Christmas Christmas time is here…

Are you having a hard time getting into the Christmas Spirit this year?

SIGH, I’m not sure what to write or how to write it. I had a lot of hope and anticipation at the beginning of December. Then I suddenly found myself struggling with depression, yet again!

I really thought I would get past it this year and finally experience the hope and anticipation throughout the month. If you are like me, you need something, anything to anchor onto so that you can make it through the holidays.

I know we are to focus on Jesus, the reason for the season…and Christmas should be in our hearts and lives all year long. I can spend all morning reading devotionals and GOD’s Word. And worship and sing songs of praise to Him all while still struggling with depression.

I’m finding that looking back at past Christmases while asking GOD to shine a light on my memories to show me how He was in them is bringing some relief.

I was at my church’s Christmas Carol sing last week and people were asked to share memories. There seemed to be a theme this year where person after person shared about their family opening Christmas presents for hours for Christmas. My family didn’t do that.

Interestingly, GOD brought to mind not a time with lots of presents, but a Christmas when I was younger after my parents divorced and my Dad had remarried. We were at my Dad’s sister’s house. It was evening and the adults had the kids join them. The adults started to sing (and recorded it on a cassette tape).

GOD shined His light in the gift of His presence. You see, my family were not just singing the melody of the Christmas songs, but were harmonizing with one another. It was like a taste of what it will be like when we get to heaven.

GOD is reminding me of other Christmas memories too. Is it causing the depression to go away? No. BUT GOD is allowing me to have peace, hope, anticipation and even some joy despite the depression. He is able to do that when we let Him.

GOD has an adventure for each of us. He never promised life would be easy. Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. It’s our choice to take Him up on the adventure He has for us or try to do life on our own without Him.

Having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit? Ask GOD to shine a light on what He is doing as well as where He was in past seasons of your life. He will show Himself faithful. He will show you where He has been working in your life, even in the hardest parts of your life.

And one more thing, please know, it’s ok to be depressed. It’s ok to not be ok. But know this, you are not alone. GOD is with you and loves you. BUT if you are thinking about taking your life, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). GOD will help you get through this season. Trust Him.

I pray that GOD will show Himself faithful in your life. I pray that He will encourage you, strengthen you and give you hope and anticipation of what is to come. I pray that GOD will envelope you in His arms and lead you on the adventure of a lifetime. He is able and willing. I love you friend. Merry Christmas!

Lessons from a sacrifice

Well, donating 60% of my liver was much, much different from what I thought it would be. I had done A LOT of research, I had gone through several rounds of explanation of what was to be expected from all levels of my medical team and even read a lot of stories from people who had already donated through a live organ donor blog on Facebook. I thought I knew what to expect, but it was nothing like what I planned or thought. It really was a sacrifice, but it was worth it. Let me explain.

Lupe and I met with our surgeons on October 2, 2015 and were given the go ahead to have the surgeries as long as I found a place to move before the date of surgery (see my blogs in the “Steps of Faith” phase of blogging).  Temporary housing was found for me, but it wasn’t going to be in a home, it was going to be in a room in a back yard where there was no insulation and no bathroom. But there was plenty of room for myself, my step-Mom (who was coming as my caregiver), my furniture, etc so two days before surgery we moved into the room – arrangements were made for a camp toilet in the back and showers/laundry could be done in the house in the mornings.

On October 21, both Lupe and I were admitted to UCSF for surgery.img_20151021_153854 We were both placed in shared rooms at first. I was placed with a lady who thought she had a cold, so when my nurse said I could stay in my clothes and visit Lupe, I went quickly. Within about 10 minutes, a nurse from donor services named Lisa came to get me and said that as much as possible they like to place donors in a private room, so she showed me a private room with a bit of a view. I gladly took it.

I thought it was very interesting and sort of a sign, but my Personal Care Assistant for the night was named “Easter”. img_20151021_231834She put little bunny ears by her name as she wrote it on the board in my room. I told her that it was very interesting to me that the whole process for me to donate part of my liver started on Easter weekend. (See Waiting for an answer – steps of faith to a sacrifice.)

My friend Lisa stayed the first night with me and was able to go down to pre-op very early the next morning with me. As my gurney was pushed to the elevator, Lupe’s gurney came behind. He asked if I still wanted to “do this”. By then, it was no turning back for me. I thought I was ready.

In pre-op, there was a flurry of activity. We met part of my team and part of Lupe’s team since he was in the next “stall” from me. We discussed the surgery once more and then medicines were started. I was awake long enough to watch the operating doors open for my arrival. I met a few more people on my team, realized that it was extremely cold and then I was out.

I do not recall going to recovery at all so the next thing I remember is being on a gurney and being pushed into my hospital room. My step-Mom, friend Lisa and Lupe’s wife Hilda were all in my room. The nurse asked me what my pain level was from 1 to 10. I don’t recall my answer, but all three of the ladies told me I said “45” and mind you that was with the morphine!

Another memory that is super special to me is that at one point (possibly in the recovery room but maybe in my room), Dr. Roberts who was surgeon on me until the 60% of my liver was removed and then Lupe’s surgeon to put it into him came to visit me. He gently rubbed my arm until I was aware of him being there. He then held my hand and put his face near mine and told me, “Michelle, your liver started working in Lupe almost as soon as we put it in!” It was as if it were his first time ever doing the surgery – sort of an excitement in his words even though he is a the Chief of Transplant Services at UCSF.

I ended up staying in the hospital 10 days instead of 3, I moved 7 times after my surgery, and I am still on disability due to continued pain in my side and incision. All the pain, the frustration of moving, the loss of a years wages. I would never have imagined any of this.

Psalm 69:6 The Message (MSG)

Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me (through the suffering),
Dear Lord! God of the armies!

Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!”

I think that sometimes people think that sacrifices should be easy, even for Christians. Or, we think of Jesus’ sacrifice only of what He did on Easter weekend. And that was not an easy sacrifice. The weight of the world’s sin were upon Him. Jesus gave up a lot more than just the sacrifice at Easter. He gave up His seat in heaven to be born not in a place of luxury, in a home with heat and water that was clean, not even in an Inn where there was some luxuries of “home”, but in a dirty, messy, stinky stable.

Today during worship I thought about how after surgery, my belly with the 11 1/2 inch incision felt like a pain level of “45”. I knew between a morphine drip and deep breathing, I could get the pain down.

Before the crucification, Jesus was flogged 40 times, which would have ripped his flesh front and back nearly disemboweling Him – He had no morphine. Then on the cross, His arms stretched and nailed, as well as His feet nailed together would make it near impossible to take a deep breath. And on top of that, if that wasn’t bad enough, the weight of the world’s sin (past, present and future) were placed upon Him.

The sacrifice I made for 1 man was no small thing, but I do not feel it was a waste. Lupe has been saved from an early death. He is 100% Hepatitis-C and cancer free + his body has accepted my liver.

The sacrifice Jesus made for all people was beyond human understanding, and He would do it again even if it was for one person. We celebrate the hope of Easter because He overcame death by God’s resurrection power. Those who believe and receive Him as LORD and Savior are saved from an eternal death, where we will be freed from disease and pain and will live for eternity with God.