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, May 21, 2016

On Paperwork and Clutter: (Dis)Organization

I get so frustrated with how my brain works (or doesn’t work) some days!

Here’s my small, "easy" mess. It is just the papers that have stacked up in my living room this spring. Among the clutter, a fundraising letter from a nephew from 2 ½ months ago, I found today under the couch, an assortment of 20 some pages for one child’s camp, another 5 forms to fill out for another (already lost one set and had to call for replacements, that were due yesterday, that I’m just getting filled out today, AND they still need to be notarized!), along with yet a third stack of camp paperwork I haven’t even looked at yet.

This just for two kids. There have also been field trip forms (that I can’t even get correctly copied to a calendar, sent my son to school on Thursday, expecting a field trip, and he disappointedly spent the day in year-end testing instead, field trip is NEXT Thursday!) and dental form packets for all five of us (new dentist and new insurance) that need to be filled out before the holiday weekend. I feel like it’s more than I can juggle, yet there’s not a single responsibility here I would willingly give up! I just wish my brain worked better!

And did I mention our oldest will be interning at a major university for the summer? Leaves the very next day after we get home from the long weekend. Thankfully Rick has juggled almost all those arrangements.

I’m just tired. And frustrated. I try not to spend too much time "looking backwards," yet reality can  be so starkly different now, that some days I feel nearly crippled by the need to explain the contrast. 

I saw those past due dates and wanted to cry! Rick pays the bills now, and I am so thankful.

I try so hard to stay on top of things. Paperwork overwhelm and intimidates me. My perception of time is such a mess – something I truly think is just a few days, can actually be weeks, if not months, like how long all these applications have been stacking up with the intent to care for them soon.

Try to write a book with this brain. It is quite painful at times, with sections I’m “sure” I’ve already written that either don’t exist at all or make no sense if they do. The whole book outline thing, striving to make order out of chaos and fill in any gaps. It feels so daunting some days!

Let’s not even talk about my office, the stacks of paperwork: medical, old household bills, taxes, school-related, etc., that have accumulated since my strokes. Kathy is going to try to get in there and help me file this week.  I am beyond even knowing where to start, much less having the ability to follow through.

For every fundraiser we never respond to, birthday we miss, form we turn in past due, please know we love you and truly care! Please be gracious. My calendar is usually PACKED with therapy and other appointments. Even in the early days of 2 to 3 medical appointments per day, I managed to only miss about two appointments fully, and (thanks to my very prompt Mom) was rarely late to anything. The more of my own calendar management I’ve taken on, the less reliable I feel I’ve become.

Before the strokes, I was organized.  I think I had one (barely) late bill in 20 years. I'm TRYING to reclaim that reorganization (the pictures of folded and organized drawers and cabinets in this post are what I've accomplished this week, but for every victory, I have dozens of other massive messes I need to get back on organizational control of my home).

Now, I do good now (seriously!) to remember how to spell my own name (or occasionally even WHAT is my own name) when I go to sign it. Due dates aren’t terribly meaningful when I often have to stop and really think to come up with the MONTH we are living in. (It took me about 3 years, but my brain finally caught with tracking the fact that we are no longer living in 2011, the year it was when I stroked, my brain got stuck there.)


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bubbles Got a New Outfit!

The other day my pastor asked me if I expected to need my walker long term. He is praying that I will continue to improve and some day not need it anymore, The first thought that went through my head was to wonder if he even realizes what an absolute miracle it is that I'm up to using a walker? (Not bad for someone who "should" be dead, vegetative in a nursing home, and certainly to never walk again.)

After quickly realizing that folks simply don't "get" where I've come from unless they have actually watched the journey unfold since the beginning (he's only known me about 2 years), his question gave me pause. Do I want to keep getting stronger, outgrow my need for such assistance devices? Well sure, but even if I;m getting there physically, I'm thinking it is going to take longer for my mental processing abilities to catch up...

I found myself struggling to explain to him that while I am continually growing physically more capable, I currently need the walker more for cognitive and balance issues than for pure mechanics of walking. The more noise, sound, light, movement, people around me, the more my brain must struggle to sort it all out while keeping me balanced and upright.

The bigger the crowd or stimulation, the more assistance I need. At home I typically can get around my house with little or no aid. Simply walking from my car and into the gym, through a clear path with several people in  my peripheral vision, or going to my weekly Bible study with just 5-8 ladies, in very routine surroundings, a cane is typical. The grocery store, a church service, an award ceremony a my child's school, places with a higher level of people interaction or greater volume of sights and sounds, and I'm at walker-level mental input. Still having doubled vision to my sides makes balance difficult in these settings as well.

So for where I am today, Bubbles or at least a cane, still offers me security, protection, comfort. Safety too, but perhaps not for the reasons people might first presume. And have learned to be OK with that.

If God wants to fully restore me, great. But if or until, I'm content now to use a walker, to include it in pictures instead of pushing it out of the camera view, 

I started intentionally allowing Bubbles to join my pictures only recently.

to use bright colors and patterns that catch attention rather than trying to mute my disability into the background. 

My first walker seat cover, the homemade, up-cycled version.
To that end, my sweet Kendra just sent Bubbles (my sassy, pink walker) a "new dress" this week. Doesn't it look nice on her!

I'm I'm feeling sporty too. I learned the railing or padded bar across the front of my walker, what I've always called the back rest when using the walker as a chair, is technically called my "roll bar". Makes me think of a dune buggy out 4-wheeling! :)

This cane user, a walker pusher, a disabled woman (but no longer an in-valid), is who I am and how I function. I don't need to pretend my limits are different than they are. Joy and peace come with embracing, even celebrating, the broken.
I don't think I could ever go through with getting a tattoo, but if I did, how about we get these, Kendra?

She's Flutter, I'm Flit.
Five years ago today, I posted to Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/NavPressPublishing is asking, "What NavPress author, current or past, would you like to see more books or Bible studies from?" I'm currently working on a study on the Fruit of the Spirit I hope to pitch to them early next year, followed by a Hannah's Hope style encouragement guide on living with chronic pain/illness based on the life of Paul.
I may be a snail, but I'm persistent.
I posted this several months before my strokes. A week before I stroked, God showed me a beautiful way to merge my fruit of the Spirit work with another project I had on the back-burner, based on Psalm 126, to become my Harvesting Hope from Heartache manuscript. Over 4 1/2 years later I'm STILL not finished nor ready to present it to a publisher, but absolutely not giving up either. Didn't account for 6 strokes and ongoing brain recovery in that "next year" plan!

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
- James 4
Nice to know. Except for the fact that I haven't qualified for a driver's license in several years now.
Perhaps you should screen your "select group" a little better!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Are You Aware?

Who knew there would be so much to say about 6 tiny clusters of dead cells in my brain? I'm at 430 posts today, just over 4 1/2 years into the journey.

I am so very thankful that our culture has become aware of, no longer hides from speaking of, so many issues that were still taboo 20 years back -life's detours like all forms of grief, fertility issues, health struggles (both seen and unseen). We have come far and have much farther yet to go. Many would still rather these issues not even exist. Actually, we who live them really would prefer that too! (But since we don't have that option, open dialog is so healing.)
Today I'm just WEARY of awareness. Here are my thoughts...

To name just a very few,  I know May to be Stroke Awareness Month (wear red for heart health that's often connected with stroke), Brain Injury Awareness Month (oops, that March, the other M month!), Mental Health Month, (See a brain theme going on here? Good think it's Action for Brain Injury Awareness Week!) and EDS Awareness. Today, May 12, is a day near and dear to me personally, since long before my (unrelated) strokesInternational Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND), including illnesses such as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Today I'm wearing purple for Fibromyalgia awareness.

As an author, I like that this is also Share A Story Month over in the UK. And though I'm wheat-free (don't forget Celiac Disease Awareness week!) so won't be participating, we are also in the midst of National Doughnut Week overseas as well. After you have enjoyed your doughnuts for breakfast, you must also observe British Sandwich Week for lunch!  (I guess it was planned well, in the midst of National Walking Month.)

My Mother's Day ring, to remind me of God's grace that brought me into motherhood. (See the 3 pearls on each wing? Three children on earth and 3 awaiting me on the other side, in Heaven.)
The butterfly has become Kendra's and my very own stroke awareness symbol. This ring it is also a personal way for me to commemorate my infertility/loss/motherhood journey, as well as both God's amazing provisions in my Mount Hermon trip, and through the stroke journey itself and my ongoing recovery!
Yesterday was an  Anaphylaxis Awareness Day (link is from last year, thus the difference in calandar days), falling in the midst of Food Allergy Action Month (wear teal!) and Food Allergy Awareness Week.  As an Epi-Pen carrier (though my allergies include several foods, it is latex that my greatest cause for concern) these are also critically important issues to me.
I didn't realize most of the commemorative dates on this list. I wish I had known May 1 was World Laughter Day, that sounds like a good one, not all the yoga stuff, but the reality that the joy of the Lord is my strength, that a happy heart is good medicine! Today is International Nurses Day - I totally get behind that one. Thank you to all the nurses who have made a difference in my life! Susan and Kendra, sorry I missed Military Spouse Day yesterday! Thank you for the sacrifices your families make for our freedom.

All this awareness is generally a good thing, I think. It is good to be validated in our struggles. It is good to better understand what our friends face.  But really, it can all get a little much sometimes! Sometimes information overload just gives us about 20-billion too many things to worry about.

Tee, did you know that the 23rd of this month will be World Turtle Day? (Hmm, I need to look for bears and butterflies. But we have special days too!) And don't forget, two days later is the ever-important Towel DayI would have to say Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, wins the prize though! (And boy am I thankful that, even if it took two surgeries, 7 years apart, to properly finish the job, this is a date I no longer personally must observe the whole monthly pain and mess thing! Maybe we should have, I'll take that back because it probably already exists, a hysterectomy grief observance day - for as thankful as I am for the physical relief, the grief of closing the chapter of life tied to biological creation of life is profound for many of us!)

So what do all these ramblings lead to? A profound realization that as aware as I strive to be about the lives around me, as sensitive as I want to be towards another's pain, I can never fully keep up. I have friends fighting human trafficking, pro-life causes, various forms of political involvement, health issues such as MS, severe dystopia, three extended family members with various seizure conditions, more with serious migraine issues, lots of author friends striving to launch books on a myriad of topics, and more! Of course chiropractic reform to prevent future manipulation-induced strokes, infertility support, grief care after child loss (put on figurative "sackcloth" to represent mourning), these will always be huge passions in my heart! I could run myself ragged fighting battles near and dear, but it will never be enough.

This I know. There is only one me. God created me and kept me here for His purpose. I can care about many things. I can love on people, be involved in all kinds of awareness issues to the extent He leads me, but I must continually seek Him to be sure I am on the path He has called me to pursue. Chasing after every good cause on my heart will just exhaust me and likely bring about little change for all my efforts. 

Seasons change and the unique situations God places before me may look different one day, one year, from the next. The fantastic news is my God never changes. 

There are many great causes to take on. I've only barely scratched the surface of possibilities!

It is easy to feel frustrated when I try and try to bring about change in some area and nothing significant is happening.

It is only through much prayer, and the reading of God's Word (Bible), that I can determine what God wants me focused on today.

When God opens a door, sometimes one of many I've been pushing and trying to open for a very long time, sometimes one I had not even thought to try, His guidance is abundantly clear.

Today I seek profound awareness of His hand guiding my life, His wisdom guiding my choices. I care about so many things! I cast my cares upon the Lord and ask His clear direction.

What "color" shall I wear?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.- Colossians 3:12-14 

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:8 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.- Ephesians 6:10-20


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Better Full Than Empty

Only 5 people entered my giveaway last week. The winner is Kathy! Thank you each.

I still welcome additional assistance (follows and shares, everyplace you find me online) in building my "platform" in order to show publishers I'm serious about this book business. :)

Today the kids and I are all home sick. I revisited where I was three years ago in this recovery journey. I was leaving my house (well supervised, on special needs transit) without any family member for the very first times. I wasn't far into counseling. I was still in pretty bad shape, all around!
Even then I was talking about how I was already so much farther into recovery I was than ever expected I would have been able to progress. Now that already seems like a lifetime ago. The changes and continued improvements profound. I guess this is why people that are newly meeting me just don't grasp the magnitude of my injuries and recovery.

I guess in brain recovery years, it was a lifetime ago. I was just 18 months old in several newly wired parts of my brain, only the first 1/3 of my current recovery timeline!

Speaking of brain re-wiring, I am pleased to report that I have been able to cut my antidepressant dose down from 40 to just 10 on my hardest days, 5 actually most days since I came home from Mount Hermon. As low as that dose has gotten, if I miss a morning pill, we all know it early/mid afternoon! (By then it is too late to take that day or I won't sleep that night.) So my brain is still not fully capable of compensating for the emotional needs of daily life, simple people interaction, without a little help, but wow have we come far!

I'm just trying to keep up with "ordinary" life (that's extraordinary that I can do these things at all!), laundry (I now do pretty much all my own folding / neat wadding) and dishes for a family of five. Supervising homework and actually making time to talk and play with my kids. I'm still trying to write my books and find it incredibly slow going. I'm trying to juggle all family member's schedules for doctors and dentists and orthodontists and year end tests, finals, awards ceremonies, parties, summer trips (every one of our kids is taking at least one significant out-of-state trip without us for different portions of the summer, ranging from five days to eight weeks!). Trying to learn all our new insurances that just changed the beginning of this month (and thankful we have them, but overwhelmed understanding them all). There's a garden that grows weeds faster than roses, a garage, office and master bed/bathroom that sort of looks like an episode of hoarders - even when I make progress it piles up again nearly overnight. And there's still therapy two mornings a week and Bible study one full day each week and trying to keep up with friendships and home Scripture study and exercises... My plate is full and I am blessed!


Friday, May 6, 2016

Through the Eyes of My Daughter

My daughter was 12 (last year) when she wrote a paper for a school assignment [lessons not learned in the classroom] about my strokes, from her perspective. She has given me permission to share her work with you.

Quoting Ruth Saake, One Day Normal, The Next Day Not:
I put on my jacket eager to go to the children's museum, my 8-year-old self bubbling with excitement! "When is it time to go? When is it time to go," I ask." 
"As soon as Grandma gets here," my mom replied.
"Well when is she going to get here," I ask impatiently.
"Soon! How about you go get a water bottle?"
"OK," I replied, dragging my feet.
I dropped my water bottle and ran to the door, "Grandma," I exclaimed.
"Hello Ruth, how are you?"
"Good... Can we go now?"
"Sure, we better leave so your mom can get to her chiropractor."
"Yay," I exclaimed. "Come on JerBear. Hurry up Joshua," I commanded like a little officer. "Let's go!" 
 "This is fun, can we go to the art room next," I ask?
My grandma opens her mouth to answer when her phone rings. "One minute Ruth, your dad is calling."
My grandma's face turns pail. "We will be there as soon as possible," she says. "Come on kids. We need to go!"
"But I don't want to go," I protested.
"Come on Ruth, we need to go NOW," as she grabbed my hand and pulled me and my brothers out of the museum and into the car.  
 Why are we going to the hospital? I wondered, but I didn't say anything because my grandma obviously looked upset.
"Daddy," I said as I ran up and hugged him. My 8 year old brain tried to process all the things around me.
Suddenly Jeremiah said, "Where is Mommy?"
Only then did I see the tears in Dad's eyes.
"What happened," Joshua, my older brother, ask?
"Mommy had a stroke..." Dad's voice trailed away, when him and Joshua and Grandma all started to cry.
"What's a stroke," I ask? 
"It's brain damage, and Mommy may not be like she was before."
I started to cry, "I want Mommy."  

As time went on, me and my brothers "moved" down to Fallon to live with my grandparents for 8 months. It was very hard on me because at this time I was trying to sort myself out. But it was challenging because I did not have a mom.
But then everything took a turn for the better and I was allowed to spend more time with Mom. I was able to sort myself out and figure out who I wanted to be. I wanted to be happy, inspirational, and kind, including more. I found this in a special person in my life, my mom.

Plus even though at times everything seemed terrible, this opened a lot of doors. I have gotten to meet a lot of amazing people I wouldn't have otherwise. Also I ended up at [school name, I used to be] homeschooled. So now I have learned my lesson, not one we always learn in school, but one that is vital for us to know: Change is hard but it can be a very good thing.
Please visit Ruth's YouTube channel at MyLifeAsRuth and subscribe. :)

Here we are together in a mom-interviewed-by-daughter video  last month. :)