Words.

words

Over my life I have found that communication is a lot like playing the game “telephone”. When you play telephone, one person starts with a phrase in their head. They whisper that phrase into the ear of the person next to them. It’s then that person’s responsibility to pass that phrase onto the next person in the circle and so on. The last person in the circle then tells everyone what he or she heard. Most of the time it barely resembles what the person initially said. There is always that kid that will intentionally pass along something completely different just to add humor. Other times the phrase changes simply because of how people hear it; what filter they are using.

We rarely see or hear the real truth of what is going on around us. We see and hear things through our filters. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we have them.

I remember exactly where I was. I was on a walk with my new friend Chris.

My body had just rejected my liver. We were talking about it and he casually said to me “Do you think it was a sin that you committed or a sin in your family that caused all this to happen to you?”

WHAT?!?!

“Well, you know God is sovereign, so you know He caused all of this to happen. “

I didn’t know how to internalize this information. I don’t know how I missed the word “sovereign” growing up. I did know the God I served and loved with my whole heart would NEVER cause all these horrible things to happen to me.

Now,18 years later, I could receive those words, appreciate his process and move on with my day. But on that day, in the midst of weakness, those words had a lot of filters to pass through before they entered into my heart

Pain. The filter of pain told me God if caused all of this then he must want me to be in pain. Without evening knowing, my guard went up. If God wanted me to be in pain, then I needed to protect myself. God was no longer safe. I had to take care of myself.

Exhaustion: The filter of emotional exhaustion told me to brace myself, this was just the beginning. I needed to be strong.

Trauma: My filter of trauma caused my face to flush and my blood pressure to rise. After all I’ve done for Him, all the hard things I’ve experienced were caused by God?! After all I have done for Him…..

I lost the God I knew and loved that day. The God I knew would never cause these horrible things to happen to me.The God I knew was safe and protected me. The God I knew had good plans for me. At the time “hard” and “good” did not coexist in the same sentence.

The God I met that day was scary to me. I felt unsafe and insecure to think about a God that would cause bad things to happen. I retreated inward and vowed to myself that I was the only one that would take care of me. I felt afraid of my future. If He had caused my transplant and then my rejection, what else could be coming? I had to be strong. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. My heart began to harden.

My friend was simply trying to process my experience with me. For whatever reason, I took what he said as truth. I filtered his words through trauma, pain and exhaustion and it ended in a crisis of faith.

I read somewhere once that “perception is reality.” How we see things, what filters we allow our thoughts to pass through, is going to create our reality-whether it’s true or not. It often happens without us even realizing it. Innocent words spoken to a broken heart can bring miraculous healing or even deeper pain.

It was years later before I could articulate how his words affected me. I desperately wanted to know the God I once knew and loved. As I cried out to God, I was quickly brought back to that walk, that place and I could almost feel it; the day I lost my God.

Some words are meant to hurt us. But often times the words that affect us the most are not intended for harm. They are casually spoken as we process together, flippantly said in a casual conversation or said with just enough sarcasm to make us wonder the true meaning behind the words.

It’s often not really about the words anyway, it’s what stands in the way of your heart.

Learn from my mistake. It took me a long time to realize why my heart felt so hardened towards God. I didn’t understand why my God went from safe to scary, from loving to harsh; from comforting to exposing. When I realized how those innocence questions penetrated my heart, a journey of healing began.

It can be as simple as asking questions.

Ask God…

What did I receive that was true today?

What conversation do I need to return to in order to get clarity?

What filters are standing in the way of the truth?

Ask these questions each day because as Proverbs 4:23 says..

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Lisa

 

 

I was really good at being a miracle..

As I shared in my previous blog, because my brain had swelled when I was in a coma, I woke up with the brain of a 5 year old. I had to be reminded what a fork was called. I had to learn how to swallow pills. I even had to be prompted to eat for a while because  my body had lost that sensation.

But as important as those things were, they seemed like I nuisance. Being the extrovert that I am, I loved the attention. And because I am an evangelist at heart, I loved sharing what God had done.

 I was really good at being a miracle.

I loved it. I loved telling the story. I would tell anyone and everyone who would listen (or pretend to) about how God saved me. I was recovering at lightning speed. I was exercising within several weeks of my transplant. I was asked to speak at youth groups. On command, I would pull up my shirt and show people my scar.

14120DFB-7416-4694-BCD4-7624910A99A4

In the midst of me thriving in my new role as a miracle, I had to get my blood drawn a couple times a week to make sure my new liver was settling into my body like it was supposed to. It quickly became another annoying thing I had to do.

How inconvenient. Of course everything was fine, I was a miracle.

Then one day, about four months after my transplant,  things weren’t fine anymore.

My liver levels were high (they are supposed to be low) and they kept getting higher.

My body was rejecting my liver.

Since my transplant, and for the rest of my life, I’ll have to take medication that suppresses my immune system. My new liver is considered a foreign object and the immune system’s job is to attack and get rid of anything that does not belong in my body. A suppressed immune system equals a happy liver. The medication I had been taking was no longer working. My immune system was alive and well with one goal in mind; we must get rid of this liver. They tried a few different things to stop this from happening, nothing seemed to be working.

I ended up back in the hospital. They had to bring out the big guns.

They had to kill my immune system so that it would stop attacking my liver. It was chemotherapy, but instead of killing cancer cells, the goal was to kill off my immune system so it would stop attacking my liver.

This time around at the hospital was a very different experience.

I didn’t want people to visit me. I could barely see straight. I was throwing up. I was in extreme pain. To give you context to the strength and magnitude of the treatment-one nurse cried when she administered the drug  to me because she knew how painful it would be. I’m sure people were praying for me, but this time around it sure felt different. No one sent me flowers or balloons. The waiting room wasn’t full of people waiting in holy anticipation. I walked into the hospital with my parents by my side and walked out the same way. No one stood and clapped for me.

I didn’t want to be a miracle anymore, not if it looked this.

Things began to change…

More soon,

Lisa

 

I woke up…..

wakeup

People always ask me if I remember anything from being in a coma.

I wish had gone to heaven and back. I didn’t.

The only memory I have from being in a coma was a dream happening while I was starting to wake up. I was in dumpster outside my aunt’s church and I couldn’t get out.

Lame.

I started waking up two days after my transplant. Waking up took awhile. I have a few vague memories. I remember my youth pastor sitting by the side of my bed singing me worship songs. I remember my Dad sitting on the left side of my bed trying to sooth me. I remember Kris, Laura and mom standing at the end of my bed wide eyed in anticipation.

During the process my sister kept a diary of sorts. As I have begun to write down the details of my journey, the diary has become one of my most prized possessions. Here is an excerpt from my sister’s diary during the first few days of when I was waking up.

“In the last few hours you’ve been stirring some. You’ve open your eyes a few times, yawned, moved your head, but haven’t stayed awake really. You have responded to commands. Mom and I played peek-a-boo with you a little while ago. I had a washcloth near your face, pulled it away and then mom said ‘Peek-a-boo’, you didn’t really play much though. We’ve been singing and dancing around too. The nurses are turning you to your side now to make you a little more comfortable. Everyone says you are doing really well and coming along very nicely. You’re skin isn’t yellow anymore. You used to cry yellow tears but they are clear now. The yellow was pretty cool though.”

“You’ve been awake since 5:15, your eyes are open-you’re responding to some commands and questions. Sometimes when we ask you if things are ‘okay’, you say ‘yes’. Earlier I asked you if you were scared and you shook your head “no” and the same thing when I asked you if you were uncomfortable. You’ve looked at me when I’ve said your name and ask you to look at me. We’ve had some toe movement when asked….Right now, you’re being kind of funny. You started to throw your legs off the side of the bed like you’re trying to get out of bed. You’re squirming around a lot which doesn’t seem to hurt you. You’ve been squeezing our hands some which is a good sign. When you started to try to get out of bed, I went to get mom. She came in the room and asked you if you were being naughty. You shook your head ‘no’. Earlier the nurses set you up in a chair for a while which you seemed to like. Mom asked you if you were trying to smile and you said ‘yes’, I mean you nodded your head indicating ‘yes’.”

I actually tried to escape the hospital a few times. I didn’t get very far. Probably because I woke up with the brain of a 5 year old.

[Did you know your liver purifies your blood? When they took my liver out it had zero function. This had caused toxins to build up in my body resulting basically in me poisoning myself. The toxins caused my brain to swell while I was in a coma.]

I knew what a fork was, but didn’t know what is was called.

I had to be reminded to eat.

I often would ask when I got dressed if I used to like the outfit that I had picked out that day.

Most basic things came back to me fairly quickly, but it took me a long time to grasp the gravity of what had happened.

Not much made sense. But I was sure of a few things….

  1. I loved Jesus. As soon as I was able to speak again, I asked EVERYONE if they knew Jesus. If they didn’t I would innocently ask “Why?” I think it was the one time that they allowed proselytizing in the hospital. I often go back to that truth and find comfort. Soon after my transplant God became more complicated and confusing to me. But, when I have felt distant from God, I have found rest in the fact that even though nothing in my world at the time made sense, Jesus did.
  2. I was a miracle. I felt like a modern day Lazarus. I loved being a miracle. I felt like a local celebrity. I kept hearing story after story of people all over the world praying for me. People prayed for me all night long. I heard stories of people praying for the first time. A month after I was released from the hospital I went to church where they actually had me stand up to give me a round of applause. People looked at me differently.
  3. Community is everything. Like I have stated, the time that I was in a coma really wasn’t my story. It’s my mom’s story, a story of surrender. It’s my dad’s story, a story of sorrow. It’s my sister’s story, a story of hope. It’s Brian’s (not husband) story, who prayed for the first time and said that he would trust God with his life if God saved me. It’s my aunt Patti’s story who was on vacation and turned around the moment she heard to be there for my parents. It’s our friend Greg’s story who offered to donate half of his liver. It’s Jan’s story as she stood by my bed, rubbing my feet, praying, believing for a breakthrough. It’s Brenda’s story as she made hundreds of phone calls to people wanting updates. It’s the story of the men of our church literally surrounding my dad as he helplessly watch me fade away. It’s a story of the women in my mom’s life, whom I call my aunt’s, from whom she drew strength. It’s the story of our church coming together like they have never done before. They prayed, they called, they gave, they cried and of course they brought food.

      We wouldn’t have made it without them.

  1. Prayer matters. There are so many questions around how prayer really works. Does it really matter how long we pray or how many times we pray for something? How can God really hear all of us praying at the same time? Does prayer even matter if He already knows what He is going to do? Why does He answer some prayers and not others? I don’t know the answers to all of those questions. But I do know that, especially during this time, prayer brought a lot of comfort to my family. Prayer opened people up to the idea of God. Prayer brought people together. Prayer brought people hope. And in my case, God answered the prayers of His people. For me, those are good enough reasons to keep praying.

Things got more complicated for me fairly quickly. God became confusing and my life completely changed. It got messy. So much of my life no longer made sense. Very few things felt sure.

Through out the years I have felt confused, lost and insecure. Every once in awhile when I feel that way, I stop and allow myself to peak through the mess. And when I do, I remember those things. I remember the things in which I am sure of.

And when I do that, things make at least a little more sense….

Lisa

My Dad cried…

My Dad cried…

When I asked my Dad the other day about my transplant he said the following  “I can easily talk about the facts of those few weeks, but I struggle to sum up my emotions. It was so hard, I just cried a lot. I had dedicated my whole life to protecting you and your sisters from harm. There you were hours from death and there was nothing I could do.”

As a parent, I can’t even imagine that feeling of helplessness. Of course he cried.

After that conversation, he sent me this reflection below. I’ll let him tell his story.

I can tell you many things about the dates and facts of Lisa’s August 13, 2000 emergency Liver Transplant.  I’d also like to reflect on some of my own emotions however. In a nutshell, I went from absolute despair, to hope, to rejoicing, over the course of just a few days.

Kath and I were initially told that Lisa had Hepatitis and that after a few days in the hospital she’d start to get better and return home.  Kath and I were shocked a day or two after admission when a pair of Transplant Physicians, Doctors Humar and Ramcharan, told us her lab values were continuing to worsen, and that she would likely need a Liver Transplant.  Hours later their prediction was confirmed.  Slurred speech and drowsiness were added to Lisa’s yellowish eyes and skin.  I sang a song called “I’m Trading My Sorrows” to her.  She smiled at my attempts, joined in as best she could, and shortly after, drifted into oblivion.

As the family protector I presented myself as a live-donor, but was rejected because of a fatty-liver condition I didn’t know I had.  Norm, Van, and Greg all considered donating half of their livers for Lisa, but the best candidate was determined to be our oldest daughter, Laura.  Kath and I objected to the prospect of two of our three daughters simultaneously undergoing major surgery, but Laura was adamant about trying to save her sister.

While she awaited surgery a breathing tube was inserted into Lisa’s throat to ensure an airway.  At one point, during a possible seizure, she bit down on the tube effectively blocking her own air supply.  I desperately massaged her jaw muscle to loosen her bite which is what my First Aid Training had taught, but it was to no avail.  Thank God, a Resident Physician was able to accomplish what I couldn’t!  That’s where the “despair” part came in.  I realized that in spite of all my emergency training and experience, there was absolutely nothing I could do to save my precious daughter.  I collapsed to the floor, sobbing.  I hadn’t cried that way for a very long time, but did so regularly until the “hope” part began.

The “hope” part did begin however. We were told that a donor had been found, and that the transplant would begin as soon as the liver could be retrieved.  (We found out weeks later that a woman named “Cheri” had died in an accident, and that her survivors agreed to organ donation.) Several friends remained at our side to encourage us, although most, including me, fell asleep during the wait. After what seemed like an eternity, we were awakened and told that the surgery would soon begin. I again slept for a few hours in the waiting room, and was awakened shortly before the Transplant Surgeon, Dr. William Payne, came and announced that the surgery was complete. I remember him remarking on the unusually large number of family members and friends who were present in the waiting room. But the news he gave about the surgery was good.

The “rejoicing” part began cautiously.  The surgery was over, and Lisa’s lab work was markedly improved which indicated the transplanted liver was working.  But she was still unconscious.  After roughly two days of unconsciousness Lisa opened her eyes!  She still had a breathing tube and so couldn’t talk, but at least her eyes had opened!  I excitedly called Kath to share the good news, and she and the girls soon arrived to witness the miracle we’d been praying for.  After several more days of normal liver function and rehabilitation, Lisa returned home, and began the first chapter of her physical rebirth

All of our family members (certainly I) rapidly transitioned from absolute despair, to cautious hope, to praise-filled rejoicing!  Lisa’s liver transplant continues to be a major landmark in my life as an individual, and in our lives as a family.”

Dad, you have been an incredible protector for our family. Thank you for doing what you can, crying when you can’t and trusting The One who can.

IMG_3271

My Dad sharing at my 1 year anniversary party.

Lisa

My sister brought hope…

hopequote2.png

I’m going to let my sister tell her story….

(She wrote this a couple months after my transplant.)

“To try to put on paper all that I was feeling and experiencing seems impossible. My sister…one I confide in, laugh hardest with, am challenged and encouraged by, used to play Barbies with, used to bite me, trusts me, believes in me, who gives so much of herself to those around her, who knows my secrets..my SISTER was all of a sudden in a coma. I can’t put what I was feeling into words..I know that I couldn’t imagine for one second what my life would have been like without my sister, Lisa, in my life. I couldn’t imagine the world without Lisa as she has affected and touched so many.

Many of you felt and walked through this crisis with my family and I, but I want to share “my side of the story” in hope that God may be glorified and honored. Before Lisa was admitted to the hospital, she was diagnosed with Hepatitis. After I heard her diagnosis I asked God what He was going to do through her sickness. I believed that said He was going to give her an identification with the sick, an authority to speak into areas that need healing, and that He was going to give her an abundance of life. What awesome promises.

Three days later, I got a phone call telling me I need to come home immediately because Lisa had acute liver failure and needed to have an emergency liver transplant. At first, I felt out of control-I couldn’t think, couldn’t talk, couldn’t stop moving. My friends came along side of me-packed, planned and most importantly prayed. Several of them got on their knees as soon as they heard and God gave scriptures that confirmed that Lisa would be healed.

That night, I wept and spilled my guts to the Lord. I told Him I was scared and didn’t know what I’d do without Lisa. I cried out for her healing and in my sorrow, God reminded me of His promises-identification, authority and abundant life. The perfect, unchanging character of God is to never promise something He doesn’t intend to fulfill.

When I arrived in Minnesota on Friday, Lisa was just closing her eyes as her body went into a full coma. She looked to be in distress. Her skin was yellow, she cried infected yellow tears, she had tubes everywhere..there was no response.

Word spread FAST. Families, churches, YWAM bases, Christian groups all over the world go on their knees and cried out to God on Lisa’s behalf. We cried out for a miracle! People prayed who haven’t prayed for years. God’s people united together and prayed for healing.

So, we waited and waited and waited and waited…for two never ending days. We did a lot of crying and praying, but also did a lot of laughing as friends and family shared their favorite memories of Lisa. I think some of my favorite moments while Lisa was in the coma was when it was just her and I in the ICU room. I’d lay down at the foot of her bed, reading Scripture, praying for her, speaking Truth to her…touching her. I wanted to take her place. I wanted to take my liver out and give it to her, but I also knew that God had a different idea. His intention was to heal her. He was going to heal her. We just had to wait on His perfect timing. I really believe with all my heart that Lisa would be healed. My flesh tried to entertain the thought of her not pulling through, but my spirit would NOT let me think that way for very long. I couldn’t help but to believe she was going to have the life abundantly God had promised. I had a peace that came directly from the Father’s heart for it couldn’t have come from anywhere else. I hate waiting though-I hated having to see her distressed expressions-I hated to see the tears that would fall from her eyes.

Because the average wait for a liver is 18 days and she needed one in 24 hours, the transplant surgeons came to our family to talk about the possibility of having someone in the family doing a live donor transplant. In this surgery, a part of a liver is removed from a person and then transplanted into the recipient. At this point on Saturday morning it was crucial that we began exploring other options if another liver didn’t become available. Lisa would die without intervention.

I began to get tested to see if my liver would be a match. The hardest thought I faced regarding the possibility of my surgery was not being by Lisa’s bed when she woke up from her coma because I would have been recovering myself.

Shortly before i started getting tested, my Grandma said in faith “We’re going to get a liver tonight.” I didn’t think too much of it until I felt that God Himself told me that He was going to provide a liver that night. Several hours after that, we got a call that there was a possible liver available, but that it had to be checked and tested before we could know for sure. We immediately praised the Lord and prayed that it would be a match. Grandma and I knew it would be…

We waited 8 hours before getting the final word….THE LIVER WAS A MATCH…it was 15% bigger than the surgeons hoped for, but they felt hopeful nonetheless. At this point things started to move fast. Surgery was scheduled for two hours later. Friends and family came to be there during the 8 hour surgery. The surgery was a success! People were praising the Lord all over the nation. It was decided-Lisa was going to pull thru! I believe the angels were rejoicing too.

Lisa’s color was back immediately after the surgery was over…no more yellow! This was a great sign! She woke up from her coma a day and a half after her transplant and was walking a day after that. Eight days after her liver transplant, she was released from the hospital!!! After a day of being confused, she started praising the Lord for everything He had done and was giving Him all glory. The medical staff was amazing at Lisa’s healing. The saw the work of God first hand. We all experienced a miracle.

One important lesson I learned is that when our circumstances change, the Word of God doesn’t. It is the only thing that will stand when all else falls. God wrote it for us because He means every word in it. Even if Lisa would not have made it, this would have been true. In my mind, I can’t comprehend that..but that is TRUTH. Our ways are not God’s ways. Our finite knowledge cannot compare to His infinite wisdom. Lisa’s life is HIS because she has chosen to give Him that place in her life. Her name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life, and that is what’s important. Out of the relationship that He has with Lisa and our of His perfect love, He allowed His servant to endure so His purposed could be accomplished.

He is not done.”

She had a vision of healing that brought hope to everyone around us…..

42DFB40A-79EF-488D-87D7-63F366CDF889

Laura (right) & Lindsay (younger sister) a few days after transplant. ( I had amazing hair…)

Lisa

 

 

My mom surrendered…

surrender.png

Warning: If you haven’t already, you’ll need to read my previous post, Transplant., for context.

The days I was in a coma, during the transplant itself and the few days after aren’t really my part of the story. That part belongs to the people surrounding my parents in the worst moments of their lives. It’s a story of people on their knees praying like they have never prayed before. It’s a story full of prayer, desperation, faith and hope. There are so many stories, so many people- but the main voices at this point are those of my mom, my dad and my sister. Let’s start with…

My Mom

Like a child, I never tire of hearing certain stories. I especially love my mom’s story of when I was in a coma. Her words say it best:

My own journey with God during the longest weekend of my life was really quite intimate. Because you see not for one minute did I feel that God had abandoned us. I believe that He was there with us experiencing all our emotions and giving me strength that I never thought I possessed. You see, I have never been very good with medical situations. I have always counted on Mark, or prayed I would just never have to deal with anything serious. Never would I have believed that I could have stood by my daughters bed side, with all the tubes and machine and hold up…but God held me up. I did not think that we were being punished or that God had done this to teach us something. As people said, ‘why Lisa’, my heart responded why someone else and not Lisa. At one point though I remember telling God that I had given my children to Him but now I was drawing the line, He couldn’t have her yet. How silly of me, but how understanding and loving God was to listen and understand. Somewhere in my journey I was able to finally surrender and tell God that I knew no matter what happened Lisa would be okay, either with Him or me, but that if He got her, He would have a very sad woman to deal with. I know it was selfish. God understood. And you know, by His grace He let me keep her a little longer. He knew that the world still needed her a little longer and that He would wait. He also knew that He would be glorified through this and many would see His hand in her healing and give glory to Him. Oh God, thank you for giving her back to us. We are so sorry that someone had to die for her to live. Like Jesus dying for us to live. What a profound illustration. We pray for the family who lost their mother. We pray that Lisa’s life makes their grief a little easier to deal with. Such conflicted emotions, the greatest being overwhelming gratitude.”

Wow.

This is the sentence that forces me to pause:

“Somewhere in my journey I was able to finally surrender…”

I’m really bad at surrendering. I like control. I like to hold on to things really tight and try to make things work out the way I want them to.

Surrender for me sounds much more like this:  “Somewhere in the last hour I was able to finally surrender..for about 10 minutes or so….”

Having two kids of my own now, I can’t imagine being my mom’s shoes. I can’t fathom sitting by my daughter’s side watching her die. I can’t grasp the shock that she was experiencing as things happened so fast. I can’t even begin to understand the thoughts, the assumptions, the questions that were running through her head.

And in the midst of it all, I don’t know how she did it, but she did- she surrendered.

surrender2

 

Lisa

Transplant

In some ways this part of my story is the easiest for me to write. Mainly because this part of the story isn’t really mine, mine begins later. This part of my story belongs to my friends who cried at my bedside. This part of my story belongs to our church family that surrounded my parents in the most desperate moments of their lives. This part of the story belongs to strangers who prayed for me all over the country without knowing who I was. But mostly this part of my story belongs to my dad, my mom and my sister. It’s a story of tears, strength, surrender and hope.

I mentioned in my last post that I graduated from high school early and went to serve with YWAM in Los Angeles. I had gotten home late June and going to start college in the fall. Last minute I had gotten a job at a YMCA camp. I was a lifeguard.
Before I go further, let me pause and explain about my relationship with the sun at this point. I LOVED getting sunburnt. I loved the feeling of lying in bed at night with the heat radiating off my back. I had just spend the last six months in California, Mexico and Belize. On top of that, since arriving home, I had spent my days in the sun as a lifeguard. I could probably pass as someone from Central America. This is relevant, I promise.

I woke up one day in early August with a stomach ache. Over the years I have tried to remember what made this particular stomach ache different from any other. All I know is that It was different enough that I called in sick and went to the doctor. The doctor told me that I was constipated-great! I had the rest of the day off so I went to visit a friend. The details at this point start to get a bit fuzzy. I’ve been told that at this point my liver had begun to shut down and I was slowly putting myself in a coma. I drove home early that night because I didn’t feel good.

I kept getting sicker over the weekend. I honestly don’t remember if I threw up, had a fever or just stuck in bed. On Sunday, I decided I needed to get out of the house-I had to go back to work on Monday. I went to my grandma’s. When I walked in the door, she said “Lisa, your eyes are yellow.” At this point in my life jaundice was not a word I had ever heard before. So it was just “yellow”. (This is where the fact that I was super tan becomes important to remember). I went into her bathroom, pulled up my shirt-she was right. Not only were my eyes yellow, my skin was yellow too. You see, I was so tan that I didn’t notice how yellow my skin was. I quickly learned, you don’t want yellow skin.

jaundice

I went back to the doctor and this time you could say they took a better look. They told me that I had Hepatitis A, which I could have easily gotten from my trip to Belize and Mexico.

I remember nothing from this point forward.

Hepatitis A runs its course. It’s painful and awful, but you can recover from it. So the next day I began going to my doctor to get certain shots that were supposed to help. Quickly I was too weak to even get out of the car.

So I went to the hospital. Why I wasn’t there already is beyond me…I regress.

I was putting myself in a coma. They didn’t know it yet, but my liver was shutting down. Apparently, they didn’t want me to go into a coma-so they kept trying to keep me awake. It didn’t work. I REALLY wish that I could tell you that when I was in a coma I went to heaven and God said something like “It’s not your time yet, I’m sending you back.” It would have been awesome to have a sneak peek into eternity. I didn’t. I actually don’t remember a thing.

There are so many stories that I have heard over the years about what happened during those 4 days (stayed tuned for the next blog post). But I know this, there was A LOT OF PRAYER!

565EAEF2-7CF3-40C5-AE22-322D99221203

So I didn’t have hepatitis A after all, I had acute liver failure. The reason that I went into a coma is that my liver stopped working: completely, totally, fully. And just so you know, it’s an important organ. You can’t live very long without your liver. In fact, maybe a few days. I had a few days, we were cutting it close.

Because I was in hours of death, my name went to the top of the list for transplants in the upper Midwest. BUT…thousands of people die each day waiting for organs. So people came. People came to pray. People came to cry. People came and brought food. More food. More tears. More prayer. People came to say goodbye.

Like a small child that wants to hear the same bedtime story over and over, I love to hear certain parts of my story. This is one of my favorites. My mom was in the room, rubbing my feet when the doctor came in. He started looking at my stomach and finally looked at my mom and said “I think we can shove it in there.” I can just imagine the look she gave him. “What? We will not be shoving anything in anywhere!”

Well they shoved it in. In the last hours of my life, a woman named Cheri died in a car accident. Her family courageously decided to donate her organs to save the lives of others.

cheri

(Cheri with her dogs.)

On August 13th, 2000 in the last hours of life I received a lifesaving liver transplant.

Stay tuned,

Lisa

 

 

It doesn’t make sense…

A few blog posts ago I talked about that nudge, that feeling, that feeling that rises up in you when you just know you are supposed to do something. I was 17, I had that nudge and I didn’t listen to it.
I was in Los Angeles for the summer serving with YWAM. The room was small, hot and crowded. Because of my job that summer, I had arrived late to the gathering. I was standing in the back corner and we were in the midst of a worship service. I was emotionally and spiritually involved in the experience. Then I felt it, the nudge. Although the voice wasn’t audible, it sure felt like it. “Graduate early and come back in January to serve with YWAM.”

Hmmmm….

I like that idea.

Sun. Freedom. Ocean. Count me in.

But it doesn’t make sense.

I have mentioned in the past that I was a pretty radical Christian kid. I was passionate about sharing Christ with my peers. I was the student body president. I was involved in sports, clubs and youth group. And by nature I am a pretty black and white thinker. I like things to make sense.

So I went home.

I went home with plans to finish high school like anyone else.

It was hard being home. Really hard.

I struggled in part because I had experienced freedom and independence in a way that I never had before. I had changed. I had new thoughts, new ideas and new questions. My old world felt a lot smaller than it had before.

But there was something else-something just hard. I felt really depressed, which I had never experienced before. I felt distant. I made decisions that I knew were not honoring to God. I felt angry and confused. It had made sense for me to come home. People needed me. I had thought it through. I had weighed the pros and cons and at the end of day I decided to come home. I did what made sense.

One night I woke up suddenly. I am a very sound sleeper, so that was not the norm. I felt that nudge, a gut feeling, to read my bible. Honestly, this was my response “God I do not want to read my bible. I am actually really angry with you. I came home this fall excited to share my faith with others. And what do I get? Depression. Anger. Confusion.”

I felt God speak to me in a way I had never had up until that point and have not since.

“Don’t blame me for your confusion or depression. I told you to graduate early and go to YWAM. Peace will not follow you if you don’t follow My Way”

This may seem a bit harsh. But I’m a straight shooter. And the longer I have walked with God I have learned that God really wants to communicate with us. And He will use any means necessary to do so.

So I did. I finished high school in 6 weeks and went back to Los Angeles.

That didn’t make sense!

There is obviously a bit more to the story than that, but I did it. I told my parents, went to my school counselor to figure out my credits and when asked “Why?” All I had to say was “God told me to.”

A few years ago I was in a different situation. Same cast. Similar outcome.

I had a dream job in mind. Deep in my soul I felt like I was destined for the role. I had the passion, the connections, the drive – just not the job. I felt pretty confident that it was the next step for me.

The job opened up. I was so excited. It was my time. And it wasn’t just me, other people had affirmed passions and gifts in me that would be assets for the job. But every time I would put my foot forward into saying yes to the role, I would feel depressed. I would feel distant. I would feel unrest. So I would wait a couple more days, I would try to step towards the yes and discord would follow.

But this was my time. But this was the job. It made sense.

So I kept pushing. As you can probably guess, it didn’t end well. I kept trying to make sense of the situation and completely ignoring the lack of peace.
And unfortunately this time around, God did not wake me up in the middle of the night. He did not part any waters for me to pass through.
Someone else got the job (perfect fit by the way) and life went on.
But I couldn’t shake it “God, it doesn’t make sense! That was the job! Why would you put that desire in my heart, the opportunity in front of my face, give me the gifts that I need and then take it all away?”

It doesn’t makes sense.

I don’t know why I was supposed to go back to YWAM. I had a hard experience and what immediately followed altered my life forever. I don’t know why I wasn’t supposed to take my dream job. But I do know when I have made decisions based on what makes sense and not followed The Peace, it hasn’t ended well.

I’m so glad that God is not done with me yet. Over the last couple years God has begun a good work in my heart. I can’t always explain it. But I know it started with finally learning this simple truth.

It’s not supposed to make sense

To us.

Lisa

Let me ask you a question..

I am a question asker. I am curious. I can come off as nosy, but I just love to learn about people’s lives. I love a good story. I love learning what makes people tick, what makes them feel alive. I love to hear about where people came from and where they are going.
More often than not, initially, people don’t know what to do with my questions. As a culture, we don’t ask questions. The depth of our questioning on an average day is “How are you?” as we continue to pass by. People struggle to answer the first few questions I ask. I can almost see it in their face as they wonder “Why is she asking so many questions?” A few questions in, people realize I don’t have ulterior motives – I just care. Their countenance begins to change. They exhale. They answer the questions more freely and with a lot more detail. I start to see beyond their words.
There are exceptions. Like I said, people aren’t used to being asked questions. Some people when asked questions feel guarded and defensive. They may not verbally express those emotions, but you can see it in their body. Some people get uneasy and withdraw into themselves. Others may not respond with any emotional at all, they instead respond with short, surface answers. They respond almost as if they have never been asked a question before.
I am not wired to answer questions with short, surface answers, but I get it. I get why someone would be guarded in their response. It is vulnerable to honestly share your story.
I am always looking for deeper meaning in words, so I looked up the word vulnerable. 1. “Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.” 2. “Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation.” When I am honestly telling my story, I feel all those things: susceptible to being wounded or hurt and more than anything, open to criticism. I ask myself “Will people understand what I’ve gone through? Will they take it seriously?” “Will they understand my pain?”
I have always had an interesting relationship with my story. For the last 18 years I have gone through a variety of different phases. I have gone through seasons where I will share my story to anyone that breathes. There have been times where I, subtly, interject my story. I have felt like if people actually knew how much I had been through, then they would like me more. Respect me more. Then there have been seasons where I have been very hesitant to share my story. Because most of my greatest hardships occurred many years ago, some people’s reactions sting. People have been indifferent, unimpressed, uninterested. The casual responses can cause me to become guarded, withdraw into myself and answer questions with little emotion and shallow responses.
I hate to admit it, but I have responded to other people’s stories with similar emotion. Even after asking a question myself, I have found myself responding with indifference, being uninterested and unimpressed. I have been quick to judge people’s experiences and responses.
I was sharing with someone about the resistance I have experienced as I ask questions and my own personal struggles with people’s responses. Her response to me was revolutionary.
She said to me, “Lisa, it’s not really about a person’s experience, it’s how they internalize it.”
Let me explain. Being a mom, most of my friends are moms. Unfortunately I have known a lot of people that have had miscarriages. When some of my friends have experienced miscarriages they have been devastated to the core. Some of my friends moved on pretty quickly.
Was one of them wrong?
No. Their experiences may have been similar, but they internalized their experience very differently.
I found a lot of freedom in that truth. One of the burdens I have carried over the years is wondering how other people would have with dealt with the situations I have dealt with. Have I done it wrong? Could I have done it better? When a person’s response doesn’t match the intensity of my emotions I wonder “Was it really not that big of a deal?” I would judge others’ responses to their circumstances with a similar lens. “Are you overreacting? Was it really that big of a deal?”
I realized that it’s not about how dramatic my story is or un-important some else’s story may seem. It’s not about people’s reactions or understanding of my circumstances. It’s about how the experiences touched our soul and the marks they left behind. And that is the vulnerable place. That is the place where our soul is exposed, where we are wide open for criticism. That is where we are susceptible to being wounded or hurt. That is the place beyond the words. But until we allow people to go to that place with us, healing will not begin.
So as I begin to tell my story, I will be vulnerable. I will expose my soul and the marks life has left. I have not done it well most of the time. I will tell you about my mistakes. I will open myself up to criticism and potential wounds. But I’ll do it because I’ve learned along the way there is no other way to do it, because without exposing my soul healing will never begin.
So let’s be healers. It usually just starts with a simple question. A question, a pause, a listen. Then do it again. Ask another question, pause, listen. Then one day, the answer will be different. They speak beyond the situation, to the mark the experience left on their soul. And when you are invited there, thank them, sit there, and maybe ask a question. But mostly pause, listen and let the healing begin.
Let’s be healers,

Lisa

Before.

Before
We all remember a moment before…
Before the illness….
Before the divorce….
Before the fight….
Before the great disappointment…
Before.
Although it is does depend on the event that precipitated your before, I think most people look fondly at their before.
As I stated in my first blog post, I feel compelled to share my story through the lenses of grief. I’ll get there, but before I do, I think it’s important to look at my before              Before it all changed…
I can’t tell you why, but I always had a heart that was bent towards God. I can’t actually remember a time that I didn’t deeply love Him. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but I was a pretty radical Christian as a high school student.
I openly shared my faith with my peers. Even though I was that weird Christian, people liked me. I was even nominated for Homecoming Queen. I played varsity tennis and I was the student body president. My faith was simple. I loved God and I loved people.
Things started getting a little bit more “exciting” my junior year of high school. I felt compelled to apply for a summer job in Los Angeles working for a mission organization. But that feeling didn’t make sense. I wasn’t old enough to work there by 2 years. But do you know the feeling? That feeling where your gut is telling you to do something even though it doesn’t make sense? I call it a nudge from God. But even if God is not part of your story, I think you know what I am talking about. There is a nudge, a push, a sense that you are supposed to do something and you don’t know why.
So I did, I applied. Much to my surprise, I got accepted. When I finally got the call, they told me that they had kept putting my application aside-I wasn’t old enough. But the application kept coming back, I was supposed to be there.
It is during this summer that I had my moment, my before, that I have gone back to again and again over the last 18 years.
I remember the moment well. The whole team was in the pool. It was sunny out. We had worked hard all summer and now we were celebrating. But it wasn’t what we were doing that I remember as much as how I felt. I felt free. I felt joy. I was completely surrendered to God. In that moment I felt as if I were the version of myself that God had intended. I loved fully and was fully loved.
This was my before. This was before trauma clouded my judgement. It was before my view of God got complicated. It was before my innocence was lost. It was before my heart began to harden. It was before I subconsciously decided that I am better at running my life than God.
I have spoken about this particular moment to many people over the years. I have talked about my longing to be that person again, before. Well-meaning people have lovingly said things like “Maybe you just grew up, maybe you are different from who you were.” Or “God uses everything for the good in the end, maybe this is the way God wants you to be.”
But I knew. I knew that although I may not be able to be exactly the same as I was, there was more. You see before my trauma, I loved people so much. I loved God. And although I wasn’t perfect at it, I surrendered my life to Him. I felt hope and I wanted to share that with others.
But after, I became judgmental and cynical. I said I trusted God (and I did the best I could), but really I was in charge. After, I didn’t live in hope. I felt urgent and fearful, assuming the worst at all times.
And I knew that my after was not the version of me that God had intended. I knew in my heart that there were things in me that were waiting to be restored and redeemed.
Your before and after may not be as extreme as mine. But my challenge for you is to take a moment to think about the event. Think about the event that created a before and after in your life. Who were you then? How are you different today? What was lost that day? What are the parts of you that you know have not been lost, but are waiting to be redeemed and restore? What I have learned over the years is it important for us to remember our before to understand our after.
Take some time, think about your before. God will show you the places that He wants to redeem and restore. The great news about before is that it always follows with an after.

And what matters in life is what we do after.
Living through the after,
Lisa