Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Story

My friends,

I have a story to tell you.

Last year, when my body showed hopeful signs of healing, I made a promise to myself: I would not date anyone for at least a year so I could heal. I also promised myself I would never, ever, ever, EVER do online dating again. Ever.

I had tried online dating during a short-lived period of healing a few years back, and it never failed to cause anxiety, depression, and general weeping and gnashing of teeth: ARE THERE ANY SINGLE GUYS LEFT ON THE PLANET WHO LOVE JESUS AND WHO DO NOT POST PILLOW SELFIES, OR MIRROR SELFIES, OR PHOTOS OF THEMSELVES SHIRTLESS AND FLEXING ON YACHTS???

It seemed there were not, and my decision to avoid online dating gave me great peace. Enough peace, it turned out, that I discovered it was actually fun to reactivate a dating app every now and then with the purpose of flipping through the profiles for entertainment and cultural analysis. Because you guys: psychoanalyzing dating profiles is better than watching reality TV. The Bachelor ain't got nothin' on online dating profiles, Jack!

So one quiet day last year, I decided to reactivate an app instead of watch my evening TV show. I must have flipped through hundreds of entertaining profiles. Swipe left, left, left, left (all you older folks: swiping left means NO WAY JOSE; swiping right means: yes, I am willing to be connected with you), before coming to a profile unlike any I had ever seen.

It featured a handsome man with blue eyes and blond hair, and a bio that used most of the allotted 300 characters to express his love for Jesus and his desire to find a woman whose love for Jesus was compatible with his.

Other notable information: he worked with foster children in Orange County, had just retired from a professional ski career after nine years on the U.S. ski team, owned a puppy pitbull named Ryder, played beach volleyball, and rode a motorcycle. He was looking for a woman who was thoughtful and loved to laugh.

For the first time ever, I found myself pausing thoughtfully before swiping left. I felt torn between my practical desire to not date and a sneaking suspicion that I would regret it if I did not swipe right.

After a few moments of consideration, I swiped right; and the next morning, I got a notification that he had swiped right on me and we were connected. We started chatting, and I promptly started "researching" hot Christian skier guy.

I already knew three important bits of information:

1. His name was Jay.

2. He was a professional athlete, and professional athletes have a large online presence.

3. You should never go out with someone you meet online without first sleuthing him out (Hello, Google) to discover A) does he seem like the real deal?; and B) how does he walk and talk? I had discovered the hard way that initial attraction has little to do with looks and lots to do with body language, so I needed to find videos before I was willing to go out on a date with Jay.

My counselor advised me not to research too much, so I only researched as much as I needed, which was, incidentally: information on his family, hometown, and career; videos of him walking, talking, skiing, skateboarding, boating, and public speaking; and various websites linked to his ministry with foster youth. Before long, I had pieced together a timeline of his adult life, just for good measure.

Basically, I could have written his biography before our first date.

My years of teaching and practicing research methods have been nothing if not helpful in the dating realm.

(Dear former college students: SEE, you will use the research skills I taught you in the real world!)

Eventually, the verdict was in: there was attraction potential, so I agreed to go on a date with Jay at a dog park in Orange county.

Prior to our first date, I developed a set of assumptions about Jay that I hoped would protect me from getting too excited about a guy I hadn't yet met:

I assumed he would be flaky — he would be late to our first date and lack follow-through afterwards. He would be bad at asking questions, he wouldn't be inclined toward abstract thinking (I do love an abstract thinker), he would be a poor manager of his money, and he would be too laid back to be interested in a planner like me. 

Armed with my assumptions, I pulled on a pair of white jeans, a grey t-shirt, and my new grey tennis, and I drove to the dog park. Ten minutes before I arrived, Jay texted me: "I'm here!"

Well, well, weeeell: hot skier guy is punctual after all.

What other surprises might the afternoon hold?

When I arrived, Jay gave me a hug, and I noticed three things: 1) His eyebrows were much blonder in person; 2) He was cool. Like way, majorly Cool with a capital C (Am I too nerdy for this guy?!); and 3) He was dog-less.

"Ryder just got neutered and is wearing a cone so he couldn't come," he explained. "But I figured an afternoon at the dog park could still be fun!"

So we sat on a bench in the sunshine and began to chat.

And oh my: I have never met such a good conversationalist. He asked incisive questions and leaned in when he listened. He thought deeply (and abstractly!), communicated clearly, and was refreshingly honest and intentional. He shared his Christian testimony and explained his dating hopes, and you guys: I've gotten pretty good about stifling hope over the years, but I couldn't help it — as we sat on that bench, surrounded by small dogs that weren't ours, a tiny sprout of hope wiggled its way up through my heart-soil and tipped its head toward the sunshine.

That evening Jay texted me, inviting me to accompany him to a worship evening the following night.

NOTED: Hot skier guy has follow-through after all. . .

That second date at the worship night was full. Early in the evening, we met a homeless woman named Mary who was looking for a place to shower so she could "hook up" with the "hottest man on the block."

"He won't have me if I'm dirty," she said.

I watched as Jay invited Mary to join our worship event and then offered to take her back to his apartment, where he, his mom, and brother had been living and doing foster ministry together. He said she could shower there, and they could give her new clothes; and I knew his hope was twofold: he wanted to show Mary God's love, and he wanted to protect her from any men who would take advantage of her.

Mary joined our event, and later, when Jay and his brother discovered Mary had a daughter in the area, they took her to her house.

The next day I spent hours talking to my college roommate, Rachel, as I processed my evening with a man whose generosity and kindness were radical expressions of God's love to the outcasts.

"I think I like him," I told her.

"I think you do, too," she responded.

I excitedly awaited Jay's next text, with the hope that he would initiate another date soon.

But he didn't text me the next day, and though he texted me the day after that, his text was brief and unrelated to planning that beach date he'd mentioned toward the end of our first date.

I know now that Jay gets upwards of 200 texts a day for work, and since he didn't know me well that first week, he responded to work texts before working his way down to mine. At the time, however, his delayed texting made me anxious.

When you are dating in your early twenties, you are an impressive stallion or mare, pulsing with dating vitality and stamina. But by the time you hit your thirties, you become a tired ol' workhorse, who happens to be very skittish. It's at this point that dating begins to feel like a desperately exhausting vetting mission. 

So I was tempted to try to instigate more regular texting, so we could hurry up and plan our beach date, so we could have more time together, so I could better assess his character and intentions, so I could hurry up and figure out if we had marriage potential, so I could protect myself from as much pain as possible should he and I not work out.

Several times I picked up my phone to text Jay, but each time, I remembered the experiment I started six months earlier: I had decided to let God's goodness and mercy pursue me in every area of my life, the way Psalm 23 describes. I'd gotten really good at chasing goodness and mercy, but it turns out the chase is exhausting and unnecessary. I would let them pursue me in my relationship with Jay.

So I waited and trusted God's involvement and timing. Or I tried, anyway. (Really though, God: WHY WON'T THIS GUY TEXT ME BACK PROMPTLY?!!!)

A few times I prayed: "God, I would really like to get to know Jay consistently and productively, and I am tempted to try to force this process; but I'd much rather your hand guide it than mine. Would you please plan a date for us that I could not have planned myself?"

And then, the next day, I made plans to meet a friend at the beach for a morning walk. My friend ended up cancelling that morning, but I had a strong urge to head to the beach we'd planned to meet at anyway.

I was perplexed at my urge. I hadn't visited this beach in a decade because there are many nicer beaches in my area. In fact, I typically dreaded trips to this beach. But it had a mysterious, magnetic pull that morning, so I hopped in my car and headed westward. As I drove, Jay texted me. "Hey!" I responded. "I'm heading to the beach for a walk if you want to join me."

"No way!" he texted. "I'm at that beach right now! I'm playing volleyball. You should come watch."

So I did. And we spent the whole day together. We spent time with his friends, and went candle shopping, and shared pant-pooping stories, and had a dance party in the kitchen, and it was a glorious 17-hour date. And then, because we'd had so much fun on Saturday, we spent Sunday together, too.

Well, THANK YOU, JESUS!!

That weekend marked a shift in our week-old relationship. Jay started texting me before responding to all those work texts, and then he started calling, and then we started logging dozens of hours together each week, during which I learned he is consistent, intentional, and reliable.

I learned he is prone to burst into spontaneous prayer throughout the day; he is both very laid back and very responsible; he flosses daily; he's a saver, not a spender; he's three inches taller than I am in bare feet — that makes him 5'11; he is extravagantly generous with everything he has; he is sensitive and obedient to the Spirit of God; he would rather go barefoot than wear shoes; he's ticklish and playful; and he is the guy people call when they need help moving, or when they've been kicked out of their home, or when they're going to court and need moral support. He is strong, loyal, and kind; and his fiercest desire is to love and obey Jesus. And also: I learned I am not too nerdy for him, after all.

 


It did not take long for me to realize that Jay was the kind of guy I might want to marry, so I started praying that we would have the opportunity to weather something hard together. I hoped for confirmation that he was who I thought he was, and I wanted to see how we would navigate a storm together.

And then I had a really hard health flare-up. And then I began to keenly feel the effects of malnourishment from the last several years' health challenges. And then I had another flare-up. And another one. Even the better health days were still fraught with challenges, and as the semester wore on, my physical and mental stamina waned. And I realized we were navigating lots of hard things.

And all along Jay was good and kind and patient. He cooked for me, ran errands, rubbed my back, and spent hours sitting next to my bed while I rested. I've never let anyone be as close to me in a flare-up as Jay was, and it felt vulnerable. I wondered if my challenges might chase him away. But one day, during a particularly hard flare-up, he pulled me into a hug and said,

"Sarah, I'm not deterred by these days in bed. Everything I like about you fits in a bed. And I'm not going anywhere. I know you are going to heal completely, but if your health deteriorated, I would rather spend my life with you in bed than spend my life without you. You are the best woman I've ever known."

And then, not long after that, we were in the car, headed to watch a track meet, and I was flooded with knowing: he was my best guy, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.




A few months later, on June 21st, he proposed in my hometown, just down the street from my parents' house.




And this where this story ends — or begins, I suppose: I am getting married!

Come end of summer I will be Sarah Christine Panther.

And oh, God is so kind to drench my life with all this grace — to send goodness and mercy chasing after me in the most unexpected ways. I am so very thankful.

And there's this: remember how my whole adult life I have dreamed of finding a man with a ponytail?

Well:


And then there's this entry in my second grade diary that I recently found when going through a box of mementos:


God is an icing on the cake kind of God, isn't he?

Thank you for praying me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death these last several years, my friends. I am delighted to now be able to celebrate this glorious mountaintop gift with you.

I love you all,

SJ

P.S. How do you feel about the name Cathwean? Cathwean Panther. Has kind of a nice ring to it, doesn't it?





© by scj

Sunday, May 7, 2017

DNRS FAQs

My friends,

If you are considering, or in the midst of, limbic system retraining using the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), you may want to check out this blog post of FAQs by my friend Mariah, who has healed completely after 13 years of illness using DNRS:


https://mariahshealthjourney.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/faqs-about-dnrs-for-people-dealing-with-chronic-and-mysterious-illnesses-cirs-food-intolerances-ibs-lyme-fatigue-and-much-more/


Happy Sunday!

-Sarah

© by scj

Monday, May 1, 2017

An Update

Friends,

I'm in the throes of homework as I head into the semester's home stretch, but I wanted to give a health update for those of you who are doing, or considering doing, DNRS.

The spring has been a bit harder for me as I've been exposed to some unique limbic system triggers that have caused a few flare-ups. However, the wonderful news is a flare-up doesn't last more than a week now, and generally, no more than a day. So: Woo hoo! What tremendous progress!

My physical activity the first half of the semester was delightful, but it eventually forced me to confront how very malnourished I am. I am pushing through the fatigue of malnourishment, and as I do, I'm thankful to be gradually adding more vitamin and mineral supplements to my diet. Yay for a body that is embracing these new supplements!

There have been other tremendous victories this spring:

I went paddle boarding and I felt terrific!

I traveled for fun for the first time in many years! I spent a weekend last month in northern California visiting my college roommate and her husband, and boy was it glorious.

I'm learning to play volleyball! I've had three lessons now, and I'm loving it. Learning new things is so good for brain retraining, and learning new things on the beach in the sunshine is so good for the soul.

It's looking like I will need to do limbic system retraining for more than a year (My year anniversary is the end of June), but I will do it for as long as it takes to return to normal.

This program keeps working, you guys.

Praise Jesus for such an invaluable resource.

I hope you all had a great weekend!

I'm cheering for you,

Sarah


© by scj

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dopplegangers and Dinglehoppers and Dilbert

A friend recently sent me a text with this photo:


"I've found your doppelganger!" she said. "Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6."



Two things, guys:

1) It turns out dopplegangers and dinglehoppers are not the same thing.

2) I've had two people tell me they've found my doppelgänger in my adult life, and they've both suggested Honey Lemon. I've heard she is a big of a nerd, so Iiiii'll take it.


However, because my special computer glasses have a reflective coating that makes my eyes hard to see, this comparison may be more apt:



Have you seen Big Hero 6? A classmate told me the movie would make me cry, which seemed to be his way of saying, "You will love it." By this point, my classmates know: crying is my jam, man.

So: Big Hero 6. I'm going to try to rent it this weekend! Or the weekend after! Or the weekend after that! Basically, when my homework load is small enough, I will rent it.

Happy Monday, friends.

Cheering for you,

Sarah



© by scj

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Support Your Sick Loved Ones

A friend recently reached out to me to ask how she can support and pray for a friend with chronic, undiagnosed illness. It took me awhile to respond to her email because organizing and polishing my many thoughts felt overwhelming, and in the end, I responded with just a few of the many things I've learned over the years.

One day, when I am stronger and have more distance from my years in bed, I intend to compile a more thoughtful and comprehensive resource for people with sick loved ones, but in the meantime, I'm sharing my [slightly expanded] response here because I have had a number of people reach out with similar questions lately. I hope this helps:

Dear Friend to the sick,

Your friend is fighting the most grueling, terrifying battle of her life. She will be tempted to give up, despair, and turn her back on God; and Satan is doing his best to make her do all three. Pray for her. She will need to be swaddled in prayer.

Ask God to give your friend a sense of God’s peace and presence. Ask him to give her medical provision. Ask him to show her exactly which foods to eat, medicine and supplements to take, and doctors to see. Ask him to protect her from misleading doctors and destructive medicine. Ask him to provide others who can support her emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. 

Ask God to provide for your friend financially. If you can help her financially, or if you can rally friends to help, that will likely eliminate an enormous burden — a burden that has been adding to her body's already enormous stress load. I know a number of people, including myself, whose healing process accelerated when the financial burden was alleviated a bit.

Ask the Spirit how to pray for your sick friend. Ask Him how He is praying for her, and join Him. 

Ask God to give your friend hope for healing. She cannot get healthy without a measure of hope. If she feels she is unable to hold onto hope for healing, then tell her you will hold onto that hope for her. My friend Tanya did that for me five years ago — in my darkest hours, she reminded me: hope still glowed in the darkness. To this day, she is the person I turn to when I need to be reminded of the hope I have. 

While you hold your friend's hope, try to buoy her own hope. Remind her of all the medical options available — there are so many professionals to see and treatments to try. She will not exhaust her resources and options. And she is beloved by the King of Kings, the Great Healer who has all power, dominion, and glory. If you can, track down stories of God healing people and share them with her weekly (the Jesus Film newsletter has loads of these stories). She likely needs to be reminded that God still heals people in mighty and wondrous ways. 

Don’t let your friend forget that she isn’t forgotten. She will likely feel forgotten, tucked away in her room day after day. Many of her friends will probably abandon her, and she will need reminders that she is loved and desired. So send her regular, encouraging texts; and make it clear that she doesn’t need to respond. Tell her you’re praying for her, and tell her HOW you’re praying for her. 

Send her care packages. Send her letters. Send her photos. These will be pockets of sunshine in very dark days. Even when the months of sickness slip into years, send snail mail. 

Affirm the good work you see her doing, and affirm the work you don’t see her doing but know she must be doing. Staying alive, not giving up, not despairing – these require the utmost grit. Remember her suffering is unspeakable.  Validate her pain. She has become a naked shell of herself, and while she suffers physically, her dreams are dying. Her dreams for a career, deepening friendships, travel adventures, marriage, a family, a home. The desert of chronic illness has a way of drying up dreams. For this reason, the desert is a place of grief. Every day of chronic illness can be laden with grief, and the grief doesn’t go away. It builds and builds as the sickness continues to strip away comforts, loves, desires, and a sense of self.  

Because your friend's disease is rare and hard to diagnose, it is likely she has had inexperienced doctors suggest her illness is all in her head. Worse yet, her friends and family members have probably made similar comments. If she is like many of the sick people I know, then she has had people tell her she is pretending to be sick because she likes the attention, or that her sickness is her own darn fault because she doesn't think enough positive thoughts. These comments feel cruel and crazy-making — they suck any last bit of spirit out of a languishing soul and dying body. 

Assure her you know she isn't crazy — that her illness is real and doctors will eventually identify it. If you can make your friend feel understood and validated in her overwhelming, unending suffering, that will somehow mitigate her pain just a bit. 

And if your friend lives near you, buy her weekly groceries. Don't offer to buy them; tell her you will be buying them. Ask her for a list of foods her body can tolerate, and make her weekly meals. If she protests, tell her you WILL be making the meals and are delighted to do it. If you can, rally other friends to make meals with you. 

Continue to provide in this way, even as the months of illness slip into years. It's not uncommon for support to dissipate after the first few months of illness, especially when there's no recognizable label for the illness, like "cancer." But rest assured, the illness is likely just as incapacitating as cancer — if not more — and the need just as great. 

Make phone calls to insurance companies for your friend, and take her to doctors appointments. Sometimes she will have as many as five appointments in a week, and the information-packed appointments themselves will feel like they are draining the last few drops of life out of her. She will need you to be her ears in those appointments, and she will need your permission to be silent on the drives to and from appointments.

Find out the days she is getting blood drawn. Make sure she has food and drink to last a few days after those blood draws, and keep a close eye on her. Getting lots of blood drawn when you're desperately sick can make you feel like you are dying — it can be desperately scary. 

Let your friend tell you all of the gross things she is experiencing. Let her tell you about the daily coffee enemas, the wad of parasites she passed last week, the stool samples, the urine samples, and the throwing up that happened every time she took her new supplement this week. Make sure she doesn't feel alone as she endures so many layers of distress.

Visit her at least once a week to wash and blow dry her hair. When you are done, brush her hair until it shines, and then rub her back. Then curl up on her bed and cry with her. When you are done crying, just lie there in still silence. Make a practice of this.

At least once a month, clean her house; wash her linens; water her plants. If she doesn't have any plants, buy her one. It will bring her joy.  

Give her regular hugs. If she is unmarried, then she is likely getting very little touch. Touch your cheek to hers when you hug her. The skin to skin contact will calm her nervous system. 

Ask your friend to write you a list of her physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, and mental needs. If this task feels overwhelming — and it likely will — then just ask, "What are two ways I can support you emotionally this week? And what are two ways I can care for you physically?"

Assure her again and again that it is your joy to support her in this way. Tell her you love her often. When you are thinking of her, tell her. And don't stop. Don't stop as her illness morphs into a battle spanning the years. When everyone else forgets, keep on serving and rallying support troops. And never stop praying for healing. 

There is a good chance God will use you to save her life. 


You are a wonderful friend to care for your friend so devoutly. I'm praying for you as you do. 

Sincerely, 

Sarah


© by scj

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Strength

My Tuesday afternoon doctoral class is so formative, I cry almost every session. My deskmate, who has become my friend, cries as much as I do. Wonderfully, our teacher has normalized crying in public. "This is a sign of the Holy Spirit's movement," he says. "He is breaking through the hardened heart places."

 So we cry, and we learn, and we tell our stories, and we pray for each other, and then we cry some more. These days, a box of Kleenex mysteriously appears between me and my friend before class starts. 

Today before class, my friend, who is carrying many burdens of her own, gave me my very first Giving Keys necklace with a word she thought would be special to me in this new glorious yet trying season: STRENGTH. 



Her thoughtful gesture put wind in my tired sails. And goodness: what would we do without each other?

Hopeful, grace-filled Tuesday, my friends.

I'm cheering for you, Skillets!

-Sj



© by scj

Saturday, March 25, 2017

More victories

My friends,

I continue to be rather MIA this winter, mostly because I'm continuing to forge ahead on this healing journey. My progress is glorious, but this process continues to be hard and exhausting. I've been dreaming about healing for so long, I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to learn to live again. But it is hard, and I find myself too tired to even think about blogging most days. I do love staying connected with you, though, and I miss you when I don't blog, so I am hoping to settle into a routine of posting photos of the many ways I am participating in life.

Today, I have five weeks' worth of photos to share, each of them representing massive limbic system retraining victories!

A few weeks ago, my dear friend, Tanya, came down from Oregon for a girls' weekend at the beach. Tanya suffered years of illness before embarking on the long journey of healing, and she has been a lifeline to me on my journey. Year after year, she has helped me fight back the darkness and hold onto hope, and it was absolutely glorious to be able to spend the weekend with her at a cute little Airbnb two blocks from the beach.



Three of my five siblings and siblings-in-law were in town shortly after Tanya's visit, so we enjoyed a picnic on the beach just before a glorious sunset. I loved my time with them!


Baby Jackson was the size of a coconut during his or her visit!



Sister has a deep and abiding love for Disneyland, so while she was in town, we spent the day in the happiest place on earth, which, incidentally, also happens have more limbic system triggers than most places on earth, so my ability to spend eight hours enjoying the park was truly wondrous — one of the biggest limbic system retraining victories to date!



Last weekend, I got to visit my friends A, J, and their darling babies for the first time in quite awhile. They live in the desert where the wild flowers are currently in bloom, so a poppy pitstop en route to their house was essential.



If you live in southern California, you must drive into the desert this week to catch the wild flowers!

Just look at these babies:


I was in baby heaven. I was also amazed at A's ability to hold both babies for more than five minutes at a time without experiencing cramping, twitching, and other painful effects of lactic acid.



Young mamas have got ARMS OF STEEL.

My absolute favorite limbic system retraining victory of 2017 is my ability to run again. I first tried running about a month ago. "I'll just jog a lap and see if my body wants to run," I decided. By the second lap, I was laughing aloud because it was clear: BODY WANTED TO RUN! I ran a mile and a half, and when I was done, I laid in the sun and laughed some more. And my gosh, you guys: I forgot how powerful running endorphins are. As I bathed in that sea of endorphins, I felt deeply, emphatically happy for the first time in many years. Running is perhaps the best anti-depressant on God's green earth.

A photo to commemorate that first run!

Since that first run, I've continued to go on occasional short runs. Spring is in full bloom here, and I love running down streets lined with trees sprouting new life. They feel like kindred spirits in this new season.


And yet. And yet — I wonder how long there will be an "And yet"? — I find myself needing to take a break from all activity and steal away by my lonesome and rest in the quiet a lot in this season. Most days I curl up in a sunny patch on my bed, or lie on a blanket under a tree, and I just rest, think, pray, and sleep.


For some reason I thought perhaps God wouldn't be quite so active in growing me spiritually during this season of healing. I thought he would let me float, carefree, for a few months. But he's been pressing in, stirring, awakening, challenging, and changing me in significant ways. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. He is faithful — always faithful — and he will always finish the work he has started. And as long as we're this side of heaven, there is loads of work to finish. I'm thankful he's a God who never gives up — whose shadow does not shift and change. We can always count on him to restore our souls.

If you are doing DNRS, I want to encourage you: I'm over eight months into training, and I continue to discover new layers of healing to address. I will likely need to train for several months longer, maybe even another year. So keep pressing past that six month mark: you will be amazed at how much healing you experience. Keep soldiering through the relentless challenges, the flare-ups, the discouragement, and the surprising difficulty. I'm praying for you as you do.

Hopeful, grace-filled Saturday, my friends.

I'm cheering for you, Home Skillets.

-Sarah


© by scj

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love lost and found


We step into my studio after our date, and I hurry to my closet to get a sweater. He walks over with me and peers into the dark, cluttered space.
 
“What’s in that box?” He points to a white moving box on the top shelf next to a basket of blankets. I blush, and my heart thumps nervously.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just stuff from when I planned my wedding.” I say it casually — carelessly — but he knows. “It’s not nothing,” he says, his voice full of understanding. “That box is full of significant things.”

We’re silent for a bit. I’m remembering how I would often take the box down in the months following my broken engagement. I would slowly unpack it, looking through receipts, lists, and a few wedding gifts that were somehow never returned. I would hold each item and remember how I had said yes to the man who had asked for my love, and how God had said, “No.” No to a husband; no to a family; no to a home of my own.

And in the following years he had said no to good health — to traveling, working full time, and continuing my seminary education. I often didn’t have the heart to ask for anything specific from God.

I sigh deeply and look over at my date. He smiles.

After he leaves, I ask God to direct our relationship. And then, timidly, I ask him to give me a husband one day.

For months my prayers are courageous and risky.

And then, one night, I’m driving home alone, and I’m single again. My date and I have decided to stop seeing each other. I’m relieved because God has answered my prayers for direction, but my shoulders are sagging. God has said no, again, to my boldest, most vulnerable prayer for a husband and family of my own.

The next day I’m reading the Sermon on the Mount, and I’m struck by Jesus’ words:

“Which of you,” he asks, “will give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or will give him a snake when he asks for fish? “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, then how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask?!”

I lean back in my chair, and I think about the ways God has shown us he keeps his word.
I think of the rains that flooded the earth, just like God said they would. I think of the baby that kicked in Sarah’s womb, just like God said it would.

I think of the water that gushed from a rock, the walls that crumbled from the blast of trumpets, the ravens that fed Elijah in the wilderness, and the Messiah who came to save the world.

It’s true: God is a promise-keeper. And in his Sermon on the Mount, he promises to give his children good gifts — the best gifts. And I’m his child, and here I am in my thirties and still single, and could it be that this alone-ness is … one of the best gifts?

But a husband, a family, a home — didn’t God create me to want these things? Would it be so bad for him to satisfy the wanting?

Now my mind is racing to the rhythm of David Crowder Band’s "How He Loves."  That one line is still in my head after a week of trying to sing something else:

“He is jealous for me.”

The Old and New Testaments affirm it: Yahweh has established a permanent, exclusive covenant with his people, and compared it to a marriage. He is the husband to his people; we are his bride.

He’s not insecure, or abusive, or envious for something that doesn’t belong to him. He wants relational faithfulness. He’s jealous for our love, the way a husband is jealous for his wife’s loyal affection.

He wants our whole hearts because he’s ultimately jealous for his glory. And the God of the Bible is most glorified when his people are most fully alive — when we experience truest intimacy, pleasure, belonging and wholeness, because this is what he intended for us. He knows we can only fully experience these things in him, so the best gift he gives us is Himself. But he cannot give Himself to us if our hearts are not alive to him, for a Lover never forces himself on his beloved.

And I think I know that marriage and a family would be the best possible way he could teach me to love him with my whole heart, so I can have more of his heart.

But the God of the Bible is a God who sees. He sees every thought we think and step we take. And he knows what will prompt our hearts to push further up and further in to his heart. He knows when marriage, children, health, and financial stability will push us toward him. He knows when singleness, barrenness, illness, and poverty will push us closer still. He knows that, often, it’s our wanting that leads our wandering hearts back to him.

And this knowing pulls me back. 

I close my Bible, let my lips pick up the words of "How He Loves," and then it hits me that my wedding box, and my recent break-up, and the loneliness that visits when the table is set for one are all proof of God’s jealous guardianship of me. And in my secret heart, I find myself smiling — a child quietly delighting in good gifts from her father.




This was originally posted in 2013 at Soulation. I've made a few revisions before posting it again here. 

 
© by scj


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Discipline of Doodling

My dear friends,

I just tried writing a post about all of the change I'm experiencing in this new season — about how it's thrilling and invigorating and overwhelming all at once — but I couldn't do it. I've not been able to write much about spirituality and discipleship the last two years because I've just been too sick; and now, as I'm healing, I feel like I need time to step back and survey all of the renovative work God has been doing before I do the hard work of writing about it. So instead of finishing my post, I'll just tell you that I am delighted to be stepping into a season of radical change, but I'm also scared. I have to preach truth to myself a lot in order to combat the fear.

Lately, I've embraced what I call "The Discipline of Doodling" as a means of preaching truth to myself.

Here's what I do:

I pick a verse or quote that encourages and challenges me, and then I doodle it.


I carefully write it in fun letters, and I doodle pictures around it, and I spend all the time that takes meditating on the truth on the page.



 
When I'm done, I post the doodle somewhere in my room so I'm regularly reminded of its message.



It's proving to be a wonderfully life-giving spiritual discipline.


If you want to try the spiritual discipline of doodling, HERE are the pens I use.

And if want some doodling inspiration, HERE is a book that may help you.


Happy Sunday (and happy doodling!), sweet friends of mine.

I'm cheering for you.

-Sarah




© by scj

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hullo!

My friends!

It's been awhile since we've been together in this space, and I've missed you! Much has happened since my last post.

Last month, I bid farewell to my sweet little Roo and the cold Washington winter, and I returned to sunny southern California.

Oh Roo, how I miss you!!



As I've settled back into life here, I've been encouraged by continued limbic system retraining victories. I'm preparing to create a video answering the specific questions many of you have about limbic system retraining, but in the meantime, here's a quick update:

I am SO happy to be exercising more frequently and vigorously than I have in a long time. I take long walks and have regular solo bedroom dance parties, and best of all, I'm taking ballet lessons! I've always wanted to learn ballet, and when a former student who is a ballet teacher offered to give me private lessons, I jumped at the opportunity.

I'm trying to spend as much time as possible outside, so we moved our lessons to one of my favorite places in the whole world: the track!


We've found hurdles are very helpful when learning plies!

This ballet opportunity makes me feel so cared for by God

As my body heals, I've also been able to engage in more social activity, and I've found my rest increasingly more restful.

I continue to enjoy getting to know the professors and students in my PhD program
The beach is one of my favorite places of rest

If you are on the fence about trying limbic system retraining (DNRS), I'm hopeful that the video I'm working on gives you the information you need to feel confident to try it. God is using DNRS to heal what I thought was un-healable, and I am delighted to be getting my life back, bit by bit.

If you have any questions about DNRS, please shoot me an email. I'm happy to help you however I can.

For those of you who continue to pray for me: thank you. What faithful warriors you have been and continue to be on this journey with me.

Much love to you all!

I'm cheering for you,

Sarah

© by scj