erday as I was washing up some dishes, my mom came up behind me and thanked me, giving my back a little scratch. And if your back is anything like my back, all of the sudden my whole back decides to get itchy and it's not satisfied until the entire surface has been covered! My mom, being one of the best back-scratchers that I know, graciously finished the task.
It reminded me of something that happened in the hospital in October. Despite being mentally foggy most of the time, my mind recorded this moment and I don't want to forget it.
I had been taken to dialysis in the hospital, and I was laying there in bed watching the activity all around me. There were four beds on each side of the room, with a wide aisle in the middle. The older man diagonally across the room from me was kind of restless, coughing a lot and seemed pretty miserable. I understood. Dialysis levels the playing field.
I noticed a group of three doctors as they entered the room. They stood off to the side and you could tell they were discussing the man whom I just described, looking at him from time to time. It became clear who was the lead doctor. It was a young woman who was explaining things to her even younger male students.
The young lady doctor was attractive, probably of Middle Eastern descent. Her skin was a beautiful smooth brown, something that my blotchy palish-red caucasian epidermis has never experienced...except for those summers as a lifeguard when I practically begged the sun for skin cancer. Anyway, I digress.
Eventually the little huddle of educated intelligence moved its way to the foot of the man's bed, where Dr. Beauty Queen began to speak with him. She was kind and spoke gently with the patient, explaining his situation and how his recent lab results looked. It was hard not to eavesdrop; it's not like I had anything else to do and they were a short 15 feet away. The other two docs just stood at the foot of the bed while Dr. BQ listened to his lungs and examined his legs and feet.
The old man spoke loudly, asking the doctor all sorts of questions. The doctor answered each one until he was done. As the consultation came to a close, Dr. BQ asked the man "Is there anything else I can do for you?" The old, weary patient didn't miss a beat: he said "Would you please scratch my back?"
Beauty Queen didn't miss a beat either. She replied "I sure can." The two students smiled awkwardly at each other as their mentor moved close to the man as he leaned over on his side. She began to scratch and the man said "I haven't been able to reach that spot in the middle of my back all morning." He continued to give her directions:
"A little higher."
"Over just a little bit."
And the Beautiful Doctor did just as he requested. When the man finally declared that all was good, BQ said "Are you sure I got it all?"
She's one of the greatest doctors I've never known.
It made me teary when it happened, and it still moves me as I remember it. I don't know if she realized how much she looked like Jesus in that moment. I'm sure there wasn't a class in her university on Proper Back-Scratching Techniques. But she mastered it.
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to be grasped;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2)
Beauty Queen was transformed into Beautiful Heart right before my eyes.
True humility is a gorgeous thing, and I was so grateful for its lesson that day.
I want to be a back-scratching Beautiful Heart.
Thanks, Mom, for the reminder.
In the summer of 1999, shortly after my graduation from Kentucky Christian College, I nervously made the trek to southern Indiana to help out at a week of church camp. The location was Wonder Valley. All of the faculty graciously accepted me as part of their family and I am friends with several of them to this day. One of the ladies, Dana, has been a dear friend ever since that week. Dana and her husband, Jay, have two daughters, Andrea and Lindsay. They were young teenagers but have since grown up, married, and have cute children of their own.
Andrea, the oldest daughter, became a friend of mine as the years passed. She became a nurse and took over her mom's position as Camp Nurse for that annual week of camp. She is super compassionate and kind. She is well-grounded, extremely dependable, and as sweet as her parents.
She met a guy named Adam and even brought him to camp to work one year. Everyone found Adam to be as kind and humble as Andrea, and you couldn't help but root for them and their relationship.
I got to be there the day they married. I was there the day they found out that their first child would be a girl. I happened to be there when she was born. They have become like family, and they have accepted me into theirs.
One memory I have of Andrea was when she was pregnant with her first child, Macy. We were at church camp that week and I found out that my mom had cancer. We were staying in the same dorm and, after a long day, climbed into our bunks. As I lay there in the dark waiting for sleep to come and trying to block out the worst case scenarios of my mom's condition from my mind, I looked over to see movement and watched Andrea crawl into my tiny bunk with me. She said she just wanted to make sure I was ok and didn't want me to feel alone as I dealt with the news of my mom's frightening condition. A while later, after the serious conversation fizzled out, we somehow started talking about kidneys. And we ended up stifling our laughter realizing that we had 7 kidneys in that one bunk! She had four (Macy's) and I had 3. But I will never forget Andrea's compassion during that time. It was one of the sweetest gestures that I have received.
Adam and I have a history of our own. Other than smashing the campers in the yearly Faculty vs. Campers basketball game together, we have also co-hosted a radio program. That's right, folks. Two shows, to be exact. We named it J-Love. We needed a skit for a night at camp and so we decided to create a radio program and take calls from listeners, aka other faculty members. Adam, though soft spoken, is a funny guy and pretty quick witted. We got several laughs out of that deal and still joke about it to this day.
Adam has been a high school teacher, has worked for his county, and now works with computers at a School of Dentistry. He's a smart guy, and his brain gears are always at work. But one thing about Adam that I appreciate is his desire to always deepen his walk with Christ. We have swapped books to read and talked about books that have challenged us. I appreciate his insight and his servant-like demeanor.
I was surprised to hear that Adam had called in to be a kidney donor for me. I didn't know that it was even a possibility. The more I process it, though, the more I am not surprised. Of course he would donate a kidney. Not because of me, but because he loves the Lord and it is his nature to serve others. Just like my sweet donors before (Susie and Scott), Adam represents the love and grace of God to me. A kidney donation isn't something that you can repay. I just have to accept it. And that is a very humbling place to live. Because Adam and Andrea love the Lord, they are free to love me, and I am so grateful.
Adam and Andrea, I want you to know that you are making a spiritual impact all over the world. Let me tell you why:
Last week I was talking with my teammate, Gaby, about the happenings in Spain. She said that the other night she was visiting with a Spanish friend of ours named Eva. Eva was telling Gaby that she saw on Facebook that I had a donor and that I will be having a transplant soon and that she is happy for me. Eva said that she was so amazed that a friend would just give me a kidney. She said to Gaby "That is the biggest testimony that the evangelical church has. They aren't just talking.....they are doing." WOW.
Adam, you are impacting my friends. You are impacting my family. You are impacting people I don't even know. Thank you for your gift. I know that there are still possible problems that could occur between now and the transplant. But for now I choose to live in faith that God has ordained this and that on March 17th God will guide our physicians in a successful transplant.
Let the countdown begin. 56 days....
I've wanted to write this post for awhile now, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I have so many people that I could write about -- their influence in my life or a specific instance when they have ministered to me. And maybe in time I will get around to giving them a shout out. But today, It's Gaby Time.
Gabriela Balestrini is my Venezuelan teammate in Spain. I first met her in Venezuela and grew to know her and her family through the church I worked with. Her honesty about Christianity and her desire to understand God made for some really interesting conversations. Gaby had become a Christian as a teenager and began to pray daily for her unbelieving family. The Lord heard her prayers and eventually her parents became followers of Christ. It's a beautiful testimony of prayer and redemption.
Gaby is now a full-time worker in Spain. The transformation that has happened in her life over the last 4 years is visible. The Lord has broken her, changed her, molded her, and matured her. It has been beautiful to watch.
The Gabster has been my flatmate in Spain and a real blessing. I have learned from her and taken notice of her humility. If you walk into her bedroom, it is simple and enough. She doesn't have a need for extravagant decorations or extras in her room. Just a bed and a place to store her necessities. I admire her.
Gaby and I rarely speak english together. But her english is getting better and from time to time it just slips out. She is doing a great job. But whenever I think about the progress she's made, I have to laugh out loud. Not to make fun of her (my spanish mistakes were/are waaay worse), but because she makes THE BEST mistakes. For example, one time she was learning a Bible story in English and she said "And Jesus said 'Don't be scary'." Although that's still good advice from Jesus, it wasn't exactly what we were looking for. Or the time I asked her what she had to eat at a carry-in and she said "What's it called? Apple Creepy?" Close. Very close, Gabster. That would be Apple Crisp. And then the time when she was demonstrating what the police say to people -- "Freezing!" Again, so close, yet so far away. Gaby laughs about her mistakes, too; another trait of humility and goodness.
So what's the big deal about the Gabsterizer? I believe that she saved my life.
Last fall as I was preparing to come back to the states for my kidney transplant, there was a week in there when my health declined rapidly. So quickly that I hardly noticed. Sweet people offered to help me, but there wasn't much to be done. I could hardly eat, hardly drink, and I just entered this state of being where I slept, woke up, swallowed some food, took pills, slept, woke up, swallowed some food, took pills, etc. As you may recall from previous posts, Gaby arrived in Spain 7 days before I left. I barely remember that week. But there are a few things I remember:
I remember her taking a prayer scarf and placing it over my heart. She then took olive oil and prayed over me, her tears flowing and she cried out to God for my life.
I remember her feeding me food, because I had lost all desire to eat.
I remember her reminding me to take sips of water so that I wouldn't get dehydrated.
I remember her holding my hair as I threw up, both times while we were out in public.
I remember her helping me to the bathroom throughout the day and night, as I could hardly walk.
I remember one of those nights telling her that I couldn't go any further and she said, "Repite conmigo: 'que diga el debil: fuerte soy!'." "Repeat with me: 'Let the weak say: I am strong'!" And we repeated the verse from Joel over and over again until she put me back in my bed.
I remember the day before I left when she led my sister and I in a Bible study.
When my sister arrived she jumped on board with Gaby. They packed my suitcases. They ran errands. They made sure I was warm. They fed me. They dressed me.
Besides the obvious salvation that Christ offers, a lot of people don't get the opportunity to have their earthly lives saved. I have had(and will have) the experiences of having at least 4 life-savers. Susie, Scott, my second kidney donor, and now I am adding Gaby to that list.
Gaby, you kept me alive until God's appointed time for me to go back to the States. I am grateful for your friendship, your sistership, and your humble example of Christ's love. I trust that someday we will get to work together again. But if not, I want you and the world to know that I noticed. I noticed Christ in you. And when I was knocking on death's door, you were there to gently reflect salvation and a peace that passes all understanding.
I send you grateful love from the USA.