For Kin and Kidney

July 29, 2020 | My Jottings

I love the ways of God. I love His mercy and throw myself upon it daily. I love His works, and thrill when I see the patterns in the bark on a tree or the glittering stars on a dark night or smell a new, perfect baby.

I love His Word, and have spent over twenty years attending Community Bible Study and holding summer studies in my home because I marvel that He actually wrote letters to us so we could know Him better, know what to do, how to wait, repent, rejoice, pray, hope, trust.

I love God’s brilliance, the way He thought up and created so many species we can’t count them all, and how new ones are still being discovered. The way He designed the human body, how intelligent it is, what a masterpiece DNA is, how precisely atomic particles spin, how brain cells build new pathways and splintered bones reach toward each other and heal and how tongues taste and fingers feel and hearts pump oxygen and nutrients to every cell three billion times in a lifetime.

I love how God is bigger and more powerful than the universe, yet sets His sights on a pale blue dot that hangs in that vast cosmic expanse and beams His love at every person who dwells upon it, every person that has ever lived and ever will.

I love how He is the fearsome source of all energy, yet He bowed low and became a humble human being, to come be with us on this pale blue dot, to show us how to live and what the character of God is like, what real love is. I love that the Bible says Jesus fills the whole universe, yet if I, broken and lazy and prideful, welcome Him, He’ll keep company with me in my house on my little street near Lake Superior in Northeastern Minnesota.

I love how trustworthy He is, and how He takes wreckage and sorrow and seemingly hopeless situations and (in His time) creates something breathtaking and beautiful out of them. I have seen Him do this in my own life.

I love how when we are truly wicked sinners, He reaches down into our sewage pits to pull us out, to cleanse us, dress us, and put us on His High Road, to show us how to repent and change and rejoice and happily obey and bear with other peoples’ nonsense and meanness, with His empowering, and how lavish His forgiveness is for us.

I love that He doesn’t sugar coat our sin like we do, and that He’s the only one who can show me I’ve been a murderer, an unfaithful woman in a thousand ways, a thief, a liar, a proud and arrogant hypocrite, and so barren of mercy for others, yet because He tells me these things, I am not destroyed. I am hopeful and grateful, because He reveals these things to me so I’ll learn of His deep fathomless sea of mercy, dive into it and splash around even, so I’ll experience His infinite universe of patience, His Fatherly heart that cannot do evil to His children.

I love how He will work with me for as long as it takes, not for five years or for 500 sins or for fifteen seasons of rebellion. I love how God reveals Himself to us, especially if we’re seeking hard, but I also am comforted by the fact that He is a great mystery, and just because we don’t understand what we perceive to be His slowness or His indifference or silence, in no way means He is those things. I’m thankful we can’t figure Him all out.

When I was conceived by my parents, their marriage was in trouble. I was a surprise, and a kindly neighbor named Ruby Greener told me that my mother had sobbed over the fence when she learned she was pregnant, saying she could bear it better if she only knew it would be a girl. After two sons who were then fifteen and ten, she wanted a little girl.

God doesn’t share all His secrets, and one of the ones He kept until recently is that while He was knitting me together in my beautiful mother’s womb and forming my inmost parts (see Psalm 139), one of the kidneys He was making for me wouldn’t stay in my body forever, but would eventually be taken out decades later and given to someone else. He knit my kidneys for me, and for someone else. Just the thought of that makes me want to put my face on the floor and weep. I don’t know that other person’s name or anything about them, except that they are sick and have been waiting, maybe even praying, for news of an available, healthy B kidney, and they live in or near Madison, Wisconsin. But that is a secret of love our Heavenly Father has kept close to His heart for over sixty years, or perhaps even since before He laid the foundations of the earth.

Another one of His mind-boggling ways is that God knew that when I was growing up in Covina, California and was a whiny little brat biting the arm of my friend Jackie because she wouldn’t let me play the cashier first with the old adding machine in my garage, was that there was a dark-haired little boy in Long Beach, about a half an hour away, who would become a man and love and marry the daughter I would grow up to have, would help give me four of my eleven beloved grandchildren, would be one of the best behind-the-scenes servant-hearted men I know, and would suddenly, desperately need a kidney someday.

Two weeks ago I was called by a transplant coordinator at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (about four hours south of us), asking if I was still willing to be part of their Paired Donation Program, because a kidney had finally, finally, become available for my son-in-law Chris. A much younger, super healthy kidney from a live donor. I said yes, and was flooded with peace and joy.

Chris needs a kidney from someone with the blood type O, and since I’m a B, I can’t give directly to him. So Mayo has several transplant coordinators that work this all out, from all over the country, and a recipient has also been found for me. Four of us will be in surgery on the same day.

Chris and I will be tested for COVID-19 on a Monday, at the Mayo Clinic. The results come in the next day, and if we are both negative, we will have many preoperative tests on Tuesday. I will undergo a donor nephrectomy early on a Wednesday next month, and my left kidney will be surgically removed, put on ice and flown to Madison, where my recipient will be waiting for a chance at a better life. Chris’s O donor, wherever he or she is, will have a kidney removed early on that same day, and that kidney will be flown to Mayo, and Chris will receive a transplant on Wednesday afternoon. He and I will be in the same hospital in the Mayo system — Rochester Methodist.

Barring any complications, I will be in the hospital for 2-3 nights, and then will be recuperating in an Airbnb I rented, and Lloyd will be with me. Other family members will be holding down the fort here at home. I have to stay in Rochester for 3-4 days, going in for daily testing to make sure my remaining right kidney is doing her job. Another of God’s marvelous ways is that the kidney I have left will enlarge and strengthen as time goes by. He planned for that when He was forming it in my mother’s womb.

Chris and Sharon and their family have also rented an Airbnb home because they need to be near Mayo for 4-6 weeks, as Chris will go in for daily checks to make sure the immuno-suppressant drugs he’ll take forever are tweaked to the perfect dosages, so his body doesn’t reject his new kidney. I will come home with my granddaughter Margaret by my side, who will be my assistant and helper for the couple of weeks of my recovery.

Here is a picture of Chris and Sharon, taken at Lloyd’s and my wedding last October:

And their whole family, L-R: Eleanor, Chris, Sharon, Louisa, Margaret, Cullen.

Will you join us in prayer for all the details of our surgeries coming up? Thank you, dear friends.

I will be updating things here as I can. I am surrounded by God’s peace, and want that for those I love as well.

For kin and kidney,

Biking, big birds, Bible study and broken things

July 8, 2020 | My Jottings

My city in northeastern Minnesota used to be known as The Air-Conditioned City because of the powerful cooling effect frigid Lake Superior has on the land and air around it. When I moved here from SoCal in 1981, the average summer temperature was 74º, but that can’t possibly be true anymore. The last few summers have been hot and humid, and this summer seems to take the cake for me. Being a humidiphobe means I look at what the dewpoint and temperature is supposed to be each day and into the coming week, and if the numbers are high, the dread creeps in. I become a hermit and don’t like to leave my house, which has air conditioning, which makes me functional. I’m very grateful for central air.

I have some friends who own ebikes, one for each member of their family, and they invited me to try one out. I did, and then spent about six weeks considering whether or not I should make a substantial purchase like that. I finally bought one online, and have been riding it in the mornings and evenings on the Lakewalk. It looks almost like a regular bicycle, but has a chargeable electric battery that provides “pedal assist” to help old people or unfit people or plump people or people with knee replacements (in other words, me) ride wherever they want without limitations. Duluth is a hilly city, and I would normally not try to ride up our steep streets heading away from the Lake, but now when I reach an incline that’s beyond my ability to pedal on my own, I turn the silent little throttle on my right handlebar and it gives me a smooth boost that gets me where I want to go. I can go over 50 miles on one charge, although I have yet to ride that far.

Here’s what my bike looks like:

See the battery under the seat? It’s a powerful thing. If you’d like to know more about the company, it’s highly rated, has great customer service and their bikes aren’t the most expensive on the market…click here.

Sometimes I ride east on the Lakewalk, and a few miles from my house Lloyd spotted a bald eagles’ nest in a tall tree skirting some woods. I wish the picture I took was better than this, but I’ll share it anyway, because it’s awesome to see even if it’s blurry. I circled the triangular nest. If you look to the left of the nest on a bare tree, you can see one of the bald eagle parents perched. Lloyd and I have gotten as close as possible and taken binoculars, and the branches the birds used are almost as big around as my wrist.

We’ve seen the baby eagles sitting on the side of the nest, flapping their wings as they prepare to fledge. It takes my breath away.

One morning when Lloyd and I walked as close as we could get to the nest, I took this picture with my iPhone:

He watched us as we passed beneath, turning his head and following us with his piercing gaze. Eagles can see fish in the water from hundreds of feet in the air, so I’m sure he caught an eyeful of us. Maybe he could see the red blotches on my skin and the whiskers in Lloyd’s beard. Sharon has seen these eagles on her morning walks, and when it’s early enough, one of the parents flies out over the Lake, probably looking for a hefty salmon to bring back for his family’s breakfast.

If you’ve been a blog friend for long you know that each summer I host a Bible study in my home. We’ve done studies by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Margaret Feinberg, Mary Kassian, Lisa Harper, Corrie ten Boom. This year we are studying The Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin and it’s beautiful and challenging. I crave the words of Jesus during this time when loud voices and violence have added to the division in our country. A group of us has been meeting for 15-16 years now, and this year we could not gather in the same way we always have. I’m so glad each woman said yes when I suggested meeting by Zoom. Every Tuesday morning we gather in a Zoom meeting room online, and thirteen of us get to see each others’ faces as we discuss what we’ve studied during the week. Then, instead of watching a video in my living room, I email the week’s video to everyone and we watch it at home.

Here’s a photo of my beloved Bible study friends on my computer:

I am so blessed this year to be able to do this study with the childhood friend I’ve known the longest — Tauni. Tauni and I grew up in West Covina, California, just over the fence from each other. She still lives in SoCal (San Diego), but because of Zoom, she could take part. She has fit right in, and has been such a blessing to our group. From left to right, top row: Fiona, me, Sue D., Connie. Second row: Sue R., Tauni, Laurel, Dawn. Third row: Lana, Kay, Sharla, Kristi, and Deb is there underneath. I learn so much from these lovely women.

About two weeks ago my dishwasher stopped working. After talking with a repairman, I decided to buy a new one since mine is old enough that I didn’t want to plunk a few hundred dollars into it. I decided on my first Bosch (with a third rack – yay!) but apparently they are back ordered so we’ve been doing dishes by hand, which is what I did for years and don’t mind at all. Except that I tend to do it only when the sink gets full, so I’m slouchy about it. A few days later my washing machine stopped working, just like that. After talking with the repairman I decided not to replace the computer components of it, since it too is older and has been used almost daily for eight years. So I bought a new washing machine, my first LG. Lloyd and I humped it up many stairs into the house and he set it up for me. That was a relief. Then, my iMac desktop decided one afternoon to give me the Black Screen of Death, after having been fine for seven years. The AppleCare tech on the phone led me through a series of things to try, but the hard drive seemed to have disappeared — not a good sign when one has reams of important foster care paperwork stored on that hard drive. The nearest Apple store is three hours away, so I drove to Minnetonka to have it repaired, and the hard drive was shot. What?!?! I did have an external hard drive that had successfully backed up on June 26th, so when I got home WITH MY NEW COMPUTER I was able to migrate all my documents over. Except, my old Microsoft version wasn’t compatible with my new computer, so I had to go online and buy the latest Microsoft suite so I can read and access all my Word docs. Yes. And then my printer decided to not work anymore at all, and I had to order a new one. Mine was a good workhorse and I got my money’s worth out of it, but still. And then my iPhone began to die just a few days ago. It’s old, so it’s not a terrible surprise, but the timing of all of this was a little daunting. Almost laughable. I realize these are all first-world problems and I’m not complaining, just sharing.  🙂

Lloyd and I finished watching the series Endeavour and are now into Shetland. It makes me want to drop everything and head to the Shetland Islands, or at least to the north of the Scottish mainland. I’ll bet it’s not 92º and steamy as a sauna in Scotland. I’ll bet my dishwasher, washing machine, computer, printer and phone wouldn’t have broken if I were in Scotland.

I hope you’re doing whatever it takes to keep yourself and your family healthy these days. And I pray that Jesus will be your joy and comfort and help.