My Next Right Thing

“The process of growth is always uneasy, because growth never comes through ease. It comes through stretching and expanding of one’s own capacity to push ahead. And often the change that needs to happen in order for you to grow may leave you dry heaving on the sidelines. Like when you run until you feel like throwing up as you prepare for the day of the marathon.  Or the anxiety nausea of packing up your worldly possessions and moving to a part of the world that is unknown to you. Or the gagging nerves of trying to date again. Or the vomitous risk of starting a new career.  

The difficulty in letting God grow you is the trust that is asked of you when you aren’t quite clear what the outcome looks like. When you intentionally do more sit ups or eat less meat lovers pizza, you may have an image in your mind of what it might look like to feel more comfortable for swimsuit season. But when you say to the giver of life, I want my life to be meaningful, I want to serve you with my life, may it be according to what you desire. You have no idea what secret cosmic strategies have been put into play to answer that request.”

…from Scott Erickson’s Honest Advent

Let’s not bury the lead here:  In early February 2022, I am donating the majority portion of my liver to an unknown, highly-loved person.  Here’s a long, long thread on how I got here. 

I’ve been begging the Creator of the Universe for meaning since I was a young girl.  In my young, foolish mind, being meaningful to God meant I had to be the most obedient wife, the best homeschooling mom, the most put-together women, the best cook, the best house-cleaner, the best “Christian”….all of which doesn’t exist.  This endless cycle of destructive self-criticism brought me to one place…flat on my face praying to God that He would change me or take me out because obviously I was too defective, too ugly, and just too much.   I never once thought God just needed me to be the best me.

I couldn’t imagine Him wanting to be with me.  I prayed that He would just love me enough to let me be a toilet cleaner in heaven.  (A point to ponder:  will we even need toilets in heaven?) I have never felt like I fit into His kingdom well. I hate fake smiles, fake accolades, and fake promises. I wanted the real God.

The more I “worked” to be good, the more disillusioned I became and the less lovely Jesus became.  For 10 years, I entered into a fellowship of believers who thought that to be truly blessed, you needed to be perfect in the Law, the Torah.  To them, Jesus came to re-emphasize the Law.  The yoke was heavy and relentless but with His strength we could endure it.  Hearts of flesh became hearts of concrete.  Love and compassion became bitterness and judgment.  I finally concluded that if this is who God was, I’d rather not deal with Him.  

We eventually left that highly dysfunctional congregation for a less dysfunctional one.  Note: all churches are dysfunctional because humans run them. We found a place to worship, shed our outer coats of armor and felt free to exhale.  No high-end productions, no fancy words, just messy, truthful faith.  Years passed before I would even like Jesus again…I found He was gentle and kind and loving, not a heavy-handed ruler that cursed you if you ate pork.

As I was recovering from my post-traumatic church syndrome,  I had two major car accidents, a traumatic brain injury, and three years of major depression to shred my hard outer shell.    The pride in my ability to “do” for God was decimated. God was patient and kind. He gently brought me to my knees, to the end of myself.

As I found my grounding again,  I found God to be even closer and more lovely.  I could feel Him, touch Him, and hear Him almost daily.  He not only loved me but He made me how I was.  I was not defective in His eyes.  I was never a problem.  He had always been close…I just needed to come to the end of my abilities to see it.   I had to be me…no one else.

When this was revealed to me, I embraced the rest He was offering me. Truly I had no other choice because my brain injury only gave me so much capacity per day to perform.  Instead of seeing it as a deficit, I owned my weakness.  Working not until exhaustion but until I was done for that day.  I listed three things a day I could do…I would do all I could to do them; then I let go.  Of course with kids in the mix, I often got overwhelmed but somehow I either had a renewed sense of energy, someone else stepped in to help, or the “need” got dropped.    

And this was how my life was for the last seven years.  Living and teaching rest, doing what I could, and begging God to use me for His good for the world.  Our kids grew into amazing young adults, and I was left feeling useless again.  I didn’t have to manage anyone’s schedule or run them anywhere anymore.  My life’s work and calling had shifted.  

I tried a few part-time jobs here and there, but either the hours or the atmosphere would bring me constant headaches.  I expanded my love of yoga and became a teacher. Teaching others the benefit of yoga does bring me so much joy ,yet I don’t see it as my life’s work.  

I have always felt a call to writing.  I just love writing. I just always have…the words that blend together to just say the perfect thing.  The artistry of wordcraft, the loveliness of sounds, and the communication of ideas and places brings me so much joy…even if I don’t share it.  I can work out my thoughts with a pen and paper.  I can reduce my big feelings and ideas into manageable, bite-size pieces.  

When I was a child, I was unreasonably scared of being kidnapped.  In the 80s, kids seemed to be getting grabbed off the streets a lot…at least, for a fear-filled young girl in the middle of nowhere.  I was constantly making plans on how to get away, hide, or defend myself.  To feel safe every night, I recited a prayer from a prayer book and made sure to have my metal baton under my bed within reaching distance.  I also kept a small bag ready to snatch that had a notebook and pencils so I could write while I was in captivity, if they let me live.  Writing was my form of escape.  

As I remembered my love of writing, I discovered a renewed interest in reading and exploring God’s word.  That love that had fizzled during the toxic days of our old church when God’s word was used to shame and bring merciless judgment had been reborn .

God lovingly and gently brought me back to my paper and pen and helped me to heal my heart of shame and anger.   He brought me back to love with my pen and let my tears stain my journal. 

While writing out my questions to God every morning, God would faithfully bring passages to my head that had long ago been buried in my heart like an archeological dig uncovering treasure.  I started searching for Him daily and finding Him with His message of unconditional love everywhere.  

With this confidence, I picked up a monthly blog assignment.  Real writing for real people! Through this blog, I was able to connect with other writers in the area. God used all this to lead me to my next adventure.

One morning in July 2021, while scrolling endlessly through my Facebook feed, I stopped on a picture of a sweet teenage boy named Mitchell on a writing friend’s post.  His mother (a friend of my friend) was searching for liver donation for her son due to his lifelong illness.  I had the same blood type so without too much thought, I signed up to get information.  Within days I got an application to fill out…which I did.  The next day, I got another form but this time with more specific medical information and permission to access my medical files.  Again, I filled it out, released my information and thought very little about it.  I mean really, what are the chances?

Within a week I had several phone calls with a donation coordinator which soon led to applications for a grant for travel costs.  Next we were booking airline tickets to Pittsburgh, PA.  

While on the plane, the realization hit me.  I could be the instrument to save this boy’s life.  Me.  A 49-year-old mama from Colorado…God, really, what are the chances?  My heart heard a soft voice assuring me that I was the match.  And I never questioned it again.

The vigorous testing was relentless.  I was not prepared for the two long days of medical tests and psychological/psychiatric evaluation.  My body does not like to give up blood easily so the 22 vials of blood took a really long time to fill.  After 48 hours of test after test after test, I was tired, sore, hungry, and completely poured out emotionally.  

While we were there, we had begun to plan where we were going to stay for the two weeks we had to live there and even looked more deeply into places to explore when I felt better.  It all seemed to fit together in my mind.  

The next week brought the news that yes, I was a match for Mitchell…I knew it already. And an hour later I saw on Facebook, Mitchell had received a cadaver donation.  Although I was ecstatic for him and his family, I felt all the air had been pushed out of me.  I was called to be his donor.  I had gone through all the work that God had called me to.  My heart didn’t know what to believe…so I did the only thing I knew to do.  I prayed for Mitchell’s life and healing and offered whatever I just did to God.  

I had to walk away for a few days from that confusion.  I just did not understand God.  I doubted that I had ever heard from Him…was I just imagining everything? What did I just drag my husband through?  What is wrong with me?  Am I getting God wrong again? Again the old doubting voice came back along with the feeling of worthlessness.

I had several choices to make and I felt God was there in all of them. I could choose to stop and say “that was God’s will. I did what He told me to do” and walk away with His blessing. I could pursue a non-directed donation since my direction donation was fulfilled. Thousands of people are waiting for donations. Or I could….there were several options to weigh and I just didn’t know what was the most right way.

While washing dishes one day, a small, gentle voice whispered, “You are someone else’s miracle.”  Clear as a bell, those words went straight into my heart.  Through this all I was called for someone else but God had to use the plea for a child for me to hear. I couldn’t contain my joy…yet it took a while to convince a few others.

Laying this in my heart, I began to meditate on going back to Pittsburgh to donate to someone…there are a lot of people waiting for a liver.  However, every time I read Scripture that week I was struck by how Jesus served wherever He was with whoever He was with…there in that place.  I knew being away from my friends and family and my husband’s job for many weeks was going to be too much for us to handle.  This was a big call that needed big support from others and we needed our community here.  

I felt led to ask a friend about the experience of her dad and her husband at the local transplant center 15 years ago. Her husband donated a portion of his liver to his dad.  Although the outcome wasn’t ideal, the experience was good.  I called the local transplant center,  talked to their liver donation coordinator, had all my files from Pittsburgh transferred to Denver for a whole new staff to evaluate, and set up for another day of extensive testing.  As before, the additional tests came back fine and clear.  

I was soon matched with a woman who needs a new liver.  Knowing who she is isn’t what God called me to.  He called me to be obedient, to listen to His voice, and to do what He instructs me to do. I’ve never been asked to do anything else but that.  He has proven Himself trust-worthy over and over throughout my life.  

In Matthew 18:10-14, He left the 99 for the one lost sheep. He loved this woman so much that He has led me to this place of sacrifice and I’m honored and excited to be the vessel toward her healing.  God has asked way more insane things of believers.  Look at Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:1-5), Hosea (all of Hosea), Daniel, Esther, Mary, Tamar, etc., etc. Offering an organ that grows back to the One who created it is fairly tame.

This is my story.  This is my why.  God doesn’t need me to do anything but be obedient to Him.  My walk will never look like anyone else’s walk nor should it.  I can be inspired by other believers.  I can be mindful of what God has called others to do, but the Creator of the universe made me to be me.  No one else….there is a prevalent and deceitful lie that because of my gender, race, age, socio-economic class that I can only do X, Y, and Z.  Jesus never said that.  He said “come, follow me.”  And that, my friend, is exactly what we should all do.

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