Monday, September 22, 2014

Heroes among us

He was my first best friend. I adored him. Still do, if truth be told. He always played with me, included me (albeit sometimes reluctantly) with his friends. As a teenager, he took me to my first concert (Hank Jr! Seriously.). He bought me my first pair of cowgirl boots, and they. were. awesome. He used to pretend there was a monster in the closet and scare the daylights out of me. He infuriated me when he'd talk about a "woman's place is in the kitchen" just to rile me up. One time I literally chased him with a frying pan, swinging with all my might at him and cracked the paneling in the living room. He knew how to push my buttons.

I one time told the (Pretty large really large) guy down the street who was picking on me that "My brother will come down here and kick your butt!". Then I went home to beg him to please do it. Never mind that Chris was a lot smaller than that guy!

He one time burst into the room where my dad was about to give me a spanking to come to my rescue. I was screaming like I was being killed. Truth was that my dad hadn't even touched me, but Chris was going to make sure I was okay. He threw open the door, yelled "Get your hands off my sister!" only to find that my dad was still on the other side of the room giving me the "this is gonna hurt me more than it does you" speech. In a split second, I watched as my dad grabbed Chris, said "You don't tell me what to do" and gave him the spanking I deserved. (Sidenote: My dad was NOT ABUSIVE! Our parents spanked, and we deserved it. We learned right from wrong from their discipline, and all is well in the world)

In all of this, though, Chris was sick. Diagnosed at just 18 months with diabetes, I watched him suffer. A lot. I watched as he received injections of insulin every day, multiple times a day. I watched as his fingers were pricked for blood sugar testing. I watched as he had insulin reactions at times. I watched as he had to limit sugar intake while all the other kids were sucking down Kool-aid and Coca-Cola like crazy. I watched as he struggled with vision loss from retinopathy.I watched as his body took much longer to heal from things that others could heal from because of his disease. I watched.

Once, we were home alone when he had an insulin reaction. It is still vividly stuck in my mind, not the sickness itself, but the feeling of helplessness I felt that day. I remember that day saying to myself, "I never want to not know what to do when someone is sick again". Chris is the reason I'm a nurse today. He was my inspiration through all of those nursing exams and clinical days and studying for Boards.

In the past several years, I've watched as Chris's kidneys have begun to shut down. It's nothing he's done wrong. It's the wear and tear from the disease of Diabetes. We often belittle diabetes to just "cutting out sugar and carbs", but it's deadly folks. There's nothing little about diabetes. And Chris has dealt with it almost his entire life. So his kidneys have suffered a great deal, to the point of needing a transplant. I can't even tell you how hard it is to watch one of your life's biggest heroes struggle like that. The helplessness is painful.

But..oh, there's a great "but" here!
But God knew this day would come.

In 1990, I met a guy flipping hamburgers at the BCM on EKU's campus. He was handsome and eventually we fell in love. He was the first guy that my brother ever said "Don't screw this up, Holly. I like him". The first time I brought that guy home to meet my family, Chris learned that he could juggle. He proceeded to pull things out of the refrigerator and throw them at Jeff to see how much he could handle. He even pulled a ham out! And Jeff juggled it without batting an eye!

Jeff and I married, grew a family, and life went on as it has a way of doing. And all the while, inside of Jeff was a kidney that matched my brother. We didn't know it; I always assumed mine would match as his sibling, but nope. Not mine. Not our parents. Not his wife or daughter. Jeff's. And what's more, Jeff was more than willing to sacrifice that kidney for my brother to have a new lease on life.

How do I even explain how this feels? The love of my life offering a gift that will save the life of my first best friend. I'm not sure there are enough words in the world to adequately explain this. What I do know is this: I am profoundly thankful for this. And I'm profoundly proud of this. I'm proud of how Chris has faced kidney failure, with faith that has never waivered and courage that is humbling. I'm proud of how selflessly Jeff has offered his kidney, never once stopping to think of himself, but saying "I love my brother in law, so why not?"

Folks, this is love. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ, on both ends of the spectrum, as the giver or the recipient. John 15:13 says "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends". Jeff's not gonna die, nope. But he is sacrificing. And Chris has lived a life that is honorable to Christ by never questioning God's sovereignty over him. I've had a front row seat to both sides, and I'll tell ya that it's pretty amazing.

Pray for these two, my brother and my husband. October 16th is the big day. We covet your prayers. Thanks be to God for how he provides. And to Him be all the glory!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Winner!

I failed to announce here the winner of the Jen Hatmaker book. Congrats to Tony Suddath! Hope you are challenged as much as I have been by this book! For the rest of you fine folks, thanks for playing along!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A confession and a FREE giveaway!

Today, I was yelled at over the phone by a client's parent. I wasn't surprised; it certainly wasn't the first time I've been yelled at in my work. In fact, last year I kept what I jokingly referred to as the "B**** Count 2013", and let me tell you that it got up to 95 for the year (one star for every time a client called me a "B")!

When we were in Florida last month, Jeff took me on my VERY FAVORITE dolphin cruise (The Little Toot!) for our anniversary. Seriously people, this is the best dolphin cruise ever, and I've been known to get more than a little giddy when those dolphins jump right out of the water. But last month... no dolphins. Two hours on the water, and not one stinkin' dolphin. Nada. Zilch. I may or may not have pouted a little.

There's a wasp nest roughly the size of Minnesota outside my bathroom window.

My daughter can't seem to grasp the concept of no food in her room, so I found 14 Goldfish under her bed when we were cleaning/redoing her bedroom last weekend. Thankfully, it wasn't sausage like I found in her room last time. Yes, sausage. By the time I found it, it was black and soupy. We need not go there again.

My son's room looks like a tsunami went through, and it smells like the Green Bay Packers rolled around in there after a full day of practice.

I haven't been to Ethiopia in 16 months now. I Miss it. I miss my friends there.

I don't like the way one thing in my closet fits me. Not one. It's because I'm fat, and I'm working on it. But still. not one item.

Our grass got so high last week that I could have mowed the face of Abraham Lincoln as a maze and charged admission for the kids in Richmond to wonder through. I didn't.

Our basement is in shambles because the dang A/C unit leaked water (for the THIRD FREAKIN' TIME) and ruined the floor again. We've been so busy with new semester stuff and life that we haven't even gone to the store to see if the flooring is still in stock or we have to replace the whole kit and kaboodle. For now, a large portion is ripped out and it's an absolute mess.

My left ankle is currently the size of a baby's head. I'm considering drawing a face on it.

I could go on and on with things in my life that I deem "unfair" or "bad". But that would be stupid and fruitless. And 100% selfish.

You see, while I lament about not seeing dolphins and a basement floor that turned to oatmeal, people are suffering without a clean drink of water. While I mope because I haven't gotten to fly to Ethiopia, people are contracting Ebola and dying. While I fret because I got called a name that I don't like at work, people are jobless and homeless. While I am frustrated at the dirty and stinky rooms my kids have, there are those who have lost their children.

I've spent a great deal of time lately praying that God would give me new eyes. I've asked him to bring to mind the things that I used to freak out about and whine about, and then to change how I see them now. And he has done just that.

In the grand scheme of things, who cares if someone calls me names? Does it hurt? Yep, it stings a little because quite frankly, I'm not racist or a b****. But I don't know the situation that person who called me those names is in, and I've asked that God give me a love for her (and all the others!). I am tired of being side-tracked by something as trivial as a name-calling that I forget to love people in my path.

The truth is that I'm not the things she called me, but I AM SELFISH. And chances are that you are too. We all are at times, aren't we? Isn't it easy to get so wrapped up in our every day that we fail to see that people in our communities are dying and suffering and alone? Isn't it easy to forget that some of the day to day "problems" that bind us are really just minor incoveniences when compared to the plight of the homeless and those living in dire poverty all over the world? Isn't it easy to be so focused on #1 that we fail to see true need, true suffering?

I'm not trying to say we never have reason to grieve or that we don't have real problems. Believe me; I have plenty of friends suffering with real life, real hard stuff right now.. cancer, disease, divorce, addiction, abuse, abandonment. I've dealth with real stuff myself...death, infertility, rape, depression, a wandering child, etc, etc.

The difference is that I have hope, the everlasting hope.

I'm reading Jen Hatmaker's "Interrupted", and I have to tell you that once again I'm deeply convicted that the way I live out my faith is often a disservice to God. Hear me out. I read my bible, and I pray, and I know God is pleased with those things because it brings me closer to him. But I also drive by people in need, ignore the plight of those in need in my own community because it's not convenient for me, and make excuses about why I can't go serve overseas right now because I don't have enough time or money or whatever. And sometimes, those things are true. And sometimes, it's nothing but a pack of crap that I tell myself to make me feel better about disobeying God's call on my life to make him famous, to be extravagant for him.

Years ago, after my first trip to Africa (Uganda), I found myself in tears every time I walked into the grocery store because I could envision all of those sweet faces that I'd touched who were going without that day. I've often said that after trips to Ethiopia, I come back in a bit of culture shock at how spoiled we Americans really are in regard to clean water and other basic necessities of life (Not to mention our wants!)And yet, here I am, in some ways back to the mentality I had before my eyes were ever opened, complaining and throwing a tantrum about stupid, unimportant things.

So, this is my confession to you all. I have confessed to God and he has (Once again) faithfully forgiven. But I tell you all to hold me accountable in my attitude. Because my life HAS BEEN INTERRUPTED... and interrupted for good. I don't want to be the same person I was before. I don't want to pretend I don't know the plight of others. I have no idea why God would choose to place me here in my easy world instead of in another country, fighting for justice and enough food to sustain me for the day. But I do know that I can do something extraordinary with this life he has given me.

I can love

And you can too.

Are you in?

I've got a copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker that I'd love to give away. Comment here and I'll randomly choose a winner on Friday!