Friday, April 13, 2012

A reminder of identity

Romans 7:24-8:2
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 

25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

   So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Recovering from being a jerk

You know that moment in a movie when the hero makes a terrible error and alienates everyone he knows?  When he is the BIGGEST jerk possible and all you can do is cringe?  Sometimes I'm that guy.

Everyone has layers to their personalities.  I am shy when we first meet; next I am boisterous and spend most of my time making jokes about leering and online dating.  After I have discovered if you share a love of deep conversations you and I may spend hours discussing life, God, and why there are so many creepy men in my county.  These are my preferred presentations to people and in general I manage to maintain that.  I like to only display the best of my personality.

Now when it comes to family or very close friends they get glances of what goes on in my head.  Sometimes the last thing I want to do is to be invested in a conversation with a family member or roommate.  Sometimes I'm grumpy for no reason and take it out on someone else by withholding invested conversation.  For some reason I begin to resent the people closest to me.  I'm still unsure of where this comes from.

But even more cringe inducing is when I am an outright jerk.  I've seen this most recently when I'm spewing facts like I know what I'm talking about and someone gently provides an opposing view.  Actually, he/she shows that I was completely wrong and a little bit of an idiot.  Suddenly my image (see the second paragraph) is blown apart.  I am now in flight or fight because I have to figure out how recover from my icky mistake.

Rationalize, leave, or lash out in prideful anger.  Usually all three. What disturbs me the most is that all this is driven from pride.  I turn into this gollum-esque creature that values self and image above anything.  How do I gracefully accept that I am wrong?

This summer Julie and I were camp nurses and we made a lot of ice packs for a lot of minor injuries.  I swear 90% of nursing is holding hands and soothing feelings.  One girl came in tears to us in the back of the chapel during the evening message and reported that "scratched my eye with a piece of paper and it huuuuuuurts."  It was my turn to make an ice pack so off we went to the kitchen.  I really just wanted to get back and sit down.  Camp required longer hours than my job and there was no separation between personal time and "nurse" time.  I was tired and just wanted to sit for half an hour.  So I cut a corner.  I put ice in the ziplock and handed it to the girl, without a paper towel to buffer the cold.  We returned and Julie looked at me quizzically and asked why I hadn't put a paper towel on it.  Suddenly I was angry and fearful...  I had been caught.

I've always operated on the thought that Julie is definitely harder working and probably smarter than me.  I respond to this by being defensive and very cautious in stating my medical opinions around her.  So when she confronted me about my barrier-less ice pack, I responded in an annoyed and defensive tone that "she won't even have it on that long."  I reassured myself that I was probably in the right when I saw the girl, ice pack-less, happily goofing off with her friends three minutes later.

I never forgot that incident and still feel tinges of guilt about my pride.  I hate that sometimes I respond in fear of injury to my pride.  Why does it matter if I look like an idiot jerk?  Why must I be so rigid in controlling my appearance? I hate pride.

The truth is I can convince myself pretty easily that I'm always right and that wrong courses of action are actually okay.  Occasionally someone catches me and ends up holding up a mirror so I can actually see my behavior. Oh man, I hate it when that happens.  I can so easily add cutting corners.  The truth is I need people to hold mirrors up to me.

I need the people closest to me to be honest about the behavior they see.  I need them to be okay with awkward conversations.  I need to add a new "recovery strategy" which involves laying all of my stupidity out on the table.  I hate wondering what other people will think, but honestly they can already tell I'm kind of being an idiot, it's just the specifics that aren't clear.  But I am certain that the people closest to me will respond with grace, or if not that we can have a conversation that will lead to humility on my part and grace on their part.

It's all part of "living in community".  This is a very cliche term in Christianity these days. It is a concept that encompasses huge things like dedicating your life to Christ, being honest with other people who have experienced a taste of redemption, and being honest about how you are really messed up and how you need Christ every second to help you in your mess.  At community group last night the main passage of interest was 1 John 1:5-7, but I'm going to include 8-10.

"Walking in the light" and "walking in the darkness" are two main concepts.  I would identify an example of "walking in darkness" as when I respond in anger over an injury to my pride. At that moment the most important thing to me is restoring my image, not God, not people, but me.  Verse 7 talks about walking like Christ, having fellowship with others, and being purified from sin. This is community and it is all interwoven. As believers we are constantly being sanctified and new areas of sin are being revealed.  I need to be honest about my devotion to pride so that others can hold a mirror when I'm being an idiot.  Know this, holding a mirror is not judgment, it is a loving action that acts as a safeguard against me becoming the hugest jerk on the planet.

8-10 focuses on sin and how we are not perfect.  We have/are/will sinned/sinning/sin.  I need my brothers and sisters to walk with me "in community" because I am not a pillar of moral uprightness.  I need loving correction. I need to practice what it feels like to have my meanness laid out in front of people.  This is a safe place to try.  I have great friends, family, and a church that encourages honest and committed relationships.    Pride needs to be eliminated and confronted.

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.
 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Monday, February 06, 2012


I started zumba.  I see a lot of fierce women and I love the idea of being fierce.
I wish I were Samoan.  I think they're really fierce.
I also sometimes wish I was a gangster, but I know this is also unrealistic. 
But really I think I come off as this. 
And during zumba I feel like this.  Gangly. 
Maybe I should add this to my hobbies to get more fierceness.. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


"My career destroyed my marriage, and it will destroy you." -Experienced nurse manager

Is anyone else afraid their career will destroy all relationships/change you into a completely different person who has no compassion? No?  That's just me?  Oh weird.

Overall people have a really positive view of nurses.  They're so kind and sympathetic and giving... Angels of mercy.

Well, that's the general view.  Here's what I've learned in my four months of real nursing.

People get jaded.  I've met a lot of nurses who are tired of dealing with angry people. Healthcare is an interesting situation because people act like a hospital is like McDonald's.  I am in pain, so I expect you to completely fix all of my pain. Part of this is cultural because Americans demand all things immediately.  But dealing with human beings is not like making a hamburger, sometimes we cannot fix you.  Sometimes you have to live with pain/discomfort.  However, this is not common sense and people can get angry when they feel their needs are not being met.  And sometimes we see people who come in for pain, but they actually need mental/spiritual healing and not physical.  They react with anger when I tell them I am giving them nonopioid pain relief.

I find that the situations that exhaust me the most are not when I am doing compressions, but when I am dealing with angry people who want me to fix them, but I cannot.  I want to address what I think their real problems are, but I'm only a nurse and not a psychologist.  So we keep up this vicious cycle of people complaining of physical pain and requesting narcotics to cover their emotional pain/drug habit.  I wish I could talk to them about what brought them to this point.

My heart hurts for these people.  I feel used by them. I am tired of being a conduit to put a bandaid over a huge problem that cannot be fixed by drugs.  I want them to know that I can see they have been through a lot.  I know they have a lot of hurt and that they have seen terrible things.  I want them to know that covering up this problem won't solve it and that Jesus really loves them and wants to free them from their pain.

So sometimes I'm afraid I will take all of this confusion and frustration and become bitter.  I think when I stop caring about people I need to change jobs.  When I feel anxious about becoming calloused, I am reminded of Melba.  She worked in community health for years and that field has its own challenges, but all fall back into the root of trying to cover up a large problem with a bandaid.  I know Melba has worked with difficult patients and yet she is the most joyful person I know.  I realized that Jesus makes the difference when it comes to being jaded.  Melba has more to offer to people because she does not rely on her own compassion,  instead she relies on Jesus' compassion, which never ceases.

I told God I was growing frustrated with not being able to really help my patients and I was reminded that this is kind of what God goes through with us...  He knows all of our problems and the areas we struggle with.  He wants to help, but so often we ignore Him.  He deals with a stubborn people, but His compassion never ceases.  God fill me with this compassion!

So that's one problem.  The other one is that all  of the wise nurses that have gone before (and really love to say "I've been a nurse longer than you've been alive."  It's seriously like the coolest thing ever to say.  I think I may say it next time someone asks me, hm...)  caution us to find something mystical called "work-life balance".  And apparently if you don't figure this out YOUR CAREER WILL DESTROY YOU.  Alright, you have sufficiently scared the crap out of me.

So I feel like a failure.  I really love my job (yes, even with my frustration about not being able to fix patients) and I love my coworkers.  But on my days off I kind of resemble a slug.  I don't do anything other than a trip to a coffee shop to journal about my job.  Yeah, I think I may not have that whole balance thing.  Now obviously I'm still a newbie and therefore need more focus on my job, but I really don't want to only live for my days at work.  I'm getting more involved at church, but for some reason I feel like if I don't start working out and find a hobby I will fail at this work-life balance thing. And if I don't succeed at that I may end up becoming a mass murderer/something equally terrible?

I tend to be pretty legalistic and I like having rules and lists so I can quantify my life.  But I also feel  like I need to give myself a lil grace when it comes to figuring out what it looks like to be an adult.

I think in general I should be satisfied with baby steps.  And hopefully next year I will be able to say cool things like "Oh yes, I will be going on a cruise with Julie, Marge and Cass" or "Yes, I am going to India for a few weeks", but right now please don't expect me to say such things.  I would like to be honest with you about the fact that my major goal right now is actually working up enough courage to go to the Y by myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wake Up O Sleeper!

Ephesians is legit, no really...  You should read it.  I'm a big fan.  After a quick reading of the book a few things stuck out to me.  There are reoccurring mentions of power and of the new life that we should be living vs. the old life that is unfulfilled and unhelpful.

The old life looks like this "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (4:31).  Let's walk down a little goat trail to understand this concept a little better.  I can see all of these things entwined in one scenario.  Let's say John used all of my favorite type of bread.  Maybe I tried to discuss this with him and I thought we had an understanding...  But he keeps stealing my whole-grain deliciousness.  So at first I was angry, but when it continued it turned to wrath.  Maybe we had some moments filled with clamor and angry words.  All purposeless interactions that only lead to anger.  So what do I do to blow off steam?  I talk to someone else about it.  Talking about John's craftiness and the lengths he goes to in an attempt to spite me and incur my wrath.  So I've slandered him.  And now all of my interactions with him have an undertone of malice.

Of course John wouldn't steal my bread, but I've heard of and been involved in ridiculous conflicts like this.  They do nothing to promote the image of Christ and in fact cause my witness to become marred.  I was amazed at the kind of person I became over stupid little things.  It broke my  heart to think how I was bringing shame instead of glory to God's name.

I'm sinful, so the fact that I'll keep sinning my whole life is kind of a given.  However, (and here is where the power comes in) God did not leave me in my mess.  He teaches and corrects me.  Paul writes about the "immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe"(1:19). The whole power of God available to us through his grace!  Astounding!

And honestly, there are layers of sin in my life that I'm not aware of...  You may have seen them, but I'm still blind to them.  I really like Jon Foreman's lyrics "baptize my eyes".  Everything about my perspective needs to change to God's view.  I want to life to be vital.  I want to always be in a continual state of growth.

And God wants us to grow closer to him.  "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (5:14). Paul encourages us to be children of light and to have no part with darkness.  Instead of all those nasty things like malice and wrath there should be thankfulness!   There should be psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, melodies to God, and most of all thanksgiving.  The thanksgiving should be always and for everything.

What a concept of community God has for us...  Instead of arguments about silly things there would be thankfulness for what we have?  And unity?  Whoa.  I want that.  But I know it's going to be a battle, but thankfully I have all the power of God to help me. And that's a great thing.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Taiwan! 2/7

I'm here sitting in my room looking out over the "canal" or "river" or whatever you decide to call it (depending on how OCD you are...).  It's a sunny and warm day here in Taipei.  The weather has been incredible.  People here  have been wearing layers because sixty degrees is winter weather to them.  I've been breaking out dresses.  I feel like I should be at the beach.

We've been here for over a week now.  What can I even say about this experience?  Nothing can really fully describe what we've experienced.  I'll give you some highlights..  The Taiwanese people put Americans to shame with their hospitality.  I've been invited on rounds with doctors and the top cardiac surgeon in the country explained what he was doing as he performed surgery.  It was actually really funny...  Jess and I had been in the operating room watching the staff prepare the patient for the bypass surgery.  Everyone was very friendly and allowed us to stand at the head and look down at the patient's chest as they cut through his sternum. We left for lunch and came back around the time that the main surgeon was supposed to come.  He walked into the operating room and immediately started talking to us.  Everyone in the room stood up straighter when he walked in and here he was...  This super important person taking time to teach us. They actually asked med students to move so we could have a better view.  Uhhh...

More to come when I have some time to sit down and put some thoughts together. :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some glad morning...

I went with Dad and Mom to one of the long-term care facilities he sings at.  I sat next to a bunch of people in wheel chairs.  The lady closest to me was very hard of hearing, which is kind of the bane of my existence.  My voice is almost completely impossible for people with hearing difficulties to understand.  This has led to me being called Elee, Elsie, Elisie, Denise, and many other variations.  I despise yelling at people and when I have to yell at people for them to hear me I loathe it even more.  I usually don't "yell" loud enough and so I have to repeat myself several times.

Anyhoo, the lady next to me usually glared at me when she couldn't understand me, but I did learn a little about her.  It made me smile when (for most of the songs she sat quietly and listened) she would hear a song she recognized and would belt it out loudly.  She especially liked I'll Fly Away.  I told her I liked her voice.  She yelled, "WHAT!?" in the middle of the song and Dad had to repeat it so she could actually hear.  Great.

That was all a digression...  I love being with older adults.  They are treasures and it is one of my goals as a nurse to make sure I value them appropriately.  They have no pretensions, no business...  They are wheeled to various places- almost all autonomy has been removed.  Suddenly as I sat listening to songs about God's grace, love, and power I felt like all of my worries meant nothing.  What did these people have to be worried about?  They weren't.  

A lovely woman I met in my home care rotation told me she didn't know why people worried so much.  "There's no reason to worry." She said...  This woman had a stroke 20 years ago and has lost much of her previous function.  She lives in an adult family home and has to have assistance with toileting.  And suddenly all of my worries slipped away.  What am I worried about?  My job?  School?  Family relationships?

I get so distracted from God. All those things I just stated seem to fill my mind constantly.  And then God allows me to see a different perspective.  Older adults are coming to the end of their lives.  All of their previous glory and achievements have all but faded away.  Now they have to humbly accept help or rigidly refuse it.  Everything is stripped away...  All of our ridiculous pride in our accomplishments, all of the worries about the cares of this world.  Suddenly you're being carted around to eat dry chicken and then having some stranger give you a bath.  The fact that you ran the Boston marathon suddenly doesn't seem to matter that much.

God is my solace and I forget that.  Distractions keep me from seeing that in reality, I'm just like those older adults...  I just have more things to deceive me into thinking that I'm very important and busy.   But when you come to the end of your life and all of those things are taken away, what is left?  Will I still be worried about ridiculous things or will I have realized that God really was the one who provided for me...  And all of my worrying meant nothing.

I'm pretty sure my 80 or so years on earth will go by very quickly and soon I'll be wearing diapers and being fed thickened soups.  It seems like it's preparation for what's coming.  All of my achievements are gone and suddenly I am alone.  Soon I will stand before my Lord by myself with no distractions.  This is glorious. May I live with this in mind.  All the things of earth will soon pass.