe cane in hand to replace walker, as a public speaker telling my story to proclaim God's glory, book published and lives changing. I can picture tomorrows now, hope for the future a bit (this is a pretty fresh, new ability), but what of today? As the article says, "The sun will come out tomorrow, but the tomorrows seem so endless. When will the tomorrow that brings joy come, when will the tomorrow of relief, of fond memory, of reflection arrive? That time is taunting her.  She's been told of it, the time that a smile will come across her face, that time where her eyes will light up and she will begin to feel restored. She needs that day..."

When Nothing is All You Have to Give - Maybe this will be me someday, in the context the author posts, but today it is me in another, very real way, asking God to take my nothing and heal relationships and more. I am so very broken! I give God nothing!


Here's a great (nice and short) reminder about what I give to God (Children pictured and mentioned) along with some great grace verses. Practicing Glory

Next, in searching the word, "grace," I came across Aging With Grace, a caregivers' website and an article specifically on stroke. (Yes, stroke is still considered to happen primarily to "old" people, thus the website on aging.) Anyone else have any good caregiver pages to share? I want to nominate Rick for this caregiver's award to let him know how much I appreciate all the sacrifices.

Since I have an "old person's condition," I got a giggle out of this 17th century prayer on aging that Joni Eareckson Tada recently shared. Some hilarious truths!




If insurance won't cover my hearing aids (still waiting for the answer we expect to ultimately be a "no!") maybe Christian Fund for the Disabled by Joni and Friends will help pick up a portion of the many thousands of dollars that will be required? I'll start by tacking the link here so I can hopefully find it again if I need to apply. 

One thing does come to mind that I specifically want to ask of my readers. If you would please pray that I will find ways to shower my husband with expressions of love, to simply have enough emotional control to talk to him in a sane fashion (not melt into a puddle of hysterical tears every time we try to hold a simple conversation) I would so appreciate a breakthrough here! (I would imagine he would too.)  


I guess that's all of my notes to myself today. I leave you thinking on another passage:
Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

- Habakkuk 3:17-19


Find Grace

 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

Monday, June 11, 2012

In the Body

I hope I am not over-posting and making you tired of reading. Just lately there seem to be an unusual number of thoughts and experiences to record! I really don't thing this will become a typical pattern of posting!

A few days ago I shared 2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay [earthen vessels] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Kendra's husband just posted how the passage goes on through verse 12, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."

I will be honest and say that I am feeling pretty crushed, abandoned and destroyed these days. I didn't know one human body was even capable of manufacturing so many tears or that they could fall so readily or uninvited!

What I took note of in this verse was that Jesus wants to be revealed through my mortal body. So often I long for the glory of Heaven, for my Spiritual body, and wonder why we can't just skip over the rest of the earth-bound parts.

One more little piece of a puzzle that's still not really come into focus for me yet. But it is good to know that my earthly body can still be used of God.

I was recently asking for thoughts and verses on how God is right here, with us. I need them because, if I go purely on my own emotions, I can't always feel Him. A friend sent me several verses on this topic along with some other issues I've been wrestling with God over, so I want to share a few with you:

"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." - Psalm 139: 8-10
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -  Matthew 28:20
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” - Deuteronomy 31:8
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life - Psalms 23:6
 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. - Proverbs 19:21
The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen. - Isaiah 14:24
Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. - Psalm 40:5
 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. - Psalm 139:16
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. - Exodus 9:16
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -  Romans 8:28
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. - Hebrews 12:1-2 
 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done... - Genesis 50:20a
 Besides the "Footprints" poem, any other thoughts or verses you want to share?

That's All?

I hear and read lots of people say things like, "Can you believe it is June already? Where did time go?"

Well, yes, I can believe it is June already. Or rather, I can't believe that it is only June. I know where all your time went. It seems to be piled up at my house, heavy on my hands.

This has been a terribly long year already. I type that it has been seven months since the start of the stokes and I have to double check my dates. Really? Only seven? It seems so much longer than that. A different life-time ago, in fact.

I now see my life divided three ways, pre-stroke, post-stroke, and Heaven. I know, in light of Eternity, both the pre-stoke and post-stroke seasons are only the blink of an eye, but right now it seems so terribly long!

My husband is trying to encourage me that Friday is coming and the kids will be home for good then. Friday seems a LONNNGGGGGGG way away. While I am beyond thrilled that they are coming home, I have to get through this week first. That seems more than daunting.

It has been a bad morning. I'm an emotional wreck. Rick is caught in my cross hairs again.

I used to say, "Time moves so differently this side of infertility," because the same amount of time that seemed endless, waiting for kids, seemed to flash by at lightning speed after kids. I hope, come November or December, you can here me asking, "Can you believe it is almost the start of a new year?" We'll see.

Maybe by then, I will at used be used to the fact that it is 2012 now, a date change that seemed to bypass me since it was still 2011 when I went into the hospital and time started to stand so still!
Psalm 9:9
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 37:39
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

Psalm 59:16

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
 Psalm 62:8
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah
Proverbs 24:16
for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. [I love this verse. All will fall at times. Trial isn't a sign of God's lack of favor, It is what happens next, God's power to redeem in brokenness, that makes a difference.]
Proverbs 25:19
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.
Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 7:14
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one  as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.

Ecclesiastes 8:6

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.
Ecclesiastes 9:12
Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
Matthew 26:42
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
  1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Psalm 31:15
My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Making Plans

The kids are gone for this week again. The plan is that they will come home for good this weekend, in time for Father's Day! I'm so excited!!! It has been such a long season to be separated.

This year has felt much like the emotions and grief of our infertility years, I cannot even put into words how thankful I am to be able to say our time apart is finally almost behind us! It's been such a yo-yo ride.

My occupational therapist was surprised I am able to be home alone and especially to be responsible for our children, but I feel being a mom is what I was born to do! I know this cannot be taken for granted and there was much questioning about our ongoing plans for my care and our kids' safe provision (and schooling) and what my functionality level might or might not be by the time they came home.


The kids and I know exactly what to do if my emergency call button goes off since I accidentally bumped it into ("Very loud!" even yells this hearing impaired girl) activation last week. While it was an adrenaline rushing experience for all of us, it was good to have a dry run under our belts before the kids come home!

I am trying, hard, to focus on the positives, even though I ache that they are gone again. Here is a list of what I'm trying to focus on this week:

1. The end is in sight! Yes, they are gone, but it should be only for this week. Next Sunday I don't think I will have to watch them go again! (Lisa, my heart is hurting for you and other "part-time moms" and your ongoing reality, even as I share the joy in my own heart. Praying for you and your kids!)

2. I shared, years ago, with a friend, that I felt God calling me to write another book. I did not know what that would look like, the timing, circumstances, or even the topic. I did not know how I would make progress while being a parent since my family shouldn't suffer as a consequence of my divided attentions. They need to stay my first ministry responsibility, something I did not manage well the first time around! Thank you, Karla, for reminding me of this conversation.
This week I will, prayerfully, strive to get back on track with my books, while I have a quiet house! (I probably won't be answering the phone much, but Sue, if you are reading this, I didn't get your number legibly written down before, so this shout-out is the only way I can think of to contact you. Please call again when you can!)

3. Rick and I have a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant. Sounds like this week will be the perfect time for a date night.

4. We will be planning and hopefully placing our curriculum order for next year, while we have some quiet time to talk and think.

5. We hope to re-organize the school room this week too, though I will mostly just sit on the couch and ask Rick to move thing for me. I don't know that we will get through it all, but hopefully a good chunk.

6. I still have not gotten fully and consistently back on track with daily at-home therapy, since surgery (left me very limited on what I could do for a while), the blood clot scare, and the tummy flu. I've had some great times of exercise, but honestly, I'm getting burned out. I plan to change that this week.

7. I will call the counselor in the morning and see what (if anything) is happening with insurance approval. Much has changed in my emotional health since I talked to her last and I really need to start getting in to see her sooner, rather than later!

I think I have an entire week (maybe even two in a row!) without any (so-far) scheduled doctors or therapy appointments! Even one week without any would be a first since I came home from the hospital, last year! I almost feel like this coming week will be a vacation, though full enough and with enough goals to keep me focused and busy!

Today I am thinking on what it means that Christ is truly here with us. This helps me address the, "What is my earthy life even good for?" and "What purpose are my days in this life?" questions. If you have thoughts or verses about Immanuel (God With Us), not so much in the person of Christ when He walked this earth, but in our reality now, indwelled with His Spirit, please share!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts..."
-Isaiah 55:8-9

Take a Load Off

Maybe when you hear that phrase, you think of getting off your feet. I'm thinking about getting on mine!

I kept telling folks, "I thought I would be walking by now." I know of at least two doctors and a therapist who thought I would never walk again, but somehow I still felt "behind the curve" because it was taking so long.

Finally, yesterday, Rick heard me lament yet again and he told me, that a doctor had called him into the hall early in my hospitalization and told him that I would be fortunate to be walking again after two years!

Load off my mind! Somehow, the difference between "never" and medical personnel giving hope that maybe I could walk again, but it could take a very long while, no longer makes me feel so much stress, so much pressure, to prove them wrong and do so in record time. Instead of feeling anxious that my birthday is coming up next month (my own goal for walking) and I'm still far from reaching that goal, I can keep pushing forward while realizing that even if I'm not walking by the following birthday, I'm still doing better than the one best medical expectation. With that knowledge, the stress I had been putting on my own shoulders, in this area, melted away a bit.

On a related note, I tried wearing some flat sandals out to dinner last night, because I wanted something prettier with my sundress than the big bulky tennis shoes I have been wearing. When I couldn't even make it down the hall from our bedroom to the kitchen, I realized the change in footwear would never work for an hour or so, outside the house. I changed back to my tennis shoes, thankful for God's and Rick's provision of safe, supportive shoes that Rick bough me after I came home from the hospital!
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
- Philippians 1:6
A friend sent me these verses, based on my prayer request yesterday morning. Thank you for your prayers. There have been a few tears today, but I am doing better than I have the last couple of mornings:
Psalm 55:17
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

Psalm 59:16
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 88:13
But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dark Mornings

I wrote a post this morning that was a little too personal, too vulnerable, too heavy, too dark, too down, to share with the world. Let's just leave it at the reality that I'm still really struggling with depression, I could sure use your prayers, and I'm in a pretty hard season, emotionally, right now. Rick is being wonderful and so supportive. I am thankful for all the blessings in my life, just right now I am also mourning some losses and its a truly yucky experience!

If you think of it, I would especially appreciate your prayers early in the morning, as this seems to typically be my hardest time of day. Of course, "hardest" still means other times of day can be "hard" too, so God, who works outside of human time anyway, will surely honor your prayer (and I welcome them) any time of the day!
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. - Psalm 5:3

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.-  Psalm 143:8
Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Definitions

When I saw the eye doctor on Monday, he repeated referred to the "paralysis" of my left hand. This had given me pause because I always defined paralysis as an inability to move at all. According to thefreedictonary.com, it is actually defined as, "Loss or impairment of the ability to move a body part, usually as a result of damage to its nerve supply." 

If functionality or impairment of the limb is also considered, my left hand/arm, as well as my left foot, well qualifies to be called "paralyzed" still, even if I can now get some movement from them both! To some extent, even my right hand "counts." I guess, even more mildly, maybe even my right leg/foot a bit too. :( 

There is no question, in anyone's mind, that even if you do not count the other three limbs, that the left hand that likes to clench into a tight fist, that won't willingly release anything I'm holding, refuses to hold more, and typically hangs limp at my side or pull up, sickly, against my chest, definitely falls under this definition. When I started getting a little movement out of my left fingers, I thought I past paralysis, but I guess technically not.*sigh* 

No word or change in definition impacts what is reality, but it feels as if it does, somehow. It should be just a word (and definition), but in my mind the though is so much more defeating that that!

The other word I've been considering this week is "righteous."If God is righteous in everything, moral and without fault, just and also kind, then these strokes are truly acts of grace, somehow. It may seem to me to be harsh grace at times, but grace none the less.  In reading through verses containing word righteous , I am so thankful that God does not repay me for my own (or rather my lack of) righteousness! (If I ever again question if a stroke is "punishment," it clearly is not!) I need to remember Job 37:23, " The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress."

The LORD is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness. The LORD is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
- Psalm 145: 17-19

 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.
- Psalm 23
As for the question I have repeatedly asked, why didn't God just allow me to die with the first strokes, "For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble" (Psalm 143:11). The preservation of my life is for the sake of God's name. Maybe that doesn't sound significant to you, but it is comforting to me, answering more of that "purpose" question I keep asking. If anyone can come into a right relationship with the Lord because they have heard how God is moving through these circumstances, praise God! In the meantime, I can depend on God's righteousness to bring me through this time of trouble.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

- Hebrews 12:11
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

- Galatians 2:20-21


P.S. This has nothing to do with any of the above, just a note I want to record for myself before I forget yet again. Since my earliest post-stroke memories in the hospital, my abdominal muscles involuntarily and rather dramatically clench and release several times as I am falling asleep. It is a nightly routine, and it concerned me for months, but now brings me a measure of "comfort" for I know the blackness of sleep is always soon to follow.
Last night, for the first time I remember, those muscle crunches started happening even as I was awake and typing, thus I finally remember to mention them. I have told few people of this occurrence and no doctors, mostly because I am typically so close to sleep that I don't remember what happens until it begins again the next night. I don't think it is anything significant, just another oddity.

I am feeling rather "down" and depressed again. A combination of issues come to mind. God knows and I know he will provide, but it is just where I am on my journey right now. I mention it only because of my desire for transparency. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hearing and Health

I hit a wall, energy-wise, yesterday. I was go-back-to-bed exhausted all day yesterday, but while doing my therapy I just couldn't push myself enough to finish, no matter how hard I tried. I gave up about 4:30 and just couldn't function at all, so I went to bed and immediately feel asleep.

When Rick got home (with dinner, sweet man!) about 6, here said I looked terribly pale. By then my throat was sore and I was feverish. I was afraid I was facing an ME/CFS relapse and it was a terrifying consideration!

I ate a little dinner, went right back to bed, then my tummy started really hurting too, along with all-over body aches. This was actually a welcome symptom as Rick has been dealing with stomach pain since Sunday and our 6-year-old had hislimbs and tummy hurting several times on Monday and again today. Neither had any other symptoms beside some digestive complications, but my body seemed to mount quite the immune response to this little bug, something I have not typically been strong enough to do for years. Praise God!

I was feverish all night and still feel a little weak and sore and tired out today, but much improved over yesterday. I am SO encouraged to see symptoms resolving so quickly!

I still went to my hearing aid screening this morning. My ears have not improved nearly as much as hoped from the tube (they are slightly better than they were). I have had hearing aids recommended for both ears, especially the left. I cannot hear most consent sounds, with either ear. I can hear vowel sounds with both ears, better with the right than the left,

With the left, some sounds have to be as loud as a motorcycle revving, or louder, with no other sounds competing for my attention, for me to have any chance of hearing at all. I do best if I am in a quiet environment (rather than a group setting) and I can read lips while I am listening, so that I can put the sounds I do hear into context with the conversation.

Hearing over the phone with the left ear is an impossibility on the phone (no visual clues) and a challenge with the right.  With both ears, I hear lower sounds (Rick's voice) much more easily than higher tones (women and children). Hearing aids would probably bring my right ear back to nearly normal hearing and improve the left as close to per-stroke as possible, though there is likely to be some permanent levels of loss in the left. As my audiologist reminded me, that's why they are called "aids" rather than a cure.

Unless insurance and/or an aid organization (some require Social Security Disability approval before they will help - something I do not qualify for because I have not worked enough "quarters" in the past 10 years) will pick up a significant part of the costs, hearing aids are quite cost-prohibitive, so this is a significant (thousands of dollars) matter of prayer!

Just to record, while I am thinking about it, my digestive system has been quite messed up since the strokes. My own theory is that if the strokes could impact my internal systems from my head (eustation tube weakness) to my feet (poor circulation, thus a purple foot), then it is reasonable to presume my intestines, at least on the left, have also been weakened. The tummy bug, that brought along diarrhea for everyone else impacted, made me feel urgency like with diarrhea, but I am still constipated, even a 3 stool softeners per day for many months. Fun stuff (not)!

On evaluation, only my sense of smell and perhaps some internal organs and much of the right side of my body. seem to not be significantly impacted by the strokes. I still complain about smells sometimes, but am thankful to no longer seem as hyper-sensitive to all chemicals and fragrances! I am very thankful that my heart, liver, and a host of other organs continue to function sufficiently!

I had no idea how many systems have, blissfully, worked fairly well for so many years and I have taken it all for granted or complained about comparatively mild (some were pretty major, but I see most as fairly mild now, in light of all the current struggles) irritations. God's work in creation of so many intricately-balanced systems is truly amazing!
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.- Psalm 139:14

Monday, June 4, 2012

Great Appointment

I met with my Nuero-Opttomologist this afternoon. He has a reputation for being pretty impersonal, but he came in the room and gave me a big hug, even though it has been three and a half months since the one other time I've seen him.

Then, my mom, whom he had never even met, stuck out her hand to shake his (based on previous experience and what others have said, I didn't even think he would talk to her) and he bypassed her offered hand to give her a big hug too!

That was the start of an all-together positive afternoon. (We were only in there 2 1/2 hours today, rather than our last appointment in his office, that lasted 4 1/2.)

First of all, he was blown away (his account) by the improvement in my eyes. That was fun!

My eyes had been 30 (degrees?) off in February. At that time the double vision was "too bad" to even be addressed. He showed me how thick my potential glasses would have had to have been then and, literally, they would thicker than the bottom glass of at least two coke bottles. He said the prism cut he would have had to put on them would have been so intense that the glass would have been too clouded to see through anyway.

Today is my eyes measured at a 3 and were too close to normal to be improved with prisms. Can you believe that? My vision was 30/20 in one eye and 25/20 in the other. from too bad to too good for prisms in just three and a half months! I'm still doubling to the sides (this was at a 60 before) but we are talking about eyesight directly in front of me. I knew my eyes were doing much better but I had no idea how much. Last time he talked about "when" (not if) he would do surgery, today he didn't bring up the possibility at all. Praise the Lord!!!

Next I learned that Nevada law has changed and now you only have to be seizure-free for six months (rather than a full year, as I had been told) before you can apply to get you driver's license back. I have only ever had one seizure in my life, in conjunction with the onset of my first two strokes, so I never quite understood why they took my license. Having clearance from this opttomologist is such an answer to prayer and something I wasn't remotely expecting today!

He did give me some detailed instruction with how I should carefully and slowly "get my feet wet" when I start behind the wheel again, but even if I will have to take things really slowly, I'm just thrilled this might be a possibility again, as we had truly wondered if I might not ever drive again. We had actually planned to put my van up for sale because it just sits in our driveway. Maybe that thought was premature?

Just my regular neurologist's approval left to go. Hopefully, I will able to get an appointment with him for next month. In the meantime I am studying the DMV book inhopes I will be soon needing this information! I'm glad for several weeks to study it to hopefully take the information from short-term to long-term memory. It will do no good to memorize all the information in the manual if I can retain little of that instruction!

Much more happened, including some very good information and encouragement on both the medical and legal fronts. He told me I am one of his very favorite patients. :)

He did invite his whole staff in to hear my story and get quizzed on medical and optical stuff again, but this time he asked for applause for me before they left. I didn't feel myself to be nearly the oddity I felt last time,since mucch of what he focused on was my improvements since he last saw me.

He did make several comments to point out to his team how bad I still am in certain areas and the medical explanations, but mostly I think he was just enjoying "showing off" how much God has done in my body since February. Last time he kept shaking his head in despair that it had already been four months since my first strokes and I was still so bad. This time he almost couldn't seem to wrap his brain around the amount of improvement since he saw me last!

There are certainly area where he would have liked to have seen evven more positive change, like in the ability to walk, but my mom says I did the most steady assisted walk she had ever seen me do, when I walked for his evaluation today. :) Maybe unaided walking is getting closer?

I go back in another four months. He has already warned me that the medical aspect of my next exam (about 11 months after the start of my strokes) will be much more extensive than today's. He cut today's appointment shorter than he wished because another doctor was waiting to consult with him.

A new (to me) website that I am finding very informative is www.tmjhope.org. I woke up in the hospital with the whole left side of my face severely hurting (even though I was numb everywhere else on the left) and, medically, I am simply diagnosed with "headaches." All these months later, though the pain is more localized in my jaw thanks to the work we have done in physical therapy and improvements I've seen as a result, I still can't open my mouth wide enough to take a normal-sized bite. We have talked of jaw surgery but remain undecided for several reasons. The upper part of my jaw seems to be slipped behind the lower part. Interesting stuff I'm finding here!


Wednesday I'll have a screening for hearing aids. May God's will be done.

I don't feel the depression is fully banished yet, but is improving! Thank you for your prayers. Whenever I feel my spirit starting to dwell in darkness, God is reminding me that both the words of my mouth, and more importantly to where my heart lives, the meditations of my heart are to be acceptable in His sight. By committing my anxious thoughts to Him in prayer, and with the help of medication that helps balance my brain chemicals, we seem to be overcoming! Some of this I have to take on faith because I cannot yet or fully "feel" it, but I am closer to saying, with Job, "He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light" (Job 33:28). Thank you for helping to pray me through.

That last part of the verse is harder for me to grasp than the first, but I am starting to feel a little more hope in God's plan for the rest of my earthly life. I have no idea what that will look like, but if God still wants me here, He knows the hows and whys.  I so want to use these days of grace to His glory, to count it all joy, rather than just (as I have been since the strokes) wanting to skip over everything this side of Heaven and fast forward to the really good stuff.

It occurred to me Sunday that not only is God in the business of healing and is "powerful enough" even to make the deaf hear, blind see and lame walk (something I have known and believed, intellectually at least, since childhood)  but His body not only died on the cross, but was brutalized by that cruisifiction, and He still had the power to fix it all before His resurrection. I don't think I am explaining myself well, but the though was powerful and personal to me.

That doesn't mean I WILL be physically healed, or in a way or time-frame I desire, but God is more than able to do what an exhausting team of doctors and therapist can't, if He so desires! That is comforting.

As depression is more fully pulled into line, the PBA seems a bigger issue again, but thankfully more from the laughing standpoint than so much of the crying. I actually made it all the way through church Sunday without breaking down! I haven't even yelled at my husband in over a week, though I have broken down in tears a few times. Still, this is so much better than it was even a couple weeks ago! I am so blessed that God has given me such a patient husband!

If anyone is available to watch kids (I think they will be home by then) or to take me up near St. Mary's early on the afternoon of the 26th for another ENT appointment, please let me know! I have a couple friends I will try to call, but just want to go ahead and put this need out there for everyone (local) to consider. I may be asking for help a few more times in coming weeks, as my parents are gone. Thank you.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1