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Saturday, November 14, 2015

For such a time as this...

Today, in the midst of national terror,
local racial insensitivity,
deep hurt,
& rising fear
may we be reminded that we still have access to a God who is on the throne, constant, ever-present, and working all things for our good.

May we be reminded of the hope that tomorrow can be better,
and may we become a people that draws together in unity and love, doing something to make it so.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as we see the Day approaching." -Hebrews 10:23-25

Fear, you do not win. 
Terror & hysteria, you do not win. 
Hate, you. do. not. win. 

"For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." Hebrews 10:37-38

We will not shrink back.
We will join together & press on as a people of peace, a people of restoration, a people of mercy, a people of love, a people of joy, a people who know the Lord's heart and steward it to our brothers and sisters well. 

We see you, Satan. 

We see what you're trying to do, 
distracting us with "controversial" red cups, 
pitting us against the world and creating a divide, when those are the very people who need Jesus the most. 
We see you trying to release fear, hysteria, chaos, and pain into every corner of the earth, 
dividing Christians over homosexuality, race and gender, 
crowding our lives with meaningless things, 
and falsely uniting us through social media. 
We see you digging at deep wounds, bringing up past hurts, furthering brokenness. 

We see you. 

You've gotten our attention, and tricked us into giving you a platform through our fear that you do not deserve.  
You're clever, but you do not win. 
Today, right now, we turn our eyes back to the One who orders and authors all things, the peace-giver, and life-bringer: Jehovah Jireh. 

We will rise; 
we will join together in the physical, not just in the cyber; 
we will pray- actually pray; 
we will unify & not divide, 
& we. will. worship. 

When a servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. 
"Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
-2 Kings 6

Satan, you do not win, because, while we see you, 
we also see a God who is far bigger-
a God who's heart is for us, 
who's love is stronger, 
& who has hills full of horses and chariots of fire at the ready. 

Do not be afraid, friends.
Rather, let us join together, praying for our eyes to be opened to the plans of the Lord and how he wants to use us during this time in history. 

We were born for such a time as this.






Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reentry: the pictures I didn't take.

Written about a week ago, but still as true as ever: 

As I reenter American suburbia and try my hardest to not act like I'm miserably out of place and totally wrecked on the inside, I'm finding myself experiencing a little bit of reverse culture shock.

I close my eyes and see the faces of fifty orphaned kids laughing and playing,
or I see the colony girls that just wanted to hold my hands and walk,
or the faces of patients, of friends, of people I came to dearly love.

And then I open my eyes....
and I see excess and comfort and shallow and sadness.
I want to talk to people, but when conversations turn to television shows, or politics, or judging someone for something, or buying bigger and better I have to fight every bone in my body not to make a B-line for the bathroom as an excuse to escape. 
I'm afraid I'm a little jet-lagged, a little bit confused, often grumpy, becoming a little bitter, and entirely unsure of how to slip back in to this totally different world.

As I actively tried to be present in the moments of my time in India, I find that I have far fewer pictures than I'd like. Actually, that's not entirely true. I have plenty of pictures...but just not of the moments I most want to remember.
So, I'm fighting to remember them all, to not let them get lost in the onslaught of the American Dream that I'm once again surrounded by, and that's a lot more difficult to do when you don't have a visual reminder.

There are no pictures of the two oil-workers that I ran into on various legs of my travel journey, one of whom called me out of an hour-long check-in line at the airport, zipped me through the first-class line with him, and then paid for me to relax and eat in a lounge while we waited for our plane together.
And I couldn't take a picture of the six people that were all from southern Michigan waiting with me in an airport in Doha, Qatar, one of whom designed the very machine that kept my premature nephew alive while I was gone.
Click. A mental picture will have to suffice. What miracles! 

Or what about the drunk Hindu man on the plane that was easily 30 years my senior and yelling loudly at me in attempt get my number while we waited for the bathroom...because isn't that just what every girl wants? Who would want to forget that?
Click. I'm sure there's a lesson in that somewhere.

I couldn't whip out my camera for a picture when a woman sat chatting as though everything was normal, though I was looking at the end of her tibia that was coming out her heel; and I still so vividly remember the first few days of shock from the dramatic ulcers and complete lack of pain.
Click. Never will I forget that.

There's the medical cases that were once in a lifetime and so heartbreaking: elephantiasis, vitiligo, herpes zoster, leprosy, HIV/AIDs, a Bartholin's cyst turned ulcer, encephalitis, myocardial infarctions, dysentery, & so much more... 

There's all the little things: like the toenail that went shooting across the operating room and had everyone cracking up, the lizards that crawled on my walls at night, the monsoon rains & earth-shaking thunderstorms, the solitude & companionship, the never ending church services that I didn't understand a word of, the demands for kisses on the cheeks and piggyback rides, the weeding the grass with the kids on a Saturday, the attempt at homemade "cheesecake", seeing millions of people come to be cleansed in the Godavari River, teaching Annie what star tipping is, hanging out with the water buffalo and trying to milk them, the constant inquires about my diet from concerned mamas, and the list goes on...and on...and on.
Click. Click. Click. Click. 

And then there's the bigger things: like the evening one of the colony girls had gotten past security and showed up at my door, the gut-wrenching sobs that I pounded into the floor as the Lord unraveled me in so many ways, the deaths of patients who shouldn't have died, a personal stay at the hospital for a few days, the times I said no to the Lord and realized how disobedient my heart really was, the man that drowned his baby girl in a river, the joy-filled days spent with the kids at the orphanage & hostels, showing a newborn baby girl to her parents and watching them scowl because they wanted a boy, watching M. suffer day in and day out, the appreciation ceremony held in my honor when I deserved nothing of the sort, and the rainbow that surrounded the sun in a perfect circle.
Click. Ouch. Click. Beautiful! Click. That hurts. Click. I hate this. Click. I love this.   

With this and so much more burned into my eyelids when I close my eyes, I find myself caught in the place of not wanting to forget and the place of desperately needing to forget in order to press on, to do this life again. 

I don't know how you do that- stay & move on all at the same time. 
I'm unsure when the guilt of not being there ends or when the joy & purpose of this life resumes, but I patiently wait, & I desperately pray, & I often hide, & I consistently cling to the promise that God is good and that he does not forsake his children, no matter if they're Indian or American. 

****

Now for some of the pictures I did take: 





































Sunday, July 26, 2015

The leper's feet...

The women in the leprosy ward have broken me ten times over in these past six weeks. 
They love being admitted here. 
In fact, they come back with only minor wounds, trying to get admitted just to get back in on the fellowship and family of the other women.  
They are stunning, sweet, and gentle souls that have intrigued, challenged, and captivated me. They are beautiful- absolutely beautiful, my favorite smiles of the week.

Can the health-nerd in me give you a little bit of an education on leprosy?
Though I could talk about this for days, I promise to keep it short and sweet. 

Leprosy is a disease in which bacteria invade the body and affect the skin and peripheral nerves. There's a lot of medical talk that would explain it's disease process, but, essentially what you need to know is that it causes a slow and gradual loss of sensation in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. 
Patients literally lose their sensation of pain. 
That might sound ideal on the surface, 
but let me assure you that it is not. 

Pain is the body's natural warning sign. 
It lets the brain know, "Hey! Something's not right here. Protect yourself!"
Without it, you wouldn't know things like how much pressure to exert on a door handle when you want to open a door. 
You wouldn't be able to feel if you were being burned, or bit by a rat in your sleep, which is a real problem here. 
You wouldn't be able to  feel the grass under your feet, or another human holding your hand. 
And, in my opinion, worst of all: you'd have no idea how to walk properly. You wouldn't know how much pressure to put on your heel, or your toes, or anywhere for that matter. 

It's this problem- the walking one- that has filled the leprosy ward with patients. 
Without pain and sensation, their hands and feet develop wounds, which turn into ulcers, which turn into bigger ulcers, which turn into, well, you get the point. 

If they were to seek treatment for the wound at its beginning, then it would be an easy fix. 
But, the problem is twofold. They either don't see it until it gets out of control, or, more likely, they see it, but it doesn't hurt; it's not that bad yet.
So they keep walking. Keep doing what they're doing.
And the ulcer gets worse.

The ulcers deepen, get infected, and expand.  
Toes get worn off, or have to be surgically removed. 
(Side note : I actually cut someone's toe off during a surgery the other day. I'm still so unsure how to feel about that...)
Bones get exposed; muscles get displaced. 
Toes start pointing in different directions, and tibias start coming through heels. 

But, these ulcers don't form over night.
They take days, weeks, months, and-the worst ones-years to form.
They are created by a repetition of the same thing over a long period of time. 

One patient came in with an ulcer that had been forming for five years.
Five stinking years. 
As I stared at her ulcer I racked my brain, thinking, "Why didn't you get help!? This could have been prevented!"

Once the ulcers have gotten to a certain point, the patient can be admitted to the leprosy ward. 
It's here that they’re put on "bed rest" and their ulcers are cared for, debrided, cleaned out, bandaged, and protected; it's here that they receive the merciful care and support that they need, so that they can return to their daily life. 

In these last few weeks, I have come to a startling realization: 
I am the leper.

Walking around with selfishness,
judgement, self-righteousness, 
dignified pride, and vanity in my heart,
I'm numb to the ulcers and wounds that sin is creating.

I've heard the Lord point it out before, 
seen it’s symptoms in the past,
but it was easy to disguise, 
easy to self-medicate, 
to pretend they weren't there & forget, 
to keep walking, 
keep doing what I was doing.

And the ulcers get worse, 
the disease starts settling in deeper and deeper, 
creeping into new parts of my body, 
new parts of my life. 
Until finally, one day, it can't be hidden anymore. 
It rears it's ugly head and bites, 
& I begin to realize that I should have fixed that long ago,
should have seen the Physician five years back.

So here I am, 
back at the throne of his overflowing mercy, 
finding grace abundant, 
and forgiveness unending.  

Isn't that how it goes? 
On our feet one minute, 
on our knees the next. 

The good news, though, is this:
Mercy triumphs over judgment, every time. 
He doesn't scold or mock, 
doesn't rub our face in the messes that we've made. 
He doesn't cast us out or hold us at an arm's length, like people do to the lepers. 
He doesn't shame; He doesn't hold it over our head. 
He's not waiting for us to have our ten steps to recovery ready for presentation. 

He draws near and says, "Beloved, you are forgiven. Come, get off your feet. Let's bandage up those wounds. Let's get you new shoes, so we can alter the way you walk. Let me clean out the ulcers, and make you fresh and new." He's capable of erasing and redeeming all wounds, all scars, all deformities. 

But, here's the best news: 
There's now a sulfone drug that can arrest leprosy at the first sign of its presence. 
Ulcers don't even have to form in the first place. Feet don't have to become deformed, and sensation doesn't have to be lost anymore.

While He's capable of erasing all wounds and correcting all things, there's a better option yet. The wounds and deformities don't even have to be there in the first place, not if we get help at the first sign of their onset. 
His love and presence are the sulfone drug to our sin, and he died so that we could have free access to that medicine.

May I encourage you to get close to Him, 
to continually be evaluating your heart for signs of sin's onset,
to constantly be searching yourself for fear, doubt, vanity, pride, greed, etc..,  
to not ignore the warnings, 
to not ignore his voice, 
to not be afraid to run unashamed to the throne of mercy now, rather than waiting until it gets worse? 

Because who really wants to be the woman with a hole in her foot, two toes gone, and a limp in her walk? Who really wants to be the woman with biting words, a bitter heart, and contempt on her lips? 

Every morning his mercy is new, which means every morning there are new things in us that need his mercy. 
Thank you, Lord, for coming close to us, even when we're covered in sin and should be cast to the outskirts of your village. Thank you, Lord, for your furious love and relentless pursuit of our hearts. You've always got our best in mind.  

And now a song from my very favorite songbird: 

video

Monday, July 6, 2015

Becoming the patient: 3 nights in an Indian isolation ward.


In the last four days I have been pumped with
3 or 4 different antibiotics,
some antispasmodics,
a few different antiemetics,
antipyretics,
the generic acetaminophen and ibuprofen,
a holy ton of normal saline,
and so much more…
That’s a lot of drugs for a self proclaimed “drug free zone”, but, let me tell you, this week I am praising Jesus for modern medicine.

It all started with a stomach ache.
Just a little one, ya know?
We were on a bus- fourteen hours from Narsapur, heading to a big hospital for a sweet and sick little boy (we’ll call him M.)- so maybe it was just some motion sickness.
We had gotten up before 4 AM, so maybe it was just from being tired.

And then, it got a little worse.
And, ya know, things started moving.
Nothing I couldn’t handle.

And then I got a little headache.
And then the headache got a little worse.
Manageable. No biggie.

And, then I started to run a little fever and get a little nauseous.
Okay, better just take some time to rest this afternoon.
So, like a good, tough, American, medical professional, I popped some aspirin and went to bed.
I’ll be better in the morning, I thought. 

Jokes.

At about 11:00 PM, Annie woke up to hear me groaning in my sleep. She woke me up and I could see the worry in her eyes. She felt my head and quickly started wetting tissues with cold water and laying them on my body.

After about 45 minutes of failed attempts to break what we're estimating was a 104+ degree fever, she took my pulse & insisted we go to the casualty unit (ER).
I fought.
No, I’ll just sleep it off. I’ll be fine.

She didn’t listen.

Her friend, a doctor at the hospital, drove across the city to pick us up.
It’s hard to explain the days that followed, because they have been such a blur, but I consider myself a royal guest to the side of healthcare that most healthcare professionals don’t get to see. Granted it was in a foreign hospital in a third world country, but I got to be on the other end of the needle, the cuff, the palpating, and questioning, and, let me tell you friends, it has changed me for the better.

I will always remember the waiting in a cage-like area, on a hard chair, half passed out, high fever, and stomach pains from hell, while they got me admitted.

I will always remember being wheeled on a stretcher through masses of people.

Never will I forget the fear in people’s eyes as they looked at me & I began to realize that I must be worse than I thought.

I will not forget feeling so miserably out of control of my own body.

When I go to start an IV back in the states, you can be sure I will remember the three attempts it took to get one on me, and the burning fire of the infected line that developed after a day.  I will not forget the feeling of becoming a human pincushion, stuck over twenty times.

When my patient needs an arterial blood gas draw, you better believe I’ll remember that that one-that one- is the worst of them all.

When a patient comes in and crashes, I’ll remember what it felt like to be completely dependent on others when I got up to go to the bathroom, causing my BP (and body) to crash.

I’ll remember the embarrassment of throwing up on the floor and myself because no one could understand my frantic waves for a bag.

I’ll remember to close the curtains before I give someone a shot in the butt, and I surely won’t sit and rub the site afterwards with all my strength, because that just stinking hurts.

I’ll remember the bedpans- the dirty, metal, bedpans.


I’ll remember the humility of not being able to lift my head for a drink and having to have someone bring the bottle to my mouth.

For the next patient I see in isolation, I’ll remember the people wearing masks and gowns, and acting as though I was untouchable.

I’ll never forget the fan that tried mercilessly to make up for the lack of AC, and the constant three days of soaked-with-sweat sheets and gowns.

I will not forget the night nurse who was there to do her job, and the day nurse who took an interest in who I was.

I will remember that, in India, the hospitals- and pretty much everywhere else- are BYOTP: bring your own toilet paper. I had forgotten mine. (Thank God, Annie had a pack of tissues! It's the little things, people.) 

When a patient needs a test and doesn’t understand why, I won’t forget the nurse who came to get me for a chest X-Ray- though I had no known problems with my chest- being unable to explain why I needed it.  I won’t forget being too tired to argue.

When my patient is in a gown, I won’t forget what it feels like to be wheeled to radiology in a half-see-though, white, stained gown, past hundreds of people.

I won’t forget the staring. To the people that stood within two feet & just stared, the woman who stood in my doorway and stared, the crowds that stared- I won’t forget any of you.

When I wheel a patient somewhere, I will remember what it felt like to sit in that gown, looking and feeling like straight up hell, while I waited in a metal wheelchair, in a crowded hallway, for an x-ray I didn’t really need, for twenty minutes or more.

And when my patient is waiting desperately for discharge, I will remember what it felt like to be told, "No. You have to stay for some more time." 

This is the smile that I genuinely thought would convince people I was ready to be discharged. I can see now why it didn't work. 

But, let me tell you what else I won’t forget:

I won’t forget Angelee who dropped what she was doing and drove across town in the middle of the night to pick me up.

I will not forget the constant cycle of Annie’s friends who came and stayed by my side when Annie had to go be with M. I will not forget them sleeping in chairs, or bringing me crackers, or talking about life just to get my mind off things.

I will not forget the kindness of the attendant who, through his mask, kept telling me I’d be okay, and wanted to know all about my life as he wheeled me to isolation. That one, he was an angel, I’m sure.

I won’t forget the pictures of Jesus and postings of scripture on the walls, leading all the way to my room.

I will always remember the perfect peace of being close to Jesus through the whole thing, and the atmosphere shift that happened when I started playing worship on my phone. 


I won’t forget the luxury of being able to hear my mom- a familiar voice- after the first day settled down, even if it was only for five minutes.

When my patient is NPO and begging for food, I won’t forget the glory of that one, beautiful, single breadstick-my first food in three days.

I will remember how funny the whole situation became by the third day, and how Annie and I were laughing so hard that two nurses came running because they thought something was wrong. 

And most of all, I will remember every. single. touch. I’ll remember the rubbing my back & holding my hair back while I dry heaved…and heaved…and heaved, and the touching of my arm and assuring me everything would be fine, and the holding my hand during the second, third, and fourth IV attempts. I won’t forget the hands that held me steady when my BP kept bottoming out, or the nurse that patted me on the shoulder and laughed when I proudly announced that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all night & was now ready for discharge.  I won’t even forget the hands on my feet when someone was checking for edema.

I will remember it all, both the good and the bad, because both have made me a better nurse, a better friend, and a better lover of Jesus.

Even in the midst of chaos and sickness, Jesus is good,
fear has no place,
and His peace is overwhelming in a heart that’s close to His.

P.S. I’ve been discharged and am doing much better! Resting, mending, and hyping my body up with some probiotics at a nearby house until we take the train back to Narsapur tomorrow.

Doing good, friends! I'm doing good! :) 

P.S.S. There’s also a story about a drunken rickshaw driver that picked us up after the hospital stay, but I’ve put my family through enough torture these last few days, so we’ll keep that as a story for another day. J







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