Sunday, October 25, 2009

Faith Story

There is no denying it: I am a storyteller.

But there is one story that I don't care to share very often - the story of God's redemptive work in my life.

I joined a small group recently and we spent our first night of Quaker fellowship (split guys and gals) sharing our faith stories. It was a burdensome night for me and I left feeling conflicted and frustrated. I don't like the script I've been given. I want to play a different role in God's story line.

I want a different story to tell.

I shared those thoughts with a dear friend of mine and she graciously reminded me that ultimately, mine is a story of REDEMPTION and, therefore, is beautiful in its recounting despite its occasionally jagged plot line.

A friend of a friend recently wrote out his testimony for a seminary class and posted it on his blog. It reminded me that I was given a similar assignment in my evangelism class this past spring, so I tracked down my paper. As I read my own story, I found myself focusing less on what I have been saved from and more on what I have been saved to. That shift in focus filled me with peace and my understanding of God's grace in my life fell upon me in a fresh way.

So, dear friends, please allow me to tell you my story.

It is one of my new favorites.


I grew up in a strong Baptist household and like every good Baptist, I have a conversion story.

I must have been 4 or 5 years old because I remember the sea of blue that surrounded me as I learned about heaven and hell in my AWANA Cubbies group. I snuggled in close to my sister that night as our parents tucked us in to our queen-sized bed. I asked her if she thought I was going to heaven and in true sisterly honesty she told me no. With fear gripping my heart, I asked if she was going to heaven and she confidently stated that she was. The thought of eternity apart from Hannah left me panic-stricken so I asked her what I could do to go to heaven with her. After leading me in a 7-year-old’s version of the sinner’s prayer, she informed me that I needed to sing Jesus Loves Me and then calmly reassured me that I would be with her forever. Oh yeah, by the way, Jesus would be there, too.

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

I was a very well-behaved, moral child which made it difficult to be a Christian. It is hard to be saved when there is nothing you feel you need to be saved from. I lived comfortably in the church’s culture and felt well-settled into my life of safety and security. One day in 5th grade, I got in trouble for using my entire allowance to buy a shoe-box full of candy, but other than that I made it through my childhood with a pretty clean record. Or so I thought.

For as cunning as Satan can be, he sure does screw up sometimes. If he would have left me alone, I would have been perfectly content leaving Jesus on the flannel graph and measuring people’s level of Christian maturity by the quality of their tater tot hotdish. Instead, I found myself entangled in a life of secret sin that left me desperate for a savior. I headed off to a Christian college (because that is what Christians do, of course) hoping to find freedom, but instead I threw myself even deeper into the masquerade of Christian perfection and found myself paralyzed by fear in a sub-culture that appeared to offer even less grace than the world, much less Christ.

The summer after my sophomore year, I headed to the East Coast to live with my aunt and uncle while I worked at a hospital in Pennsylvania. Jesus was there, waiting for me beside a backyard pool in Downingtown. I was concerned with getting a tan; he was concerned with transforming my heart. So I met him there every morning, searching the Scriptures while soaking up the sun. He taught me about himself, and I learned about myself in the process. He taught me about my identity in him, about freedom and victory and joy and grace. He taught me to pray - not just to be ritualistically thankful for my food - but to actually commune with him, to pour out my heart and then listen to his response. I came to him bitter, angry, defeated, ashamed, hopeless and insecure. I left grounded, softened, humbled, broken, complete and satisfied.

We spent that entire summer together there in Downingtown and I fell deeply in love with my Savior who was quickly becoming my Lord. I begged him to come back to school with me and he did, although I found it more difficult to hear his voice when it wasn’t being carried on the summer breeze. I went back to Downingtown the following summer, ready for an emotional pool-side reunion only to discover that he was no longer waiting for me there. He had relocated to a place much deeper within me, waiting to be discovered through spiritual disciplines and to be drawn out in community.

He has been there with me ever since, patient in my wanderings, faithful in my failures, and responsible for my victories. I have an ever-increasing burden for spreading the glory of his name among the nations and it seems that he has been preparing me to take part in his work by helping to meet the physical and spiritual needs of a broken world through medical ministry.

There is still a lot of work to be done in my heart and mind. My flesh rears its ugly head more often than I care to admit and my spiritual heels get sore as I dig them in and demand my own way. But God (two of the sweetest words I know) remains faithful and continues to show me the all-surpassing wisdom of his ways.

I am learning to love the Church again, not with a cynical, self-righteous love (yes, I did actually act like there was such a thing at one point in time), but with a humble, sacrificial love that longs to see the Bride of Christ pursuing him with an undivided heart. I am learning to repent of the religion that I so often choose to value over my relationship with my Savior. I am learning to obey because I am accepted, not to feel accepted because I obey. And I am learning to rest daily in his atoning work on the cross which covers me in his righteousness – a very beautiful truth considering that I still can’t make a tater tot hotdish that’s fit to feed a dog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Eagle Inside

Disclaimer: This story is better told in person.

However, I keep finding myself trying to reference it on my blog only to remember that it's not on my blog.

But now it will be.

Backstory #1: I talk to myself. A lot. I always have and the habit has grown exponentially worse in the three years that I have been living alone. As a matter of fact, my social awareness of when I am talking out loud has grown so numb that at times I have proclaimed my thoughts to no one in particular in a new habit that I like to call Twitter: Live!

Backstory #2: This past spring, I went to an event sponsored by New Life Family Services called "Laugh for Life." The comedian put on a good show but the real kicker came toward the end of the night when the monologue took a serious turn. Mr. Williams picked up his guitar and played some prayer-background-type-music while explaining that in the midst of all of the humor in his life, he has managed to write two serious songs and he wanted to sing one of them for us. He told us the powerful background story while strumming quietly on his guitar. And it truly was a powerful story.....

He had been hiking on a mountain somewhere and had seen an eagle soaring in the sky. (As someone who has a "thing" for birds of prey, I was instantly drawn in). His son loves eagles, so he wanted to take a picture for him. Unfortunately, he had no camera, so he made his way down the mountain until he came across a gift shop where he bought a disposable camera for $32. As he reascended the mountain, a storm rolled in bringing rain and disappointment as he realized he missed his opportunity to capture the eagle on film (and he was out $32).

However, as he rounded the corner of the walking trail, instead of an empty sky, he saw the eagle using the winds of the storm to soar even higher (make sure you don't miss the sermon illustration there). He wrapped up the song intro with the statement, "In that moment, this is what I heard the eagle saying to me...."

(Music picks up; audience eagerly awaits the powerful song)


I didn't even see it coming. Judging by the crowd's reaction, I would say about 85% of us took it hook, line and sinker. And it. was. hilarious.

The perfect storm: The following afternoon, I went to my local Dunn Bros. for a cup of coffee. The place was packed and I literally sat down at the last open table in the entire joint. I was thinking about how hard I had laughed the night before; I was also getting ready to see my sister the following Monday. With both of those thoughts rolling around in my head, I began to practice the eagle story which I was so very excited to share with her.

Yes, I practice telling stories. And having conversations. I am my father's daughter, after all.

And of course, I was practicing the joke out loud. How else was I supposed to know what my eagle caw sounded like?!?! You have to practice jokes like that out loud. It would be quite presumptuous to walk into that joke blindly when the entire punch line depends on your ability to pull off a convincing eagle caw.

By the time I got to the end of the joke intro, I was completely in my own world. When I got to the part where I was cawing like an eagle, sitting at a table all by myself in the middle of Dunn Bros., the only thing that brought me back to reality was the stare I received from one of the ladies at the next table over.

There is absolutely no way to recover from that.

So what did I do?

I pulled out my book and pretended to read while meanwhile, under my breath, I practiced telling the story about "that one time when I was sitting in a crowded Dunn Bros., drawing the attention of the patrons around me as I talked out loud to myself."

Except this time I left before I got to the part where I had to caw like an eagle.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting Rochester on the Map

Imagine my surprise when I opened this week's edition of WORLD magazine and found the following picture:

Ok, so it wasn't that exact picture. I mean, Chinwe and I were not in it.

But it was a picture of that exact goose.

The story underneath:

"Rochester, Minn., police arrested an out-of-town man on Sept. 27 after an officer discovered the man kicking and punching one of the city's goose sculptures. The 28-year-old from Salt Lake City, whom police did not identify, had been in town for a wedding and told officers the goose statue angered him. Authorities say alcohol was involved." -WORLD Magazine, Oct 24, 2009

Kicking and punching.

I don't get it.

He was such a nice goose.

I laughed outloud on the shuttle when I read the story. I mean, I laughed outLOUD. It was embarassing. Not quite as embarassing as cawing like an eagle while sitting alone in the middle of a coffee shop, but disruptive nonetheless.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thank you, Jesus

My dad had another clear PET scan last week.

That will never get old.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Coby, On Our First Anniversary

Happy first anniversary, Coby Vergilius Balto!!

It is hard to believe that you entered my life just one year ago today. And what a year it has been! You became so quickly acquainted with my good friends I-90, Hwy 52 and Hwy 169. You guys all seem to get along so well. I don't know if I ever told you how much I appreciated your seamless transition into my world.

I, however, did not transition quite as seamlessly. You endured frequent moments of mistrust throughout the winter as I endlessly compared you to Luie. I was so consciously aware of your smaller size and I know I didn't trust you to navigate life's icy roads and snowy driveways. Thank you for your quiet patience with me as you proved yourself faithful time and time again.

You were good to me this spring, too, as you faced deafening decibels of sound in my attempt to drown out every thought in my head. I realize now that I was merely using you to escape from the realities of life and I apologize for that.

But this summer....oh, this summer....we sure did enjoy ourselves, didn't we? So many long weekends at the cabin with not a single demand put on you except to sit there and look pretty. And so many lazy evening rides with the windows down, the summer breeze kissing our cheeks as we drove and thought sweet thoughts together. Those were such blessed times.

And now here we are again in the brisk fall days, the trees once again joining you in your radiant red beauty. I feel like we have made a lot of progress since last year and I feel wholly different in regards to the upcoming winter. I promise to trust you more as the snow and ice come our way. I'm not promising I won't still get uptight at times, but I want you to know that it is myself I don't trust, not you.

I think my dad really likes you. You know how important that is to me. He really trusts you and he believes you will take good care of me. You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you for being the kind of car that can win my dad's heart. I heard he might even be getting you some fancy windshield wiper blades for Christmas. I think that means you are officially considered a part of the family!!

Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve you and that is probably because I don't. Your presence in my life is such a blessing - one that remains unknown to a majority of the world. I forget that the comfort and ease you bring to my life is a privilege more uncommon than I think. I want to be more consciously grateful for you.

I apologize for those months this summer when I got so upset with you for not rolling your window down. I thought you were just being stubborn and it really frustrated me. I felt terrible when I realized it was my neglect that prompted your stubbornness in the first place. Isn't it interesting how we can be so quick to blame without looking for our own contribution to the problem? Thank you for your quick forgiveness. I want to make a commitment to being less accusing in my words and actions this year. I will also try to keep your windows cleaner.

I am glad we have one year under our belt and I look forward to many more together!! You have been SO good to me and I wanted to take the opportunity on this, our first anniversary, to tell you how thankful I am for your presence in my life.

Eva Joy :-)

p.s. I would also like to say Happy Birthday to my cousin Eric. I don't think he even reads this, but just in case he does....I love you, Cuz. You will always be one of my favorites. Someday, when you become president, I hope you remember the little people. And the medium-sized people. Because I probably fall more into the latter category.

I Think I Just Peed a Little

Maybe I just think this is laugh-out-loud funny because I am in that state of post-adrenaline-rush-exhaustion from my night at work.

Or maybe it really is just that funny.

I can't decide which I enjoy more:
1) Watching his eyebrows,
2) The time when he actually goes down a little bit instead of up, or
3) The power of the last note.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breathe, Baby, Breathe... a phrase I must have said in my head at least 120 times tonight.

Because breathing is something my patient was definitely NOT doing.


She was my new admit from the ED and she was on the floor for a grand total of 14 minutes before things started going downhill.

It probably didn't help that her blood alcohol content was 0.44% - 6 times the legal limit (FYI: 0.4% is the "median lethal dose" - the dose that is lethal for 50% of adults - although I think that number might be higher in Wisconsin...).

She had two major anxiety attacks right off the bat and I was able to calm her down, but when she revved up for the third, every single trick in the book failed to get her to take a deep breath. I kept telling her that I needed her to slow her breathing until suddenly she just stopped altogether.

That wasn't exactly what I was going for.

Pupils dilated, stiff as a board and unresponsive to my most urgent of sternal rubs.

Like I said: Boo.

She cycled back and forth between hyperventilation and apnea 5 times with periods of unresponsive apnea that lasted several minutes. The code team came, I had all of the help I needed exactly when I needed it, we transferred her to the ICU and she is going to be fine (as long as she goes to rehab whenever she is discharged).

Needless to say, I expect the outcome to be better than my first patient code.

Not only is the outcome going to be better, but I feel better, too. I was pretty shook up last time. But I don't think I feel better just because the outcome was different.

I think I feel better because I handled the entire situation differently.

Even when I was scared and felt the adrenaline kick in as I literally held her breathless body in my arms (hard to explain how it happened, but the second time she stopped breathing she was kneeling in bed and I was holding her upper body in my arms while she leaned against me) I was still calm. I was still thinking.

I was still a nurse.

I wasn't panicking. I was actually responding. I made my assessments and when all was said and done, every single one of them was right-on. I responded appropriately and had good judgment on when to call the code. And when all 16 people arrived (we actually ended up calling the Rapid Response Team AND the Code team), I was able to give a solid report and answer every single question they asked me despite the fact that she had been my patient for a mere 15 minutes prior.

All in all, the experience left me feeling like a very good nurse. There isn't one single thing I would change about the way I handled the situation (except maybe for the one time I swore....I may have been cool-headed, but she gave me a pretty good scare....).

Now I am home, everyone was alive when I left and I can finally relax.

Breathe, baby, breathe.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No, Really. I Love My Job.

Last night I smelled like the yeast-infested folds of my morbidly obese patient who had terrible personal hygiene, mixed with a touch of her classically foul/musty urinary tract infection on the side. It clung to my hair. It soaked into my skin. It made me feel sick.

Tonight I smell like the sweet softness of the freshly-bathed foster baby that I held for two hours because her parents weren't around and she wouldn't nap unless I somebody was holding her. I watched Jeopardy and Cash Cab while I rocked in the glider and enjoyed the weight of an infant in my arms.

I guess smelling like my patients isn't always a bad thing....

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Love My Job....

....but there are no words to adequately express how much I HATE the nights when I come home smelling like my patients.