Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hope in the Shadows

Have you ever heard someone describe a time of trial as, “living under the shadow of [xyz]”? My shadows have included infertility, grief, depression, chronic illness and more. I'm sure you can plug in your own "xyz"s; maybe cancer, abuse, loneliness

Job and the Psalmist talk of “the valley of the shadow of death.” Shadows impress a dark picture of gloom and heaviness in my mind.

Hope demands I give shadows another look... [To read the remainder of this article, please visit (In)Courage where you can also enter to win a copy of my book, Hannah's Hope.]

Keep scrolling here for a great list of verses that reflect God's sheltering shadows in my life.

One way God seems to work in my life is through “theme word seasons,” specific life lessons He wants to drive home with me and situations that bring those themes to light over and over until I finally begin to grasp a small portion of what He longs to teach me. Wait resounded in our hearts through the loss of our business and the struggle for my husband to find a new career that truly fit, all in the midst of infertility's endless cycles of hoping and hurting, wanting and worrying, coping and crying.

Waiting has given way to new horizons, a series of theme seasons too numerous to list here, but with one of the most recent being Hope. And then to Hope, God’s spent this year adding the active pursuit of Joy to my life as well. Here are some of my favorite resources from these three themes:

- Hannah’s Prayer Ministries offers support through fertility challenges, including infertility or the death of a baby at any time from conception through early infancy.
- A Graceful Waiting by Jan Frank
- The Wait Poem by Russell Kelfer (Truly beautiful book, with a written message even more powerful than the photos! This poem was life-changing for me and has been impactful in many lives.)

- Out of the Valley Ministries, Inc. Postpartum Depression Support
- Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg
- Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss by me, Jennifer Saake :)

- Rest Ministries provides support in the face of chronic pain and illness, including National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week each Sept.
- Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times by Holley Gerth
- The book of Philippians, written by the apostle Paul.
- And a late entry to my list, a blog post I just read this week about trusting God with others' hurts, Gratitude not Guilt

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” Philippians 4:8-9. (MSG)

Verses that reflect God's sheltering shadows in my life:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17. (NIV)

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3. (NIV)

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” Isaiah 9:2. (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" Isaiah 40:31. (NIV)

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me" Micah 7:7. (NIV)

"We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield" Psalm 33:20. (NIV)

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God..." Psalm 40:1-2, (NIV)

“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light…

“He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead…

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…

“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love…

“You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’
O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life…”
- from Lamentations 3 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Radio Link & Coping with Crisis of Top of Chronic, part 2

I just got off the phone from a wonderful radio chat with Lisa Copen, as one of 20 seakers for the free National Chronic Invisible Illness Awareness Week virtual conference. This was my second year to experience the blessing of sharing for NCIIAW - feel free to listen to last year's program on infertility, medications, chronic illness and the desire for motherhood at

This year we were talking about Coping With Crisis on Top of Chronic. I had the chance to share the first half of my notes for today's talk back in August and wanted to post a few more points here today. If you haven't had a chance to listen yet, please take an hour to join Lisa and I at today's archived show:
(Note to listeners who are currently facing infertility, Lisa and I are both after-infertility moms, her through adotpion, I through childbirth, and there are some references to motherhood, including the final caller who asked about deciding to have a second child while facing chronic illness.)

As was the only website address that was given out during today's radio interview, I also wanted to direct you to my sidebar where you will find links to several of my other websites and/or blogs. A few to highlight are:

Hannah's Hope is my book website where you can read a free chapter of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss and learn about other infertility and loss support resources. is pretty much my "everything" page and certainly my most personal blog. It's a slice of just about everything in my life from reflections on infertiltiy and loss, to the joy of motherhood after infertility. I talk about homeschooling, and writing, and work from home businesses. Here I share more details about my personal health journey in ongoing journal format, in contrast to the more devotional and slightly one-step-back from my ongoing personal struggles that tend to be more reflected here at Harvesting Hope™. And I love to toss in some "just for fun" stuff there, like the latest contest I'm entering or occassional give-aways from me. If you want the whole package and get to know the real me with the ins and outs of my daily heartbeat, is the blog you will want to follow.

Inner Beauty Girlz is the blog I referenced on today's radio show when talking about finding a passion. It started as a little place to explore my own curiosity about natural and affordable beauty alternatives and also to journal and reflect on God's call to make myself beautiful in spirit and how I can take things I learn about caring for my body and apply them to my thought life and attitudes.
I am a consultant with both Affordable Mineral Makeup™ and Gurrlie Girl™ Christian Jewelry so I also use this blog to post product information, discounts, specials and give-aways along with my beauty hits, tips, tricks and devotional reflections.

As a quick review, my first three tips for Coping with Crisis or Chronic (click here for detailed explanations of each) were:

1. Quiet Time
- non-optional daily priority, both to refresh body and spirit

2. Laughter is the Best Medicine
- seek joy even in dark seasons, not "Polyanna theology," but "Apostle Paul theology" as found in Philippians 4

3. Support Resources
- it is critical to find, or make for yourself, a support network

Added to these, my other three tools in my survival tool belt are:

4. Find a Passion
- When chronic illness hits, it's like a rug is pulled out from under my feet. Everything I have known and simply accepted is turned upside down. Things I took for granted in the past can no longer be presumed. Skills, abilities, perhaps even joys and interests, are suddenly lost. For example, I used to do counted cross stich constantly, but when CFS hit, I no longer had the strength in my arms to hold and stich, the mental focus to count and properly follow a pattern, nor the ability to focus my eyes on those little squares without triggering a migraine. This may seem like a small loss, but it was something that had meant a lot to me and brought me much pleasure for many years, then suddenly it brought only pain and frustration. Not only did I loose something I had loved, but because of my illness and the need to lay in bed for hours on end, I had much more "time on my hands" than I knew what to do with and what I normally would have turned to as a hobby wasn't even an option.

Part of the grieving process of chronic illness is learning to let go of what I can no longer do. But on the flipside, sometimes I am forced to explore new options I might not otherwise have ever considered, and this can be a blessing. I turned to writing, initially sending long letters to my fiance who lived far away, then I began journaling in earnest, and eventually I began writing articles for publication. Had I not lost my favorite hobby, I might never have ventured onto the internet and found a world of support resources, nor written a book, nor become a blogger.

My health struggles themselves led me to search out healthier alternatives for personal care products such as makeup (since I began having allergic reactions to all the chemically based brands I tried, even "hypo-allergenic" lines) and that led me into a whole new nitch of writing on beauty, along with leading me to become a consultant with companies I found to fit my needs. So while I'm too sick to work outside the home, the hobbies that my health unfolded before me have become a small source of "egg money" income that allow me to occassionally help out with a few little extras for our family budget and I find fulfillment in pursuing my new passions in the process.

5. Be Gentle with Myself
- Others may not be, so I need to be! There will always be those who don't understand, but I am the one who lives moment-by-moment with the ebb and flow of my body's demands. I can get caught up in all the "shoulds" that other people put on me, or I can be honest with myself about my needs and abilities and give myself some room to simply "be".

In my case, my doctor has made it very clear that if I push myself as hard as I can just because I have something left to give, that my body will never fully heal. I have always had a very driven personality and want to go and do and give. But if I cannot give myself permission to make my own needs a priority, I'm headed for permant disability and continued decline that will not be able to be reversed.

Putting this concept into practice can be more painful than I wish it were. For instance, I have a heart for anyone who may be lonely or hurting. When a new woman joined church recently, she commented that she had not been able to really establish friendships at her last church, so it became personal to me to see that she felt welcome and found a sense of community quickly. She readily accepted my invitation to come over with her kids for the afternoon, though I had to postpone it several weeks due to ongoing health issues. She then exchanged the invitation and generously watched my kids for several hours while I went to the hospital to be with my parents for my mom's surgery. Since then I've not only been involved with my mom's recovery, starting a new homeschooling year with my kids, but have had a lot of medical procedures, appointments and endless medical phone calls to keep up with, including a trip out of state to see the only specalist my insurance would cover.

I simply find myself too exhausted to reach out right now. She's left the ball in my court with "call me if you want to connect," and my heart aches that she may feel like I don't want to befriend her, when the truth is that I would like nothing more, but simply have nothing to give right now. I have vaguely explained my health to her and will do my best to explain my heart and my physcial reality in more detail soon (hard topics to plunge deeply into with a brand new friend), but in the end I will simply have to accept my limitations and realize that we will have to "do friendship" on the terms by body sets forth for us, and I'll have to be OK with that reguardless of how understanding she may or may not turn out to be.

6. Let Go and Let God
- All of the above tools ultimately point to one simple fact. I can't do it all! I must let go of unrealistic expectations of myself (and of others - it's easy to become disillusioned when others I depend on or place my hopes in fall short of my expectiations) and look fully to God as not only the source of my strength, but the one who gives wisdom and directs my steps moment by moment.

He never has unrealist expecations of me. He is always gentle with me and knows, truly understands, what I face moment by moment.

My job is simply to do what He calls me to for this moment and leave the rest to Him. Some days that may simply be getting through the day without giving into utter despair that I can't raise my arms with enough strength to brush my hair. Some days that may be trusting him that if my new friend needs friendship that I'm not equiped to give, that maybe I'm instread called to pray that God will meet that need for her through someone else.

When recently undergoing some very frightening treatments that had me reflecting on my own mortality, I realized that I was not really handing the reighns of my life to God. I had written love letters to every family member and placed them in my journal where I thought they would be found if I should die. I was peaceful about the prospect of death for my own sake, but I was a ball of nerves for the sake of my husband and children, grieving for them about what they might endure should I die. And then it occured to me of how arrogant I was being, to say I could trust God with my eternal future, but then actively distrust Him to have a perfect plan for my husband and children!

Just simply realizing that a God big enough to hold my eternity in His hands would have a great plan for my family too was a significant "letting go" moment that marked a wonderful return to a peaceful heart for me. As it turned out, I was His ongoing plan for my family and I had let myself get all worked up for something that never was really even an issue, but I pray that I will hold onto that life lesson next time I'm tempted to try to micro-manage God's plan rather than just resting in Him that He will take care of every need, big or small.

I would encourage you to take advantage of any or all of the 20 Invisible Illness Week seminars available to you this week, and archived for ongoing listening, at Please log back in here at again on Saturday as well, for a special post on Hope in the Shadows as part of the (In)Courage blog tour.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

National Invisibile Chronic Illness Awareness Week

I will be presenting at noon (Pacific) this Tuesday, on the topic of Coping with Crisis on Top of Chronic...

SBWIRE – SEPT 14, 2009 / Nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA live with a chronic illness and about 96% of these illnesses are invisible.* Rest Ministries, Inc., the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill, and an affiliate of Joni Eareckson Tada’s International Disability Ministry, is encouraging those with illness, friends, family, caregivers, and churches to get involved in their annual outreach, National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, September 14-20, 2009.

In addition to churches having outreach events for those with chronic conditions, Rest Ministries organizes a 5-day free virtual conference with 20 seminars that can be attended via one’s computer and computer speakers. Seminars are on a variety of topics including marriage, parenting, starting a business, how to apply for disability and more—all when you live with a chronic illness. The seminars are held via Blog Talk Radio and listeners can call in through their phone line with questions.

Well known Christian authors who will be presenting include:

• Bill and Pam Farrel, best-selling authors; The Marriage Code (Harvest House, 2009)
• Naomi Kingery, author of Sugar Free Me (Xulon Press, 2008)
• Dena Dyer, author of Mothers of the Bible (Barbour Publishing, 2009)
• Georgia Shaffer, author of How Not to Date a Loser (Harvest House, 2008)
• Joanna Faillace, Certified Biblical Health Coach an author of Super-Naturally Healthy Families Cookbook Devotional
• Lisa Copen, author of Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend (Rest Publishers, 2008)
• Maureen Pratt, author of Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness (Galilee Trade, 2005)
• Jennifer Saake, author of Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss (NavPress, 2005)
• Marcia Ramsland, author of Simplify Your Life (Thomas Nelson, 2004)
• Jolene Philo, author of A Different Dream for My Child (Discovery House Publishers 2009)

Lisa Copen, 40, founder of Rest Ministries says, “Many Christians may have a solid walk with the Lord, but the emotional rollercoaster of a chronic illness and its constant progression can leave them feeling alone and misunderstood. They are hanging on by a thread and being told they look fine and should just make themselves get up and go to church only adds to the isolation and bitterness of others ‘not getting it.’ The emotional scars can be harder to cope with than the actual illness.”

Copen, who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since the age of twenty-four, ended up in the hospital for a week last fall fighting off the flesh eating bacteria in an ankle wound. We never know what the next day will hold,” she explains. “It is so important that there is good communication between those who are ill and their loved ones, as well as the church body.”

Did Copen’s circle of friends and church come through for her? “It was an enlightening experience,” she says. “Although I teach others to ask for help, I found out how difficult it is. And then when I did ask for help, I experienced what it is like when you fall through the cracks and everyone thinks someone else is providing both the practical support as well as emotional encouragement.”

Rest Ministries extends their outreach about invisible illness awareness to churches, providing materials to start up HopeKeepers groups, books, cards, tracts, etc. About 96% of those with illness may appear perfectly healthy on Sunday mornings, but may struggle to get out of bed the remainder of the week.

Ken Chambers, Director of Church Relations at Joni and Friends International Disability Center, says, “It is vital that Christians understand the emotional and spiritual trials of those with invisible disabilities, as well as those with visible disabilities. I encourage church leaders to take advantage of the wealth of resources at Rest Ministries and to participate in the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, which they sponsor annually.”

One can get involved by joining the hundreds of bloggers who are writing about illness in the next few days, by joining the cause on Facebook, and most especially, by tuning in for the conference. All seminars will also be recorded and archived.

See for more information or for the sponsor of this event, Rest Ministries.

*Source: Chronic Care in America, U.S. Census Bureau

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You Are God's Masterpiece, So am I

I've run across this video from two different sources within just a few hours. Makes me think God might want me to share it here with you too. :) Takes about 9 minutes to watch, but well worth the time!

My favorite line, "But God I've let you down so many times."
God's reply, "No! I was holding you up!"