Shhhh…

“The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.” – Bill Gaultiere

And yet I wonder why I’ve felt burned out, discouraged, out of balance and fatigued? It’s been almost a year since I’ve practiced the disciplines of silence and solitude.

There’s a pair of red-headed woodpeckers about 20 feet away from me, 5 mallard ducks floating by on a pond of glass, and a lone fisherman in a small boat casting into his mirror image. I can identify the calls of three early-morning birds and am straining to identify two unknown. A pair of loons is making its morning trip into the swampy cove to my right.

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

That will be true with me or without me. How can it be that we get so busy doing God tasks that we lose touch with the Lover of our Souls Himself? How can we become so immersed that we actually lose all sense of presence?

Photographing an event is entirely different than experiencing an event. Doing God tasks is entirely different than sitting with God … alone … quiet … still.

Solitude and silence are the disciplines that deliver strength and drive. Similar to pulling into a gas station, similar to having the oil changed and similar to rotating the tires, it is solitude and silence that give me what I need to continue to answer the call of Christ. Solitude and silence are what He needed to complete the mission He was given.

Thomas Pond

Thomas Pond, Casco, Maine

A loon’s call is saying “amen” or “so be it” as my solitude is interrupted by neighboring cottages releasing their children, screen doors slamming behind them. They will want to greet my dog and ask a million questions.

But that’s okay. We were not called to unending solitude and silence. We were called to love our neighbors.

At least I am finally feeling recharged and motivated to answer that call. I’ve got an invite, or more of a challenge actually, to show off my rock skipping skills.

Ok, kid, prepare to be amazed …

By Scott Linscott

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Close the book? No, thank you.

I’ll cry today. I know it. Some of my tears will be triggered by tears I see on the faces of people I love and others will come at my own sadness of a relationship suspended.

Relationship suspended. I’ve cried at goodbyes before – most of us have. When our best friend takes a job thousands of miles away, we hug and cry, even though our friend is moving to something better. Why? Because we know our relationship is put on pause.

The pain used to be much worse before video calling and group meeting apps came around. When a friend moved thousands of miles away, it used to mean contacts were reduced to toll-calls (calls used to cost more money the further apart the parties were), cards and letters. We knew it meant the closeness of our friendship would fade. We knew our relationship was largely paused until we could eventually reunite and pick up right where we left off regardless of how many years passed.

Today is our official good-bye for my mother. Today is the strange, ceremonial goodbye that we humans have been doing for thousands of years. We’ll all gather as family and friends, sing her favorite hymns and read the Scriptures she held dear, and share some memories. I said my goodbye more than two weeks ago and kissed her on her forehead, but today it will be official.

My baby shower.

We humans need closure. We hold funerals and say words to come to an ending and close the book. We eat little sandwiches and desserts made with love, we look at pictures, we tell stories and then we go home with the book supposedly closed.

Closed. In the past two weeks I have started to dial my mom’s number at least twice. I’ve thought, “I wonder how mom is doing today,” several times. I’ve stopped to snap a picture that I knew Mom would like to see more than once.

I doubt my book will close today. In fact, I know it won’t close. I’m kind of glad for that, even though it means tears of grief. I’m blessed to have these memories … so many memories.

I laugh at the memory of my mother smacking 11-year-old me over the head with a devil dog, cream-filled pastry at York Wild Animal Kingdom. I can see myself standing there with the cream filling melting down the side of my face. I had asked for a devil dog probably a thousand times since leaving our house in Auburn.

I smile at cold winter memories of painting projects on easels and hook-a-rug crafts in our little den. I turn the pages in my Bible and often think, “hey, Mom and I memorized this together.”

Memories of breakfast talks and life lessons from a woman who always had plenty to say no matter what the topic, will not fade.

I have so many memories of broken things that Mom figured out how to fix with tape, glue, bobby pins and duct tape. She had no YOUtube videos to show her what to do. She had Yankee ingenuity that refused to give up. She taught me to PUSH and look for solutions rather than just toss things aside.

Memories of her shushing Dad and I playing in church and memories of teasing her about her very bad singing voice. (She’d tell you the same!) Still, she’d make a joyful noise!

I have memories of me hiding her freshly-made coffee in the cupboard when she turned her back and memories of her swatting me playfully with a, “you’re no good, kid” when she finally found it. She said it to all three of us “no good, rotten kids” but we knew she didn’t believe that for a second. We knew family was her world.

And then, as years passed and time marched forward, I’ll hold onto memories of her first question whenever I’d call, “how are the kids” which then became “how are my babies” when great grandchildren arrived. Our talks always centered on family.

Today, we will officially close the book knowing that our relationship is suspended for awhile. We’ll say our formal goodbyes. But, my book won’t close. I know that at around 7:30 tonight, if my phone rings, I’ll expect it to be my mom calling, “I know you’re busy … fair to middling … how are my babies … this is a toll call so I’ll let you go…” and I’ll smile.

I’m going to keep my Mom book open. I’m going to let the tears come when they want and the laughs too. I had 55 years with an amazing, talented, creative, ingenius, loyal, outspoken, determined, loving, dedicated Mother encouraging me, shaping me, scolding me, coddling me and always supporting me. Why would I even consider closing that book?

Doe, Ray, Me, So, Fa … See, La, See, Doe!

Thank you, Mom. I see you everywhere I turn. You did a good job building a family, Mom. A very, very good job.

“My

son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.” Proverbs 6:20-21

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Lasting impact in my mother’s memory

It was Monday, April 16 and I was in Oratorio, Guatemala once again at one of my favorite places on Earth. I was with a team of about 20 people serving at the AMG Noah’s Ark Center. Some of the children were performing a dance at the front of the room while more than 100 others sat on the floor watching.

2018-GUATEMALA APRIL-9263

Karla

I noticed a little girl sitting in the middle of the sea of faces. She has sitting up on her knees to get a better view, clapping along and smiling. I snapped this picture when she looked my way. I’m not sure why she stood out to me but I kept seeing her little smile throughout the week.

The little ones that Robin and I sponsor, Tanya and Damaris, consumed most of our time and attention whenever we were with the larger group. Sponsored children want to get every possible second with their “godparents” who visit. Of course, very few ever manage to make a visit so it is very, very special when some do. Every sponsored child lives vicariously through us wondering, “is my godmother like you?” Is my godfather like you?”

On Wednesday, after two days of playing games, singing songs, making crafts and reading bible stories with the children and visiting many of their homes, our team asked if we could meet children who were waiting for sponsors. It was chaotic and confusing. My job was to snap a picture of one child after another as they came through the line. It was rapid fire. I moved quickly and efficiently until this little smile moved into my lens. I learned that her name is Karla. Again, I’m not sure why she stood out to me.

9 of the 21 children were quickly sponsored by our team members. But, Robin and I already have two children we sponsor, so we were not planning to add another. After printing out the photos on my portable printer and handing team members their children, I was left with 12 still waiting. Among them was Karla’s face. It was Thursday, our last day with the younger children. I knew God had a plan for Karla that involved us.

When we returned to the United States, my mother, who has been very forgetful over the last few years brought up the subject of sponsoring a child. She had been asking me for details since our first trip in 2016 and I never followed through. This time I had Karla’s picture with me and took it out to show her. She seemed genuinely excited.

It took the month of May to get Mom all set up sponsoring Karla. My plan was to help her write letters and we talked about what she could buy at the dollar store to send on my next trip, But then, June 2, a nurse at the Veteran’s Home where she was rehabbing from shoulder surgery found her unresponsive. We later learned it was a massive stroke. Mom passed away on June 7.

There was no question that we would add Karla to our AMG family and think of Mom whenever we write to her or see her. But my sisters and I knew that Mom would have wanted to do something for her little girl, something significant. But, what?

I contacted the director at the AMG School in Oratorio thinking that perhaps a year’s worth of Mom’s sponsorship would be able to provide a brick wood stove with chimney pipe for the family. Many families cook inside, over open fires and have numerous issues with eyes and lungs from all the smoke. But there was a greater need in Karla’s home.

He explained that their house had dirt floors that turned to mud in the rainy season because of holes in the walls. They needed some major cement work and the services of a mason to patch the holes and make a cement pad instead of a dirt floor. I gladly added some to my Mom’s gift to make this a reality in her memory.

Yesterday I received before and after photos. Mom would have been so pleased to see what she did for Karla and her family. The director tells me that the parents are overwhelmed with appreciation and so very thankful.

I’m thankful too.

BEFORE:

BEFORE 1

Hard-packed dirt floors

BEFORE 2 

AFTER:

AFTER 2

Sealed walls

AFTER 4

Cement pad

Barrel for corn

Barrel for corn hangs from ceiling

AFTER 5

No more mud in the rainy season!

AFTER 6

Look at that smile!

To make a lasting difference in the life of a child, visit https://goo.gl/hbVh3g and become a sponsor.

 

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Grief sneaks up on you

Grief. I haven’t experienced it this closely before. I mean, I’ve been sad when people have passed and I’ve lost some relatives I’ve loved, but never like this. I thought I understood it pretty well and was prepared.

But grief at losing my mom is different. It just creeps up behind me and dumps over my head like I’m a pro football coach that just won a championship … except there are no laughs and no trophy coming next.

There have been maybe three things in my life that I know my mom was pretty darn proud of.

She always loved introducing me and saying, “he’s a minister.” She grew up in a generation where that was a title of respect and honor. She grew up in a generation where “minister” was a respected community position right up there with doctor and lawyer. She’d scold me for wearing jeans, having a pierced ear and tattoo and she’d let me know how I wasn’t measuring up to her minister standard, but she was always happy that my faith was alive and active.

Secondly, she thought my dad game was strong. She liked the way I made time for my family, played with my kids and took time to explain things to them. She always had advice on how my husband game could improve, but my dad game was solid in Mom’s estimation.

Lastly, creativity. Mom liked it when I would take the time to create. She loved it when I would write poetry and short stories. She loved it when I would make photographs and share them with her. Anything that I created was valued by Mom.

That’s where the grief bucket got dumped over my head this morning at about 4:00 AM.  I had been awake since 3:30 staring up at the ceiling, dimly lit by our charging electronics, when I decided to go through yesterday’s photos on my phone and post my favorites to social media.

Chloe Cat

A smooch from Great Aunt Gail.

“Mom is going to love these pictures of Chloe,” I thought. “I’ll print some for this week’s visit …” Oh … wait … she’s gone.

I shook off the initial wave and went through some more pictures. “Maybe I’ll frame a print of this peony for Mom …”  came the next thought. No, Mom would have loved it but, no.

And then the tears. The grief bucket washed over me in full force and I had to get out of bed to try to shake it off. The tears followed me to the Keurig and even turned up a notch when I grabbed a Raspberry Chocolate K-cup. Mom loved it when I brought her some of my froo-froo coffee flavors. She scolded me when she discovered how much they cost me but, still, she loved it when I’d make her a cup.

A grief bucket nearly took me out yesterday while I was delivering my message at church. Somehow, I managed to suppress it and push mindlessly on so that only my friend John noticed. Mid-sentence, talking about all being part of the body of Christ, I thought of Mom and how this minister stuff was one of the things she most loved about the man I am now. I held it together until I got home and cried with my wife in the driveway and then again with my sister in the kitchen.

I want to know how long these surprise attacks are going to continue. I don’t like them. I prefer control.

I’m thinking, at least for awhile, I may be printing more photos than normal. One as a gift for the hospice house, several for walls at the South Paris Veterans Home, and then … I don’t know where else … all with “Mom would have liked this one” as my motivation.

Mom's Wall

Mom painted this on her bedroom wall.

Mom passed her creative eye on to me. She bought me my first camera when I was just 11 years old. She paid to get my film developed and would sit and comment about how good this picture was and how she liked the composition of that picture.

Even as she got into her eighties, and even after she lost the sight in one of her eyes, I knew I could bring my up photo books and artwork and she would love looking at them and would ask me questions. She loved that almost as much as when I would swing through Haven’s Candies and pick up a fresh box of Needhams chocolates.

I’m going to miss my Mom. I’m going to miss her a lot.

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It’s a good day. My Mom is with Jesus.

ScottLinscottPhoto--7387.jpgIt’s a good day.

My 85 year old mother passed quietly last night, comfortable, at a beautiful hospice facility with people she loved by her side. It was the answer to the prayer she has been praying for several years, that God would call her home.

I remember one of her most recent stays in a rehabilitation facility. We covered her walls with family photos to show her how much reason she had to stay and recover. I remember playing videos of grandchildren telling her to hang on and work to get better because we wanted her with us. She’d force a smile,, thank us and say, “but I just want to go.”

The call came last Saturday night. “They found mom unresponsive.” I think I’ve had that call or text three times in the last three years or so. The calls came here and there mixed in with what had become normal messages of falls, confusion, sickness and seizures. The calls had become expected; broken bones, UTI’s, shoulders out of joint. sprains. I took this call with what had become my normal “here we go again” mindset and we headed north to be with her.

The doctor said she had a massive stroke and would go at any moment. Honestly, I didn’t believe him. I knew the drill. I was determined to protect my emotions from this roller coaster ride that I’ve come to hate. Surely, she’d be spending the next month or two at yet another rehabilitation facility fighting with her physical therapists and refusing to do the work.

My emotions bounced from tears to disbelief. With no life-saving measures, I knew this time was different but somewhere within, I still expected to have her wake up again. I had 5 days of sitting in her room watching efforts to make her comfortable. I had five days of “it will be any time now.” Gradually the thoughts that she would prove them all wrong and wake up again faded and were replaced with the reality of saying goodbye.

But yesterday, it was clear that Mom was going. I sat in the nearby chapel, not able to bear being in the room with her, and I wrote her obituary and planned her memorial service. I tried my best to focus on her new life ahead instead of my life without her. I did my best to be happy for her and push down my feelings of being sad for me.

My sisters wanted to be with her when she passed but I could not bear the thought of that. Everyone told me it was okay. I wanted my last memory to be when I sat and read the 23rd Psalm with her, hoping she could hear me but also hoping she was already gone. I wanted my last time with her to be a happy memory of joking and asking her if she remembered dad asking, “who’s this ‘Shirley’ character and why is she following you” every time we recited the last verse together when we memorized the Psalm for church homework: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

I kissed her on the forehead, told her I loved her and once again told her that she was free to go. I told her that on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday but on Thursday I couldn’t watch anymore and spent very little time with her beyond a quick kiss and one last, “I love you.” I played a video of my son Josh singing “House of God Forever” and decided that would be my final time with Mom. Today, I am glad I did.

This morning I feel sad and heavy and on the edge of tears. And this morning I feel happy that Mom’s battle is finished and she is raising her arms high in praise, walking with no cane and breathing deeply without that horrendous cough that has plagued her.  I feel joy knowing that no, she is not an angel and did not just graduate to getting her wings, because heaven and life with Jesus is way better than a “It’s a Wonderful Life” tale. I feel joy that she is complete and with God, not worried at all about us. She has no more worries and no more pain.

I’m sure my sisters and I will cry and laugh and cry some more today. I pray my daddy’s disease will buffer him from the devastation I know he would experience had he not had Alzheimer’s. I pray her grandchildren will be able to focus on the good and grieve healthy grief.

It’s a good day. It’s a good day because of our Hope and the fact that the resurrection of Jesus redeemed this whole messy, up and down thing we call “life.”

VIDEO:

Josh singing “House of God”

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This is getting old. Immunosuppression sucks

Back in 2011, I said this blog would reflect my transplant journey and would be honest. I like to try to keep things positive but …

I am sick again. No, not liver stuff. It’s just regular stuff. I’ve been sick so often this winter that it has me fatigued.

Yeah, I’m discouraged. I think I may be bordering on outright depression. I get windows of 4 or 5 days and then “whack!” sick again.

I caught Influenza A. I guess the good side is that I never was hospitalized. But, it wrecked me for about two weeks.

I got a almost 10 days of health and got to go to Israel for the trip of a lifetime. That was awesome. But, I travelled home in a metal tube where everyone around me was coughing and hacking. Robin and I knew the odds were not in my favor.

By the weekend I was in Urgent Care diagnosed with Influenza B, double ear infection and sinus infection.

We just had an awesome weekend with our Guatemala team. I led a bunch of training sessions Friday and Saturday and came home with a pounding headache and what felt like food poisoning.

I was up all night, in and out of the bathroom. It was no better this morning when I headed to church to deliver the next message in my series. God gave me the adrenaline I needed but I came home, climbed into bed shivering with the mattress heater on 8/10.

It feels like flu but aren’t we out of flu options? Can’t I just be done with flu? I read that HIV patients and transplant recipients can get the flu multiple times. Seriously??? That better be wrong.

I’m glad to be alive but I am tired of having to suppress my immune system. I’m so tired of being sick.

Maybe this is the last time? Maybe Spring and fresh air is coming. Lord, I hope so!

In addition to the discouragement and fatigue, I find myself becoming fearful of being with people. I want to visit my dad in the Veterans’ Home but I don’t want to get sick. I want to stop by and see my mom but then she goes into a coughing fit when we talk on the phone.

I even find myself avoiding my grandchildren. Yes, much of that has been my attempt to not share my particular illness of the day but, sometimes, I just don’t want to catch something else.

I’m excited to go to church but I dread it too. I know that Monday, my day off, will usually be spent sick after being with 100 or so of my faith family sharing more than worship.

I thought maybe we should move someplace better for me. Then, I pulled up the influenza map and discovered that America is pretty much all covered in poopy, brown. So, I’d be sick wherever we were. Worldwide, Australia and Buenos Aires look good

Widespread, inescapable grossness.

Before transplant we were told that I would need to spend the rest of my life of drugs to suppress my immune system after transplant. I don’t think I had any idea how much crud was floating around that healthy immune systems reject.

So, here I am, just being honest, whining a bit and telling you the level of my discouragement discouragement. No, I can’t take your immune system booster. A boosted immune system will recognize that my liver is not my own and will attack it. Yeah, flu, tissues, vaporizers and Immodium are exhausting but life with no liver is impossible.

What’s the solution? I sanitize everything and have a bottle of super-duper germ killer in every jacket pocket. I wipe down doorknobs and spray everything at church with Lysol. I’ve even taken to wearing a mask more often.

I don’t know. Nothing seems to help.

Man, I’m so tired of this … here on the couch since 4:30 AM with my stomach complaining and my head in a fog.

I just wish there was an escape!

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Be the yellow.

“Be the yellow.” I captured this scene on a side street of a Jerusalem market. Why? Because of the yellow.

The shop doors and gates were all drab and gray. Dim, florescent lights cast their odd haze on the scratches, the rust, the metal overhang above.

And there, in that shaded alleyway, was this yellow, vibrant panel above the entrance of 133.

It made me think, “choose to be the yellow.” That’s my mindset in the midst of dreary days, the scratches and scuffs of conflict and the drab, darkness of cynicism and hopelessness.

In the year before my transplant I experienced some times of pretty severe depression. I felt like a drain on the people around me. At times I felt like they would be better off without me. Thankfully, there were people in my life who brought the yellow and would not let me give up.

Look for the yellow no matter how drab your surroundings. Look for the vibrant patches. Don’t allow yourself to see only the gray. Find the yellow.

And, if you any strength at all, choose to be different. Be the bright spot. Choose life. Choose joy. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold. Be the yellow.

Romans 12:1-2

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