Did you know there are 64 Bible verses on “Turning it Over to God”?
It seems when someone is going through life’s challenges we say to them with sincerity “Just give it up to God”. It is our way of helping them let go of their fears, give it to a more powerful being who can handle our challenges so we don’t have to.
But how? What does that actually mean? If we give all our problems to God, He holds onto them, and they go away? If we pray for God to take control of our out-of-control life, life just gets better? Is that really how it works? Imagine! I think we all know that’s not quite how it works.
My great niece, Sophia, was born with biliary disease. That led to an incredible journey which resulted in me looking deep into what turning it over to God really means.
Sophia’s diagnosis was Biliary Atresia. I may be a nurse but my specialty, proudly for 25 years, is ophthalmology. So I am far removed from understanding liver disease. Much research and many intimate nights with Google followed that diagnosis.
Biliary atresia is a childhood disease which the bile duct(s) are abnormally narrow, blocked, or absent, causing liver damage leading to surgery to correct the problem and allow drainage of the liver. If surgery doesn’t work, the only other treatment is a liver transplant.
Sophia had surgery at 5 weeks old to replace her biliary ducts. That bought her some time. But not much. Sophia would be put on the transplant list, her liver given a life expectancy of 2 years.
The source for a liver transplant can come from either a deceased donor or a live donor. But her doctors were brutally honest with my niece and her husband. Finding a match can be a long and difficult process.
At this time Sophia’s eyes were yellow, her skin was even more yellow, and she was a peanut! It was so difficult for her to gain weight. She had a feeding tube implanted at 5 months which came with its own difficulties. Just gaining an ounce was cause for celebration. Phone calls, text messages, and Facebook posts followed every ounce gained.
When we learned Sophia would need a transplant I started looking up the criteria for being a donor.
The process started with an application completing questions relevant to my health history and my family’s health history. That was a little scary. With each question answered, I couldn’t help but think What are they looking for? Will I be disqualified because I answered yes to #12?
Once Sophia was officially placed on the transplant list they were able to connect my application to her. I soon learned my application was accepted. The next step was bloodwork. I only mention this because the lab technician learned what the bloodwork was for and took two extra vials just in case. She was so nervous she would miss something she reviewed the orders multiple times, counting every vial. Then she looked down at one vial and said “That’s an important one. That is the make it or break it one”. She said she would say a prayer and bless that vial for a good outcome. Now that is one of the sweetest things I ever encountered!
And her prayers worked. I was on to the next step. Three days of visits to the hospital to undergo tests and interviews with the live donor transplant team.
A few days after my last test, by the Grace of God we learned Tia (Aunt in Portuguese) was a match.
I’m a match!
On the first try they found a match. How? That is incredible. Don’t question it Lori, it’s all in God’s hands.
I am 47 years old and have never had surgery. Scars all over from swinging from too many trees. But no surgery. I still have my tonsils, still have my appendix. Heck, I still have my wisdom teeth. I was a Surgical Tech before I was a nurse. I remember abdominal surgery in school. All those retractors, rib spreader, positioning devices. Oh boy! “Don’t worry” everyone said, “just give it up to God.”
One thing my donor team focused on, an important question I was asked many times throughout my visits, is whether I had a good support system. Oh if they only knew! Got that one covered. I am richly blessed, and thank God every day, for the best family, friends, church family, and Pastor. So when people started asking me whether or not I was nervous, I confidently answered "No." I had encountered the greatest gifts throughout this journey. Love and support in a magnitude only God’s hands could create.
Lori with her niece, her mom, her sister and holding her great niece, Sophia.
On June 18th the day started with my husband Joel, our Pastor, and three of our closest friends from church praying over me in pre-op. That pre-op nurse was a jewel letting everyone come in together. Joel had a list of people to keep in contact with throughout the day. And that was just his list. I gave people assignments! I will take all the prayers and positive thoughts I can get. Bring it on!
I was at Lahey Medical Center, Sophia at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Two hospitals 20 miles apart from each other.
The logistics of removing a piece of my liver, the organ bank preparing it for transport (although my Pastor offered to drive it in his trunk over to Children’s), and getting it to Sophia was nerve racking for my family, especially my sister who was at Children’s waiting to hear word from the operating room that the piece of liver removed from her sister had arrived. It was a long day for everyone to say the least.
But at the end of the day we were told it fit Sophia like a glove.
They removed Sophia’s diseased liver and replaced it with my piece which will grow with her. I still find that just amazing.
I was able to give Sophia 17%, 200 grams of the left lobe of my liver.
As soon as it started working and draining, her color came right back. Soon after surgery she started becoming more alert, her hair and fingernails started growing. There was laughter and hand clapping. And white eyes! Oh thank you God for those beautiful eyes. It was simply amazing. God is good.
But, although I wasn’t nervous and knew God had it under control, I couldn’t help but think of the many people whose surgical outcomes did not end with a positive outcome. What happened? Wasn’t God supposed to handle it? Everyone was telling me “Just give it up to God.” But what makes me think if “I” pray and believe, my prayers will be answered?
To quote my sister Lisa “It is easy to trust God when all things are going well. But how hard is it to be thankful and trust him when life isn’t going as planned”.
I searched my heart, talked it out in my favorite back pew in an empty, quiet church. I am going to be honest. I am a novice at reading and understanding the Bible. I know that is the first place I should have looked. But, what followed instead was Google. (Sorry Pastor Don!)
I came across The Domestic Fringe website that explained the following:
"When we tell you to 'Give it to God,' what we’re really saying is 'Go get to know your God, experience His love, receive His grace, and allow His spirit to empower you. Then bring your troubles and lay them at His feet, knowing He is big enough, trustworthy enough, and powerful enough to carry your burdens. Tell Him about your heartache and be confident He will care for you. Notice I didn’t say trust that He will solve all your problems and give you the outcome you desire, because God is not your genie in a bottle waiting to grant you three wishes. Quit focusing on the giving. Open your hands and heart, because you need to do a whole lot of receiving.'".
I love that! “Be confident He will care for you.”
Not solve all the world’s problems. Not solve all of my problems. But simply “He will care for you."
Through the many, incredible people in my life God sent to be there should I fall. That’s what happened when I gave it up to God.
He used each person in my life as His faithful helpers, as near as 1 minute and 17 seconds down the road, to Oklahoma where I have no doubt on the morning of June 18th a very special family held hands around their kitchen island and prayed for me and Sophia.
Our congregation got together and prayed over us after service. Awkward! But the flood gates opened and I took it all in. I received a card from a friend’s mother I have never met saying her church was praying for us. A friend who works at a women’s prison in Massachusetts said the women there were praying for us. Medical equipment and pharmaceutical reps sent me text messages, cards, and words of encouragement. Friend’s parents were sending me messages to say they were praying. I got a Facebook message from a friend and Pastor in Haiti saying his congregation was praying. Even our young Godchild and her brother put their hands together to show me they were praying. My heart was filled!
The love and strength God sent me through all these special people was the result of me giving it up to Him.
This has been an incredible journey. And it’s not over yet. Many challenges still lie ahead. Sophia has to now learn to eat. She has never swallowed food. At 19 months she is 18.9 lbs. So much catching up to do.
Her parents have to juggle Physical Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, visiting nurses, and weekly doctors’ appointments, all while working. But they too have given it up to God, resulting in a strong, faithful, love filled support system who will be with them every step of the way. We have been blessed to get to this stage in our journey.
I will continue to pray and “Give it up to God”, trusting He knows just what to do.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
Visit WPRI Channel 12 Website to see the story and interview from this awesome journey!
With Love and Many Blessings, Lori
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