A gift

Stacy Kramer, and TED, thank you so much for this.

I wouldn’t change my experience.  It profoundly altered my life in ways I didn’t expect… So the next time you’re faced with something that is unexpected, unwanted, and uncertain, consider, it just may be a gift.

Stacy Kramer, brain tumor survivor, so eloquently told the story I’ve relayed to countless individuals.  I think a lot of us who endure life-threatening illness come out to see what a gift it was.  As I’m sure it was for her too, many of my nights were sleepless; there was a lot of pain. I wondered a million times Why me? How can I get out of this? Please, can someone make this stop?!  But standing on the other side of the whole ordeal, as I am now, it’s so much easier to see how the longest days would make me a better person in all the ways I needed, introduce me to hundreds of people I could learn from or impact, and teach me that there is more to life than anyone ever had thought.

So grateful for my gift.  I wouldn’t wish it upon you (you wouldn’t be able to see it was a gift until it was all over anyways), but I’m thankful to God that he brought my scariest, darkest, most painful experiences into something I’m now so grateful for.  May His light keep shining through the darkness.

Stereotypes and prejudices

There aren’t many things that make my blood boil, but any kind of prejudice or stereotype will.  Especially when it’s indirectly targeted at me.

I have been absent from my posting for a little bit due to the crazy busy (but wonderful) holidays and wrapping up my baccalaureate degree in Public Health with a focus of Education and Promotion.  But I need to say something important right now.

I’m in a writing intensive course where we are to write a lengthy paper on a topic relating a health disparity.  Naturally, I chose “Organ transplantation among socially vulnerable adults.” A peer commented on my topic, and he mentioned alcoholism and drug abuse-inflicted liver transplants and ended his piece by saying, “I personally don’t agree there is a large enough disparity, only because many of these people’s conditions are self inflicted.”

First of all, self-inflicted or not, you still treat a patient.  If you were a doctor and someone came into your emergency room after trying to commit suicide, would you save them?  Of course you would.  I understand the limited number of livers available makes this a little bit more of an ethical question, and I will digress for a moment to say UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) and transplant centers have extremely stringent rules for listing an alcoholic for a transplant.  If you are an alcoholic and need a liver, you wouldn’t even make the waiting list until they were sure you were sober with a low chance of returning to old ways.

It is very hurtful when someone holds a prejudice towards you or one of your kind – your race, your health status, your financial situation, whatever it may be.  Our instructor in this course has specifically asked to know about anything being said by our peers that is “uncomfortable” to us, so I wrote her an email to say I was more than uncomfortable.  I am just posting this so that all of you know that people dying of liver failure waiting on organs are not a bunch of alcoholics.  The majority (90%) of us have, or had, diseases that we in no way, shape, or form, have/had given to ourselves.

I’m extremely uncomfortable with [my peer's] reply to my paper topic idea, health disparities affecting access to liver transplants. He ended his post by saying, “I personally don’t agree there is a large enough disparity, only because many of these people’s conditions are self inflicted,” referring to drug and alcohol abuse.
This is a huge myth. I became sick with an autoimmune liver disease at age 5. I was not an alcoholic; my body simply attacked itself. I’ve done research on indications of liver transplantation, and alcoholism/drug abuse account for an extremely relatively small proportion of all transplants. When I was a teenager (before my transplant in 2010 at age 23), I had an emergency room nurse flippantly say, “Why do you have liver disease? You must have been an alcoholic for years!” I was heartbroken as it was the first time if had experienced that prejudice. Not one ounce of alcohol had touched my diseased liver. Ever.
Maybe I’m overreacting, but I am hurt by my peer, a student in the advanced stages of a health degree, no less, being condescending toward patients with liver disease.
I tried to politely respond and tell him the truth so that he could learn from this experience. I hope we all learn something from this. Preconceived stereotypes are extremely hurtful, and we must be extremely cautious never to have them with our patients/clients.
Maybe you don’t believe this myth about liver transplant patients but you think all people with diabetes gave it to themselves by eating junk food, all the people in that neighborhood are drug addicts, or even that another race is just a little less “worthy” than yours.  Well, I would like to firmly propose that no one should say anything negative about anyone unless they have done extensive research and know it to be 100% true, 100% of the time.  Which pretty much would eliminate any stereotypes because none of them meet those criteria.  And if you can somehow outsmart me and find something that meet those criteria, and want to voice your prejudice, don’t.

Gratitude

Gratitude by Nichole Nordeman

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
‘Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case …

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger’s view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case …

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view
If no roof is overhead
And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
Everything we want and what we really need

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that’s the case …

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessd beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace …

But, Jesus, would You please …

Hope & Mercy

Surgery is over.

Praise God, they are all over.
It’s been almost 6 weeks since I had my reconstructive surgery, and I’m back to real life.  I don’t see my reconstructive surgeon anymore, and my transplant surgeon saw me last week and gave me a clean bill of health.  We are all hoping (realistically) that this was my last surgery.
I did have some complications and ended up in the ICU but recovery has been pretty low-key.  I’m thankful for that, too.  God has showed Himself on many occasions.  His grace is overwhelming.
I attended a Beth Moore simulcast with my sweet friend Chelsey last month and her writing on grace was so beautiful to me:

Grace is an inflated raft that can submerge to the floor of a sea to save you.

 Grace is the silver thread that stitches up the shreds of mangled souls.

 Grace is the eye that finds us where it refuses, there, to leave us.

 Grace calls the waitress to the table and sits her down to wash her feet.

 Grace sees underneath the manhole on a street of self-destruction.

 Grace is the air to draw a breath in the belly of a whale.

 Grace is the courage to stand in the shamed wake of a frightful falling.

 Grace is the only fire hot enough to burn down a living hell.

 Grace waits with healing in His wings when we’re too mad to pray.

 Grace is the gravity that pulls us from depravity.

 Grace races us to the Throne when we make haste to repent and always outruns us.

 Grace treats us like we already are what we fear we’ll never become.

 Grace is the doorpost dripping red when the angel of death grips the knob.

 Grace is the stamp that says Ransomed on a life that screams Ruined.

 Grace sets a table before me in the presence of my enemy even when my enemy is me.

 Grace is the cloak that covers the naked and the palm that drops the rock.

 Grace is divine power burgeoning in the absence of all strength.

 Grace proves God true and every self-made man a liar for the sake of his own soul.

 Grace is the power to do what we cannot do for the Name of Christ to go where it has not been.

Grace is a room of a thousand mirrors, all reflecting the face of Christ.

 Grace is…

The eye popping

Knee dropping

Earth quaking

Pride breaking

Dark stabbing

Heart grabbing

Friend mending

Mind bending

Lame walking

Mute talking

Slave freeing

Devil fleeing

Death tolling

Stone rolling

Veil tearing

Glory flaring

Chin lifting

Sin sifting

 Dirt bleaching

World reaching

Past covering

Spirit hovering

Child defending

Happy ending

Heaven glancing

Feet dancing…

 Power of the Cross.

Jesus Christ, Grace Incarnate.

Copyright 2013 Beth Moore 

I have never in my life experienced God’s grace as I have in the past three years.  I feel so unworthy but so blessed.

 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  Lamentations 3. 22-23

God’s in the tremors

With my surgery early in the morning, I cannot find rest.  In the meantime, I’ve been reading through some old entires and found this one.  God is so close by, even in the dark places, even in the tremors.  What mercy.

I don’t have much to say other than I’m afraid.  Honestly? I’m tired of all of this.  It’s not the life I would have chosen for myself, but as my mentor always reminds me, just like Jesus, we must say, “This is my portion and my cup.”  (Psalm 16) As nervous as I am, and as much as I look for God’s glory in all of this, I believe it will end up just fine (Romans 8), and I pray that God would use me and my story to bring Glory to His Kingdom.

Ann Voskamp posted a beautiful article on her blog yesterday entitled The Horse Principle and I dare you to read it right now.  A couple lines that resonated with me:

How did he know? That even when we’re broken, we battle onward, all the fixing coming in the moving forward… From where we stand, we can’t see whether it’s something’s good or bad. All we can see is that God’s sovereign and He is always good, working all things for good… My focus need only be on Him, to only faithfully see His Word, to wholly obey. Therein is the tree of life.

“Whatever You may do, I will thank You.
I am ready for all; I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me…
And I’ll ask for nothing else, my Lord.“

~Charles de Foucauld

Do any of you feel like you’re with me right now? We don’t know why life is how it is, but despite that, we know that our beautiful Lord is sovereign and always good. If we know that, then why should we worry? Has he not come through again and again?

I truly believe: “All the fixing in the moving forward” (Ann Voskamp)

May we breathe in and out, YWHW, or Yah weh, calling our Lord with each breath even when we are too weak to utter words.  [How to Breathe Through Hard Times] He is with us, orchestrating something much bigger and grander than we can see right now.

Please pray for me tomorrow (Wednesday) and through the coming weeks as I recover from a very invasive surgery.  We are hoping this will be the last.  May God be glorified in our sufferings.  Only then can we endure the pain with joy and gratitude.

Remember, “God is always good and we are always loved.” - Ann Voskamp

Gifts, grace & gratitude

When someone dies so you can live, it has a profound impact.

Look at our faith.

God gave His Son to die so that we are forgiven – John 3.16, one of the most popular Scriptures of all time. Yet do we really understand the simplicity and complexity of it? We love Him because He first loved us; it almost seems hard not to. We may feel forever indebted to Him, yet we could never repay the gift. So we try our best to live up to what has been given to us, the blessing and securities of life here on earth, and more importantly, the eternal life we have to come. All because we did nothing, and He gave everything.

After I received my liver August 31, 2010, something similar happened. While this temporal life isn’t nearly as important as the gift of the eternal life and the heaven our Lord has in store for us, I believe it is the next highest gift one could ever receive. Yes, God numbers our breaths, but the gift of life is God’s way of extending them. And what a donor family chose to do for a stranger – someone possibly not even worthy of such a gift – is so selfless. My donor family lost their son and chose to help others through their tragedy. Not much is more beautiful than this. Again, I did nothing and received everything. Perhaps I wasn’t even worthy. What makes one worthy of a second chance at life, anyways? And how to we repay such a gift? Again, I don’t think we ever could.

How undeserving we are of the gifts the Lord gives us, yet how much more grateful are we to realize this?

This is the beauty of grace.

Will you join me on August 3rd in my annual Lifebanc Gift of Life walk/run team honoring our donors, our recipients, and the families that chose to give life? My three-year transplant anniversary is August 31, and this is a milestone. I’ve gone through so much, but I’m doing so well. I savor each day, each new experience, hoping my donor is looking down and smiling. I received one of the most tragically beautiful, profound gifts, and my miracle is my existence. I’m so grateful, and I’m asking you to celebrate with me. Three years… I’m speechless, in awe of sacrifice and providence.

2012 Lifebanc Gift of Life Walk & Run

I humbly invite you to consider supporting my team this year. We have a lot of fun, and the event is so beautiful. You can sign up or make a donation <<right here>>. We are grateful for each and every one of you. You are our friends, our family, and precious strangers who care. You all are my gifts, and I could not have made it this far without you.

Full of love and gratitude,
Amanda

Second wind

Go download Eve Ensler’s new book, In the Body of the World: A Memoir.  Like right now.

Profound.  I recommend this work of art to anyone who cares about or is involved in suffering, the human race, or understanding what life really means.  Eve recounts her story of having to stop her life-changing outreach work to deal with cancer, and she beautifully tells of what she learned in the process.  This book is about the big picture, and how we and all of our sufferings are all interwoven.  I read it in three days – could not put it down.  Savor these words from her book:

Having cancer was the moment when I went as far as I could go without being gone, and it was there, dangling on that edge, that I was forced to let go of everything that didn’t matter, to release the past and be burned down to essential matter.

It was there I found my second wind.  The second wind arrives when we think we are finished, when we can’t take another step, breathe another breath. And then we do.

…Sometimes late in the day… a wind comes, a delicious, clean wind.  I believe in wind.  It pollinates and moves things around.  It can cool us off.  It can make electricity.  It can scatter seeds.  It can become a hurricane or a tornado or typhoon.  It can rustle the leaves.  It rises up and it can help us rise up too.

What does it mean to have a second wind, a second life?  It means screaming fire when there is a fire.  It means touching the darkness and entering it and tasting death in the earthquake scar down the center of my torso, in the first scan that announces the chances are good it’s in my liver.  I am burning because the second wind is also a fire that will burn through our fear.  We cannot be afraid of anything, not of anything.  There is no one coming but us.

The second wind is not about having or getting or buying or acquisition.  It is about giving everything up, giving more than you thought you owned, giving double what you are taking.

What is coming is not like anything we have ever known before.  Your dying, my dying is necessary and irrelevant and inevitable.  Do not be afraid, no, death will not be our end.  Indifference will be, disassociation will be, collateral damage, polar caps melting, endless hunger, mass rapes, grotesque wealth.

The change will come from those who know they do not exist separately but as part of the river.  If you want to overcome your sickness, reach out to someone who is sick.  If you want to forget your hunger, feed your friend.  You worry about germs and stockpile your herbs, but they will not save you, nor will your fancy house or gated villages.  The only salvation is kindness.  The only way out is care.  

The second wind will come from the ground, the Earth.  It will rise like a dust storm.  It will suddenly appear from the corners and the barrios, the favelas and the invisible places where most of the world lives. Because the streets are alive… this wind will take everything away. 

And those of you who can live without will survive.  Those of you who can be naked, without a bank account, a known future, or even a place to call home.  Those of you who can live without and find your meaning here, wherever here is.  Knowing the only destination is change. The only port is where we are going. 

The second wind may take what you think you need or want the most, and what you lost and how you lost it will determine if you survive.

I have lost my organs and at times my mind.  I know it is a race now between the people who are helping themselves to the Earth, to the loot, and the rest of us.  I despise charity.  It gives curbs to a few and silences the others.  Either we go all the way now or there is no more way.  Who will step off the wheel?  […] The world burns in my veins, just like chemo did only a few months ago.  I dare you to stop counting and start acting.  To stop pleasing and start defying.  I dare you to trust what you know.  The second wind is beyond data.  It is past pain.  It is found in the bloodstream and cells of the women and men who purged the poison of their perpetrators, who walked through the cancer, the nightmares.  The second wind is coming from your body, it’s in your mouth, it’s in the way you move your hips.

Every vision is necessary now.  Ever instinct must be awakened.  The wind does not turn away.  It blows through everything.  Do not be afraid.  There is no more winning and losing.  We have already lost.  Even the so-called winners feel that way.  That is why they can’t stop self-destructing.  Step off the wheel of winning and losing.  Of course there is risk.  Of course it is dangerous.  I wish I could make this easy for you.  I wish I could tell you there is nothing to lose.  Lose everything.  That is where it begins.  Each one of you will know in what direction you need to move and who to take with you.  You will recognize the others when you arrive.  Build the circles.  Listen to the voice inside.  And… stay tight in your circle.  Dance in the circles.  Sing in the circles.  Join arms in the circles.  Surrender your comfort.  We must be willing to go the distance.  We must be willing to leave the kingdom and surrender the treasures.

We are the people of the second wind.  We, who have been undermined, reduced, and minimized, we know who we are.  Let us be taken.  Let us turn our pain to power, our victimhood to fire, our self-hatred to action, our self-obsession to service, to fire, to wind.  Wind.  Wind.  Be transparent as wind, be as possible and relentless and dangerous, be what moves things forward without needing to leave a mark, be part of this collection of molecules that begins somewhere unknown and can’t help but keep rising.  Rising.  RisingRising.