Making the list

All our lives we want to make it onto lists. If we make the list then we feel more important and accepted and possibly loved? We also get to be invited to important events, attend the best schools and have the coolest friends. Canamere-04.jpg

 

I am about to be placed on a list myself. Being on this list, however, will afford me the opportunity to have life saving surgery by means of a double lung transplant. Never before was I happier to make a list. Especially since I was told before that I will never make this list, today is cause for celebration indeed. 

There is another list I am more interested in getting onto and God is working in my life and on my heart daily to make sure that my name is on that list. You see a crown is waiting for me.

The last couple of weeks were quite challenging for me but in hindsight I see the necessity of it. God has taken me on a crash course in a very short space of time.  He needed me and Him to be on the same page about a couple of things but mostly He needed me to have a reality check.  God had to show me how things really are not how I wish things to be. Oh I love it when He does that.  I get to learn so much about myself and those around me but the best part is that right through the process I get to experience God intimately and I get to see His heart.  His big beautiful heart that loves us unconditionally and only wants the best for us. 

I was meditating on the book of Joel chapter 2 in my private devotions this morning.  Every line spoke volumes but verses 25, 26 and 27 stood out. Verse 25 reads: “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust …”  This promise is so personal to me and the fulfilment thereof brings so much joy to my heart. I almost want to exhale forever, like they make me do in pulmonary function testing but this time I won’t panic and catch a quick breath and fail.  

The swarming locusts, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust have been feasting away  at me for a very very long time.  God took me on this journey of discovery since 1 October and then just when I was about to be overwhelmed by it all verses 26 and 27 jumped out at me and in those promises my soul found peace. Verses 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame”, v 27 “Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame”.   Thank you for keeping your promise Lord!

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Hope’s double reward

On 11 August while on a long overdue (but very necessary) errand, I met a beautiful woman.  For some reason she caught my eye.  She saw me in my wheelchair with the oxygen cylinder and approached me and asked the questions I am so used to now.  As I explained to her I could see she had a very good idea of what I was talking about. It turned out that her darling husband of many years also had pulmonary fibrosis.  She then told me two things: first, that her husband had died 6 months before and second; that she heard from her husband’s pulmonologist that a team had been assembled to perform lung transplants in Cape Town. All I registered was the first thing she told me.

On 13 August I had my Gethsemane moment.  I was alone in my room spending time with God and I poured out my heart to Him as I had done so many times before.  I spend many hours with God in His word and we have become so close that I can really talk to Him about anything.  He then comforts and strengthens me and gives me the courage that I need to carry on.  But on this particular day I was at the lowest I had been in a very long time.  Winter was really cold and I struggled with the most basic things. My family and I could literally see the decline in my lung capacity as predicted.  I audaciously told my Abba Father that this was no way to live. I had such reduced quality of life; what was the point really?  This cup of suffering was too much for me to bear; too bitter, too vile but that His will be done.

On 16 August I had my monthly visit with my pulmonologist.  Normally I look forward to these outings as I have made quite a few friends on these hospital trips.  But it was cold, I was tired, struggled to breathe and was just down. Everyone noticed and mentioned how I wasn’t my bubbly self.  When I eventually got to see my Dr I wasn’t prepared for his very first words: “Mrs Hartnick, we received funding from the government. We put a team in place and are going to do lung transplants in Cape Town now. Your lungs have deteriorated to where we can’t really do much for you but keep you comfortable.  Mrs Hartnick may I forward your name as a possible candidate for a double lung transplant?” Say what? Then I remembered the second thing the beautiful Veena Patel told me 3 days before. She was truly an angel sent by God to prepare me for this news!

A transplant is the only “cure” for pulmonary fibrosis. I enquired about it in 2015 but was told that they only do them in Johannesburg and because of the altitude; my lungs will not handle the pressure.  I was also told that I need double lungs and possibly a heart so it wasn’t an option for me .  Also, I imagined it to be very expensive. So when I hear now that the Government made funds available for lung transplants to be performed in Cape Town I was totally blown away.  I saw my Dr’s lips move and I heard words but I couldn’t register, I was in total shock. I kept thinking Lord you did this! You are even using the Government in my miracle.  Zechariah 9:12 says “Return to the stronghold you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you”.  That is hope’s double reward!

I asked for a day before I decided because as much as this is wonderful news there are great risks involved and I needed to consult my maker.  My husband and I had a very frank talk with our boys and explained the new developments. They were both overjoyed at the possibility of having me around for longer and saw this too as God’s miracle for us. We prayed, we asked our family and friends to pray with us. In our devotions the next morning, all four of us experienced such peace that we knew this was from God.  So from 21 to 25 August I was hospitalised and underwent a number of tests and evaluations to make sure that the rest of my organs are not damaged and that my heart is strong enough to endure the onslaught of a double lung transplant. I got very good results and had a meeting with the transplant team to explain the way forward. I am currently undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation twice a week and exercise at home to get my muscles working again.  It is very tough as I struggle to catch my breath and my saturation drops quickly and my heart rate skyrockets and I get exhausted.  But God is with me and my physiotherapist is an angel.

18 October is my follow up appointment at the Transplant Clinic at Grootte Schuur Hospital. If the team is satisfied with my progress, I will be listed and as soon as a suitable pair of lungs becomes available I will be transplanted. Within the space of a month the trajectory of my journey has completely changed.  Wow! The verse in Jeremiah 32:27 remind me “Behold, I am the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for me?”

We were advised by a friend who has gone the transplant route with a family member that there are many unforeseen expenses involved and it becomes very draining on the family budget. Therefore, some close friends and family are busy raising funds to assist us with the many additional costs we now have.  So on 1 October at the Steenberg SDA church we will have a Fund Raising Benefit:

Hartnick Benefit Concert Flyer

Once again I am amazed at the goodness and generosity of people. My brother-in-law handed me an envelope last week. A colleague of his, who I only met once or twice, heard our story and when she was at a family function she proceeded to share our plight and collected enough to cover the extra expenses of oxygen and petrol to get me to rehab for that week. When they left we fell on our knees to give thanks to God because this had His signature all over it. The many prayers breathed on our behalf sustain us. The Jenna Lowe Trust made a sizable donation and they continue to support us in any way that they can.  We are so blessed!

We still have quite a journey ahead of us with many speed bumps along the way; but we are confident that “He who began a good work … will be faithful to  complete it!”

 

Transformed by the renewing of our mind

Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”

This verse tells me that if I want to know God’s perfect will for my life, I need to allow God to change me by changing the way I think because God doesn’t want me to act like the world.

God desires that I change the way I think. The way I think affects the way I act which in turn affects my character. And as I understand it, my character is the only thing I am taking with me when Jesus comes.

I talked to God about my dilemma because I realised that my thought patterns needed to change. I don’t know about everyone else but once I have a negative thought it usually ends with me going down a long dark path which inevitably affects my actions in a negative way.

God brought another verse to me in my devotions this morning read in The Faith I Live By by Ellen White:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Proverbs 4:23.

As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. Many thoughts make up the unwritten history of a single day; and these thoughts have much to do with the formation of character. Our thoughts are to be strictly guarded; for one impure thought makes a deep impression on the soul. An evil thought leaves an evil impress on the mind. If the thoughts are pure and holy, the man is better for having cherished them. By them the spiritual pulse is quickened, and the power for doing good is increased. And as one drop of rain prepares the way for another in moistening the earth, so one good thought prepares the way for another.

Wrong habits of thought, when once accepted, become a despotic power that fastens the mind as in a grasp of steel.

The thoughts are not to be allowed to run riot. They must be restrained, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Let them be placed upon holy things. Then, through the grace of Christ, they will be pure and true. We need a constant sense of the ennobling power of pure thoughts. The only security for any soul is right thinking.

Our minds take the level of the things on which our thoughts dwell, and if we think upon earthly things, we shall fail to take the impress of that which is heavenly. We would be greatly benefited by contemplating the mercy, goodness, and love of God; but we sustain great loss by dwelling upon those things which are earthly and temporal.

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with Heaven.”

So many things happening around me right now makes me realise more than ever that I need a “renewed mind”. Too many people in my life are also struggling with the same issue which makes me realise that in the trying times that we are living in, we need God’s help now more than ever!

The only way to be transformed into the image of God is by the renewing of our minds through prayer and studying God’s word.

Gratitude

(Written early July)

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Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m messing with Ralph Waldo Emmerson’s quote right now but I feel compelled to include “everything” instead of “every good thing” because in my meaning we should be grateful for even the “not so good things” as they shape and mold us into the people we become. But then I realise that Emmerson says “all things have contributed to your advancement”. The “not so good things” are sometimes the tools that catapult us into changing our way of life for the better.

Reflecting on the word gratitude alone conjures up so many images of a life well lived. So many wonderful experiences, such a lot of great memories and the most amazing people met along the way. Who can understand that someone who used to be a stranger to you can become so important in your life that you connect with them on an intimate level. I’m so grateful for those experiences where hearts are opened to each other in such vulnerability that trust is formed and friends treasured.

Phone calls and good news shared and burdens shared and halved. I’m grateful for visits by family and friends. Even my church family is getting used to visiting with me in my bedroom now. Such love! Not feeling guilty for the many “gifts” I receive by paying it forward. By praying for everyone who asks and even those who don’t is how I can show gratitude. A problem prayed over is a problem solved. By thanking people for kind and thoughtful gestures. Not taking anything or anyone for granted but respecting others and teaching my children to do the same. Help me Lord!

My gratitude has no bounds. Today I am thankful for waking up after a night of coughing fits. The rest wasn’t refreshing but waking up to a brand new day is such a privilege. For the luxury of a physiotherapist who comes to me to help with breathing exercises. I’m grateful for nice hot baths, my guilty pleasure because the watermark is high, but it goes into the garden afterwards. Grateful for my husband’s strong arms who lifts me out of the bath afterwards with such ease.

Grateful for good quality time spent as a family, talking, laughing, disagreeing and playing board games and uno with all 3 of them on the bed with me. Grateful for their understanding when I’m experiencing a challenging day and can hardly make it to the bathroom. I’m grateful that with exams and school holiday we are spending two whole months together as a unit. What a gift to me. Thank you Lord!

Our long Friday night talks, listening to the boys’ understanding of spiritual matters. Teaching them to be grateful for everything. More precious memories being made. We have come such a long way as a family. Our lives have been enriched with so many wonderful people and experiences. Looking at old photographs I can see God’s leading and guiding our path to where we are today and I am just so very grateful to my Heavenly Father.

“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him” 2 Timothy 1:12

“You shall not surely die” what a lie!

“You shall not surely die” the lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden is flashing through my mind right now. We, on this side of Eden know that it is a lie because we face death all the time. Cold, cruel, separating death.

A few weeks ago my very good friend who lost her precious Mom to cancer found out that her Dad had cancer too. She had walked this road before with her Mom and was journeying it again with her Dad. On Sunday morning she came and got into bed with me and the three 3 of us; her, myself and God, had a couple of amazing hours together. Loving on each other, encouraging each other. We reflected on life and loss and where we’re all headed. So yesterday morning when I switched on my phone and got her message that her Dad is gone, I was sad for her but I know that her faith will carry her through.

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It is hard for all of us to reconcile how tragedies happen to those who have a positive effect on the world. It shakes our sense of how the world is supposed to be and may cause us to question our faith in God. My faith is very important to me – it is the foundation for how I live my life, and how I cope with having this illness.

It can be hard to reconcile that God can dearly love us, yet allow tragedy into our lives. For some, the seeming disconnect is too much to handle, and they may either reject or question their faith in God. For others, our faith provides a source of strength, comfort, and purpose.

When going through hardships and devastating losses it is very normal to ask questions such as,“Why? Why me? God, Why won’t you heal me?”plus a whole lot more. Asking these questions, feeling the emotions, and wishing for a different reality is normal, and part of the grief process.

God has not failed or disappointed me. What helps me adjust to such devastating health news is how I see God, and my worldview:

● God never promises we won’t have hardships. In fact, it’s just the opposite;
● Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. The world we want isn’t here, it is in heaven;
● The world is not fair, and it’s not supposed to be;
● He doesn’t promise healing. He welcomes us to ask for it, but He sees the bigger picture; What He does promise is that He will be with me through whatever I’m going through. And His promises are true.

He decides these things, I don’t decide these things. What I do decide is how I handle it, how I cling to Him, how I care for myself, how I use whatever is happening for greater good, and how I let God use me to bless others.

My hope is in Him, and His purposes for my life. I want to continue to grow and mature, and help others the best I can, for as long as I can. I go through days of sadness and distress just like anyone else. So far, I’m able to come back to my Hope in Him, after I process my normal emotions.

I feel released from worrying, planning, and obsessing about changing things over which I have no control. My hope and confidence are in Him, who created this whole world, and my very life. I know He will not forsake me — even when His answers and my future turn out different than I’d like.

This is what I’m trying to put my time and energy into.He promises in Romans 8:38 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I believe I am a small and important part of the big picture. I know that God is using what I am going through to help others. I don’t need to know why; I trust Him.

As we all enter this world we all have to leave at some point. Some journeys are cut short and some are longer. As we come with nothing we also leave with nothing. The impact we make on those around us depends on us and on our relationship with God.

Asking for help

I always hated asking anyone for help and it has taken me a long time to get to a point where I feel comfortable in asking even those closest to me for help with anything. If this is pride then I’m in serious trouble. If I distrust human nature so much then I’m in even more trouble.  Help me Lord!

Not too long ago I used to be able to help and to do for others. I know that I will make it easier on my caregiver if I get help from others also. So why do I struggle so much?

Then I receive this article from Inspire in my inbox.

“”People ask each other for help all the time – at work, among friends, and at home from partners and family, for example.

But when all parties are healthy, asking for help feels reciprocal – the asker may be indebted for a short time but eventually they will be ready and able to return the favor.

In the context of illness, especially cancer or a debilitating chronic condition, this social contract may be off the table. Without the ability to return the favor in kind, the ask can leave people feeling ashamed and vulnerable.

“This is bigger than a one-off ask,” said Wendy Griffith, a senior social work counselor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. “People feel selfish doing it, they feel guilty. They don’t want the extra attention and they don’t want people feeling sorry for them.”

On Inspire, members sometimes use strong language to describe how they feel about asking for help – they hate it and it makes them feel bad.

Some of those feelings may also stem from a sense of lost independence – not being able to drive, being too fatigued to manage chores or be at work – and can lead to grief, anger, or sadness.

“Most people can pool their resources and handle stressful events for a short time,” Griffith said. “But as weeks go by and they’re not in crisis mode any more, there’s a slow realization that they are in over their head.”

Overcoming pride can be difficult for patients in need of help but Griffith said there are some strategies that can help, like role playing.

“I always have patients imagine if they would do the same if someone asked them for a ride to chemotherapy or for a meal. They always say of course they would. I’m giving them permission to do it, in some ways, and sometimes you need an authority figure to say it’s ok to ask for help.”

An important way to reframe asking for help is to consider how it can benefit a willing helper. Many Inspire members have written about how seeing others get joy and fulfillment from helping them outweighs their own fears about appearing weak and ultimately makes them feel good too.

Griffith said asking for help may even have physical benefits for patients. The help itself as well as feelings of relief, gratitude, and joy can help reduce stress.

Asking for and receiving help may not always be a positive experience, however. Maintaining a help network can be time consuming and stressful, Griffith said, and it won’t always run smoothly. It can be frustrating not knowing when the time of need will end.

Caregivers – helpers already – can play an important role for patients hesitant or too ill to ask for help on their own. In fact, caregivers might be in a better position to create successful help networks, Griffith said, because they have insight into the patient’s larger health picture and can better organize. Organization is often where much of the stress of asking for help lies.

“Conceptualizing what kind of help you need often reveals that people are not actually asking for a lot, just a few main areas,” Griffith said. These tend to be meals, transportation, household chores, and someone to be a presence during long hospital visits or long stretches at home. Entertainment may also be welcome and fundraising could be an option, but Griffith said that depended on the comfort level of the network.

Caregivers may also find it easier to ask others for help since they are acting on behalf of a loved one.

“People are ingrained to think of others before themselves, to not be selfish,” Griffith said. “But put yourself in their shoes – you would offer to help, so let others help you.””

Really Lord, it’s that simple to ask for help?

Please forgive me.

DNR

It is a strange world to try and prepare yourself and your family for the worst, while keeping your heart focused on what God is able to do.

As this is a progressive disease, my lung function has drastically deteriorated. My pulmonologist therefor advised us to have those difficult conversations around “end of life”. As I will not be able to come off a ventilator, I was encouraged to sign a Do Not Resuscitate. My medication was also re-adjusted once again. My pulmonologist has prescribed morphine for me now. Where to now Lord?

In the meantime, a wonderful peace lives in my heart because my prayer continues to be “heal me Lord, but not as I will, Your will be done”. Our little family is facing this storm with such courage that can only come from God. We have so many amazing people in our lives. The kindness and support of God’s people are so comforting to us. My boys have so many “moms” now and aunties who love them for who they are and not for what they are going through. They have a group of friends who distract them and support them and we are so grateful to God. Our weekends are more and more special as we bond and make memories. They are so mature in their understanding of how this life works and how God has a plan and a purpose for even this.

My husband deserves special mention. I have yet to meet a more giving person! Brian does what he does for our family and especially for me, with no complaints. It’s not easy to be a caregiver to your spouse because so much emotion is involved. He carries so much stress and has taken over the role of both mom and dad for such a while now it’s as if he was born into it. I can see how God is equipping him for whatever lies ahead. I also see when he struggles and then I pray extra hard for him. He is an amazing man that God handpicked to be by my side through sickness and through health.

About two months ago I attended a seminar on the endocannabanoid system which was fascinating. I have never in my life heard of the endocannabanoid system and did some more research. It was mindblowing to say the least. I was introduced to a product made from 100% natural, organically grown, concentrated extract rich in non-toxic cannabinoids & amazing nutritional Terpenes, Flavonoids, Enzymes, Ketones, Vitamins, Phenols, Amino & Fatty Acids and more from Hemp – a family member of Cannabis Sativa. More on the product: https://www.canamere.com/. So now together with a healthier lifestyle, I am using this supplement and it is doing wonders for me.

I like to be informed of what is happening, especially where my health is concerned. I belong to an on-line forum where we support, encourage and educate each other. I also subscribe to a weekly newsletter on Pulmonary Fibrosis. This week I received this article: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/2017/04/25/proteins-lungs-including-potential-therapy-ipf-idiopathic-pulmonary-fibrosis/?utm_source=Pulmonary+Fibrosis&utm_campaign=45fc158f5a-RSS_MONDAY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c2b971ae5-45fc158f5a-71484473.

So I’m doubling up on my hemp supplement, continuing a healthy lifestyle and trusting that this is God’s way of healing me. So many prayers continue to go up for our family. God is still God and I am not ready to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate“!