Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Grace for Monday Mornings

I'm doin' a new thing, friends, and I am just so excited about it! It's called "Grace for Monday Mornings." Here's the deal, on Monday mornings I will write all my email friends a short story or reflection that I hope will encourage you, and fill you, and sometimes make you laugh.


If we aren't email friends yet, you can sign up by going to my Contact Page and subscribing (toward the bottom of the page).

Or, if you are on a laptop, you can subscribe in the margin to the right of this post where it says, "Let's be Email Friends!".

I promise I won't send you any spam or give your email away — no way José!

Our first Grace for Mondays is this Monday. I hope to see you over there!

In Christ,

Sarah

© by scj

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Doctors

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illnesses. Today, I want to address the pervasive fallacy that a doctor's inability to diagnose or effectively treat an illness is an indication that the illness is not real.

Because we live in a world of advanced medicine, it can be easy to assume doctors have all the answers to our medical quandaries. And yet, just a few decades ago scientists referred to the immune system as "the black box" because there was so little known about it.

Think back to the year the Health Warrior you know got sick, and then google "medical advances in [enter the few years after they got sick]" and you'll find a profusion of breathtaking medical discoveries from that time period. Then search for medical discoveries in the few years after that period, and, if you can, search for medical discoveries in the few years after that. The point? Medical practices are always changing with new discoveries, and there is still an extraordinary amount we need to discover about the human body and our environment before we can assign infallibility to our doctors. 

For example, it's only been in the last several years that scientists have effectively dismantled previous theories of the brain having fixed hardware. They are still exploring the implications of newly-discovered neuroplasticity for healing chronic disease.

Other relevant gaps in medical research include confusion about the nature of the link between the Epstein Barr virus and a constellation of diseases; uncertainty about why 40% of patients infected with bacteria causing Lyme disease do not recover after the standard round of antibiotics; and the need for a cure for something as commonplace as a virus.

The medical community is a tremendous resource, without which I would not have seen incredible improvement in my health. Moreover, some of the best cheerleaders on my long journey of diagnosing and treating my illness were doctors. And yet, it is helpful when a Health Warrior's community acknowledges that the mysterious, idiosyncratic complexities of the body, when paired with the large gaps in medical research, make it entirely possible, perhaps even plausible, that your Health Warriors' undiagnosed challenges stem from real illness, despite a doctor's inability to diagnose or effectively treat.


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© by scj

Monday, May 21, 2018

An Opportunity for You

My Friends,

Boy do I have a guh-reat opportunity for you.

My sister, Rebecca, is getting a graduate degree in counseling and is conducting a study on romantic heartbreak and the change in outlook that so many experience after heartbreak. 

She needs participants to interview for her study, which is where you come in. If you have experienced romantic heartbreak and a subsequent change in outlook on life, she would love to interview you about your experiences. If you are open to participating in a confidential interview, you can email her at Jacksonrebec [at] gmail [dot] com

There are two very good reasons to participate in this study:

1) You will get to talk to my brilliant, funny sister. 

2) You will contribute to important research that will change people's lives. 

Here's my sister in a short video about the study:





Thanks for considering this, friends o' mine!

Happy Monday,

Sarah

*Update: So many of you reached out to my sister, that she now has enough participants for the current phase of her study! If you are interested in participating but haven't yet contacted her, she will need participants for the second phase of her study, so she would chat with you about when that might be and what it would look like. Thank you so much for all your help!

© by scj

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Exaggerating

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that they exaggerate their challenges. 

When I first met my husband he asked me what it was like to be in my body. Despite the fact that my symptoms were much improved, I still struggled to describe my experience of being embodied.

There is nothing from my life before illness that I could use as a point of reference to help him understand what it feels like to have neurological, immune, digestive, and endocrine dysfunction. And I'm a words person. I taught college writing for seven years, and I love trying to put words to something especially hard to describe. I have found it impossible, however, to do anything other than minimize my experience of illness. My best guess is the Health Warriors you know are in the same boat.

I want to try to help you understand, though, because Health Warriors yearn for the understanding of loved ones. Here is a sneak peek into what it's like to be them (a heads up to my DNRS friends, I list a few symptoms below):

The suffering of the chronic illness Health Warrior is holistic — they are suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Because chronic illness, and all its accompanying challenges, has wounded every part of their person, there is no facet of their existence that they can crawl into to escape their suffering.

In all likelihood, the Warrior with chronic invisible illness is depressed and suffers from severe PTSD.  It is difficult to describe what it's like to live with PTSD, but one way to think of it is to remember how your body felt when you woke up from your very worst nightmare (remember the trembling, the coursing adrenaline, the profuse sweat, the racing heart, the terror, the awful thoughts that were both frozen and racing?), and then imagine what it would be like if your body felt like that all the time, plus the relentless pain, vertigo, nausea, weakness (etc.) caused by systemic illness.

Additionally, the Health Warrior is probably in debt; cannot work or is suffering through a part-time job; cannot date, if she's single; cannot invest in her marriage, kids, and other relationships the way she wants. She has lost friendships because of the toll her suffering takes on those closest to her; she has lost her sense of dignity as she wastes away in bed; and she fights shame because of her limitations and the disappointment and doubt of others. She often feels as if she has been abandoned by God; and in all likelihood, her church is not supporting her the way she needs (more on this next week). Moreover, she cannot do anything to ease her suffering, like exercise, eat good food, go out with friends, watch a movie (lots of people with chronic illness can't process sound very well), talk on the phone, or distract herself with work.

There are a few earthly things that mitigate her suffering, though: your understanding, your compassion, your support, and your belief in her — in both her testimony of her challenges and her ability to persevere. 


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© by scj

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Appearances

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that if they don't seem sick, they probably aren't.

Don't let the way Health Warriors look and act fool you; they have become experts at masking their suffering.

It is essential that people with chronic invisible illness occasionally have social interaction, because without time up among the living, it is hard to go on living. In order to make a couple hours of social interaction possible every now and then, the Health Warrior must rest for days, or weeks, before and after the event.

In order to avoid creating a spectacle at the event, the Health Warrior must pretend to feel much better than she does; if she were to act the way she feels, she would punctuate party conversation with weeping and whimpering in the fetal position. She probably doesn't want to unmask her suffering for a few reasons: 1) People have accused her of pretending to be sick to get attention; 2) In the past, when she has let others see her suffering, they have responded to her with indifference, skepticism, or painful platitudes (e.g., "Just think positive thoughts to make it go away"); 3) She feels embarrassed or ashamed of her challenges.

So she pushes ahead, acting with great skill and looking pretty good (one of the features of chronic invisible illness is just how outwardly 'invisible' it is). However, she often suffers a lot of backlash for any social outing. Since others can't see her physical suffering or the grit and rest required to leave the house, it is easy for them to assume that she isn't as sick as she says she is. But she needs people to believe her. She needs them to grieve with her, advocate for her, and pray for her. Her community is integral to her physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental healing.



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© by scj

Monday, May 7, 2018

Changes

My dear friends,

Two-thirds of kids in the U.S. foster care system will die, become homeless, or go to jail within two years of aging out of the foster system. There are currently over 400,000 kids in our system. My husband's nonprofit, Impacting Hearts, is a mentorship program that creates communities in which Orange County foster kids experience stability, love, and a sense of belonging.

Together, Jay and his volunteer leaders have learned that when a foster child discovers he is loved and valued by God, he becomes a new person. For the first time in his life, he begins working toward self-sustaining adulthood by taking full advantage of the educational, therapeutic, and vocational opportunities the state offers him. He tackles hard life-changes, like leaving the gang he is in, with persistence and hope. He invites the accountability of others as he works to overcome his addictions. He treats others with renewed dignity and kindness.

My husband Jay, our wonderful Impacting Hearts leader
This month is Foster Care Awareness Month. If you're wanting to support foster youth in some way this month, and if you're the praying sort, here is how you might help: pray for Impacting Hearts' kids and leaders for the month of May. Running a ministry requires a lot — recruiting and training volunteer leaders, fundraising, event-planning and more — but nothing has influenced our kiddos more than prayer, because nobody wants them to discover their belovedness and value more than God does.

If you want to learn more about Impacting Hearts, you can read my post HERE or visit their website HERE.

Thank you to those of you who have supported this ministry over the last year!

I hope your week is off to a lovely start, my friends!

I'm cheering for you,

Sarah


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© by scj

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Aria and Ayva

Jay and I recently took a trip to Portland and got to spend time with our adorable, brilliant, advanced-beyond-her-months niece, Aria.


Aria loves Jay.


She loves Roo.


She loves empty, plastic Easter eggs (just wait until you are older, Aria, when Easter eggs are FILLED WITH CANDY).


She loves petting the fuzzy fox in her book.




She loves walking, with the help of any willing human or truck.


She loves foraging for interesting objects about the house.


And glory of glories, she loves me (does it get any better than this?!!)!


And now, she has the sweetest little cousin to love: Ayva Lee Jackson, born to my littlest brother and his wife on April 17, 2018.


I'll tell you what: auntie-hood is even better than I imagined.

Happy Saturday, friends.

-Sarah




© by scj

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: "It's All Mental"

It's Lyme Disease awareness month, and since so many of my readers deal with Lyme and dozens of other similar, horrific illnesses, I want to bring awareness to chronic invisible illness in general. I will be writing posts weekly for the rest of the month to help combat common misconceptions about people living with chronic invisible illness.

I hope many of you can share these posts on your social media to raise awareness about the hidden, grueling, and isolating battles caused by Lyme, CFS, CIRS, Fibromyalgia, POTS and so many more insidious illnesses.

One of the Health Warrior's most difficult challenges is navigating the common, noisy misconceptions others have about their illness. Today I want to debunk the fallacy that much of, if not all of, their illness is in their heads.

My Health Warrior friends often lament the skepticism friends and family have about their illnesses. These skeptics think their sick loved ones are so mentally unstable that they have created, or believed, wild narratives about getting sick, or are so lazy they prefer lying in bed everyday to working.

This is puzzling, because before these Health Warriors got sick, they were not lazy and were not inclined to shirk their responsibilities; instead, they were industrious, independent, reasonable, and truthful. People trusted them. Even those who doubt their illness trusted them.

Here is a helpful test for discerning whether or not someone is lying about their health challenges:

Did they show signs of delusion before they got sick? Were they liars? Or were they honest, hard-working, reliable people? If the latter, then there is a good chance they are not lying about their illness. Trust them. They are the same trustworthy people they were before they got sick.

I also want to clarify misconceptions about the perceived the laziness of people with chronic invisible illness: they are likely fighting the hardest battle of their life, with more grit than they have ever before had to conjure up. It's just that now, unlike their days of health and working in a normal job, their work does not reap dividends; there is little to no evidence of it; it is thankless. And yet, they persevere. This, I think, is a powerful sign of a good work ethic: continuing to work hard without any hint at reward.

I'm cheering for you, Health Warriors! You are practicing some of life's best stuff: patience, perseverance, and hope. 


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© by scj

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What to Expect with the Dynamic Neural Retraining System

DNRS Friends,

I've put together a new video answering your frequently asked questions about the program. I hope it can help those of you who are just getting started, or who are several months in and feeling discouraged.

To watch on Youtube, click HERE, or watch below:



A hopeful, joyous Tuesday to you all!

-Sarah


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© by scj

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Waiting

This has been a frustrating week. I am madly thankful for the glorious healing I have experienced using DNRS, but there are still a few lingering limbic system triggers that randomly swoop in and cause physical challenges to flare. They make eating and living really hard. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could ask Violet from the Incredibles to create a force field around my life to keep all triggers out. Surely this would make life feel more like hiking and less like rock climbing.

Today, I want to eat all the delicious foods. I am so hungry, you guys. I want rice. And lentils. And garlic. And cheese (goat cheese, cow cheese, I DON'T CARE, JUST GIVE ME CHEESE!). But when the lingering triggers show up and ignite physical challenges, it's harder to train with food. So today I am hungry and tired of limitations.

Jay and I have been praying every night before bed for my sleep. We ask God to make it calm and sweet, free of the PTSD dreams that make the next day so hard. Each morning, we ask him to restore my body completely — to make flare-ups a thing of the past, and to make eating easy, always. Sometimes God answers just exactly the way we want, and sometimes he doesn't.

I try to be honest with him when he doesn't — to raise my lament to the God Who Sees and Cares and delights in our honest heart-offerings. And then, at some point, I try to pivot and remember: this journey requires incredible patience on my part, but even more incredible patience on God's. Because he is using the sharp edges of every hardship as scalpels to do surgery on my heart-that-needs-healing.

The older I get, the more clearly I see the effect of my sin on my heart. My pride, jealousy, and unchecked fear lacerate and fissure my heart. Sin always maims good things. Sometimes my circumstances make my heart still more bloodied and deformed, and I know it needs deep, pervasive healing. But God is not antsy or frustrated with the work required to heal my heart. He is steadily and tenderly reaching in, again and again and again, to do the work of healing it.

It's the healing I want best of all: a heart that is whole and holy. And today I am remembering that this is healing worth waiting for.






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© by scj

Monday, April 9, 2018

The First Step

I often have people write me to ask, “How did you maintain your faith in God in spite of your ongoing suffering?” About six months into my illness, I began to see: my suffering could either feed my faith in Jesus, or it could devour it. And so I began a journey of learning to let my suffering grow my faith in Jesus. If you want to begin this journey, or if you have begun it but are feeling stuck in the quicksand of anger and despair, here is the best guidance I can give: start by being honest with God.

Tell him when you are angry with him, and tell him why. Share your grief, your confusion, and your questions. Don’t censor yourself as you pray; God can handle our most violent honesty — he even gives us permission to be ugly-honest through the gritty candor of the Psalms and Christ on the cross shouting to the heavens, “WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Your honesty is a gift God delights in. When you are honest with Him, you are stepping toward him instead of away from him; and you are offering him the most raw and bloody parts of yourself — your truest self. Vulnerability is always the first step toward intimacy.

It is never enough to just be honest, though, because honesty alone does not facilitate the mutual self-giving of relationship. So, when you are ready — when you have emptied your heart into Jesus’s hands — extend an invitation to God. Mine often sound like this, “Jesus, teach me your love; assure me of your goodness. Heal my anger and insecurities; please help me grapple with my questions.”

Because here is the deal: We cannot completely heal our own anger. We cannot clarify every ounce of our confusion. We cannot conjure up a full sense of God’s goodness. We cannot teach ourselves just how much we are loved by God. But God can do all these things in and for us, and he wants to. But first, he is waiting to be invited into your most tender heart spaces. When that invitation is extended, he will begin the work of building your faith. Just keep showing up, every minute of every day, with your beautiful, wounded heart, and wait to see what he does. He will surprise you, I promise.




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© by scj

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Taxes

This weekend, Jay and I prepared our taxes, and I am happy to report: we survived.

My head did not explode from confusion; I did not pass out from boredom; I did not run out the door into the great, sunny world whenever I was tempted (ten zillion times); and our marriage is still intact.

After we filled out the last form, we fell into each other's arms and said, "Never again." At least, not until next March.

And then we made grand plans to do the opposite of taxes: we would have fun running around at the beach. We hauled 8 volleyballs, a frisbee, smash ball, and plenty of fluids down to the beach, and then we got out of the car, walked to my favorite cove, and collapsed in the sand where we laid for almost two hours.

Taxes are hard, man.

And that is pretty much all I have to say. I just wanted to remind you: we can do hard things.

Happy, glorious Tax Season, friends.

I'm cheering for ya,

Sarah


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© by scj