Time for an update on liver, life and love…

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Someone nudged me just last week. So, here goes!

First, in liver news, my liver is still behaving fine. I’ll go for blood labs soon to do all the normal AST/ALT /INR/Creatinine reports to give me a measure. I still have some normal side effects from my meds but they are nothing to spend too much time complaining about because I am alive.🙂

Second, in life news. I’m loving life and enjoying my two new grandchildren. They are 7 and 9 months old and now hold out their arms for me to take them. Is there anything better than that? My little church where I am now pastor is way cool and full of people I love a lot. My photography stuff is going well and always introducing me to new people. I had surgery on the veins in my legs back in May and that crushed my summer cycling goals but I am planning to ride in this weekend’s autism ride to get back at it.

Third, love. What do you love? Where do you invest your life? I think, before transplant, being successful at what I did was really my top priority. Doing things well and winning accolades and praise was what drove me. Now, after transplant, it’s relationships. Relationships ran a close second before but now the success stuff has dropped down quite a bit. I love being with others, investing in others, building new relationships and sharing life. I’m spending my time on loving others a lot more now. In December I will head back to Guatemala for the second time this year to shoot marketing photos for AMG. AMG works to help about 8,000 children trapped in third world poverty. It’s amazing that I have a life to poor into stuff like that now. I look forward to Sundays, family days and sitting on my lawn with others. I always knew that my God wanted me to love him and love others more than anything else, but now I think I understand why. Life is so much more fulfilling.

Life is good. I am so very thankful that I get to live it!

Here are a few pictures from my life of late…applepicking-6242 applepicking-6284 applepicking-6358 applepicking-6517 applepicking-6522 applepicking-6592maineprophoto-5997

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When the good part of life hits you hard

What do you do when good stuff hits you hard? Have you ever had moments when you just sit back and think, “holy smokes, I have it good?”

There are piles of crap pulling for my attention. Gross, right? Crass, huh? I’m sorry but it’s true. It yells at me from my television, blares across my radio, tweets at me and scrolls down my Facebook newsfeed. Someone shot a bunch of people, this guy is promising to build a giant wall, that woman is up to her eyeballs in half-truths at best, “share this if you agree” posts, hateful messages left around a housing complex …  It’s easy to get cynical, negative and fatalistic.

An old guy outside a store in Pennsylvania gave me an earful last week while we sat on a bench waiting for our shopping wives. “This world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” he told me.

I took note of his Marine cap declaring his Korean War service and asked him if life was easier back then. He stayed silent for a while. It looked to me like he was processing some painful memories.

“No, it wasn’t easier,” he finally answered. “We’ve been going to hell in a hand-basket for a very long time.”

Nero lit up his courtyard with human torches in 64 AD. People have been hating people, killing people, torturing people and abusing people for nearly as long as there have been people. Is it worse today than during than Hitler’s Germany? Worse than the Rwandan genocide? Worse than Colonial times?

If I put my hope in mankind I will always be disappointed, so, I choose not to. I choose instead to put my hope in Jesus Christ and try to live like he lived. My hope is in him. My perspective goes beyond this temporal plain.

I look for the good. When you train your eyes to see it, it isn’t hard to find. Last week it was all around me every day. Somehow a family vacation came together and we had all three of our kids, their three spouses and both of our grandchildren with us for a whole week.

My favorite times were the down times. Yes, we shopped, we went to a water park, we hit up restaurants, did touristy things and we swam in the pool but it was the nothing times that I loved most. It was the boring, do-nothing, small-talk, together times that made me most thankful for this life I’ve been given.

  • My granddaughter, Emma, six months old, went from her “oh no, that guy” face of terror when she saw me to a “Yay! There’s Grampa!” with her little arms reaching for me.
  • My grandson, Calvin, 8 months old, started doing the army crawl and is now on the move. He looks at me with a big smile that says, “my Grampa is a goof ball.”
  • I saw my kids’ marriages, full of affection and the playfulness they grew up experiencing in Robin’s and my marriage.
  • Aunties and uncles read books and played with their nephew and niece.

14054985_10100884581983017_7297639365903704106_nI don’t think anyone noticed my moment when it all came down on me in a wave of emotion.  I was sitting in a chair to the side, Calvin and Emma were lying on their stomachs on the floor while Shara read a book to them with Kristen sitting nearby. “Holy smokes, I have it good.”

It’s been 4 years and 3 months since my liver transplant.  It’s been 4 years and 5 months since they took me off the transplant list and I was sure my life was coming to an end. But, my God, had other plans. I’ve been given bonus days.

I’m not going to waste my days worrying about Democrats or Republicans. I’m not going to believe that there’s a bomb around every corner or live my life in fear. I’m not going to fear my black neighbor, my tattooed neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my gay neighbor … I’m going to choose to love and serve because that’s what Jesus did. I refuse to let CNN and FOX shape my outlook and attitudes.

I’m determined to live out these bonus days recognizing my God’s Grace in this very messy world.

The world may well be going to hell in a hand basket but I jumped out of that basket a long time ago.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.



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4 years today. A good, good Father.


Calvin James

My eyes opened for the day just before 4:00 AM. I listened to the birds coming awake in the trees just outside our bedroom window and thought “how blessed I am.”

I spent some time talking to God about the names He brought to mind. There were three new names that came in the last 4 months: Calvin, Emma and Tanya.

As my mind grew sharper, I began to think of my day ahead and my calendar note that said “PLAN NOTHING – REST” in bold red print across this whole weekend. I was up making my coffee by 5:00 AM and watching my little dog search for the perfect spot on our freshly-mowed lawn.

A quick text to my son and daughter-in-law, “I’m up if Calvin is awake and chatty and you’d like more time to sleep.” No response made me a little bit disappointed.

I settled in to write a bit, turned on Pandora heard Chris Tomlin,
“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

A quick check of my social media shortly after I woke reminded me of today’s date, May 7.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”

It was four years ago at this very time when my son Josh and I were in hospital beds at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts. They were wheeling him down the hall to the operating theater to remove 60% of his liver to transplant in me to replace my diseased organ right at about this time.

“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

Four years ago people joined in prayer all over the world for us and waited for my sister, Gloria, to post updates through the day.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am


Emma Hazel

Cause you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

I wrote my last blog post before transplant the night before. Rereading it this morning is surreal:

“As I write this, I’ve got to tell you I’m that I’m scared. I’m not afraid of the outcome… I’m scared of the process … I have no fear that Josh and I will be preserved … we were preserved years ago and rest in the hands of our Father no matter what … I’m at peace with the surgery and that’s weird for me … Jesus holds us. He loves you like crazy!”

“You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

Those three names on my mind this morning … Calvin, Emma, Tanya … three precious children, two my grandchildren, one my newly newly sponsored child in Guatemala, will grow up different because my God has chosen to restore and heal me.

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think”

Tanya scott goodbye 2


These words on my screen are blurred again through the tears that come so frequently in these bonus days of the last four years. The graduations, the weddings, the family times, the new friendships … new life came when life was about gone … abundant life more than I could ever ask or imagine

“You’re a Good, Good Father
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am.”

Loved by You. Yes, it is who I am and I will never again take that for granted.

Thanks for this bonus day, Lord, and for any you choose to grant me from this day forward.

By the way, Calvin and I are now hanging out listening to the toddler station on Pandora while the rest of the house sleeps.

“B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O,  and Bingo was his name-O.”

Can it ever get any better than this?

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Listen to “Good, Good, Father” here.
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Weird coincidences?

By Scott Linscott

We’ve been back from Guatemala for almost two weeks now. Today, our sponsor kit with a photo of Tanya’s smiling, 7 year old face looking at me. The first thing I notic…

Source: Weird coincidences?

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Testing from Guatemala

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We are Guatemala bound in 9 days!

IMG_20160406_205229 (1)Pinch me. Not hard, please, but I think I need to be pinched. This is a dream, right? Or, am I actually having another part of the life I loved so much before transplant returned to me?

In 9 days, at this time, I will be on a plane with 18 of my friends on the first leg of our trip to Guatemala where we will be working in a school with 350 children in the little village of Oratorio.

We’ll be doing some painting at the school, encouraging the staff and playing with kids as well as whatever else comes up. I bought some children’s books in Spanish and am looking forward to reading “Are You My Mother” to as many children as will listen. It was my favorite.

God has provided more than $30,000 to make this trip possible. Someone asked me if it would not be better to just send the cash. It’s a fair question.

First, it is HIGHLY doubtful we would have raised $30,000 just to send to Guatemala without the relational link. We are all more likely to support a friend bringing a gift than we are to give with no connection.

Second, apart from the plane tickets, everything else is going to Guatemala and supporting either the sponsoring ministry or the local economy. That is about $17,000 not including what our team spends on gifts, trinkets and extras. That is a significant supply to a local economy where the average annual income is about $4500. It will help fund the school, pay for our work project, support the staff at the lodging house and even provide additional money for food boxes or additional projects. So, yes, Delta is benefiting but the people we work with are benefiting more.

Third, team members are carrying their own expenses. My vaccines were $330 (my part was $80 thankfully). Some needed passports and all need to supply their own travel gear. And all have given directly to the fundraising goal.

Lastly, experience in leading these trips has shown me that the greatest value from these trips is the relational ties that comes home with team members. For example, after our trip to Mexico several years ago, a woman we worked with desperately need a surgery on her back but, of course, had no resources to pay for it. The Lord provided a lot through the relational ties made with visiting mission teams who came to love Labrada and her children. People I take on these trips come home with a heart for ministry and, after experiencing poverty firsthand, are more generous with what God supplies.

I’m not a supporter of American missions tourism. My goal is always to try to help ease some of the weight of local workers and serve them.

Don’t worry. I will be VERY careful. I will eat no uncooked foods or veggies, will only drink and brush my teeth with bottled water. I have plenty of high-powered hand sanitizer that kills even super bugs instantly (3M Avagard) and will use it frequently. I have antibiotics to begin at the first sign of a tummy ache. I am vaccinated and protected and my docs have no hesitation in letting me go IF I am cautious.

But, a little prayer covering never hurts! So, pray!

Pinch me. I am so very thankful that God has given me such a full life after transplant.

If you would like to increase the amount of the additional gift we are bringing to directly benefit the people, visit www.fbcwestbrook.com and give online. Be sure to indicate it is for Guatemala. (NOTE: the info page has not yet been updated. )

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Anxiety up, heart rate up and nervous about something out of my control

Faith. Trust. Providence. Anxiety.

One of those words is entirely out of place but, right now, it trumps the others in me.

I’m nervous. My heart rateyikes is up and I feel like I am a rubber band that has been twisted tight. My health is good, my life is good, my family is good and I have little to complain about. Why so tightly wound?

Just to be “safe,” my doc ordered an extra blood test last week after the test I had the week before showed that, despite having been vaccinated, I was not immune to Hepatitis A. That was no big deal. I was re-vaccinated and ready to charge into Guatemala to work with 350 kids in Oratorio.

“We better check your Hep B immunity, just in case,” he said. I was vaccinated against Hep B in 2011 so it was just a little extra precaution.

Yeah, you guessed it. The blood test came back showing I am not protected against Hepatitis B either. That’s a bigger deal. He told me to check with my transplant team to see what we should do.

So, as of Thursday, the green light to head to Guatemala turned to yellow. The trip I’ve been planning since November is now uncertain while I wait. Each day with no answer is another twist to the rubber band that is me.

I’ve been promised an answer today from my transplant coordinator. Today, the yellow light will either turn from yellow to green or yellow to red. Go. No go.

My wife reminds me that it’s only by Providence that we are even aware of this gap in the armor protecting my new liver. If not for the fact that proof of my hepatitis A vaccine went missing, I would have charged ahead thinking all was well. The timing of finding the records of my 2006 shots after the Hep A blood test was already
is what people who do not know my God would call a “fortunate coincidence.” We know it as God’s providential protection. If that record had been found one day sooner I would not have been tested for Hep A or B antibodies at all.

So, here I sit, waiting for a call from the infectious disease department of Lahey Hospital. My hope is that they will tell me to get a shot this afternoon that will provide me with enough protection in 19 days to board that plane. But, of course, they could well tell me that it will take longer to provide adequate protection and I will have to kiss my wife goodbye and hug all my pals before they pass through TSA security on April 16 without me. Twist. Twist. Twist.

So, here I am, thanking God for misplaced records and his Providential watch-care over me while simultaneously praying that his plan sees fit for me to go. I am trying to prepare myself for a red light but have my foot on the gas for the green.

I’m trying to convince myself that I will be content either way. I am reminding myself that it’s out of my control and there is nothing I can do about any of it. I am trying to prepare myself to face disappointment with trust.

I wish I could tell you that my efforts are working. But, right now, anxiety has the upper hand. Twist, twist, twist…

Waiting for my phone to ring is making the minutes drag.


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