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I was surprised at how strong my emotional response was when I left the hospital.  As the guy wheeled me down the hall, I remembered being wheeled up in a bed shortly after surgery.  I remembered the moment of fear when I had to say goodbye to my husband…and I couldn’t stop the tears.  The OR techs wiped my face and reminded me that they were going to take good care of me.  I remember how I wanted to cry when Tod first told me the kidney was working in Katherine’s body, but it hurt too much so I tried not to think about it. I think about the incredible gift of life that I was privileged to offer.

Words simply cannot do this experience any justice.  I have created a special bond with a wonderful woman and we have extended our family to include hers.  I am humbled and honored to have had the great privilege of offering a physical part of my body to a friend.

Our celebration the night before surgery was awesome – it was a great opportunity to meet each others family and friends and have a powerful time of prayer.  We all chuckled when Judy prayed for these to be “super kidneys.”  We were also remembering those prayers when after surgery Katherine’s numbers were even better than the average person with 2 kidneys!  Talk about a super kidney!

I don’t want to forget all the great things that happened because of this choice.  Things like my long 30 minute conversation with my nurse that first night. Things like how God showed himself faithful to his daughter Katherine by using someone she would have never even thought about.  Things like how I adore my husband for coming along this journey with me and supporting every decision.  I am thankful for the peace God gave me the night before and morning of surgery.  It was that peace that enabled me to hop on that stretcher and get wheeled off away from Chip when it was time for surgery.  I remember the eyes of so many people who love Katherine….their eyes said what their mouths couldn’t…I will always remember those eyes. And about my dear Katherine, in one way I am sad because this portion of the journey is over, but at the same time I know we will never be the same.  I started off not really knowing this woman, and now I have such a deep love for her and for her family, and we share a story which has affected many lives.

I have more I’d like to write, but I cannot do it because I will cry and it still hurts too much for that!  They are tears of great joy because I am continually amazed at what God has done in and through me.

Katherine and Tod, I am so happy we have had the chance to get to know you better.  I continue to pray that that “super kidney” continues to provide for your body for the rest of your life on this earth. Knowing that my kidney is working so well in your body makes every bit of pain worth it.  I love you.

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Merry Christmas

So today is Christmas and this year, I am thinking much differently than in past years.  Christmas is a time for giving – what a wonderful time of year to offer the great gift of LIFE to someone by donating a kidney!  Christmas is certainly a time for gifts, and I try every year to focus on the greatest gift ever given.  Many of us know that the reason we celebrate Christmas is to recognize Christ’s birth.  If you know your Bible, then you know the purpose of the Christ child coming was to die….for you and for me.

Now, none of this is new information for me, but the voluntary act of choosing to come to this earth and suffer for someone else really has my attention this year.  Now if you know me well, you know I don’t beat around the bush.  I’m a pretty straight talker, and so that makes me a pretty straight writer.  I realize that I am at a place where I am voluntarily choosing to suffer for the benefit of someone else.  I cannot explain how much that changes things!  I’ve had 3 relatively minor surgeries, but NEVER have I experience the fear and anxiety of this one and I believe it’s because this is a voluntary choice!  I do not have to do this. I can walk away at any time and have no effect. I do not have a deep emotional connection to Katherine, so I don’t carry that sense of expectation that one might have with a family member. I have nothing to gain.  I am choosing a path of suffering and sacrifice because of love.

As I reflect on Christ’s birth and his choice to voluntarily come to this earth and die an awful death for the benefit of others, many of whom hate him, I find myself with a greater appreciation of His sacrifice and also admiration for His obedience to the Father’s will.  I understand a little more of that struggle in the garden.  The human will is strong and to set aside that desire to avoid pain and follow God’s plan has me so in awe of Jesus.

We want to avoid pain at all costs….so how do you consciously choose pain and suffering?  It’s all about love.  Christ came and Christ died because of his love for you and for me.  He didn’t have to come.  As far as I’m concerned he could have wiped us all out and started over with some new created beings!  But instead, his love for God the Father and for us led him to voluntarily choose suffering and pain so we could have fellowship with God our Creator.  Wow.  I’ve thought about this constantly over the past month.

Now please don’t misunderstand – I am not saying that giving up a kidney is anywhere close to what Christ did for me, but the voluntary choice part has me looking at His birth from a fresh perspective this year. I want to forever remember these things I have learned as I ponder.

Enjoy this message below where our pastor talks about courage, generosity and worship this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas!

Christmas Message from ChapelNJ on Vimeo.

Becoming Selfless in Solitary

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I think one of the things I’ve appreciated most and struggled with the most is the sense of being alone in this decision to be a living donor.  I have a tremendous amount of support starting most with my husband.  He has made incredible sacrifices to meet doctors and go to appointments with me, and I want to say he supports my decision, but it was really our decision.  We decided together that this was a good decision, and we would continue down this path until God closed the door.  My kids are all supportive – even my 25 year old in Spain who is wishing she could be here during the surgery.  My parents and siblings and coworkers (they’re like family) are all incredibly supportive.  Even still, I am alone with my thoughts.
It is in those alone times that God spoke loudest to me.

I remember that very first day as I considered this wild idea of offering one of my working kidneys to a woman I really don’t know. Trust me, I had all the “what ifs” run through my head that day.  And with every “what if”, I heard “your body is not your own; you were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)  Every. Single. One.

So I’m running a constant dialogue with the God who knit me in my mothers womb (Ps. 139) thinking about my body and actually offering a part of myself as an offering to God.  He made me; he surely knows what my future holds and if I trust Him, I should be able to trust him with my one remaining kidney right?

It caused me to wonder – why would I not offer my body to another?  Self-preservation? Selfishness? Fear of risk?  I say I trust God, but do I trust Him enough to put myself at what seems to be a physical disadvantage for the rest of my life?

The more I thought, the more I realized I had to say YES! I had to say YES because I had this unique opportunity to offer life to someone else.  Life!  LIFE!

Yes, we’re having a “Going Away Party” for my Kidney!

Does that make us crazy?  I think it makes us fun! And maybe a little crazy in there as well. I’m entirely ok with crazy because it’s way better than boring!

My friend offered to bring 2 kidney cakes.  Just for clarification, we are talking about a cake shaped like a kidney, NOT a cake made of kidney beans. Yuck.  Much as I love beans, that is not my idea of a cake!

We’ve invited Katherine and her family to join us so we can even call this a “Going Away/Homecoming Party”.  We plan to have some kidney trivia and perhaps play some unusual themed games.  Finish with the prayer team and our closest family and friends laying hands on us and praying for favor during the surgery and recovery.  Sounds like the perfect blend of fun and faith if you ask me.

Countdown to surgery = 4 days.

 

My Fight with Fear

With less than one week until surgery, I am completely confident and filled with peace about my decision to donate one of my kidneys to Katherine.  However, since I am writing this to share my full experience, you should know that I certainly have had my battles with Fear.  I had one week where it peaked, but God showed me how to stomp it’s dirty little head back into the ground.

I remember clearly – I couldn’t tell you the date, but it was a Monday.  I was a mess internally, constantly worrying about whether I was going to be a donor or not.  I was waiting for cross-match results which, at the time, I thought would either confirm me as a donor or disqualify me as a donor.  What I didn’t realize at that time was the cross-match isn’t really important to the donor…it matters for the recipient and is used to determine how much medication she needs after transplant.  So in my ignorance, I was waiting for this cross-match result to see if I was going to be a donor or not.

I am extremely fortunate to work at my church where I am truly loved and treated like family.  I unloaded on one staff member in confidence, and she listened and prayed with me that day.  Ok, I felt better.

Wednesday of that same week, I was a complete wreck!  I cannot even explain the turmoil I felt.  At one moment I wanted the results to come back as a match, and the next minute I wanted to be disqualified as a donor.  My emotions had me all over the place!  I was excited; I was afraid; but most of the time I didn’t really know what I felt.  I had a hard time working that day, and I prayed that no one would notice and ask me if I was ok because I knew I would fall apart and cry hysterically.

Sometime in the afternoon I walked into the senior pastor’s office and asked for prayer.  I sure was a mess, but I knew the power of prayer!  If you have ever had a God-fearing, Spirit-filled person pray for you, you know what I am talking about!  Pastor Dave prayed, and I walked out of his office completely changed.  He didn’t have magic words or anything, but we made an appeal to God on high, and from that moment forward, I knew God would direct this wherever He wanted.  I didn’t have to worry; I didn’t have to research side effects or statistics; I didn’t even have to be anxious about what was happening in my future over the next few months.  He assured me that He was in control and I could have peace and rest in that.

I can tell you that since that fearful Wednesday, I haven’t felt that fear or anxiety again! Praise God!  That’s not to say I don’t have normal anxiety about having surgery and being hospitalized for 2 days, but it is not that same paralyzing fear.

With each passing day, my peace about this living donor opportunity remains and my excitement for how God is allowing me to offer this very special gift to another of His daughters grows. I marvel at how God moved in my heart to encourage me to do an unusual thing, and I have enjoyed such sweet fellowship with Him in the midst of all this uncertainty.  That is precious!

Most Important Thing I’ve Learned – So Far

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This experience of choosing to give a body organ to someone else has led to a lot of unusual thoughts.  Part of why I wanted to start this blog is to share some of the things I’ve learned about myself, about other people and about God.

Very recently, I have shifted in my thoughts to thinking beyond myself.  Much of my thoughts about kidney donation were highly focused on how it would affect me.  As we have moved closer to surgery and I have become more and more confident about the Lord’s leading in this situation, I find myself marveling at how God works!  I am utterly amazed at how He changed my heart!  I was never asked by Katherine to consider donating a kidney.  It was never even suggested by anyone.  In fact, when I first began looking into being a living donor, I was quite surprised that other people didn’t feel the same way I did.  I had a strong burden that I had to do something!  At the time, I didn’t realize that was unique to me.  Sometimes I can be a slow learner.

So now months later, I look back and marvel at what God did in my heart.  I think it was about halfway through the process and Katherine asked me, “So how exactly did all this happen?”  She didn’t know how in the world I was even a potential candidate in her case.  Katherine and I were not friends.  Actually, we knew each other, we knew each other’s husbands, but it pretty much ended there.  So when you are talking about an acquaintance, what causes a person to choose to give up a functioning part of their body to an acquaintance?

I cannot answer for others, but I can say in my case it was God who put a strong burden in my heart.  So as I look back and reflect, I am so encouraged in my faith because if God can do that in my heart, He can do all sorts of things in the hearts of many others who we pray for on a regular basis!  He changed my heart to willingly offer something of incredible value to someone I didn’t know well – He can change hard hearts and cause them to seek Him and seek truth!  Wow!

Ezekiel 36:26 “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit will I put in you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

I alone know how God completely changed my heart, and it causes me to humbly fall on my knees before Him.  If you remove that factor, it is completely crazy what I am doing.  Over the past few months, I have learned to trust God in a new way…a way that requires constant fellowship and intimacy with a holy, all-powerful, almighty God. What a privilege!

12 Day Countdown 

So today was our final appointment at the hospital.  Kindof felt a little weird – on the ride there I realized that the next time we make this trip, it will be early in the morning on the day of the surgery.  Yeah, that gave me a funny feeling in my tummy!

Today I completely stopped thinking about the brief physical effects for me, and I thought only about Katherine and her husband.  We sat together, the four of us, from 10am until 3pm, and went from lab to doctor to social worker to…I don’t even remember them all!

As I listened to the impact this transplant would have on her life, I was slightly saddened.  Katherine is not ill.  She is not sick.  But her kidneys do not work and in about 2 more months she would be doing dialysis.  So praise God, he provided her with a donor before that!! However, as a result, she goes from taking absolutely no medication to quite a bit of it…for the rest of her life.  In addition, her surgery is obviously more complicated and is not done laparoscopicly.  I sat there wondering what this is like for her family.  All concerns about myself faded away as I thought about how quickly her life changed.  It was one seemingly innocent doctor’s visit….and life was forever changed.

It caused me to feel incredibly excited to be able to offer something of such great value to another person.  If anything, our time together confirmed my decision even more, and gave me a peek into her new reality. It also was a reminder that each and every one of us only has today.  We simply do not know what tomorrow holds.  Knowing that, I choose to live each day with my full attention given to the moment and honoring my God.

I suppose this is a sad(ish) tone, but that’s about how I feel right now.  I’m super excited to be able to help in such a unique way, and yet I’m saddened by the reality of living with kidney failure.

You’re doing WHAT?!?!

Well I didn’t exactly hear those words , but it was clearly expressed in the voices and faces of people as they found out I was planning to donate one of my kidneys to an acquaintance at church.

How does a person get to a place where you consider doing such a thing? Well, in some ways I feel like this is such a simple answer and at other times, it seems far more complicated.

So for me, this is how it began:

I remember hearing about her need, and a brief conversation followed in which I quickly wondered about donating a kidney. Those thoughts were quickly dismissed after a discussion about blood types and according to our very expert opinions, I wouldn’t have been eligible anyway.  No one knew about the brief thoughts that went through my mind that day, and not much time later, I had forgotten all about it.

About 2-3 months later, I received an email that really changed my life. I head up the Prayer Team at our church, and another church leader forwarded me a request for Kat since she was in kidney failure and needing a transplant.

I don’t think I can fully explain what went through my mind that day. I felt such a strong need to do something!  I quickly replied to the email to find out how one would go about donating a body part for Kat.  After a few emails, I had to come out and say it….I wasn’t asking in general, just in case I ran into someone.  I made a full confession and committed to the inquiry by saying “I am asking about the process because I am considering being a donor.”

What seems like an innocent inquiry was actually a huge step for me and led to an incredible eruption of many different emotions both in that moment and also for months to come.