Monday, May 4, 2015

Held Secure through Transplant

It has been four weeks since I have written here on my blog - my longest break since I started writing here at Pursuing Heart. And it has been a necessary break, as we have been completely occupied in caring for our family during our granddaughter's kidney transplant.

If you are a regular reader here, you may know that our sweet 16 year-old granddaughter, Crystal, was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease two years ago. The prognosis was that her kidneys would fail during her teen years, and that she would need a kidney transplant. It has been quite a journey since early 2013 as we as family have watched her kidney function decline. And it has been quite a journey for Crystal, as she has experienced nausea (in the mornings, often lasting through early afternoon) for two full years now, and has lost energy day by day. She is an amazing gal, and God has given her grace and endurance to walk this journey. 

And if you are a regular reader here, you probably also know that our oldest daughter, Amy, selflessly and generously offered to be a kidney donor for Crystal. We are amazed and so very thankful for God's provision.

Now we are in the month of May, and the April 20 Transplant Day has passed. We are back home from our 2 1/2 week stay in Dallas with our family. And it is time to share our thanks to God for all that He did during the past few weeks ... for His care of our daughter and granddaughter, and all of us, as we walked through kidney transplant.

My List of Thanks will be long, for God blessed us beyond what we even dreamed possible!

  • Transplant came at the perfect time. Crystal's kidney function dipped below 10% just a week or so before the scheduled transplant. If there would have been no donor in place, and no date set, she would have been put on dialysis. And dialysis was one of Crystal's biggest fears. As family, we earnestly asked God if she could be spared going through dialysis. How we praise God for granting Crystal her desire.
  • God provided the perfect donor for Crystal. We knew that the extensive testing for Amy revealed that she would be a very good match for Crystal, and as time went on, we learned even more. We have heard from the doctors that Amy is as good a match as a parent of Crystal would be! Which means that even though both Mark & Cristy were eliminated from being a donor because their testing revealed that they both had very early stages of kidney cancer (another whole heart-wrenching story of it's own), God provided a perfect donor in their place. How amazing is that? We just marvel at God's goodness in providing for Crystal, and putting it on Amy's heart to donate.
  • Transplant Day went amazingly well. It is beyond our understanding how a kidney can be removed from one person and then placed in another ... and then to begin functioning right from the start. That is exactly what happened! We praise God for the doctors who performed the surgeries ... Amy's surgery to have her left kidney removed began at 8:30 am on Monday, April 20th, and Crystal's surgery to remove her right diseased kidney began at 9:30 am. At about 10:45 am those of us in the waiting room were notified that the new kidney from Amy was ready to be transplanted into Crystal! How completely amazing. All went well, and we were told that Crystal's new kidney from Amy began functioning right from the start. Both Crystal and Amy were out of surgery and into their hospital rooms by 2 pm that day.
  • Recovery was not easy for either Crystal or Amy (and recovery continues on even now), but it has been going just as predicted, with no big problems. Crystal was in PICU (pediatric ICU) for several days, and then moved to a regular patient room to continue her recovery. Amy was in her hospital room for three days of recovery before being released to continue her recovery at Mark & Cristy's home. And now as I write this, both of them are back in their homes, continuing on with recovery.
  • God's grace, peace, and strength were there for us as family, as well. He held us up as we waited during the surgeries ... two loved family members in surgery at the same time. How emotional, and how we needed His peace as we waited. Then after surgery, our daughter, Cristy, received the strength and peace she needed as she stayed with her daughter, Crystal, throughout Crystal's whole 13-day hospital stay ... and He also gave me the strength and peace I needed as I stayed with my daughter, Amy, during her hospital stay. And also, as my hubby and I continued on as her caregivers after she was released and needed to stay on in Texas until April 29th.
  • We are in awe of the healing that God brought for both Crystal and Amy. A normal creatinine level (showing toxin levels) is around .6 to 1. Before transplant, Crystal's creatinine had gone up to 4.3, and just a few days after transplant, it was down in the normal range! Amazing! Her nausea disappeared, and she was able to begin eating a full breakfast (as well as other meals) shortly after surgery. She had experienced daily nausea and had had difficulty eating for two full years. And Amy's recovery astounded us, as well. Her labs taken on April 29th revealed that her creatinine level was in normal range already, something that they do not expect to take place until six months post-transplant. The doctor said that if a person did not know that she had only one kidney, that from looking at her labs, they would think that she still has two kidneys. How incredibly amazing to see the healing that has come to both Crystal and Amy! Of course, they will still be recovering and healing from surgery for weeks to come, but the results at this stage are above what would be expected.
  • My hubby and I praise God for the strength He gave us to serve our family well. While I was in the hospital for several days with Amy, Gary was helping at Mark & Cristy's home with their two youngest children. Mark needed to keep up with his real estate appraiser business, and Gary enjoyed being grampa - taking the kids to and from school, including getting breakfast for them, all while also driving back and forth to the hospital each day (45 minute drive each way). When Amy was released to go to their home, I also joined in the care of Luke and Brianna, while also being Amy's caregiver. Our days were full with caregiving, visiting Crystal and Cristy, caring for Luke and Brianna, taking care of the house, getting meals on the table (many meals provided by their church family), keeping the house sanitized and free of germs during recovery, doing load after load of laundry, and more. Our days ended about midnight, and started early the next morning. How we thank God for giving us great joy and the energy we needed to serve our family.
  • And how we praise God for the timing of Crystal's release from the hospital, and also Amy's release to travel back to Nebraska. We had wondered how much of a gap there would be between our time of return to our home near Omaha and the time for Cristy to be back at their home to care for the rest of her family. It turns out that Amy was released to travel home with us the same day that Crystal was released from the hospital! In fact, we left for our home at 4 pm on April 29, and Cristy & Crystal arrived home from the hospital at 6:30 pm that same day! To me, that little gift from God of the timing was like icing on the cake! We had just enough time when we got to their home after Amy's doctor appt. in the morning, to wash all the linens and towels from our stay, place clean bleached sheets on the bed for Crystal, and sanitize Crystal's room, ready for her return. We would have loved to stay a bit longer to welcome her home, but we needed to start out on our return home (driving in two days), and it was a blessing that they could come home to a quiet house, just their family.

We could go on and on with our thanks! 
How we thank God for His love and care during transplant
 and for the healing He has brought.

You are invited to read more of the details and emotions of Transplant Day on our family/ministry blog - click here.

And for more posts written on God's care during trials:

Linking up with:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

From my journal this morning: 
"Lord, as I awake, my mind goes right away to problems ... 
please lift my eyes to You.
May I not focus on my cross to bear,
but may I focus on who I am following - YOU ~
and on Your good gifts to me. Each day."

It is difficult for me (and maybe for you, as well?) to take my eyes off of trials.

These past days and weeks (even months) it seems that problems are attempting to cloud my perspective. There are many problems. Though not as severe as those of many in the world, they are difficult burdens to bear. It has been a rough road to travel in the care of my aging father. And it is a heart-breaking journey as our sweet granddaughter's kidneys are failing due to a rare kidney disease. Just on the horizon (13 days from now), our oldest daughter will selflessly and generously donate one of her kidneys to her sweet niece. My hubby and I will be traveling to be near and to help. And we will be so blessed to be there, and it will be painfully emotional to be there. It will be heart-breaking to see those we love go through surgery and recovery, and there will be concerns along the way. And we will be filled with thanks to be beside our dear family as we walk through these next weeks. 

And I am reminded often these days 
to lift my eyes and my heart ...
to keep my focus.

I will offer You
a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the
Name of the Lord.
(Psalm 116:17) 

Is it really a sacrifice to offer thanksgiving? There are times when thanksgiving comes easy ... when it overflows from a full heart. And there are times when it feels more like a sacrifice. For it involves a focused, determined effort to lift our eyes from problems. It requires us to take our eyes off of our problems, concerns, and worries ... and humbly ask God for help. It is a sacrifice to leave our concerns ... to trust them to Him, to leave them in His care, to hold on to Him, and to be thankful. A denying of ourselves and our own sense of control, and instead, to release and to trust. To open up our hands and receive His many gifts to us. All by His grace and mercy, by strength that He gives.

      Loving Lord, by Your grace, may I turn ...

                             from focusing on my troubles and my pain
                                  to focusing on You ...

                             from gazing at my cross
                                  to gazing at You ...

                             from counting my burdens
                                  to counting my blessings ...

                             from being consumed by worry
                                  to being consumed with Your Love. 

* * * * * * *

And on a different note, with another type of sacrifice, I will need to let go of my presence in this place (for the most part) in the coming weeks. I have already had to let go of posting as often here in recent months, as I have needed to give my time to family, and also to the care of my father. 

It has not been easy to post less often, as writing is life-giving to me. My journals will continue to be full, but I will be even more limited in time to write here on my blog as we care for our family during transplant.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing on Instagram, and also will be sharing thoughts and perspective during the days/weeks of transplant and recovery on our family/ministry blog. You are also invited to visit our granddaughter's CaringBridge site. And the month of May will soon be here ... and I will be back (Lord willing). I have many posts that have just been waiting to be finished up and shared here ... devo thoughts, recipes, and more. Thanks for understanding my need to sacrifice this place for awhile ... and I will look forward to coming back in May - to celebrate five years of writing here at Pursuing Heart!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Catching Up ...

The weeks have been full, and sometimes it's hard to keep track of what happened each week! I'm thankful for digital scrapbooking as a way to preserve memories, and to celebrate God's good gifts to us. Here are a few of my most recent pages ...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Focus: Follow

She Reads Truth

Is my focus each day - to follow? Or do I instead focus on trying to fix the difficult situation that I may be in, or the circumstance that a friend or family member is in? Focusing on, keeping our eyes on the heavy "cross" that we are called upon to bear. Using up all our energies, and finding ourselves exhausted and used up.

Such is often the case for me as my dear hubby and I find ourselves in a very difficult, perplexing, exhausting situation of caring for an elderly parent. Helping in the care of an elderly parent brings a whole different dynamic, for we become the parent. And how do we parent our parent? And how do we deal with all the behavior that surfaces when physical losses add and magnify weaknesses?

How do we cope and survive as we spend our energies to help another?

And I am thankful ... for reminders, and glimpses to truth that God gives us along our difficult journeys. For words that leap off a printed page, and light up truth in our hearts. For the words on my She Reads Truth App this past week ... 

If anyone wants to come with Me,
he must deny himself,
take up his cross, and 
Follow Me.
(Matthew 16:24)

And I wonder - could denying oneself, mean to give up control, to give up trying to make something work. To stop focusing on it; to just release it. For it has never been our responsibility to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. 

But sometimes we try in our own strength, and then we find ourselves crumbling under the heavy load. We are not meant to carry the weight of the world, the weight of someone else's burdens, or even the weight of our own troubles. 

Of course, in this world we will always have burdens, situations that are beyond our control, and that can drain us of every ounce of strength and energy. They are our "cross", our particular set of difficult circumstances that we live with. Things that will not necessarily "go away", but that will stay with us. At least for a time or a season.

But our focus should not be our burden, our difficult circumstance. 

Our focus is on Jesus, to follow Jesus. 

Walk with Me, and work with Me -
watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
(From Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

It is not in the carrying of and concentrating on our problems - that we will find our help and our rest, our solutions to the problems.

Our rest and our help 
comes from our following, 
our keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Each moment you can choose
to practice My Presence
or to practice the presence of problems.

"As we fix our eyes on Jesus, He will take on our heaviest burdens and use them to transform us to be more like Him, and others will see and witness His redemptive glory." (She Reads Truth)

Thank You, Lord, for burdens lifted, as I lift my eyes to You ...
Thank You for the listening ears of family from afar, sharing in our pain ...
Thank You for unexpected, amazing gifts from You as we lift our gaze ...
Thank You for carrying our burdens, and for transforming us as we follow ...


For more posts on this topic:

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Giving of Thanks

There is always reason to give thanks, and to be filled with joy. Even in the midst of difficult times and trials. 

Gratitude isn't only a celebration
when good things happen.
It's a declaration that God is good
no matter what happens.
(Ann Voskamp)

I know this, and I am one to practice the giving of thanks ... continually, in my journal. Every day. But I have slowed down with it to a degree, forgetting it's importance. And in reality, sometimes drifting to focusing on the hard things more than on the giving of thanks. Maybe even thinking that the difficult situations need to be taken care of before there is true, whole-hearted giving of thanks. But I need to be continually reminded ...

Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(I Thess. 5:18 ESV)

For as we lift our eyes from our circumstances, whether they be good or hard ... and we give thanks, we lift our eyes to Him. And we find that His love, His mercy, His faithfulness, is always waiting for us. Each day. Each morning. Never ending love and mercy.

For even in hard times, and especially in hard times -

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

From my journal from this past week, a glimpse into a few of my thank-you's ...

Thank You for beautiful weather - for both meals out on the patio one day.
Thank You for help from the SEND office in Japan with my father's affairs.
Thank You for a new menu planning system.
Thank You for reminders to just rest.
Thank You for a date set for kidney transplant (for our granddaughter).
Thank You that we can trust You with all the details of transplant.
Thank You for the timing of transplant.
Thank You for drinking Your cup (of suffering), so that my cup could overflow.
Thank You for being willing to be deserted (at the cross), so I would never be alone.

If you don't slow to count the gifts in the moments,
God in the moments -
when exactly will you taste and see that the Lord is good?
The losing of every battle begins when there is no time to taste 
and see and savor that the Lord is good.
(Ann Voskamp)

Lord, may I never lose my sight of giving thanks, of slowing to see Your gifts. On the good days, and especially in the hard times. Help me to keep my eyes open each day, watching for Your love, Your mercies, and Your gifts to me.

Linking up with:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Freezer Meal Session

It's always fun to have Freezer Meal Days with my daughters who live nearby, and we usually try to set aside several days a year to prepare freezer meals for each of our homes. But it has been awhile since we have had one. We finally had a mini-version of one the first Saturday in March. 

I had planned to prepare some freezer meals for Amy to have on hand for her family when she is gone to TX for transplant, and also for her to use when she returns home from being a kidney donor for her niece (and our granddaughter).

Sara offered to come over and help me prepare the meals for Amy (plus some for her freezer and mine) ... such a treat for me to spend that time together with her. Jake & Cole were willing helpers in the kitchen for part of the time, as well. I am so blessed to have family live nearby ... 

I picked recipes for three easy-to-grab meals for days when Amy's family needs quick and easy meals. They are all recipes that we've made before for the freezer, and know that everyone loves them.

It's fun to see various Freezer Meal plans on blogs, with printable recipes and plans to use. When I have the time, maybe I'll post some freezer meal plans in the future. This combination of recipes would make a great freezer meal plan to use over and over ... filling our freezer with these three sandwich type meals. Easy to prepare, and easy to heat up for a quick and yummy meal.

For more posts on our freezer meal days, including some recipes:


Linking up with Jessica sharing how I use my Fringe Hours ... taking time to prepare freezer meals with a daughter ... and later, scrapbooking the memories!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Be Still

Just one short sentence. 
Words that could change the whole focus
 of a new week, a new day. 

If you are like me, it is easy to wake up on a Monday morning with our minds filled with things that need to be done. The lists are endless. And as soon as we accomplish one thing, there are multiple more that make their way to our list of things to do.

It is so easy to forget that we are human beings, and not human doings. We forget that Jesus modeled a life of rest and of trust. Trusting His short life to His Father. With unending things that He could have done, multitudes and multitudes of people to love ... He kept a steady gaze on His Father, and He walked one step at a time.

And He made it possible for us to be the same. He says to us ... "Be still." And He reminds us that He is God.

All the things on our minds ...
The concerns, the tasks.
Those we love,
those we are praying for ...
These are not to be carried as burdens,
they are to be trusted
to GOD.

For more posts on this topic: