Packing lunches, doing the laundry, and cleaning the house are tasks most moms do every day. However, due to lung problems, Janet Byrne was unable to complete these everyday tasks; she longed to be just a “normal” mom.
Janet was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease at the age of 27, and eventually had to be placed on oxygen. As a mother of two boys, Grant and Gavin, and a wife to her husband, Yancy, this was a hard blow. Placed on the list for a double-lung transplant, and after being on oxygen for 16 months, she received her miracle August 12, 2011, undergoing the surgery. Janet shares her journey of trusting God with her daily living and how it transformed her life, not only physically, but spiritually.
JBU: How did God speak to you during this challenging time?
JANET: I believe God can speak to us in many ways; His word and prayer are the primary ways He speaks to me. However, I am also a very visual person and love seeing God all around me and in nature. During the pre- transplant process, I would have days when I felt God was watching from a distance. Although I knew that this wasn’t the case, my heart needed His encouragement and those visual reminders that He was right there with me. One day I received a letter from a friend with a picture of a butterfly inside. She began to share the similarities of my situation and that of a butterfly as it goes through metamorphosis. Much like the butterfly, I was waiting to get my “new wings” or new lungs. And while the process requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and strength as the butterfly breaks forth from the cocoon, she reminded me that I too would break forth. I cherished her note and God used her analogy to speak to my spirit and infuse me with hope.
JBU: How did God continue to use this theme of butterflies to comfort you?
JANET: I hadn’t taken much notice of butterflies before this time, but I began seeing them everywhere. In stores, magazines, and especially outside as I sat and read my Bible. I was surrounded by butterflies and knew that God was placing them in the most unusual places and at just the right times to speak to my heart. For instance, one Sunday morning as I sat in church, I found myself unable to sing my favorite worship songs because I didn’t have the breath within me. I was in tears. After the service, I began darting to the door, when I was stopped by a friend wanting to know if I was okay. As I looked down, I noticed her two daughters were both wearing sweaters with BIG purple butterflies. I can still picture those sweaters today.
Another time, I was asked to speak at a women’s brunch and share my journey. I shared with the women how God had been using butterflies to encourage my spirit, not realizing that there was a woman in the audience that had just been to Israel and because of God’s nudging, had bought and brought home a scarf. After hearing my story, she knew instantly why she had bought the scarf and gave it to me for Christmas...it was full of butterflies. Once again, God was loving me in tangible ways.
And then there was the day of the transplant. God showed me once again that “He would never leave me nor forsake me.” As I was being wheeled down to surgery and my husband and I were saying our “good-byes and I love you’s,” we couldn’t help but notice that the ceiling of the elevator was lit up with butterflies! God never ceased to amaze me and continues to today.
JBU: Was it difficult to trust God during this time?
JANET: In the beginning, as I was being placed on oxygen and listed for the transplant, I felt very scared, alone, and distant from God. I was convinced that I was being punished for past sins and couldn’t ask for forgiveness enough. I knew the verse, “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” and I longed to be seen as righteous in His sight, not realizing or grasping that I already was as a child of God. I spent this time wresting with God, asking why me, why now, what next, and how? I had been a Jesus-loving, Bible-reading Christian for years but had never truly stood on the Word of God and allowed His love for me to transform my thinking.
JBU: How did you begin to see His forgiveness and love for you?
JANET: As time went on, God began to reveal His word to me with fresh eyes and I began to see His mercy and grace all over the pages of His Word like never before. Verses began to sink from my head to my heart, changing me. I read verses like, “We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” and “There is now therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” And as I read, I began seeing myself in HIS mirror instead of my own. I began seeing a woman who was righteous, and who could let go of past sins and failures. Although I was bound by oxygen cords and tanks, I was finally free in Him. Instead of being that little girl holding a flower and saying “He loves me, He loves me not...I was now able to say unswervingly “HE LOVES ME, NO MATTER WHAT.” Today, I am passionate to share His message of mercy and grace with everyone I meet.
In what ways did your family and friends support you?
They were a constant source of love, encouragement, and prayer during this time. I can not say enough about my husband. He is an absolute gift from God. He held my hand and prayed me through many appointments and fear-filled nights. He was constantly speaking life giving words over me and my body. My sons, Grant and Gavin, were able to keep me focused on living rather than waiting for the transplant. They were only 7 and 5 at the time that I went on oxygen and handled everything amazingly well. Simple hugs or “I love you Mom” made all the difference. My parents and siblings were and continue to be an absolute blessing. They were there to take me to an appointment if my husband couldn’t, clean my house, and help out in so many other ways. Their support following the transplant was amazing. After the transplant, Yancy and my sister took turns sleeping in chairs and on the hospital floor to ensure that I was never alone. We shared many very personal moments together as I was recovering in the hospital and at home.
I was also surrounded by an amazing group of friends and prayer warriors. They stood by me with cards, meals, and one-on-one prayer. They truly carried me to the feet of Jesus. It is easy to be a friend when life is going well, but it is a true blessing to have friends that are willing to go into the storms of life with you. It was during this time that I saw what true friendship was and I cherished it then and now more than ever before.
JBU: How are you doing now?
JANET: My prognosis is great. I’ve had some challenges along the way, but God has been in every detail of my recovery, and I can’t stop praising Him for this second chance. I am doing things I never thought possible. My boys gave me a picture frame for Mother’s Day 2011. On it were pictures of all the things they wanted to do with me after I “got my new lungs.” We have been chipping away at the list and doing everything from bowling to baseball to roller skating. One of the pictures was a mom running with her son. So after much planning, we held the first annual “Just Breathe” 5k walk/run August 11, 2012. It was an amazing testament to the power of prayer, the grace of God and a celebration of my one year transplant anniversary. We were surrounded by family and friends and gave thanks to God.
Next year this “Just Breathe” event will be August 10th! I would love for you to come. Please see my website below for more details as the date gets closer.
- Favorite Scripture verse: Psalm 46: 10
- Favorite Book: The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
- Favorite Hobby: I am in the process of writing a book. I also like walking/exercising and public speaking.
- One fun thing she likes to do with her husband: Friday family movie nights
To contact Janet:
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.janetbyrne.org