Friday, November 25, 2016

Foolishly Called Love

Love is an action, not an emotion.

   Loving people is hard. There are good people and bad people, selfish people and kind people, people who have everything going for them and will never do anything for you and people who just need someone to show them love.

  God does not expect us to love people on our own. Christ set an example of what it means to love one another. Our job is merely to tap into Christ's strength and to love one another using that example.

 The story of Desmond Doss at Hacksaw Ridge during World War 2 is a story of love. Doss had a strong relationship with God and his church and a conviction that he was not supposed to use a weapon. He also felt a strong call to support the war effort as a "non-combatant". Doss was ridiculed by his fellow soldiers and his commanding officers and was put through many trials including an attempt to "Section 8" discharge him on grounds of mental instability. His charges were dropped and he was labeled a "Conscientious Objector" and sent off to war. At the tender age of seventeen, Doss and his men deployed. In April of 1945, they found themselves on Okinawa in a battle referred to as the deadliest in the Pacific Theater during WW2. The Japanese were embedded into the small island and for the Americans to even get to them they had to scale a thirty foot ridge. After a particularly bloody counterattack by the Japanese, Doss' entire battalion retreated down the side of the ridge. Doss, however, stayed and felt the God was leading him to do so. He scurried around the rugged and bloodied battlefield, ducking Japanese patrols who were finishing off wounded soldiers and trying to beat them to his men. The men he found who were still alive would be treated and lowered down the ridge. Working through the night and under gunfire, Doss' 150lb frame was able to retrieve 75 wounded men, drag them through the destroyed terrain, and lower them down the side of the ridge. Doss said of the feat, "I just kept praying, 'Lord help me get one more. Just one more'." This was certainly a supernatural feat and one that earned Doss the first Medal of Honor awarded to a conscientious objector. Doss was eighteen at the time.

True and pure love knows no age. It knows no circumstances. It is stirred up inside of us after experiencing God pouring it out on us and it is what we are able to turn around and pour on others. Only when it is a reflection of God's example is it true love.

1 Corinthians 13 describes the many attributes of love:

  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love is not jealous
  • Love does not brag
  • Love is not arrogant
  • Love does not act unbecomingly
  • Love does not seek its own
  • Love is not provoked
  • Love does not rejoice in the failure of others
  • Love rejoices with truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
Those are deep. I will be exploring the individuality of each of these on my own time but considering each of these attributes can become overwhelming. Instead, consider what Christ would do in the individual circumstance. If ready to fine-tune your love, then do so but do not try to tackle the entire list when beginning. Small, consistent steps are what it takes. God knows our hearts and if we are truly seeking to love like Him, He will help us.

I waited a long time to tell a man "I love you" and when I finally did, I was disappointed. I had forgotten the reason I had waited so long and in so doing had forgotten the actual meaning of the word "love". To truly love someone comes with no chance of disappointment. Do you think Christ is truly disappointed in our imperfect love? Not truly so because He knew that He was getting imperfect lovers and thus expected imperfect love. 

To return to the story of Doss, he was young and in many ways simple, almost childlike. Captains, Majors, and even Generals would look on him and scoff at his "ignorance" and attempt to talk him out of the war. His fellow soldiers berated him and made life as difficult as possible. The difference that allowed Doss to perform the supernatural was that he loved God and truly understood loving his fellow man. He did not need a degree from West Point to be able to love his brother. The best love we could ever afford to another would be simple and childlike; knowing and trusting that our Father is the biggest and the strongest guy out there and will always look out for us!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dissapointed in God

Pity party. We all do it at some point. We hear how well our friends are doing or see the posts on Facebook and comparing our struggles begin to question if God really is paying attention to us. It's ok, even the best of us do it. Jesus said of John, "among those born of women, there is none greater than he". Yet even this "Hero" questioned God. When John was arrested and sitting in jail and hearing of how Jesus was healing complete strangers yet not doing anything to help His own cousin out of jail, John began to wonder. John could only see the jail cell in front of him. He didn't have social media to update him on Jesus' whereabouts and as he sat there thinking about his potential being wasted in a jail cell, he began to wonder if his whole life of preparing the people for Jesus had been wrong. The more he wondered, the more upset he became so he sent Jesus a message asking if He really was the Messiah.

Jesus could have responded in an offended or ungracious way, but He did not. He put Himself in John's position and told the messengers to update John on the wonderful miracles Jesus was doing. At the end of his message to them, Jesus said something that I find incredible. He said, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me." 

Step back and think about that statement. Jesus was saying that he could be a hinderance to others who are trying to do what God would have them do. Essentially that He could "get in the way" of their serving God. How is that possible?? 

Andy Stanley put it like this, "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you. Proof of how God feels about you is His Son given for you on the cross." We have all heard those people who talk about the bad circumstances in our lives meaning that we must be in sin, but that is not the case. We don't always get to understand the bigger picture and we shouldn't use that as an excuse to turn away. When God is silent, it doesn't mean that He is absent or doesn't care. It just means that it is time for us to reflect on the goodness that He has done in the past in our life. 

Jesus says, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me". Another version says "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me". WE are that blessed! We are called BLESSED when we are consistent with God in spite of our circumstances and what appears to be God's absence. 

We each have trials to face, but how will we respond? "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you". 

Some of the best advice I have ever gotten from my mother was to "get out of the way, it's not about you." I came to her with my hurt and my pain. I had CLEARLY been wronged and was upset. Momma listened to me pour out my heart, she did the verbal hug that showed me love but did not feed my pain, then said "Sweetheart, I understand you hurt and are upset, but there is a bigger picture. You need to stop making it all about you. If you are able to get out of the way and realize the bigger picture, you will not be as personally hurt." Disappointment stems from expectation. Expectations from humans ALWAYS have the potential to be let down. God's faithfulness, however, will never disappoint.  

Two things to remember:
"Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you."

"Stop making it all about you."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Busy schedules run our lives. In our society, being idle is looked down upon and staying "insanely busy" is applauded. "You must be someone really important to have so many demands on your time" is part of the logic. We've all heard the phrase, "Well don't just stand there, do something" but why do we think so negatively on just standing there?

I have recently taken a job in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a summer position and afterwards, I will return to the reality of not living at the beach and so close to the vast and incredible ocean. This is a less commercialized area with many opportunities for spending time alone in nature. After living in D.C., it is a welcome change.

The most incredible part about this experience though is the intentional simplification I am going through. Due to chronic allergies worsening, I have cut out gluten, dairy, and almost all refined sugar to see if my health improves. I have downsized and gotten rid of my tv. I pulled out the beautiful guitar I have never made time to use and the camera I have always wanted to learn. The books I've never read are being dusted off. The quiet time with God is recharging. The phone is being left random places and social media experiences more neglect.

I recently read, "Sometimes individuals or churches are so busy carrying out plans they think will help achieve God's purposes that they don't bother to find out what He actually wants" (Experiencing God). It's like when a child attempts to help a parent but ends up making a bigger mess. Sometimes it is healthier for a relationship to go slow and not necessarily "do" things all of the time but step back and listen and experience the lack of doing something.

I am at fault for allowing lots of extra "noise" to cloud out situations and blind me to what is happening before my eyes. The other night I was helping with a patient who was rapidly declining. As I am new to this facility, I am still learning to recognize the different equipment they use. Their crash cart is much different looking than most I have worked with and as I called out and began to go get the crash cart in the place it normally was, I rushed right by the CRASH CART! My coworker thankfully re-routed me and embarrassed I pulled it into the room. The problem was not that I didn't have good intentions, the problem was that I hadn't trained myself well enough on the subtle things (like the colors of the cart) and I didn't pause and get enough situational awareness.

As Christians, we have to be careful to not get caught up in the tasks and visible, extraordinary experiences and miss the entire point of getting closer to God. Many people have experienced a loved one who doesn't seem to just stop and listen to what you are saying and continues to fail to get your point. I wonder how often God feels that way about us. Psalm 37:7 says, "Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him: Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way." Essentially David is saying, "Stop and just relax in who God is and what He is doing and stop comparing yourself and trying to keep up with those around you!" Social media allows us to see what everyone that we have ever made contact with and decided to be "friends" with is up to. It often provides us a terrible opportunity for comparison of our lives with the perceived lives of others. This is all for now. Off to the beach!

A Modern Virtuous Woman

A note directed at women.

Have you ever considered how archaic the Proverbs 31 passage is? Do you hear that chapter and, assuming you were raised in a Christian environment, immediately picture long dresses, turtlenecks, poofy hair with excessive hairspray, hymn books, cafeterias with endless potluck clean-ups, and women who are reserved and obedient to their husbands??? Well, the ER nurse writing this tends to speak her mind-appropriate or not. That is often the image I have struggled with.

Proverbs 31 was always the Martha Stewart, picture-perfect woman. But nothing that was attainable for the wild-child in me. I like to play in the dirt and compete with the boys in sports and speak my mind and jump on a horse in jeans. Long dresses and skirts are optional, but often not activity appropriate.

Recently I was reading a book that was describing giving over the "pen" of your love story to God. The author was suggesting allowing the one who created you to be in charge of orchestrating your meeting with the one who was created to be with you. The book spoke of young women who had experienced heartbreak after giving themselves in every way except physically to a man, then finally giving themselves physically and his leaving shortly after. They were crushed because they had stayed "pure" for so long.

I think we need to reconsider this idea of purity and the Proverbs 31 woman. As I celebrate another birthday, I am reconsidering a part of my approach to dating. I put so much into relationships that when they end, I have to take a break in order to recharge my heart. I joke about the "break-up diet" which is basically a heart too broken and sick to even desire food. It has worked like a charm now twice. The amount of energy and effort that I put into my relationships coupled with the pain of the heartbreak afterwards-well I just wonder if it is how God intended things to be. People say you have to try things out or you never live, but I don't think God intended for our hearts to be broken multiple times. I think this is a result of us seeking something instead of preparing ourselves for it and allowing God to bring it to us.

Back to the Proverbs 31 woman. What is described in the chapter is not some meek, mild woman who stays at home and obeys her husband. She is a force to be reckoned with. She goes out and buys land with the utmost wisdom and confidence. She makes the name of her husband better, but does not hide behind his name. She is motherly and provides a loving, nurturing household for her children and for those connected to her household. She teaches others and shares her wisdom and wealth. She is not lazy, but disciplined. She is clever and knows how to properly and wisely manage money. She is beautiful because of what is inside of her.

We spend so much time working on the outward appearance and neglecting the heart. We fail to realize that when we teach the importance of physical purity, emotional purity should be right along with it. Our hearts are just as important as our bodies and if we are throwing them around at whatever guy suits our current "situation" in life, we will have some pretty raw and damaged meat left when the man of our dreams shows up. We are to guard our hearts and our purity and surround ourselves with people who are going to help do the same. Don't get me wrong, everyone wants to be loved and feel that companionship need satisfied, but until we learn to be completely at peace with ourselves and the Lover and Creator of our soul, we will be searching for someone to "ground" us and constantly trying to suck our security from a mere human. Picture sandstone trying to provide the foundation for a bank. That is foolishness because it is so easily broken apart. Now imagine a billionaire who has spent 20 years of his life growing his wealth and carefully investing. Imagine him looking at places to store his money and choosing a location built on sandstone over one built on titanium. That is what we do when we chose man over God. Additionally we put an unfair pressure on the one we supposedly "love" to give us peace instead of obtaining it on our own.

Consider the Proverbs 31 woman again. She did not learn all of these impressive trades from her husband and the description is not of what he does for her, but what she is capable of on her own. He is mentioned as being better because of her. As a woman, I want the man I am with someday to be better because of the woman I have spent my time becoming. I don't want him stuck dealing with the ghosts of relationships past, but instead blessed because of the hard work I have put into my relationship with God and developing myself.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Another World

Travel Nursing.

I never honestly thought it would catch on. I like continuity and a home. Traveling and living out of a suitcase is a temporary thrill, but not a lifestyle I thought I would enjoy.

Duke gave me exactly what I wanted. A swift kick in the seat. It reminded me how much I don't know and have yet to learn. Although I have enjoyed the experience, another opportunity presented itself and I find myself in a dream on an island.

It's the most bizarre and surreal experience ever as I never expected it to come true. I am still within driving distance of several large cities, but I am located on an island and working as an ER nurse on an island. One of my dreams is to learn how to surf. The Outer Banks has some of the best surfing on the East Coast.

There were several obstacles in my taking the position. First there was the barn and family that I have come to love and appreciate in the Durham area. I wasn't ready to give up such a wonderful place. Second was the cost of living on an island and knowing whether or not my finances could withstand a move like this. Both were taken care of. Finally I had to find a place to live. A cottage was offered to me and though it is very simple, how much do you actually need when you live at the beach??

Most travel nurses take a week or more of vacation between assignments as it gives them time to recover, visit family, relocate, and settle in to a new location. Because of my dad's wedding and a family reunion, I was unable to take any time. I worked one of my hardest shifts at Duke on a Wednesday night and was orienting to the Outer Banks on Monday. Wednesday night I am assisting forensics, dealing with Bloods and Crips, treating gunshot wounds and Level 1 traumas, and dealing with a psychiatric patient who spit on me, called me obscene names, and threatened to do henious crimes to the females in my family. Monday I am assisting in the removal of a fishook in a finger, listening to a patient explain how he thinks his abdominal pain is due to his recent increase in fishing and holding the pole in the same location on his stomach, and learning how to treat stingray and jellyfish attacks with hot water, vinegar, and meat tenderizer. The contrast was ridiculous.

Being at the beach is incredible. The cottage I am renting has had a few hiccups including getting me super sick from a minor mold outbreak in the shower. I miss the farm and the lack of humans, but we aren't quite in tourist season yet and the place is still pretty quiet. There are several extremely quaint coffee shops which provide perfect places to work. The locals are super friendly and several of my coworkers have offered to help teach me how to surf. There are other options such as Kite boarding in the sound, parasailing off dunes (OBX has some of the biggest dunes in the US), of course boating and fishing, then there it the driving on the beach. I so want to rent a vehicle and drive the entire extent of the islands. The most Northern island is Corolla and has wild ponies (similar to those of Chincoteague). Several spots of the islands require a ferry to get to the next.

My coworkers are great. They have been super helpful and are excited to have more help for the summer. One of the travel nurses from Duke-the one who got me the job-lives a couple blocks from me and has been extremely helpful as well. So far so good.

Flying home for Dad's wedding and the McLarty family reunion. Should be a big adventure.

Cultivating Peace

   The ocean leaves me breathless. It's like the first time the one you've been admiring from afar verbally invites you into banter; like the first time he reaches for your hand as you walk side by side; like the first kiss that leaves your knees weak and throws off your center of gravity. The ocean takes the breath right out of my lungs particularly when illuminated with a rising or setting sun. I am rubbish with any sort of instrument used to produce art with a medium on paper or canvas. I've never had good handwriting and have often surprised others with the crude and jagged edges of my efforts at communicating on paper. To imagine painting something as fantastic as the murals I am privileged to witness in the early hours of the morning is next to impossible for me but to imagine creating them from nothing and having the colors, lines, and continually changing hues look different each morning-our Creator is truly quite the romanitc!
   The most incredible view I have experienced to date was watching the full moon set from the beach and the gigantic red-orange hues of the sun paint the sky as they chased away the huge, white ball of cheese.
   C.S. Lewis said, "Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." I wonder how often we do just that. How often we allow our circumstances to dictate our happiness. As I try to figure out my next move in life, I can't imagine a place where I could be as at peace in my soul as I am now-however that is the wrong way to look at things. I dread the end of summer because it means I will leave this beautiful ocean. The peace I have reached in my heart of hearts is indescribable. God has taken my relationship with Him and continued to bless my desire to know Him better. That being said, I don't want my peace to be based on my location in life, circumstances, or people. I have seen myself completly lost and in love in a relationship with another person and I have now seen myself completely lost and in love with God. The latter of these is much more stable and confident because only God cant "steady my heart" and never leave. Any person that I would count on to do that would be unable to guarantee that circumstances would always allow them to be present for such a huge task. Even the most well-meaning of humans are still just that-human. They will not be around forever and thus cannot be counted on to complete such a task. My task now is to promote growth and sustain that internal peace that does not allow things around me to "ruffle my feathers". Everyone goes through difficult things in a day. The difference is how you respond. We all get the chance to respond to our difficulties. Even running from them is a response. Think about something about which you are completely confident. Something simple that you have done a million times. Now imagine being able to reproduce that confidence in any situation you face. I want to find that. I want the solid confidence of the Creator and lover of my soul to allow me to respond with grace and ease to any situation. Any task involving customer service allows the opportunity to respond with patience and ease. You must maintain self-control from your core. Pull from that inner-peace that you are continually cultivating and don't neglect to work on it each day. That kind of discipline doesn't happen overnight.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Like the Sun

This morning I I work early. I am currently in the Outer Banks North Carolina. I am searching for my next home well I take a summer assignment at the beach. The excitement in my heart is overwhelming and I've been unable to sleep more than a couple hours last several nights.

Morning I rushed off to the ocean to try to catch my first true North Carolina sunrise. I described it as a true sunrise because it is only miles Ocean hindering my view of the Sun. Of course there is a cloud cover that will get in the way from time to time but the east Coast son rises are the most raw.

I sat on the boardwalk snuggled up with my blanket, my cup of almost too strong coffee and my book I watched the cloud cover with anticipation. The fluffy abyss attempted to block out the beautiful son guys but come she's of the brilliant Orange show through. Even with the clouds blocking so radiance the crests of the waves picked up a pink-tinged pathway towards a brilliant fireball tucked in its seams.

I watched the furious waves dash towards the sand dunes, threatening to destroy their existence but never quite making it. I thought about the waves feeding off the moon and running from the sun; the clouds as they attempted to smother any signs of its life-giving rays. All I could think about was the pick crested waves and the obvious increase in daylight. The forces of the world's natural state could not block out the sun.

How I long to live my life in many ways as the sun. Something that brings life and reveals beauty. Something that doesn't even have to be seen to be experienced and make a difference. The sun is an incredibly powerful source of energy. It reflects an incredibly powerful Creator.

Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light so shine before men; that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lessons From Elders

Can someone please explain the word "Love"? The English language really knows how to diminish the value of emotions vs commitments-particularly when it comes to this word. We throw the word around with food, style, acquaintances, lovers, children, and even our spouses. Although I am fiercely passionate about words and writing, this word has always tripped me up. Until my early 20s, it was sacred to me and only used on my closest of female friends and family. I told my mother one day, "I'm never telling a boy I love him until I'm 100% sure we are getting married!" I thought I had it all figured out. My mother responded with her typical, annoyingly accurate wisdom. She said, "Well if you truly do love someone, why would you ever hold back the blessing of sharing that knowledge with them?Why would you hold back your love from them?" I could argue that, well they should know based on my actions. But some people NEED to be told. That being said, I return to the question. WHAT is LOVE?

I had the privilege of witnessing love last night. This story is shared with permission. 

Fifty-seven years ago, a twenty year old boy in the Navy was stationed in Alaska. One of his buddies had a picture of a cousin on the wall, a beautiful, ninety-five pound girl with the blush of youth on her cheeks and curls from those old-fashioned rollers in her hair. He describes her as "just the purtiest thing I ever saw!" The boy asked the cousin for her mailing address and began to write to her. The girl was fifteen at the time and with her parents' blessing, they began corresponding. For a solid year they wrote from thousands of miles apart without meeting in person. He proposed in one of the letters and she recounts, "I didn't answer him because I wanted to make sure he was who he seemed to be." 

A year after their correspondence began, the boy traveled across country to meet the "girl of his dreams". He called when he was about thirty minutes away and she, not knowing he was coming, began to panic as her hair was in rollers and she was in no way "presentable". She ran to her mother who told her, "If he is the right man for you, he will love you no matter what!" When they met, he greeted her with a big hug and kiss, not even noticing the bobby pinned curlers. The next day, he picked her up from school (high school). She was sixteen at the time. When they arrived at her home, he got down on one knee and pulled out an engagement ring. With her parents' blessing, they were married three months later.

The couple I met, was a far cry from the budding youngsters of 57 years ago. She had put on some weight ("she keeps just giving me more to love!" is how he described it) and was no longer able to walk. He was hunched over a bit more and moving a bit slower. Both had sun-weathered faces. Both shared four children, twenty-something grandchildren, and a host of great-grandchildren. Both had an unmistakable twinkle in their eye and the most genuine smiles on their faces. They shared with me stories from their 56 years of marriage and their loved spilled over on everyone in the room. She had been ill and he had been caring for her. I watched as he gently wiped the sweat from her brow and pined over here as if she was the most precious of flower in a garden. He had carefully documented her medical history and was patiently available any time one of us pesky medical people had another question for them. Both were completely in love with one another. 

I asked them, what was their secret? What one piece of advice could they give me? Both said simultaneously, "Communication, giving each other space, and not always having to be right." Throughout my time with them, both took turns describing the other in a positive light. They had spent years becoming experts on the positive traits of one another and had encouraged growth in one another by framing and displaying those.

This was a pure form of love. It was an old-fashioned form, but the basic principals can apply-not just to romantic relationships, but to others as well. 

1. Communication. Even when it's difficult. Hash it out.

2. Take breaks. Don't suffocate the person. You cannot miss them if you are always together.

3. You don't always have to be right. Get your pride out of the way and take the time to hear the other person's side.

Forgive me for grammatical errors-this has yet to be proofed but I am writing before I forget specific details. To be continued (and edited)...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Navigating the Titanic of Life

April 14, 1912. A day forever significant in history for being the day the Titanic struck an iceberg which lead to the deaths of over 1,500 people. The monstrous vessel celebrated the title of the fastest and most luxurious ship of it's day and was said to be "Unsinkable". It had the most modern technology available, multiple fail-safes built in, and the ability to communicate conditions with ships up to 400 miles away. On the day of the ship's sinking, five different messages were sent to warn the ship of icebergs. Coordinates were even included. The Captain received two of the ice warnings. The ship was also traveling faster than was considered safe for iceberg-infested waters. Several other ships in the water sent warnings to the Titanic but the warnings fell on deaf ears. These along with several other factors lead to the collision that cost the lives of so many innocent people.

God has left us the Bible, a living instruction manual with the ability to help us through any of the challenges we might face. Remember, the Bible is LIVING. I read one thing and get something out of it and you read the same thing and can get something completely different. It is like art, but not, because it is inspired by a God who wants to show you EXACTLY what you need to see. Instead of stabbing in the dark or pulling from your "life experience" to find your interpretation, He can show you exactly what you need. 

Second, He gives you the understanding to know to surround yourself with wise counselors. The Titanic had lots of modern technology, crew, and other ships to help the Captain with his decisions. Surround yourself with people of wisdom-a wisdom greater than themselves. Godly wisdom still exists, you just have to be willing to look for it. After you have established it, be sure to listen to the when the painful truth is shared. Ignoring the wise counsel of others can set you up for disaster.

Despite these safeguards, sometimes we still think we know better than God. For those situations, God is still there. He gets the deal. He gave us a free will and expects us to sometimes take liberties that contradict His intention for our lives. Does it surprise Him, no! He's already prepared to help us up when we fall.

Isaiah 43:1 & 2
"But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you."

These verses don't specify if you stumbled into the fire, jumped into the fire, were just playing with the fire, or the fire was something God allowed to bring you closer to Him. The point is, He is RIGHT THERE WITH YOU! He doesn't let you go through your struggles in life alone. The failure is when we chose to wallow in our problems. Problems don't improve if we decide to distract ourselves during the storms.
It's like being on a river in a canoe and at the first sign of rapids you respond by lying down in the bottom of the boat. Navigate through that crap! Don't hide! God's got your back and He's got way more experience! Get close to Him and start looking at the directions He left you! We have Google. It's fantastic! Try it. "what Bible says about depression, laziness, heartache, etc" 

My encouragement today is more for my own ears than anyone else's. I am struggling. Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. My mind wanders constantly to where it shouldn't be and I want to just hide in bed and wallow. Despite my mind closing in on me, God is here whispering in a still small voice. He wants to comfort. He loves and cherishes each of His children and when we hurt, He hurts. He can absorb the pain, but not if we don't let Him in. I can sit on the bathroom floor of my mind with the door locked and my face in my hands, or I can open it and let Him flood my soul with His love. Be encouraged today.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


The word "fear" in this verse can be replaced with the word "respected". The word was used in the Hebrew and Greek to mean respected or revered. 

God is teaching me so much about my heart. So much about my needs and my longings. So much about how desperately lost I am when I deny Him in my life. Someone close to me recently said something that rubbed me raw. "You walk around acting like you are this strong, independent woman, then you turn out to have all of these needs." Wow. Thanks for revealing my cards!

The truth is, this was completely correct. The strong, independent and confident woman... well that's a front. I have the heart of a little girl that has "adapted to her surroundings." I live in a man's world. In many ways I have suppressed the femininity that God gave us as women, in order to make myself more "marketable" and "acceptable". This is a separate issue-one I will not discuss today.

In addition to failing to embrace my feminine heart, I had also failed to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart with...God. I had tried and continue to fight trying to fill the spot with everything else. Money, friends, attention, fitness, a relationship, food, traveling...eventually all of those together should be able to fill in all the cracks and fulfill me, right??

My brain works with pictures, so here is a photo for you. It is a child's toy, something I grew up with. The green shape is much like a circle, but not exactly. My box and it's shapes were made of wood, therefore the shapes fit or they did not. In a rush, I would often try to fit the circle into the shape of the "apple" but it would never work. 

This is how our lives are. We were created. When you create something, it has a purpose. When it fails in it's purpose, it fails to reach it's maximum potential. The placement of a treadmill in your home can make you look more serious about fitness and can even serve as a great place to hang clothes, but it is not serving it's maximum potential-the purpose for which it was created. 

As men and women, we will never be the most effective if we are running from our purpose. Our purpose is found when we properly fill the hole in our heart. We all feel the hole. We all know our emptiness. We all long to feel completed and safe. Celebrity suicides should indicate to us that fame and money do not fill that emptiness. At some point in our life, we have to come to terms with the fact that no human or human-created thing can fill that gap. Only God can properly fulfill our needs. If we force that task on another person, it will drive them away because it is an unfair expectation. If we reply upon success, no amount will ever be adequate. We have to come to terms with our humanity-or forever remain unsatisfied. 

Sometimes in the ER I look around in the middle of some chaotic event and find the most peaceful person in the room. This is often one with the confidence stemming from years of experience and education. It doesn't matter how fast the driver was going, how mangled the body, how many times family screams at them, they know how to handle anything because they have found peace with life and death and their part in both. They realize that they cannot save everyone and  they can't make everyone happy, but whatever is going on outside does not change their reaction. 

This is how I want to live my life. The inner peace that God provides does not change. The things that God says do not change. God's love doesn't lessen and He is certainly never leaving. He gave us the gift of our heart which is a key to open up the stores of His love. We can either use the key for what it was intended, or try it on other locks and repeatedly feel the disappointment. When we use it to be filled by Him, we are able to love others without NEEDING them to fill some emptiness in our life. We can be free to TRULY love-with the kind that a parent gives a baby, expecting nothing in return. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

For The Family of Uncle Carlton-Nothing glamorous, just thoughts.

The impact of metal on metal. The unexpected jerk in a different direction. Glass shatters. A driver has disobeyed the laws of the road and collided with your vehicle. Fight or flight. Your body floods with adrenaline. Your mind briefly flashes like a "system reset". Then begins your reaction.

Life is going well. The holidays have wrapped up successfully, and family was together. Then you get the call. That person in your life. One of those beautiful, shining lights that you loved. The one who you could count on to be there and who was a gentle but influential soul. That person has gone to be with Jesus and your time with them on earth is through.

One of the coolest classes I took in High School was Physics. Learning about all of the different forces in the world that would need to be taken into account in order to accomplish something was fascinating. It opened my eyes to things that were out of my control but needed to be considered. The death of a loved one is like a traumatic event. You can never really know how it feels like or how you will react until it happens. As my great-grandmother said, "you are never really ready."

God has been reminding me of some serious "forces" lately. Today I broke down. I heard huge sobs escaping from my normally stoic self. Tears have very little validation when you are crying alone and there is no one to wipe them away. Wipe them away. I've heard that before, something in Revelation about God, Himself will forever wipe away tears someday when He restores His kingdom. Great! But what about us right now??

A very wise person once told me that God uses the valleys and the lowest times in our lives to teach us the biggest lessons. God drops these unexpected things in our lives, then gives us the free-will to react. I've reacted, then reacted again. I've responded and messed things up. Now I'm on my knees and He is teaching me that from the beginning, He was there and ready to help me through the pain and struggling.

My loved one was my Sweet, Uncle Carlton. He has fought long and hard with cancer. He has the "McLarty Spirit", full of adventure-wielding action often involving white-waters. I am certain he had so many more adventures planned, but his body was worn from fighting the forces beyond his control and his reaction was to peacefully embrace his family and prepare for heaven. He left a powerful legacy etched into the world and his family.

Today I got our of work and realized my family would be joined on the other side of the country to remember the life of my uncle and I would not. Not only was I exhausted from work and the recent valleys, but the flooding of emotions brought me to my knees. While down there, my sweet Momma called me. Despite the miles and miles between us, I felt her reach down and pull me up with her words. She wiped away the tears, teased me about my mascara smears, then pointed my eyes toward God. This is the same God that comforted Job in his sorrow. The same God who sacrificed His most precious Son. The same God who is sharing His heaven with my Uncle and myself someday. The same God who was waiting for me to turn towards him with my tears and show me the forces that I could not see.

Carlton is loved by so many and his life will be remembered today and so many days in the future. People all over the US will mourn his passing and smile with his memory.

Stories from the Shadows Part 1

It happens every single day in the ER. Multiple times in a trauma center. Why does it still get me?

Someday I hope to be numb to it. To be calloused to Death while still reaching out and comforting the loved ones in mourning.

He came in by EMS. He was noticeably ill, but nothing we don't see every day. We've had a ton of patients with pneumonia this winter and I've started just drawing blood cultures on everyone with any respiratory complaint.

I helped him transfer over. He looked over at me and smiled. His wife was with him. They'd been married years and she watched with a loving concern as we began to get him settled and ask questions. He could only respond with a "yes" or "no". According to her, he slept much longer than normal and hadn't been the same since she woke him up. He had dealt with a cough for weeks, but today he spiked a fever and after dialysis just wanted to sleep. A terrible sleet storm was raging outside and she thanked the EMS crew for helping them with a ride and being so kind.

My crew was great. It was like the "A" team. My girl from another area jumped in and in about 8 minutes we had him changed, lined and labbed with two sets of blood cultures, fluids hanging, EKG complete, straight cath'd, and charting done. His heart rate was a bit high and he had a slight fever, so we began a septic protocol and sent him to CT to clear the possibility of a problem in his head.

He returned, still smiling and as I rechecked his blood pressure, I noticed him just lean his head back and close his eyes, as if to rest. His wife was seated next to him, still watching with her sweet and loving eyes. I'll never forget the two of them. They both had peaceful, sweet eyes.

They were from up North and would come down every winter to spend it with their children in the Carolinas. Everyone was snowed in apparently and the family they had stayed with were out for the evening. His wife had chatted with me about the snow up North and how thankful they were to not be stuck in it.

He still appeared to be resting his eyes. His BP returned as 60/40. That can't be right. I rechecked. He only had one good arm. His other vitals hadn't changed, but again I got the same reading. The doc had come in to just say hi and we immediately kicked into action. Fluids were grabbed and started. A second IV was established. Respiratory therapy was notified to be on standby. A resuscitation room was reserved. His pressure continued to drop.

A note about blood pressure. You have to have it at a certain level in order to maintain perfusion to your brain. It's just part of life. It needs to be around 110-120/60-80 (people argue about exact numbers but this is a rough estimate).

His heart rate hadn't changed and he still had a pulse. As another nurse and I prep'd vasopressors, his breathing suddenly became more shallow and I noticed him becoming blue. We grabbed the bag and began ventilating him with a bag-valve-mask.

As soon as he had arrived, his wife had been asked about his "code status". Essentially, if something were to happen to where his condition would decline, would they want us to perform CPR and stick a tube in his lungs to breathe for him. She had been on the fence. As his condition declined, one of the Docs pulled her out in the hall and explained that she needed to make a decision. Green light. We were intubating.

He was quickly sedated, paralyzed, and intubated. We got great breath sounds and his blood pressure had begun to improve as a result of the medications. His HR was still fast but had remained unchanged and he still had a pulse. The decision to move him to the trauma bay was made and we began to roll.

As we began moving, suddenly his heart rate began to drop. It dropped so quickly to 60. By the time we were in resus, he was down to 40 and no longer had a pulse. CPR was initiated. Medications were given. We had nothing on the monitor that was sustaining life. His wife was present, watching the entire thing. We do that to make sure the loved ones know we are doing our best and trying everything. Also, we needed her to tell us when to stop. She called it. Time of Death, 2330.

Suddenly, there he lay. Blood coming out of his ET tube. Life slipping away from his body and the color slowly disappearing as rigor mortis set in. His wife muffled her sobs into her kleenex and held his hand closer to her chest as if to grasp some of the life slipping away.

It is heart-wrenching. I don't know how to describe any of the feelings. Mostly we supress them and hope they don't ever come out. Usually we box them up and distract ourselves with our families and friends while secretly begging God that we are never the one making that decision on the other side of the stretcher. Scrubs are like a shield that protect us while we deal with the tragedies of others. Unfortunately a part of caring for people is allowing yourself to empathize with them and to do so you must feel. Hence the obvious difference in scrubs and armor. We do carry a certain part of the pain and suffering of our patients and must figure out what to do with it or we will take it home for our families to deal with.

Nothing more to say. Often I process by writing. There was no happy ending to this story. Only a reminder of life being precious and more "practicing of medicine". One day maybe we will perfect it.