Finding Beauty in the Rain

Some people are the “glass half empty” type. Others are “glass half full.”  Me? I try to be happy that I have a glass at all. Even an empty glass has potential.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives in life.  and all over Facebook. Negatives work to stick to us like burrs in a field. They try to weave into the very fabric of our hearts and minds.

We focus on things we can’t control and we obsess over stuff we cannot change. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things.

Life includes an abundance of hard things. We lose jobs, people we love pass away, accidents happen and sickness hits our frail, human shells. The sun shines on the good and the bad and times of rain come to each.

Sometimes the rain just keeps coming and it feels like it will never end. It can cause us to forget about the sunshine and even think it will never shine again. But, even in the rain there is beauty if we will look for it.

We went through a very, very rainy 18 months in our lives. I lost my health, I lost my income, we lost our house, our savings and our retirement fund. I lost my energy, needed a mobility chair and came to the point of wearing adult diapers. I even lost the hope of having the liver transplant I needed to survive when docs took me off the transplant list in March of 2012 saying I was “too weak to survive” the surgery.

It rained pain, it rained financial hardship, it rained embarrassment, it rained questions and it rained discomfort day after day after day.

But, one thing remained unchanged. We sing these words at our church,

“Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me …
On and on and on and on it goes 
Yes it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
‘Cause this one thing remains… Your love never fails…”
~Jesus Culture, 2015

It was my faith that got me through those rainy times. I’m not talking about meaningless religious ritual. I’m talking about living, breathing faith that grew stronger the harder things got.

There was beauty in life even during those brutal times. I found beauty in my family, beauty in my awesome wife and beauty in so many of the people I met.

We’ve had a lot of real rain this Spring. The ground is saturated and rivers are running high. Gray skies have been the dominant theme and most people get into somewhat of a lethargic funk when that happens.

I decided I needed to find the beauty in the rain yesterday so I grabbed my camera and crawled around in the puddles a bit to photograph the flowers in our front garden. I was drawn to rain droplets that somehow made the flowers even more vibrant and beautiful. The rain that I was so tired of brought the incredible beauty in front of my lens.

Photographing droplets on flowers made me think of another favorite song we’ve heard in our church:

“All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”

(listen: https://youtu.be/kWooIrU5OwI)

 

I would not wish the storm we lived through on anyone. But now, I see so many beautiful things that came up from that ground. I’m thankful for changes in me and the depth of my faith. I’m thankful for all the people now in my life as a result.

I know more rain will fall. I know more hard times will come as part of life. I pray they are not as hard but, even if they are, I am confident that beauty will still be found whatever is ahead.

The old book I like to read says,

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” Luke 12:27-28

My life has taught me that that is Truth.

Look for the beauty today. It’s out there.

Posted in chronic illness, depression, discouragement, facing death, Liver disease, transplant recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Approaching 5 years of surviving and thriving

Loving life!

May 7 will mark 5 years since my life-saving liver transplant. I am amazed at all the life I’ve squeezed into five quick years. My grandchildren have to be my greatest blessing, by far.

As far as my health is concerned, I’ve got very little to whine about. I’ve had a couple little rejection scares that were nothing. I’ve stayed out of the hospital and I’ve been very active. Side effects of medications have been no more than annoying.

But, this past year has probably been the most difficult in terms of colds, stomach bugs and non-liver stuff. 

Last Spring I had a “simple” procedure to treat some blown out veins in my legs. It was called “laser ablation” or something like that. I was told I’d be back to normal quickly. But, we imuno-supressed​ folks  heal more slowly so it cost me my cycling season and now I have deep, dark black, permanent bruises where the veins used to be. The good news is that the stinging pain is finally gone when I ride. I’m back in the saddle.

I think I’ve caught every bug going around since last fall. I’m pretty sure that’s mostly my own fault because I’ve been so much less diligent in hand sanitizing and steering clear of sick people. I think we transplant recipients who have few issues start to think of ourselves as just like everyone else the further out we get from surgery. 

In February a cardiologist told me I now have a thickened heart and enlarged aorta. He didn’t seem concerned at all and said we’ll check on it again in a year. That seemed odd to me.

But the weirdest thing going on has been that I’m super exhausted all the time. I push through it but it stinks. I go to bed early and am now getting a solid 8 hours most nights but I wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all. Yeah, I’m up by 5 am but normally in bed around 9.

I asked my doc about it and he said, “well, you’re getting older; it’s normal.” I’m 54 but I don’t feel like that is old!

I’ve also been trying to stay on top of my weight because I know that fatty liver & NASH can return. But, despite diet and exercise, my weight has been gradually climbing.

The weight management doc was puzzled so ordered a few more viles of blood be drawn at my lab visit. 

It turns out that my thyroid is misbehaving. When I read the symptoms I was surprised that I didn’t see my picture next to them. Holy cow, 8 of the 10 top symptoms were dead on!

So, I’m kinda bummed that it’s another thing added but also relieved and hopeful that answers are coming. It means another doc gets added to my list, another regular appointment, another daily pill and another vile of blood drawn at each lab visit but that’s all fine with me if I stop feeling like I haven’t slept in a year!

I’m going to keep PUSHing until they figure this newest challenge out. I’m thankful, hopeful, positive and ready to PUSH through whatever is next.

If you’re a praying person, shoot up a prayer for wisdom for the docs, good results and that I respond well and quickly to treatment.

I’m pretty pumped that we finally have an answer and it isn’t just that I’m an old fart.

Posted in Liver disease | 1 Comment

Transplant: oils, supplements, drinks

After two messages and three emails this week asking me about cleanses, herbal remedies and oils, I need to be clear about some things.

Yes, I had a liver transplant nearly 5 years ago and, yes, I am living healthier and doing things I haven’t been able to do for 15 years before transplant. That’s fantastic!

No, I am not a doctor, nurse, or chemist and have no formal education about transplants and how livers work.

My advice? ASK YOUR TRANSPLANT TEAM before ingesting things or absorbing them through your skin.

My team told me to steer clear of all cleanses, oils and herbal supplements saying that they can mask your true condition by affecting the accuracy of blood labs.

I love grapefruit but have had none in five years. Why not? It’s natural and delicious. But, something in it messes with our anti-rejection drug and makes it less effective.

“Natural” is not a synonym for “safe.” “Chemical” is not the antonym of “safe.”

So … do your research. Don’t just accept the claims of sites, articles or blogs that hope to sell you something.

You and I, as transplant survivors, walk a precarious line. We have to take a chemical compound every 12 hours to suppress our immune systems to keep from reject our new organs. If we take too much it’s toxic. If we take too little, we go into rejection.

If you are waiting for a transplant I know how much you just want to feel better. I remember feeling desperate enough that the super antioxidant, $120/month drink, with all the promises of the multi level marketing distributor pitch, were tempting.

I remember the person who offered to press on my feet with their special elixer for the “discounted rate” of $75.

There are a lot of people out there who will gladly take your money. Please be careful and ALWAYS ASK YOUR TEAM OF DOCTORS before swallowing or applying anything.

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dang it! I keep forgetting I’m not normal.

This stuff kills everything!

This stuff kills everything!

Transplant recipients have no doubt they are different the first year after surgery. Doctors appointments are frequent and blood lab visits are so often that most of us start to think we could draw our own blood at home if they would let us.

In the second year, things ease up for most of us. We see docs every 3 months or 6 months and get stuck with a needle once a month. We talk about our transplants less and don’t lead every conversation with it.

It gets a little better each year. At least it did for me … and now it’s a problem. I’m coming up on my five year liverversary and some days I think, other than my prescription meds alarm every 12 hours, I’m just an average Joe. Sometimes I actually forget I had my liver yanked out and a new one put in.

Why is that a problem?

Well, I get stupid and lazy, don’t wash my hands and I leave my hand sanitizer at home. So, because my pills knock down my immune system so my body doesn’t reject my new organ, I catch every bug going around.

I forget that it takes me longer to dump a cold and that I probably should not be so huggy. But, I like to be huggy!

I spent yesterday and last night bowing to the porcelain throne with something that’s “going around.” If I’d just have squirted that sanitizer stuff on my hands more regularly, I probably would be fine.

I used to squirt it after every doorknob encounter. I squirted it and rubbed it on my steering wheel and shifter. Handshakes brought it from my pocket almost instantly.

Now, I’m usually not even sure where my travel squirter is. Maybe I left it home in my other coat?

So, last night while bowing to the porcelain throne, I made another resolution. I am going to remember to start carrying that sanitizer with me, pass on the salad bar, wash my hands more frequently and be more careful.

Life is good! But, I’m NOT normal and won’t be normal ever again.

Now where’s my sanitizer?

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

New Years resolutions are probably useless unless …

Child sponsorship is a Bridge to Life

Child sponsorship is a Bridge to Life for children trapped in poverty.

Here I am again, fatter than I want to be, spending too much time staring at Facebook, watching too much crappy TV and my workout ethic is at sloth level. And here I am once again on New Year’s Eve looking determined to make changes. It’s resolution time.

“I don’t make resolutions. They never stick.”

I’ve heard that plenty of times but, to me, it feels like quitting before I even start.  I have to at least give it a shot. I figure if it lasts two months that’s 8 weeks more than not trying at all. Last year most of my resolutions lasted until August when our family vacation put them to death. When everyone’s eating cheesecake, I eat cheesecake. That’s normally fine until family vacation hits and the theme is excess every night!

So, yeah, my disciplined eating restarts tomorrow … errr … Monday, actually, because we’ll celebrate New Year’s Day tomorrow and eat a lot. It’s important to be realistic, after-all.

So, MONDAY for sure! Monday I will pull the laundry off my bicycle seat sitting on my indoor trainer, put on my padded bike shorts, and climb aboard for at least 10 minutes of pedaling. I figure I need to start slow because a heart attack would wreck everything.

MONDAY, my phone and computer will be shut of at 8:00 PM sharp. Yeah, just like last year. Excess gets replaced by moderation on Monday. Crappy, mindless television gets replaced by books on Monday. Seriously. No, I really mean it this time. Yeah, I meant it last time too, but maybe this year will be different.

In the middle of my resolution review this morning, I realized that all of my resolutions are egocentric. Me, me, me. I’ll be thinner, I’ll be smarter, I’ll be in better shape. My resolutions matter to no one else but me. When I desert them, no one will even notice. That’s probably why they are so easy to dump.

“Wow, Scott, for a guy that talks so much about loving others, you’re pretty selfish when it comes to resolutions. Why are all your goals all about you?” I asked. Maybe some year my resolutions will address the whole talking to myself thing but not yet.

So … I’m adding a section to my resolutions. I’m adding an “others” section to hopefully make some sort of difference. It’s so easy to fall into the complainer mold and ignore my dad’s counsel that he repeated at least a hundred times, “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”

The Jesus I follow tells me that loving others and serving others is what it’s all about. It’s kinda weird that I’ve never even thought of that when looking at the year to come and making my plans.

I’ll try to keep my me-focused resolutions because they are good and worthwhile but I’m adding something new. My normal Monday morning planning session list now has a new word on it to move me beyond my self-centered mindset. Simply, it’s “others.”

I plan to think locally, “what can I do this week to encourage, help, serve or connect with someone outside my circle? What can I do even if its small and for just one?”

And I plan to think globally with a particular focus on the ministry in Guatemala that has grabbed my heart. What can I do this week to come alongside my friends at AMG and the families they support? What can I do this week to make some kind of difference?

Do you want to join me in expanding the resolution list a bit? Yeah, I’ll probably drop my self stuff when we hit a string of family celebrations next summer but I’m thinking the others section has a good shot at lasting throughout the year. Why? I’m pretty good at keeping commitments I make to others. I bet you are too.

An idea
I encourage you to consider looking beyond yourself to by sponsoring a child in Guatemala. Beyond a monthly check, you will find that sending a monthly letter to your child will begin to change your focus. The communication is actually what many children look forward to most because it connects them with someone who truly cares about them. Visit www.bit.co/Oratorio to see the children waiting for a sponsor at the sister school our church supports in Oratorio.

Yes, finding sponsors for all 19 of these Oratorio children is one of my 2017 goals! If you sponsor a child and meet one of your goals it will also help me move closer to meeting one of mine at the same time. That’s a great jump on 2017!

 

 

Posted in AMG Guatemala, change | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas from the Linscotts

2016-family-christmas-cardMerry Christmas!

What an amazing year it has been for Robin and me! Since last Christmas our family has grown by two precious grandchildren. Calvin and Emma are such a joy to us and our noisy household is growing yet again as grandson #2 is expected in May. We are so very thankful!

My health is good. I had a procedure on veins in my legs in May that took a long time to heal and limited my bicycling this summer. But, my liver is perfect! I am so thankful for my liver transplant in 2012 when my son gave me half of his liver. What a gift!

Robin is enjoying being a grandmother. She loves her teaching job and loves her students. She is a dedicated jogger and runs as many as twenty miles a week.

Our oldest son Joshua is entering his final year of medical school. We are blessed to have him working at the nearby hospital. We renovated our basement so that he, Kristen and Calvin live with us. We love that!

Our daughter, Shara, loves being a mother to Emma. She and her husband, Jake, are expecting a baby boy in May.  Shara is loving staying at home and Jake is doing very well with US Foods.

Our youngest son, Donald Jacob, is a restaurant manager at a nearby resort. He is very good at what he does. The restaurant biz doesn’t allow us to see him and Laura as much as we would like.

Pompom is still a dog doing dog stuff.

In April, Robin and I were very blessed to travel to Guatemala to work with AMG ministries. We felt so at home in Oratorio. Robin loved teaching children in the classroom and I made so many friends. I returned December 3-10 to volunteer with some marketing photography and brought more than $2000 for shoes, food, clothes and school supplies thanks to so many who gave.

The little church we serve is continuing to do well. We are so very blessed to be there and we love the people so much.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Scott and Robin Linscott& Family

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Why you should go easy on the Santa thing

mean-santaSome kids think Santa is a totally unfair jerk.

Over the years Robin and I have worked with hundreds of kids as their teachers and coaches and some of them really dislike Santa. Why?

Because Santa doesn’t like them.

Relax. We love Santa in our house. I’m even one of his official helpers. I have a suit, the hair, boots and a big bag. So, no. This isn’t a Santa rant.

But, consider this for just a minute as though you are in second grade. Why would Santa bring the kid next to you a $500 Xbox One and only bring you a hat and a pair of mittens? Why did he bring Shelly a giant Barbie Dream House and you a used remote control car that doesn’t work?

Clearly, Santa doesn’t like you as much as he does the other kids at school. What other reason could there be for the disparity in the level of his gift giving?  From a poor kid’s point of view, the whole Santa thing can get pretty complicated.

Santa can be pretty tough on low income kids at Christmas while showering the kids who already have way more than they need.

Have you ever given Santa’s gift-giving pattern a second thought? Kids do. Low-income kids do.

In our house, as our children were growing up, we asked Santa to limit things and just bring one or two small things. His gifts were always unwrapped and under the tree. Sometimes he brought an inflatable sled or new toy snow shovels. Our kids were always excited to see what Santa brought but Santa’s gifts were never their focus. He stuffed their stockings with things like toothpaste, favorite candies and trinkets but nothing major.

When they got to the age of questioning, Santa transitioned into part of the fun of Christmas and even recruited them to join in with the fun of surprise gift giving.

We never had a Santa crisis in our family because Santa, though fun, was never the center of Christmas. When they got larger gifts, our children expressed thanks to us or their grandparents. Their understanding of Santa meant they never even asked him for the huge gifts.

One of our children’s fondest memories came during a time when we were working with a struggling teen ministry and totally dependent on donations. Our cupboards were empty and our mortgage was unpaid. A minivan pulled up in front of the house with every square inch packed with brightly wrapped gifts from the people of the little Pleasant Hill Baptist Church nearby. Robin and I were humbled and so very grateful watching our children open both practical and fun gifts that were not from Santa, but from Jesus followers. We hadn’t signed up on any list for services or gifts and hadn’t broadcast our needs. Somehow we had our own Christmas miracle, complete with boxes of food to restock our pantry.

Please, do me a favor and think about it if Santa goes overboard at your house. I encourage you to take the time to get in touch with him and ask him to limit it. I’m not saying do less or even give less. I’m just asking that you let Santa off the hook so that when the child from a struggling family who sits next to your child at school asks what Santa brought, it isn’t big deal.

What about your child? Will he think Santa loves him less because he brings less? Ours didn’t. I think that’s because we were fortunate enough to always have much more than was ever needed under our tree. Santa just wasn’t a huge deal because they were so excited by what Nana and Grampa gave them or what Robin and I had wrapped for them. If Santa got snowed out or stuck somewhere, Christmas in our house wouldn’t be ruined like all the Christmas TV specials claimed.

We love Santa in our house. We love listening for the reindeer, watching the weatherman track him on the radar, and leaving cookies and milk for his snack. We love dumping out the bobbles he leaves in our stockings and seeing what he left under the tree. But, in our house, the focus quickly changes to thanking one another, grateful hugs for thoughtful gifts and sharing Christmas joy together.

Please, just think about it? How about helping Santa shift from the center of Christmas day to just a fun part of your celebration?

By Scott Linscott
http://www.scottlinscott.com

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