Catching Hope

Looking for the grace of God that surrounds us

breathe.

Dear Suffering Saint:

You didn’t expect your circumstances to make it hard to breathe.  I know, because I didn’t expect it either.

I know that sometimes you are caught off guard with That thought.  You know, that one thing that brings the pain back to your mind and heart in a rush, like a sudden gust of wind.  And as it comes, the air your lungs catches quickly and hovers, in one brief inhaling gasp.

….

but breathe.

just take a breath.

and another one.

And then it gets easier. I promise, it does.

It again becomes natural, normal, a simple reflex induced by oxygen and carbon dioxide osmosis gradients in the tiny alveoli of the lungs.

…………………………….

Maybe you knew It would be difficult.  Maybe you were totally caught off guard by it.

Either way, it hurts.  I know. It comes in rushes. Like the rise and fall of an ocean wave…like a breath.

In….out.

Up….down.

Pain….grace.

……………………………….

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (I Cor. 12:9-10)

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Celebrate

I was thinking.

It’s been forever since I posted.

Life has been a little rough lately.  OK (insert honesty) more than a little rough.  I have written a few posts, just haven’t “pressed” them yet.  I was looking through them and realized how most of them are emotional, raw, dealing-with-life’s-difficulties type thoughts.

But, they are not being posted right now. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, in fact someday I may put them up.  But today is not the day for them.  Today is a day to get up and dance.

I’m not trying to ignore sadness and suffering in life.  Life can look very dark at times, for all believers. Sometimes it may seem like the Lord is too far away.  Those are times to pray for grace, hold your head up, grit your teeth, and fight for hope–for one more minute…one more hour…one more day.

But then, even in the midst of that difficulty, sometimes it is important to take a step back and take a look at the big picture. Look at the grace that is given.  I know, sometimes merely breathing takes a huge amount of effort.  But it’s still breathing.  And if we sat down and took stock, we could find blessings amid the pain.

No, I am not saying that focusing on the blessings will solve the problems.  Most of the time, it won’t.  And I know, oh how I know, it’s not that simple.  But occasionally it helps.

In the mean time, I am taking today to step back, set aside the worries and the difficulties, and to simply enjoy being alive.  God has given me grace to fight for another day. Hey, I woke up this morning! I breathed in and breathed out all night long without even having to think about it. I have a family that loves me. I have a God who fights for me. I even have coffee from the Dominican Republic to start my day. Wonderful.

Today I am choosing to set aside the sadness. It’s still there. It will still be there tomorrow.  Probably the next day, too.  But today, this day, I choose to put the sadness to rest, however temporarily, and dance.

After all, when you think about it, there is much to celebrate.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack.”

(Psalm 34:8-9)

*(post partially inspired by: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o)

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Glass Lazarus

Sometimes prayer seems this way, I think. Like a Glass Lazarus.

Go with me on the imagery here….

Our deepest desires, our most fervent prayers, the things that makes our hearts weep for longing…these are the miracles that we pray for, and sometimes they seem as impossible as raising a dead-four-days man from the grave.

And it seems that every time we pray, the dream of our Lazarus-like miracle collides with the harsh steel of reality.  Disappointment shatters that dream into a thousand pieces, like one of those tiny, delicate glass ornaments that falls on to a concrete floor.

But I think there’s hope.

In some cases, I think that God shatters our self-dreams because when the distraction of these desires are gone, we can see that underneath lies a God-dream that is so much better.

In other situations, I think we are called to hold on to the pieces of our God-given hope, despite how they seem to be shattered.

But I guess that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?  We can try to pick up the shards of our dream and glue them back together.  Odds are it won’t work, and it won’t make us happy.

Perhaps what we should do instead is sweep up the pieces and put them in Jesus’ hands.  He will give us His dream instead…or He will put the pieces of our hope back together to make something even more beautiful than we can imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21-22)

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Holding A Miracle

In keeping with yesterday’s post, here is one of my favorite YouTube videos.  I think it helped me realize that we don’t have to look too far for inspiration! Enjoy!

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The Inspiration to be Found

I forgot about this part of being in school again. At least, if I didn’t forget it, I laughed it off as part of a past life.

Old habits die hard, I guess. (Mom, take a deep breath and don’t cringe too badly!) 🙂  It is the second night I have been up into the wee hours of the morning…I have had enough caffeine today to kill a small elephant, my contact lenses are just about glued in place, and I am not quite sure I can finish everything on time.

It is in moments like these that I need inspiration.

As I took a deep breath, rubbed my shriveled, dried-out eyeballs, ran my fingers through my tangled hair, and tried to regain a sense of perspective, I thought to myself that I needed inspiration badly.

Then I realized–I have had an entire week full of it. For that matter, a life full of it.

Everyone enters the world the same way, when it comes right down to it–nobody is totally grown in a test tube (yet anyway!). It’s a funny, wonder-inducing, truly miraculous thought (when you look at it at 2 am, anyway): everyone has literally been a part of someone else.

It was at this point I realized the inspiration I need–rather, the miracle I hope everyone can see–is that of Life.

I don’t need to look for motivation for my school assignments. I just need to look at my fat little smiling babies at work….down the street at the panhandlers on the corners….the masses of people that swarm out of the sanctuary when church is done…or in the mirror, even.

This is because where there is Life, there is a Miracle. God took man out of the dust and breathed life in to him, and that life created other lives, which created others, and so on and so forth.  And I get the privilege to study exactly how life grows life, and (Lord willing) someday I get to help usher some of this life in to the world.

So in the end, I realize–I don’t need to look for inspiration. It’s right in front of me, in front of you, all the time: the Miracle that is Life.  What a gift this is, that God has given us!

p.s. Mom, I am going to bed now. *hug* 😉

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Speaking of hope….

my patients need it.  Or maybe I need it for them.  Can you hope for someone else?  I think so.

My first little boy looked up at me with cracked, dry lips and angry, sad, pain-filled eyes.  His mommy kept stepping out of the room to cry, then come back in to offer what support she had for him.  “It’s so hard,” she said.  “First the refugee camp…we didn’t have food every day.  And the attacks.  Then we come here, and he–”

I administered the injection meant to boost his dwindling white cells, gave him pain medication for the long bone pain that inevitably comes with the cancer, wanly smiled at their pastor that had come to visit and was oh, so glad he was there to offer the kind of support that I just didn’t have the time to offer.  Or just couldn’t figure out the right way to offer it, no matter how hard I tried and wanted to.

My second child, five months old, sat on one side of the floor in her carseat, bottle propped next to her, in a dirty used-to-be-white onsie stained with spit-up and bottle drool.  She was set aside, just about forgotten.  I picked up her seven pound, 12 ounce body and held her close, because no one else would.  Child Protection will come soon….but is there any more hope for her than that?

I forced a tiny tube down the nose of my third patient today.  A little six-month-old, who escaped death by a hair’s breadth multiple times in his short life, and now needs a tube threaded down in to his stomach because somewhere along the lines of fighting the pneumonia, the infections and the IV tubes he never had the time or the energy to learn how to eat.  Alarms beeping, baby crying, mom trying to comfort….and my hands shaking as I hook the monitors back up and spend the rest of the night worrying about how he is.

I try to fight for my patients, try to have hope for them.  But in the utterly terrifying sadness of cancer, the despair of neglect and the gnawing worry of wondering if I made the right clinical decisions and if I really made the gravity of the situation clear enough to the doctor, sometimes I don’t know how.

I don’t know if the heaviness in my heart is sadness, pain, anger, anxiety…or just the love that causes and encompasses it all.  I pray for the love of Jesus to fill my heart for my patients like these, so that I can fight for them practically as well as through prayer.  But sometimes, some nights like these, it seems impossible….

“Speaking of hope,” Jesus says, “I have it.  It is found in me.  I love you, I love them, and my love is NOT despairing or heavy or angry or sad….it is just love.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light….ask me and I will help you to carry them.  And I, the Great Shepherd, will carry you.” (Romans 8:38-39, 15:13, Isaiah 46:3-4, Matthew 11:28-30, Ezekiel 34:11-16, John 10:11, 14, 13:1).

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Where He is, Hope is.

It’s always there.  Always.

That’s the thing about hope.  Think about it.

See what I mean?

Hope is always with us, because our God promises to always be with us.  It, He, is there even when it doesn’t feel like it.  We can trust it...trust Him. There. is. always. hope. We can trust because Hope originates from the first Hope-Giver.

The Garden must have looked very bleak to Adam after he sinned.  Shame, fear, banishment…and yet even then, in that darkest of moments when sin entered the world, God gave hope.  “You will bruise His heel, He will crush your head,” the Lord said to the serpent.  And this hope that was fulfilled by the birth of a little baby, then His death…and His glorious resurrection that gave us the right, as beloved Children of the King, to have hope.

People, things, situations can be dark…or painful…or sad…. But because Our God is in control, we can be hopeful.  Even if things don’t turn out the way we’d like.  Even if things feel out of control.  Even if….

Fill in your “even if”.  I have one (several, actually).  Ask the Lord to give you a glimpse, even if it is a small one, of the glorious reality that our “even if”‘s are anything but hopeless to Him.  Where He is, Hope is.  And He is always with us. He is in charge of it all, for our eventual joy.  And, we can trust, Hope does not disappoint or put us to shame (Rom. 5:5).

I love the word hope.  I love what it connotes.  I love the way the letters look together.  I love the message it brings.

I love that it is always there, even when things are dark, because even when it is dark there is always hope for Light.

It seems like I am writing this to you.  I am, in part.  But I’m also writing it to me, because right now, I need to believe it.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13

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Doorbells, and the End of the World.

So it seemed to be, anyway, as I was getting ready for bed at 1:00 am on a Friday night not too many weeks ago.  The end of the world, that is.

*Note: this post is dedicated to my dear roommate Rachel, who was not home to witness it and to whom I refuse to give the pleasure of a re-enactment for the sake of photographs.

I am not even sure it has been a long enough time for me to recover.  Even as I write this I am feeling my fingers tense up and my heart rate increase.  Two weeks ago on Friday night I thought the end of my world had come.

The doorbell rang.

Sounds innocent, right?  HOWever keep in mind it was the middle of the night.  In a still-somewhat ghetto neighborhood.

When I was little I was taught to NEVER, never never never answer the door after dark.  Especially when I was home alone.

Which I was, at this particular hour on this particular Friday.  Rachel was working and Sarah had left a note that she was staying at a friend’s house overnight.

So, being the good little city-living person that I am, I let the doorbell alone and didn’t go to look who it was.  I figured it was either a kid or a drunk person and they would go away.

They didn’t.

After a few minutes of constant doorbell-ringing, my head started a slight spin.  This slight spin soon turned into a downright downward spiral of irrational panic.

That’s right. Panic, folks.  Sheer terror.  As I thought about the fact that people who want to break in to houses often ring the doorbell several times to make sure no one was home before they kick the door in.

As I saw the pickup truck parked directly in front of the house.  The getaway car, of course.  Lots of room for everything they were going to steal.  Were they (*gasp!) armed??  Knives? Guns? Anything?

The pitch of my voice and the speed of my speech heightened as I called my Superhero Daddy. (“What do I do? what do I do??….*gasp* …ringing….*gasp*[pitch of voice increases] they’re in the back now….I think there’s two of them…oh daddy I can hear them….*gasp*…”)

The tremor in my voice increased as I then called 911 and panickedly told the operator that I thought I was about to get broken in to.

“What do I do while I wait for the police?”, my little voice eeked out (by this time the pitch of my voice was at a pure squeak).

Apparently there’s nothing TO do while you wait for the police, except call if anything changes.  Or so the operator told me.

The doorbell kept ringing.  Whoever It was, was going from the back door to the front door, back and forth, back and forth.

I got back on the phone with Superhero Dad, waiting for the inevitable.  My little chipmunk voice now pretty much could only peep out, “It’s still going, it’s still going….what do I do?” over and over again.

(*pace* squeak out some unintelligible expression of fear into the phone* pace* repeat.)

That’s how the next 1o minutes went, mostly.

Except when I was planning my Official Escape, which was to go on to my porch roof via my bedroom window and let the Perps take whatever they wanted (I, rather brilliantly, had locked myself in my bedroom).  I attempted this escape just prior to calling the cops.  Did I not mention that before?  You see, it just so happens that around the time Superhero Dad mentioned calling the police (about three minutes into the doorbell-ringing) I was slurking around on the roof trying to determine the best place to avoid being seen by the Unknown Creep (should I close the window behind me so they don’t know I’m here??? but how would I get back IN once they were gone…) and it then struck me that the neighbors, if awake, might just call the cops on ME for suspiciously prowling around on my own roof.  Despite the red stripey pajamas and fuzzy white zippey-up hoodie, it probably looked somewhat suspicious.

Besides, what if the Crazy-Eyed Assailant/s could HEAR me talk on the roof?

So I slunk back in. I left the window unlocked and ready to go just in case.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  (*pace*squeak*pace*squeak…..)

Now Superhero asks if there are any lights on at the neighbors.  There are.  He calls that neighbor from another line, who shines a flashlight on the Lone Blatant Decrier of Justice (by this time I have determined that there is indeed only one of them, judging by the time in between front and back doorbells).  The Fearsome Criminale doesn’t answer.

*pace*squeak*pace*squeak (“oh daddy, can you PLEASE ask him to come and see who it is???”)

Daddy asks the Kind Neighbor. Kind Neighbor gets dressed and goes out to see what the trouble is.  (Despite the lights, I guess he was in bed after all. oops.)

Muffled voices.  Female voice….familiar voice….

Sudden wave of relief mixed with ocean rush of adrenaline leaving my body.

Sudden thought that I had better call 911 back and tell them not to come.  This was fortunate, for my roommate at least.  Because the Nefarious Personage was not a criminal at all.  It was my roommate who didn’t have her keys or her phone when she got dropped off earlier than she expected.

I let her in (poor thing was freezing), then spent the next hour trying to realize that no, I was not about to get attacked and yes, I could indeed now close and lock the window.

Everyone was finally in bed (Superhero Dad and Mom, Poor Half-Frozen Roommate, Kind Neighbor and Rather-Foolish-Feeling-Yet-Still-Totally-Freaked-Out-Me).  And then there was a garage fire across the alley.  I missed it, because even though the sirens were close I decided we had had enough for one night.

I cannot quite laugh about this yet.  Perhaps in three months.  Or maybe three years, considering how elevated my adrenaline levels were and how ridiculously out of control the old “Fight or Flight” response was.  Perhaps you will laugh, though.  Or maybe you will (or should) cry.

Point of this story is, it was not the end of the world, as I so highly suspected at the time.

I am sorry don’t have any major applications to life on this one.  Except to say that I am glad my sympathetic nervous system is intact.  Or was, at least, before this incident.

The only other thing I can think of is just perhaps some little word of wisdom, something having to do with red stripey pajamas and fuzzy white zippey-up hoodies and not sneaking around on porch roofs.  I’ll let you know if I come up with anything.

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According to my pathophysiology book….

We are all going to die.

Of something.

Odds are totally stacked against us.

This may seem common sense, however, as I have read further into my pathophysiology textbook (which tells me all about the inner workings of what makes us die), I am finding that to avoid this rather unfortunate phenomena, we must live in a bubble and eat nothing.  Except perhaps the occasional carrot stick and sip of purified water.  [note: NOT celery, despite it’s reputation as the Ultimate Health Nut’s Food.  Apparently even celery can have negative effects, between the high probability of pesticide residue, the relatively high sodium content (if you have high blood pressure, that is), and I might personally add the annoying little strings that get caught in your teeth.]

Here’s the partial running list of odd things I have discovered that contribute to disease.  While occasionally overstated : ), these are documented risk factors for disease, when consumed/experienced in large amounts:

*Animal fat.  Causes disease of the gut, including cancer if eaten in large amounts.  (toss out the lard, folks! guess the Chick-Fil-A cows are right after all….Eat Mor Chikn.  the LEAN kind of chicken.)

*Being tall.  Height and leg length, to be exact.  Long legs have a documented association with cancer.  (Not sure what you can do about this one–unless someone has figured out how to alter the gene pool….)

*Hot tea: in excess it apparently strains your gut too much and can give you anemia.  Pernicous anemia, to be exact, which to me sounds like a cross between a persnickity old woman and some variety of a garden cabbage. (It’s better not to ask where that thought came from, because quite frankly I have no idea either.)

*Steak or other charbroiled foods.  The old saying holds true, if it’s black and tastes terrible, don’t eat it.  (OK, maybe that’s not an old saying.  But now it is.)

*Long-term exposure to cold (we Minnesotans have known this for quite some time.  Then again, perhaps those that move to Florida for the winter have a better practical understanding of this one…) or repeated exposure to vibrating machinery in the workplace.  Both of these can cause spasms in your hands that turn your fingers blue.

*”Chinese-style salted fish”.  (Not even sure what this is). But apparently if it is fed to infants, it correlates with disease of the nose and throat.

*A cold or flu virus.  Those little guys can stick in your system and pop back out to to say hello in new and updated forms such as shingles or mononucleosis.  (Hence, I would remind you of the aforementioned “bubble” living idea…)

*Too much sunshine.  Can cause skin cancer. (I should have added in the introduction to this post that when in the aforementioned protective bubble, sipping organic water and munching on the occasional pesticide-free carrot stick, one should protect exposed skin as well…)

*Not enough sunshine.  Lowers the Vitamin D level.  (Note: to rectify this with the previous post, I guess there is a very delicate balance between not enough sunshine and too much.  Ask Aristotle, the master of the “Golden Mean” of the middle ground…)

And speaking of the middle ground, at least on this point, I think perhaps Aristotle had a good idea–that is of living in moderation.  Some sunshine but not too much.  Some steak but don’t petrify it black.  That sort of thing–common sense living.  Which, incidentally, after all, does not consist of living in a bubble and subsisting on carrot sticks (in my humble opinion, anyway!).  : )

Also, there are some things you can do something about (such as smoking, weight control, avoiding Chinese-style salted fish, etc.).  Common sense living dictates that you modify what can be modified in your lifestyle.  Other things you can’t help, when all is said and done (being tall, for one!).  So, I guess the conclusion is to do what you can to preserve your health (protect your body as the “temple”–1 Corinthians 6:19-20) but understand that we are all fallen creatures under the curse of sin.

This is why, ultimately, we are all going to get sick and eventually die.  It’s really not the excess of celery sticks, the hot tea, or the animal fat.  It’s our sin nature, given to us by Adam when he and his wife ate the forbidden fruit.

But we can rejoice, and not only rejoice but rejoice with HOPE, because the Second Adam has come and redeemed His children–both soul and body.

Romans 5:17:  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Praise our Father that He has given us hope!

(All medical facts come from the book, “Understanding Pathophysiology”, 4th Edition, by McCance and Huether, copyright 2008.  Except for the part about celery, which I found after a little bit of internet research on various sites.  Exaggeration and hyperbole directly from The Mind of Kristina Michael, RN, October 2010.)

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Waiting

Waiting for something to happen.

I guess we all do it…

wait for the return phone call.

the e-mail.  (or any e-mail!).

the next song on the radio.

the next thing we’re going to eat.

the next person we are supposed to meet with.

the next church service.

the next major life event.

the good news.

the bad news.

the next exciting or interesting thing.

to see how someone will react to what we just said.

and so on….

When really, perhaps we should be living in the moment–rejoicing in the small Grace of breathing and the consequent Grace of living.  We might just be a lot happier people.

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