Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Voice Behind Us

It was late afternoon and I was giving some PRN medications to one of my patients. I was anxious to get everything finished before shift change and was in more of a rush than usual. As I logged into the computer and scanned the meds, my patient talked pleasantly about his life and about how he disliked rainy days. Or something like that. Because right about then my attention snapped back to him when I heard him say, “You’re not really listening to me, are you? It’s OK, I know you’re busy.” My heart froze. After going through extensive surgery which left him disabled, my patient had every right to be grumpy and irritable. But instead, I turned to see his smiling face gazing out the window. He’d always been such a ray of sunshine during my shift that I felt absolutely horrible for ignoring him, even though it was purely unintentional. “No sir, I wasn’t. I’m so sorry.” I put down my scanner and gave him my full attention. The world could wait; my patient needed me. “Could you repeat that?” Come to find out, it wasn’t about the weather at all. He just wanted to give me some life advice.

Long ago I’d vowed to always show my patients that I was listening to them, but some days I forget. Codes happen, admits happen, transfers happen, rounding happens, meds happen, charting happens. Life happens. Recently I’ve realized that I struggle with listening more than I thought.

Listening is an art that I’m still learning at a very slow rate. And no, I’m not talking about simply listening to my patient, or my girlfriend, or my friends. I can just search “listening” in Pinterest and find a plethora of inspirational words to boost my listening ardor. I’m talking about listening to things I don’t want to hear. My past. My struggles. My failures, mistakes, heartaches. The things that teach me, informing me how I need to change and grow and learn. All too often I ignore them. All too often I turn away from them and tell myself that the past is the past. I’m much too busy to listen anyway.

The past IS the past which is what makes it so valuable. It is a gift that we so often not only take for granted, but also stuff under our bed in the spare room of our guest house on the property we left years ago. There’s a little verse in Isaiah 30 which speaks powerfully in regards to our past. In verse 15 God is speaking to the Children of Israel and says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” No, instead of repenting they would come up with all sorts of victory schemes. But the Lord warned that they would simply end up like an empty flagpole on a hill. Instead, in verse 21, the Lord said they should listen to the voice behind them whenever they began to fall back into temptation. Not in front, not to the side, but behind.

God uses friends to speak to us. He uses nature. He uses His Holy Word and Spirit of Prophecy. But all too often we ignore the means of communication known as Our Past. That little voice from behind, “You tried that last time and failed. You messed up. This, this is the way to walk in! See how I the Lord have led you with forgiveness and restoration?”

I know my past, but I don’t know yours. Don’t ignore it, don’t repeat it, don’t ever quiet it. Put aside your distractions, your job, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your school, your plans for the future, give them all to God until you have fully listened to that little voice behind you. Because there’s power in listening. Verse 22 goes on to promise that we will conquer the past! We are not defined, controlled, or harassed by it any longer. Whenever I’m tempted to stray down a familiar path of temptation, that little Voice is right there to warn me away. Come to find out, it’s not about the weather at all. He just wants to give me some life advice.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine’s Day! Singles Awareness Day. Friendzone Day. Galentine’s Day. Tuesday. Whatever you choose to celebrate, I send my honest wishes for a glorious day your way! February 14 has always been an interesting day filled with expectations, disappointments, elation, frustration, love, lust, indifference. Today I’ve already seen angry posts, consolation posts, excitement and coping mechanisms plastered across the interweb. Then there are those who have so calloused themselves to the mushiness of the holiday that they ignore it completely. “Love is for fools,” they cry. They’ve been hurt, lied to, reprimanded, and forced to build walls to protect their hearts from the devastation of a world unpracticed in the art of true love. So wherever you find yourself on the scale of bitter/hated to twitterpated, here’s a Valentine’s message for you: Remember, you are loved, infinitely. I’m not just saying this because it sounds nice – actually it sounds too good to be true. There are days when none of us feel loved or loveable. We find ourselves in situations we’ve struggled to overcome time and again yet keep failing. Resentment, regret, addiction. We wake up in the morning with bed hair and a face which naturally hides from the mirror for self-preservation. We then begin the long ordeal of making ourselves feel loved. Makeup. Perfume. Cologne. The fancy tie. The perfect hair pin. It’s all for the show. The whole time our hearts are crying for someone to love us for who we are. Vulnerable. Unlovable yet loved beyond measure. We want someone to kiss us when we feel hurt, understand us when we’re confused with ourselves, give us directions to a place we’re homesick for but have never been. Our hearts yearn for protection and safety. Red roses, hearts, wine glasses, candles; it’s all meaningless without commitment. So often our hearts are disappointed, let down, hurt and broken. So just as a reminder, remember, there’s Someone who loves you today. A whole lot. He may not send you a cute teddy bear, but that’s because His plans are much grander. A Man who came from glory to be separated from His Father and His kingdom, to die a most degrading death jeered on by the lives He created all around Him. He looked through the darkness, through the pain, and saw you. Whether dolled up or crying in the corner, He loves you. Whether you feel pretty or decide ignorance is bliss, He loves you. Whether you get a dozen roses or a simple “Happy Valentine’s Day” text, He loves you. He’s crazy about you. He would literally do anything to ensure that your day is brimming full of love, laughter, smiles and joy. So throw away the myth that this holiday has to be a certain way. Love is only predictable in principle, not expression. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, love surprises us most when we expect it the least. Sometimes we have to go back and dig out that little note we wrote when in the fifth grade to recapture what love really means. You know, the simple, honest years. So go back to those early days. Remember one of the first love letters you got? Maybe it didn’t say all the cute things you’d expect, but it screams “I love you!” Here it is again to remind you: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When we were kids we thought that meant we lived forever. No friends. He wants to give you everlasting life TODAY. The kind of life that bubbles up from inside and makes you want to throw your head back and laugh at the sky for the sheer delight of being alive. This, my friends, is love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cuba


Cuba. This country has a nostalgic appeal to it; one almost feels at home in a place and era they've never been before. Caught in an eddy of time, the streets are filled with classic cars and horse drawn wagons while lined on either side with buildings built in the 1940s. Although travel restrictions have been lifting, shipping embargos have not making a lot of things hard to obtain. Old tube TVs can be seen in most homes as the families gather around them to watch music videos or a game of baseball. Payphones and yelling across the street are the only means of communication as most can't afford cellphones. International trade is scarce. The economy is built off rum and tobacco exports, but most of the profit never reaches the people. One of my taxi drivers said there are rumors of gold and silver mines as well, but nobody knows for sure. Quotes from Fidel Castro are everywhere along with "Viva la Revolucion" billboards and pictures of Che and Cienfuegos. Communism is still thriving here although capitalistic ideas are slowly seeping in as embargos are lifted and the government relaxes their restrictions on free enterprise. Currently, there are about 280 different work permits people can get so they can run their own sewing, bicycle repair, cafeteria, etc. "industries". Hardly anyone knows English as it wasn't taught in schools till about 3 years ago, making communication for me quite entertaining at times. This trip has been a breath of fresh air for me. With the start of a new year, my only resolutions were to embark on new adventures, make new memories, and learn more about the world I live in. International travel is one activity that has always shaken my personal opinions and left no room for hate, misunderstanding, or prejudice. It also provides a good opportunity to disconnect from a monotonous routine that may seek to squelch the thirst for adventure which lies deep inside. I landed in Cuba with nothing but an address to a Casa Particular and knowing hardly any of the local language. Adding that it was my first time in a communist country, it was probably the farthest out of my comfort zone I've been yet. While looking for a taxi at the airport, one pulled up and the back window was rolled down. "Bro, wanna split a taxi?" And that's how I met Victor, a flight attendant from Chicago also on vacation in Cuba. He knew Spanish so I decided to stay at his hostel. Over the next couple days I got to meet people from all over the world. The hostel life provides a unique opportunity to get acquainted while swapping travel tips or simply unwinding after a busy day. Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Japan, Latvia, Ireland and the USA, all of us with different stories, backgrounds, ideas, and dreams packed into one place. It's been fun exploring the tourist side of town filled with street performers, tall cruise ships casting their welcoming shadows across entire city blocks, the bustle of hurried relaxation as tourists chatter excitedly trying to fill their day with as many activities as possible, taxi drivers calling for business, and the rockous sound of Cuban music filling the air with an undercurrent of frenzied excitement. But it's always nice to return to the side of town where street vendors haggle their wares and old men smoke cigars on the street while besting each other at dominoes. Small boys kick worn out soccer balls past women carrying fresh bread or bags full of dirty laundry while stray cats scurry up and down the balconies. People sit on their front steps and call out to the street life meandering past. This is where my hostel is. This is where I can find delicious local food, friends, and a good night's rest in preparation for another day of exploration in the morning. Over the next few days I will be blogging a photography memoir of my trip.

Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year


There are certain things in my nursing career which frighten me more than others. Unfortunately, one of them definitely happened today. I was helping a patient stand up from her bed and walk to the bathroom even though she was worried she had developed stress incontinence after surgery. As her arms pushed off the bed and she reached for the walker, she suddenly exclaimed, "I am so sorry! I can't hold it anymore." My mind went into hyper-focus mode as I looked down at my leg standing just inches from, well, utter disaster. I've heard a lot of people talk about this past year as a disaster. So many losses, deaths, changes; a terrible year for the records. But then I have to stop and think about the year: all the changes, the setbacks, the achievements, where I was a year ago, how I've changed. And then I think about how it ended. I'm alive. I have wonderful friends. Supportive family. A career I absolutely love. Air to breathe. Water to drink. The list goes on. And I must admit, most of you could have a very similar list if you stopped to think about it. The heartaches have made us stronger. The pain has made us more sensitive, caring, and understanding. The times we felt so alone were the times we felt God closest. The only way to make 2017 the most amazing year yet is to stop focusing on things we can't change - stuff that doesn't matter, events out of our control - and decide right now to make this year count. Begin again. Let the past be the past and forge onward with new resolve. Experience new things, meet new people, change lives. Resolutions come and go so keep this year's simple: make it count. The year. Everything. The losses. The gains. The sunsets. Suddenly that big scary thing called a new year will simply turn into a paper giant, a mere joke intended to scare us into thinking it'll be terrible. Oh and my patient? At the look of utter terror on my face she explained, "Sorry, I like to joke around a lot." Then she laughed. And I didn't. But I realized that not everything is as scary as it seems. So happy New Year y'all!!! It's already turning out to be the best year ever.
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