Inspiring Mama Maribel Butts Battles Victoriously Against Kidney Disease | Mama That Could

A Radiant Maribel Butts | Mama That Could

Maribel Butts, Kidney Transplant Survivor and Donate Life Ambassador.

Maribel Butts is an incredible Mama and woman of faith that I have the honor of knowing personally because she is my cousin.  One of the great things about being related is that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing her strength and courage firsthand and can now share her story with all of you. Maribel battled kidney failure in her 20’s and was the recipient of a new kidney in 2010.  She is an incredible wife and mother of 2.  She has battled faithfully against infections, numerous surgeries and setbacks in this journey and yet has done it with an incredible amount of faith and strength.  Maribel overcame addiction and gang violence in her early teens (read about it here), teen parenting and now a life threatening illness.  Her attitude and transparency about the ups and downs of this journey is truly inspiring.  She continues to fight every day to keep a victorious attitude and does an amazing job at it.  She shares her inspiring personal story with the community and educates about organ and tissue donation as  a Donate Life Ambassador.

A huge part of  her physical healing journey has been forgiveness and her Christian faith.   This is a woman worth getting to know.  Read her interview below and follow her at Maribel’s Kidney Story on Facebook and www.maribelskidneystory.com.

What is your history with kidney disease?

Maribel Butts - 1st year kidney disease diagnosis | Mama That Could

Maribel in the 1st year she was diagnosed with kidney disease.

In 2001, they discovered I had problems with my kidneys which resulted in pre-term labor of my youngest son.  In 2005, I was diagnosed with Neprotic Syndrome and was in end stage renal disease. I was on dialysis from 2005-2010; hemodialysis & peritoneal dialysis, both of which had its challenges. I received a kidney transplant in a miraculous way by partaking in an 8 person donor chain. This was very timely because, at the 5 year dialysis mark, my health was failing and my PD catheter for dialysis was starting to have problems. This was a great time of celebration for my family to be dialysis free.

What caused your kidney disease?

The doctors couldn’t do a biopsy to see exactly what had caused the kidney disease. They were challenged to keep the health of the left good kidney. Unfortunately, that ended up failing too. The MRI scan showed shrinkage of the renal arteries which is likely nephrotic syndrome. Doctors believe I have always had this since the day I was born.

What caused you to fight for survival?

My family, of course, but really my relationship with the Lord…what He laid in my heart to continue to fight and share His testimony in my life. I realized He was going to use this for a greater purpose.

Do you remember the moment when you decided that you weren’t going to let this illness beat you?

There were many times I had to make that decision. Sometimes it just felt so hard to fight because circumstances in my physical body seemed impossible to overcome. It was always something within me that reminded me of how blessed I was to have my family, the blessing of each day. So the decision to fight even when it seemed impossible was to be an example to never quit. Even if it meant fighting for just one more day. I want my kids to see that. I want my community to see that. Most of all, I want God to see how appreciative I am for giving me this will to live…to give me the faith to look outside my circumstance…the word and knowledge to not fear.

Where do you find the strength to be a wife, mother and a kidney transplant survivor?

Maribel Butts 4-way donor meeting | Mama That Could

Maribel meets the donors and other recipients of the 4-way kidney transplant exchange at UC Davis Medical Center.

Definitely supernatural spirit within. My strength comes from being a survivor…to really appreciate the roles as a wife and as a mother. That being my first calling in life. There have been many times that I was unable to do anything. It was very hard to not have the ability to cook for my family or attend baseball events. When my health is good I know not to take that all for granted. I have had to learn some hard lessons but at the end of the day I will say I’m content with my first calling in life to be there for my family.

What kind of things do you have to do to maintain good health and to prevent the possibility of kidney rejection?

Just recently our associate pastor shared the root word to health is heal. I continue to heal. Being more than a year and half post transplant, I see how valuable it is to allow time to heal. Not only physically, but emotionally as well. I started this process of full deliverance through Celebrate Recovery and years of hurt and denial revealed many stumbling blocks to maintain my physical health. Truth is anger can cause many health issues. But peace can bring healing. So with that in order I realized rest was very necessary for healing. I’m a go getter, active mom on my good days and having the kidney transplant was like good days everyday. However, I soon realized with recent infections that made it challenging to fight with a compromised immune system that my body is still healing. So a season of rest to heal for health is now in order. Also it is important to take medications on time and scheduled lab work to maintain kidney health.

What causes are you passionate about?

Maribel Butts in her younger years | Maribel's Kidney Story

Maribel in her teen years

Sharing the gospel through ministries such as Celebrate Recovery. It is here I can share my testimony of my hurts, hang ups and habits. I see it as a close discipleship, allowing people to commit the time to heal themselves. I’m passionate about advocating about organ donation. Look at what it has done for me.  I encourage everyone to be donors. Don’t fear what you can’t bring to heaven. If everyone in the US were donors there would be no waitlist. We would continue to recycle and extend life to those who want more time here on earth. I’m also passionate about the youth and education. They are our future. I want to invest my time not only in my own kids but in all children. Some people just won’t invest time. Time is everything and leading children in the right way through extra curricular activities such as art, music and sports can show them their giftings early on and lead them in a positive direction. Of course, being an example to them and emulating Jesus in what I do. This shows an unconditional love. This would be what would show the passion in what I do.

Do you have a favorite quote or scripture?

Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” It was the one that got me through some very hard times! Easy to grab from my memory bank but powerful in its words!

What has been the most important revelation you’ve had around your healing and recovery?

Forgiveness. I know through my forgiveness I am able to be a better person overall. Sometimes it can be a process but continue to work on it until you truly are set free from any past hurts. It can hold you back regardless. In scripture in Matt 5: 23-24 it says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

I realized my unforgiveness blocked the blessings God wants to give to me. Even if you aren’t the offender, you must acknowledge the part you’ve held on to (being the anger, resentment) to that person. You forgive for yourself, not always for that person. Then when you offer yourself to the Lord your connection is clear.

Thank you Maribel for your courage, honesty and willingness to share your story and words of wisdom.  You are a true inspiration to mothers and women everywhere.  I’m constantly encouraged by your strength and sense of purpose and know your story impacts far more people than you know.

Maribel Butts and Family | Mama That Could

Maribel with her husband, Daniel and 2 sons, Marcelo and Marquez.

Maribel has set a goal for her family to participate in the Transplant Games in Grand Rapids, MI from July 29-31. No donation is too small.  Be a supporter and send Maribel’s family to the Transplant Games here.

For updates on Maribel go to www.maribelskidneystory.com

Maribel’s story drives home the real impact organ donation can have on someone’s life. Currently more than 110,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants to save their lives. Thousands more are in need of tissue and cornea transplants to restore their mobility and sight. Register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor today and provide hope to those who wait.

Did Maribel’s story inspire you?  Do you have a personal story of victory?  Be sure to share your comments below.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Mama That Could | Not Feeling the Love on Valentine’s Day? Take the Love Challenge

Choose Love on Valentine’s Day

Did you wake up today and groan at the thought of Valentine’s Day or did you smile and bask in the love?  All too often, Valentine’s Day can be a lonely day for many regardless if you’re single, married, divorced, separated or widowed.

I invite you to choose love today.

Sounds corny, but so what right?  I’d rather see you try than see you let feelings of sadness or longing overwhelm you.  Valentine’s Day can be an awesome day for anyone.  When I was single, I made a conscious effort to not think of Valentine’s Day as a romantic thing. I loved spending it with my friends.  When I was a single parent, I loved taking my kid out on a date night, or celebrating with my friends and kid together.  Now that I’m married, sometimes I spend it with my hubby and sometimes with the whole family.

Today is about love…and darn it, we don’t have enough of it in the world.

What the world needs now is love sweet love…it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.  Come on, everybody, sing along.

A CDC (Center for Disease Control) article says an estimated 1 in 10 people in the US report some level of depression.  I don’t know about you but those are some depressing statistics and frankly, a little disturbing. In today’s economy and on days like today, I suspect those statistics are much higher.  Hey, I can’t fix every day for you, but hopefully I can make this Valentine’s Day a little brighter for you.

Sometimes, we sit around and wait for people to surprise us on Valentine’s Day or sulk because no one did or because we feel lonely.  I dare you to be the initiator of love today.  This is what it means to choose love.

Ignore all the Valentine’s Day marketing and frills, take a deep breath, and just think about the people you love.

Take the Valentine’s Day Love  Challenge

I challenge you to either call, write, Facebook, tweet or email 5 people you love or who have positively influenced your life and tell them not just that you love them, but why you love them or tell them why you’re thankful they’re in your life.  If you need to write it down in advance, because this is just not your thing, then do it.  After you’ve completed the challenge, there is one catch.  You must surrender all expectation.  That means not feeling bad because someone didn’t write or call you back or return the favor in some way.  This is an exercise in pure love and pure love has no hidden agenda.  Pure love just gives freely.

The Advanced Love Challenge

For those of you who are ready to really stretch yourself, reach out to one or several people that you find difficult to love and send them a loving message.  You would be surprised how far just a little love goes…for both of you. And for those of you who snarled at my singing earlier, try it again.

What the world needs now is love sweet love…it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. 

You may find, it comes a little easier for you when you actually give some love out first.  It’s hard to be sad and depressed when you’ve consciously put yourself in a state of gratitude and love.

No matter what people may tell you, Love is a choice.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you took the Love Challenge today, I want to hear all about it.  Post your story in the COMMENTS section below.

Mama That Could | Has Your Heart Grown Cold or Just Numb?

Couple Distant in Bed + Mama That Could

Disconnect is a Slow Silent Killer of Relationships

So these past couple of weeks I started to feel like my husband and I were growing distant. We’ve had to make some huge life transitions recently, from a hurried out of state move to managing our active little toddler to relocating our 5th grader who wanted desperately to graduate with his childhood buddies. To say the least, the move was tough. We wanted to downsize and get rid of things and, as a semi-hoarder of sorts, I found it difficult to do this without my hubby’s help. Being that he is a man that likes to travel light, dealing with my stuff was a frustrating thing. Instead of talking about it, we retreated into our own isolated worlds and deep inside, I began to feel abandoned when he couldn’t help me. Multiply these feelings with stress, lack of sleep and exhaustion and I was a walking recipe for disaster.

Each day was slow torture for me. We began to get very short with one another. I found myself turning my back to him at bedtime and withholding  goodnight kisses. In a very short time, I felt oceans away from the man I love. I acted like I was fine, but we were just tolerating each other. I felt my heart growing cold as I was used to the loving manner in which my husband usually dealt with me, and I’m sure he was caught off guard at my cold demeanor. I began to understand how quickly couples can grow apart.

A Heart Can Shift Back 

Now this was a matter of a couple of weeks, but a very real concern began to surface, as I have several friends whose marriages have ended because of the great disconnect that happened over time. A wonderful book I’ve often recommended to married friends, called HeartShift: The Two Degree Difference that Will Change Your Heart, Your Home and Your Health by John Trent, came to mind. He talks about how we begin to make little 2 degree shifts away from our spouse over time. These little shifts are usually caused by hurts and little offenses that never get dealt with.  When you stay silent, resign yourself or just tolerate those offenses, you continue to make more little 2 degree shifts away from one another. Sometimes you may resolve it and shift back, but if you don’t continually check it, then before you know it years have past, and you’ve shifted so dramatically away from one another it seems impossible to reconcile. That’s when you start to hear comments like, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” or “I don’t know how we got here. We used to be so close” or “We’re more like best friends not husband and wife.” This doesn’t just happen with our spouses. This can happen with our best friends or family members, anyone we are in close relations with, or even with our health. When you reach this point, I believe you’ve gone  from cold to just numb. The numbness usually comes from an overwhelming feeling that you can’t ever get back to where you started. You might even say you feel nothing for this person anymore or even find yourself saying “I don’t care” more often than not.

It is very possible to shift back toward loving one another, but when you think it takes 180 degree changes to reconcile, it will seem impossible.  When you start with an understanding of small 2 degree changes combined with commitment, patience and understanding, it is possible to heal your relationship.

A Calloused Heart

Scripture calls this condition a calloused heart.

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding, you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” – Matthew 13:14-15

When your heart is calloused, you can no longer truly hear, see or understand the other person because every offense, unkind word and hurt has created a new, hardened layer over your heart. Everything they say to you is falsely interpreted through the filter of all that hurt. Even when they’re not trying to hurt to you, it feels like they are. When you decide, and yes, it can be a decision, to close your eyes, ears and heart to them, the end of the relationship is near. There is no room for healing, because you can’t get past the hardened or calloused heart condition.  This condition opens you up to pride and great feelings of self-righteousness, further putting your spiritual condition at risk.  A hardened heart against another person reflects a hardened heart toward God and rejects the possibility of God’s healing.

Choose to Stay Connected

I felt the layers forming over my own heart these past two weeks and decided enough was enough. However, pride had crept in to my heart as well and I had a hard time reaching out to him. I had to pray for a softening of my heart and I also had to pray for my husband.  A wise man once told me that if I couldn’t pray to the point of asking God to bless the person I was at odds with (and truly mean it), then I didn’t have a right to confront them. I needed God to deal with me and my heart first. This is the not-so-fun, but-oh-so necessary part to healing. I needed to be willing to see how I might have offended my husband too and ask for forgiveness for my own hurtful behavior.

I finally confessed to my husband the hurt and abandonment I was feeling and my sadness at our disconnect.  He confessed his confusion about the way I seemed to be loving towards everyone but him.  We agreed we were just offending each other over and over with the way we were reacting to one another.  We both apologized for our hurtful behavior. I saw things a bit more drastically than he did.  He said he began to think the disconnect might just be a normal part of being a working family with young children going through a tough transition.  I saw this as a red flag to the beginning of some great and unnecessary heart shifts away from one another. I realize I don’t want stress or tough times to be an excuse for us to use to be disconnected. We both agreed we could do a better job of communicating, praying together and staying connected. That night was a breakthrough night for us. It brought the revival of both of our hearts, the pouring forth of loving words, sweet goodnight kisses and a renewed commitment to love each other better.

I never want to wait until we’ve shifted so far away that we don’t know how to get back to one another.  I love him too much to do that.

If you’re feeling disconnected to a loved one here’s 6 Steps on How To Make Up:

1) Pray.  Ask God to search your heart and show you where and why you have hardened your heart against them.

2) Then ask God to show you where you might have offended your loved one.

3) Confess your behavior to God and ask for forgiveness.  Believe me, this is a great warm up to confessing your behavior to your loved one and asking for forgiveness.  (And by the way, God already knows your shortcomings , so you’re not doing it for his benefit.)

4) Ask God to help you forgive your loved one.  You may find it difficult to do this on your own strength.  God needs you to invite him into this process or else you will continue to try (and potentially fail) to live this out on your own strength.

5) Find ways to pray blessing over your loved one (maybe to prosper the work of their hands or for blessings over their health or healing over their past hurts, etc).  If you still find this difficult or you feel resistant to doing this, then it means there’s still things you haven’t confessed and aren’t ready to let go of.  Go back and repeat steps #1-5.

6) Pray for the wisdom to know the right time to confront your loved one.  If you’ve done steps #1-5, then chances are it will be a loving conversation.

You’ll find when you are still offended and try to confront someone, you will begin to accuse them and even potentially manipulate them to get the response you want. When your heart has openly confessed and you can pray blessing over someone who has hurt you, then your heart and communications will be free of any agenda. God can give you the strength to communicate lovingly. When pure love is present in your communications, there is no agenda and you’ll find less resistance from the one you’re trying to reconcile with.

How’s your heart today?  If you’ve faced disconnect with a loved one, how did you handle it?  Be sure to share your experiences in the COMMENTS section below.

Stacy Francis is A Mama That Could – X Factor 2011 – Natural Woman

Stacy Francis is a perfect example of The Mama That Could.  She’s a 42-year old single mother of 2 ( 5 month and 3 year old), who was told by a former boyfriend in her late 20’s that she was too old and not talented enough for a singing career.  Over time she started believing him and slowly lost faith in herself.  She says, “It’s been very difficult trying to sing when you have 2 kids.” She would wait until late at night to sing in the bathroom.  When asked what has held her back she says she just sorta…got stuck.

When you’re told No or you can’t do things enough times, that’s what happens…you get stuck.  Stacy came on to X Factor to take that step of faith that says, I can do this.  She chose to get unstuck and do something to move her and her children’s lives forward.  She says something very poignant to Simon Cowell, “I don’t want to die with this music in me, Simon.”

I know those words resonated with me.  Maybe it’s not music for me, but there’s a lot of other cool stuff lying on the inside of me.  Acting, dancing, ministry…most of it is still just sitting in me…well, I like to think it’s marinating…until the appointed time.

Kudos to Stacy Francis for singing “Natural Woman” with every inch of her aching heart and representing for every woman who has ever been told they can’t do it or they weren’t good enough.

Watch as Stacy Francis sings her heart out and receives a well deserved, full blown, standing ovation.

What’s sitting inside of you that has been waiting to come out?  Be sure to share it in the comments section below.