Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inspired Women Radio

Today I was blessed by the chance to chat with Diane Cunningham, founder of the National Association of Christian Women Entrepreneurs on her Inspired Women Radio program. We spent half an hour talking about how God can use us, no matter our circumstances. Grab your favorite drink and join us to be encouraged. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Desert Seasons

Have you ever endured a really long "dry spell" in your relationship with God? It's hard to harvest much in a desert isn't it?

I once heard a sermon on "desert seasons" about the 40 years of wilderness wandering for the Jews, David's time of hiding out in the desert to escape King Saul's death threats during nearly 20 years of waiting for the fulfillment of his anointing as king, even Jesus' 40 days of fasting and temptation after He was baptized by John and spoken as God's "beloved Son" straight from heaven at the beginning of His earthly ministry. It is hard to go through spiritual deserts where the pursuit of fellowship with Him seems so dry and fruitless and pointless!

If it's any encouragement, you are not alone in these feelings. In fact I think it is a pretty common experience for maturing Christians where God allows us to "outgrow" that initial passion and have to lean on Him more "blindly" in faith at times. Praying that He will give you the courage to keep "going through the motions" as an act of obedience, even when your heart doesn't feel like you are connecting, and that He will bring you through this "desert" (or "deserted" feeling?) time with renewed hope and purpose for the next season of your journey with Him.

Following God Through the Trials is a beautiful article I read this morning, further reflecting on these desert seasons. I pray it will bless you as it has me. Then go on to Storms in the Desert and be reminded that the Living Water will never leave you or forsake you, even when you don't "feel" Him near. {{{hug}}}

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest of Righteous

"Joni and Friends" International Disability Center offers great insights on Harvesting Hope from Heartache in this short (under 4 minute) radio segment on God as our Harvester. Joni explains the farming history behind the word "tribulations" and references two books I've been spending a lot of time in recently, James and 2 Corinthians. Take a quick break to refresh your heart with this encouraging message at http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/2010/9/17/separating-chaff/

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Encouragement Day

Sept. 12 is National Day of Encouragement. To mark this day, DaySpring was kind enough to encourage me by sending a package of 10 beautiful cards so that I could, in turn, pass encouragement on to some friends. As cards spilled out onto my bed, I was delighted to see how God had inspired the card authors and artists to match the unique needs and personalities of several specific friend. Names popped to mind one after another as I quickly made a list of those who could use a reminder that they are loved and important and prayed for right now:


- a few friends for whom life has not gone as planned

- some grieving friends, including an elderly woman in a nursing home and the husband of a dear friend, both whom lost spouses to cancer within the past year

- a family fighting for hope in the face of long-term unemployment

- several battling cancer, recovering from recent surgeries, or fighting chronic health challenges

- someone courageously journeying through depression

- a couple of thank yous to friends who have been a faithful encouragers to me in the past

- someone who is learning to be a "single mom" in the midst of painful separation from her husband



In fact I was so encouraged at the idea of dropping hugs and prayers in the mailbox that I soon found myself selecting additional cards and addressing more envelopes. Most fun of all, I addressed a card that I think we be of special encouragement to a whole group of ladies who are closely connected. I included instruction for them to forward it on from one to the next, adding their own notes along the way, until the card has circulated to this entire group who is in need of a dose of extra encouragement at the moment. I'll tuck a book of stamps inside before I seal the envelope to help accomplish this goal. :)






In addition to being National Day of Encouragement, we are also entering National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and this year's theme is "each one reach one." Is there one person for whom you can find a small way of offering encouragement today? Perhaps send her an eCard, leave a sticky note, or check out comments at (in)Courage to see how others are offering encouragement today.

Are you in need encouragement? Please leave a comment and let me know how I can be praying for you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Infertile in Colorado?

If you are (or know) a Christian woman living near Denver/Colorado Springs and are currently living through the daily heartache of primary infertility (no living children), could you please email me at jsaake AT yahoo DOT com immediately? A producer for Focus on the Family is looking to speak with someone in that area and I would like to put you two in contact with one another.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Family Life w/ Chronic Illness

I posted some updates on my personal blog yesterday about some exciting finding for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (and potentially for a host of other neruo-immune, auto-immune and related conditions). (If you haven't heard much about the newly discovered human retrovirus XMRV, in the same family as HIV, read here first.)

If you are living with any kind of chronic health condition, you know the exhausting fatigue of just trying to "do life". Doing it well, doing it to your satisfaction, doing it to the fulfillment of your dreams, seems out of the question when pure survival is your state of being. What are your personal tips for "doing life well" within your limitations? Your limits might be financial, physical, health or other, but I would love to hear how you have risen to the challenge of harvesting hope in the midst of your heartache!

It was encouraging to me to read one such story this week as a reminder that not only am I not alone in these feelings of frustration, but that there are others "doing life well" while sick. It offered me hope that I might be able to better do the same. I honestly can't say I'm anywhere near where this woman is in my organizational skills (then again, she references a "sick day on the couch" as if it isn't her common state of being as it is for me), so I glean what I can from her story and don't burden myself with the rest. (Fertility-sensitive warning: Children and parenthood are referenced both directly and indirectly in the following resource.)

Making a House a Home When You Are Chronically Ill (and Chronically Fatigued!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's Your Sign?

People frequently ask me, "What's your sign?"

For years I didn't know the answer because I do not believe in the Zodiac. I've had enough people inform me over the years that I now know I'm classified as a "leo" but I would much rather claim the Lion of Judah, the Creator of all constellations, as the Answer to why I have the unique personality traits He has given me.

What's my sign? I choose the sign of the fish.

What's my sign? I choose the sign of the cross.

What's your sign?

Monday, July 26, 2010

ADA

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. There's a great op ed article for CNN written by Joni Eareckson Tada today, linked along with a few specific prayer requests at Joni and Friends:
http://www.joniandfriends.org/blog/monday-july-26th-update-joni/

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Contentment with Great (Weight) Gain

I posted this to my InfertilityMom and beauty blogs last week, and wow does it seem to have struck a nerve! I try not to usually cross post the same thing on more than a couple of blogs, but it sounds like this is one that has met a lot of hurting hearts right where they live, and so I share it here as well....

I've gained weight the past year and a half. A lot of weight. I was asked three times last week if I was pregnant because I'm carrying most of that weight right out front in my belly. I've had a hysterectomy and dealt with weight gain from medications and many medical issues. There's no doubt that my hormones are way out of balance. I weight more than 50 pounds more today than I did when I was pregnant with our daughter eight years ago. About 40 of those pounds have been packed on the past 20 months.


I am frustrated. I don't like my body. I don't like getting dressed. I don't like getting undressed even more. I have stacks of clothes I can't get into, some now 3 or 4 sizes too small, that I've been stashing away for when I can get the pound off.


Today I'm choosing a new attitude. Yes, I would still like to shed some weight, for health, for self-esteem, for so many reasons. But the fact is, this is my body right now. The same Holy Spirit lives inside this broken temple who lived here when I was at my healthiest, most fit, most attractive days. I can make choices that will keep this body as well-conditioned as I am able, but honestly some of this is simply beyond my control.


So today I went through all my clothes, those horded away for someday and those still hanging in my closet, many ill-fitting even though I try to still squeeze into them. To my delight I found a few things I honestly didn't think would fit that still work nicely. :) I kept about 5 things that are very near to fitting, just a tiny snug right now, because if I can loose a few pounds and under-grow what I have, I still have a tiny cushion of options before I hit yard sales and consignment stores for smaller sizes.


I sorted and organized all the rest and can walk into my closet and know that absolutely anything I pull off the hanger will fit on this body and I won't have to fight through five or six outfit changes (and accompanying tears and words of self-loathing) just to get dressed in the morning. And as a bonus, I now get to bless some friends with an abundance of clothing that can be enjoyed again, no longer a source of frustration to their owner.


But godliness with contentment is great gain.

- 1 Timothy 6:6



Father, please grant me contentment in my "great gain" that I can have a heart to fully embrace the body you have given me and glorify you with it, just as I am.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homelessness

It's a problem all across our country, evidence by the huddled lump under the blanket as I drive under the freeway overpass, the man on the corner with the cardboard sign, the lady with way too many layers of clothing who is pushing her shopping cart down the sidewalk laden with all her worldly possessions.

It's such a big problem. What can I do? What should I do? I don't want to be scammed. I don't want to enable someone in their drinking or drug addiction. I don't want to turn a blind eye either. What's the answer?

These questions were recently addressed in a straight-from-the-heart confession by Lysa Terkeurst over at (in)Courage. As I read through her story and remembered a few of my own encounters with people in need, I realized it was time to share these stories with you as well.

One bitterly cold winter evening several years ago, we drove past an elderly man on the corner, icicles dripping off his beard. We had only the length of the red light to make a decision and chose to drive on when the color changed to green. We knew in our hearts God was calling us to do more but let the rush of holiday excitement stand in our way. A couple hours later we left our party and went back to find him so we could pay for a cheep motel room for the night, but we couldn't track him down.

To this day I can't help but wonder if he wasn't an "angel unaware" that we failed to offer the hospitality God so clearly prompted us to give. I've never been able to pass another cardboard sign without deep conviction that God calls us to reach out to the hopeless and needy, sometimes in small ways, sometimes more.

We pray for each person we encounter who seems to be in need and have a family policy that if it is within our power to help, that will be our default plan. We have, at times, bought meals or even given cash, as God prompts our hearts. More than once we have passed someone, driven on to the nearest fast food drive-through, then circled back around to go out of our way to hand a lunch out the window. (Our kids have felt "doubly blessed" the couple of times that we've had a bag full of fast food goodies then not been able to track the person they were purchased for back down and the kids have fallen to the task of eating the food for us.) I've heard of many other creative alternatives like friends who carry fast food $5 gift card to share with those in need.

As we pray for people, there are rare times God gives us peace to refrain from giving in that circumstance (simple inability to physically get to a person who is out of our flow of traffic, personal safety for ourselves and our children, or outright lack of peace that giving is what we are called to do in that particular situation), but overall we believe that unless God is telling us NOT to give, that His commandment to give is clear. I have no doubt we have been scammed a few times, but that's between the other person and God. I'm only responsible to act in obedience as God calls me.

Our church introduced us to the concept of Manna Bags. We now carry Ziplock bags in our car containing a bottle of water, a couple of protein bars, socks (sock are like gold if you live on the street, even in the heat of summer), dried fruit, etc. You could add things like toothbrush, travel size toiletries, or whatever else God puts on your heart. Check out this list of ideas.

The name being Manna Bags acknowledges that this little bag will not change anyone's world, but like manna, it can be God's provision to meet his or her physical needs for this one day. I may not be able to make a huge dent in the plight of homelessness or meet an ongoing need for any one person, but just like in the Starfish Story, I can bring a glimmer of hope to one person for one day. When I gave out a Manna Bag in a parking lot last week, the man had totally eaten his first granola bar before I even made it back to the car - no doubt he was truly hungry. As so often happens, it was the socks that really got him excited and brought tears to his eyes.

I'm also working on a list of area missions and shelters and soups kitchens and such, along with addresses and phone numbers, that we can enclose in the bag along with a written prayer so that hopefully we can help direct people to more long-term solutions. I long to help meet the needs of spiritual hunger as well as physical and continue to pray about what kinds of resources I might include that will fill this void. Please share your suggestions and ideas to help me in this!

I'll never forget the day I had just taken our kids to a special bakery and bought a loaf of gourmet bread for three times what I normally would pay in the grocery store. It was warm and fresh and we each savored a single piece as soon as we got to the car, anticipating the rest with our dinner. Pulling out of the parking lot we spotted a couple shivering by the stop sign. I had nothing in the car to give but that treasured loaf of bread and even though it was a treat they loved, my kids didn't think twice. I pointed out the couple and before I could even ask what we should do I heard from the backseat, "Roll down the window Mommy. We still have most of our loaf of bread!"

It's hard to say what that couple thought of a partially eaten loaf of bread, though I think they were hungry enough that they seemed genuinely thankful to receive it. But watching my kids give from the depths of their hearts meant more to me than a million dollars, and scam or no scam, we were all richer for the experience! "The people who needed our bread" was something they joyfully talked about for years.

"Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
- James 2:15-17

Please share with me your stories. How have you been blessed by the kindness of a stranger? How have you made a positive difference in someone's life, even if only for one day? Have you witnessed creative ways we can bring comfort and hope as the hands and feet of Christ. I would love to hear what YOU have to say!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Painful Father's Day

Thanking God that He is:
- the Healer of broken dreams
- the Redeemer of pain
- the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief
- the God who see
- the Father who loves us so fiercely that He willingly enter into the world of bereavement when He paid the price of my adoption with the life of His only biological child...

May the God of All Comfort enfold you tangibly with His overwhelming love this Father's Day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Your Help?

My book, Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss has been nominated by the oldest, and one of the largest, infertility support networks in the nation, as one of the top four "best" infertility books for 2010. Their selections are now open for public vote and I would so appreciate if if you would take a moment and visit www.resolve.org/vote to cast a vote for Hannah's Hope in the "best book" category. Thank you so very much!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where Can I Find Support?

My desire for Hope Harvesters™ is to offer resources and support that shower my readers with Christ's comfort in the face of life's deepest heartaches and losses. Every now and then I try to post reviews for new readers so you know where to turn for various kinds of support.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

If you are hurting, you are not alone. If your need isn't addressed here, please let me know what other kinds of resources you would like me to address in the future. Please follow these links (you will have to scroll down past today's post to find additional posts for each tag) for:

Cancer (The entire list of posts that will pull up from this tag are helpful, but the Nov. 11, 2009 post may be your best starting point.)

Chronic Illness

Depression

Grief

Infertility

My blog for Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss has recently been relaunched at www.HannahsHopeBook.blogspot.com offering support for a full range of fertility challenges.

InfertilityMom is my "most personal blog" sharing thoughts from basically every aspect of my life, ranging from being an after-infertility mom to writing, living with chronic illness, and homeschooling.

Given Me a Thorn is one of my newer ventures, a place to talk about my current writing on the life of Paul and living victoriously through chronic pain/illness. I don't know what my publisher will select as the finished title of this book, but my working title is "Given a Thorn" thus the blog reflects this concept. Here I include a few prayer requests, updates, and devotional links on Paul or illness such as the one I posted today. Obviously I hope to be much more active there as the book draws closer to publication.

InnerBeautyGirlz isn't really a "support" blog, but I pray it is a place where you will be uplifted. It is a cross between promotional posts for the companies I represent as a consultant (mineral makeup, Christian jewelry) and inspirational/devotional posts about beauty. It is my desire to have at least half of the posts be from the inspirational side, but I sometimes go through stages where I'm just too exhausted to keep up fresh content, so I will forewarn you that sometimes it's more heavily weighted toward only sale, discount codes and product promotion than I would like. It is my "fun" outlet and I really do enjoying sharing God's perspective on living in beauty for Him.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Free CD

Joni and Friends is offering a free CD featuring five songs sung by Joni: "The God I Love," "Praise My Soul," "Sometimes," "Joni's Waltz," and "May I Borrow Your Hands?," a duet with her husband, Ken. There is an opportunity for you to make a donation to Joni and Friends when you place your order, but it truly is a free, no-strings-attached offer that I pray will encourage you when you head over and request you copy.

Christians Get Depressed

Continuing with our series on depression, today I am please to share a guest blog from my dear friend, Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministires.


Over and over I still hear from people who have been told, “If your faith was strong enough, you wouldn’t get that depressed. Jesus can heal you of that if you really want Him to.”

Oh, how sad that makes me. One reason is that I do believe that speaking to a counselor can make a difference. Like any profession, there are some good counselors, and some not-so-good, so ask for referrals from your loved ones, mentors, or church leadership. But don’t let the stigma or the expectations that Christians don’t get depressed prevent you from seeking counsel if you are feeling “blue.” (And there are many definitions of that light-hearted word “blue.”)

There is a large spectrum of depression and yes, Christians get depressed just like anyone else. I won’t share the depressing statistics with you about chronic illness and how it can impact marriages, you relationships, and your ability to cope with other stress factors in life. But let’s just say that living with illness is HARD and you should never be ashamed to seek out a counselor to get you through a difficult time.

Let me say that again (because I recently spoke to someone who kept apologizing for the fact that she was seeing a counselor)… it’s OKAY to talk to someone about what you are going through.

The best thing you can do is make sure that it is a counselor who you respect and who has the same biblical beliefs that you do. Ask people you respect, including your pastor or parish nurse who they would recommend. If you can find a god referral you can find a Christian counselor list at www.ncca.org (National Christian Counselors Association) and www.aacc.net (American Association of Christian Counselors).

And remember, just because a Christian is a counselor, doesn’t mean he or she is the right counselor for you. If you feel it’s not working or helping, don’t be afraid to find someone who can better meet your needs.

Don’t delay putting off counseling until you are feeling suicidal or making a major life-changing decision like leaving your family.

Proverbs 4:5 says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.” It can be a blessing to get counsel from others, and pray for wisdom from the Lord.

Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since 1993.

Read more: http://restministries.com/2010/05/10/yes-christians-get-depressed/#ixzz0nv9nDCjH


Source: www.restministries.com

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Living With Chronic Pain

I've shared many portions of my story here in the past. Today I shared more details about both my struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and our a bit of the background of our infertility journey over on my InfertilityMom blog.

Do you live with chronic pain? Please share your story. How may I pray for you?

Or maybe your pain isn't physical, but that of a heart crushed by grief instead? If you are a parent (or know one) who has lost a child, please visit my Heaven Born links for several healing give-aways today.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brokenhearted Mother's Day

Mother's Day is portrayed by the greeting card companies as a day of flowers and joy. I am blessed to be looking forward to just such a day this coming Sunday, complete with hand-print cards lovingly painted by my babies. But this was not what May looked like for me for many years. And this is not what Sunday will look like for many friends and loved ones this year either.

Both my mom and my mother-in-law (both of whom have blessed us with their loving gift of motherhood, and both of them still alive and healthy) have each lost their own moms in recent years. Watching them go through this grief makes my heart ache. And then there are the men and women my own age and younger who have already lost their parents and I can't comprehend the reality of going through adulthood without the wisdom of my parents even now. I lost a dear friend this year, someone that faced infertility with me - I feel nearly unable to breath at the thought of her sweet, long-awaited, much-prayed-for children facing this (and every future) Mother's Day without her. Death is so utterly ugly and unfair!

Some are grieving this year because they never had a safe or loving relationship with the woman who may (or may not) have been physically present in their lives, but really never was a "Mom". Others are grieving because their children have wandered far and have locked their moms out of their lives. And many of us carry the weight of empty arms, either due to infertility or the deaths of our children. If this Sunday brings anguish to your heart, please know you are in my prayers.

If you are facing infertility and/or pregnancy/infant loss grief, I've recently relaunched a couple of resources that I pray will be a blessing to you:
Hannah's Hope Book blog (had been silent for most of the past year, relaunched with several new posts including a series specifically for Mother's Day)
My Facebook Page

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Side Effects May Cause Laughter

We've been talking about the very important issue of depression recently. For a change of pace, today I thought it was high time to look at the lighthearted side of living with chronic illness. Enjoy this 6 minute clip from my sweet friend, Lisa Copen. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Vote for me as a Health Hero?

I was blessed to be nominated as a Woman's Health Hero and I need your help! (Head's up to my friends who are sensitive to mentions of pregnancy, the sponsors of this award do promote pregnancy-related books on their website, so please be for-warned before following this link.) Out of all entries, just 20 names will be inducted into a Health Hall of Fame. Two Hall-of-Fame selections will receive special honors as either Staff Pick or Audience Choice award determined by the public (that's you!).



You will be allowed to vote on all entries between now and May 14 (extended one week from the prior May 7 deadline), 2010. The entry that receives the highest overall ranking will win the Audience Choice award. Last year's Audience Choice winner was my dear friend Lisa Copen from Rest Ministries. I would be delighted to add a similar honor to my "resume" as I continue working on writing my book on the life of Paul as encouragement for living with chronic pain/illness.

Will you please help me by heading to www.ourbodiesourblog.org/blog/2010/05/comforting-those-with-fertility-challenges-jenni-saake and selecting the "thumbs up" voting button at the bottom of my profile? Thank you so much! :)

Friday, April 30, 2010

When Pregnancy (or Lack of) Brings Depression

This week I shared my own journey through depression, sometimes related to chronic illness, other times to infertility or miscarriage, and most recently in the wake of pregnancy and for two years post-partum. Today I want to specifically share a resource for post-partum depression or PPD.

Living Beyond Postparutm Depression: Help and Hope for the Hurting Mom and Those Around Her by Jerusha Clark is a fantastic read for anyone considering trying to conceive. Hopefully you will never need the information there, but it is a good tool to have available and information to be aware of even prior to conception - I truly wish I had known about it before we miscarried Noel or before our living daughter's pregnancy/birth as I think I would have been armed with the information I needed to seek help and prevent much heartache.

One thing I greatly appreciate about Jerusha's book was that even though she herself has not faced infertility or pregnancy loss, she does acknowledge both issues, providing facts that are often overlooked in many PPD resources. While she does not address these issues in depth, she shares that, "PPD can afflict women after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion." She also sites sources to explain that because of "exposure to artificial hormones and psychological stressors" that women undergoing infertility treatment "are at a high risk for developing depression. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of women undergoing treatment for fertility are clinically depressed before becoming pregnant and PPD affects a great number of these women after delivery." These were issues I had long-observed but never seen medically verified, so it was refreshing to find these references in this book.

If you are currently experiencing PPD, I would actually suggest that you ask a loved one (husband, supportive mother, best friend) to read Living Beyond for or with you. Knowing my own personality, I must be honest and say that if I had read it during PPD, because I was in the functional mild-moderate range of illness, while I would have gleaned much helpful information, some portions of the book might have added to my weight of guilt/concern. I do not say this because anything presented us untrue, invalid or even unkind, but because the book is very honest about the burden PPD places on family members and I tend to be guilt-driven very easily, even when in a healthy frame of mind. Likewise, had I read it after miscarriage I think I could have gained a lot of healing encouragement, but would also have found the passages about mothering a newborn quite hard to bear.

Having said all that, Living Beyond is still the most extensive and helpful resource I've found for understanding all the various facets and kinds of depression and what can be successfully done to help properly treat the condition. And I definitely need to note that while PPD refers to depression that comes post-pregnancy, many of the principles there are equally applicable to any form of depression, even those not related to the physical/hormonal shifts of pregnancy, so I would consider this book valuable reading for all women and married couples along with the husbands (Especially!!!), fathers, brothers, pastors or other men in positions to support women through this journey.




Note of disclaimer:
I received no financial compensation for this post, however I did receive a free review copy of Living Beyond Postpartum Depression from the publisher, NavPress. This review is fully my personal opinion and was not reviewed by the book author nor publisher prior to publication.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Depressing

Today on Facebook I came across the following status update:
DEPRESSION is not a sign of weakness it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long. Put this as your status if you know someone who has or has had depression. Most people wont, but its mental health week and 1 in 3 of us will suffer some point in our lives. Show your support...♥

Depression is something very few people are willing to talk about, but I believe it impacts many more people than most of us realize. I can't even count the number of times, several just within the past few weeks, where women have sat down with me and secretly shared their struggles with depression. It's a journey clouded in shame, something we worry others will look down on us for, judge us over. Sometimes we hide behind a facade of being outgoing, the life of the party. Sometimes it drives us deeper into our own shells.

For much too long the church as a whole has perpetuated the idea that depression is rooted in the sinful inability or unwillingness to allow God to bring joy to our hearts. I do believe that depression often is entangled with spiritual struggles, but often broken spirits comes as a result of the imbalanced hormones and true medical issues that trigger depression in the first place.

I hope to provide several resources for coping with depression in coming posts, but today I want to start simply by letting you know that if you are facing depression, you are not alone. And so I'll start by opening my heart and sharing my own story, beginning in 1991/92. At this time I don't believe I was living in full-time depression, but I did experience frequent, terrifying panic attacks in conjunction with hormonal imbalance triggered by the onset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I developed a host of fears and phobias and cried frequently, but also had times that were very upbeat and joyful.

As we progressed into 1993/94, joy evaporated. I sunk into a deep, black depression in the wake of infertility grief and all the daily losses of learning to live with debilitating chronic illness. At my lowest, I seriously entertained thoughts of suicide on a regular basis. :( God used my husband, Scriptures and the book The Ache for a Child by Debra Bridwell to begin my healing.

In hindsight I would highly encourage anyone who is where I was then to immediately seek medical and emotional aid though frank conversation with a competent physician and solid, Christ-centered counseling. It is truly a testament of God's grace that when I did not know enough about depression to understand how desperately I needed that help, that God, Himself the Great Physician and Wonderful Counselor, stepped in and brought about the miraculous healing I needed. Hannah's Prayer Ministries was born as a result of this season when God brought me up out of the pit, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and set my feet on a firm place to stand beside the quiet waters.

After our first miscarriage (Dec. 94) I had a different depressive episode lasting about 5 months. This time I was simply was void of feeling. Unlike the utter lost-ness, despair and hopelessness of the prior depression, this new grief-based depression over the death of our first daughter left me unable to laugh, cry, smile, be angry or "feel" anything - I simply was numb month after month. My breakthrough and healing here began with the final admission to myself that we had indeed been blessed with parenthood, even if only for a short season on this earth. To actually hear myself say, "I had a miscarriage," a statement that brought about days of gut-wrenching and unstoppable torrent of tears, was a huge milestone. Choosing a name of our daughter, thus "giving her an identity" I could relate to, was another step in overcoming this round of depression and beginning to work through healthy stages of grief.

Noel would be nearly 15 now and I still miss her, grief being a life-long journey. But my depression in the wake of her death was more than just a "stage of grief" and would be medically classified as postpartum depression (PPD), though I had no bring-home baby at the end. I still do not fully understand why, of all our 10 very painful losses, it was only Noel's death that triggered a full depressive experience like this, though I think some issues like our infertility, the fact that she was my first and (at that time) only child, and other life circumstances may have all been contributing factors.

Over the years depression has visited me in milder and shorter seasons, off and on, at various times, often linked to hormonal changes or health complications. My latest real journey through depression came with the conception and birth of our daughter who is now 7. (She is our second our of 3 living miracles.) This time ANGER best defined my experience of peri/post-partum depression. There were many elements that set the stage for this struggle, including secondary infertility, 2 miscarriages a year prior to her conception, a major surgery just a couple months before her conception, significant hormonal imbalance, having to stop our planned adoption due to pregnancy, high risk pregnancy with ongoing perterm labor scares and 13 weeks of bedrest, and out-of-control migraines during her first year or so of life.

It wasn't until after her 2nd birthday that I began to truly feel a connection with this sweet little girl I had prayed and longer for my entire life. I wasn't until after the birth of her little brother the week of her 3rd birthday, when I experienced the normal joys of new motherhood again, that I fully began to grasp and appreciate all I had missed out on, emotionally, over the prior three years. I was a functional mom while dealing with depression, falling into the mild to moderate spectrum of PPD this time, but it was an ugly journey non-the-less. My heart aches for several friends who have experienced postpartum (or any other kind of) depression at deeper levels, including several who have been hospitalized for their own protection (as I likely could have been in the early 90s).

If you or someone you love is walking through the valley of depression, please know you are not alone! Depression is not a sign of spiritual lack or weakness and it is a battle that can be won. Keep watching this blog for future posts spotlighting depression and offering helpful resources. And since the Bible has been my Light through my darkest days of depression (though I have to admit to actually throwing God's Holy Word across the room in my anguish a time or two) I would love to invite you to share the Scriptures that have most blessed and encouraged you in the comments section below.

Monday, April 19, 2010

All About Me?

How quickly I loose focus. How quickly mankind forgets, becomes self-centered:

At the Last Supper, Jesus passed the bread and cup then said,
21-22"Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It's true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday."

23They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.

24-26Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: "Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.

-Luke 22, The Message (emphasis added)

One minute worried about Christ, suspicious of one another. In the blink of an eye they forget why they were even arguing in the first place, Whom they were trying to protect. SELF takes priority over the His Lordship. Pride and greed eclipse protection and love.

I'm writing about them. I'm writing about me. *sigh* It's so easy to loose focus and forget. Lord, please help me to love with Your grace, protect with Your passion, choose my battles to Your honor, and remember that it's really about You, not me!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Consider the Clovers

Growing in God’s Flower Garden is a sweet reminder by Lisa Copen of Rest Ministries, that we are never "overlooked" or insignificant to God. Take a moment to read it and be encouraged today. :)

...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow...
- Matthew 6:28

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ecstasies and Intimacies

I've been reading through "The Message" for devotional time this year. I know it is a paraphrase, not a true translation, but I love getting a fresh wording on Truth I've read in traditional translations for years. This morning I read:
Jesus said, "Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. Even Moses exclaimed about resurrection at the burning bush, saying, 'God: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob!' God isn't the God of dead men, but of the living. To him all are alive."
- Luke 20:34-38

This was Jesus' answer to the Sadducees who were trying to say there was no Resurrection and trap Him with a question about a woman who had been married and widowed repeatedly, asking whose wife she would be in Heaven. I've emphacised the parts that just jumped off the page to me though, that death, something that's certainly been a "major preoccupation" for me, won't even be something I take time out to think about in Heaven. How amazing is that!? Praising the Lord that He will wipe away every tear when death is swallowed up in ultimate Victory!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worry About Tomorrow

I've been consumed by worry, living in fear lately. I'm not going to try to get eloquent here, just let God's Word wash over and remind me...

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
- Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thorns, Weeds, Give-away and Hope

Dealing with infertility, pregnancy loss or adoption struggles or know someone who is? I came across a give-away for my book, Hannah's Hope, on the Life {Sweet} Life blog today, open through April 1! The blog author, Sarah, is currently pregnant, but has a heart for those still walking the road of infertility.

Sarah's also got some great things to say about FamilyLife Weekend to Remember. Read my review here or between April 5-26, 2010, register for any upcoming Spring or Fall Weekend to Remember using the promotion code "INVITE" and go for 1/2 price, only $129/couple!

I'm still praying my way through the life of Paul, thus giving a lot of thought to thorns and weeds. Today's post at (in)Courage, Ellie and the Weeds is a sweet reminder to let God be our gardener. (To my infertility/loss friends, the article is built sweet conversations between a mother and her 3-year-old, but this mother has also suffered infant death if this knowledge makes the sweet exchange more readable for you).

I would like to ask your specific prayers for protection over me and for my family as I venture deeper into my Paul writing. I'm starting to see signs that satan's not happy with what God's wanting to accomplish through this book and he's trying to attack us, invading my dreams with ugly images, taking reign over my tongue in ugly words that tear down my loving husband, and bringing a spirit of disorder and discord into our home. In a way I'm thankful for these attacks only because they affirm that I must be on the right track if the old snake would take the time to try to sideline us, but I also know God longs for us to come running to Him with our fears and frustrations, and so I ask you to join me prayer for God to be glorified in and through our family in a time of spiritual warfare.

Would you pray with me that the Lord will keep us steadfast in Him and bring joy and harmony to our home as He speaks truth to me and helps me to rightly divide His Word to share with hearts broken through chronic physical pain and illness? If you would like to join me as a prayer partner for this newest writing project, please leave me a note here or email me at jsaake AT yahoo DOT com and I'll send you periodic prayer updates as the book project continues to unfold. Thank you!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Intimate Rain

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree
- Joyce Kilmer

The line that jumps out to me here is, "Who intimately lives with rain." While I've mentioned it before, I can't help but think of Holley Gerth's encouraging devotional book, Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times. If you haven't had a chance to read this book yet, I know you will be blessed when you do. I just ordered another two copies to share with friends. Let us intimately live with God, both in the blessings and the rain, Harvesting Hope together in Him.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Temporary Home



"Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives."
2 Peter 2:11-12 (The Message)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Need Your Help for My Next Book

As some of you may know I have been "in the early stages" of writing a book on the life of Paul, specifically his "thorn in the flesh" for the past few years. It is to be an encouraging resource for living with chronic pain and illness. I've been reading, researching, jotting notes, gathering ideas, but for a very long time now it's been only that, a collection of thoughts and ideas that did very little to resemble any attempt at an actual book manuscript. I've been anxious to move forward, but felt over and over that God was telling me to wait. And so I have.

I still don't know how soon, or how far I will make progress, but over the past few weeks I've seen God very gently start taking my random collection of concepts and begin the thrilling process of shaping them into the skeleton of a book outline. I'm hesitant to say I'm actually "writing a book" yet because it's still very early in the process, but I am encouraged that ideas are starting to be pulled together in some semblance of order and I'm hopeful that there may really be a manuscript at the end of this process.

As I wrote Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss, I ended each chapter with a "Burden Bearers" section, based on the story of the four friends who carried the paralyzed man to Jesus and lower him through the roof for healing, along with the concept that God commands us to bear one another's burdens. It was a short section that gave ideas, instruction and insight to friends, family and loved ones of a couple facing fertility challenges.

I would like to do a similar thing with this new book and base chapter closings on various characters who touched Paul's life, men like Timothy, Barnabas and so forth. I would spotlight one "hero" per chapter and look at things that person can teach us about encouraging someone through their thorns.

So here's what I need from you. Please let me know what you would call such sections? I don't want to reuse "Burden Bearer" for this is a new book with a new goal and while I'm copying the concept, I feel like the sections themselves need a unique title. I've played with ideas like "Fellow Travels," "Helping Heroes," "Heroes of Hope" and others, but so far nothing really feels like the right fit. A couple of recurrent themes I plan to use through the book are blindness v/s light/sight (with a different twist than you might expect) and gardening/harvesting v/s thorns/weeds. I'm tossing that out there in case either of these topics help point to a section title idea.

I would also like to start doing monthly testimony spotlights here, spotlighting the lives of people who have touched or influenced my life, sometimes directly, sometimes just in passing by learning of their ministries on the Internet or the personal difference they made in the life of one friend. These are people who are real and flawed and living out daily struggles, but finding joy, Harvesting Hope™ in the midst of the journey. I will probably use the same title for those spotlights as I will use in the working copy of a manuscript (realizing that these section titles will be open to alternative titling by my publisher when the manuscript is reviewed by them).

Please share your suggestions. If you submit one between now and the end of April and I end up selecting it as my blog/section title, I've got a small gift I would like to send your way, so please leave me a valid email address so I can contact you for mailing information if I select you title!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Passover Give Away

Today I discovered this beautiful Messianic Passover line of serving dishes, devotional guides, candlesticks and more, by DaySpring. (To comply with disclosure laws, no, they didn't ask me to promote them, pay me anything to mention them, or offer me free product for review. ;) I'm just excited and want to pass on my find to you!) I love these tangible symbols and tools that can be used as object lessons and ongoing reminders of what hope is truly all about: the sacrifice, pain and willing grief of a King who would choose to become my Servant Savior!


I tried to order this amazing Passover Seder plate this morning, but they sold out just before I placed my order, so I'll be looking for them when they are available again next year. But I was able to order ordered several extra copies of their Passover Devotional booklet and I am considering going back for the Matzah Plate and Passover/Communion Cup as well (both would be great to use for weekly Sabbath Suppers).


While most of the items I've mentioned were still in stock as of the posting of this blog, if you are sad to see that you missed the Seder plate, then head on over to the Extravagant Grace website where Lisa is hosting an "I AM" Messianic Passover give-away for this sold-out item! Lisa even offers you a couple of discount codes to use when you place your DaySpring order. :)

Alone, with your family, with your church, I would encourage you to consider exploring the traditions of Passover this year. Our family journeyed through all the major Jewish holidays together last year and found our Christian faith deepened and enriched as we dug into the rich faith heritage of the family line of Christ. What a better way to prepare our hearts for the celebration of our risen Lord than to remember the journey that took Him to the cross.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tell Me Your Story

I started this blog, like all new blogs, with no "followers" yet. I had ideas of the topics I wanted to address and prayed that some of those posts would in some small way minister to any who found them. But what I didn't yet have was YOU!

Now that Hope Harvesters™ has been around for a while and you have found your way here, I need to hear from you what you would like to receive from this blog. Please take a moment and post a reply. It doesn't have to be long or elegant, but I would love to know something about you.

I would love to hear about the trials and triumphs of your life. What makes your heart sing? What burdens I can help carry and issues I can address that will be of meaning to you? Maybe you can tell me how you found this blog or what brings you back again?

Won't you please, tell me your story...

"Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts."
- Psalm 145:4 (MSG)

"All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy: I will open my mouth and tell stories; I will bring out into the open things hidden since the world's first day."
- Matthew 13:34 (MSG)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Showers of Blessing

Because I've lived the "drought" of infertility, I'm hyper-sensitive to the fact that my blessings can cause others pain. Similarly, I never know how to reply when I'm sitting with friends and someone who knows well my challenges pipes up with a phrase like, "Well, as long as you have your health, you have everything." It's not that I don't want others to honestly rejoice for what they have, it just seems people should put a filter on their words sometimes, considering the audience upons whose ears their words may fall.

Unfortunately I've lived so tuned into how I might unintentionally hurt others for so long that often I hurt those closest to me by default. I don't always celebrate my kids like I should, because I'm afraid of hurting someone still in the wait. I don't brag on my husband like I should, because I fear stepping on the tender toes of friends facing singleness, divorce or unhealthy marriages.

God's been working on my heart, reminding me that He is the Giver of all good gifts and that it is fine, even proper, to rejoice in what He has given. Sensitivity to hurting hearts is still good and has a place, but sometimes I need to shout His blessings from the rooftop and leave Him to care for those who might be unintentionally tender to my rain-fall-out. It's a delicate balance I'm still trying to work out and would love your input if you have any ideas.

This week I read a "repost to your profile if..." message at Facebook that I wasn't going to post because I immediately thought of several friends hurting over broken relationships. But God prompted me to think of my husband too and so I hesitantly copy/posted, "If you have a wonderful husband that works hard to provide for you and would do anything just for you and your family, then repost this as your status to give the honest, well-behaved men out there the recognition they deserve!♥ Because great men are few and far between, and I have one of them.♥"

Turned out my sweet husband had been having an especially hard week at work and had been feeling devalued by me as well. About an hour later he posted, "Great wives are also in short supply, and I have one of the best!"

Thank you, Father, that You are both found in the desert place and where the streams of abundance flow. Please help me to remember to take time to dance in the rain when you shower it upon my heart. Show me the balance between splashing in the puddles with childlike abandon and childishly splashing my blessings in the faces of those who are thirsty.

In the Season of Rain, Pray for Rain posted at (In)Courage today is a great reminder to be thankful for the blessings God showers upon me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Prayer for Contentment


This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

- from The Book of Common Prayer

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hope in Your Jeans?

Rather make that Genes. Well, actually, both!

I'm talking about The Global Genes Project World Rare Disease Day on Feb. 28. From their website, "Imagine lawyers in courtrooms, business executives in boardrooms, state legislators and others from all walks of life wearing jeans the week before or Friday before World Rare Disease Day – all to show their support for those affected by rare disease worldwide. www.rarediseaseday.us."

My first real introduction to rare diseases was in the early 1990s through Hannah's Prayer Ministries where I met many amazing families, some struggling to grow their families yet facing infertility due to the rare conditions faced by the husband or wife, others crushed under the grief that comes to parents whose children are diagnosed with rare, life-threatening (often "incompatible with life") diseases. At that point the only resource I knew to share with families were National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network.

Little did I know then how personally Rare Diseases would eventually touch our home. When our daughter was two we endured many stressful and frightening months as she was being evaluated for a specific form of dwarfism with many accompanying complications (something that's never fully been "ruled out" but because her growth has improved dramatically, investigation was eventually put on hold unless/until we have additional reason for concern). Then five months ago we learned of my XMRV diagnosis, a retrovirus that may turn out to be very wide-spread but currently has only been diagnosed in a few hundred cases because the testing is so new. I've lived with it for at least 19 years, possibly much longer, but doctors are just beginning to learn anything about my condition and still have no idea how to manage my care.

If you have a illness that "no one has heard of" it used to be that you might go your whole lifetime without ever connecting with someone else who knew your struggles personally. Now the internet makes it possible to find so much information (sometimes "too much" information!) and support communities abound. In honor of World Rare Disease Day, I want to point to the personal websites of a couple of families I regularly pray for, even as I'm inspired by their perseverance under trying times:

Heather (you might know her as "Especially Heather") is an amazing woman who has gone through more than seems fair for any one lifetime, yet her smile continues to shine for Jesus. Her story includes brain cancer and the removal of a tumor "the size of a nine iron" in 2007. But it's her daughter Emma's story that I want to point out today. This little girl was written off by the medical community before she was ever born but proved them all wrong with a lusty cry upon birth in 2001. She had a heart/lung transplant at just 5 months of age, has both Complex 1 and Complex 3 Mitochondrial Myopathy, is autistic, and is now waiting for a second heart transplant due to Transplant Related Coronary Artery Disease. As of this week, Emma was back in ICU running a fever of unknown origin and could use our prayers!

While we have yet to meet in person, though I've talked with their mother by phone and facebook and know their cousin well, Addi and Cassi Hemple are a couple of local girls who I've mentioned in the past. Living here in Reno, these 5-year-old twins who suffer from Niemann Pick Type C disease (childhood Alzheimer's) hold an especially tender spot in my heart.

I'm running out of time and energy to post other stories right now, but I couldn't close this short list of stories without mentioning the wonderful folks at the Whittemore Peterson Institute who are working nearly around the clock to find answers about XMRV for those like me who have already been identified and the potentially thousands or even tens of thousands (thus no longer making it "rare"!) more who are waiting for answers! Won't you please join me in wearing your jeans to show your hope in finding answers in genes???

What does wearing jeans stand for?

In the United States, a disease is considered rare if it affects fewer than 200,000 Americans. According to statistics from the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are thought to be nearly 7,000 life-threatening and heavily debilitating conditions affecting nearly 30 million Americans (1 in 10 people or 10% of the population). Despite the infrequency of each rare disease, the total number of rare disease patients in the United States is equivalent to the total populations of New York and New Jersey combined.

In the European Union's 27 member states, it is estimated that rare disease patients make up between 6% and 8% of the total EU population, or between 27 and 36 million people. This is equivalent to the total combined populations of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Beyond the US and EU, few reliable rare disease statistics exist for other countries. Some alarming statistics that are currently available include:

* More than half of the 30 million patients in the United States affected with rare disease are children
* Approximately 15 million Americans have rare diseases for which there still is no approved treatments and no research in progress
* Approximately 80% of rare diseases are attributed to genetic defects, many which are untreatable and life-threatening
* In the 25 years since the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 was signed into federal law, the FDA has only approved approximately 350 treatments for all rare diseases combined


Are you or someone you love impacted by rare disease? I would be honored to pray for you if you would please share your story in the comments section here. I'm always thrilled to find new links to personal stories and support sites/organizations as well, so please tell me about the resources that have most helped you!

Monday, February 22, 2010

One Thing

Do you have "one thing" in your life you wish you could fix, change, replace, rewrite? Maybe it's a relationship, a loss, an unmet goal or expectation, a significant disappointment, a soul-deep struggle. While we probably all have many things we wish we could see unfold differently, what's that one especially sore "thorn" that follows you into every day of this life's season?

This morning I read a really fun and light, yet amazingly thought provoking devotional, based on that silly old song, "There's a Hole in My Bucket". It made me think a lot about the ways I try to fix that "one thing" that seems off in my life, how I try to fill "holes" and broken places rather than resting fully in God through them. I would love to share both the original devotional along with the thoughts it spurred for me, over on my InfertilityMom blog. Please join me at http://infertilitymom.blogspot.com/2010/02/one-thing.html

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thin Places

Mary DeMuth recently sent me a copy of her new book, Thin Places. I knew it was a memoir, but beyond that really had no idea what to expect. So far I've only been able to steal away enough moments to read the introduction and already I'm enthralled. Mary describes thin places as "those times where the division between this world and the eternal fades; snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity." Check back here in the coming weeks (or maybe months - I'm a very slow reader) as I'm sure I'll have more to share about the book later.

In the meantime, I received an interesting invitation this week, asking me to share with you my own "thin place" story, a time when God burst through my life to remind me of His presence or reassure me of His reality. The story was to be exactly 259 words long. If you know my writing, you probably know that limited word counts are the hardest writing challenges for me!

Why such a specific word count? This is the retail price of a new Kindle, the contest prize for the winning essay submitted. Please join me for your chance to win a Kindle by sharing your thin place story too! (Head on over to http://www.blogtourspot.com/2010/02/thin-places-blog-tour/ for details.)

This story describing my journey in the spring/summer of 1994, started out at over 500 words. Even then I felt like I was leaving out important details, but I finally got it down to the exact 259. So here we go...

“I should drive across the median. I've failed at everything. They would be better off without me.” These mocking thoughts no longer frightened me.

My health failed first. I dropped out of school. Our business tottered on the bring of bankruptcy. Yet none of these were my greatest disappointment.

Two years of yearning for the fulfillment of dreams I had carried since my earliest memories left me disillusioned. “Lord, we are serving you in every way we know how. Don't you promise the desires of our hearts?”

I flung my Bible across the room. Remorseful, I ran to find it open to 1 Samuel.

“Not funny, Lord!” I hated Hannah's story. How could He put her through years of waiting, only to bless her with a child, then take back the thing she most longed for?

I sat down to read it again, to prove to God how cruel He was. What, God never demanded Samuel of Hannah? She gave him of her own free will?

Heaven broke through the hardness of my heart, not with an audible voice, yet with words that rang loud and true, “My child, you cannot treat me according to the gifts I choose to give or withhold. I AM worthy!”

I offered works in hopes of blessing. He wanted praise for the sake of love.

We lost our business. I never earned my degree. It was five more years before we held a living miracle in our arms. But I never fantasized about driving my car into another again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Extravagant Love

Holidays such as Valentine's always make me reflective. For those of us in beautiful, happy, healthy relationships, we can celebrate the glowing joy of love on special day like this, but really I don't think we even need a date on the calendar because we are striving to live out our love on a daily basis. Even in stable, loving marriages, love can be painful at times, a continual stretching, growing and relearning. Rick and I will celebrate 17 1/2 years of marriage on Feb. 15 and each year has taught us new things about love, perhaps the last couple of years more than any before, learning to creatively express our love in new ways, within the ever-shrinking confines of health limitations.

For my friends who are in painful relationships, or grieving lost love, or simply waiting for love that God hasn't brought into your lives yet, I think this day must feel much like Mother's Day feels for an infertile woman or mother who has suffered the death of her child. If this is where you find yourself today, please know you are in my prayers!

May I encourage you to visit Mary Singer Wick at Extravagant Life for encouragement? Mary was kind enough to send me a copy of her book My Heart's Desire: A Journey Toward Finding Extravagant Love for review last year (Sadly, I'm 2-3 years behind on reviewing some of the books that have been so generously shared with me!) and her story of finding heartbreak everywhere she looked for love, to eventually find true love in Christ alone (then only after that, to be blessed with a loving, faithful husband as well) was compelling. In fact, I had my copy into the mail for a hurting friend within 24 hours of finishing my reading, it was such a powerful story that I just couldn't delay passing along the messages of hope and healing found within the pages. If you have been hurt by broken relationships, I know My Heart's Desire will be a blessing to you!



Over at InnerBeautyGirlz I'm sharing about "love" and what our Father's Love for us cost Him. Please join me!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hope for Haiti

Haiti. It's all over the headlines. It feels overwhelming, a world away and yet too-close for comfort. And we feel helpless. What can one person do in the face of so much anguish?

Jenny from Simply Delightful Designs knows that while just one person may not be able to do a lot, when we band together we can become a strong force. On her Hope for Haiti blog, many wonderful women and companies are donating items and services to this online raffle for proceeds to go to Red Cross and Compassion International.

Raffle tickets are only $1 per entry and some of the prizes are valued at several hundred dollars! Along with my offer of $30 dollars worth of your choice of Affordable Mineral Makeup™ products the raffle items include everything from blogging conference tickets to photography sessions, books, jewelry and art. Such a great selection of prizes, and all funds raised for a wonderful cause!



Together we can make a difference! Please visit Hope-For-Haiti.blogspot.com and share what you can. Every dollar helps, and you might win a great prize too! Thank you for helping to bring a glimmer of hope to such a hurting slice of our world!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Do You Want to Celebrate?

Ministry.
Servanthood.
What My Friends/Church Did Right...

All of these seemed possible titles for this post, but "celebration" seems most fitting.

I was sitting alone in the back row at church yesterday. I had made it, but just. I came in using my wheelchair as a walker, thankful to have gotten out the door with three kids while hubby was out of town, but wondering what I was doing there. I had forgotten my Bible, and my glasses, and was so exhausted I wondered if I could stay sitting upright through the sermon.

The service began to draw to its conclusion and members of the Family were invited to slip quietly to the back and enjoy communion during the worship music. I was physically close the communion area and wanted to go, but just didn't have it in me, didn't want to invite attention with my chair, couldn't find the strength.

And then a gentle tap on my shoulder. A whispered invitation, "Do you want to celebrate communion? May I bring you the elements?"

It may have been a small act on his part, but to me it was huge. My eyes instantly welled with tears. God sees. He knows. He cares. And He prompts others to take the risk to be His hands and feet when my own are too weak.

Thank you, Father, for the invitation to celebrate You!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

When a Baby Dies

Last fall I was contacted by Gerrit Hofsink who wanted to share a song she had written after the stillbirth of her first grandson. I asked Gerrit to share a little bit about the journey that brought her to write "Still" and this was her reply:
I grew up in Europe and spent years in South Africa before settling in Canada. I have always had a love for music. When my daughter and son-in law lost David, their first child (and my first grandchild) after a nine months pregnancy, it was music that helped me heal. I wrote "Still" as much for myself and my family, as for other families who experience this tragic loss, as a ray of hope in a dark time.

At the funeral, we read verses from Psalm 139, a psalm of David:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be
.


I would like to invite you to listen to "Still" on Gerrit's MySpace page (first song on the player) or it can be purchased through Amazon.com as an MP3 file for less than a dollar!



STILL
music & lyrics, copyright Gerrit Hofsink

I’ve been waiting for you
For such a long time
You’re always on my mind

And I’m lying awake
Most of the night
Waiting to hold you tight

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
This can’t be true


Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again


Close to my soul
Close to my heart
Right from the start

Lost in time
Lost in space
Can’t wait to see your face

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
I know it’s true


Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again


Sometimes I find myself wondering what to do
With this pain that I’m going through
But I know one day, God will take me away
And I’m coming home to you

And when I do
And look at you
My heart is healing
I know it’s true


Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again


In related news, Remembering Our Babies Memorial Boutique, official sponsors of October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, is having a sale at RememberingOurBabies.net where you can take 15% off anything in the store until January 15th by using coupon code newyear2010 at checkout. This special boutique offers remembrance items ranging from ash or hair holder pendants,to bracelets and other jewelry, awareness ribbons and magnets, stepping stones, memory boxes and more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Weekend to Remember Discount

Rick and I were blessed to attend a Family Life Weekend to Remember last spring. To say it was a worthwhile weekend is such an understatement, but I can say that if you have an opportunity to attend one, please do what it takes to make it happen.

I know the economy is tight and it's tempting to see the price tag (registration is $129 per person, $258/couple, not including lodging) and immediately decide it can't be done. But before you give up so easily, I would like to challenge you to take this opportunity to the Lord in prayer and see what doors He might open. Yes, the weekend is an investment, but one that you will look back on as a marriage landmark for many years to come and worth the sacrifices it may cost you to get there!

Because we believe so passionately in this ministry, Rick and I have signed up to lead a "group" and can offer an $80 discount (making registration $178 per couple) to anyone who registers for a conference using our group page at http://www.familylife.com/groups/saake or by simply using the group name "Saake" as your discount code when you register from the main Family Life website.

But wait, it gets better! Yes, said in my best infomercial voice. ;) From January 4-18, 2010, when you register at the regular rate of $129 for one of you, you spouse comes free! Simply register for any upcoming Spring or Fall Weekend to Remember using the promotion code "INVITE" and go for half price, only $129 for the two of you! Please spread the news. This weekend truly might improve or even save your marriage and/or the relationship of someone you encourage to attend.

If you are facing infertility or are currently grieving the death of a child, please visit my InfertilityMom blog and read the final two paragraphs of the Family Life post there for a special review from the perspective of fertility challenges.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Patient Navigator

Patient Navigator LLC is a concept I was only introduced to today. I cannot speak from personal experience, but I have to say that the concept sounds wonderful! While the term "patient navigator" pulls up several search engine results that I have not yet had time to explore, this particular page was mentioned in a recent Rest Ministries email and their goal is work "with patients and families as they journey through illness and aging." They do so be providing "information and research, we advocate on your behalf, we solve problems and we help you benefit from an integrative care approach to your illness."

While this particular organization can only offer one-on-one local support in a few areas, they work with clients "to develop and implement an individualized action plan designed to address administrative tasks, solve problems, advocate for you and mobilize a support system. Your navigator also provides emotional support as we share your journey through treatments, decisions, successes, set-backs and healing." Free telephone consultations are offered anywhere in the U.S.

If you have experience with a patient navigator (either through this website or any other) I would love to hear your experiences!