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. Jenni remained hospitalized until 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.

Jenni is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. 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 equips you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

16 Months

At this time, 16 months ago, I was busy making phone calls to find a doctor. The decision I made that morning would end up impacting my life forever. Sometimes I get so mad at myself for the life-shattering choice I made, but I had no way of knowing. The doctor's words to me immediately before the stroke were "trust me" and so I did. I'm still working on resolving trust issues. Ironically, I had just written these thoughts that morning, while awaiting the appointment that would land me in an ambulance in about two more hours. (It is from these very thoughts, this board has grown on Pintrest.)

I know I usually spend my monthly updates giving you a rundown of ears, eyes, neck/shoulder/jaw, walking, pain levels, etc. Today, I just don't have it in me. If you want to know all that, I'm afraid you will have to go searching through this last month's posts. I'm feeling rather drained these days. I know I have so very much to be thankful for. I can't focus on that if I'm recounting to you all the areas where I'm still struggling. I just don't have the mental reserves to do both.

Sixteen months ago I should have died, came very close to doing so. Today I'm fighting for my spirit to embrace life, find beauty in living again (to offset a bit of the homesickness). I won't lie. It is very much a struggle, but I am trying!


I know it isn't the usual, but I thought today I would share a few more of my favorite Pintrest boards, because they focus on calmness and embracing the beauty my sole is striving to recapture:

Dream Gardens
Cats, Bears and Other Cute Critters
Paths (one of my very favorite collections - can you suggest a better name?)
Coming Up Roses
I <3 Hats (my just for fun area)
Purpose
Inspiring Folks
Wheels (I can't even ride a bike anymore, but think they have such romantic form.)
This is far from an exhaustive list of all of my boards, but a highlight of a few favorites. :)

And not a "favorite," but one that may interest you:
My Strokes

Anyone know how to add buttons to my blog, like those little link buttons to Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, etc?
I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. - 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (The Message)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Orderly

I am striving hard to rebirth a sense of order, of discipline, of peace to our home, after more than a year of utter chaos. Trying is the optimum word here. Such a long way yet to go! Rick has done an amazing job juggling it all. I am just trying to do more of my share again, finally.

The baby steps we are taking so far are with our children, first implementing the 1-2-3 Magic form of discipline. This has taken all of our stress levels way down in just these first couple weeks! If you aren't quite sure where to turn next in parenting, this is not a Bible-based program, per-say, but it is so very simple, clear-cut, and quite compatible with the principles we seek to instill in our children, so it might be worth your prayerful investigation. My mom has commented several times that our youngest is "a different kid" and that the results are "like magic." We still are far from the perfect family, but this is sure helping with new post-stroke challenges. I wish I had known how to do all this before the strokes!

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It was highly recommended to me by my counselor, repeatedly. I kind of blew her off the first few times because I don't like any "counting" system I have ever seen applied (because it gives children multiple chances to disobey before obedience is required), but once she explained the concept of this particular program a little more in depth, it sounded plausible and interesting enough to get on the library waiting list to check out the DVD. If even I (physical limitations and imperfect application of the method) am seeing such significant results in such a short amount of time, I would say any parent might seriously want to try this balanced system of grace and orderliness!

We have had chore charts of various forms for years (not part of 1-2-3, just something else we are trying). The new one we just started trying is a free online game type system at Chore Monster. (Of course, they offer a subscription program with extras too, but the free one does everything we need. If you decide you would like to visit their website to have a look around, please email me at jsaake AT yahoo DOT com and let me know your email address and that you would like their system to send you a private e-vite, then each of my kids will earn a special cyber-monster pet just by inviting you even if you decide it's not for you.) So far, at least our two youngest are really excited about doing chores now. The 13-year-old isn't exactly "excited," but seems content enough with the system too. Praying this brings a new level of order to our home!

Having a regular gym/therapy schedule down pretty consistently really helps. Along with an afternoon that is regularly my counseling afternoon, knowing my kids and I will sort and get laundry going each weekend, my mom comes over to fold it all on Monday, and we have Sue coming to tutor our daughter on a consistent schedule, along with Kathy coming to help with the house every Thursday. Throwing homeschool co-op into the mix each week, gets a little crazy, but because it is always the same time each week, it is both do-able and worthwhile. That's a manageable schedule we can easily fit school hours into. The wild cards are still all the doctor's appointments, but an average of 2 or 3 a week is a lot more doable than 2 or 3 a day, like was often the case, in earlier months! A couple weeks ago there were about two appointments per day that week, while next week I can only think of one all week! My October (1-year anniversary appointments) calendar was so crazy you couldn't even read the page, and April (18-months, post strokes) is already looking pretty intense as well, but overall, we are trending into much more predictable waters!

Kathy, going through my kitchen, one cabinet at a time, to reorganize and simplify, is starting to really yield benefit too! Thank you. :) Now that we have sorted through my mountain of cookbooks that just overwhelmed me, I am getting much more use out of the few I hung on to. Eventually, my kitchen will feel like my own again. Eventually we will tackle other projects, but getting my kitchen post-stroke manageable again is an ongoing process that is finally starting to feel like we might get it accomplished one day.

I think we are all starting to get the knack of our oldest being in a traditional school setting. I'm sure there will continue to be ups, downs, and growing pains, but the initial adjustment seems to be settling into routine, for the most part. It looks like our daughter (10-year-old) will very likely get in next fall as well. The unknown is still our 7-year-old.

I have very mixed emotions about no longer homeschooling after this fall, but God has been very gracious in helping me emotionally cope with our oldest being gone each day. Honestly, my brain feels so strained each day, just in trying to accomplish the basics, that I feel something I never would have imagined without stroke damage, a profound level of relief that someone else is responsible for our son's education now. Having said that, I am absolutely treasuring these finial months with our youngest two still at home!


For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33a (NIV 1984)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hide

In the year prior to the strokes, I was passionate about emphasizing the idea of Scripture memory to our kids. I told them that, the way we are so quickly loosing liberties in our country, I believed it quite conceivable that they might loose access to the Bible in their own lifetimes. I challenged them that there could easily come a day when the only access they had to Scripture was that which they could carry in their own hearts.

In the hospital, when I couldn't recall enough language skill to always even put together consistently coherent sentences, I am told my ability to recall relatively long passages of Scripture with a surprising level of accuracy, was rather uncanny. I do remember laying in the hospital bed, trying to stare out through terribly blurry and doubled vision, absolutely unable to even read the big E on a reading chart, and realizing that God had been putting that passion on my own heart, not so much for the (at least not) immediate benefit of our children, but so that I would be ministered to and filled with a well-spring of peace at the most vulnerable time of my life, and a time when I no longer could read His Word for myself! Amazing!


  1. So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. - Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Relational Challenges

I've thought of a couple of things to add to last night's random post.

I think yesterday was my first totally snot-free day. For something that started out so mildly, this was some nasty and long-lasting cold! I can't get buy on any less than 10-11 hours of sleep per 24 right now. 13-14 is even better! It did mess up my hearing pretty badly again (I would guess by the mucus or pressure backing up the left ustation tube again), leaving me with even less hearing in that left ear.


Last Friday night I tried to wear regular, very flat, slightly dressier shoes for the first time in many months. The experiment was a dismal disaster. I didn't realize how many muscles we use simply to keep a shoe on a foot, at least until I no longer had control of said muscles. I kept walking out of the shoe, tripping because it turned sideways, with the toes still in, but the sole 90 degrees off to the side of my foot, and my heal right on the floor. A few times I found myself actually kicking the shoe off, up into the air with steps.

My foot  and leg ached and I was exhausted after the short walk from the car to our restaurant table, then back again. I guess tight, high tennis shoes are still my only option. That was the least of my clothing disasters for the evening, but I am not quite ready to share more yet, so I will have to save the rest of the story for my book, if I'm brave enough by then. Let's just say it was an interesting evening!

I actually held a conversation with my husband without tears last night! Yes, this is terribly blog-worthy news because it is so long in coming. We still have a long way to go, relationally, and I still have such a very long way to grow and mature and re-learn all that was lost in how to interact in this most precious relationship. But I am celebrating this one victory. I can not adequately convey how very stressful and frustrating the ongoing inability to control my most basic emotions has been wearing on us!

It is still the strangest thing that I basically cannot cry in most situations, but find it about impossible to not cry around when I'm alone with the man I love. I just don't understand either of these reactions, other than to think something emotionally imprinted on my newly re-wiring brain, clear back in the hospital to trigger these ongoing reactions that I am still fighting today? I kind of get the not crying most times thing, because I got so used to constant pain in the hospital, that I became emotionally calloused to it all, rather indifferent to all the poking, prodding and loss of dignity. My best guess is that I feel safest around Rick and finally let down my guard enough that I crumble when he's near, but even if that is the case, it is still terribly frustrating!

Please keep praying for both of us in this. My sweet husband is so very stressed, exhausted and worn thin after nearly 16 months of this. Rick is amazing! I wish my actions even hinted at how I felt about him.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.- 1 Corinthians 1:4-7


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Random Experiences

Today was our first day of homeschool co-op for the semester. The day went well (kids were so happy to be back, though it was very odd not having our oldest there!) other than a few hives from some latex balloons in the building. Thankfully, no breathing issues this time. Strangely, it was only my worse stroke-impacted (left) side that I hived hardest and first. I still have a few swollen, painful, or bloody lumps on that left side, while the right fully cleared with a couple hours and one dose of Benadryl. So I guess it is time for more Benadryl and off to bed.

A few random things to tell you first. Last week, K. (who come nearly each Thursday to clean our house) commented on how strong my right hand has become. I lifted a heavy stoneware (that used to take both hands for me to lift, pre-strokes) over to her with just my right hand. My wrist held steady as I lifted it. While both sides of my body still carry some residual stroke impacts, the right is learning more and more how to compensate not only for its own areas of weakness, but for the left side's significant, remaining lack as well. Last week, I think I grumbled some reply about doing what you have to do, out of necessity, but really I am very thankful for these growing abilities. Thanks for the encouraging observation, K! :)

I tried to carry a book in my left hand today and was able to accomplish the task (I couldn't even hold on to a single piece of paper with my left hand, for a long time!) . I did need to hold the book pulled tight into my chest though (even though I have more range of motion with that arm, than ever before, I seem to use the arm less and less without intentional effort, and tend to keep it clenched and/or pulled up against my body most of the time unless I'm really thinking about it now), and when it was time to let go, I had to pull it out of my left hand with the right, in order to release my own grasp.

On Tuesday, I managed multiple quarter laps across the swimming poll. I also made it the full length of the pool once (one direction), but could only make it a few strokes at a time, between breaks to try to catch my breath again, to make my way back. I swam right next to the pool wall so I could keep grabbing on to it, whenever I needed. I told my mom, when it is a matter of extending my left arm or not taking that next breath (I have to take a fresh breath after every single stroke now), that sure is good incentive to get every last bit of mobility out of my arm that it could possibly give! I still can't stay above water when trying to swim on my left side, but use both arms fairly equally, and turn my head to both sides (turning my head is still not easy), when doing a forward crawl.

I have had two pretty intense migraines in the past four days. I typically avoid medication like the plague, but Monday I broke down and took a prescription pain pill so strong that I hadn't had one since I had been out of the walker (at least 6 months). I was amazed how terrible my balance was on that drug and wonder, while I was having to take it regularly, if that wasn't contributing to my imbalance and inability to walk all those months, a bit?

Speaking of pain, it has become fairly obvious that as the left side has regain feeling (v/s numbness) but the nerves are not returning to normal function. I cannot even let my children snuggle me on the left side, because it hurts too badly. It is very painful to even gently rub or scratch an itch on my own left arm, or to do stretches and gentle touch my own left foot with the right arm. Even taking a step is irritating to my left foot, the pressure of the foot against the floor bringing pain. My left neck/shoulder/jaw/face are pretty much always really sore, even if they aren't being touched. I think this is why I have had such terrible headache issues this week, because the left side of my neck (opposite side of where I stroked, because remember, my dissected artery and brain bleeds were all on the right, thus impacting the left) is so intensely sore this week.

I think we will, overall, just have to be aware of this issue, but because I react so strangely to most medication, I don't know that it will be terribly treatable. The only part of my body that still lacks any feeling is a portion of the left side of my mouth, making things continue to taste strange in that part of my mouth. As I have told my therapists repeatedly, I DO have feeling on most of the left side of my body now, it just isn't normal in sensation. To a very much lesser extent, the right is also more pain sensitive and unnatural in response to touch, but compared to the left, it feels quite "normal" now.

I am waiting to hear back from the endocrinologist's office. I may or may not be able to pursue the testing he has ordered before he will work with me. I was already planning to spend a few hundred dollars on the testing he has ordered, but depending on the billing code their office plans to use, insurance may or may not pick up several thousand dollars worth of blood tests I need too, even though there are absolutely some issues that need to be addressed. The returned phone call will determine if I can continue to pursue his care or not.


I thought of a couple more random thoughts to share the next morning, after I wrote this.

All of 2 Corinthians 4 is beautiful, especially as worded in The Message. Today I leave you with this:
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God...
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken...
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! - verses 1,2, 7-11, 13-15

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Black Swan

I saw Dr. F., my new endocrinologist, this past week. Stroke aside, he was fascinated by my medical history, from infertility and recurrent miscarriage, to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and all the interplay of hormones and off-kilter endocrine system there! He said I'm a "black swan" (highly unusual and unique) and that if we can pinpoint a few answers for me, it will help many others too. Of course, the strokes have likely done even more endocrinolocal damage and the only way to find out exactly what or how much is through several other (non-insurance covered) tests.
Nothing like being exciting to some of the leading doctors in multiple fields of science (in multiple states), even before you go and have a totally unrelated, maybe-seen-once-in-an-entire-medical-career-event, like my incredibly rare combination of strokes (that I'm even still alive, the specialists don't quite know what to do with me)! It is fascinating for me to interact with all these highly-skilled and incredibly-talented medical specialists that all act like, pretty much, every aspect of my health is amazing to study. But it does all get rather wearing and feels pretty Ginny-piggish much too often! 
I think I've been recruited for at least 7 different (more, if you count surveys that didn't directly require blood work or other on-premises participation), typically unrelated to each other, medical studies and trails within the past 14 years (most within the past 5 years), with two more on the horizon for the imminent future! (I have yet to see one cent of compensation, though two recent one were supposed to include small reimbursements that should have long ago developed and never have, but mostly it is all just to further science.) 
My primary care doctor and at least one of my therapists now just laugh whenever they hear of a new research study. Dr. F. was asking me about my pain levels and I told him how the strokes had brought about several new kinds of pain and pain syndromes, including my trigeminal nerve pain. I explained that it was presenting unusually and had been diagnosed as "a-typical," which totally fit because I never seemed to do anything typically. He laughed, but agreed that was par for the course with me!

For the current endocrine panel, I have three more big tests (about 8-10 hours worth) that I will be doing over the next couple of months, before the doctor even gathers enough information to see me again or start trying to help. We've already narrowed down one probable course of treatment to take, depending on what all these tests reveal. Sometimes, I really relate to the woman of Mark 5, "She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse."
Thankfully, each of my doctor has been able to add something of value to my care, and often God has stepped in and provided levels of healing for which the doctors can offer no explanation and just shake their heads, but I guess God has decided that my mission field includes medical genuineness who would never listen to anyone else if they weren't seeing the touch of His hand with their own eyes. I sometimes feel like Moses, "Lord, I'm not up to the task. Send someone else!"
Unfortunately, I miss many opportunities where I should speak or otherwise show Christ's strength by my actions. I would greatly appreciate your prayers in these highly stressful and intimidating (and often physically, mentally and emotionally painful) environments, that I would recognize opportunities when they present themselves (instead of what is typical for me, after it is too late), that I would seize each opportunity presented to me, with wisdom, grace and boldness, and that God would give these men and woman ears to hear what He has to say through me.

I also want my life to be a fragrant offering to God, a living sacrifice, so that even when I fail to speak, Christ's Holy Spirit still shines through my spirit, attitude and actions, bathing each facility I enter with His peace that passes human understanding. I don't want to be fake in my humanness, I just want to more fully partner with God in displaying His glory at the same time.

This wasn't the path I desired, requested, or ever envisioned, but it is where I find myself. It is so reassuring to realize that this is all just very temporary, that this world is not my home! Like the woman of Mark 5, I grasp hold of Jesus and cling to Him!

From my Path board on Pintrest.
Yesterday, at therapy, I had to hold a ball in my arms (so it totally blocked any view of my feet) and then I was supposed to lift my feet, one at a time, up to touch my toes to these 6-inch, lightweight cones, without knocking them over. 
I didn't realize how much I have come to rely on visual input (thank you, God, for giving me my eyes back!), but when I couldn't see my feet, it was so odd, like giant magnets sucking my feet to the ground (the exact issue I was having before I learned to walk). 
No matter how hard I tried, I could not budge even that right (better) leg up from the floor, even a fraction of an inch, but as soon as the therapist touched my left arm (one more piece of mental information) I could lift either leg right up! The right one could do the toe touches with little problem (as long as she kept touching me, otherwise the muscle just refused to fire, I think Kendra calls this "tone" kicking in, and I was frozen), but the left is still pretty ataxic (sorry, I used the wrong word, one for a heart problem, when I emailed you, Kendra!) and the precision just wasn't there, so I kept kicking the little plastic cone over!
It was an odd feeling, but totally put me back to remembering how hard it was to take even one step before, when trying to re-learn how to walk at all. For many months, stepping used to be impossible, even once I could see again, unless I was touching something (wall, counter top, etc.) or someone was touching me. This has to do with mental processing and the brain's ability to recognize your body's "place in space," to be willing to fire muscles with a relative confidence that the floor will still be where you think it should be, to hold you upright again, when your foot comes back down again with the next step. I guess now my eyes have learned to give me much feedback about my own place in space, so that I no longer need to rely so heavily on other tactical input. Take that sense away, and I'm right back where I started! Please pray for my precious friend, Kendra, as walking is her goal and so frustrating current struggle!

Speaking of Kendra, the two of us have it in our minds that we are going to find a way to get together in person. Our poor hubbies, and probably our kids too, are just going to have to come along for the ride (or maybe we will be the ones "coming along" if neither of us are driving yet by then?). Anyway, it is still a few years away, but this is now our mutual goal. :) It is giving us both the needed incentive to push ourselves, saying, "By the time we get together, I want to be able to do ____!" Of course, this has been a dream/desire for us both since shortly after Kendra stroked, but we got more serious about it recently when Kendra's husband said he would take her to any restaurant she wanted, in celebration, once she reached a few more big, specific goals. She emailed me and asked about restaurants in my area. :D
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;he’s the one who will keep you on track. - Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

So Tired!

It doesn't matter how much I sleep lately, this cold really kicked me in the pants and I cannot function! A couple nights ago I could barely stay awake until 7:30! I'm sleeping in past 8, pretty much every morning and still far from ready to crawl out of the covers when I do finally wake up enough to function. It is different from the 20-some years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, because then sleep was never restorative then, but that doesn't change the fact that I just can't get rested now.

We are all better enough from our colds, that we tried to go to the gym again yesterday morning, after a couple weeks away. My parents and I only did half of normal, but I was so worn out that we stopped for fast food on the way home (I couldn't imagine trying to make sandwiches when we got home) and I went to bed and slept nearly 3 hours, when we got in the door! I was supposed to have a counseling appointment yesterday, but it would have been impossible, so I'm very thankful that it already got canceled on Monday. I was still dragging when I am back got back up yesterday afternoon and basically had to just instruct the kids, then leave them on their own to hope to get any school work done. We had boxed Mac and Cheese for dinner with a little tuna mixed in, because that's about how creative I felt.

I'm thinking a small part of the current fatigue may be mental, in addition to physical. I am trying a new phase with The Listening Program and I am playing games on both brain HQ and Luminosity this week, trying to choose which program will best meet my needs. (I'm currently leaning toward Brain HQ, though both look good and I am open to input.) Interestingly, all these brain training programs fall under the umbrella of "speech therapy."

If I play the mental games very long, I do get a dull headache on the left side of my brain, so I know we are doing something to re-wire and build new connections there! On Brain HQ, I was playing some games and felt like I was going really fast and quite accurate. It was frustrating to find I was only scoring 1 or 2 stars, out of 5, in the 20-somethingth percentile. :( I did feel better when, on one (out of a LOT of low scores) I kept getting 5 stars and scoring around the 98% average of all player scores. Must have been working a part of my brain that wasn't really impacted by the strokes??? There is one game that I am so sure of my answers, but am told I answer exactly backwards pretty much EVERY time.

Today I have my endocrinology appointment where we will hopefully be able to start tracking down several answers (thyroid maybe?). Haven't yet decided what to do tomorrow to make Valentine's Day fun for our kids. My hubby and I are having our date on Friday, and celebrating our 20 and 1/2 year anniversary at the same time. :) (Rick, I just found out it is National Jell-o Week? Shall I make some to commemorate my first major cooking flop?)

Here's a funny I saw last night on Facebook:


And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. - Philippians 1:9-11

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Refresh

This is one of my favorite images I have come across on Pintrest. Not much commentary needed!

I  do wonder, though, if anyone can yell me how to make something like this? How can I take my own photo and add text? Is there a special program I need? I've been wanting to learn this for years (and how to design images, logo, etc.) but have NO idea where to start. Could anyone please help me?

As for update, I'm doing much better from my cold as of yesterday morning. Friday seemed to be my last day of fever, by yesterday morning I was still a bit mucus-y, but the drainage was mostly clear again (still a little overly mucus-producing today, but even better than yesterday) and I'm only rarely coughing or sneezing now. Probably about 90/95% better from the virus.

I think I would have felt up to going to church this morning, but since our girl has been down in bed for 3 days in a row, and this was her first day to even feeling sort of good enough to be out in the living room, and because or 7-year-old acts like he might come down with this soon (and I can't drive), it made sense that I be the one to stay home with them! I'm sure the day of rest was good for me too. I'm hopeful the extra body aches will start to resolve now that the rest is clearing up? 

If our little man doesn't end up sick, I have at least one appointment every day this week, including getting my speech therapy restarted for the first time since before Christmas and going to my long-awaited endocrinologist appointment (to talk thyroid). Hopefully we won't have to work on re-arranging all of that!


I love how God works! I had picked one of these pictures and the closing verse out weeks ago. When I checked today, after my recent struggle over healing and final conclusion that it is spirit that needs restoration, refreshment, even more than my body, these are the images and verse I found ready for today's post!  I don't think I had really ever seen this before, or at least not thought of it in this light, that a familiar Psalm of comfort promises that God will, "restores my soul." :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Restored Hope


I've been wrestling with the topic of faith and healing this week. In my last post, I put out a serious call for help as I worked through the questions strangling my soul. (If you know of verses, I'm still open to hear ideas, but now I will explain why the need isn't so urgent any more.) I've stated to find peace in this area and, so like the workings of God, it looks totally different than anything I asked or imagined. I came across an article that is giving me lots to chew on: God, Why Won't You Heal? by Steve Bundy, vice president at Joni and Friends (JAF, ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada).

Not only did the article give me yet another example of when God did not instantly heal, "Christ’s primary mission was to redeem man for eternal life and a right relationship with the Father...
When a cure was the means to accomplish this restoration, then Jesus did so. Otherwise, His ministry was to the heart and soul of mankind. For example, in Luke 5:17-26, Jesus healed a man lowered to Him through the roof of a house by forgiving him of his sins (restoring him to God). He didn’t immediately cure the man physically because the man was already in community, as evidenced by his caring friends. Only when Jesus discerned the thoughts of the Pharisees did He cure the man—“so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (v. 24). Even in curing the man Jesus’ focus was on true healing—a right relationship with God," but shinned a spotlight on what I think is my core struggle here. 

This is the statement that knocked my socks off: "My biblical theology was out of alignment as I labored to interpret Scripture out of my experience, instead of allowing Scripture to interpret my real-life experience." I've been so busy looking for Bible verses to fit my experiences, rather than allowing God to guide me in interpreting my experiences according to His Word. 

Now that it is not so important to me, yes I now have a poof text for a time when God did not answer prayers for healing (not from this article, just a story God brought immediately to mind once I gave up the quest to align the Bible to what I wanted it to say):
16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
18 On the seventh day the child died... - 2 Samuel 12
 

We looked at Psalm 51 several weeks ago, so it seems appropriate that we should re-visit the passage that started my whole quest for answers about what "restore" means. I was hoping I could make Scripture say it was about the physical, when I come back around to the truth that while all will one day be restored and my body made new, what God most longs to restore is my spirit, my joy, my trust, our relationship. That will be the biggest miracle of all, to come from this whole journey! I've been fighting for perfection in myself, when God is offering so very, very much grace. I've still got so much to learn, but I do love these "light bulb moments" when things pull together just a little bit more.
Psalm 51:12
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

This turned out to be the last in a series of 4 different posts, as I wrestled though this issue of healing. They are all linked by looking at the February, 2013 links, or going to the end of God's Paint Brush.

Trees Walking

I thought of another story when Jesus healed in stages, recorded in Mark 8 (where it often gets overshadowed by the more famous story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and couple fish):
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Wasn't God capable of fully restoring this man's vision all at once? Of course! Did He even need to ask what the man could see (He already knew!) after He first spit (Ewww! God's way certainly aren't always our ways!)  on the man's eyes? No that question was for the man's benefit, and for ours, to know that partial sight had been restored but that it wasn't back to normal yet. I love that description, "I see men, as trees walking!" So enough function had been restored that the man probably could have re-entered society independently at that point, but God wasn't done yet. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  

Sometimes God just enough that we can more fully grasp all that is lacking before he gifts clarity. The hardest season for me, so far, wasn't when I was in the hospital, nor even in the grueling dailiness and isolation of rehab, though yes, those were indeed horrid. It got even harder about six months into this journey, when I could do just enough to start to be regaining a taste of independence again, but my limitations were still so vast that it was utterly frustrating to not be able to function as I would have liked. At that point, this life lacked any hope for me, void of even a glimmer of goodness. I remember thinking, literally, there could be no more horrid human experience. (I can think of many more terrible things now, but at that point I honestly believe my pain to be the absolute "worst" possible).

OK, now it is your turn. I'm still looking for answers. I'm still seeing this all as "trees walking" here. I so yearn for clarity, but am not quite there. Would someone please point me to some examples in the Bible where God either chose to only heal in part or not at all? I can think of Job, a godly man from whom all (including children) was taken. Though no one can ever be "replaced" the Bible records that, in the end, Job was blessed with as many children (love the fact that this one thing was NOT doubled, because each person is unique in their own right) and twice as much of everything else, as when he started. There are many examples of barrenness, even with statements about the infertile couple being blameless and honoring God (think of Elizabeth), but they all resulted in eventual miracle conceptions (that's a whole other theological discussion I would be happy to have with anyone who really wants to talk about the coming of Christ, why every promised child in the Old Testament was a son, and my theories on that, but we'll save that for another day rather than getting into it here)!

I believe every miracle recorded in Scripture is there because it is a miracle, a time when God stepped outside normal human parameters to work extraordinarily. I would think it is reasonable to assume there were many every day and less supernatural encounters people had with Jesus that never made it into ink. But I would be so encouraged if I could find even one example from the Bible where healing was requested of God, it did not take place (or only partially), human faith was not sighted for the lack, and God received ultimate glory. I have no doubt that God sometimes allows His beloved children to undergo hardship and it all ends up for the best, because we can't see the end result when we are in the midst of hurting, but I would love it if anyone can show me a specific Biblical example.

I've gotten my miracle already, or at least a good portion of it. I am alive. I am breathing on my own. I am talking. I am eating (mostly) without chocking (too much). I am walking. I am childlike in my reasoning abilities, but I am leading a fairly "normal" life with many adult decisions now. But what of the countless others who will never have their miracles this side of Heaven? Who will never get up from their wheelchairs or off their ventilators? Where if the Scripture they can point to? What of my hearing, that seems, without some kind of miraculous intervention from the Lord, is not going to be restored in this lifetime? I can find examples of healing in a slow time frame, but can you help me wrestle through when God's answer is simple "no," in this lifetime, or incomplete?

I do believe all suffering can be redeemed for God's glory. I think we covered all of that pretty well last week. What I am looking for are chapter and verse examples that I'm thinking simply are not there. If you know of something, please leave a comment to help this girl out!

In the face of the seeming lack of what I seek, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:11 and Psalm 43:5).

When I saw this picture on Facebook, I knew I had to share it here. For many months I was stuck in a Psalm 4:6a mindset, “Who can show us any good?” It is still easy to fall into the trap of knowing that where I am going is so much better, that I fail to appreciate all the beauty of this limited lifetime I have been given. Thankfully, as the rest of the Psalm states, I am starting to find glimmers of joy again. This is more refreshing (and was more unimaginable, that such a day might ever come) than I can begin to describe. I am beyond thankful! "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord" (Psalm 4:6b).


Quote of the day:  "God is not wasteful...He uses EVERYTHING. He just needs permission to dig in your trash." Caryn Christensen (quote spotted on Facebook)
Isaiah 38:16
Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live.
Edited to add, while I still welcome any verses you would like to share, here's how God has started to Restore Hope since I wrote this article.

This turned out to be the third in a series of 4 different posts, as I wrestled though this issue of healing. They are all linked by looking at the February, 2013 links, or going to the end of God's Paint Brush.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Still Pondering Miracles

I know I'm rather on a theological bent right now, but when life slows down enough (in this case, because of my yucky cold) where it's not all about the physical progress, this is what my mind and heart are wresting with. It's just as much a part of the stroke journey as the physical recovery, just often less verbalized.

I said yesterday that when I started praying for miracle healing, I pictured total and instantaneous. It is then easy to speculated that if that isn't how God is working, that he isn't really working. But at least two stories in the Bible tell me otherwise. (I would love it if you could point me to others!)
 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. - 2 Kings 5

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. - John 9
Both men asked for healing. Both men received healing. Neither in the way or timeline they expected. Still, it was all of God and to His glory.  God didn't ask much, just (humbling) obedience. His ability, was in no way limited by human reaction, but in these cases, His work was only displayed once hearts showed a willingness to do whatever was asked, even when instruction didn't make sense.

I'm sure the man in John 9 was elated the end results, but how easily it would have been to play the comparison game, to compare his own journey to the one recorded in John 5, when a man tried to received healing on his own effort and Jesus stepped in and bypassed all human effort to bring healing instead:
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Not only was Naaman plain out mad (insulted) by what he was instructed to do to the point of almost not even trying it God's way at all, but once he did go through the motions (maybe faith expressed outwardly even if his heart didn't yet sinc with such belief inwardly?) how easily he could have given up after a few dips in the river, even after six times, when he was so close to full obedience, when he wasn't seeing the desired results yet. If he had a cheerleader standing on the river bank, "Keep keeping on!" would have been the needed cheer after those first few dunks. I think this is a great example of acting out faith even when the emotions aren't quite there yet, doing the actions, before the heart is even fully in life yet, trusting that the attitudes of grace will follow the lifestyle of faithfulness.



Edited to add, I really appreciate My friend Debbie's  Mar 17, 2013 thoughts on gradual healing, Waiting and Walking in His Healing.
Mark 8:25
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
This turned out to be the second in a series of 4 different posts, as I wrestled though this issue of healing. They are all linked by looking at the February, 2013 links, or going to the end of God's Paint Brush.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Constitutes a Miracle?

Today, it's a collection of quotes and random thoughts.

First, my cold took a nasty turn Monday (? Tuesday, maybe?) morning. I am coughing up and blowing nasty neon yellow gunk (TMI?) and really dragging. Of course, it impacts my overall recovery too, and has prevented therapy for the last couple weeks or so (even counseling this week). The day I wrote about my swimming success was the last time I was even able to be in water at all. I've been running a fever pretty much all week too. :( Tuesday, an ocular migraine decided to join the party for the afternoon, so I had severely distorted, impaired vision for (thankfully, just) about 2 1/2 hours.  I had to cancel all help for today too, so we don't share germs.
As of Tuesday night the doctor thought things were still just viral, so I am downing every natural antiviral (local honey, oregano, a couple kinds of immune boosting herbs that I can tolerate without allergic reaction, mega doses of vitamin C, teas, etc.) I can think of. I really hope to avoid another round of antibiotics this go round as they are so hard on my system in general!  Thankful that even though I got the cold the last week of January, we actually made it all of last month without major illness, for the first month since Thanksgiving!
Our oldest was out of school for three days (after being sick all weekend too) and has gone back to school today. Hopefully he can make it all day there today! Our middle one when down into bed with it this morning. I figure our little guy is probably waiting until everyone else is on the mend before he takes his turn! Please pray for Rick, who is already showing signs of being pretty run down and worn thin, but so far has managed to fight this thing off.

I am thinking of Aaron and Hur, who held up Moses' arms, so God could bless the battle (Exodus 17). I have ministered, very personally investing my heart, in thousands of women. I've been a bit confused that in my own time of crisis, there seem to be only a small handful of ladies willing to really walk with me through this on a daily basis. I've been surprised at some friendships that haven't played out as I expected and also at a few of more casual acquaintances that have stepped in to support me in unexpected ways! 
God reminded me this morning, that even Moses, leader of a whole an entire nation, had just TWO faithful men who came along side of him, to hold him up as the Lord fought the battle. Thankful for those God does daily call to enter into my pain, and also for those who encourage more occasionally - God has already built a faithful daily few, even more than two! The extra encourages are an added blessing! So I have no reason to question or pity myself. My blessings are abundant! Thankful for each effort and prayer! The Lord will fight for us, we need only be still! And when a couple of friends come alongside to intimately help me in my weakness, that is more than enough! Thanks to all my friends, whatever roll God has called you to in my life! :) You are cherished and more of a blessing than you know.

An online support group member just gave a perfect description of what it is like, trying to walk now, "having my left leg feel like I am dragging around a little kid clinging to my leg." I thought that captured the image so well, I wanted to share the quote! It is fun when you can give a child a brief ride on your foot, not so much when the child will never get off.

Our little man (7) was watching a t.v. short between episode of Curious George this morning, showing kids in mud boots and work gloves picking up trash along the rough, uneven terrain of a river bank, stepping through muck, over fallen logs, etc. They made a statement like, "Anyone can do this to clean up your environment!" He yelled back at the t.v., "Unh-un, especially not Mom!"



What constitutes a miracle? Does it have to be total or instantaneous healing to be of God?  When people talk at funerals about having our payers fully answered now (whole and healed in Heaven), just not the way we had pictured, does this make the healing any less complete or miraculous? Is God's obvious hand in the restoration of my eyesight beyond anything the doctor could ever hope and amazing, even if still not yet fully restored, walking ability, negated by His lack of healing in my ears? I came across this quote by Max Lucado this week, "If Jesus heals instantly, praise Him. If Jesus heals gradually, trust Him. When Jesus heals ultimately, you will understand." This pretty well sums up what I have been trying to express for a while. This healing isn't what I had asked for or imagined at the very beginning (I could only conceive of a miracle as being total and fast), but it (and the limitations He has chosen to leave) is every bit just as much of God. I am asked simply to trust.
"God will not protect us from what He wants to perfect us through." - FamilyLife Art of Marriage, Session One


Luke 6:10
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. [A different kind of miracle that God is working in me.]

This turned out to be the first in a series of 4 different posts, as I wrestled though this issue of healing. They are all linked by looking at the February, 2013 links, or going to the end of God's Paint Brush.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Another Look at New Normal

I think, especially since I posted my walking video, many people get the impression that everything is fine in our world now, that I should be just about "over" this whole stroke thing. 
I so wish it did, but I'm afraid it doesn't work that way.

- Is it better than it was in October, November, December of 2011? Absolutely, so much!!! I couldn't even sit up without support then. I was initially on both feeding and breathing tubes. When the feeding tube was pulled (but not the IV - we lost track of how many huge bruises and blown veins sometime after about 26) I was allowed to experiment with soft foods for several weeks before I was allowed to attempt any kind of "real" food. Purred french toast anyone?

- Is it better than it was a year ago, six months ago, a month or two ago? Undoubtedly! I am *walking* (with a cane) since about last August, and that alone is fairly mind boggling.

- Am I able to be home without adult supervision now? Yes, as long as I am wearing my emergency call button.

- Am I able to cook a few meals and manage a meal plan? To a certain extend. 

- Does Rick still have to do pretty much all the grocery shopping and much meal suggestion and brainstorming? You bet! (Oh, and somewhere in the midst of it all, he has a 40+ hour, weekly job, takes care of vehicles, the house, the yard, and all kinds of other random needs like photocopying, buying stamps, picking up items like milk when we are running low, staying in constant contact with all our son's teachers, getting us all out the door to church each Sunday, helping me remember my own daily schedule and plethora of ongoing appointments, making our kids feel loved, safe, happy and secure.)

- Do I drive? I technically could, in that I have jumped through the legal and medical hoops to regain my physical paper (plastic) license again. That was a huge process and major victory in and of itself. But in reality, I haven't been confident in my own ability to even practice around a parking lot yet, much less drive myself to the grocery store or anything like that. If and when the day ever comes, that will be my main goal, just to get myself a few blocks like to the drugstore and back. I don't know that I will ever be ready for regular driving on main roads again.

- Can I sort and start laundry? Sitting in the hallway or laundry room floor, with help from our kids. 

- Do I have the balance to push a vacuum cleaner or mop? Not at all, though I did surprise myself my accomplishing about three swipes with a broom last week!

- Can I fold laundry? More like just pathetically attempt into a wad, so no, not really. 

- Can I clean our bathrooms or kitchen? Occasionally, sort of, but it takes an extraordinarily long time, takes a LOT out of me, and still isn't terribly well done by the time I'm finished. 

- Can I balance a checkbook, pay bills, or manage our finances? Not unless you count my ready ability to whip out a credit card. I make lots of impulsive purchases still (I think this is gradually getting to be a bit better?) but my sweet husband has had to take over all the other financial management of our household. We made sure I knew how to do it all so I would be OK if anything happened to him, never picturing ourselves trying to hack our own financial passwords (I couldn't remember) from my hospital bedside for him to get a few urgent bills paid!

 

- Are our kids able to be home with me? It took 8 months, but thankfully the answer is now yes, though, I'm only able to continue homeschooling the two youngest as my 13-year-old is mentally beyond me now. Great growing pains continue to be a daily reality for us all, there.

- Emotionally, is our family stable now? This is probably the biggest prayer need. Every one us of us has been profoundly shaken, unsettled, changed by the events of these past 15+ months (extended family to some extent too). We may look fine to the casual observer, but we are still in survival mode, a bit of crisis mode even. Even a little thing like a small cold (yes, I'm still fighting mine, and now have shared it with my mom, for whom it hasn't stayed so little, oldest son, who is sick enough to miss school for the first time ever, and several family members) can really set us off kilter. Interpersonal family relationships are forever altered, fractured maybe is the better word? We will never relate to one another quite the same. My amazing husband has taken on the roll of primary caregiver (think of a parenting relationship) and of (for most practical purposes) single parent of three, often four (counting me) dependent children. Couple this with the new educational stresses, changes, and needs including school lunches and transportation issues, and he more than has a full plate!

Here's a bit of an explanation I just gave to a new friend in a chronic pain group when she asked about my treatment path: It has only been about 15 months since my first (of 6) strokes, so we had to work on the basics like breathing, eating, learning to sit up, trying to regain some control of my voice, walking, and even more intensive pain issue from TMJ and trigeminal nerve (face, my left jaw apparently dislocated during the first strokes) before we could even start to address the overall (especially left side) chronic pain syndrome Central Pain Syndrome (CPS) issues. At this point, "treatment" is just that my neurologist is "keeping an eye" on things. I also have a new kind (since the strokes) of migraine and need to investigate thyroid issues that seemed to have really been thrown out of whack by the strokes. In my first 6 months of recovery, I had 8 different surgeries, most unrelated to each other (other than all being stroke damage - well, I guess 3 were related to my dissected artery, and two involved hearing issues). So we will get there, but the CPS issues have kind of had to take a back seat for a while. Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake is more of my story on my Facebook page. 

I forgot to mention that other than my jaw, shoulder, neck and face (ironic, since the only full numbness to remain is with part of my mouth), I didn't even KNOW I had pain issues until more recently, because my left side was pretty numb,  all the way around. It wasn't until those nerve signals started waking up enough to go more haywire that I was even aware of so much pain, about the time of the research study I was involved in (mostly after the 1-year mark), so to say we haven't addressed the issue in 15 months is quite misleading. I hope to soon post a video of the stretches my OT and PT (Occupational and Physical Therapists) both gave me for my neck pain.

I guess all this to say, please continue to keep us in your prayers! I think we are working toward our "new normal," but that means pretty much learning to live from scratch again, not just with the physical and mental capacity changes, but with family relationships, friendships, faith (relationship with God) and so very much more! I have people who tell me that it is hard to keep an eternal perspective in the face of so much earthly suffering that seeks to drown out our hope or vision of eternity. I seem to have just the opposite problem. It is so very hard to stay "in the world," adequately focused on this lifetime, when my heart is far from "of it" and I long for eternity! I so need to learn that I can rejoice in this day simply because the Lord has made it and that alone makes it good!


Hebrews 13:19
I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.