As the title suggests this post, the first in a month, is a follow-up post, not only to what my wife wrote last time, but as a follow-up of, or continuation of, the blog’s original purpose… which is me writing about my Thrift store finds and some other stuff that I want to talk about. (If you don’t want to wait for the thrift store stuff I suggest skipping ahead, otherwise keep reading, you might learn something about me and why I’m a Lutheran pastor.)
My wife’s post that was published on here was done 4 weeks ago. A lot can happen in such a small span of time, like having a kidney transplant (my second, more on that later in the post), being released from the hospital, house sitting for friends while I recouped, getting back home and preaching my first sermon post-transplant…. oh, and my wife is due with our second little one at the end of this month.
Now it’s time for some background info.When I was in Grade School and High School I knew I wanted to be a Pastor. I didn’t know why, but I knew that’s what I wanted to spend my life doing. Then I was diagnosed with FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis) when I was 18 and in my first year at Concordia University, River Forest. (I probably developed this while in High School and just ignored any warning signs.) I went in for a TB test and had some edema (lots of fluid) that the doctors noticed. They had me do a urine test and told me that I had some kidney disease, they didn’t know which one. They sent me back to my parents house with a renal doctor’s name and an appointment. This is where my journey for the last ten years of my life started.
After several tests, visits, biopsies etc., they finally knew that I had FSGS, which if I am not mistaken is very limited in the amount of patients with this disease. The first step was to start medications, specifically anti-rejection meds in hopes of slowing down the disease. This lasted for a couple of years until my Junior year in college, January 2002, when I started doing peritoneal dialysis in my dorm room. Luckily I only did this for about 6 months before my first transplant on June 7, 2002. My older cousin was a match and donated. I don’t think that I can ever thank her enough for what she gave me. Unfortunately, I suffered a rejection after less than 2 months, was in the hospital on some heavy, heavy meds and, when I was released, went to finish my undergrad studies. A month after the rejection they noticed that the FSGS was spreading to my transplanted kidney. This first transplant lasted though my last year at CURF, our wedding that summer after graduation, and most of my first year at Concordia Serminary, St. Louis.
Allow me to go back for a few sentences. Like most people reading this, or experiencing some other life altering, chronic condition, I blamed God. (I’m about to write something that I’ve only told my wife.) Truthfully, and in the openness of full disclosure of what I experienced, I didn’t just blame God, but I hated Him. I wanted nothing to do with God and wanted to do nothing more than curse His name. I would ask myself, ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this punishment? I’m only 18. Why do you hate me so much that you need to punish me and pour out your anger and vengeance upon me?’ (So I was a little melo-dramatic back then, we all are at times.)
It is during this time of doubt and despair that the Lord put into my life some of my closest friends. They were there when I needed people the most… when I needed to get ‘over myself.’ They introduced me to a band called Caedmon’s Call – good music, not great, but good. They were there for me when I was sick and doing dialysis (which is also why I knew I’d marry my wife, but that’s a story for another day.)
Eventually, during my wrestling with my faith and with God I opened my Bible blindly and it opened to the Book of Job. (Eventually I learned what “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” and “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” truly meant). Then I started to read the Psalms daily. I read Romans by St. Paul. I re-read the narrative on the story of the man born blind… “Who sinned this man or his parents?”
It took my family, my friends, my school work and other items, big and small, to help me ‘get over myself’, to get back to worship (which is all about getting over yourself and noticing and praising God for all the things that He does without any merit or worthiness in us) and realize that God doesn’t just give people random diseases, death or pain because He gets some sick joy or fascination out of playing and meddling in our lives. All of those items are symptoms of a much greater disease, sin. It infects us all and causes doubt, despair, a hole in your heart and a hatred and rebellion towards God, the only one who can help you through. It took me a while to understand that He doesn’t abandon us, but works through our situations and circumstances to make us into better people. He works though our friends and family to help us, and we don’t notice it until it is all said and done.
It was through those big and small situation and circumstances that my life changed for the better. I knew that I wanted to be a Pastor again. That I wanted to offer the Gospel to those who are going through what I’ve been through, to be there for people in their time of need. I knew that this is what God wanted from me the entire time, to get over myself and focus on helping others. Sure I can be as self-centered, self-serving, arrogant and egotistical as the next guy, but I’m growing everyday because of His love for me.
Near the end of my Spring term at Concordia Seminary in 2004 I was getting sick again. My slightly larger frame, was carrying a body that only weighed about 185 lbs. I wasn’t healthy, didn’t feel healthy, I was sick and throwing up almost everyday, sometimes more than once. All of the toxins in my body had to come out somehow. Yet, me in my infinite wisdom, wanted to wait till the end of the school term. I started peritoneal dialysis again and was doing that for a couple of years without complication. Eventually I was doing this mostly during the night so as not to interfere with my school work, classes that I was taking and eventually my vicarage (for those non-Lutherans, it’s a year long internship at a church as an assistant Pastor).
*NOTE: We’re not, nor have we ever been Mariners fans, we got these shirts as a gag gift for our wedding. We went to see Blue Man Group in Chicago and were hoping to get doused in paint and ruin them, oh well. Go White Sox!!!
About 3.5 years after starting peritoneal dialysis for the second run, I had an infection, a bad one. (3.5 years without was a blessing, but I made up for it.) During November and December 2007 I was in different hospitals for almost 6 weeks total. I missed school, my friends visited me as did some profs, which helped keep my spirits high, and most importantly, my wife was able to take leave from her teaching duties at a Lutheran School to be with me in the hospital. I honestly don’t what I would done without her there with me for those 6 long weeks.
By the spring of 2008, after many attempts to do peritoneal dialysis again, I got a fistula put in my left arm. (If anyone wants to see a pic, let me know and I’ll post it some time.) Hemo-dialysis took some getting used to… what with the needles in the arm for 4 hours times 3 days a week. But I knew that life could have been worse. This is just part of the sinful, human condition that we live in. There is a plus side to having a fistula that we soon discovered, our son Bear, after his birth would lay his head on it and fall asleep within a matter of minutes, no matter how bad he was crying.
In June 2008 I received my Call to Bethany in Pueblo, CO and have been here ever since. I have had several different shifts for dialysis treatments, always 4 hours and 3 times a week. Back in October 2009 or so, I started on the Nocturnal shift which would hook me up at 9pm on M W F and unhook me around 3am T TH SAT. Then I got the “Call” from the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, CO on May 9, 2010 – six years after starting dialysis for the second time and almost 6.5 years after getting myself on the transplant list in St. Louis.
The Lord has a plan for everything and works through all circumstances to show His Gospel. Now I am home with my wife, my son Bear (that’s not his birth name, but that’s what I’ll refer to him as on here) and our soon-to-be son or daughter. If the next one is born on time I’ll be fully able to help carry the kids around, drive, and pamper my wife, after all she deserves it for putting up with me.
This was taken on May 9, the night before the surgery. It was taken at like 11pm, notice how tired the Bear looks. My wife wanted a family picture before the surgery and we weren’t sure what time that would happen or if Bear would be allowed to see me in the morning.
This was taken in the afternoon on May 11th, about 15 hours post-transplant. The pain meds definitely helped.
This was taken on May 13th, the day I left the hospital after my transplant.
That’s my story, or at least a summary. I just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to all of our friends and family for their prayers, love and helping me ‘get over myself’. I’ll leave you with the hymn that we, while in college, would sing as a group during our ending devotions after a concert. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye Heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
I told you I would also post something about my Thrift Store shopping, which I was able to do on Saturday. It’s fun being home and doing the things that help you relax. I know I shouldn’t go into my favorite store because every time I do I buy something, in this case three things, plus a jacket on e-bay I got on Saturday as well. Here they are:
I got this nice multi-colored shirt for $4.
It’s by Ralph and I really dig the colors on this bad boy… some pink, yellow, purple, green. It’s ok to be a little jealous.
Next I found this Woolrich short-sleeve green button up with double breast pockets for $3.50.
Lastly, while Thrifting I found this 100% camel hair number for $3.50.
I can’t wait for the cooler months to wear this bad boy with some wool or flannel trousers, or maybe even a nice pair of dark blue jeans, even doesn’t look bad with a t-shirt.
I found this little 100% leather number by Banana Republic on e-bay. It only cost like $15 including shipping.
I’m going to enjoy wearing this on date nights with my wife and going to the zoo in the fall.