Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life: Babies, Prayer and Tricks

Last weekend I was at the cabin with my parents and one of my sisters.  It was nice to have a quiet weekend with just the four of us, although I wish my other sister could have been there, too!  She was working hard saving lives at the hospital, though.  NBD.  I'm looking forward to going back this weekend when all five of us can be there as well as our dear friends, the Karlsgodts.

Some families that stayed at the cabin for a week bought Han a new flatscreen TV.  It's so nice!  We tested it out last weekend by watching The Last Castle.  You guys, it is SO good!  I had never seen it before and I LOVED it.  Unfortunately, when Hannah was asking if we wanted to watch it, my dad asked "Is that the one where...." and proceeded to state what happens at the climax of the movie.  With no spoiler alert.  But even though I knew where everything was going, it was still great.  Go see it.  Now.

On my way home from the cabin, I stopped by the Hanson's and spent some more time with Svea.

I. Love. That. Baby.

My dear friend Emily also welcomed her little man, Ezra Russell Lee.  Another perfect baby specimen.

I am SOOO looking forward to meeting him on Monday!!!  (Hey Em, can I come see you on Monday on my way back from the cabin?)  Penny is so excited to meet him, she's spinning in circles!

I started working 4 hour shifts back on the floor.  Man, when I don't work for two months, I forget how much I love what I do.  I was a little hesitant about getting back in the saddle...I'm not sure exactly why...but when I am there at the bedside of a patient, all of that hesitancy fades away.

I. Love. Being. A. Nurse.

Almost as much as batman enjoys riddles.  (I'm a bat!)

If I was Batman's nurse, my first intervention would be to give him a throat lozenge.

I am continuing my study in Romans 1.  One of the exercises this week was to read through all of chapter 1 and list out anything describing Paul, Jesus Christ, God, saints and ungodly men.  It was quite enlightening!  After the lists were created, the author asked if you saw yourself in any of the traits that you listed.  What a great exercise, rightfully leading to both confession and praise.  For example, my list included things like:

-loved by God (saints)
-receive grace & peace from God & Jesus Christ (saints)
-encouraged by the faith of the saints (Paul)
-strengthened by spiritual gifts (saints)
-without excuse for not knowing God (ungodly men)
-exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man (ungodly men)
-worship the creature rather than the Creator (ungodly men)
-filled with covetousness and envy (ungodly men)
-haughty, boastful (ungodly men)

This exercise led to a sweet time of prayer, praising God for the way I reflect Him, his Son, Paul and the saints of Rome and also mourning the ways in which I reflect the ungodly men.  Praising him for his grace and asking to be rescued from this body of death, asking that the gospel would be proclaimed through my life and not suppressed by my ungodliness.

The time in prayer was especially sweet because it felt like the first truly genuine communion I've had a long time.  I've been praying, but it's been very structured.  Which isn't bad.  It's just....different.  Do you struggle with prayer like I do?  It is the most variable part of my Christian walk...the first thing to go and the last to return.  And it is SO significant!!!!  But that's another post.

In times of drought, I have found that I can not form my own words.  Even if I try writing them (which is usually how I pray, even when my words flow fluently).  So I borrow other's words.  And I get my spirit to mean those words as much as I can in that moment.  For example, for the last two months, my prayers have consisted almost entirely of three things:

1) The Nicene Creed: I need a daily reminder of what I believe.  And when I'm not talking to God on my own, I find it helpful to at least make some true statements about who He is as a reminder to myself.  I have the Nicene Creed written out on a sheet of paper that I keep on my desk and I read it before I study in the hopes that as I study the details, I don't lose the big picture.  I have found it to be a very meaningful spiritual discipline.

2) Shane & Shane's song "Beg":  This song has been the cry of my heart for the past 2+months.  I need him to move.  Badly.  So I just keep singing.  And begging.
Here I am, one more day of not loving Him the way He asks, in fact my heart is singing praises to the things that make me feel alright.  So I'm sinking fast like a stone heart should, and on the way down I've done what I could to try and try to turn this stone to flesh. 
So here I am, got my deeds for the day all my cute little words about how I am saved.  (Am I saved?)  Could I love you with my mouth like a church kid should? At the end of the day, my words get burned as wood.  Oh, but I was good. 
I'm haunted by my God who has the right to ask me what by the nature of my rebellion I can not give. 
So I beg for you to move.  I beg for you to move.  I beg for you to break through.  I beg for you to move.  I beg for you to move.  I beg for you to break through.

3) Shane & Shane's song "Vision of You": Another beautiful cry from the heart.  All we have are songs unless he comes.  Every spiritual discipline in and of itself is utterly meaningless unless He is in it.  So beg for Him to move.  And even though He's here, ask Him to come.
Come meet us, King Jesus, oh wind of change blow through this temple.  Sweet Spirit of God, come mend our hearts, for all we have are songs unless you come. 
Come free us, King Jesus, it's the only way that freedom's given - from You and You alone in the work You've already done - for all we have are songs unless you come. 
Awaken what's inside of me.  Tune my heart to all you are in me.  Even though you're here, God come.  May the vision of You be the death of me, and even though You've given everything, Jesus come.

Penny and I are off to the cabin for the weekend.  If you need anything, you can find me in my hammock by Lower South Long Lake!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Military Medallion

I received one of the deepest honors of my life this afternoon.

Little did I know, as I walked into the hospital to work the 4th of July holiday, that by the end of my shift I would be moved nearly to tears by my pride for our country and my love for the men and women who have sacrificed great things, even their lives, to make my home the country it is today.

One of my patients was a Vietnam vet and what a dear, dear man he was.  Despite my busy shift, I managed to pop my head in as often as I could to hear another story or listen to his perspective on life.  I even stayed half an hour after my shift to hear some of his more extended stories.

This sweet man was suffering fairly intense pain from an L1 disc extrusion, one of several chronic health issues he deals with after surviving two helicopter crashes during the war.  He seemed to think highly of me right away, and the feeling was mutual.  Before I even knew he was a vet, while assessing his pain, I asked him what a goal would be for his pain.  And then, to clarify what I was asking, I said (as I always do), "I know zero is always the goal, but what would be a tolerable level of pain for you."

His response: "Two.  Zero isn't my goal.  I wish I could always be at a two.  Low enough that you can still function, but always there, reminding you of reality.  Life is hard and it seems more and more people are trying to walk through it pain-free... physically,'s just not realistic. A pain of 2 is enough to remind you that you're mortal and it helps you really appreciate those days when you actually are pain free."

Had we never started our conversation about the war, I still would have walked away with respect for this man and his outlook on life based on this first interaction.  But, thankfully, I walked away with more.  Much, much more.  I walked away deeply endeared to this man and grateful for those who have served in so many ways.

I could have listened to his stories all day and then some.  He fought at Landing Zone X Ray during the Battle of la Drang - the battle depicted in the movie We Were Soldiers.    He is personal friends with General Moore (and his family). He recognizes the scenery and names in the movie because he was there.  On those days.  In that brutal, bloody battle.

He was a part of the 1st Calvary Division which played a significant part in the development of air assault via helicopter in the Vietnam War.  Here's a little snippet from Wikipedia regarding air assault during the Vietnam War:
The 11th Air Assault Division assets were merged with the co-located 2nd Infantry Division and reflagged as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), continuing the tradition of the 1st Cavalry Division. Within several months it was sent to Vietnam and the concept of air mobility became bound up with the challenges of that campaign, especially its varied terrain - the jungles, mountains, and rivers which complicated ground movement.

The first unit of the new division to see action was the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Harold G. Moore. The 7th Cavalry was the same regiment that Custer had commanded at the ill fated Battle of the Little Bighorn. On November 14, 1965, Moore led his troops in the first large unit engagement of the 1960s Vietnam War, which took place near the Chu Pong massif near the Vietnam-Cambodia border. It is known today as the Battle of Ia Drang Valley.

This unit gave common currency to the U.S. term "Air Cavalry". Units of this type may also be referred to as "Airmobile" or with other terms that describe the integration of air and ground combat forces within a single unit.

That's him.  That's my patient - 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.  He spoke of some of the challenges he and his men encountered as they did all of the work to develop the dimensions of the aircraft and the size/weight of their equipment so that all of the men could fit on the helicopters with all of their gear and still be under a certain weight.

It didn't sound easy.

He told me about how the ambulances had gurneys bunked two on a side and how he laid on the bottom bunk while the man above him bled to death.  And as I pictured him as a young man laying there while another's lifeblood literally rained down on top of him covering him in death, suddenly working in the hospital on the day that we celebrate our country's independence didn't seem so inconvenient.

He spoke a bit about the difficulty of returning home.  He told me about a day when he was standing on a street corner in his uniform (they were repeatedly advised not to wear their uniforms - it was even suggested that they go to the bathroom and change into civilian clothing when they landed back on U.S. soil - but he was proud to be a solider and refused to hide his colors).  A man and woman walked up to him saying all kinds of disrespectful things.  Eventually, the woman spat on his medals.  There was a police officer nearby twirling his baton, so my patient went over to the officer to ask him to come help settle the situation.  When the situation was described, the officer offered a solution - my patient could resolve the conflict by taking his uniform off.  Also, once it was off, the officer suggested he burn it.  According to my patient, "Those were the last words that man spoke that day.  I disarmed him.  Took his weapons.  I was angry.  He lived....yes, he lived, and I'm glad he lived.  I truly am glad.  But I just couldn't listen to a police officer say that.  I spent two weeks in jail for what I did to him."

People are so interesting if you take time to listen to their stories.

Ok, so now to the coolest part.  The deepest honor.  The thing that still has me totally flabbergasted.

In our four short hours together, this patient was repeatedly expressing his appreciation to me.  I gave him my usual line, "No problem!  That's what I'm here for!" to which he replied, " might be trained for something, but there are still people who  do it really well, in a really nice way, and others who...don't.  And you are one of the best I've ever met."

He repeatedly told me that he could tell I was "real."  That was his word.  Over and over.  "You're very real.  I can just sense it.  You're genuine.  You know....real."  I don't think I entered his room one. single. time. without him complimenting me on skill as a nurse, my kindness, and, more than anything, this concept of being "real."  And, my favorite comment, in his sweet, grandfatherly way, was, "I'll love ya forever.  You know that's the truth.  Really.  I'll love ya forever."

But even the honor of all those kind words didn't prepare me for the interaction we had as I bade him goodbye.  He said he had a little something he wanted to give me and pulled the following out of his closet:

It's one of his military medallions that he gives to soldiers for displays of excellence.

For real.

The symbol on the front is the Combat Infantryman Badge.  On the back, It says "Presented for excellence by ***"(blacked out for the sake of patient confidentiality) "LZ XRay 1965" (The landing zone mentioned above in the Battle of la Drang).  The symbol is the Air Assault Badge overlaid with the 1st Calvary Division Shoulder Sleeve Insignia.  He said he wanted me to have it because it was the only way he could think of to acknowledge the excellence I displayed.

You guys, I have not done one. single. thing. to establish or maintain the freedom of this country (other than pay my taxes).  I am the last person in the nation who should have a medallion that acknowledges the excellence of a soldier.  I didn't even know what the Vietnam war was about until I asked my dad about it last weekend and he explained the conflict (which, can I just say, the timing of that conversation and the way it prepared me for my interactions with this patient kind of blows my mind).  It is one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever been given.  I feel truly humbled and honored to have received it.  Gosh, I feel honored simply to have met this man.

I thanked him repeatedly for his service and told him that as I watched the fireworks tonight, every explosion would make me think of him and the sacrifices he made so that I could be here, celebrating this day.

So as you watch the fireworks tonight, keep this man (and the many others like him) at the forefront of your mind - the men and women who suffer the side effects of our freedom, soldiers who need assistance to walk around hospital rooms, who sit in wheelchairs or who lie in graves because they believe in the things this country stands for.

If you had been blessed, as I was, to have spent part of your 4th with this gentleman, he may have had this to say to you:

"Our country ain't perfect, but it's a great place to live.

Enjoy your freedom.

Happy Independence Day."