Reflections on “Sex, Marriage and Fairytales.”

Lately, the “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” spoken word poem by Jefferson Bethke has been ridiculously popular.  It has been falling on my Facebook news feed, as well as the blog roll here on WordPress.  That is NOT what I am here to talk about.  Thousands of people already have.

This video is the one I think should go viral.  But, in a sense, the message in this video is even stronger and potentially more difficult to swallow than the Jesus>>Religion video.  The video is entitled “Sex, Marriage & Fairytales.”  I originally stumbled upon it when one of my friends posted it on Facebook stating what I said, that this is one that everyone should watch.  I watched and agreed wholly with the message.  Please watch:

The rate of divorces and failing marriages is something that affects people all over the world.   We are so selfish, so self-centered that we cannot serve another person, that we can’t hold true to a few vows.  We are presented with all kinds of lies about sex and marriage from a young age.  We are shown that marriage makes people happy, sex is almost always perfect and that marriage is not necessary to have a committed relationship.  This video addresses some of these issues.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family where my parents and grandparents are happily married, not necessarily perfectly married (because nobody is truly perfect), but they are all still married.  I had a strong faith foundation.  I feel that God prepared me for Patrick and vice-versa.  We were friends(ish) for about two years before we dated.  We are still best friends.  We had enough supports to show us that marriage is not just a cake-walk (interestingly, Cake Walk is the show that just came on TV… It is about wedding cake design competitions.  Who knew?).  We have been taught divorce is not an option.  We were advised by friends that love is a choice, not just a feeling.  That we need to have agape love (unconditional love, like the love of God).

We agreed we wanted our marriage to have a strong Biblical influence.  Our foundation needed to be Jesus, the only thing that would not crumble.  We believe that Biblical submission is the way things should be.  Submission does not mean that I do every single thing Patrick tells me to do.  It means that I respect him and do what he believes is best under the guidance of God.  He does the same.  Biblical submission is mutual.  It doesn’t just say wives submit to your husbands, but also husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves the church.  That is pretty huge, if you ask me.

I like how the speaker does not sugar coat things.  He says point blank that it is difficult to be married, that it takes work and that friendship and Jesus should be at the foundation of marriage.  He reminds people that the vows are ‘til death, not until we get tired of one another.   I love how he restates the church being Jesus’s bride and how that should be how we treat our marriages.

I also like how he pointed out from the start the lies society is feeding us today.  These are the same lies that make people think marriage has no meaning or is only about sex.  The lies about how divorce should be an option for everyone (don’t get me wrong, in cases of abuse, I think it is an option, just not when people “fall out of love”).  The lies about how we need to be happy all of the time and that marriage will achieve this.  I like how it countered those points with a realistic perspective of friendship and choice and hard work.  We have to like each other.  We have to choose God and choose love and choose marriage.  It is a partnership, not just cohabitation.  How we can’t just be pleasure seeking because that leads to heartbreak and pain, but God seeking.

There were also the points about how, in marriage, when people expect happiness, it is often because they treat their spouse as a god.  While dating, people become infatuated.  They think the person they love can do no wrong.  They become the focus of everything they do.  This can persist into marriage.  I have caught myself doing it from time to time.  The thing is, your spouse can’t make you happy.  Your spouse can’t fill a hole in your heart or change you.  Only God can do that.  And when we put our spouse or the idea of marriage above everything, including God, that runs us into trouble.  It leads to disappointment and heartbreak.  It leads to people feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.

On the same spectrum, people describe marriage as a prison.  Those who don’t expect full joy anticipate torture.  You’ve heard it, those who think of marriage as a life sentence to torture.  The end, as it were.  The thing is, we shouldn’t be slaves to our spouses.  And we shouldn’t anticipate being miserable.  Marriage was put in place for a reason.  Not to kill our spirits, but to make us into teams to better serve.

A few people are surprised that we were married so young (even though many are married younger), that we are still going strong despite the busyness of life and all that goes along with it.  It seems easy when I look at things on the surface.  It isn’t.  Some days I make a conscious choice to love Patrick (and not kill him).  Other days it just comes naturally.  When we are apart, we try to make sure we have time to talk (really difficult with the whole several time zone differences) or at least email and text.  We reserve quality time together when we are together.  He tucks me in to bed every night (because I sleep far too early for his night hawk ways).  We do devotions together most every night before bed (except last week, because I would go to bed well after he did).  We pray for and support each other in all of our endeavors.  We laugh and play and share responsibilities and friends.   It is like a fairytale, but not because I would think it is lame to actually call it a fairytale, we are nowhere near perfect (we bicker like the best old married couple ever) and realistically, no marriage is perfect because we are all flawed.  The good part is, the next best thing to a fairytale comes when God is at the center of our relationships.

I’m not saying we are perfect.  We have plenty to learn from and lots of time to learn in.  We haven’t been married for long, just two and a half years.   The thing is, we know what God wants from our marriage and we are willing to try with His help to do it.

If people watched this and took it seriously, it would offer the basis for further assessment of their plans for marriage, their hopes for love and how they can improve upon these things.

What are your thoughts on the video or marriage today?

Cellular inspiration

Today, in the Path lab, I was a tad on the distracted side.  Needless to say, I have been getting more and more antsy as the week has gone on with some impending vacation and interview time around the corner.   Also, despite learning and continuing to learn a great deal about pathology and lab medicine as a whole, I feel as if I could be doing more and that I am not getting everything that I could be out of the rotation.  I got what I expected and what I wanted out of the rotation, but it is very touch and go with regards to learning opportunities beyond self-study.  Thankfully, one of the pathologists took me under his wing this morning and showed me a ton of stuff.  Mainly ears, nose and throat things (given that was what he was told to review).  But then, in conversation, he found out that I am interested in oncology, so he cracked out a few more “cool” cases he has been reviewing  show me some of the subtleties in pathology.  I am grateful.  One, because I learned something.  Two, because he killed at least 3 hours of my day.

The rest of the day was consistent with yesterday.  I sat reading a textbook and taking notes waiting for something to happen.  In the process, I have learned a lot.  For one, I have at least skimmed the entirety of Robbin’s Pathologic Basis of Disease brought to us by Cotran, Kumar and Collins.  This is useful in many ways… I have reviewed almost every body system (handy for the LMCC, my big licensing exam to be written in April).  I also took notes on the various tumors that can happen in all of the body systems to prepare questions for a peer-reviewed quiz site for medical students and residents that I moderate (www.quiz.md).   Early on in the afternoon, I was starting to get really bored and frustrated, as I was starting to wonder if this is really the best way to be learning.  So, I took a break and ate a delightful square from the bake sale upstairs (thank goodness for bake sales) and prayed for patience and perseverance (and checked Facebook, my blog stats and my email for the billionth time today).  When I went back, nothing had changed.  Except my attitude.  I decided to try to find the bright side in all of this sitting and waiting and reading and looking at slides (some of which I already listed).

Cells stained for keratin and DNA: such parts ...

Cells specially stained to show keratin and DNA. Image via Wikipedia

Somewhere between staring into the microscope and reading about body systems processes, I began to think (well, think beyond pink and purple cells).  I was examining a few slides with laryngeal (vocal cord) cancer on them and noticing the inflammatory reaction taking place.  The body was trying to fight the cancer growing in itself.  It was failing, but it was trying.  Here I am looking at these tiny little structures and I realize just how amazing our bodies really are.  How complex.  Millions of tiny tiny cells that form together to form organs.   That synthesize all of the proteins we need to function.  That protect us from infection and heal us from injury.  And all of these processes are programmed into tiny little DNA molecules.

If you study the body, or almost anything else in God’s creation, you can see how intricately things are formed.  We still haven’t figured out how some diseases happen or why the body knows exactly what enzyme to break down what food (well, chemical structures, but not every facet of the process).   We can estimate the distance between the Earth and the Sun, but we still don’t truly know how many stars or planets there are.  Sometimes we just don’t know, even in our know-it-all science-based society.

I love having answers.  I am fascinated by how each body process works.  It is amazing and yet terrifying how just one mutated cell with tiny errors in the genome can multiply and cause widespread cancers in so little time.  How the flu strain this year will be ever so slightly different from the strains next year. Mutations… Survival tactics… How we and other living organisms get through.

Looking at cells under the microscope… Even normal skin, which in and of itself is the largest organ and a barrier to the outside  world… It is amazing how the structures form and work together.  How the cells know when to proliferate, how to migrate.

The other day, a physician was teaching me about ovarian cancer and we got talking about how ovarian cancer spreads to this section of fat called the omentum.  The omentum is a layer of fat and blood vessels that is in the abdomen.  On top of the intestines and such.  The omentum is a common site of cancer spread because it has many blood vessels and just sits in the fluid in your belly.  It is a simple organ… Fat, blood vessels, a couple ligaments hooking it to the bowel.   But, it moves.  It wraps itself around sites of infection and inflammation in the bowel.  It has been said to plug a perforated ulcer, to surround cancer.  Nobody really knows why.   It doesn’t have muscle; it doesn’t have a nervous supply.  How does it know?   Studies suggest that the omentum is incapable of moving on its own (though it looks like it does) and that it moves based on the movements within the gut, diaphragm and position.  It is postulated that it sticks due to formation of fibrin on contact (basically a protein type glue) and stays stuck because the contact with inflammation causes more blood flow through the omental vessels, thus bringing along white cells and other cells that make more materials that help it to stick like fibroblasts (Florey, Walker & Carlton, 2005. The Nature of Movements of the Omentum, The Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology 29:1).  Still, there is debate as to whether or not another piece of the puzzle is missing and why it functions the way it does.

Omentum. Image via Wikimedia.

I can’t look at the body and how intricately it all works and say there is not a Creator.  It is too complicated and there are far too many intelligent people who cannot get it sorted out in full.  All of those cells working together.  Its craziness.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm139:13

When you think about it, our body is like our communities, our worlds.  Bad things happen when one of the pieces stops doing its job or changes in a negative way (i.e. carcinogenesis).  The changes have nothing to do with who made the people or the cells.  They are caused by errors in how the cell reproduced or how the people made choices.  They are caused by things outside that should not have been allowed in.  When defenses are down.  And like our bodies, when we see that happening, we need to step up, to help to fix things or protect things. We need to be like an omentum and wrap ourselves around those who are hurting and protect them from the harm.  And for that matter, protect others from the harm.  We need to home towards the lost, the hurt and the wrong and heal it.  Like our physical bodies, we need help from the Creator, we need to follow the instructions laid our for us.  Sometimes we need others to help for us, like medicines.  Professionals who know how to address certain issues or needs in the world and aid us in healing as a community, as a nation.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized byone Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthans 12:12-4

The body is so intricate, so well-designed.  That is how we should be as a people.  Connecting, supporting, sustaining.

Who knew cells could be so inspiring?

Bloody Wednesday

Today began a two-week adventure in lab medicine.  Just the name of it makes me want to snore a little, but nonetheless, that is what it is.  I was actually supposed to start yesterday, but my asthma from the construction efforts made me unable to sleep, let alone walk across the room, so I had to take a coveted sick day.  Today, however, I can navigate the house without becoming short of breath and was able to sleep flat (though the self-imposed increased corticosteroid inhaler caused some restlessness that again decreased productive sleep… that and team Canada getting crushed).  So, I ventured down to the bowels of the hospital and after getting lost at least twice, I found my way to the pathology department where I expected to start my day.  Then I got my schedule… I was booked to be at Canadian Blood Services at 9am… it was 8:50.  And Patrick had the car.  So, on the phone I was to Patrick’s taxi.  I somehow made it and only 10 minutes late!  The adventure at Canadian Blood Services will be the focus of my babbling today.  However, it is also of note that following that, I spent an hour touring the chemistry lab and learning about how mass spectrometry is the future and was the left on my own to look at pathology slides and try to figure them out from the textbook.  Woot.

I actually thought the whole Canadian Blood Services thing would be a bit of a snooze.  I did a hematology elective.  I visited the blood bank.  I tried to donate blood once in my undergrad (I was anemic and hypotensive… I didn’t even make it past the first screen).  So, I didn’t really think there was anything else to learn.  Cocky attitude… Yes.  Cranky attitude… Yes.  But in the end, I did learn.  I actually got much more insight into the blood situation in Canada and more specifically in the area where we live with its isolated population and transportation issues.  The entirety of the whole blood stock for the province (and this is a good time of year… nothing more festive than giving blood for Christmas) is on two shelves.  Two.  That is it.  A unit of platelets lasts for only 5 days.  I learned about quality control and the progress scientists are making to make blood safer for those who need it.  Interestingly, a new procedure… One we use currently to obtain some of our platelets is going to hopefully also revolutionize blood collection… because you can take what you need and leave the rest.  Instead of pooling 5-10 donors, you can get the same amount from one.  Think of the decrease in disease risk that could create!  It got me excited about blood!

Now, I admit, I have not given blood.  I tried once, and then have since blown it off as something I “can’t” do.  But really, I don’t know that.  I just made excuses because I am lazy and didn’t want to go through the effort.  And I am a healthcare professional.  Who wants to care for cancer patients (who need a ton of blood).  So, I am a hypocrite.  I have encouraged friends to donate blood.  I say it’s a good thing.  Harmless.  But I don’t do it myself.  And haven’t tried for ages.  Its not like I am scared of donating.  Needles don’t bug me.  I don’t have any weird diseases or risk factors for not giving.  I am just lazy.

I am going to say that you should give.  Because I do believe that.  And it isn’t that time consuming.  I learned today that the current door-to-door time for giving whole blood is only approximately 45minutes… Only 5-10 of these are the actual donating time.  That is it.  The rest is screening and waiting between steps.  You could read a book.  Giving plasma takes a bit longer and isn’t something you start out with.  Platelet apheresis takes a couple hours, but again, not something you start out with.  You can donate whole blood every 56 days.  Not just once a year.  Contrary to popular belief, donating does not make healthy people anemic.  Most people don’t faint.  And you will save lives or palliate symptoms.  How cool is that?

Just to really get you thinking… People I have cared for that needed blood products: A new mother who has a clotting disorder and cannot stop bleeding after delivery, a middle aged woman who is so anemic, she faints when walking to the bathroom, a 3 year old boy undergoing cancer treatments, a friend who got hit by a drunk driver walking home from church, a young man who had a major joint bleed after falling off his skateboard, an older gentleman with a condition called ITP in which his body keeps destroying his own platelets, so his blood can’t clot, an older lady with a smoldering leukemia that requires red cells every couple months to get her energy up and avoid treatment and many others.  Everyone likely knows someone who needed blood products at some point.  YOU may need blood products at some point.

Many people see others who are very sick and circumstances that are difficult.  They say things like, “I wish I could help” but maybe don’t really know how.  This is a simple way to help.  To love people who are in tough situations.  To meet a physical need.  And you don’t even have to do anything except roll up a sleeve.  Some people can’t give blood.  But they can encourage those who can.

Ironically, the song “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is stuck in my head.  I don’t especially like the song.  It causes stress – our handbell choir played it and it wasn’t exactly an easy piece and I am pretty sure we butchered it on performance night.  Anyway, the thing is.  Jesus shed blood to save all of us.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have eternal life with Him.  That is pretty huge.  It makes giving a small fraction of our blood and staying alive seem pretty insignificant.  At least that is how it seems to me.  Plus, if you are following Him and His example, you want to give of yourself for others.  Meeting physical and spiritual needs.  Showing love.  I think giving blood is a tangible way to show love to the greater community.  Not in the building a new house or thumping Bibles way, but in quiet servant hood.

Patrick and I have decided that on my week of pre-interviews, we are going to take a trip to Canadian Blood Services (he donated for a few years then stopped after a near-fainting episode) and donate!

Surviving the festivities

I want to take up hermit-hood.  Yes, hermit-hood.  I would like to become a hermit.  For a while.  A long while, perhaps.  My absence blogging is quite reflective of my absence of alone time.   Any time alone at all.  The most time alone I have had involves things like showering and sitting on the toilet.  As I said in my previous post, Christmas time is much like an Olympic event.  This year was no exception.

It all started on Christmas Eve.  The first even of the festive season is when my parents pick up my grandmother from the home and bring her over.  My mom’s brother and sister-in-law came too.  We open presents with my grandmother (which she forgets are hers/where they came from/who they came from within 5 minutes) and then they were having lobster and scallops.  Before we could dig into that, it was off to event number two, Patrick’s family potluck.  Now, Patrick’s family is unlike any beast I have ever seen.  They are, well, an army.  Most years, this potluck averages 50-60 people.  Mind you, that is awesome from a food standpoint.  We all meet in a house.  Not so awesome on a space standpoint.  I feel like flapping and shrieking before even walking in the door.  But, we go in and get greeted and hugged and greeted some more.  Then try to find a seat.  Periodically I get elbowed by Patrick and reminded to stop looking so terrified.  Another part of this event is the children’s gift exchange… All of the kids (by kids, anyone under 18) have to buy a gift for another kid under 18.  This is the utmost torture because they are then required to all gather in the middle of the living room and pass out gifts and wait until everyone is ready before they can open.  Its like a tornado of paper.  There are a few relatives who are especially vocal and make their presence known throughout.  This time, we were being grilled by said relatives about our lack of children and questions about when the heck we are going to reproduce.  Ugh.

But, the fun isn’t over next.  This event is left early (thank gracious) to head to church.  Our church Christmas Eve service is a family night…. Basically families can go up front and sing or play instruments as a family.  I have been involved almost every year (though I have no family except Patrick there) because I was basically the music minister’s other kid.  This year, the handbells preformed as well.   The Child (my suspiciously identical not sister sister) and I decided to form our own family because we weren’t adopted into any others and same “Come on Ring Those Bells!”  Funny part was I would my music from a performance with the choir a few years ago with my trademark notes on it.  They read as follows: “Come, let us sing with our choir family,” “Give “Joy” a little punch here…. Mmmmm punch,” and “The ladies need to tinkle here.”  Pure bliss.  Its generally the same families every year and this year was no exception, though one of the kids that usually plays his guitar and sings mildly off-key decided to rap this year.  Awesome.  He is a better rapper than normal singer.  And it was a good song.  The church looked either shocked or were stifling smiles.  It was pretty awesome.  After the music, the youth pastor went up to tell the Christmas story to the kids and his children took the sheep from the nativity scene and began beating each other with them… also classic.  Off we go wishing people Merry Christmas and exchanging presents and then head back to Patrick’s Grandfather’s house.

At Patrick’s Grandfather’s house we do the same thing every year… Pack into the living room and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I don’t really love that movie.  I don’t really think it’s a Christmas movie, aside from a singly Christmas scene.  But its an argument I lose every time.  This year, Patrick’s sister and I held a vote to see whether we would watch that or “Miracle on 34th Street” (substantially more festive).  Of course tradition holds.

At last, we got to sleep.  In the morning.  We got up and opened presents.  With the addition of Patrick and his family, we have more gifts under the tree at my parents’ place than I ever remember.  Its nice.  Its crowded.  We got all kinds of lovely things, including a red blender (which I have no clue how we are going to get back home) and a rack for my Keurig cups (oh boy!).  My Dad’s parents came over for Christmas supper.  We had the same conversation twenty times about where we live and that we have no kids and such.  My grandmother upped and left the table as soon as we were done eating because she didn’t want any more food.  My mom fed us a buffet of dessert.  Patrick says he has never seen so many desserts as my family during the holidays.  His family usually just has pie.  Mine generally combines all of the available dessert-like parapanalia.  After the grandparents leave, we watched some of the “Big Bang Theory” marathon on TV and napped until my parents went to go get my Grandmother from the home again.  She came over and ate more lobster, “for the first time in years and years” (despite having it the night before).  We left and went to Patrick’s family dinner.

Patrick’s family dinner is bigger than mine, as he has siblings and an uncle that go.  Patrick’s grandmother always required that a picture be take from both ends of the table at every big family dinner.  She died over a year and a half ago and we still do it.  It generally was quite an affair to get the picture taken because someone stops looking and someone complains of his or her food getting cold.  This year, Patrick’s Mom’s camera broke and we had to use my new camera.  This brought on a new debate about the color of my camera… Which Patrick believes is purple and most everyone else agrees is a dark blue.  After dinner, they always have two pies.  I eat ice cream because I dislike pie.  Generally the pies are apple and pumpkin.  And Patrick’s entire family pronounces pumpkin “punkin.”  Its hilarious.  And I have nobody to laugh with.  This year, to spice things up we had mince meat pie.  Which Patrick’s sister called “old people pie.”  I made some sort of comment about mince meat containing gross stuff.  And then we got in a brief discussion about what beef suet is and such.  Patrick’s mom then sits down in front of me and starts picking through her pie exclaiming, “I see currants, but no mints.”  Patrick’s sister begins to examine it with her.  Finally Patrick’s Dad breaks the news that it is mince meat not “mints” meat.  No mints.  I almost died.  After supper, we all crammed into the living room to watch the festive basketball game.  Aside from taking pictures, watching post-meal sporting events is another tradition. This year, the Bulls and Lakers (Patrick’s and Patrick’s brother & Dad’s teams, respectively) were playing.  So, we watched all of that.  The Bulls won.  We went home shortly thereafter.

Boxing Day had potential to be slower.  Somehow, though, my Aunt and Uncle showed up.  Then, we got a call from one of my friend’s parents to come over to their place for Christmas dinner.  We usually go to their place for Christmas dinner at some point around Christmas and this year we weren’t going to because the friend is getting married (tomorrow), but the mom (one of my other mothers) was sad that dinner was going to be “just the five of them” and decided to invite us.  I was glad.  Its not the same without them.  So, we had dinner over there.  Dinner conversation at their place is always a bit different than at others.  We talked about the time the future spouse barfed over the back deck when he went over to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage and told stories about other awkward and embarrassing moments.

Since that time, we have been running around for wedding parapanalia (more on that another day).  This afternoon is the first block of downtime we have both had in ages.  I am so tired of people I don’t want to be touched or spoken to.  I am glad I have had so much family and friends time, though.  It had been nice to enjoy the company of others and eat good food and have fun times.  It is interesting to see our different traditions and how we have managed to weave them all together.  I look forward to the future years and how things will start to meld and work together better.  I don’t look forward to some of the changes, but I know they will happen.  I also look forward to not doing wedding stuff in the midst of the festivities.

What are some of your favorite or least favorite traditions this year?

Advent Conspiracy

Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful. –The Advent Conspiracy, 2011.

In church today, we watched an interesting little clip from the Advent Conspiracy (http://ac.wcrossing.org/).  I hadn’t really heard of it before and had no clue what it was, but now have looked into it because the concepts seem appealing.  I think they are interesting not just to believers, but to anyone who feels justice is important in the world today.

Firstly, the clip we watched was focused on giving.  Here it is: 

The truth of this struck me.  I am not always the most festive person, though I have grown in leaps and bounds with respect to my “festiveness” over the past few years.  It is interesting though, the time we waste during the Christmas season doing things out of obligation and cultural norm – the Christmas parties you don’t want to be at, the lines at stores, the traffic in the streets… All of those things can take away from things of true value.  Now, some Christmas parties are of value when the time you spend is quality in nature.  I have been to some wonderful Christmas parties of that nature.  I have also been to the “when is it acceptable that I leave and do I look as bored and tortured as I feel” kinds of parties as well.  What if we skipped some of those things (easier said than done) to spend more time with those we love and care about or doing something of worth and value?

The money you spend on postage could feed a Third World Child.  -The Advent Conspiracy, 2010.

The other thing that knocked me over the head were the statements about our spending habits.  Americans spend 450 billion dollars, thus Canadians spend around 45 billion dollars on Christmas alone (if you go by the take an American statistic and divide by 10 and get the Canadian version literally).  That is A LOT of MONEY!  Even more fascinating is that the cost of the average person’s Christmas card postage totals the same amount used to fund meals for a child in a developing country for a YEAR.    We are so blessed and we are so wasteful.  Its not saying that our gifts don’t have good intentions, but maybe we could have better intentions.

The Advent Conspiracy website details the four principles (explanations of which are paraphrased from the website):

  1. Worship Fully –  Remember, Christmas is all about Jesus.  So, celebrate the One who gives us life and peace.
  2. Spend Less – They suggest buying one less gift this year.  Or making some of your own gifts for less cost.
  3. Give More – Christmas was when Jesus, God’s gift to man was born.  This gift was built on a relationship of love.  This Christmas, give love and give time.  Spend time with people who are important to you.
  4. Love All – Jesus loved the poor, forgotten and those who were considered unloveable.  We should do the same.  By spending less we can help those who need it most.

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Seems fairly simple, yet quite a challenge.

This Christmas season, I plan to try this.  Not because the “Advent Conspiracy” is a cool name or because of the videos, but because of my love for Jesus and my passion for justice.  A little bit of time and money and love can go a long way!

Christmas can [still] change the world. -The Advent Conspiracy, 2011

Little things

Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.  ~Mother Teresa

Sometimes little things mean a lot to people.  The small details.  Things you do that you don’t really see making a tangible difference, but they wind up making a big difference to those people sometimes in ways you don’t even see.  Sometimes these sorts of things are helpful, others hurtful.

At work today, I had one patient ask me for her pathology report for her family doctor.  Apparently this physician keeps getting his mail mixed up with another physician of a similar name, and often doesn’t have information he needs or wants in his office.  He didn’t have the report, even though it had been available for weeks.  Other than the obvious system flaws that should be remedied, I was struck by this woman’s helpfulness in offering this service.  This summer, I spent 8 weeks in rural family practice and we were forever missing information, but thankfully had access to an electronic medical record that could fill in some of the gaps.  Here though, there is no such option for physicians out of the city.  We were grateful when people brought us information from specialists.  I can imagine that this physician would, as well.

Another patient today came in bringing some of his left over wound care supplies that he no longer needed.  He was asking if we knew of anyone who could use them, as they would expire in a few months and he did not know what to do with them.  Ironically, in the room next door, someone who had a large tumor removed from his shin and was now dealing with post op wound infections.  He was using some of the same materials this other man had brought in.  He asked the nurse if he could get any extra supplies, as his homecare nurse had not brought enough for this next week.  This saved someone from inconvenience and cost.

Last week, Jag (our car) was in getting fixed and took longer than we had anticipated.  Patrick had to take a taxi to work (which costs a small fortune) and I had to get from the hospital to the car dealership in rush hour the day after a snow storm.  I called a taxi and was told it would be at least 20 minutes.  While waiting, the resident I was working with came out of the hospital and asked what I was still doing there.  I told her I needed to get the car and was waiting for a taxi.  She volunteered to drive me, despite the traffic because it was only a few minutes out of her way.  She saved us $20 and me a bunch of time.

Our small group did a study almost two years ago now (wow, time flies) called “The Good Samaritan.”  It was all about being a good Samaritan based on Biblical principles.   The lessons are universal.  Loving people no matter what.  Doing the big things, but also taking care of the little things.  Not just in your home or work or school.  Not just in your immediate community or country.  Not just with a global focus.  Love is not always evident in our world today.  We see many hurting people.  It is easy to get bogged down with it all.

Patrick and I were talking today about different cities and stereotypes.  Newfoundlanders are prototypically friendly, people from Toronto less so, etcetera.  Those are just stereotypes.  I have met dreadfully mean people from Newfoundland and delightful and joyful individuals from Toronto.  Similarly, professions are stereotyped.  Religions are stereotyped.  We like to put people into boxes.  I love boxes and categories.  Sometimes these boxes and categories prevent us from loving people the same way we should.  Sometimes they distance us or give us a false sense of security.  We need to look beyond stereotypes and guard against actions that hurt people, stereotyping included.

My question in life is how do we truly show love to people?  I have been hurtful in the past and I am sure I will be again in the future.  Lately, I have been reminded that sometimes the little things, the things we don’t even consider can tip the balance.

Sometimes, I feel if I can’t do the big thing, maybe I just shouldn’t be involved.  I will pray, but really, I am not involved otherwise (prayer IS involvement, don’t get me wrong).  But, lately, I am remembering that little acts of service, prayers and even offering a helping hand to those involved in outside ways or with outside things can be a help.

International Christmas (http://www.totallyinternational.com) is an event put on by InterVarsity groups across Canada.  The goal is to bring International students out to camp and have them experience a truly Canadian Christmas complete with trees, a turkey dinner, carols, skating and the true Christmas story.  The main goal, however, really, is to show Christ’s love to students who may not have heard the Christmas story before or who are alone and scared in a new country.  It is a beautiful thing, International Christmas.  Canadian students and volunteers run the program and befriend students.  They have a talent show and an international meal to share cultural norms and dishes.  There is opportunity for conversation and growth and long-term relationships.  It is part of a bigger ministry to international students that seeks to support them emotionally, socially and educationally, to show Christ’s love and to help them truly experience Canadian culture.

I have never actually participated in International Christmas, though I have always wanted to.  Scheduling never really worked.  I have prayed for the event.  This year, Patrick is going to go, as he is stuck here while I am home for a rotation.  It is very exciting.  I wanted to help and didn’t know how.  But then, my opportunity arose.  They decided this year that it would be nice to give each student who participates a gift.  A scarf.  Many students when they come to Canada don’t have appropriate clothing for our winters.  This is practical.  It is also kind of symbolic.  So, I am knitting a scarf.  A lovely brightly colored scarf.  I hope it becomes someone else’s “little thing.”

The scarf 3/4 completed.

On a somewhat unrelated note, the pattern for this scarf is quite easy and available online at: http://knitting.about.com/od/knittingpatterns/p/farrowscarf.htm.