Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1892) Pastor Dan calling and asking to hear my voice in consideration for the worship team.  Not sure I’m worship team material, but it’s nice to be asked!
1893) The first grill of the season at Ray and Kristy’s!  I love signs of the summer!
1894) Hugs.  Oh, how I love hugs.
1895) Encouraging, thoughtful, kind and funny emails from friends and family in response to the email announcing my new job.  I am so blessed by the people who care for me.
1896) Steve and Laura’s first Game Weekend!
1897) Thankful the Oostras came to New Richmond tonight even though they have to go back home for a meeting tomorrow.  I’ll take every moment I can get with them!
1898) Angela’s generosity and hospitality.
1899) Hannah’s flexibility in change sleeping arrangements to accommodate my shoulder.  So caring.
1901) A brisk walk on a cool spring day.  Feels good!
1902) March Madness Game Weekend!  So relaxing to just hang out with some of my favs.
1903) The cave.  Man, I love sleeping in the cave.
1904) Listening to Bjorn sing hymns to Harris while putting him to sleep.  I hate being sick and am even more bummed to miss out on Game Weekend fun, but it is totally worth it just to have experienced that sweet moment.
1905) As much as I hate missing Game Weekend, I am thankful I don’t have other commitments so I can just rest and sleep off this illness.
1906) Pastor Kevin back in the pulpit.  I so appreciate that man’s leadership.
1907) If I’m going to lay in bed all day, I’m thankful there is basketball to watch.
1908) Thankful for each of the kind ushers who offered me a seat while I stood in the back of church for the entire service due to my back.  Hard to explain why I couldn’t sit down, but, oh, there is such kindness in our church.
1909) Thankful for Penny’s snuggles on a sick day.
1910) Thankful I didn’t have to go anywhere in this snowstorm.
1911) Excited to have “graduated” from physical therapy!  Hoping things go well as I transition to “work hardening.”
1912) Thankful for a day of rest.  I don’t feel a ton better, but it was nice to be free of commitments and take care of myself.
1913) Excited that I already got invited to my first work party!  So excited for this new job!
1914) Thankful mom’s pacemaker placement went well and that there was finally some definitive action taken.
1915) Thankful for my little snuggle bug on long days in bed!
1918) Another 5 lb down, 19 total so far.  Thankful to see hard work paying off!
1919) Finding cute clothes.  :-)  Always fun.
1920) Waking up from my second nap of the day and having that moment when I feel my strength returning.  Nice to know I’m on the upswing side of this illness.
1921) Finally getting around to opening my mail and finding a sweet note from Chinwe.  So, so thankful for that sister.
1922) Sally sending me LP Leader clippings from 2001.  Oh, Sally.
1923) Making decisions I wouldn’t have made in the past, like staying home from choir to rest when I can’t sing anyway.  Thankful I’m learning how to take care of myself and ask for what I need.
1924) Running into the BMT Coordinators in the cafeteria and their excitement that I can come to the welcome party on Saturday.  So excited to get to know them better!
1925) Talking to a delightful patient on the phone, having him tell me he would really like to meet me during his next set of appointments and then seeing a message that he called back later in the afternoon just to thank me for my help.  Thankful I can still have patient interactions like that when I am away from the bedside.

Humpday Listday: T5 Things I Learned (or Remembered) From Having Shoulder Surgery

Friday will mark 5 months since I had surgery to repair my rotator cuff.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  As I "graduated" from the first phase of physical therapy this week, I have been reflecting on how far my shoulder has come and everything that has changed since October 27th.  Much has been learned, or re-learned, over the past 5 months.  Here are a few things that stick out...

5) Shoulder surgery is not for wimps.

I knew going in that many medical professionals consider shoulder surgery to be one of the most painful operations.  I was thankful for this insider's knowledge as I felt like it helped me set proper post-operative expectations.  I was prepared for it to be painful.  I was NOT prepared for the inaccuracy of my idea of "painful."  My previous concept of pain did not even include the reality of what I experienced the first few days after surgery.  Oy.  The kind of pain, the intensity of the pain and the consistency of the pain were all new (unpleasant) experiences for me. 

Not. For. Wimps.

Thankfully the most intense pain was fairly well controlled after the first 72 hours.  However, the other aspect of the process that is not for wimps is the recovery.  It is a slooooooooooow process that requires a lot of dedication and hard work.  The first six weeks were a breeze as I mostly just sat in a recliner and let my body do its natural healing work.  But once the sling came off, I had to get a little more "involved."  My daily routine for the last 3 months included two 1-hour physical therapy sessions which were not only time-consuming but often uncomfortable as well.  And at any given moment, it is SO hard to see progress.  I would usually gain somewhere between 0-5 degrees in my range of motion on a weekly basis.  But now, looking back on the whole process, I can see what huge gains I have made.  (There is a spiritual lesson here regarding the slow process of sanctification that I will let you work through on your own).  The pain, the patience, the time demands, the dedication, the need to push yourself past certain's simply not for wimps.

4) You use your shoulder more than you think.

I had no idea how much I engaged my shoulder muscles.  For raising my arm - obviously.  For pushing and pulling - yes.  But for sitting up?  For laughing?  For bending over to raise the toilet lid?  I would have never guessed.  Basically anytime you move any part of your body above the waist, your shoulder engages.  It either engages to bring your arm along with the rest of your body (such as when sitting forward in a chair) or to hold it in place while the rest of your torso moves (such as when laughing).  When you raise your left arm, the right shoulder engages to help give you the proper counter-balance.  But you NEVER notice (until it hurts) because it just happens naturally.  Our bodies are FASCINATING.

3) You should be careful how you react the first time you see someone naked.

One weekend, when my mom had to be away, my non-medical sister came to Long Prairie to help take care of me, make me food, do my physical therapy, etc.  My mom was showing her our morning routine which consisted of doing physical therapy followed by the opportunity to get washed up and put on clean clothes.  I was standing in the bathroom with Hannah just outside of my peripheral vision as Mom showed her how to help me get my shirt off.  Before my shirt even hit the floor, I heard a guttural sound of disgust coming from the bathroom doorway which is....well....not exactly what you want to hear the first time someone sees you topless, even if it is just your sister.  What did NOT cross my mind was the fact that my nasty, bloody steri-strips were still covering my incision.  This also did not cross my (squeamish) sister's mind until she saw them.  Hence her reaction.

But still.  Even though she meant no harm, and no harm was done (in fact, it's one of my favorite humorous moments from those six weeks at home), the brief moment of misunderstanding still served as a reminder to gracious to the human bodies around us in all of their beauty and unique imperfections.

2) I have the. best. family. (and pseudo-family).

Where do I start.  Oy.

My sisters (and my pseudo-sibs) put together an "anti-boredom package" which was a saving grace during my time at home.  It had everything I could need in it.  Books they knew I would like.  A puzzle which was the perfect combination of "something to get me out of my chair" and "something that didn't require a lot of brain power."  Movies.  Lotion.  Chapstick.  A Humans of New York book.  Puzzle books.  And so much more.  So, so, so, thoughtful.

My guys.  My mom.  My mom waited on me hand and foot for SIX WEEKS.  She fed me.  Did my physical therapy twice a day.  Managed my pills.  Pulled up my pants every time I went to the bathroom.  Refilled my water.  Fed my dog.  Paid for me to have my hair washed and braided twice a week so I could feel somewhat human.  Drove me wherever I needed to go.  Put on my deodorant.  Scratched my back when I couldn't reach.  Unpacked my suitcase.  Closed my door every time I got in the car.  Adjusted my pillows.  Sent my mail.  Washed my clothes.  She did for me.  And never once complained or acted inconvenienced (despite the fact that she was simultaneously moving to Long Prairie, initiating her plan to work from home and getting ready to run her annual craft fair that happens over Thanksgiving weekend...stressful).  That woman is an incredible example of unconditional love in the way she loves and serves her girls and she deserves to be hear praise every day for the way she treats us.  I think I received a whole lifetime of love in those six weeks.  And yet even now she just keeps sending it my way. 

Mom also scrambled to put together an outfit to keep me warm at the outdoor Vikings/Packer game (an event I didn't happen to think about when I was packing clothes for my time at home and therefore did not have the proper items with me).  It was very kind and thoughtful of her to help me find something to wear.  And then my sisters re-dressed me in their own clothes in the parking lot because I looked ri.dic.u.lous.  Also kind and thoughtful of them.

Speaking of my sisters....they called or texted nearly every day.  They willingly drove up north to keep me company over the weekends (my Hanson and Oostra sisters also spent some weekends sitting in my corner of the house with me....I love them for spending that time with me).  They learned the physical therapy routines so they could take care of me on the few occasions when my mom had to be gone.  They watched movies with me, made me laugh (which wasn't always super helpful....but was still fun even when it hurt), and made me feel like I still had some connection with the outside world.  They brainstormed Netflix shows they thought I might like so I would have some options to choose from.  They drove me back and forth from quilt retreat so that I could still spend the day with everyone but could also sleep at home where I was most comfortable.  And they continue to accommodate me, planning sleeping arrangements around where I will be most comfortable when we travel together, carrying suitcases for me, and just generally being thoughtful about what I can and can't do. 

As if that wasn't enough love and support, my dad chimed in, too.  He and my mom had a LONG, patient conversation with me pre-surgery, listening to me talk through all of the implications of each option and helping me make a well-considered decision about how to proceed.  He called often to see how I was doing.  Visited on weekends.  Watched football with me.  Listened to me cry when I was getting frustrated with my physical therapy.  Encouraged me to be patient.  And so much more.

I have always known my family is great.  But the love and support they have shown me over the past 5 months has been an overwhelming reminder of how blessed I am to have each one of them in my life.  I owe them each a lifetime (or more) of thanks.

1) God has a good (and often painful) plan.

I believe God is good no matter our circumstances.  It is easy for me to say He is good right now when things seem to be falling into place and the future looks a little clearer than it did 5 months ago.  But I truly felt His goodness even in those moments when I was sitting in the recliner, tears streaming down my cheeks from the pain, with no clue what the nature of my job would be when I returned to Rochester...only knowing I had lost the schedule that I loved.  Beyond that....things were uncertain.   

I have grown more in faith, trust, and a true sight of the beauty of God in the last 5 months than I have in several years prior to my surgery.  I believe this is a direct result of being challenged, weakened and thrown to my knees in need.  My independent, competent, single self has had to rely on Him and His Body in ways I never imagined going into this process.  And I know Him - and His love for me - better because of it.

It is amazing to me how God meets us in our pain.  Pain (both physical and emotional) is a consequence of sin.  I don't believe I injured my shoulder as a punishment for any specific sin in my life, but I do believe I injured it because there is sin in our lives.  This world is fallen and, as a result, our bodies are not what they were intended to be.  They break.  They fail. (And, amazingly, they also heal).  Yet even in that breaking, which we are responsible for - both through specific personal sins and our communal sin nature - even there in the breaking, He meets us with so much grace.  Even as we suffer the rightful consequences of sin, He uses those very consequences as another avenue of grace in our lives.  He does not abandon us to the consequences.  He takes our brokenness and turns it to good.  It's mind blowing.

I believe God is good to His children when things are "going well," (which usually just means we're getting whatever we want - it's the mindset of a 2-year-old, really) but I think He is especially good to His children when they suffer, not because suffering is fun, but because suffering often drives us to Him and there is nothing better for us than being closer to Him.  There is a joy found in Him that is deeper than anything that can be found merely through pleasant circumstances (not to say joy can't be found in pleasant circumstance....just that pleasant circumstance alone can not bring that depth of comes through Him regardless of circumstance).    This truth is well supported in Scripture and, the longer I live, the more it is supported by my own life experience as well.  This shoulder surgery experience being one huge example.

So I continue to learn and re-learn this basic truth.  That God's plan is good.  Not always free of pain or uncertainty.  But always, always good.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1856) Hannah sending me funny texts. And the fact that there is an "official wild bird food sponsor" of the Big Ten Tourney. What?!?!
1857) Excited/thankful that I can no longer get my heart rate high enough during my workout routine.  Stepping up the intensity with a new routine this week.  Feels good!
1858) Thinking that shopping after the gym would be exhausting, only to discover that I think I look great in EVERYTHING when I'm on an endorphin high.
1859) Getting trained on responding to tacrolimus levels with the kidney transplant team so that I can do something besides verifying all of the labs have been entered in the database.
1860) Two hours of relief from the relentless back pain after the chiropractor.  I so, so, so look forward to those sweet, fleeting moments.
1861) Wild turkeys in downtown Rochester!  Just roaming the streets.  So random.
1862) Looking good for my interview (and all of the kind compliments I received).
1863) That the interview went well and Heather gave me some positive feedback afterwards.
1864) Getting to tell stories about ******, my sweet, precious cleft pediatric patient.  My involvement in his short life is the highlight of my nursing career so far.  The memory of him makes me so, so happy.
1865) A quiet evening with Jill.  So sweet to just sit on the couch and talk about life.  Love that girl.
1866) Seeing the Perry's new house!  SO BEAUTIFUL!!!
1867) Hannah Perry's tongue.  Man, I love that baby.
1868) Having both the time and the energy to stick around and help Kristy unpack her kitchen.  So nice to just have some time to work side by side.
1869) Imagining the Perry's house filled with kids and friends and laughter and feeling so, so excited for them.  Can't wait to see what memories are made in that place!
1870) Chipotle.  Yum.
1871) The Orths.  Thankful for their kind interest in my life and their intentionality in making sure I get - and stay - connected.
1872) The Kings.  They seemed to love me before they hardly knew me.  Hard not to feel humbled by that kind of hospitality.
1873) The Bissets.  Their kind words of encouragement are such a blessing to me.
1874) Deb being moved to the point of tears when telling me how much I have meant to their family and Rich's quiet echo that "there are many more words that could be said."  It baffles me that they show me such favor.  I don't know how to respond but to humbly say Thank you, Jesus for the blessing of your Body.
1875) Waking up to find Penny sleeping with a hanger around her neck.  What a goof.
1876) The most brilliantly beautiful blue sky on the walk into work this morning.
1877) Hearing about how Dad flew to Chicago just to drive Angela home because she was too sick to drive herself.  One more reminder of why my dad is my favorite person in the world.
1878) Talking to Dad about how great I think he is and having him turn the conversation to my blog, telling me he finds it thought-provoking and that he thinks about certain entries often enough that he can practically quote them.  Encouraging words for a writer's heart.  Unspeakably sweet words for a daughter's heart.
1879) The opportunity to give platelets again.  Finally figured out how to fit it into my new schedule.  Thankful I don't have to give up a practice that I value and enjoy.
1880) The boy who held the door open for me at the gym even though I was a solid 10 paces behind him.  I am a sucker for chivalry.  Makes my heart happy.
1881) Getting offered the BMT job!  Regardless of whether or not I take it, it is just nice to have options and to feel wanted.
1882) Family that truly care about my life and my decisions.  One of the struggle I face in my experience of singleness is feeling like I make major life decisions completely on my own.  So I appreciate a family that takes real consideration of my decisions, engaging in long phone conversations, asking great questions to get me to think through different aspects of the options and offering encouragement.  So, so, so, so thankful for those 4 people.  They are the bedrock of my life ( know...after Jesus).
1883) LAUGHING with my mom on the phone to the point where I can hardly talk. Oy, that felt good.
1884) That mom survived her stress test. :-(  It is scary to be faced with the reality of how quickly life can change.  Glad they got her out of her aberrant heart rhythm.  Thankful for some more time.
1886) Accepting the BMT job!  Feels good to have made a decision and to be able to start moving forward with concrete plans.
1887) For Heather's hug when I told her I took the job. :-)
1888) Running into Dr. Boilson in the cafeteria and once again experiencing his kindness and his energetic spirit.  I absolutely adore him.
1890) Seeing Dale and Connie in the cafeteria and then following up our conversation at choir practice.  What a blessing to finally have a community that I see on a regular basis!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Reasons I am Exited About My New Job

Yep, you read that right...I have a new job!  Beginning April 22nd, I will officially be a Bone Marrow Transplant RN Care Coordinator at Mayo's Transplant Center. I will work either 7-4, 8-5, or 8:30-5:30 every day with one day off every other week. I will care for patients both pre- and post- transplant (both auto and allo transplants) as well as bone marrow and stem cell donors. The job will consist of a lot of patient education as well as seeing patients for their regular clinic visits post-transplant, symptom assessment and coordination of care between local providers, outside facilities and multiple internal specialties that our patients often see. I am so, so excited.  Because....

5) ...I get to learn something new. 

I am a learner by nature. In fact, it is my #3 strength on my StrenghtsFinder results. StrengthsFinder describes Learners as people who often don't care what they are learning about as long as they are learning something. That is so, so true for me. I find information fascinating merely because it is new and I am doubly (quadrupley?) fascinated by information I am personally interested in. One reason I went into the float staff was because it provided an opportunity to learn a wide range of specialties and I have loved that aspect of it, but believe it or not, even floating to 40 different specialties at a facility as big as Mayo can become routine if you do it long enough. I hit a "learning plateau" about 2 years ago (not that there's not always something to learn in medicine....just that my learning curve slowed dramatically and looked like it was going to stay that way for as long as I was going to stay on a superficial, generalist level as a float) and, as a result, I have become progressively less engaged at work over the past couple of years. So I am THRILLED to be entering a specialty  that is not only one of my personal interests in the field of medicine but also offers a significant breadth of new knowledge (needing to not only understand the transplant process in detail but also all of the specific disease processes that get transplanted) as well as an ongoing opportunity to learn as the science is constantly developing. So, so, so excited to learn again. 

4) ...I will have the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with patients. 

I loved floating but the one thing I "missed" the most (missed in quotes because I've never had it...but I still missed it) was the opportunity to develop relationships with patients. It was a rare (and usually special) occasion when I would get to spend more than 12 hours of a patient's life with them. That pendulum will now swing all the way to the other extreme and I will interact with the same patients over and over again indefinitely, especially the allo patients (people who receive marrow or stem cells from a donor and, as a result, need to be carefully monitored for significant complications from rejection for the rest of their receive their own cells back and generally have a much simpler post-transplant course). We follow the allos forever.  And they often have complicated courses, so we see them a lot. I am so excited to truly know my patients and their families. 

3) ...I will have consistent co-workers.

I will go from not seeing any one consistent person at work -ever- to seeing the same 9 co-workers every. single. day. And working with consistent physicians. And seeing my manager more than once a year. Now, I know relationships with people are often complicated and messy, so I'm not going into this blind, but I also think some of our greatest growth comes from navigating relationships, dealing with conflict, learning to communicate clearly, etc.  I have never had to do this consistently in a professional, secular environment, and although I know there will be challenges, I am excited for the opportunities for growth those challenges will present.  And I firmly believe there will be joys, too. I have met all of the coordinators and most of the physician group and they all strike me as lovely people. As a float, it has been my experience that practitioners of all levels (nurses, physicians, even ancillary staff) that choose to work in hematology/oncology/BMT - as well as the staff that choose to work with pediatrics  - tend to be some of the most humane practitioners in the medical field.  Speaking in sweeping generalities, they are often genuinely interested in people more than any other specialty.  That goes for how they treat patients and co-workers alike.  They are invested in their patients and they generally treat each other with respect and kindness.  The coordinators also told me that their physicians LOVE to teach and are always encouraging the coordinators to engage them in conversations about specific patient cases.  So I am excited to be a part of that environment.

2) ...I already know the managers.  And I love them.

One of the greatest graces in this job transition has been the fact that I have already been working in the Transplant Center for 3 months and have had the chance to get to know the managers.  One of the things that kept me in the float staff was the fact that I ADORED my manager and was frankly a little scared to work for anyone else.  I believe a manager can affect your job satisfaction even more than your co-workers and it was hard for me to leave a known situation which I had NO complaints about to move to something unknown.  Having been placed in the Transplant Center while I am on lifting restrictions following my shoulder surgery has given me an opportunity to meet and work with the managers there and they are lovely, lovely people.  They support me.  They encourage me.  They are SUUUUUPER approachable.  They are fair.  They understand their workers have lives and priorities outside of work.  They are honest.  And one of them gave me a hug when I told her I had accepted the job.  I am so, so excited to work for them.

1) ...I am happier and healthier on this schedule than I have been in years.

It has been so. good. for me to have the opportunity to be involved in activities that I care about and to see people consistently throughout the week.  Over the past three months I have fallen SOOOOOOOO deeply in love with my church.  I joined the choir and a Bible Study (and am also a part of a small group which I have been attending for over a year) and the relationships that have developed out of those times together have already been rich and meaningful.  I have also been able to attend a young adult group full of friends whom I love and it has been a blessing to rekindle friendships there.  I get to the gym regularly and I am already down 14 pounds.  I watch less TV and read more books.  I am spiritually healthier.  Physically healthier.  Mentally healthier.  Emotionally healthier.  Relationally healthier.  And oooooohhhhhhh is it sweet.  I have felt more like myself in the past three months than I have in years.  So I am thankful and excited that this is my new rhythm of life for the foreseeable future.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Discontentment vs Discontentment

"Discontent is good if it makes you long for home, but bad if it makes you doubt the One who prepares a place for you in his home."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1821)  A full, productive, day at work.  I get so uncomfortable when there is work to do but I don’t know how to do any of it.  I LOVE days like today when I actually feel like I am making someone’s life easier!
1822)  My unbelievably gracious mother who so kindly and non-condemningly informed me that we had overage charges on our data plan last month.  10 GB for three of us to share and I used 12 GB (12 GB!!!) all by myself. So much for sharing!
1823)  Good discussion at Salt and Light regarding John 8 - especially the reminder that God does call us out of our sin, but always in compassion, never condemning his own.
1824)  The Pals’ kindness in taking Penny in while I’m at work.  She is so happy there.  Thankful for how well they love her.
1825)  Kind words from a new co-worker acknowledging my work and thanking me for my help.  It is comforting to feel welcome and appreciated when everything is new and unfamiliar....again.....
1826)   Thankful that I had the self-control to not laugh out loud when a patient told me that the mass she had removed “was either the size or the color of an apricot....I can’t remember which it is....”
1827)   Thankful for the small when my gassy belly did not betray me while I was getting jerked around during my chiropractic appointment (with my unbelievably good-looking chiropractor).  
1828)   A few pain free hours after my adjustment!!  SO SO thankful for a break from the intense pain!
1829)   A sweet and meaningful convo with dear, dear Laurel.  Oh, how I love that girl.
1830)   Thankful that when we are lost in the wilderness, God is looking for us.  “They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing.  Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” -Jeremiah 31:2
1831)   Sleeping in!  And realizing how completely my body has adjusted to my new schedule when 8:30 is sleeping in!
1832)   A reminder of the sweet truth from Peter’s life that it is possible one of the reasons God allows me to make big mistakes is so that my understanding of grace is deeper than it would be if I hadn’t blown it.  Peter’s greatest ministry happens after his greatest, repeated failure.  So thankful there is grace (and hope!) for people like me!
1833)   The opportunity to have dinner with Emily for her birthday.  So thankful for friendships that can soon be counted in terms of decades!
1834)   Singing with Shane & Shane for the hour drive home.
1835)   An hour of time unaccounted for when I got to sit and read with my sweet poodle.
1836)   The men’s chorus leading worship at church.  There is something about those strong, deep voices telling of the Lord’s work that is just.....beautiful.  Also thankful for the sheer number of men in our church willing to step up and serve in that way.
1837)   Lunch at Nupa with some S&Lers.  Love those friends.  Love Nupa.
1838)   The WFOS that came from a productive afternoon of cleaning.  Clean car inside and out, clean garage floor after sweeping out all the winter junk, clean kitchen, clean bathroom, clean clothes....feels good!
1839)   Manis and pedis.  A simple delight that just makes me happy.
1840)   Having the morning sermon be on Peter’s failures, the very thing I heard preached on Tullian’s podcast last night, which moved me so deeply I posted something on facebook - a rare occurrence for me.  So thankful that God pounds stuff into my thick head until I actually start to “get” it.  And then he pounds some more until I get it some more.  Thankful that my dullness does not trump his faithfulness in pursuing my good.
1841)   Gretta came to visit!!!  I love the joy that bubbles out of that girl and the love and interest that overflows into my life.  So blessed to know her.
1842)   A hot, homemade dinner waiting for me when I got home.  What a treat!
1844)   BEAUTIFUL weather.  The first day you can go out without a winter coat is always SUCH a treat!
1846)   A surprise visit from Guytano!  So fun to have dinner and catch up on life.
1847)   The passion, energy, focus and intentionality Guy has when he has a vision for a new idea.  Fascinating to listen to.  Also, I am pretty sure he could sell me anything.
1848)   Running into almost all of the heart/lung coordinators in the elevator throughout the day.  I miss working with them and it was a joy to catch up briefly.
1849)   Bought a ticket to Atlanta today!  Thankful for the means to be able to go play with my sister while she attends a conference and to see a dear friend whom I love and miss.
1850)   Thankful the first class ticket was only $50 more so I can ride in comfort and style. :-)
1851)   A sweet morning reminder in my devotional that this world is not paradise, so we should stop expecting it to be paradise.
1853)   Denise’s kindness and sweet words at choir.  Such a joy seeing her every week.
1855)   Andrea’s dad making Penny “wave” to me when I dropped her off.  So sweet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Books I Read Last Year

I read 57 books last year.  These were my favorite five.

        There are two things that, when found together, quickly elevate a book to the top of my preferred reading list: 1) a topic I’m interested in and 2) excellent writing style (which for me usually means either beautiful or witty).  I will read books that only excel in one of those categories (i.e. books I’m interested in that are not written particularly well or something I am not particularly interested just because the writing style is so moving).  Stiff knocked both categories out of the park. 

        When most people think about “donating your body to science,” they picture a body lying on a table surrounded by nervous medical students wielding scalpels.  Contrary to this popular belief, post-mortem bodies can be used in so many ways including as crash test dummies and for ballistics research and crime scene recreation.  The author also covers other death-related topics such as the history of different body parts used as medicinal treatment (not for the queasy or faint-of-heart), the decomposition process that accompanies traditional burial and historical “body snatching” cases. 
          In addition to pursing a fascinating topic, Roach earned the following review from Publishers Weekly: “’Uproariously funny’ doesn’t seem a likely description for a book on cadavers.  However, Roach…has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  She is so. funny.

      You may or may not know this about me, but I LOOOOOOVE true crime stories.  Maybe it is because I grew up watching 20/20 and Dateline with my mom and our time side by side on the couch (watching true crime) has always been special to me.  Maybe it is because the idea of inflicting such destruction and violence on another human being is SOOOO foreign to me that I am fascinated by thinking about what could possibly drive another human to that point of anger/desperation/revenge/cruelty.  Maybe it is just because I am obsessed with stories of ANY kind.  Whatever the reason, I am attracted to these books (other true crime reads from the year included The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder, a story about a nurse who is implicated in the deaths of at least 300 patients from 1988-2003, currently serving 18 consecutive life sentences in New Jersey, The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd about a love triangle that ended poorly and the potential miscarriage of justice that followed, Under the Banner of Heaven about two Mormon brothers who felt they received a commandment from God to murder a woman and her baby, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (I would not recommend this one unless you’re REALLY into extensive discussion on lexicography), and Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story from Inside His Family, an interesting look at the humane side of a criminal’s life).  

      But the best one I read was In Cold Blood, a story about the four members of the Clutter family who were savagely murdered in small-town Kansas in 1959 with no apparent motive.  I think there were two main reasons this book gripped me.  First, Capote does an amazing job of generating both disgust and empathy for the murderers which was just a fascinating reminder of how strongly I believe in justice while simultaneously caring that this person is a human, too.  It is such a weird, complicated and messy balance to find….valuing all life, caring about each story and also executing appropriate and necessary punishment for heinous crimes.  It was just…..interesting.  Fascinating.  Made me think.

      Secondly, it hit particularly close to home as it reminded me of my high school classmate and her family who were brutally murdered in their home by two random strangers.  In quaint little Long Prairie.  I felt like I related well to the shock and instability the community felt in the wake of the Clutter's murders.  I guess it just seemed that regard.

      And I read it in one sitting, so….there’s that.

3)      The Killer Angles Trilogy by Michael and Jeff Shaara (The Killer Angels, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure)

        Right up next to “True Crime” on my list of “Books I Am Naturally Attracted To” is “Books about the Revolutionary War, Civil War and WWII.”  I can't pinpoint why those three wars in particular are so fascinating to me, but I don’t imagine I will ever get sick of reading about them.  The Killer Angels Trilogy is unique in the sense that the books are novels but are also extremely historical which made the historical account seem so much more….real.  Told from the perspective of the “big players” on either side (Lee, Grant, Chamberlain, Jackson, and others), the Shaara’s pull actual information from these men’s letters and personal journals and recreate the war through these men’s eyes.  Very informative and a good review of the history but also so very, very personal as you look at the events through the fears, victories and internal battles these men faced.  Michael Shaara originally wrote The Killer Angels which only covers the Battle of Gettysburg.  After his death, his son, Jeff, finished the series by writing Gods and Generals, which covers the war leading up to Gettysburg, and The Last Full Measure, which picks up after the Battle of Gettysburg and takes you through the end of the war.
2)       Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant)

         Divergent is my favorite Young Adult trilogy.  Most YA trilogies that I read (Hunger Games is the only one coming to mind at the moment….I know there are more…) tend to follow a common pattern: The first book grips me and then I feel obligated to finish the story, becoming more and more disinterested the further I get.  The Divergent series, on the other hand, got better with each book with Allegiant being my favorite by far.  I also found the ending fairly unpredictable and gutsy as far as YA fiction is concerned which only solidified its spot as my favorite YA trilogy.

         If you asked me what I have been reading at any point in the past year, there is a good chance you sat through an explanation of this book.  So. Very. Fascinating.  The story revolves around incidents that took place at Memorial Medical Center in the days following Hurricaine Katrina.  Facing power failures, oppressive heat, limited supplies and days without sleep, a skeleton medical staff attempted to care for the facility's patients while they awaited rescue.   Months later, several healthcare professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 
         The book raises so. many. questions.  What is the appropriate way to triage patients for rescue in an unprecedented situation?  Who is at fault in that horrific situation: the decades-worth of politicians and hospital administrators who, for financial reasons, ignored repeated warnings that the hospital needed specific enhancements in order to withstand a flood? The healthcare workers who did NOT stay to help but, rather, fled with their own families, leaving the remaining providers to care for patients on minimal to no sleep?  The government, for a chaotic disaster response that put these people in a position where they had to decide whether to stay and die or abandon their patients to suffer on their own?    Who gets blamed?  Because when disaster strikes, there's nothing we want more than to assign blame....
       As a nurse, the ethical questions created by the situation are mind-boggling.  The military is saying this is the last day they are providing rescue for your hospital.  It takes 2 hours per patient for 10+ people to carry them on a sheet from the ICU, down 7 flights of stairs, across the roof, and back up two metal staircases to reach the helipad where they can be airlifted out.  That means you can take about 5 more people.  And then all of your help is gone.  Not everyone gets to go.  So what do you do?  Stay and die with your patients because you are the unfortunate bleeding heart who had enough compassion to stay in the first place when everyone else got out of Dodge?  Get as many people out as you can, hop on the last chopper and abandon the rest to their suffering?  Or get everyone out that you can and hasten the already-impending death of the sickest that remain?
         Of note, the practitioners’ actions are alleged.  You’ll have to read the book yourself to decide what you think really happened.  All I will say is that there are differing accounts of what took place within those walls.

          Anyway, half of the book is about those 5 days at Memorial and the other half of the book is about the legal battles and community response in the days that followed as allegations surrounding particular providers' actions became public.  I think it is interesting for anyone to read and think about, but I think it is a must read for any health care professional.  It was hard to read more than a page without thinking about what I would do in “x” situation.  

      I realize I risk sounding like a broken record, but my simplest summary of this book: Fascinating.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Grace for People Like Me (and Peter)

I drove to the cities and back for a friend's birthday dinner last night and I listened to a couple of sermons in the car on my way.  Our lead pastor is currently on leave following his wife's death, but before he left (and to be resumed when he returns) we were going through the book of Acts.  I just happened to notice on my podcasts that Tullian Tchvidijian, a pastor whose gospel preaching always proves good for my soul, was also leading his church through Acts, so I decided to listen to a few of his sermons to see what he had to say.

The first sermon was an overview of Acts where Tullian stated that the theme of his series was going to be how nothing can get in the way of God's global expansion of His message of grace.  His intention is to trace God's flawless work through flawed people.

The second sermon focused on Peter's sermon at Pentecost and how this, his greatest moment of ministry, comes after his greatest failure when he denied Christ three times.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into church this morning and the interim pastor's sermon title was, "Are Failures Holding You Back?  Lessons From the Life of Peter."

Ok.  I get it.  I need to think on these things.

I had already spent some time yesterday reflecting on how Peter - Peter of all people - was chosen to preach the sermon at Pentecost.  Peter, the Great Vascilater between faith and failure.

Quick review of the highlights:

In Matthew 16, he confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and is commended for speaking something clearly revealed by the Father.  Jesus replies, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  I'd be feeling pretty solid if Jesus said something like that to me.  A few verses later, Jesus is telling the disciples about going to Jerusalem.  Peter tells Jesus he doesn't think it is a good idea and is rebuked for being a spokesperson for Satan.  And the pendulum swings.

In Mark 14, at the Last Supper, Peter pledges his allegiance to the Lord, swearing that even if all others fall away, he will not.  Before the end of the chapter he has denied Jesus three times.

Then Jesus returns to this failure of a man, makes him breakfast on the shore, allows him three new opportunities to declare his love for Christ and tells Peter to feed his sheep.  Peter then preaches a sermon that marks the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Kind of a big deal.

As the Gospel spreads, Peter plays a significant role in sending Christ's invitation to the Gentiles through his ministry to Cornelius.  Later, in Antioch, Peter is rebuked by Paul for hypocritically withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles when certain men were around.  Um....his sermon marked the entrance of the Holy Spirit in the world....shouldn't Peter be pretty much completely sanctified by this point????  What's the deal?!?!?

He is such a failure.  And, most encouraging to me, his biggest failures did not occur before he knew Christ.  He screws up big-time after he chooses to follow Christ.  After he is witness to Christ's power and ministry.  After he has professed his love and commitment.  After he witnesses the Holy Spirit come in power.

Just like me.

Tullian has this to say:

"It is amazing to me that Jesus commissions [Peter] after his biggest failure; that his strongest ministry happens after his weakest moment.  Let me just pose this question to you: Is it possible that one of the reasons God has allowed you to make big mistakes is so that your understanding of grace is deeper than it would be if you had not blown it?...[Peter's] failure does not render him useless, but useful in the hands of Jesus.  Peter's greatest ministry to me thousands of years later is his denial in the courtyard because I'm not naive enough to think that I'm better than he is.  In fact, when I read Peter's failure, I'm like, 'Thank you, God.  Thank you for inspiring stories in the Bible of great men who have blown it.'...[God] shows us failed men and it is their failures that minster to me the most because when I watch the way God meets their failure with His forgiveness, when I read about the way that God meets their guilt with His grace, it comforts me.  It reassures me that God meant it when He said, 'I will never leave you.  I will never forsake you.  There is nothing you can do to separate yourself from my love because my love for you is not dependent on what you do or fail to do.  It's dependent on what Jesus has done for you.'  Peter, who knows himself all too well, knows that the only reason he has anything to say to a broken world is that he is broken himself."

Peter's life is such a sweet, sweet reminder to me that the Gospel is not just for unbelievers.  It is for me.  Every. Single. Day.  After my profession of faith.  After I have witnessed Christ's power.  After I have professed my love and commitment.  I still fail.  I still need his grace.  I still need Christ's righteousness on my behalf.  And He still graciously gives it to me.  Every. Single. Day.

Jesus is so gracious to Peter.  So kind.  He does not shame him publicly.  Doesn't say "I told you so."  Doesn't leave him to his own devices.  Instead, he calls him to come eat, gives him three opportunities to publicly declare his love and then tells him three times to feed his sheep, re-establishing him as the rock upon which Christ will build His church.

This - this grace - this is what Christ does.  He RESTORES people.  Over and over again, He restores us.  He restores me.  The insufferable one.  He does not deal with me according to my sins, but according to His love.  According to His great mercy, He has caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I am so tempted to believe that the Christian life "should" be one continuous path upwards in sanctification.  And I do hope that by His Spirit, over the course of my life, God will make me look, act, think and speak more like Him.  But I do believe that for most of us - especially those of us who came to know Christ at a young age - our greatest failures, our most shameful sins, happen after we know Christ.  After His Spirit is already at work within us.

And He offers us forgiveness.  And mercy.  And grace.  And abundant life.  Again and again and again.

He restores us.  Even after we have been restored.

Wait, it keeps getting better.

He then uses us.  And our failures.  The very failures that sent Him to the cross He then turns around and uses for our good!  And for the good of His kingdom.  Peter preached the sermon at Pentecost.  I'd call that a ministry highlight.  Three thousand people were saved after hearing words spoken by the same tongue that had denied Christ.

I have failed.  And failed and failed and failed.  And if I was a betting woman, I would put money on me failing again.  But by His grace, and through godly sorrow, repentance and humility, I can still be used.  I can still serve Him.  I can still have the abundant life He offers.  I can still rest in His righteousness on my behalf.

This is the Gospel.  This is the Good News.

That there is grace for people like me.

And Peter.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1801) A great group of friends from Salt and Light to spend the weekend with. 
1802) The encouragement and conviction that come from sweet times of fellowship with the Body of Christ. 
1803) Hannah Perry's adorable wave where she turns her wrist back and forth like a pageant girl. Makes me laugh every. single. time. 
1804) A two hour convo with Chinwe on a lovely Sunday afternoon - stimulation for my brain, laughter for my belly, encouragement for my soul. Couldn't love her more. 
1805) A sweet and stimulating convo with a couple from South Carolina and two students who were staying with the Orths while visiting to meet the Children's Heart Project kids. So neat to sense how quickly the Spirit connects the hearts of those in the Body!
1806) The sweet, ticklish sound of Penny's breath in my ear as she lays curled up by my head on my pillow while I do physical therapy. 
1807) Dr. Edwards' sense of humor. So funny. 
1808) A sweet, sweet convo with Teri. So much favor from her. And her willingness to cry as she told me about her trip to Haiti with the NGO she started. And her encouragement and support for my future endeavors. 
1810) Being able to get in tomorrow to a) meet my new primary doc and b) address this back pain. Glad it worked out!
1812) A few hours of work in Dr. Kushwaha's office where I could close the door and sing with Shane and Shane while I cleaned out file drawers. 
1813) Heather and Lynette saying they were trying to figure out how they could clone me. 
1814) That the forecasted storm never showed up. I had a bunch of driving to do this evening and I was nervous about rushing around in the snow!
1815) Dr. Lillie, my new primary doc, seems reasonable and nice. 
1816) Running into Emily Green in the subway. So fun to see her and get a hug. 
1817) Getting a chiropractor appointment for Friday! So thankful it will not be a long wait before something is done. 
1818) Enjoying a Bangkok Thai Rice Bowl from Freshens. My new obsession!
1819) Being able to sense and see the progress I'm making with my physical therapy. 
1820) Choir practice. I love the music. I love the worship. I love the people. I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Reasons I'm Going to Try Blogging Consistently Again

5)     Desire: I want to. 
4)     Discipline: I love to write. I have not been writing nearly as much as I would like. Blogging is a creative outlet that can help address my current writing deficit.
3)     Depository: My head is getting full. This blog is a nice "searchable" container where I can store a few things and free up some space. I was looking for an old post this past weekend and in the process I ended up reading a bunch of posts I wasn't hunting for, tempting me to both laughter and tears in response to certain memories. It made me realize how much I love having certain kinds of thoughts gathered in one place. 
2)     Designed for Story: I believe we are designed to enjoy hearing and telling stories. I believe our stories reflect aspects of The Grand Story, whether subtly or explicitly.  I believe that when we tell stories we reflect our Creator, the Master Storyteller. I believe stories are important and I enjoy having a designated place to tell some of mine. 
2b) Dignity: Blogging is an opportunity for me to tell stories or share thoughts without feeling rushed to speak or getting interrupted.  
1)     Dad: My dad (who happens to be one of my favorite people in the world) checks this blog nearly every morning.  Even when I only post 5 times a year.  Just in case I write something new. And then he often emails me his thoughts in response.  If he is going to be that interested in my life and pursue me that intentionally, he deserves to be met halfway. 

Hi, Dad. Love you.