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The Course of True Love

February 15, 2016

Valentines Day always causes a range of emotions for me. I find myself today thinking of friends who are hurting–who have lost one they love or are suffering hurt from someone they love. I almost feel guilty because I have been shown an abundance of true, unconditional love. And I also feel acutely aware of my failings in the love department.

Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth”. True love is sacrificial. True love loves when the other person is unloving. True love gets up at 3 in the morning to take care of the baby even though there probably won’t be any more sleep before PT. True love does the dishes after an exhausting 14 hours out in the field. True love ignores obnoxious, grouchy comments, and responds in grace. True love spends three hours in the car every day for weeks on end to sit by your side in a hospital room. True love takes care of you when you can’t even take a shower or get dressed by yourself, and still tells you you’re beautiful even though you’re a disaster with staples and tubes and cords everywhere. True love gives even when nothing is given in return, loves unconditionally, sees beauty in the ugly.

I’m so very grateful for a love that stays the course with me, even though it’s sometimes rough. I don’t want a massive teddy bear, a “pajama gram”, roses, or a box of chocolates. I just want you, Jonathan. (From 2015)

What 30 Days in the Hospital Taught Me about Nurses

September 18, 2015

I’ve listened to Miss Colorado’s monologue several times now, but each time I hear her words, I become the patient. Her story isn’t about a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. Her story is about me. Her story is of the nurses who cared for me when I lay helpless in a hospital bed. When I see her, I see the nurses who held my hands and cried with me. I see the nurses whose “doctor stethoscopes” seemed to pick up far more than the actual sounds coming from my heart, lungs, bowels.

My second daughter’s birth propelled me into the world of nursing in a way I never expected. The nurse in my delivery room was just what I hoped she’d be: experienced, responsive, encouraging, funny, and kind. She was great during my relatively short labor, and I was thankful for her.

As I watched the Apgar assessment on my little girl, I noticed my doctor and nurse exchange a few concerned looks. I have a particularly vivid memory of my highly experienced doctor looking up in shock and asking, “Is this what I think it is?” He didn’t ask another doctor that question. He asked my nurse, who confidently answered, “Yes it is.” Confusion began to ensue as my nurse called out my rapidly plummeting blood pressure. I whispered to my husband, “I think something really bad is happening.”

When the doctor yelled that we needed to get to the OR stat, the nurses seemed to materialize out of nowhere, rushing me away from the baby I had not yet held, and into the operating room.

At one point, a nurse must have sensed my terror. She reached out, took my hands in hers, and squeezed them, bringing otherworldly comfort and warmth into that cold, sterile space.

Over the next two months, I was in and out of the hospital. I spent 30 days in two different hospitals. My longest stay was 16 days. At times, I wish I could just forget everything about that time. At the same time, I don’t really want to forget.

I don’t want to forget about the time one of my nurses stopped by my room at the end of her long shift, just to talk to me. She held my hand and cried with me.

I was often on a liquid diet, and my inability to consume food resulted in an insatiable desire to watch other people cook and consume food. A nurse noticed my obsession with the Food Network and surprised me by bringing a massive Alton Brown cookbook from the library for me to read.

A busy nurse made extra phone calls and pushed the social workers and doctors to get their paperwork done quickly because she knew I was desperate to be discharged on Mother’s Day.

I have memories of rough nights right after surgery, when I was just conscious enough to open my eyes and see a huddle of nurses around my bed. I’m not sure if it was the lighting or post-surgery haze, but I recall them glowing, angelically almost, in the dark above my head as they discussed my plan of care. An inaccurate assessment, a small mistake—easy to make in the complexity of my care—could have cost my life. They knew when to call the doctor in the middle of the night and when to wait until morning.

They comforted me, soothed my pain, listened to me talk about my family, celebrated when I improved. I wish I could share every story and recognize all of the nurses. My encounters with some were so brief, I don’t even remember their names. But I remember their faces.

In her apology to nurses, Michelle Collins of The View said, “We love nurses. We adore you. We respect you. You guys are wonderful.” But can you really appreciate nurses when you have no clue what they do? When you don’t even know that a nurse’s “costume” includes a stethoscope?

One of my surgeries occurred on Nurses Day. Someone in hospital administration had ordered lunch for the nurses that day, but there weren’t enough lunches to go around. As I lay in Pre-op, I distinctly remember overhearing the conversation that followed as the nurses tried to convince each other to eat a lunch. They were all willing to give up their lunch so someone else could eat. And isn’t that what nurses do every day–put the needs and care of others above their own needs? Yet, far too often, attempts to recognize nurses fall flat.

My dad was a physician and I grew up thinking nurses were the coolest people ever. Occasionally, I was able to tag along with him when he went to the hospital for weekend rounds. I’d sit with the nurses at the nursing station while he visited his patients. In my eight-year old mind, the nurses were the ones who really took care of his patients.

I’ve spent my career in healthcare, I’ve talked to countless nurses, I’ve shadowed nurses for hours on end. Many of my friends are nurses. I’ve always felt I had a good understanding of what nurses do.

But I didn’t really know what nurses do until I became a patient.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” So said Clarence, the angel (It’s a Wonderful Life). How many lives does each nurse touch? I don’t know. I do know that a handful of nurses turned the awful hole of my hospitalization into a place of comfort.

Clarence also said that whenever a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. I’d like to think that every time a call bell rings, a nurse gets a pair of wings.

Where is the light?

December 18, 2012

The faces of the children killed in Newtown haunt me. One little face in particular reminds me of my little Karis. I can’t look at these pictures without tears. My heart hurts, and yet I still can’t even fathom the grief these families are feeling.

I think we all ask how such a thing could happen. We can’t fathom killing another human being, much less viciously taking the life of a sweet little child. So we try to come up with reasons and explanations. And it’s all too easy to instantly share our feelings and explanations. We rarely think about what we are saying or posting or sharing. And we forget those words might be painful or offensive or even completely inaccurate.

I find myself very disturbed by some of the words my Christian friends have posted. I think we sometimes do a really good job of turning people away from our faith. We like to put ourselves in the place of God and pronounce judgment. We are sometimes so hypocritical. I am hypocritical. I hate that about myself, but sometimes I am confronted with the truth and it hurts.

In an effort to understand this horrible event, and to try to make sense of it, Christians have said, “This is what happens when we kick God out of the schools.” Or “Violence happens in schools because God is not allowed.”

Surely we don’t really believe the answer is this simple! How is this an accurate reflection of the Bible and the God of the Bible? How can the God we believe to be omnipresent be kicked out?

This is the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ. But did the world invite Him or even want Him? Wasn’t He born in a time of great darkness? His parents had to flee with Him to Egypt because Herod wanted Him killed! Yet, He still came. He was there, in the midst of an empire that didn’t want Him. He came to His own. And even His own didn’t receive Him. He was despised and rejected. We hid our faces from Him. But He still came.

Christ came for people who needed a Savior! He came for a world that needed hope.

And yet, instead of sharing that hope, we Christians almost seem to rub salt into a wound. Instead of reaching out with compassion, we find the need to pontificate. Why?

Have we forgotten that Christ most frequently condemned the outwardly religious? Some of His harshest criticism was toward religious leaders. Religious leaders who were like tombs. Full of death and decay.

Maybe the problem is with us. Maybe it is Christians who have kicked Christ out of our own lives. Oh, we pray. Well, maybe we pray over our food, or when we want something from God. We go to church and feel good about ourselves. And we find it easy to shake our finger and say, “See, that’s what happens when you kick God out.”  But maybe they have actually rejected the poor example of Christ that they see in us. Maybe there’s nothing to our Christianity that is worth desiring.

“And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matt. 25:40). What have we done for the “least of these”? When is the last time we reached out in love to someone who is hurting? How many of us sacrifice our time regularly to help others? If we look at our checkbooks, where is most of the money going? When is the last time we did something for someone who could do absolutely nothing for us? When is the last time we treated with kindness someone who treated us poorly? Do we forgive as Christ forgave? Do we love as He loved? Can we even give a reason for the hope that we have within us?

Connecticut Governor Malloy said that evil visited Newtown. Pure, horrible, unimaginable evil. And the reality is that we all have evil in our hearts. But Christ came to redeem that evil. He came to replace our hearts of hate and evil with a heart of love. A heart that shows His grace.

We Christians feel so comfortable in our pews at church and with our friends who agree with us. But we often ignore the darkness in the world. We are not the salt and light we are commanded to be. We ignore the suffering of others. We condemn sin, rather than reach out and show God’s grace. We don’t love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t even love our spouses or families as we ought. We pick and choose the sins that are acceptable and find it all too easy to judge those who sin differently than we do.

Maybe we should condemn ourselves. What if some Christian had reached out to Adam Lanza? I’m willing to bet Christians came into contact with him. But they probably thought he was weird and not worthy of their time. He was described as unusual and a loner. What if one Christian had shown him that he was loved? I’m not discounting that he probably had some serious psychological issues. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m willing to bet that the responses of other people and the way other people reacted to him helped to influence and reinforce those issues. I wonder if someone had the opportunity to shine light into his darkness and didn’t take that opportunity.

We Christians must take ownership of this evil we see in this world because we can change it. The evil and the darkness remain because we are not light. We ignore hurting and dark hearts. We enjoy our brightly-lit corners, our brightly-lit homes. Occasionally we come face to face with the depth of the darkness. And we have a choice. We can either shine into that darkness, or we can retreat to our well-lit corner and just stay there.

I wonder how many orphans would have a home if Christians obeyed God’s commands to help the fatherless and the widows. I wonder how many children would go to bed with full tummies, rather than hungry tummies, if Christians shared more of their wealth. I wonder how many suicides could be prevented if Christians listened, heard the hurt, and realized the call for help. Oh, wouldn’t the world be such a different place?

Christians are to be light. The school system is not commanded to be light. The courthouses are not commanded to be light. The malls are not commanded to be light. I am commanded to be light.

The children who died in Newtown have changed me. I cannot stay wrapped up in my own selfish little world. I want to care when it is uncomfortable. I want to give when it is difficult.

Right now, I will weep with those who weep. That seems the only fitting thing to do. My heart feels overwhelmed with darkness. But I still have light. And I can use that light to change the darkness in my small corner of the world.

The Things I Take for Granted

November 4, 2012

“Someone else is praying for the things you take for granted.” I’m not sure the source of this quote, as I’ve seen many variations floating around. 

This rings true for me tonight. I’m exhausted from several nights of little sleep. I spent all day today in faculty training, and I have a massive headache. All I want to do is crawl in bed and put my head on the pillow.

When is the last time I thanked God for my pillow? Ummm…maybe never. Yet, even now, there are people in the US whose homes have been ruined by Sandy. They are probably exhausted, cold and wanting a warm bed. Then there are the countless numbers of people all over the world who have no bed, no pillow. 

What a humbling thought. What if I woke up today with only the things for which I thanked God yesterday. I’m ashamed to say I would have very little. I certainly wouldn’t have my pillow or my bed. I wouldn’t have a lot of things I value even more than my pillow and my bed. 

G.K. Chesteron said, “You say grace before meals.  All right.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”  

I like the word “grace” here. It’s such a reminder that every small thing I have in life is an undeserved gift from God. These earthly gifts should remind me of the ultimate demonstration of grace: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as payment for my sin. It’s all grace. 

I cannot possibly take these things for granted when I say grace and see grace in every part of my life. Lord, open my eyes and let me see Your grace more clearly. 

Tender Mercies Appreciated

November 1, 2012

“Even the smallest tender mercy can bring peace when recognized and appreciated.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich

Today begins my goal of choosing something for which to be thankful each day of the month. 

And today I am thankful for my cleaning tools, specifically my Hoover Floormate and steam mop. I never used to be obsessed with cleaning. Until I couldn’t figure out how to get my tile floors clean. Apparently, dirt from the dessert somehow sneaks in and lodges itself in the crevices of tiles. It’s nearly impossible to get out. My steam mop by itself would just sanitize the dirt. It seemed I couldn’t get the floors clean without scrubbing on my hands and knees (a large task in a house which, except for the bedrooms, is entirely tile).

I started looking for some sort of mop which would make a difference. I found a spin mop that looked interesting. Then someone else told me that a deck brush worked well. So I had visions of scrubbing my floors with a deck brush, following with a spin mop and topping it off with the steam mop.

Jonathan suggested I buy a Hoover Floormate. Maybe he thought if the floors were easier to clean, I wouldn’t be so obnoxious about asking him to take off his shoes.

We bought the Floormate. I love it. I use vinegar and water in it, then follow with the steam mop and my tile floors look amazing and no longer feel gritty. After crawling around on the floor for an hour, my child no longer looks like she’s been playing in a pile of dirt.

“Mommy, why does the floor feel so different today?”
“Because, Karis, it is finally clean. Today is a special day. The floor is so clean you could eat off of it. Which means that when I put you on the floor after breakfast, and you get that sudden craving for cheerios–the cheerios you earlier wouldn’t eat and just threw on the floor–I will actually let you eat these cheerios right off the floor. In fact, I might even eat them with you.”

The ability to clean my floor easily and efficiently is a huge blessing–a tender mercy. I’m thankful for this gift.

Creating Memorials

October 18, 2012

My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. As I dealt with my grief, the one thought that kept going through my mind was, “I’ll never receive another card from her.” Grandma Nancy always sent cards. She never forgot a birthday and she was never late sending a card. I remember visiting her one year and she showed me a little green calendar/notebook in which she had recorded everyone’s birthday, anniversary, and any important dates. One time she even wrote me a thank you note for sending her a thank you note. Although she died two months before my Karis’ first birthday, a blank “Happy first birthday, grand-daughter” card was sitting on my grandmother’s desk. I will treasure this card and share it with Karis, as this blank card carries so much meaning.  

Yesterday at PWOC I was reminded of the importance of creating memorials. 

Here are a few verses from Joshua 4:

And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

As I thought of my grandmother’s cards, I began to wonder what memories I will leave with my family. What “stones” will I leave for my children? How will I remind them of God’s work? 

There are so many potential answers to these questions, and I want my everyday actions to point to Christ, because this is the most important memorial I can leave. But I want to be more intentional about creating memorials–tangible memorials. 

I just asked my parents to write a yearly letter to Karis, beginning on her first birthday in a few weeks. My dad has such a way with words, and I want to have his words in writing for Karis. I also plan to ask Jonathan’s parents to do the same thing. And, of course, I will make sure that both Jonathan and I write a letter each year. I want Karis to have a book full of letters, wisdom, memorials. I hope and pray this book will strengthen her faith.

As she grows older, I want to encourage her to keep a journal of things God does for her or teaches her. She can fill this with pictures, stories, quotes and whatever she wants. But I want to encourage her to create her own personal memorials. I feel so strongly that these stones–these memorials–are such an important part of our lives. Years from now–or days from now–I may be facing a raging river. I may need to look down and see these stones to remind me of God’s sovereignty, His care and His provision. But I must put these stones in place. 

In the meantime, as I go about my day, I will ask myself the question, “What memorials am I building today?” 

 

Gratitude

October 4, 2012

“Being thankful is not telling God you appreciate the fact that your life is not in shambles. If that is the basis of your gratitude, you are on slippery ground. Every day of your life you face the possibility that a blessing in your life may be taken away. But blessings are only signs of God’s love. The real blessing, of course, is the love itself. Whenever we get too attached to the sign, we lose our grasp on the God who gave it to us. Churches are filled with widows who can explain this to you. We are not ultimately grateful that we are still holding our blessings. We are grateful that we are held by God even when the blessings are slipping through our fingers.”

Craig Barnes

 

 

When I Can’t

September 27, 2012

When I Can’t

Some days I feel like I just “can’t”. I can’t be the mom I want to be, the wife I want to be. I can’t do the laundry. I can’t keep my house as clean as I want. I can’t be disciplined. I just can’t.

And, well, that is true. I can’t. But Philippians 4:13 promises that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. So often, I apply this concept to “big” things. But the reality is I will fail at everything without God’s strength. When I want to be ugly to my husband, I can respond with grace…through Christ. When I want to take a nap instead of spend time in prayer, I can choose to spend time with Christ…through His strength. When I want to sit down and get on Facebook instead of unload the dishwasher, I can be responsible…through Christ.

When I fail, it’s because I stubbornly insist on doing things myself. When I fail, I can confess my sin, and He is faithful and just to forgive me. He’ll help me up, set me on my feet again. His hand is reaching out to mine, waiting for me to grab on and take those stumbling steps. He holds me up and keeps me from falling.

Just as a child learning to walk must hold on to something for support, I need support as well. And I have it.

I can.

 

Expectations

September 26, 2012

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

–James 1:2-3–

I wonder how differently I would view trials, temptations, frustrations in my life if I expected them–if I looked at them as an opportunity to build my faith. Just as a challenging physical workout builds physical strength, a challenge to my faith builds stronger faith.

John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace, wrote these words to his 13-year old daughter: “If I could teach you a lesson, which, as yet, I have but poorly learned myself—I would teach you a way to be never be disappointed. This would be the case—if you could always form a right judgment of this world, and all things in it.

“If you go to a bramble-bush to look for grapes—you must be disappointed; but then you are old enough to know that grapes never grow upon brambles. So, if you expect much pleasure here in this world—you will not find it. But you ought not to say you are disappointed, because the Scripture plainly warned you beforehand, to look for crosses, trials and hindrances, every day. If you expect such things—you will not be disappointed when they happen!”

I should not think it strange to meet trials or temptations. When I come across a frustration, a glitch in my day, I must rejoice. Learning to rejoice in small frustrations will build my patience and my faith. Today I will rejoice instead of being frustrated. I will give thanks instead of complaining. I will look for “crosses, trials and hindrances” that work patience.