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!)

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


  1. I so am with you on the friends. Most of mine have moved away. I don't foresee making new ones right now. It is sad.

  2. Beautiful post, Jenni! Thank you for sharing! I resonate with your words, through different experiences in my life. Love your beautiful heart!

  3. Jenni, What a beautifully articulated story. I felt as if you were writing my words even though the circumstances and events differ, I have had the same thoughts about how God is shaping me and pruning back my wild branches. I have learned that God does not play mean jokes, even though it seems so at times. To the contrary, He is leading us down a glorious path that we would have never taken if he had not allowed us to be humbled and broken by our trials. I have learned to, "praise Him in the storm," and it is a true miracle. The depth at which God can work in our hearts is amazing! God bless you sweet friend. :)

  4. ((Jenni)) my friend, what a beautiful picture of what God does in our lives. Thank you for sharing your heart!