How do you handle gut-wrenching, suffocating, consuming weight?

not-my-circus-not-my-monkeysMy transplant experience gave me a gift that, today, I would like to return. Usually, I’m thankful for it, but recently it has grown so heavy that I feel like it is breaking me.

I’ve been watching My 600 Pound Life a lot lately. I watch it while I am riding my bike in the basement or walking on Robin’s dreadmill. Yeah, I call it that because I dread that torture device.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s about people who have totally lost all self-control when it comes to eating and exercise and have grown so large that they can barely function. Eating is the only thing that brings them any pleasure.

Fat hangs off their legs like large sacks of gelatin making it nearly impossible to move. Their bulk is so great that they can’t drive or even fit in cars. In the last episode I watched a woman’s 21-year-old son working to shove her into the back of a seatless mini-van. I feel so bad for them but I watch to motivate myself to pedal a bit harder and walk a little longer telling myself, “I am never going to be morbidly obese again.”

But, this isn’t an entry about weight loss or obesity.

My transplant journey changed me. It intensified my senses of empathy and compassion. I’m even wondering if those parts of me have been over-sensitized or over-activated now. Is this healthy? What do I mean?

I think, before my transplant journey, that my top priority was in achieving goals, making progress and building. My heart for others was alive but I was able to keep it in check. When someone was making bad decisions or facing difficulty I could empathize but it didn’t consume me. I could turn it off.

But now, I can’t. Or, at least, I haven’t learned how yet. I can still speak the words and do so often, “not my circus: not my monkeys.” It used to work. I could walk away and not really think much of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still can get pretty calloused when I encounter people who are unwilling to try to change their circumstances or those who feel like everyone owes them something. I still have little patience with those who are unwilling to fish and lots of time for those who want to learn how to fish.

But, it’s the others that I am having trouble with now. It’s the young couples I suddenly care so much about and the people hitting walls in their marriages. It’s the family being buried by battles with chronic illness and the women who can’t find the strength to break out of abusive relationships. It’s the friendless, the lonely and the disconnected that I can’t seem to shake.

I guess I don’t want to shake them. Or, maybe I do. I don’t really know.

Weight. This week I’m feeling like those people I watch on My 600 Pound Life. I can’t clear my mind, my heart aches and I even wonder if these bags are weightier on me than the people facing crisis.

Not my circus; not my monkeys. Not my circus; not my monkeys. But I can’t seem to escape the sound of the calliope in my head. Its sound resonates when I try to sleep and distracts when I try to focus. I see the red and white striped canvas tents even when I try to push them out of my mind through reading, playing a video game, watching mindless television or putting ear buds in.

Empathy. This experience has changed me. It really has.

Children run to me now. They never did before. I’m talking little children, not the teenagers I have always connected with as my students. It’s weird. Robin and I were visiting a church one Sunday after helping with their vacation children’s program a couple summers ago when a tiny, 3 year old girl spotted us from her place on the aisle near the front. Her smile took over her face and she came running to us. That’s nothing new. Children always have loved my wife. But she came running to me and threw her arms up for me to hoist her up. She wrapped her little arms around my neck and squeezed. Robin and I looked at each other and shrugged. Weird. But that happens a lot now.

Robin thinks kids can somehow sense that I value them now and am not going to turn them away. I used to play with children for a few minutes but then scoot them away because I always had something “more important” pressing on my time. Now, there’s nothing more important.

I guess that’s it. My transplant journey has left me with this saturating sense that nothing is more important than people. That’s a good thing, right?

If it’s good then why am I feeling suffocated? Why do I feel, even right now, that there is a 50 pound bag of cement pressing on my chest? Why could I not push that young mom out of my head last night when I tried to sleep and why was she the first thing in my mind this morning? Why can’t I let go of the woman facing abuse when she refuses to do anything to accept help?  Why is my mind searching so frantically for answers for the handful of couples in my life right now whose marriages are in danger? Why is my list of people I want to connect with longer than the number of times available? The weight is almost crippling. Should it be?

Last night my wife asked me, “what are we going to do about your stress level?” I don’t know, but we both know that I need to find coping skills. I need to learn how to better manage these gifts of empathy and compassion before the weight cripples me.

This morning I turned to doing what I normally do when I have no more ideas. I looked at the ancient book that has shaped my life and I tried to see how Jesus lived. I came across the mention of His compassion a few times. Mt. 9:36 puts it simply, “He was moved with compassion.”

Charles Spurgeon says that the Greek used an entirely new word to describe what Jesus was feeling. No other word could properly fit His emotion so a new one was coined which literally meant a deep emotion that He could feel wrenching down to the gut level.

“I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Yeah, that’s it. I think I get a certain level of that now. It’s nowhere near what my Jesus experienced but it is certainly new to me.

I like the post-transplant me better than the pre-transplant me overall. This new empathy, this new level of compassion is, I am sure, a good thing once I learn how to cope. I’m just not doing very well with it just yet.

Like the people in My 600 Pound Life, I’ve got to learn new habits and take new steps to get this under control so that this weight stops crushing me.

How? I don’t know yet.

But, I’m open to advice.

Go.

 

 

 

Posted in direction, Find God, hope, Jesus, ministry, Organ transplant, pastor, relationship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Reliving my transplant nightmare

PTSD after surgeryRemember that book I was working on writing? I let it sit, untouched, from September 2013 until December 2014 when I gave it to my friend Jan Perry to read and clean up. She was my second reader.

It’s about 60,000 words and 162 pages and is about two-thirds of my story. It is complete up to May 7, 2012 which was the day of my transplant. My plan is to write either through the first year of recovery or at least through my first cycling accomplishment 4 and a half months later.

The surprising thing, now that I have picked it up again and am rewriting and editing, is all of the emotion that is coming back to the surface. That’s probably therapeutic but it’s also pretty painful. Honestly, I’d rather forget.

Last night I woke up in the middle of a nightmare that was recurring after my surgery but has not visited me in about a year. In it,  I see myself lying on a steal table with an apparatus on over my nose and mouth with an anesthesiologist leaning over me. There is a team of at least a dozen people in blue medical gowns, blue skull caps. bright blue rubber gloves covered with vibrant, red blood. They all have green masks over their mouths and wear small, bright lights on their foreheads.

I see the light reflect off an over- sized scalpel and then feel an incredibly sharp pain and tugging while the surgeon cuts across my belly. I try to scream, “Stop! I can feel that!” but I cannot move. I cannot speak. And then I wake up in a pool of sweat with my heart racing. I spend the next 20 minutes in self-talk trying to calm myself.

It is so very real that I have to tell myself that it did not really happen. In my mind I know I did not feel anything but, still, part of me doubts, “did I wake up during surgery?” I know I do not even remember being wheeled in. I have no memory of a breathing tube, no memory of my family greeting me in the recovery room and no memory of the first day in the hospital. My liver transplant survivor friends tell me it is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is common among us.

I want to complete my book as an encouragement to others living with chronic illness. I still believe that God led me to journal my journey for a reason. But, now that I have budgeted my time to include writing once again, I am not liking the memories. I want to push the emotion down and bury it. But, is that healthy? I don’t know.

I don’t know if my manuscript will ever see book form. Will I self-publish or shop publishers? I have no idea. All I know right now is that I have to finish it. I have to push.

Sometimes pushing hurts. This hurts.

 Each time he said, “No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.” Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. 2 Corinthians 12:9 TLB

 

 

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Facing burnout. Moving from surviving to thriving.

This is your life. Are you who you want to be?

This is your life. Are you who you want to be?

My last post was January 1. That’s not a good sign for me.

You know how that scratchy throat or that slight pressure behind your eyes sometimes is a symptom of a bigger problem, a virus? When I stop writing it’s a symptom of a larger issue in my life.

Writing is how I process. It’s how I pray and how I work things out. I don’t write for readers. I write mostly for myself. When I’m writing it means I’m taking time to reflect. When I’m not it means I am letting other things own my time.

But, there’s a good sign in my lack of letters on pages. There was a point when I was writing most every day because I had nothing else to do. My days consisted of playing video games online, posting to Facebook and waiting for my wife to come home from work. I read books and magazines and online articles dozing in and out of sleep. Each day my liver disease took a bit more of my ability to function until I lost my ability to retain what I read. Still, I could turn on my computer and write.

The good sign is that now, 31 months after my son saved my life by giving me half of his liver in a living donor transplant, my life is so full that I am struggling to discipline myself to take time for the things I need to keep myself healthy mentally and spiritually. Except for the 9-11 pills I take every day to keep me alive and functioning without rejection, I am just like everyone else. Just like everyone else.

My days of disappearing into my permanent indentation in our old, green couch with its overstuffed pillows are becoming a fading memory. That couch where I spent 20 hours a day has even been replaced with a new sectional, in our new home as part of my new life. New.

While I watch others in my transplant support group struggle with complications and side effects from their transplants, my biggest struggle comes in balancing my time, refusing to over-commit and being still. I remember that while I was in the losing to liver disease and facing death, I promised myself that if I survived I would never return to the workaholic lifestyle. I would always stop to smell the roses no matter how cliche they might be.

I survived and now I feel like I am too often driving past the roses at 70 miles per hour with my windows rolled up tightly and Bluetooth earpiece resting on my ear. I’ve not walked the cobblestones of the Old Port with my camera in my hand, I’ve not written and I’ve not created much of anything in far too long. I don’t have time. Whose fault is that? Mine.

Good and bad.

It’s good, miraculous even, that I have a full life of health and energy. It’s bad that I am allowing the minutia of life to drain my time and energy and hold a place it does not deserve. I need mental, spiritual and physical exercise to take me from surviving to thriving.

Last week I escaped the noise to think, pray, read, write and sleep for 5 days. Looking at myself, I had to admit that when it comes to taking care of the mental/spiritual side of myself, I’m failing. I sketched out an action plan for change knowing full well that, unlike when I was dying from a failing liver, I control the outcome. My survival, mentally and spiritually, is up to me.

I came home determined to own my schedule and build roses into each day. I came home determined to adjust my speed and not allow the urgent to squeeze out the important. I came home with a new schedule for my days including turning off electronics at 8:30 PM, bedtime at 9, exercise at 5:30 AM and 90 minutes of reading, writing and reflection to start each day.

I’m thankful that I am fighting this time management battle again 31 months after transplant. I’m thankful that I have too much to do, too many goals and so many possibilities racing through my mind. It means that my life is indeed back to normal and that I, like most everyone I come into contact with, am so pressed by its demands that I need to remember what it means to “be still and know” that my God is in control. He has a better life in mind for me than the high anxiety, burnout pace I’ve been living.

There is life after transplant. It’s up to each one of us to decide how to live it.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30, TLB

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Yes, footie pajamas are all the rage. Goodbye 2014

Welcome to the thirty-first edition of our family year-end letter. Other than a few very difficult years, this life has been pretty happy for us. Linscott Christmas card 2014Robin and I love the annual letters that come our way at this time of year. We have far away friends we hear from once a year (no, they aren’t on Facebook, gasp!). We hang their family pictures on our fridge and smile.

So, let’s skip past the stressful days, car repairs, unexpected expenses and hard days that come into each of our lives and get to the good stuff!

Donald Jacob (23)
Here’s the biggest news right off the bat. Our family added a member this year when Laura Mason became Laura Linscott! (I’m trying to convince her to change her middle name to Lynn. Nice ring to that.) Our baby got married! Officiating their wedding ceremony was the highlight of my year. I can’t even communicate what that felt like. I remember 2011 when I begged God to let me live long enough not to spoil my daughter’s wedding. I’m pretty pumped that not only did I survive but got to hang around to go three for three in the officiate-my-kids’-weddings category.

Jake & Laura

Jake & Laura

Jake and Laura live just a few miles away and attend our church. (Can I tell you how much it thrills me to see them walk in each week? So cool!)

Jake works harder than a coal miner at being a chef. His hours are way too long but between cooking, hosting wine pairing dinners and handling special events, he is building a resume that will open doors for his future endeavors. Laura is working in retail and hoping for a lead into her field of study which was in the investment/finance world. If you do that stuff you should hook her up. She’s a smart cookie.

Jake & Shara 2014

Jake & Shara 2014

Sharaya Michelle (25)
One of the things I love most is getting to witness my daughter and her husband Jake (yes, we have two Jakes) still acting like newlyweds after three and a half years of marriage. I love hearing them laugh and I love seeing her Jake play with her and goof around just like her daddy has done since she was born. What a gift it is to see my daughter’s husband give her support, encouragement and praise!

Shara and Jake and our granddog golden retriever (moose), Bailey, live about 20 minutes away in Yarmouth. Jake manages the front of the house at the same restaurant where our Jake chefs. (Is “chefs” a real word?) Shara loves her job working with autistic children. This summer she passed her boards and now has a bunch of letters after her name.

Josh & Kristen

Josh & Kristen

Joshua Abram (27)
We had the thrill of going to NYC to listen to Josh use a lot of large words that we didn’t understand to defend his PhD research. The charts and illustrations sure were pretty and all the science nerds seemed genuinely interested. So, that was cool. It was fun hanging out with he and his Frozen-obsessed wife Kristen (I like to tease her) for a couple days, sleeping on the floor in their tiny apartment and eating at nice restaurants.

Now he is at Tufts Medical School in Boston to get his MD (more letters after his name too) and Kristen is a nanny for a nice family.We are in the process of converting our basement into an “apartment” for them to help them while Josh finishes at Maine Medical Center rotations for a few years. (Okay, okay, you’re right. We also would like them close so we can love on our future grandbabies!)

Robin's first day

Robin’s first day

Robin (still looks like 29)
What a huge relief in August when Robin left the stress of her hospital job to reenter the world of education. I love hearing her talk of her students and seeing her eyes light up when she makes a connection. I have to admit that I most love that she now has days off and holidays and summer breaks and SNOW DAYS. She continues to run and I actually got her to join me for TWO cycling events this year! I’ll have her with me on the Trek Across Maine in no time. (Don’t tell her I said that. It’s my secret plan.) I used a surprise Christmas blessing to buy her a “new to her” road bike.

Her job is so close that it is faster for her to walk to school each morning rather than drive her car. She looks pretty cute heading off with her lunch and her school bag each morning.

I’m thankful she continues to put up with having a husband like me who nearly gets us thrown out of Walmart by playing with most everything I pass. She usually just laughs and shakes her head.

Me? (51 but look like 60)

A big dream realized in 2014: The Donate Life Cycling Team

A big dream realized in 2014: The Donate Life Cycling Team

I celebrated 2 years since Josh saved my life by giving me half of his liver on 5/7/12. (Video of our story) My recovery has been truly remarkable. This year I hit my goal of a half-century ride (50 miles in one day) and had several weeks of 150+ miles on my bike. I plan to mark 3 years by completing the American Lung Association Trek Across Maine in June. That’s 180 miles in three days. (Is it tacky to hit you up to sponsor me in our Christmas letter? Um, yeah. Guess I won’t … yet. More info about that right here.)

The little church that asked me to take the lead is not so little anymore (fbcwestbrook.com). It is fascinating and humbling to watch so many people come out each week. We have so many new friends now. Robin and I are enjoying it a lot.

I am fighting the workaholic part of my personality and trying to maintain balance. There’s so much I want to do! I may dial back on my photography business in 2015, shoot fewer weddings and maybe eliminate senior portraits to help me preserve some times of rest that were lacking this year.

This year wedding photography took us from Maine to Florida to Indiana to Ohio and then Hawaii. Yes, it is certainly a rough life!

20121130-073718.jpgPompom (2)
Pom has made zero progress educationally and zero change in her career this year. She seems content to lay in a tiny, curled up ball in her fluffy pink bed for most of every day. Robin calls her “Eighty-eight” since she ranked 88th in the list of the top 100 smartest dog breeds. That may be a bit high from what we’ve observed. I’m pretty sure she takes after me while the rest of our kids are smart like Robin. We love our mini-schnauzer even though she won’t go out in the rain to do her business without her raincoat. (Pom has a Facebook page. Yeah, really.)

So there you have it. That’s a lot of the news from the Land of Linscott.

We pray that your 2015 will be spectacular. We pray that the challenges you face will make you stronger and that you will climb over them quickly. We pray that you will be happy and enjoy friendship and community. We pray that you will know Hope in 2015.

We’re blessed to have so many friends, great neighbors and such a tight family.

Far away friends, please stop by when you’re traveling to New England?

Have a wonderful 2015,

Scott, Robin and Pompom

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Then the shepherds said, “Nah, we’ll pass.”

Good NewsImagine if, on that first Christmas, the angel described what Christmas would become in the 21st century…


But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.


Because of today, future generations will add two to three family parties, two staff parties, three to four church programs, one school performance, many days of shopping at crowded malls, daily deliveries of boxes, fifty greeting cards, and at least one night of wrapping gifts. Their children will go to practice upon practice to prepare for performances and they will watch them at school, at church and at civic events. They will sew costumes and rehearse lines. Their friends will host a dinner party or two to add to the festivities. And there will be lots of baking to do.


They will cut down trees and hang pretty bobbles on the branches. They will place giant, inflatables of a jolly bearded man in a red suit on their lawns. Nearby there will be a green, monsterish plastic creature people will call a “grinch.” And, much will be made of a deer with an illuminating nose.


People will sing songs about a “Silent Night” and a “Holy Night” and sing about peace while having no idea what true Peace is.


It will all be so much fun! People will borrow money to make it all happen. People will work as hard as they can to provide something called, “the perfect Christmas.”


Elves, reindeer, snowmen, a baby in some straw, boughs with red berries and fa la la la lah. Yes! That is the miraculous “Good News” we’ve come out here to tell you about tonight. Pretty exciting, don’t you think? People will even be rude to each other and God’s people will get angry at people who wish them “Happy Holidays.” Most won’t really care much if people know this Savior born today but it will be very important to them that people say, “Merry Christmas.” They will make memes and share them on something called “Facebook.”


Now hurry off, you shepherds. Get down there to Bethlehem and find that baby. If you don’t you’re going to be messing up nativity scene pictures for all eternity! We can’t even imagine Christmas plays without those little kids in bathrobes with towels over their heads! Go, go now.


I think the shepherds probably would have rolled over and said, “Nah, we’re all set. We’ll pass.”


Good news. Great joy. Emmanuel. God with us.


With you. With me. God: available, present, guiding, shaping, comforting, rescuing, rebuilding, renewing and defining. Hope. Purpose. Peace. Meaning.


Is that Jesus present in your life? With you right now?


Wise men still seek Him. Wiser men follow Him.


“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~Jesus

Scott-Self-7970-2Scott Linscott is a writer, photographer, life coach and speaker living in Westbrook, Maine with his wife, Robin.  In May of 2012 his oldest son saved his life by giving him 60% of his liver in a living donor transplant.  Scott and Robin have three grown, married children and one granddog.

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I can’t wait for all my Christmas presence. (No, that is not spelled wrong.)

I'm sorry clickbait, I'm breaking up with you to see other people.

I’m sorry clickbait, I’m breaking up with you to see other people. Real people.

I like my smartphone. I like it too much. I reach for it when I wake up in the middle of the night. I have a tough time turning it off at the movies or keeping it in my pocket at dinner. My heart skips a beat when I drive away realizing I left it behind on the counter. I like to have Robin drive so that I can read Facebook. I’ve got it bad.

Social media felt like my only connection to life for the year I spent laying on my couch either hoping for a transplant or recovering from the transplant that came. I’m serious. I think I might have gone insane without it. My phone and my xbox was about all I had day after day when Robin headed for work.

The problem is that I’m now addicted and need to break the dependency. Weird, huh? I mean, I came through the whole transplant thing having taken a number of class 2 narcotics without a single addiction. These were the type that you have to show your license to pick up and have the doctor prescribe every single month. I have built up a tolerance to pain killers because of them. The docs watched me for signs of dependency. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I hated the foggy feeling pills gave me even though I loved being in less pain.

I’ve watched the videos of families sitting together but far apart, each person holding their own electronic device. I watched packs of teenagers walk past my office not talking to each other but all either texting or talking on their phones. I am genuinely sad each time I witness people separated by electronic walls.

But, I am one of them.The truth hit me the last time my oldest son and his wife visited. At one point I looked around and counted the forcefields each of us had around us. I had my tablet on my lap, my son Josh had his oversized phone in front of his face, his wife Kristen’s laugh while watching a video on her phone was what made me even look up and my wife had a laptop computer on her lap. The only one not absorbed by some electronic gadget was my dog, Pompom. Perhaps she was the one watching the TV mounted in its prime position on the living room wall, blaring away unnoticed.

“These are the people I love,” I thought, “Why am I looking through Reddit? Why do my 1024 friends on Facebook get this time while my family is here with me?” (Yes, 1024 friends. I told you it was bad.)

I am determined to break my addiction in 2015. I may have to be the annoying dad who takes everyone’s phones and computers and locks them away when we gather. I’m going to leave my phone at home on purpose. Airplane mode is going to get more use in 2015. I may even rename it “presence mode.”

Forgive me if I don’t get right back to you when you text … or comment … or tag me …or snap … or Instagram … or email … or …

I’m sorry. I’ll be walking my dog and paying attention to my wife. I’ll be playing “The Game of Things” with my family, watching a movie with my dad or enjoying conversation with whoever I am with at the moment. Maybe I’ll even read a real paper book or two. Maybe I will start writing again. I’ll get back to you. Leave a message at the beep.

This year I don’t really want presents. I want presence. I want to give presence and I want to receive presence.

Sorry clickbait, you’re going to have to wait no matter how “incredible” or “mind blowing”whatever it is that happens at 1:08 in your video is. No, I don’t care what number 18 is on your list of 38 things that I have to see. It won’t take me from people present anymore.

No, I’m not going to post that I’m leaving Facebook so I can see how many people beg me not to. I’m not leaving, I’m just going to try to consume less.

Presence.

It’s time for me to break this addiction.

Where should I start?

#presence

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May I sit next to you, forever? These seats are spectacular!

Seats.

Good seats are expensive. Cheaper seats don’t provide as good an experience. Some seats are soft and comfortable and others are rock hard and a pain to sit on. Some seats are narrow and constricting and others are roomy enough for two.

“Can I sit next to you for the rest of my life?” was the question I asked in December of 1982. “Will you sit next to me?” I didn’t phrase it that way but it’s what I meant.

Our seat selection started when we sat side-by-side in December of 1981 watching comedian Bill Murray in the movie “Stripes.” We knew next to nothing of each other except for the externals. Robin saw me as someone who always had a different girl at his side and I saw her as the girl who studied way too much.  It was our beginning.

We’ve been sitting next to each other for 33 years since then in a variety of seats.

Newly married, we either sat in simple chairs we could barely afford or chairs given to us as hand-me-downs. We watched our basic television in a tiny married-student apartment on the University of Maine campus.

A few years later we sat in a hospital room welcoming our first child. Our looks bounced back and forth from joy to terror. We sat in those spots two more times over the next four years, looking more confident and more overwhelmed with each birth.

Our seats shifted to minivans and school bleachers over the next two decades. We sat for award ceremonies, playoff games and plays. We left our seats only to coach or help our kids play their sports and chase their interests. It was difficult to sit together at times because of the three lives sitting in between. Sometimes we felt distance and struggled to connect. We made efforts to get away, just Robin and I, to sit close, child-free at least once a year.

We sat at graduations and listened to speeches. We took pictures of our three in their gowns and mortar-board hats to add to our photo wall. We added chairs for friends and families to sit with us to celebrate.

As time passed, some seats were harder than others. There was the time we allowed our seats to drift so far apart that we asked, “do you even like sitting with me anymore?” We felt like we were doing little more than sharing a bed and serving three little lives. We worked to pull our chairs back together.

There was the season we slowly came to recognize that the church seats we were sitting in were unhealthy and toxic. Changing our seats from church chairs to therapist’s chairs was very painful, even though we were surrounded by friends who were making the same break from spiritual abuse.

There were the seats we nearly lost to the bank while serving a parachurch ministry that was underfunded. We pulled our chairs closer again and prayed for rescue and provision.

Our seats have moved over the years. Sometimes we have snuggled into the same, large, overstuffed, comfy chair and sometimes our chairs have intentionally faced away from one another when we’ve argued. Thankfully, we have spent more days in the comfy chair than we have spent apart.

We sat in painful chairs saying goodbye to Nana, Robin’s mom, after watching colon cancer take her life and we sat in celebration seats watching each of our children marry their loves. We sat in terribly uncomfortable chairs in far too many physician’s offices praying for hopeful words but instead hearing bad news week after week as liver disease fought to take my life.

Robin sat in a waiting room chair on May 7, 2012 trying to distract herself with work hour after hour while husband and son lie in separate operating rooms less than 100 yards away. The risks to her son, giving 60 percent of his liver to his father, were small but still left the possibility of the unthinkable. The surgery for her husband brought hope for a future but offered no guarantees for survival.

Seats. Some we choose. Some are assigned. Some just happen. Some are exceptional and some are dreadful.

Robin-beach-1On Monday, October 20 our seats brought tears. Sun shining, sand in our swimsuits, waves crashing nearby, I looked into the eyes I’ve looked into a million times before. They were the eyes that watched “Stripes” with me, the eyes that said “I do” when the minister asked if she wanted to sit with me forever. They were the same wide eyes I saw at the birth of our first child. They were the eyes that filled with tears when I said hurtful words and then shifted quickly to forgiveness. They were the last eyes I looked into when I said, “I love you” when she kissed me just before they wheeled me into the operating room.

On this beach, my mind flipped through memories like pages in a flip book while I looked at her smile and watched a ball of sea water cling to the tip of her nose. I saw our 9 year old Jake dancing on second base wearing a crooked baseball helmet. I saw our 4 year old little girl dressed in her puffy, purple snowsuit standing at the peak of a parking lot snowbank yelling “I love Daddy” as loud as she could to listen for the echo. I watched tears come into my father’s eyes, after a Little League game, when my 12 year old handed his Grampa the ball from the home-run he hit during the game. It’s incredible how fast life can flash before our eyes. They say it happens before you die but I find it happens often now that I get to live.

“Can you believe we are here?” I asked. “We are sitting on a beach in Maui.”

It’s been two-and-a-half years since my transplant and still the emotion is raw, just below the surface. Tears found their way to the top several times when I was in Maui. Sometimes Robin was with me, sometimes I was alone and sometimes I was with my sisters. (We were all there for a family wedding.)

Tears. Good, thankful, tears of joy.

I welled up watching my animal-loving sister Gloria find joy feeding fish in the resort pond. I cried looking at a picture of my sister Gail running through a beach scene I set up for her. I cried while watching powerful waves crash into rocks as we drove the road to Hana. I even cried alone lying on the beach photographing a tacky, pink ukulele against the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise. I cried a lot of happy, grateful tears that week.

All I could think of was what a gift life is. During the most difficult days of transplant, I was sure I wanted to die. I had no idea what lie ahead. On numerous days all sense of hope was gone. I had days when I so hated my seat that I just wanted to leave.

I’m glad I hung around for the next act. I’m thankful that my Jesus pulled up His chair and leaned in to give me the strength to keep fighting. I’m thankful. Every day is indeed a bonus day.

I know that the majority of my readers are fighting trials. I understand the thoughts you have because I had them. I know you are miserable and that death looks so much better than constant pain. I know. I remember. I know that feeling of getting cards and emails from caring friends and thinking, “Yeah, right … that’s nice but you have no idea what I’m going through.”

I wish I could give you a glimpse of hope. I wish I could introduce you to Hope and convince you to give my Jesus a chance to pull up His chair. I wonder if I had had even a glimpse life today, 30 months after transplant, sitting next to the love of my life on a luxury sailing catamaran watching the sun sink into the Pacific ocean, if it would have given some strength on the worst days.

I know your seat sucks right now. I know, like a baseball fan at Fenway Park sitting behind a pole, pain obstructs your view. People around you are telling you to look to the future, that the view is good, but all you see is pain, pills and bills. I remember your seat.

Maybe you could look at me for a moment? First, see me sitting in my mobility scooter, wearing my adult diapers, unable to walk 100 feet, abdomen swollen from fluid buildup and removed from the transplant list in March of 2012, too sick for the surgery. And then, look at the pictures below, October 2014, and understand that you don’t know what might be ahead if you continue fighting and hang on until the storm clouds clear. I know, I know … you think they’ll never clear but trust me … they might. They won’t if you give up.

Robin and I are sitting in our seats again, hand-in-hand, watching the curtain rise on the next act. Like everyone else, we don’t know what’s ahead. All we know is that we’re glad to be given this time together.

Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten. Joel 2:25

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Gloria feeding the fish.

Gloria feeding the fish.

Gail running on the beach.

Gail running on the beach.

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