Tuesday, January 21, 2014


How big is God? I recently asked some children this question and one answer "HUUGGEE" was accompanied with arms outstretched as far as the child could reach. The faith of a child is simple. Someone tells you something is and you believe it.

When I think about the one who created the world, I want to believe that He is just as "HUUGGEE" as I did as a child. When I think of the intricacies of the human body-the compensatory mechanisms I studied in nursing school, I see demonstrations of an incredibly powerful God. The limitation to my faith comes with the "reasonable" side of me. As I wake up after sleeping and begin to remember the problems looming over me, somehow that same God isn't quite big enough to manage the universe and whatever problem I am facing. Somehow that God doesn't really have time for my concerns-after all, there are things like global warming and the Middle East conflict to keep Him busy.

My how I humanize God. Can you even say those two things together? I tend to shy away from things I don't understand until I can "dumb them down" or simplify them. Sometimes it takes youtube videos. It made sense when it came to studying statistics in school, but is that an appropriate way to view God?

I was reading a book called "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson. In it he says, "It is absolutely imperative at the outset that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth: God is for you. If you don't believe that, then you'll pray small, timid prayers." He then follows with, "Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately the script of your prayers becomes the transcript of your life." Wow. I certainly dream big enough, but do I actually include this great, big resource of God in my dreams? Do I believe He can handle my daily crisis?

I desire to be a woman of faith. Obviously there are things I must do to put feet to that desire, but there is also the aspect of pure faith through prayer. For me it is easy to do the action things, but the mental and faith part-the part I can't see-is much more challenging. Someone once described faith as being as simple as sitting in a chair. Once you are used to the concept of the chair supporting you, it no longer becomes a scary task. Sitting becomes second nature. God desires a relationship with us in which He supports us. Prayer is a church-y term that is daunting. Consider the word "talking". This can include non-verbal communication through thoughts. Remember, God is that big and can read your thoughts. He watches us struggle and stands on the sidelines waiting for us to ask for help. He sees us going through life and desires to be a part of it. He won't force His way, but He welcomes the opportunity to be close to His creation.

As I mulled over something that has been weighing heavy on my heart, I began to think about who I could call to talk to. A number of names came to mind, people who would be there for me and be willing to help me anytime. Being the middle of the night and a non-emergency, I reconsidered. As the list grew shorter and shorter I realized I was overlooking the one who didn't rely on the sun and never slept. Again, my humanity told me that God was too busy for such things-but the faith of the child fought back saying "He is HUUGGEE!!!"

My encouragement for today is to remember the God we serve. Remember to talk to Him, not just about problems. It takes practice, like any thing in life. The more you talk to Him, the easier it is and the more sensitive to His voice you are. He speaks especially strongly through the Bible, but also through our world. Share with Him your life, after all, He knows what the plans are.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Little Humor in the Workplace

Stories as witnessed from the front of a police car. Stories from the back of the ambulance. Stories straight from the streets of D.C. to the waiting room of the ER and straight into the lives of the ER nurse. So many stories we wish HIPPA didn't prevent us from sharing. So many names and specific details must be changed without paper documentation. The smiles and the tears of so many are equally witnessed and shared by the staff of the ER.

To truly be a good healthcare provider, you must learn the balance of empathy (putting yourself in your patient’s shoes) and protecting yourself from an overload of emotional stress. So much emotion is transferred and dumped on healthcare providers, particularly the nurses. So much that at the end of a stretch of shifts we can become the most selfish, anti-social creatures known to mankind. I joke that at the end of my “week” I don’t want anyone to look at me, talk to me, and especially not call me nurse! Between those feelings and the incredibly flattering scrubs we live in, the fantasies about nurses have been successfully de-railed. We go home after twelve to fourteen hour shifts completely exhausted, grubby, and often not wanting to tactfully interact.

This occupation, although emotionally draining, certainly has so many moments that are incredibly touching and humorous-some of which can be altered to share with the general public.
*Disclaimer: if you have a weak stomach, you should probably stop now. Also if the following stories allow you to have a revelation that you no longer wish to be associated with me, I will not take it personally. We nurses are a strange breed!

An elderly gentleman came into the ER with the delicate subject of a urinary/penile problem. In situations like this, the staff subconsciously switches into super-professional mode in an attempt to make the patient as comfortable as possible. We made small talk as I assisted the seventy something year-old man out of the wheelchair. We shuffled to the bedside and I asked him to “sit your hiney down right here”. He looked at me a bit confused, then did as I asked. With his feet still dangling off the bed, I began strategically formulating the question of encouraging him to get his pants off. He had been quite the literalist on the way back from triage and I assumed it would be a delicate question. I indicated with my hands and stumbled with my words over a sort of, “And let’s just slide these down and slip you into a gown.” The elderly man looked at me and said, “No, I want you to say it!” Startled and surrounded by my colleagues, I asked “Sir, what exactly would you like me to say?” “I want you to ask me to take my pants off, D#$% it! It’s not every day I get to hear a pretty lady like you say those words!!!”

One more to hold you over.

As I walked into the room of a “frequent flier” with a known extensive drug history, I was greeted by the expected, “You might as well call the experts, I have no veins and I’m a very hard stick!!!” If I had a nickle for every time I hear that…. As always, I reassured the patient that if I did not see anything, I would not attempt but instead find someone else. As it was not an emergency situation, this was appropriate. The patient wanted to know my credentials so I shared them with her and emphasized my internship with phlebotomy. This seemed to sincerely satisfy her. Wait, before I go any further it is imperative for the reader to understand my angle...well, view. This is a 300+ pound woman covered in scar tissue from years of drug abuse to her body. There is a strong odor in the room and on closer examination a white something oozes from her skin folds. I stop examining as I am about to get up close and personal and need to focus on tasks. Returning to the story, she became excited as she realized we were both on the upper echelon of establishing intravenous access. Before I could pull the curtain, she enthusiastically threw her gown over one shoulder, then followed that with flinging her rather well endowed left breast over and strained to point out one lonely vein no longer hidden by the mass of tissue. After a brief moment of shock, I realized how impressively well this woman new her body. I asked if she would mind if I introduced myself and listened to her lungs first, then proceeded to start the IV-exactly where she said. Sure enough, a great IV was established and the patient was happy. One thing I have learned in my profession is to listen to the patient.

A little dose of humor never hurt any profession. In one where the awkward and raw humanity is often on display and being carefully scrutinized, it is wonderful to have the moments like this where the tension is briefly released.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Bigger Plan

I live in a beautiful world full of marvels of science. This world offers so much opportunity and adventure for those willing to pursue it. This world reflects the creativity and wisdom of a being far beyond anything we could imagine. There is one problem in all of this. This world is full of humans.

I can't count the number of people I hear regularly making blanket statements like, "I don't trust anybody-I've been hurt too many times." A friend once told me in regards to why he never returned to the church, "It's full of hypocrites. I don't want to be associated with them." While there is some truth to these statements, I always laugh a little to myself-not because I have never experienced their emotions, but because it is such a sweeping statement and in my opinion, a cop out. Do you stop shopping at Walmart because they hire people with criminal records? Do you not eat at Longhorn steakhouse because of those hypocrites??

The bottom line is that we are all human. A quote from an unknown author says, "The worst regret we have in life is not for the wrong things we did, but for the thousand of right things we did for the wrong people." You could change that last part from "people" to "person".Our purpose in life is so much greater than simply reacting to other people and their actions. We have the power to trail-blaze and make our decisions based on something much deeper than a fallible human being. 

The "Greater Purpose" is where I obtain my strength. If I live in the moment, only existing for each day and my life on this earth, what is the point of my life? Here is an example of this concept. I have a friend who went to see the movie The Patriot (when it was first released). My friend got to the theater early, got her snacks, and walked in to find her seat. As she walked in, she noticed the place was packed and it seemed they had already started the movie. She quickly and rather awkwardly found a seat and sat down thinking that she had somehow missed a few minutes but would figure out the few missing pieces. She began to watch a very dramatic scene where Mel Gibson hugs and kisses his family goodbye, says goodbye to a silent little girl who pulls away, then sadly mounts his horse and begins to ride off to war. Suddenly the little girl runs after him yelling, "Poppa, please don't go! I'll say anything, just don't go!" At this point, my friend noticed the emotional audience and climactic music and realized there was more to this than the kid being upset that her dad was leaving. She pulled out her ticket stub and realized she was in the wrong theater completely. 

The point of this example is this, many of us live our life trying to figure things out and "catch up" to what the people around us are doing. We struggle to find our niche of people and sometimes don't even realized our unrealistic expectations of them. We are confused in expecting our life to be the purpose instead of realizing our little "scene" of life is part of a much bigger plan. We make our decisions based on our own future, instead of living for a greater future and purpose that was designed by an intelligent creator. This topic strains me as I am a person of strong emotion (blame it on the Italian side) and can easily be caught up in enjoying the distractions of life instead of living beyond myself.

Matthew 6 says, "19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 

Nothing in this life is forever. The people in this life are human. Make your decisions based on the eternal, not the temporary or the windshield view. Someone else is in control and has the bird's eye view from the sky. He even loved us enough to leave instructions on how to handle the things we don't understand or the things that hurt us.  As long as you know this, you can be happy and live life to the fullest despite the "hypocrites" surrounding you. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moving On

Life is full of good and bad times. It is part of the full experience of life for the good and the bad to joust for our experiences. At times we put all of our hope in something good, just to watch it slowly turn to something bad....and sometimes something worse. 

Moving on from our experiences is necessary in order to continue to grow. The purpose of experience (the good and bad of life) is to learn and grow from them, not to dwell on them. If an athlete were to suddenly stop training for an event and begin to reflect on all of the hard times and struggles in which he had to push himself through pain; if he were to continue to do so and never return to his training, what good would come of all of his hard work? In the same light, if a Captain in the army celebrated his promotion and continued to do so but never tried to excel beyond the rank of Captain, what good would it be? He would never reach his potential.

Anyone who has lived long enough could tell you that moving on is not an easy thing to do. Unplanned change is not easy. In my childish mind, I imagine change in the form of a story. There is a beaver who spends a year building an enormous dam with his friends for their families. They develop tunnels on the inside and outside and paths through the woods. They settle and become accustomed to their beautiful new place. One day a storm blows in and it begins to rain. That one day turns into a week. Suddenly the beavers world is flooded and there is no dry land. He watches as everything he worked for is flushed downstream. As the floods reveal the emptiness, he is in despair. He must rebuild. 

That is a silly and very simplistic illustration, but the point is just as simple. We can despair about the past and what we have lost, or we can take the things that we have learned and apply them to make our next experiences even better. 

These are all nice things, in theory, but how does one begin the painful process of starting new? I read a quote today that said, "Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about your Joys." To me, this hits the nail on the head. This is the starting point. So many people live in the past and focus on the negative or what they have lost. They refuse to let go of the things that once defined them; things that now serve as reminders of a different life. With life change, a certain amount of processing must be done. Verbal expression is one way to process, but it is important to do so and move on. Process the past, then re-calibrate your sites (or focus) to a new target and future. 

Philippians 3:13-14 shares encouragement from Paul (rephrased), "I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." Paul shares with us the way that he gets through his hard times. He looks forward to what Christ has in store for him. The most amazing thing about looking at what God has is that He planned it all out and therefore knows what is ahead. He is like the helicopter pilot in the sky who is guiding the police on a high-speed chase. He can see backed up traffic, dead ends, obstacles in the street, and where the officer needs to go. If the cop decides to do his own thing, well the results will not be the same. If he looks around as he drives through a dark alley and thinks, "this isn't where I should be, I want to go a different way" he is doomed because he cannot see the whole picture. In the same way, God has something planned for our lives, the goal or the target. He has a reason for taking us through the dark times and it is not so that we can stay stuck in them. After the storms are the most beautiful rainbows, but if we keep running back and following the storm, we will miss the blessing of the rainbow.

I want to encourage you all, but this devotion was more for me. God has been teaching me so much and I have so much to learn. This blog is an outlet-something to force me to sort my thoughts and make cohesive conclusions from them. I truly hope it is a blessing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tried and True

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."

Life. To truly and fully live and embrace each moment. 
Is it possible to do this and never get hurt?


Marines. Wounded Warriors. No longer living life as complete due to their new injuries???
I use Marines because they are notorious bullet catchers and I have taken care of two this last week. Their stories are used with permission.

This is a broad gentleman with a shaved head and features reminiscent of Bruce Willis. He has the same stern look, coupled with the smile lines affectionately known as "Crow's Feet".
The demeanor of the career Marine in the Infantry is different than that of any other service member. They don't smile as much. They skip much of the day to day "Courteous" body language. They have seen the life and death struggle and see no point in facades or politically correct mannerisms. They are sometimes caught in action and exploited by the media for this, however they remain some of the elite in bravery because they go in and sign up, not just knowing that they could get blown up, but expecting it. They wear a dog tag in their boot in case they are suddenly in pieces. They live prepared.

*Disclaimer: Infantry is not the only branch that matches these descriptions, however, it is more well known as high risk*

As I began to care for my patient, as he began to trust me as a nurse who cared for him as a patient and a person, he began to open up. He was injured on a foot patrol in Afghanistan a few years ago. He described to me, "I remember the blast and thinking...'I didn't know I could fly'. Then I remember doing a head count as the dust began to settle. I started yelling at my men to set up a perimeter as I tried to get up. I remember getting mad at myself  because I couldn't get to my feet and didn't know why. I remember as the dust began to clear, looking in the distance and seeing my leg-over there. I thought, 'Hmm that's interesting.' That's when my sniper tackled me and began throwing tourniquets on every part of my body. I remember hearing two sucking noises and looking down at the trauma to my chest and abdomen. I was later told it was my lungs. They had 'popped'. I remember being carried out and as soon as I was in the medevac a nurse hit me with a shot. Then I woke up in the hospital." The extent of his injuries: left leg amputated above the knee, right leg damaged by shrapnel and burns, reproductive organs and lower part of stomach lost, both lungs popped from inside out, body split open all the way to sternum, left forearm and left hand shredded to the bone, both ear drums popped and most of his teeth shattered, mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.

This man sat before me with a will to live stronger than any I had seen. He told me he had died several times but they brought him back. He cracked jokes to lighten the mood. Once as I was leaving the room, I asked I could get him anything. His reply, "Another leg?" I replied, "Hmm. I think you have a few inches on me-mine wouldn't work, but I will check the storeroom." Continuing the banter he said, "No way, you are pretty big." Boy did I tear that one up. With a raised eyebrow I said, "Oh really?? Well some of us have to lift weights regularly in order to push big boys around in stretchers." As he attempted to dig himself out of the hole, I reassured him that I don't take things personally. His efforts of making things better included things like "Amazon...but not in a bad way" and "Wonderwoman"...but I was definitely not letting him off. I find that with these guys, people look at them and pity them but they don't want that. Many of the amputees are almost completely independent. They want to continue life as it was before, as much as possible. I try to look at them with respect and treat them like a person with a soul. If the opportunity presents, I will definitely make jokes as I would for any of my patients. Laughter is healing and chips away at an awful cloud of despair that many of these guys can fall under. 

To conclude for now, and back to my original question, "Is it possible to live life and never get hurt?" Yes, but are you really living life? This man knew what he was getting into. He knew the possibilities and yet he signed up to protect our freedom. As he lay in the stretcher, he said,"All us injured guys, we just want to go back to our men. We want to get back out there to what we were doing." He has lost some major parts of him, but his spirit is resilient. Life has been hard to him, but he has chosen the higher road. He currently travels around the country on a referral basis to spend a week at a time with other Marines struggling with their injuries of war. He also works with Troops First Foundation, an organization founded by former pro golfer, David Feherty. Troops First strives to provide meaningful assistance to the wounded military veterans of OIF/OEF. Despite the new physical limitations, he travels around the country helping, encouraging, and educating. He is living proof that the best way to get over your own problems and despair is to get your eyes off of yourself and help or encourage someone else.

In the several hours I cared for him, there were a couple of times I saw those crow's feet emerge in the light of a genuine smile. Most likely I will go into a file cabinet of his mind as 'just another nurse'. It is easy when you have had 49 surgeries. He, however, made an impression on me-something that I cannot simply forget. 

Remember, no matter what your struggles are there is always somebody worse off. Use them as kindling to light your fire of perseverance. Seek to live life fully and completely. Pain is a part of it, but embrace the hurt and learn from it. To summarize a quote I heard this week, "Bitterness and hate are like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die." You can never get life or time back. Don't waste them in despair, look to the future. God has greatness planned for you, if you will only cast aside your problems and stop fearing your potential. Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.