Waiting, Anticipation, Hope and Gifts

‘Tis the season of anticipation.

Anticipation of holidays, anticipation of time with family and friends, of presents and for some of us, for anticipation of a celebration of the birth of our Saviour.

Anticipation is a part of waiting. Waiting can be hard. But, sometimes the wait is well worth it.

Look at the Jewish people in the Bible before Jesus’s time. They waited a long time for a Saviour. So long that some had given up hope and many had ideas of how He should look or be.

And of course, in the way God only can do, Jesus came in an unexpected fashion. In a way that defies our human expectations. I think that is so cool.

Sometimes God makes our lives like that. The things we anticipate, that we long for sometimes come in ways that we don’t fully look for or expect. I think it is a good lesson when I look at the way the world is headed or when things aren’t going according to plan. God’s plans sometimes get a bit weird or outside our expectations.

I think anticipation and hope is a form of worship. As we look forward to the Christmas season, I see hope in all kinds of ways, and really if our hope is in the right place and our anticipation is looking forward to celebrating well, it is a good thing.

Our life has recently had some moments where our anticipation and waiting turned into a more discouraging time. As we waited and hoped for a baby to come into and stay in our lives, we began to learn what hoping and trusting looks like when things start to fall away from what we anticipated, when pain keeps creeping in. Sure, we trusted, but I can relate to those who started to think otherwise when waiting on God to do something big. Who let bitterness and distrust sneak in. Because it can be easier to let that happen sometimes. Even though so many awesome things happen every day.

But, cool stuff happens when God is involved. I found out about “the Creature” the day before Patrick’s birthday. I told him as a part of his birthday present. Because after this long waiting, news of a baby really is a birthday present. “The Creature” is due just a few days before my birthday. Pretty cool.

I was thankful for the nausea, for the fatigue. Because that meant something was happening. It was affirming what we had been waiting for. That being said, I then started hoping for it to stop, but continued to (oddly enough) thank God everyday for the barfing (but confirming that it could stop anytime).

Laying in bed one night praying, I came to the realization that so many people had been praying for us, for a maybe baby and how lucky we are to have so many people in our lives who support us and intervene for us. It blew my mind how this was planned by God and seemed so intentional now, even though for so long it just seemed like we were forgotten.

We had our first (and only) ultrasound so far just a couple days before what should have been Elim’s due date. Seeing a flickering heart and a tiny human at a point when my heart was breaking was a big gift in and of itself.

On Friday, we got to hear “the Creature’s” heartbeat galloping along. Merry Christmas. There really still is a tiny human in there who will eventually come out.

So the anticipation continues. For this child, probably for others and all kinds of other things.  And I know it will persist the rest of my life.

The wait was worth it. I see that now. I see the trust that grew from that wait, the witness that it was and the growth we experienced. We learned practical lessons about suffering well and waiting well. In retrospect, I’m glad for the wait. It has taught me about how to love others in the midst of waits.  I think it is helping me to celebrate well.

Sometimes the best gifts come in ways that weren’t planned or expected in our human put-things-in-a-box way. Sometimes our anticipation makes things even better. Although my baby pales in comparison to the epic beauty of the Christmas story, I can see how lessons in waiting and hoping and not putting God into my human realm box can parallel the story and make me get how big it really is to an even greater.

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My love-hate relationship with Christmas hospital

The hospital is a funny place at Christmas. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Christmas hospital.

One part of me loves Christmas hospital. I love that everyone tries so hard to make it festive and that each floor or section have a different décor scheme (or lack thereof). I love that some people really rock the decorations. I get excited for the treats on the nursing units.

I love how people try so hard to make it a welcoming and festive place, even if for many people it is the last place they want to be.

But, I hate that people have to stay in hospital over the holidays. I’m glad we have the option and that these people are well taken care of. But, this weekend, I seem to have spent a good chunk of my on call rounds talking to people about their hopes to get out, their dismay about not getting out and trying to help them see or find the bright sides in the situation. It comes up a lot. And it is important, so it makes sense that it comes up.

I remember when I was about 5 (it was the year I got a Troll watch for Christmas), my Aunt was in hospital over Christmas. And she swore never to be there at that time again. I am too young to remember what was so bad about it, but I do remember her saying repeatedly she would never go to hospital before Christmas.

That is something I won’t forget.

I don’t want that for my patients. Because, unfortunately for a number of them, this probably is their last Christmas…

Our service is pretty good in that if there is any way the person is stable enough to go out even for a few hours, we try to make it work if the person and their family is wanting, willing and able.

I have one person who has the most festive room ever and plans on having their whole family in for Christmas dinner, although the logistics are still being sorted out. They are pretty excited and encouraged about being around for the holidays at all.

I saw another who only just realized home isn’t going to be an option and just wants to not be alone. Another who is going to get someone to bring in decorations. And a third who was working on Christmas cards and gift wrapping with their spouse.

Its not all that sunny, though. Some people say it won’t be Christmas this year, or get upset when talking about not being home.

I can’t make it better. But I want to. We can treat pain or nausea, but treating being in hospital over the holidays isn’t easy.

The nurses on our ward are awesome and make the best of it. We all, for the most part try to. That is what humans do over the holidays. And that makes it kind of a cool display of how people are decent.

Thus my love-hate relationship with Christmas hospital.

The saddest airport

Today marks our last day visiting the city where I did med school and where we spent our first 3 years of marriage.  

It was a great trip.

I’m sad it is over.

I’m sure I will share more of the awesome stuff I learned and the places we visited.

But for now, I must share that the airport here is one of the most depressing airports I have ever been in.  It isn’t the ugliest, or the sketchiest, or the smallest or biggest or any of those.  I have been stuck here a few times but not as many as in other places.  But, to me it is always sad.  

Maybe it is because I arrived here too many times with nobody there to greet me (actually I did have friends pick me up sometimes, but often it seemed we were on our own).  Maybe it is because I was always dropping off people to leave .  Or sometimes I was leaving people.  

The airport is on two levels.  Arriving, you can see people awaiting those who they love.  It is great when you see your person from either end.  It stinks when you are on your own.

But worse is when you are leaving or having someone leave.  There is an escalator to the secure area.  So, it is like they leave slower.

I’m sad to leave today.  We had fun with great friends.  I nerded it out at a good conference.  But, now it is time to get back to real life.  And likely not see our lovely friends for at least a year or so.

This airport makes me sad.  Okay, it is probably the circumstance.  But, I blame the airport.

Our New Friend (you just can’t make this stuff up)

Patrick and I made a new friend today.

We were on church set-up today, which is basically assembling the place to look like our version of a church (during the week it is a mission) and then cleaning up afterward.  Also, it involves the important task of going to the hipster hostel café down the street to pick up coffee and then return the containers afterwards.

On our way back with the coffee, we got stopped by a random man standing in the doorway of a closed shop.

Oh, I should probably mention at this point that we go to church in what is known as a super dicey part of town.

I like it.  It makes me feel at home (because at home-home, we go to church in a super dicey part of town).  You just never know who or what is going to wander in through the doors.  As much as I am terribly shy, I love some of the personalities and honesty that can come in the door in.  I also think that loving people where they are at is so important, just like anywhere else, but in this place, some of the people unfortunately don’t get as much love.

So, this guy who is kind of looking a bit in disarray stops us.  He has no teeth.  His beard forms a single dreadlock.  He has terrible leg swelling to the point where one shoe has no laces and his foot barely fits in it.  He has a lovely smile.

He tells us that he isn’t asking us for money or food or something because he doesn’t do that sort of thing.  He wants to read us a letter he is writing to his girlfriend.  His girlfriend of 25 years.  Who he dated when he was a teenager.

He hauls out a piece of paper.  On one side is a ton of numbers.  On the other is writing.

It is simply written in block letters.  Some of the tenses of verbs are wrong, some words are misspelled.  He reads us every word.   It is a slow go.  As much as the actual writing isn’t the best, it is pretty deep poetry.  The thought behind it is lovely.

He tells us he is going to make it into a song and chats with us about his blind and lame grandfather who was an amazing piano player and who he gets his musical ability from.  He talks a bit about love.

Then, he starts walking with us and eventually turns off down an alley.

We laughed because that is the beauty of this community.  We were stopped to be read poetry.  That’s all. Most people would have ran or kept walking for fear of what was going to happen.  But really, we got slightly more snowy and much more happy.

After church, we were returning the canisters the coffee was in and we passed the same guy playing a purple children’s guitar on the corner.  He sounded really good.  He picks with his nails, not with a pick (this always impresses the face off of me).

He spotted us and ran across the street to say hi.

Again, he told us he plays and sings for the love of it, not to make money.  He often plays at home on his own, but it was nice today.

He talked to us about his theories about music.  How instead of there being a bunch of (I think he said sixteen) notes in a scale, he feels there are really only four.  He then played us four chords.  The four chords that make up most songs.

He told us that the best way to learn to play guitar is on a children’s guitar like the one he has in an empty room, so you can correct yourself off of your own echos.  That you need to feel the music.  That you need to find your notes.

He sang a song to us and mixed up styles to show us how music is like a wave and you can change the flow.

While we chatted, people walked by.  Everyone seemed to know this guy.  He clearly isn’t just friendly with us.

Eventually he let us go and started talking to a lady waiting for the bus (who did not look as amused as we were).

I love that people aren’t always what they seem.  That someone who clearly loves music and poetry wants to share that with the world, in his own unique way.  That a neighbourhood that is “tough” is very loving and friendly to this unique soul.

Again, you just can’t make this stuff up.

The Blessing and Learning Curve of Gaining and Losing Elim (“ball of cells”)

Image from tochristifrommommy.blogspot.com.

Less than two weeks ago, I found out I was finally pregnant… I called the baby “ball of cells.”  That was my term of endearment.

My medical training made me cautious.  I know that pregnancy does not equal baby.  I know that life is fragile.  I took 3 tests to confirm before I even told Patrick because I wanted to be sure.

It didn’t change our excitement and happiness.  Talking about the future.  Planning for when to tell people. How to make work function.  What we would have to change or do.  Rejoicing.

I knew the longest besides God, of course.  I remember that first Sunday in church when it was still just our little secret thanking God for the new creation growing inside of me and wanting to tell the world and yet wanting to keep it to myself because if others knew, somehow something would go wrong.  The only other person who found out before stuff started going wrong was Patrick and I told him on Sunday night (with what I believe was a very adorable and entertaining card).

Then, we had to say goodbye to “ball of cells.”

I knew something was wrong mid-week.  I re-took a test.  The line got lighter and although this isn’t a perfect system, it wasn’t a good sign.  I told Patrick.

Usually I am the high-baseline, optimistic person.  This time it was him.  He refused to believe anything bad happened to “ball of cells.”  I didn’t want to go to the doctor.  I didn’t want to hear what I already knew inside.  Finally, I went to the doctor who instilled a bit of hope in me instead of flat out dashing our dreams.   I wanted hope.  Cautious hope, but hope nonetheless.

I went for bloodwork.  It was either going to confirm what I thought I knew or make everything better.  I hoped it would make things better.  I needed it to make things better.

Nothing is more bizarre than being congratulated on your pregnancy, being asked about your due date, where you plan to deliver and all that good stuff while sitting there with that gut feeling that your baby is dead.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them.  I didn’t want anyone to feel what I was feeling.

Also bizarre is walking around all weekend not knowing and yet knowing.  It feels surreal.  I have lovely best friends (three of them) who checked in incessantly.  I have a husband who bought me beautiful flowers, cooked me food and was all around over protective.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  I was just glad I wasn’t on call.

Sunday, we watched the Canadian men win the gold in hockey (WHOO!).  Happily, we went to church still not knowing whether we would be parents of a living baby in 8 months.  I was still having some morning sickness and weird headaches, but the acne was clearing up, the cramping was worse and I kind of felt empty.

I prayed for God’s will in my baby’s life and in our lives.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed that we would glorify him in whatever was to come.

We left church on our way to have lunch and board games with friends at our place and there was a voicemail on my phone.  It was my new doctor.  In summary:  My bloodwork was perfect except that my HCG was less than 5.

There would be no baby.

So much for that hope.

It is funny.  I have always thought pregnancy loss was a big deal.  I remember learning about it in med school and thinking how awful it was.  I remember when the first couple I knew miscarried shortly after telling everyone about their pregnancy.  I remember thinking that I didn’t know how they coped with it.

At the same time, I have always been kind of flippant about it, particularly when it comes to me and when it comes to early pregnancy.  I mean, an embryo is an organized ball of cells and odds are there is some sort of genetic flaw that is incompatible with life.  It just makes good scientific sense to clean up mistakes.

I thought calling “ball of cells” just that would make it more clear to me that it may not make it.  I thought explaining to my friends that I was waiting to make sure things were growing or dying appropriately made it all sound more clinical.

But really, there is nothing to be flippant about.

Sure, life goes on.  I know that.  It doesn’t change the hurt of the life that won’t.  Especially because I was one of the only people who really knew it.  And I didn’t even know it that well.  We only got to hang out for about 3 weeks total.  And 2 of them, I didn’t even know it was there.  And it died at some point in the last one.

I feel in some ways like I should care less.  This is technically still a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage before 6 weeks).  It felt different from what I thought might have been my last ?chemical where there was a squinter maybe positive (but in reality probably an evaporation line) and then definite negatives.  It was sad and disappointing, but really not the same as actually existing pregnant for several days when you know something is happening.  It is the difference between thinking maybe and knowing for sure.

It was literally just a ball of cells that wasn’t able to survive.  “It was God’s will” after all.  It was, I guess.  Still sucks though.  Maybe somehow they did have some sort of potential.

I am, in part, glad it happened so early.  Maybe I am less attached than I would have been if I was further along.  People have told me I should be less attached, at least.  That kind of makes me scared for this happening again later in pregnancy.  I have the utmost sympathy for women who loose babies who are more developed and for those who lose children.  At the same time, I am jealous because I was robbed of the experience of even seeing the little sucker on an ultrasound screen.

Sure, I will have more kids.  Sure, I am young.  I know most women go on to have no issues with future pregnancies and get pregnant shortly after something like this.  The statistics are on my side.  I also know I was in the wrong end of the 50% of women who have bleeding in early pregnancy.  Something has to go right.

It is a funny experience telling people you miscarried when they didn’t even know you were pregnant.  Not that we’re telling many people.  It makes them super uncomfortable.  It makes me uncomfortable too (and I often love embracing the awkward).  But, because nobody talks about, I kind of want to.  I know statistically, I am far from the only one to experience this.    I know because, like the big nerd I am, I have read everything I can on the subject.

Because “ball of cells” was so little, I have had a lot of anxiety around whether or not I would see him or her in heaven. Seems silly, right?  I mean, if you believe life begins at conception, of course “ball of cells” was alive and then died.  But, my scientific mind picturing a little cell collection had a hard time picturing my ball of cells chilling with Jesus and my Grandfather.  But, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)  Pretty cool, huh.  “Ball of cells” was a pretty little child, so I suppose he or she counts.

As a result of this, I then got thinking that we should give “ball of cells” a proper name because I am sure they don’t want to be known as “ball of cells” for all eternity.  That being said, the snarky and cold side of me didn’t want to name it because, well, that would make it more real and felt as if I was making much out of little.  Also, I could have other dead balls of cells that I don’t know of (most people probably do), so what about them (I don’t know how to answer this question)?  And, I didn’t want people to judge me (I, in the past would have).  Patrick liked the sounds of naming him or her too, so we went with it.

We named him or her Elim because I have been reading Exodus recently and about how God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Plus, it is a gender neutral name.

I’d love to say I am all better now, but to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m better in the sense that my body is no longer rejecting the remains of my child.  I’m better in the sense that I know for sure now that Elim died and is in heaven now (while his or her biochemical bits are somewhere in the sewers).

Grief is a funny thing.  And this grief is of a variety that I haven’t experienced before.  Even though I am okay with death, this doesn’t feel okay.  And that is okay too.

I’m sad.  I’m still a bit angry.  But, I feel a whole lot of peace and a whole lot of joy, which is a big testament to answered prayers and the awesomeness of God.

I know, you probably read joy and now think I am taking some sort of pills.  I’m not.

This isn’t smiling, frolicking joy.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. –John 16:22

It is more the I’m happy I’m okay, Patrick is okay and Elim is okay.  I’m happy Jesus came and that I’ll get to see my baby again, even though I don’t get the logistics because he or she was just a ball of cells.  I’m happy because I feel protected and loved despite the crap that has gone down.

The really cool thing is that I get something more now.  I have just a little bit of a better understanding of how much God must love us.

Sure, I’m still ticked He didn’t fix Elim and I’m not still barfy and headachey and pregnant (okay, confession… I was pretty excited when I was feeling physically well today).

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  -Job 1:21

But, if I can love a little ball of unborn cells that I barely know that much…  So much that I am mourning their death… That is pretty huge.

If God loves me more than that, then I can’t even begin to imagine how sad he feels when we draw away from Him, when He loses one of us.

So yes.  This sucks.  I am not alone in this.  Neither are you.  But, I am growing and learning in my relationship with God and as a physician and human from this experience in ways I definitely didn’t expect.  Funny how gifts come in bizarre packages sometimes.

Image from spiritualinspiration.tumblr.com.

Being a festive resident

‘Tis the season.

Both to be jolly and for Medical Mondays.

Bad segway?

Sorry.

But seriously, it is Medical Monday, which means a day for all blogs medical to link up and share the love.  Check out some fantastic blogs from other medically related people.

Why am I opening the post with a festive saying?

Well, today was my do everything Christmas that I can’t normally get done in my real life day.

For those of you who are new here, I am a second year Radiation Oncology resident married with a husband and a cat.  I, contrary to popular belief by some, do have friends both near and far.  I have a church and a small group and volunteer commitments.  I have parents and in-laws and all kinds of extended family.  I have an apartment that needs keeping.  I have a blog that would like to be written in.  I have a research project that needs to be finished.

As you can imagine, I, likely much like you, am very busy.  Very, very busy.

Over the years as a med student and now a resident, I learned that Christmas shopping, decorating and such is very, well, challenging when you work more often than not and try to have a life on the side.

First of all, I must say that residents in my neck of the woods are lucky.

We have six days of vacation either around Christmas or New Years.  It is a beautiful thing when you are from away and have people you want to see.  We were off last year for Christmas and will be again this year.

You would think that everyone fights to get Christmas off, but really, they don’t.  The thing is that the six days after Christmas are busy to work because everyone comes to hospital that was trying to avoid it during the earlier holidays.  Also, most families tend to be busier the week of Christmas.  So, you go home, you run around from place to place to place and then you get back and work like a crazy person.  I ended up defaulting to Christmas this year because I missed an email that said the holidays were first come first served.

That being said, it is wonderful to be home with family for the holidays.  I love it.  We have great families and traditions.

But also, besides the busyness of it all, we have NEVER had a Christmas on our own.  We always lived away and always have gone home for Christmas.  This will be our fifth Christmas  of doing that.

There is a piece of me that just wants to do our own thing.  To have our own traditions.

I mean, we have our own traditions.  It just isn’t the same as those we know who have always had their own space or time.  Odds are our traditions would be altered by beeps of pagers and me needing to go round, but  still, they would be our own traditions.

And we still have other traditions.  I always get to put my giant microbes on our tree (this year our tree is bigger).  Patrick always adds some sort of tacky ornament somewhere that kind of bothers me.  We read the Christmas story to each other before bed on Christmas Eve.

This year, I am sending out Christmas cards for the first time.  We have a tree that is full sized.

It is like we are become a real family while still going home for festivities as usual.

But, as I was saying, I am busy.  This month, I need to do a resident presentation, finish the statistical analysis for my research project and submit an abstract for presentation at a conference in the new year.  I work full time.  I cover call.  We are hosting the resident Christmas party (there are 4 of us, it really isn’t that big of a deal).

So, I did what is probably my best decision yet.  I used one of my vacation days to make a long weekend.

Patrick and I went home.  We got to celebrate my grandmother’s 81st Birthday.   I scoped out her new nursing home.  We got to see Patrick’s Mom in a Christmas musical.  We visited people.Mom Daigle Birthday 2013 016 Mom Daigle Birthday 2013 011

Then, we came back and today, I hammered out my Christmas shopping.

Literally, my Christmas shopping.

I am done it.  Patrick just needs to pick up Christmas presents for his Dad, Grandfather and Uncle.  I have everyone else covered.  Everyone else!

Now, I just have to wrap it.  Which I am going to get started on shortly.

The beautiful part is that I did the shopping on a Monday.  During the day.  Thus avoiding the horrors that are weekend and evening stores and still getting some excellent deals that tag on to the weekend sales.

Our Christmas cards are almost all written.  Just need stamps and the addresses for Patrick’s family (hint, hint).

Tonight, we put up our tree.  We inherited a tree from my parents (who inherited it from my Grandmother).  It is big and green.  These are both key features since I have never had a green tree until I was married and we have never had a full sized tree!IMG_1017

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I have gotten nothing useful done for work today.  But, I have accomplished lots of other important things.

Best day off choice ever.

Multitasking and scheduling are huge in surviving the adventure that is life combined with residency.  Days like this give glimmers of normalcy.   Sometimes they just need to be prioritized in.  I think it makes us better people.

Advent-ing

Today was our church’s Advent kick-off.

It was, much like the rest of our church, unique. It was a bring your entire family and decorate the place in entirety while listening to what one person described as typical “hipster folk Christmas tunes,” followed by cookies, hot chocolate and worship time.

Kids running everywhere, masses of creativity and lots of lights make for a good time. Especially with the reminders about the real reason for the season!

I was exhausted today for no good reason, but this was the rejuvenation I needed.

I even took some very poor quality photos of the adventure.

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On Two Years of Blog.

WordPress just informed me that today is my two year anniversary of starting my blog.

My second blogiversary, if you may.

Crazyness.

When I started this thing it was more of a social experiment and a bucket list check off thing for me.  Then, a way of keeping in touch.  Now, it is all of those things, plus a way to get to know some super awesome people… And de-stress/procrastinate.

And my, how life has changed in those two years.  

No, I am not going to look back or make a list of things that happened.

I think I did that last year.  

I am busy, content, and all around kind of where I hoped I would be at this point with a few bumps in the road.  That is what really matters.

And all I will write about tonight.

I am happy, but wiped out from a weekend that was jam packed with visits from L&C, a uro-oncology conference, a work Christmas party, church and Catching Fire with the Child and her husband.  I need to catch up on work, sleep and time alone with the husband.  

One of the best choices I ever made

My lovely husband Patrick has offered his services as guest poster extraordinaire again today and emailed me this to share as his blog contribution.  Later, you will see that he points out he proposed to me five years ago today.  And I, the heartless, forgetful one did not remember this fact until I was editing the post (fail.).

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference

I’m sure most of you recognize the above excerpt from Robert Frost’s famous and “inspirational” poem, “The Road Not Taken”. However, you may not know that it is the most misinterpreted poem of all time. Frost didn’t write it to inspire the masses or future generations as it has been used.

As I learned in one of my first university English Literature courses, Frost actually wrote it to mock an indecisive friend he often went hiking with. You see “Jimmy” as we will call him found it difficult to decide which path to take when they came to a fork in a road and would always wonder about the path they didn’t take after the decision was made.  I’ll admit that even after finding out this mind-blowing fact that I still sometimes think of the poem after I make a major decision and wonder what the outcome would have been if I decided differently.

We all make many choices everyday both consciously and subconsciously. In fact, you just made a choice by deciding to read this post and hopefully will choose to continue to read it.  Many daily choices are minor ones such whether to hit the snooze button one more time, what to wear or what to eat for breakfast in the morning.  Chances are good that those choices will not have great consequences… Unless, of course, you realize you forgot to put on pants/skirt as you arrive at work.

Of course, not all choices can be made so lightly or without foresight.  I admire people who have to make major decisions that greatly affect their own life or the lives of others.

With Remembrance Day coming up, I think it’s safe to include veterans and current military personnel in that category.  Let’s be clear – I hate war because of all the lives that are lost or changed forever as a result of it. I wish every dispute could be solved peacefully. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t support the people who sacrifice so much to protect the freedoms we take for granted.

Doctors/Paramedics/Nurses also fall into a similar category of making major decisions that affect others and themselves regularly.

How do you make major decisions?

I usually just flip a coin like a certain Batman villain.

Seriously though, there are a few things I usually do.  I talk it over with people who I respect and trust the most such as my wife/family, or long-time friends and mentors.  I pray about it and read the Bible- although admittedly not nearly as much as I should.  I reflect about how I handled similar situations in the past and the results of the decisions I made- both good and bad.  I try to honestly answer questions like, “What do I really want?” “What is the best choice for my well-being?” and “How will my decision affect the people closest to me or the situation?”  I don’t like to admit it, but I also Google articles that are particularly relevant to the situation.

But something I always do with major decisions is something Trisha recently mentioned she does – make a pro-con list. Clearly, another sign we are perfect for each other, right? Writing the list is often the best way to see what I really think about both sides of the equation.  If there are significantly more pros or cons then it makes it easier to decide what the best course of action is.

Now I’m sure you are wondering what one of the best decisions I ever made was where the pros were overwhelming?

Well you see 5 years ago on this very day I decided to ask Trisha to make an important decision.  “Will you marry me?”   I’m very happy she decided without hesitation to answer in the affirmative or to be more specific, “Yeah”.  I’m glad that she also found that the pros outweighed the cons to marrying me…  Or at least decided the cons were not a deal breaker!

I won’t go into all the mushy details of how I proposed.  But, the short version is I had us walk to one of our favorite dating places with a beautiful view of forest and water. It was drizzly and I was worried the heavens were going to open up, but thankfully they did not. I read her a story I wrote because that was the best way I was able to express how much she meant to me. We then went to her favorite restaurant, which conveniently was not far from my Grandparents house, where we later went to let them know the good news. We followed that with going to “High School Musical 3” with some of our best friends. That may sound weird but one of first dates was to see the first High School Musical so it seemed a very fitting way to celebrate.

I wasn’t able to be as spontaneous or surprising as I would have liked but when you live in different provinces there is only so much you can do in that regards. Still, I wouldn’t change it and it was perfect because of the beautiful, intelligent woman (don’t edit that Trisha!). I proposed to. The rest was just icing on the cake.

Looking back it’s amazing to think how the two crazy kids in the picture below, taken immediately after getting engaged, have changed and not changed since 2008.  We didn’t really know much about the realities of marriage or where we’d be living in a few years. In a way, we still don’t.100_2297

But we knew that we loved each other and didn’t want to live without each other. That was enough then and still is now.  I hope and believe that in 5 years or even 50 years we can say the same thing.  After, all, when I said “I do” it wasn’t just a one-time choice. It was a choice to try my best to love her every day as long as we both shall live no matter what. This is one road I thank God every day that I took and have no regrets about the road not taken.

Reblog: How I Balance Faith and Medicine and Exams

Check out this fantastic post by  Nathan called Lessons from Psychiatry Part 1: How I Balance Faith and Medicine and Exams.

Seriously.  Read it now.

I read this and I thought… Wow… Here is a lesson I have learned over and over again.  And a lesson I forget more often than I should given the number of times that I should have learned it.

Over the last few weeks with my exams and presentations and relationships all seeming to want to demand my attention, my relationship with God has been a struggle for me.  It came up at small group, it came up in my own (very rare) Bible reading.   It came up everywhere.

And really, my relationship with God should not be a struggle.  It should be something I work at.  Something that I want to have.  But, really, I think it shouldn’t be a struggle.

And yes, I realize that is kind of putting pressure on myself.

God wants a relationship with me.  But like any relationship, it takes time and effort to maintain it.  And I should want to maintain it.  Just like I maintain my marriage and a million other relationships.

I don’t always make it the priority that He deserves.

It is easier sometimes to put my human priorities in front.  Things that seem more pressing.

Nathan points out the example of Daniel and his friends.  They put God first in  what I consider to be a more trying situation than anything the world of medicine can throw at me and look where it got them… Right at the right hand of the King.  Sure, they had some struggles and trials, but really, it worked out.

And that is the main thing.

I can’t doubt the promises of God.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  -Jeremiah 29:11

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39.

He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.  -Isaiah 40:29-31

He is pretty much the only person I can’t doubt.

So, I should put Him first.

Did I?

Honest answer… Not so much.

Really reading this post was kind of a slap in the face.  I had so much faith in myself.  So much pressure on myself.  And I took God time to make it more study time or sleep time or anything else time.

And yet, I feel like the prayers and love of others and God’s grace and peace were upon me.   Because that is how great God is.

I think I would have felt better had I given Him the time and credit he deserves.

The beauty is He has so much grace I can learn for next time (hopefully with a different exam, though).