Category: J+D

Our Story of Chronic (Unidentified) Illness Part II: Follow Up Thoughts on Miracles (…and Results from our Doc!)

Oftentimes, when we talk about something being a “miracle,” what we mean is an intervention or inbreaking that can only be attributed to God. His power is manifest in a special way, leaving us in awe — that He (still) moves and acts today. This incites worship and breathes new hope and a new awareness of God’s presence into our souls. Miracles scream: He is with us! He hasn’t left us!

But why exactly are we in awe that He moves and acts today? Have we unknowingly been influenced by a deistic worldview — believing that God has set everything into motion and then removed Himself from the loving care, protection, intervention, …. of His creation? Has this mindset falsely convinced us that answers to prayer are uncommon and that we’re actually the ones sustaining the world around us? That without our help, everything would fall to pieces?

My prayer — our prayers — have defined (and hoped for) this kind of miracle: an intervention, a change in course, that could only be attributed to the hand of God. We received what we have been asking for on Sunday with the relief in back pain — but perhaps God’s “miracles” are a little more “behind the scenes” than we’d care to admit. Sure, God loves to be the show off — He’s the only show off that actually has the credentials to back it up. But what if His daily boast is the slow, intimate, daily process of renewing His creation? None of us become a sage overnight. None of us become holy overnight. What if what we’re truly looking for in a “miracle” — God’s power and presence manifest in a special way — is here — and merely needs to be searched out?

What if God desires to accomplish the miracle through waiting, through hoping, through daily obedience, through the surrenduring of our allegiances?

And what if we’re missing the miracle through these means — leaving us disappointed that He hasn’t answered in the way we deem best?

What if the miraculous is happening beneath our noses, yet we’re conditioned to miss it?

What if, in our waiting for the kingdom to come in a big, showy way, the kingdom is actually coming; what if the coming of the kingdom in our lives is more like the Messiah coming in a manger than as a political King?

What if the kingdom is actually near — when we’re living as if it is still far off?

In this sense, we are seeing miracles work through our journey with chronic illness. At yesterday’s doctor’s appointment, she explained, in body chemistry terms (most of which I cannot understand) the effects of chronic stress, lack of sleep, anxiety…but also, set us up to allow God’s miracle to work — for the body to heal itself. That the body gives inescapable signals that we are running too hard is a true act of grace. That the body heals itself as we align with God’s intentions is unbelievably gracious.

Although we do “reap what we sow,” if the body is equipped to heal itself in MONTHS after YEARS of wear and tear — He is truly a God that waits for us to turn to Him — and is so patient in the waiting! So, we walk forward another step…expecting and believing in the miraculous presence and healing of our good and gracious Father.

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Fundraising in Ministry: Airing the Dirty Laundry (Pt. I)

ImageI don’t remember, but maybe I was experiencing some type of gluten-induced coma that day.

It went something like this:

“God, the time is here!  We are both getting to do what we love, and I cannot wait to fundraise.  Ok, so maybe we thought it would look a little different…with us going overseas to save orphans and all.  But, you have been preparing us for this for the last several years.  You have come through for us in big ways!  I know I will experience you in ways that I couldn’t in any other way.  And that will trump every difficulty along the way.  I will be so in awe of you, that my afflictions will seem light and momentary!  So, let’s do it!  This is an adventure…and I love adventures!  I know there will be up’s and down’s, but knowing you will make it all worth it!”

Light and momentary.  You can’t fault me for trying to be Biblical.  But honestly, the ‘afflictions’ (3rd world problems) have been more so…’heavy and seemingly endless.’

The funny thing is, I’m not an ‘overly optimistic’ personality.  I think I’ve just been given a courageous personality in a lot of ways…for better or for worse.  A lot of times, when I read the Bible, I’m convinced that this is actually who God is and what He promises (I thought that was normal for everyone, but have since learned that its not).  And I have taken plenty of these type of scary steps before.  Steps into the unknown.  But in a momentary lapse of judgment, it was as if I forgot all the struggle, all the pain, all the fighting with God, all the prayer, all the sleepless nights…that came with the other scary steps.  Confident in my own wisdom, I convinced myself that God would make Himself glorious by stacking the odds against us, and then showing up big time.  I thought we would be some freaky type of modern day George Mueller, praying secretly in the closet for funds to arrive…and they just…would.  I was wrong.

There is a little something in me that has wanted to “hold off” on writing this series until I was in a better (more ‘spiritual’) place with this season.  Everything in me knows that I will probably laugh at some of my heavy burdens once it is all over (like today’s antics leaving me stranded in Plano with nothing but a 1/8 Camel Bak of water and 3-$100 bills, don’t ask).  But, I think what all of us need most is someone to be courageous enough to be honest.  Really honest.

Honesty forges gaps that nothing else can.  There is something so beautiful about raw honesty.  It reminds us that we are not crazy, and we’re not alone.  I wish I would have read some type of testimony (other than George Mueller’s…note to self, don’t read crazy “best case scenario” versions of what you’re about to go through!) of a woman that has walked this road before me.  When I said that to David, he gently reminded me that testimonies were, in fact, part of the assigned reading for our fundraising bootcamp.  Oops.  Something tells me that they’re not putting stories like mine in those books, though.  Because if they did, I doubt anyone would willingly quit their job and choose to “trust GOD!!” (insert cheerleading stunt off of the living room couch here)  So, this is my non-bestselling version of some things you might expect (or may already be experiencing – God have mercy on your soul!).  Stay tuned.  And for the love of God, pass this along to those that are in this season, or will be in this season in the near future (or any future, for that matter).  I’m on a mission to kill the false pretenses about what you’ll face and get to the nitty gritty, the good, bad and the ugly.

Glad you’re along for the ride.

The God Who Weeps

tears in a bottleI tend to bury my pain.  But this night, it leapt out of me, no longer willing to be ignored or rationalized away.  It had been minimized, pushed aside, and ignored long enough; in the fullness of time, she came.

I rarely have the courage to admit pain and deep longing to myself, so you can imagine my confusion.  All I could do was sit and weep, with my head bowed.  The silence of the room shouted forth a groaning, a groaning for restoration.

I’m not sure how much time passed, but I distinctly remember a soft weeping breaking the silence.  You see, Jesus was in the room with me.  And although most tears fall silently to the floor, each drop an accusation against a God who sees, mine were met with a soft cry.  The cries said I am with you.  I hear you.  And I weep too.

Ironically, the weeping came from a dear sister that, moments before, had shared news of life; my words were tainted with death.  Yet, her news of life was birthed out of death and so, she wept.

I saw Jesus so clearly in that moment.  Although he himself is life and has conquered death, he passed through death to get there.  He has willingly taken on the cloak of humanness, embracing the human condition.  Although he is perfectly equipped to answer our cries with truth propositions, he has chosen instead to enter into it.  My pain isn’t met with “all things work together for the good of those that love him!”  it is met with weeping.  He knows that I have come from the dust.  He has walked this road, and he grieves with longing for all things to be restored.

We are fragile earthen vessels, made from the dirt; yet there is one that breaks us, picks up the pieces and makes something new, something better, something more alive.  As you evaluate the broken pieces on the floor, see Jesus, the one whose tears of compassion and mercy heal us.

Embracing Rejection

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

Its safe to say I have spent most of my life striving to protect myself from this fate: being hated, excluded, reviled and spurned as evil.  The times of deepest emotional distress have come in the middle of deep rejection.  Although my memory fails me time and time again, I can remember the words and sting of rejection.  I will do everything in my power to avoid conflict.  The pursuit of acceptance, inclusion, praise and arms of embrace has led me to make decisions I would never have otherwise.  My worst “nightmares” typically involve some type of public shaming.  For a long time, I thought that as long as no one hated me, no one excluded me, no one thought badly of me…life would be sweet, fulfilling, happy.  These are all signposts to idolatry: if I can just have _______, I will be happy.  Even as a Christian, I steer clear of people, assignments, etc. that could result in a feeling of shame.

This theme has been exposed in a grand way these last few weeks.  As we make the transition into a life of full-time support raised ministry, many have expressed their disapproval, even those we would least expect within the Church.  This is not a new experience for us: we heard it when we went down to one car, David heard it when he remained faithful to the woman that broke up with him again and again.  I hate feeling stupid, I hate feeling “different” or “crazy” and this time is no different.

And then, there is this unexpected word from Jesus about His kingdom.  Blessed is the one that experiences shame.  You see, the Shamed One is the King.  Friendship with the world is enmity with God.  When we follow Him, why do we expect anything less?  Because Jesus absorbed all of our shame as a result of our sin, the shame we experience does not control us.  Jesus changes the status of shame.  Because we are in Christ, we are part of a royal priesthood, sons and daughters of the Living God.  We are forever united Jesus Christ, and that association changes everything.

Lilies

Lilies are my favorite flower.  David has bought me Stargazer Lilies throughout our relationship, marking significant days such as our engagement, wedding and various birthdays and dates.  They remind me of God’s creative and delicate hand forming and fashioning His creation in ways that reflect Him.

Little did I know, in placing a love for lilies in my heart, God has given me a promise for times such as this: a time of growing, stretching, trusting, seeing my need like never before.  Lilies, in this season, are becoming a reminder of God’s faithfulness and care.

We are standing face to face with a decision that can easily provoke anxiety in the most courageous person.  We are willingly giving up financial “security” (and a car, health insurance, etc. among other things) to follow Jesus.  In the West, we hold tightly to the promises we think that money, a “secure” job, a career make to us.  This master’s voice is seductive, but it is not trustworthy.  After all, you cannot serve two masters: the Lord and money (Matt 6:24).  But if I’m honest, money comforts me in times of trouble and helps me to sleep at night.

I’ll admit, it is scary.  Now that the time has come to follow through with the decision, second-guessing comes naturally, but we both know that it is what we’re supposed to do to follow in the Lord’s footsteps.  So, we will follow Him.

In Matthew 6, Jesus reveals the root of all anxiety: unbelief.  He graciously gives many promises to strengthen the believer’s faith.  Jesus could simply have said, “You fools, do you not get it by now?” but instead, he graciously approaches His followers by elaborately using promises and metaphors that pointed them back to His character.  He knows that we are but dust, He knows that we need His reminders.  This book is full of reminders.

“And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Soloman in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

John Piper adds, “Compared to the flowers of the field you are a much higher priority for God, because you will live forever and can thus bring him eternal praise. Nevertheless, God has such an overflow of creative energy and care, he lavishes it on flowers that last only a matter of days. So he will certainly take that same energy and creative skill and use it to care for his children who will last forever.”

So, we throw ourselves at the feet of a faithful, caring and powerful Master.  One that doesn’t fail in His promises, one whose voice we can trust.  The seduction of His voice lies in His proven faithfulness.  We pray with confidence, knowing that our Master knows our needs and cares for us.  We pray, More of You and less of me, Your will be done, be glorified, let us worship you.

Trusting without Understanding

David will post a medical update soon, but the gist of it is that we are still wading through the unknown.  In the midst of the murky unknown, I have discovered (or rather, a gracious hand has exposed) an insatiable thirst in my heart for understanding.  Understanding leaves me with some faint hope that there is something I can do to make things right.  If we found out David had cancer, we could put him on chemotherapy.  If we found out he had food allergies, we could avoid those foods.  I want control.  I am grasping for it.  In my estimation, the season for trial has run its course.  Thanks for the ride, its been fun, I have been sanctified, yadda yadda yadda…let’s move on to sunnier skies.

As a result, I have uncovered anger in my heart.  Since my wisdom reigns supreme, I feel like injustice is being done.  The thoughts flood in: “Why us?”  “What good is coming from this?”  I am hesitant to come to Jesus, out of fear that He will continue to disappoint me.  His reluctance to heal or give any semblance of understanding stings of neglect.  I feel like the forgotten child, crying out for her Father’s intervention, and He has noise-cancelling headphones on.  He sees me, but he can’t hear me.  As a result, I would rather go my own way and figure this out on my own than risk being hurt by the only One that is not supposed to disappoint me.

That, my friends, is an ugly heart.  A heart of unbelief.  A heart that is tempted to give up and take things into my own hands.

One of my favorite things that Paul Tripp said in  my parenting class was:

“Ultimately, human rest is not found in understanding.  It is found in trust of the person who can give understanding.  There are times when children do not have the capacity to understand; in those times, the father simply asks the child to trust him.”

If I believed the Father’s character, I would not need understanding.  I would trust Him.

So, I begin to repeat the list that has rotated through my head many times before.

He hears my cries.  He has been in these shoes.  He is faithful.  He is wise.  He is all powerful.  His mercies are new every morning.  The manna of His Word is sufficient.  He is satisfying.

And so, I cry out, with the heartfelt emotion of the father who wants for his child to be healed by Jesus: “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)  I want to believe Jesus when He says that “All things are possible for the one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)  All things!  All things, including healing, yes, but more than that, trusting in the One who can heal, but chooses not to.  Trusting that He is good, despite what the world will tell you.

Romans 8: 32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Medical Update #3

Sorry for the delay in updates, but I haven’t really been feeling hot the past few days and so it has really just slipped my mind about updating all of you.

First of all we are so thankful for all of you who have been praying for us and the doctors, those of you who have offered to bring us meals and offer rides, etc. You all are truly a blessing to us. We have truly felt and been blessed by your prayers!

So last Monday we headed back to the neurologist for my EEG test. This test was to last 48 hours and I would have about 25 electrodes attached to my head monitoring and recording brain waves, activity, etc. Apparently your brain can be firing and you can be having a seizure, but have no outward symptoms. I didn’t realize the wide spectrum of possibilities when it came to seizures, epilepsy, etc.

I sat in the chair for about an hour while he literally glued these things to my head, then they ran me through a short series of tests. They got baseline states of me resting, then I had to hyperventilate myself and then they flashed a strobe in my face for a couple of minutes which was pretty intense. After that we left with all the wires coming out of my head and a little pack which I had to wear around my neck for the next 48 hours. It wasn’t too bad, just mildly inconvenient. It’s hard to sleep with all that on!

On Wednesday morning, we went back and they took all of it off my head, except the glue…that was a present I got to keep and work out of my hair for a couple of days. They will either call if there is something significant or I will find the results at our follow up in June.

Then I moved to get ready for the MRI. The first time in all of this that I began to feel anxious. I don’t know why either, because I wasn’t anxious about what they would find…I have had an peace about all that, but more anxious about the test itself. I have only heard all the stories about MRIs…the banging loud noises, the fact that it’s so small in there. Then you read the disclaimer and that will make anyone want to opt out. But it was just a sweet time for me that morning to pray and comfort myself with Truth.

I went into the MRI machine and yes, it was tight (I am a big boy, but it would be tight or anyone), but I got to listen to praise & worship music while I was in there so that gave me something to listen to and think about the whole time I was in there. I was in there for about 40 minutes, but it went by really quickly. As of right now, unless something changes we have a follow up appointment with the nuero on June 15th. (I know…that’s a long time to wait)

After that I was pretty exhausted, we had been there since about 9:30 that morning and it was after 1-1:30. So we headed home.

One of my close friends was visiting this past week, so he was headed over to pick me up…I kind of like being chauffeured around. (I really don’t, I miss driving) Right before he got here I got an email from the neurologists office. I will admit, my stomach sank a little. I had to go through the annoying process of logging into the Patient website, trying to figure out/ remember my password. It took me about 20 minutes. When I finally logged in I saw some great news: “Mr. Jackett, your MRI results were normal!”

Praise God!

We are very thankful for this, but there is also the frustration that we know something is wrong and we just don’t know what it is.

I have an appt with a Cardiologist today, so we would appreciate your prayers there. I have the appointment first thing then they will do an echocardiogram (sonogram of my heart) to see if there is anything there that might be wrong.

Thanks for keeping up with us and I will try and keep everyone posted more often!

-David & Jen