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.

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. Jenni 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 but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jennifer is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. 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 above temporary update note above!)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Sitting in church this past Sunday morning, I felt and heard a loud pop in my left ear. I still don't hear normally from that ear, but I have repeatedly been surprised by improved hearing ever since. My ear has popped (less strongly) several times since, always leaving my jaw and face even more painful than the time before, but seeming to relieve a lot of build up pressure in the ear with each pop. Maybe the eustation tube is finally learning how to equalize pressure on its own! :)

From Pintrest
 The first time being surprised by what I could hear from that ear, was Sunday afternoon, shortly after church. I hadn't noticed anything new since that pop, but when our older son leaned down (I was in the wheel chair, as I frequently use on longer outing such as shopping trips) and spoke a sentence into my left ear, even though it was a noisy location that would normally cancel out any hope of hearing him, I was surprised to find that I could actually hear and understand him, even without seeing his face so I could read his lips, nor asking him to move to my other ear!

From Facebook
 I guess I thought that was just a fluke, because I was again surprised yesterday afternoon who I heard "whoo-ing" in my left ear and my first thought was, "Oh great! Now my tinnitus (ringing and whistling in the ear) sounds like an obnoxious owl." Turning my head, I realized I was hearing the exact same sound in my right ear too! It was actually the sound of doves coo-ing in our back yard! I haven't been able to hear that sound with my left ear since the strokes!

About an hour later I again had the same exact sensation in my left ear. As I now imagine a person might feel once a cochlear implant is activated (?), while some mechanical hearing has been restored, I could not connect this "sound" to any kind of meaning or known information until I again turned my head and instantly realized from my right ear that I was once again hearing doves call.

Three ear surprises in less than two days! :)

Posted for no other reason than I think this Steampunk Bluetooth I first saw on Pinterest, is incredibly cool looking. :)
 Is my hearing now perfect? Not even close? Is it noticeably better than just a few days ago? Indeed!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hairy Situation

Edited to add: The thought here grew from a longer post call Thinking of Kendra and here include visual aids to expand upon the original thoughts...

Last week, I had just about convinced myself it was time to cut my hair again. For almost two weeks now I have been unable to brush it out myself, due to length. As it was growing out (just a little past my shoulders now), it was a "good problem" over these past couple of months. The struggle reminded me that it was actually growing. But once it got to the point I couldn't do it myself at all, it became overwhelming. While my heart in no way wanted to cut it, my quest for independence left me little choice.
Taken several months, probably close to a year, before my strokes.

December, maybe 5 weeks after initial cut.
Maybe this whole conversation would make more scene to understand that when I stroked, my hair came about to my waist. At my request, my mom had to cut it to a little below chin length about a week after the first strokes, because it was taking hours for the nurses to wash and brush out after each frequent EEG (where they had to rub my head with sticky, conductive gel). Even though my mom worked hard to keep it in a braid that first week in ICU, it was a mess, constantly uncomfortable, snarled, and getting in the way. Laying on my back, day in and day out, practicality dictated the hair must go. This is one of the many vanities that the strokes robbed from me.

Long hair, wadded up under my head, in the hospital bed. So uncomfortable!
In December, after over a month of dealing with the first cut, it was driving me so crazy that I begged for an even shorter cut.
Mid-December, 2011.
I kept that short pixie maintained for the next several months:

Hospital homecoming day, December, 2011.

End of school year, 2012.
So it's been about a year now that I've been on an active quest to regain length.

Late July, 2012.
It is getting there (though I can no longer achieve this pulled back style on my own). But last week, despite the emotional turmoil, I asked my husband to start pointing out shorter styles he might find attractive. 
Two months ago, Feb., 2013.
When I mentioned to my mom, last Thursday, that I was afraid I was going to have to cut it, my daughter got pretty upset and promised to brush it out for me every day as long as I wouldn't cut it. So as long as she stays faithful to that commitment, and my pain levels don't continue to climb so rapidly or get so high that I can't tolerate her gentle care, I can continue my efforts to reclaim this one area of my pre-stroke normal.

I know most won't understand or be able to relate, and I am, in no way, judging anyone who has made different choices. Part of me tells myself this is a sign of emotional weakness that it matters so much to me. After all, it is only hair! It would be so much easier, so much more practical, to cut it. Kendra did and I rather envy her cute, one-handed-care cut. For me, the continued growth of my hair is somehow a marker of progress and recovery. To cut it again would be some sort of admission of "defeat." I just can't go there yet.

Here's what I wrote about hair last May (at not quite 7 months after the first strokes, many other long theological thoughts at that post as well). Describing the recovery journey: It is like waiting for my hair to grow - it obviously is longer than it was months ago, but it would still be described as "short." At what point does it become long again? Who defines that? Am I looking for Rapunzel length or just past my shoulders? For me, pre-stroke, it was about to my waist but that will take years and years to achieve and will be considered "long" well before that. There are so many versions of "long," taking vastly different time frames to achieve. So is the quest for getting better, what one might call "better" can be measured by such different perspectives but it takes a long time either way! The journey seemed endless after just a few weeks, a few months, still.

Today I have managed to get it almost all pulled back into a jaw clip sort of bun on my own. While I can't curl or do a "half up" style by myself, don't have the dexterity do do a ponytail, and find it much too painful for anyone to work the ponytail elastic for me, maybe this will be a doable summer option? (It waits to be seen it today's outcome will be replicable in the future,)


November, 2013 update: The jaw clip has not proven to be a replicable solution. I have learned to occasionally manage hot rollers in my hair though (putting them in almost exclusively with my right hand, but able to get my left arm up onto my head long enough to get clips in place!), and while I still can't manage any kind of "half up" style, I have found some gentle ribbon-like pony tail holders that don't hurt my head too much for me to wear if someone puts it in a whole ponytail for me! I sometimes manage to fairly comb out wet hair on my own after a shower now. Dry hair usually still requires someone else to brush for me. I recently posted some related thoughts on hair and head coverings if you are curious about my thoughts.


October 2016 update: I  have long-since master the jaw clip and moved on to Flexi Clips. I can wash and comb/brush my own hair, wet or dry. Here are other five-year reflections and a current picture.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

18 Months

Grab your cup of tea. This is a long post! (I've been working on my thoughts here for over a week.) :D

A year and a half! Honestly, I didn't think we would ever get this far! I still know that I almost moved to Heaven on this day, a year and a half ago. It was a Tuesday morning, "should" have been my last on earth. God had other plans. I still question the length and circumstances of my earthly destiny, but more and more I am coming to terms with the reality that I am still here by God's love, ordination, and for a purpose.
I love this (and the author,Tricia Goyer too)!
That I survived at all took me a long time to begin to accept, but I know my husband fought so hard that I be given every chance at a rehabilitated life, even when all medical counsel said to just give up because I could only ever achieve enough recovery to remain bedridden in a nursing home. The quality of life I enjoy today is a direct result of his fight for me to have a chance. Thank you, Rick! There's no one I would rather journey through this life with, even when the climb is so treacherously steep. I love you! (I love and am so very thankful for our kids too!!!)

Mentally, I am becoming more aware of my deficits. I feel fairly intelligent in most areas, but know I am lacking in higher functions such as math, geography is having to be relearned (what a blessing that my kids and I have been focusing on the 7 continents, that I wouldn't have even been able to name at the start of the year, and key facts of world culture and geography all school years), English rules (thankfully I have always written more by "feel" than technicality), short term memories (one reason I love Pintrest so much is that something I loved enough to pin just last week, seems totally new again when I read it today) and even a few random and very specific longer term memories of various people, places or events.

I used to feel so frustrated when someone would ask me weather or not I remembered a specific person or event or fact. I've come to realize that is a very legitimate question. I does not minimize the extensive and details I do maintain, nor my inelegance (as I interpreted the question to mean in the beginning), but it is reasonable acknowledgement that information I once possed may or may not be there any longer. One day I commented about something that was no longer as I thought it was and Rick replied, "You really don't remember that? It's OK if you say no." That was so freeing, just being granted the "permission" to not remember that which honestly could never be recalled. He's made a few similar comments at various times, always carrying with his acceptance such a measure of relief!

As a friend (who I have absolutely no pre-stoke memories of even knowing, who has been brave enough to re-enter my world, perhaps or perhaps not, the only person totally erased from my recollections) who also had a mild stroke years ago, recalled her experience and put words to my own. She explained that it is like a hot needle has randomly poked through my brain, taking with it the most unrelated mix of facts and experiences. It's like popping balloons of information, what was there simply is no more. No amount of prompting or reminder will bring back even remote or fuzzy memories of what just is not there, of another's life or experiences. As C. described, it's not like you can talk enough about something that you eventually say, "Oh yeah, I think I might sort of remember something about that..."

My pre-stroke memories are crystal clear, sharp and detailed about most things other than the days immediately proceeding the first strokes. Even several of those memories, such the timeline of events leading up to my hospitalization, are really quite good. But like a restaurant that I have been told closed a good six months or so before I stroked, I was surprised to see it closed the first time we drove past after I came home, because I have NO recollection of them going out of business. A few events of this past year and a half, especially those from recent months (the first months following the strokes are rather a blur), are also quite clear, but the things I am missing are simply GONE.

Click here - StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-i-wear-combat-boots.html.
It seems SO MUCH LONGER than a year and a half ago that our (my entire family!) lives changed, and yet, for the first time since the strokes I can honestly say it seems it couldn't possibly have been so long ago already. I still feel so new to these changes, in many ways. Still, I think that whole, "I can't believe it has already been..." to accompany the existing, "time is passing SO slowly!" mindset is a measure of progress! :) So I will keep lacing up my combat boots and keep keeping on. The battle belongs to the Lord!

I still have occasional dreams that include my old abilities, like recently dreaming of Signing (Sign Language) fluently with both hands. But it has been long enough now that such dreams usually don't shock me, grieve me, or cause me to be jolted back into my currently reality, like they did for so many months. The dream thing was an odd progression where my dreams were initially only able-bodied and caused such cutting anguish each time I awoke to such an altered reality, then there was the trauma of the first time my mind started including my waking limitations into my nightly terrors, then there was a long season where my subconscious had yet to fully grasp the transition and my nights were quite the mix of pre- and post-stroke realities (the per-stroke ones seeming the most cruel because they were so terribly unattainable). Now I am finally just typically the post-stroke "me" weather I'm waking or sleeping (with a few random pre-stroke dreams simply being a reminder of the life that was once mine, but typically not being so taunting of what will never be again). 

In fact, I feel enough back to myself now that I am often surprised to hear the slow drawl of my own voice, feel/see the shakiness or lack of strength of my arm, by my own stagger or tendency to trip, by my wavering attempts to capture a note of song (but I am thankful my voice has any range now at all, compared to the simple monotone of earlier months), by lack of stamina or loss of capability in accomplishing once-simple tasks like general housework, by a stab of pain, by muffled hearing, or doubling vision. Whereas the first 18 months was marked by an acute and constant awareness of my many injuries, I seem to be slowly entering a phase where I "forget" that I have stroked until something brings me a vivid reminder.

Found at unbrokenbygrace.tumblr.com. A year ago, even a few weeks ago, I absolutely couldn't have fathomed ever being able to sing (and mean) these words. But truly there are moments when God's glory eclipses affliction now and I am momentarily unaware of my losses and shortcomings!
There is a JJ Heller song (see toward the bottom of the sidebar for my post-stroke theme, also by Heller) with the lyrics, "Be gentle with me, Jesus, as you tear me apart." I think that pretty well captures my heart this past month. If you haven't read it yet, my recent rose gardening story (especially the part between the larger two graphics) talks a lot about the spiritual journey right now.

Deep breath... I'm not sure I that I am really brave enough to actually post this, but I'm taking my courage cues from Kendra who has boosted confidence with her comments about my voice (thanks, sweet friend!) and gotten quite brave to share pictures on her blog lately, so here goes. My current singing voice, how dramatically it is improving, and how far I still have to go. I recorded this last week (my voice seems less clear this week, but it gives a general idea of where I am now). I think, of all the therapy tools I have tried, I have The Listening Program to most think for this amazing improvement.

I went to the dentist for a routine check up and cleaning last week. My jaw / face / neck got so sore as a result. :( My ears (especially the left) really rung for several hour afterward. It was disconcerting to "hear" through my teeth, and I guess because of nerves, feel a high frequency hum in my left ear when he touched certain teeth with the polishing brush. The hearing thing hasn't happened at any of my post-stroke appointments before.

I have always been blessed with great teeth, having only ever had one cavity / filling, and this not until my later 30s! I kind of expected I might have new problems discovered at this appointment, due to the ongoing numbness in my mouth and probable inability to detect any problem that might have been brewing on the left side of my mouth. I also am known to sometimes still "pocket" food between my left gum and cheek, if it gets over there, though I can mostly keep all my food to the right now.

To my happy surprise, the left side all seemed fine (other than the significant dis-alignment of my teeth and jaw that was instantly notable on the x-rays), but I was sadly shocked to learn I am possibly developing three, small, new cavities on the right (the teeth that do double duty because they handle all my chewing now) and have to watch them. I will likely need fillings (including replacement of the one existing filling, as one of the cavities seems to be forming just at the edge of the old one) at my next appointment in six months. It probably seems rather small and petty, but this news was quite upsetting to me, yet another blow to my already wounded ego. :(

It was, however, a pretty interesting process to have the teeth actually cleaned. At one point (I couldn't feel what he was actually doing at the time), something triggered my gag reflex and due to my swallowing challenges, I started to choke on my own saliva and nearly threw up on the dentist. Thankfully I did not! Just a nice coughing scare. As for the actual cleaning of the teeth, it was interesting to observe what was still totally numb, what had some tingly feeling, and what had improper feeling, like where something benign registered to my mind as stabbing pain instead. At one point, I didn't even realize I was in much pain until I felt a tear rolling down my cheek.  The strangest sensation was when the dental hygienist was wiggling floss between my teeth and I could typically feel at least pressure at the top of my teeth, but sometimes couldn't feel when he got down to my gums. Strange!

Last month was my biggest "retail therapy" (shopping) month ever. It became problematic enough I had to talk to my therapist and put a lock on all but our smallest bank account. :( The last couple weeks have been much better, but it is very hard. This is one of my mechanisms for coping with stress and feeling I have an area of control in my life, even if the very lifestyle is exhibiting out-of-control behavior. There are other areas where, with the damage to my brain, it would be rather common if I were dealing with impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, so I'm thankful God is protecting us in many other areas, but whatever the reasons, I am working to become more accountable for my actions.

Our oldest son is getting taller than me. And our younger two are sure blessings, but keeping us on our toes as their parents! In moments like these (which I keep reminding myself could happen, strokes or no strokes), I just make a conscious decision to remember how easily we could have remained without them at all, how very blessed we are that they even joined our family! I love them so very much, am ever so thankful for these amazing little people. But some days, more than others, they sure have unique ways of keeping me humble!

Our daughter is awaiting her new glasses we just put on order this week. They are really cute on her! She acts somewhat upset about having to get glasses. I think it is just that, mostly an act. Secretly, I think she is really excited about the change.
May is stroke awareness month.       Picture from Pintrest.
I guess the only other big change this month comes in the form of a new chronic condition diagnosis, hypoparathyroidism. This very rare diagnosis, while not enjoyable in symptoms, actually brings great relief because it finally answers many long-term questions that have come about, but don't necessarily fit the normal pattern of post-stroke complications. (But when do I do anything "normally" anyway? That I'm even here is terribly abnormal. I've long-since come to realize that, as Kendra puts it, my recovery falls so far outside the text books that doctors really don't have a clue what to do with me!) I am so thankful that I have been able to see this endocrinologist and that we have these answers finally, though it may take months or years to try to bring this hormone imbalance into balance. I'm still a bit nervous about the insurance situation here, but as far as we understand, they have covered the majority (all but a few hundred dollars) of this investigation. Thank you for praying with me! (More parathyroid information.)

I have been physically feeling really quite yucky this week. Needing to go to bed, pretty much without any warning, for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day, almost every day this week. I'm guessing that is because we did address the parathyroid issue for a week, then had to suddenly cut out treatment (due to allergic reactions). I think treatment made SUCH a difference, that coping again without treatment is pretty overwhelming. My pain levels are also so terribly high now that it is interfering with both my exercise routine and my time with my physical therapist. She was very relieved to hear I will be seeing my neurologist for a scheduled check-up on Friday. I will be following up with my endocrinologist on the parathyroid issues, to see about treatment alternatives, next week.
“Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved … My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why I Wear Combat Boots

This is a simplified re-post of what I wrote on March 22 [and the springboard for my Butterflies and Battle Boots post of Feb. 2014]. (Please feel free to pin or re-post this shorted explanation.)

I ordered myself some combat boots this week. Yes, you read that right, combat boots!
When I told my mom she was incredulous, saying that when she was a kid one of the highest insults you could give out was, "Your Mama wears combat boots."

Well, hoping they fit well and I can use them, that's exactly what this Mama plans to do!

Why? Because it will be a regular, visible reminder to me that the battle belong to the Lord and to Him alone. Yes, I need to be willing to work with (rather than against) him in these battles (the spiritual and the physical of stroke recovery), but as long as I am doing what I should to suit up for battle (putting on my figurative "combat boots" and the rest of my spiritual armor as well as working hard on my therapies) I need only rest and wait on the Lord for victory.

You may still be scratching your head over why on earth I would ever make such a fashion choice, Confession time here - I would have never imagined myself in combat boots until I saw these adorable flowered ones. They immediately spoke to me that while I am in daily battle here, the journey is cushioned and liberally sprinkled with God's grace, just as these otherwise ugly, utilitarian boots are sprinkled in beautiful roses.

Here's a related article I just found, that I posted about a month before my strokes.
Found at Sweet Blessings.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9
Edited to add: Read more of the story just past Jenni's 3 year mark and view a three-minute interview that opens with these boots!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Today I'm trying this challenge. "Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt “After” with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing." We shall see what happens. :)

Start time:

After... Life after strokes.

This morning my husband woke up too sick to drive himself to work or our son to school. I called my parents (pre-aranged that they would be our back-up drivers if ever needed) at 6am. They were here by 7 to pick up our son.

They will be back in about half an hour to take me to the dentist, because, stroke or no stroke, life moves on. This afternoon we go back to pick our oldest up from school.

I am so very frustrated by this not being able to drive thing!

Stop Time
 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5: 6-7

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts Here and There

Our oldest, now has a sprained foot. I really am pretty sure it isn't more than a sprain, but we were wrapping and icing and elevating and taking Tylenol all weekend. His lip is hardly noticeable now, thankfully! He is typically our one accident-free child, so this has been odd.

One thing I forgot to share about my rose gardening was that my first attempt resulted in two bad sunburns. My face was fine, thanks again to the sun protection of mineral makeup. (I used it faithfully for 5 days in a row, cleared up my skin beautifully, then forgot to use it for two days. By the third morning I woke up with 3 deep, painful, yucky, oozy zits that I really couldn't even blame on hormones, and about 20 "regular" smaller ones. I've been using my makeup faithfully for the past week, have only gotten 3 or 4 small new bits of acne, have pretty much dried up the rest of regular ones, and am getting the three deep ones dried up and less painful. The scars/marks will likely be there for quite a while, but at least they don't HURT like they first did!)

In addition to the picture God described to me through my gardening last week, I also want to record His words to my heart, "You asked for a unique ministry, so first I have to teach you some unique lessons." Perhaps this statement doesn't mean much to anyone but me, but I had to get it written down somewhere!

About the sun burns. I was sitting on my gardening bench, leaning forward to work on the roses. I started in a sweatshirt, but got too warm and went down to just a short-sleeved tee. My shirt must have ridden up my back whenever I bent over, because I ended up with a lovely burn across my back, for about 2 or 3 inches above my waist band. Ouch! And somewhere it would have never occured to me to need sun screen.

Because I started in long sleeves, I didn't think to protect my arms either. Both shoulders got a bit cooked, just below the rim of my shirt sleeves, trucker's tan-style. But the funny thing was, for the most part my left arm was totally unburned, while my right arm got quite lobster-y red. I thought I had used my left arm quite a bit last Tuesday, but I guess I mostly just held it in my lap, shading it with my body. Tells me that what I think of as "a lot" and fairly even usage is still quite lacking.

A shout out to my next door neighbor, E. Thank you so much for coming over to help, giving of your time, physical ability (the garden looks SO much better after your raking!), listening ears, gardening tools, and grasp strength when I couldn't squeeze the clippers strongly enough to cut quite a few of the older or larger stocks.

Something newer I am noticing with my swallowing, is that I simply am forgetting to do it lately! Several times this month I have gone to take drinks and am thinking about getting the liquid in and breathing, but I apparently am forgetting that the water or other liquid actually needs to go somewhere after it gets into my mouth. Several times I have found myself walking around the house with a mouth full of liquid, or needing to intentionally take a big gulp of a swallow in order to either answer a question someone else has asked or to answer the phone, or I have been drinking and my mouth is filling up with liquid and my cheeks are puffing out, but the water is not going anywhere once it gets to my mouth. Fortunately, this hasn't really caused a chocking issue, it is just a very odd sensation!

I am fighting a cold or (I think) horrid allergies this week. My nose runs like crazy, I sneeze and spray spit everywhere (due to mouth numbness and lack of muscle strength). My hearing is even worse than usual and there is SHARP pain in my left ear when I try to blow my nose. Uggh.

The weight thing is still an issue. 8 months at the gym + therapy + watching what I eat = only 1-2 pounds weight loss! The work outs are somehow still making an impact in tone though, because I missed most of my work outs for two weeks (sickness, scheduling conflicts, etc.) and my clothes got totally tight in that time, so the gym is important for muscle strength/tone even if scales won't budge! Yesterday I was diagnosed hypoparathyroid (low hormone production of the tiny glands on the back of the thyroid). Yesterday I didn't even know their WERE tiny glads on the posterior of the thyroid gland. Now I've learned this under-production of hormone (I personally think, primarily as a result of stroke damage, though I haven't found any documentation to directly support this theory yet) answers so many more odd questions about what's been happening with my body than just weight gain. Hopefully we are on the right path now, though it could take months or years to regulate effectively.

I'm trying. This post is for (you know who you are, who sent me the email and challenged my thinking along these lines. Thank you :) ). I'm afraid I would still describe a pretty poor "first picture," but probably not the "monster" I would have described before your email. :) Please take the time to watch. This video is eye opening about self-image!
1 Peter 4:19 "So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thorns and Roses

I wrote this last (Friday) night but had trouble posting then, so trying again today. By the way, my muscles are SORE  today, reminding me of all these events!:

My kids have all been home this week and we have put homeschooling on hold for the week for spring break. One threw up last week (I think she had just eaten too much that night at dinner) and was down all the next day, but seemed back on her feet (without a cast, finally!) pretty quickly. I was home with two more on Sunday with a nasty cold-like virus with fevers. I took one to the doctor on Monday but there really wasn't anything to be done. The sickest was back on his feet by Wednesday evening. There are still a few random coughs and sniffles around our house, but I think the kids are better. Rick and I are pretty run down and we might be fighting it off, but I guess only time will really tell. I hope it is just allergies, but that's what we thought with the kids at first too. Family-wide sickness seems to be a monthly occurrence the past nine months since the kids moved back home!

I had a big meltdown Wednesday night. The realization hit me hard that almost all my friends in my season of life (mostly moms of elementary or junior-high kids) I currently interact with on a daily basis during this season of life (the past almost 10 years) are almost all homeschooling moms. It hit me hard that even as we strive to keep these friendships alive, I will be in a different season of life and the relationships will, inevitably, change pretty dramatically once all our kids are in traditional school and "homeschooling mom" is no longer my identity. If not homeschooling moms, many others are tied to a traditional work schedule that would still prevent us from getting together often. I'm so thankful for my mom, Kathy, Latricia, Veronica, Sue and a small handful of others (though you all know the scheduling challenges that can be there), including my special distance friends like Susan, Michelle, Jill, Kendra, and the HP gals . As a disabled, non-driver, in my 40s, with a career in writing (where there is very little face-to-face interaction involved in what I do), I don't imagine building a lot of new relationships in this new season of life. I guess I'm just tearful and rather fearful of the coming wave of lonesomeness. I'm holding onto the truth that God does not give us a spirit of fear.

I did this picture after I wrote the post, as art/occupational therapy, based on this post. You may view just the rose devotional (without the rest of today's updates) at HarvestingHope.blogspot.com.
I finally got out to work on my rose garden, twice this week. I hadn't tended them since just before the strokes, so this was a BIG deal to me. I've mentioned several times that I hadn't touched my roses since the strokes. When I worded it slightly differently, that my roses "hadn't been touched" in nearly a year and a half, Rick stopped me and asked, "You do know I have gone out there and worked on them a couple of times, right?" No, I hadn't known. I can't put it into clear words, but learning this made me feel so loved, that he did this not because the roses mean much to him, but because he knows I love those roses and he was serving me.

God decided yesterday's gardening hours were a great living object lesson time. I had one really huge, really wild and overgrown, totally healthy bush. This spring it has gone crazy, throwing out lush stalks several feet long in all directions. It looked so vibrant, it seemed a shame to prune it at all, but it had grown so intently that it totally blocked a walkway between it and the next bush. I could find very little to prune for the health of the plant, but knew the only way to both reclaim my pathway and to encourage voluminous blooming of the whole plant later this spring, would be to bring the unshapen plant under the harsh cuts of the pruning sheers while the sprouts were young and pliable today.

After clearing out a very few branches in need of pruning, I took some well-planning, but perhaps seeming brutal whacks at the path side of that plant, adding dozens of feet of long, strong, beautiful, thriving branches to my discard pile, taking that side of the plant down by half or more in size. I told God that it seemed amazing that rather than shocking the plant to death, I knew my actions were simply to bring around more intentional design and purpose, resulting in a more pleasing and fruitful bush. The more pruned, the more plentiful the expected flowering later this spring and summer.  He replied to my heart, "This is what I am doing in you!"

Once I had that first side molded to my design again, it occurred to me that now the plant looked pathetically out of balance, lopsided, so I continued hacking my way around the whole bush until it was beautifully rounded, but only a shadow of the lush plant I had started with. Still, I am confident that in a month or two, the pain I inflicted today with result in a multitude of glorious blossoms in my healthy, well-grounded bush that no longer risks uprooting in our violent wind storms, like the tumble weeds that roll down the street, much too substantial in size for their relatively tiny root structures to hold them fast in place.

The more I thought about it, God seemed to explain that my life was much like that rose bush, wild and thriving and chasing after every opportunity to stretch and send out exploring fronds. It took ten years of infertility, losses, and decades of chronic illness to begin to tame me, but while I didn't enjoy the pruning process in the least, it was necessary so that my vigor for life didn't lead me so far out of God's intended design that I couldn't accomplish the purpose He intended me to fulfill. It wasn't that those passions were unhealthy or unwise, but the abundance and scattered directions threaten to leave my roots unstable, thus becoming undesirable in their very abundance.

June, 2013. Article edited to show the results of that pruning.
Once that season of pruning was brought toward conclusion, I had one area of my life mostly trained into obedience, but that seemed to make the rest all my wild longing more prominent. I see the additional shaping of this strong, healthy plant as my strokes, the ongoing recovery journey toward recovery, and our private family battles. I have been left shattered, violently pruned under the often seemingly unkind hand of the Master Gardener, but he knows that the only way to refocus my many thriving branches (abundance of gifts I had been blessed with, such as a signing voice, playing my flute, the ability to gracefully communicate with both hands via Sign Language, physical beauty, artistic expression through a variety of crafts and mediums I can no longer physically manage, the abundance of home-based business I have tried my hands at over this past decade, even the continued homeschooling of my children, and so much more I haven't even had time to identify yet) is to remove all that fall outside His intent for my life, to not leave me all those opportunities for "chasing after the wind," but bring me down to the bare essentials and start the training process anew (if I had to guess today, I think the critical areas God would have me focus on now would be family, home, health recovery, and writing that may eventually lead to public speaking) so that I may eventually harness that untamed enthusiasm and bring forth a bountiful harvest under His intended plan. I get it, more clearly than I ever have, God.  

Edited to add: I like this article on the verse, See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15).

About thorns, the stroke-related part of today's post is to tell you you that I took two pretty big falls in the garden, one on Tuesday and another today. Tuesday's way pretty hard, but fortunately I came straight down and plopped squarely on my padded rear end. It didn't shake me up much physically, nor even emotionally because I knew that I was on unsteady ground and I think, probably because the outcome had no real consequences, I found the situation to be almost the expected result of trying to do something so outside my realm of regular.

Today's fall could have been so much more disastrous. I'm actually pretty surprised I didn't end up at the ER with a broken bone. I lost my balance backward (even with my cane) and twisted as I fell, landing into one of the two biggest thorn (rose) bushes in the whole garden. It caught my fall so that I was still upright on my feet and never made it to the ground. Even though tough denim, I have large scratches over my torso and all four limbs and my legs (especially the left) were quite caked with blood by the time I got my jeans off to take a shower. Since I'm on blood thinners, I didn't just bleed a little either, and I had trouble getting the bleeding to stop again, once I washed away that first clotted mess. In the shower, I also found two golf-ball shaped bruises on the back of my left knee. I had never seen them before, but they look to be a few days old now, so I really don't think they are from today. I wonder where they came from? Since that side already feels bruised and hypersensitive all the time, I had no idea I even had bruises like that there.

I had another non-fall incident before today's fall that I sure would have looked pretty funny had anyone had a video camera. Fortunately no one was around to observe, but that no one was around (two kids were gone on a walk and the little guy was within sight, but far enough down the street he wasn't apparently within earshot) was a big part of my problem! I have a gardening bench (you might have seen one like it in one of those "junk catalogs") that were designed for the elderly. It can be used as a bench, or be flipped over as a padded kneel-er with two handles. I turned it over to the kneeling side (I just sat in it since I can really kneel yet) for the first time since the strokes today. I had no problem getting down or working on ground level, but getting up was a totally different story! I tied with the cane, without it, with the handles, without them, turning every direction you can imagine, yet still I could not find one way to get up. It probably took me 10 minutes or more of being "stuck". Finally I got turned around and scooted the two inches down to the ground, crawled across the lawn to a tree, and got myself pulled up there, I was so glad to be wearing my gardening gloves before I went staggeringly crawling across our yard, but it must have been quite a sight!

Found via Google. Click picture to be redirect to source website.
Monday will be 1 Kendra's 1-year stroke-a-versary. So many memories to process this weekend!

My Barbara Johnson, Daily Splashes of Joy quote for today is, "To pull yourself out of a pit, reach out to someone else." 
More from my once-wild bush. (Sorry, I need to get in there and clean out old blossoms again!)

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

They Came!

My new boots came today, a day earlier than I expected! I'm wearing them right now (yes, for those who know me in person, shock and surprise, actually in the house, and by choice!). I think I will replace the laces with elastic, so that it doesn't take me so long to try to get them off and on. I also want to look for some comfy, gel insoles for a little more support. Even though I can already thing of a couple minor upgrades I would like to make, I'm a little excited. Just saying. ;)

Kendra, I remembered the other thing I wanted to tell you. It may well be just hormonal cycles, but I was really, badly broken out around my nose and mouth, especially my chin, for a couple weeks, so deep and painful. On Saturday, I started wearing mineral makeup again (look for one without bismuth nor cornstarch) for the sun protection and have keep wearing mineral foundation ever since because by Monday it was already drying up the acne and I have hardly had any new zit since Saturday. The three or so new ones I have gotten have all been small and not deep or oozy or very sore! Just passing along for whatever it is worth.

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 NASB