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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White As Snow

The M family has been on the road (minus our guard cat, Jeter). 

Vacation is a beautiful thing.  Especially when it is spent with friends and family (and good books and beautiful scenery).  It is late, we are still away and I am lazy, so no pictures for today.

I just wanted to quickly share a song that has been on my heart.  It is called “White As Snow” apparently, although, I thought it was called “Create In Me” so it took some epic searching to track down the actual song and not some random hymn.  We have been singing it a fair bit in church the last few months and some words in the song are taken from Psalm 51.  

 

 

 

 

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

 

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of my salvation

 

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

I have been struggling with anger and guilt and a whole host of other emotions because of a friend and some other crummy circumstances life has thrown my way.  They have come to a head of late and I stated to notice some of my behaviours and tendencies.  To be honest, I don’t like them.  I also realized that although some circumstances are crummy, some people don’t always treat me the way I know I should be treated and some difficulties are bigger than I can fix, it doesn’t mean I can’t pray through them and love and act in such a way that demonstrates grace.  I haven’t been so grace filled.

And yes, I am human.  And yes, I am allowed to feel hurt.  But, it is wrong for me to be bitter.  And I shouldn’t be spiteful (even if it seems satisfying in my head at the time).  Really, I choose how I feel.  And yes, feelings are just feelings, but continuing to fester can be harmful.  And it is sinful.

So, basically I have been reminded that those thoughts, those tendencies, although completely human, they are wrong and hurtful to God.  And in the end, they are hurtful to me and those around me.  But, most importantly, they are wrongdoings against God who has done a ton for me and loves me despite the crap I do.

I don’t deserve to be forgiven for some of this garbage.  But, the cool part is that God has taken care of all that stuff.  A big sacrifice.  And I keep getting second chances.  And that is awesome.  And should make me more excited than it does sometimes.

I really want to be restored to that kind of joy.   The happiness that comes from knowing what I have been saved from and how loved I really am.  I want to move away from some of my harshness and bitterness.  I want to love those who hurt me and those who seem beyond my reach.  I want to be patient.  I know there is no magic switch.  Relationships are hard.  Life is complicated. I’m human.  

But, He is God.  So, He can move me in the right direction better than I or anyone else can.  So, this song is my prayer.

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.

Breaking The Sound Of Silence

This week’s writing challenge with the Daily Post is called “The Sound of Silence.”

I am choosing to approach the topic from the perspective of breaking the silence on a topic.  One that I have been very reluctant to talk about on here, with most of my friends or family and until recently, God.  And yet, I have been toying with a post on the topic for ages (I did kind of address the issue a bit here).

My silence comes from a place of privacy.  Because people don’t need to know all of my business.

But moreso it comes from a place of shame and jealousy, both of which are sin.

In our current small group, we share what we call redemption stories – stories of how God is redeeming our lives for Him.  This was the topic of my redemption story.

Fertility issues and pregnancy loss are getting more attention these days.  But, still they are little talked about.  Even in medicine.

Although before the last year I could tell you that it is not worth investigating the absence of conception with couples having appropriately timed intercourse until they have been at it for a year (if they are under 35).  I also could have told you that it is very common for pregnancy to end in miscarriage, sometimes even before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Then, I lived it.

The plan was always to have a baby in my PGY2 year.  It is the best year in my program to do this.  More flexibility, you aren’t into the swing of being “on service” all that stuff.

My plan failed.

Because it was my plan.  Not God’s plan.  Not even Patrick’s plan (although he was game for it, he was cool with kids before I was).  The best laid plans can fall apart.  And mine did.

We have existed through month after month of disappointment.  I didn’t know I could experience such disappointment.  It seems not that long ago that we were first married and pregnancy seemed one of the worst things that could happen.

I would sit and church and hear about our all loving and knowing God and how He only wants good in my life and I would wonder where my good was.  I would hear baby announcements and be happy and crushed all at the same time.  I would politely smile and answer an obligatory some day when people would ask when we were having kids.

I know all the textbook answers (okay, not all of them, I haven’t done any obstetrics outside of LMCC studying since Med 3).   I know that I have some family history of fertility struggles.  I also know that there is likely nothing wrong with me to cause this “delay” (it doesn’t change my thinking that there is 50 times per day).

I know miscarriages are common.  That didn’t change the hearbreak I felt when I realized that I had a chemical pregnancy and that my body clearly did not want to house that tiny collection of cells for whatever reason.

I felt alone and defective.

And really, I wasn’t.

I mean, lots of people go through this.  Tons.  In fact, it is perfectly normal to not have a kid first go around, or second or even tenth.  It is also perfectly normal to lose a pregnancy.  It is our body’s amazing way of cleaning up genetic mistakes.

Heck, even Sarah in the Bible had these kinds of struggles and she ended up being huge in history.

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.  Hebrews 11:11

I have friends and a family who I could have shared this with, but I chose to keep it a secret.  I tried to keep much of this grief from Patrick too, but that is nearly impossible.

I did this partly because I am selfish and human and wanted to keep my pain just for me.  Partly because I was angry at God.  And mostly because I blamed myself and felt mind boggling shame.

I’d love to say that one day a light turned on and I felt better about it.  But really, that would be a lie.

God has been working me through it.

I have met people in different phases of the journey.  They are great encouragements.  One person said to me that really, we shouldn’t be ashamed.  It isn’t our story.  It is God’s story.  And He isn’t ashamed. We just don’t see the whole picture.

I have heard someone say that shame is often the devil trying to draw you away from God.  Or that shame is a form of selfishness.  For me, it acted as both.  Shame and selfishness begets more shame and selfishness.  It is a vicious cycle that can draw you away from all kinds of good.  When you get caught up in it, you can only see your own hurt and not the good and rational in the world.

In church, we talked about the difference between fundamental joy and joy that we derive from other things.  I am generally a joyful person.  I find great joy in God and in simple things in life.  In Jesus, we have fundamental joy.  I still felt that joy, but felt like a piece was starting to be missing. I was trying to (and still am much of the time) derive joy from something I didn’t have.  That isn’t fair to me or God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  -Romans 15:13

I hate the cliché when people say you need to be satisfied in God before thing X will come about.  But, I think this has been a huge lesson in that.  Especially as someone who has had a pretty darn good life, I have come to realize that I need to be satisfied in God in the times where I feel crummy or am unhappy, not just when stuff is going well.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  -Isaiah 58:11

I have been reminded countless times that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It doesn’t always feel like that, but in conversation with a friend this past weekend, I was reminded that the human body is amazing creation that we often just take for granted.  It made me remember that includes my body, so maybe I shouldn’t give it such a hard time.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  -Psalm 139: 13-16

But more importantly, I am coming to realize that this situation is because of our fallen world and that God is still in it with me.

God is still working me through my sin around these struggles and my shame both when coming to Him and telling others.  But, at least I talk to Him about it now instead of just stewing to myself in my head.

Also, I see purpose in the whole thing.  My growth both emotionally and spiritually has been slow, but significant. I now have a new empathy for people without kids or coping with loss.  I have learned a boatload about what people deal with trying to conceive that could one day help friends or patients.

And one day, maybe soon, we will have a kid and that will be super cool and awesome and I can tell this story and show how huge God was in all of it.  Because really, that is what it is all about (cue musical interlude).

I am a work in progress.  That is what makes us human.

I just hope that this glimpse of my humanness, this break of silence will make a difference for someone else caught up in the web of shame, guilt and worry.  It was a big step for me, at least.

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).

Heartbreaking loss

One of my seemingly large number of people in my age bracket with cancer that I knew through the medical school world died this weekend.

He was the boyfriend (basically, spouse) of one of my closer classmates.   And he was a Dad.  And a friend of many.

They were two of the lovelies we saw Coldplay with in Europe.  He was the one that I had a running joke with for a year that I clearly didn’t like him because I (in my old lady ways) would always be leaving a party when he would get there after work.  He sometimes brought us food, coffee (or alcohol, depending on the indication) and laughs.

They are back in the place I went to med school.  I can’t go to the funeral.  I can’t give her a hug.

His cancer was one of the ones I, as an oncology person, would say is a good one to have.  One that has a high rate of cure.  Unfortunately, someone has to be in the subset that doesn’t do well.

I just wish it wasn’t him.

And then, I go to medical oncology clinic.  I give good news and I give bad news, mostly to people twice his age.  I quote statistics and review treatments.  But, they are just numbers, just data.

And all I can think about is him.  And her.  And the soul crushing loss that must be losing your life partner.  And at such a young age.

I see people posting heartfelt statuses, blog posts and such about how great he was, how sad they are.  But, nothing can compare to what she feels.   At least, that is what I imagine.  I can’t really know.  Nobody except she and God can.

I don’t even have words.

I can’t even imagine.  I can’t do the sentiment justice.

My heart is broken.

All I can do is pray.

Exhale

The post I was thinking about writing ties in well with the Daily Post daily prompt from a couple days ago, “Exhale,” which asks you to tell about a time when you felt like everything was going wrong and then suddenly you knew it was going to be alright.

In this case, I did know in my head it was going to be alright, at least in theory before this, but still, it fits.

As those of you who read this blog may have noticed, I have been struggling a lot with feeling a part of the community at church.  I’m not a naturally outgoing person and I don’t fit a lot of the typical gender roles of women my age in the church (maybe this isn’t really true, but it is how I feel sometimes).  I have been kind of bothered by the fact that we have been here for a year and things are still challenging socially for me when not at work (my fellow residents/physics folks are geekily delightful) or with the Child and her husband (again, thank goodness for them).  I knew it would take time and I felt like I was gaining ground until the summer hit and our D-group (small group) dissolved for the formation of new groups this fall.

Despite that, I have tried (prayed really hard and tried to be optimistic… er… listened to Patrick’s optimism) to trust that we would make more friends and have real friendships and community.  And tried to trust that this takes time and that really a year, especially with how much we have been away/working, isn’t that long.  And tried to trust that the thoughts in my head that I was hopeless on this end and that things could never be as good as we had with our small group on the Rock were not true.

As a human.  Especially as a human who likes to control things, but doesn’t like groups of people, this has been a challenge.  And although I was trying to leave it all to God and stop putting pressure on myself (and others), I felt very discouraged and kind of down about the whole thing.

Tonight was our first meeting with our new Discipleship group (D-group).  We are definitely the only people that nobody really knows.  And I am totally Patrick’s wife to most of them. That being said, we shared a meal with a group of people from a diverse number of backgrounds.  Single, married, some with teens and others with an infant.  Some go way back, others have known eachother for a year or two.

It was nice.  It was nice to be with people in a group that wasn’t work related.

The first meeting is mainly about setting group ground rules and getting to know one another and praying around what God is going to do for the year.  It was good.

It seems like a good group of people and I think we will have good discussions.

It seems silly, but even just meeting up for the first time and starting to plan for year ahead and chatting a bit made me feel better.  Even though I was terrified to go initially.

It will be okay.  We will get to know more people and I will fit in.

Tonight was just the reminder I needed.

Coffee and Jesus

I acquired this image from demelzainwonderland.wordpress.com (check her blog out!!).

Well, this about sums up a day in my life.

Recently, I have been struggling a lot with this balance.  

I am trying to cut back on the coffee.  I have acknowledged that quitting smoking is difficult and if it is anything like cutting back coffee when in medicine, I can at least better imagine how tough it must be.  I am not a HUGE coffee drinker.  I was a maybe two cup per day person… Three if social circumstances required.  But, trying to keep it down to one cup per day is mind blowing for me.  Physically it isn’t too bad.  But, the habit of having coffee and the social aspect is terrible.

In medicine, there is sometimes free coffee at rounds.  And when we want to teach, we often teach “over coffee.”  And one of the best ways to sneak off the floor for a few minutes is to volunteer to go get coffee.  Plus, the cafeteria at my hospital stops selling all but Tim’s coffee after 2.  Which means you are limited to Tim’s decaf, which, in my opinion tastes more like cigarette butts than their real coffee.

In my social life, I have a number of friends who are equally coffee addicts.  Or it is just the main socially acceptable beverage to socialize over.

So, the coffee balance is a struggle.  But coffee is good.  So, that is okay.

Then, there is a whole Jesus thing.  Well, not a thing.  Person.  Deity.  All that.

I have found the whole lot of Jesus thing hard.  

Not because He isn’t always around.  But because I don’t always want Him around.

And at least half the people reading think I am crazy.  And that is fine.

Back to my point…

I have really been struggling with the battle between being legalistic and going through the motions versus genuine faith.  A lot of my recent everything has been one the going through the motions side of things.  I can give a million excuses.  I have been tired, and sad about a bunch of things and stressed about a bunch of somewhat related things.  And I just haven’t wanted to give myself up.   

I feel like I got past some of that stuff, but then I got caught in the what I have to do trap.  I kept thinking that I needed to do certain things to be faithful.  That what I did “spiritually” affected my outcome in everything. 

The problem was that I took the focus off God and had it on me.  That isn’t cool.

We talked about that in church this week.  There was a name for it.  I forgot the name of it.  The concept of being faithful for what you will escape because of it.  I can’t remember, but really, I guess that isn’t important.

What is important is God.  And that was something I was reminded of.

Look at Joseph hanging out in prison and when he gets his chance to shine in front of Pharoh, he throws the emphasis and the credit back to God.  Like he should.  

The goal is to be worshipful.  Not to be self-fulfilled.  

I need to work on that.  But, the first step is admitting it is an issue and asking God to give me better intentions.  

But yes, coffee and Jesus.  Key elements for survival.

I don’t care, but it’s cool: Thoughts and feelings about a new pope

I was asked by one of my lovely readers and BFFs to write about my thoughts on a particular topic… The new Pope.

You see, I grew up Roman Catholic… Roman Catholic of the Acadian  subcontext.  I did the whole catechism thing… I was baptized, first communioned, first confessioned and confirmed.  Then, some might say, I went astray while others may argue I saw the light.  I just like to say I grew up and developed a personal relationship with Jesus and felt that much of the legalism, politics and extreme focus on tradition did not fit in the context or requirements  belief in Christ or Christianity as a whole. I stopped attending the Catholic church.  I stopped identifying myself as “Catholic” and opted for “Christian.”  This was and still is at times a HUGE struggle for me.

Despite that, I do admire Catholicism for its trueness to history and tradition.  I do believe people who practice the Catholic faith can believe in Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him.  I think that some people can miss out on that with all of the focus on Saints and other figureheads like Popes.  Just  like some people miss out on that by debating doctrinal subtleties, focusing on speaking in tongues as the only marker of being truly saved or wrestling with snakes being a sign of true faith.  Sometimes all of the hoopla takes away from Jesus and God who should be the center and I think sometimes that leads people astray, which makes me sad.

My family is still overall very Catholic.  And I respect that.  Because they believe the important stuff and the other stuff is not and should not be central.  I know they think I am odd in some ways.  But, everyone is odd in some way.  I still feel at home when I go to Mass because of the familiarity.   But, I am honest in that I won’t participate in things like praying for the dead or going to confession and such. Those aren’t important to the main message… Jesus.

Because of the tradition I grew up in, my friend wanted to know what I thought about the new Pope.

In simple terms: I don’t care, but it’s cool.

I can elaborate…

One of the biggest things that I find difficult is when people mount people above others and particularly above God.  It drives me crazy when people think the world revolves around their awesome pastor or when someone is afraid to tick off the priest.  Yes, these are knowledgeable people, but they are not God.  And they will never be God or like God.  They don’t answer prayers.  They can pray on our behalf (aka intercession), but they don’t fix stuff for us.  For a lot of the world, the Pope is like a superstar… For some, even a superhero.  They worship him.  They believe what he says above what the Word of God says.  Remember that commandment “thou shalt have nod Gods before me.”?  I am pretty sure that included the Pope.

It is a big deal to become a Pope.  There are a million requirements including being a man, being a cardinal (which takes a long time and a lot of accomplishment as it is), being able to speak a ton of languages, being an all around good person and then being picked.  I get that it is a big deal.  I think it is awesome buddy is the new Pope.  That is basically like being the president of the Catholic church.  Good for him.

I don’t follow many current events, but I couldn’t help but hear about this one.  It didn’t mean I was intrigued or interested.  I was as uninterested as I generally am.  I know much of the world was waiting with baited breath, but to me the most interesting piece was that they actually came to a decision so soon… Usually it takes way longer.

It sounds heartless, but I don’t care because it is just another guy, in just another election of sorts.  Kind of like how I really don’t care who the president of Norway is (random selection… I don’t have something against Norway) or about whatever Will and Kate are up to this week.  Good for him.  Interesting historic moment.  But, I can go on with my day.

People say I should care because Catholicism is a big part of the world today.  That a new Pope might change things.  Both are kind of true, but really, I will believe it when I see it.  We all might change things if we make an impact.

From a person who grew up Catholic, I guess I was more interested than some because I learned a bit about how it works growing up.  I explained the whole conclave thing to Patrick.  How the Pope is pretty much a superstar.  How everything is maintained so carefully and selectively there isn’t a whole lot of room for change.  He also heard an interview with a professor who confirmed these things.  But, beyond a curiosity about what country buddy would be from and what name he would pick, I was quite aware little is likely to be different.

Unless I see change, I don’t really think it will happen.  Partly because history repeats itself.  Partly because people are resistant.  And thus getting a new Pope from a new place doesn’t change things to me.  It is the same Catholic church until proven otherwise.

I also must share that it drive me nuts that we pay this much attention to the choosing of a random guy (okay, not random) and how it impacts “the church” and “the world,” but we can’t talk about faith without offending someone and that the news doesn’t address issues that are more local or of more relevance.

Now that I sound like an apathetic jerk, there are some reasons why I think the whole new Pope thing is cool.

Change is good.  First of all, other buddy having the balls to retire is awesome.  That alone is a huge change from the whole pope until you die thing.  Way to actually ensure you have someone who wants to be there and is well enough to do it running the church.  Having someone younger can mean changes, even if they are just small and sometimes those changes are beneficial.

I am not saying there will be big changes.  The way people move up in the ranks and such is definitely not always by being outside the box.  But, there are many good things the Catholic church does and having a fresh person in charge is good.  I am sure it will still be bad for women to take birth control, but maybe some more of a push for charity will happen.

I think it is cool things happened so quickly.  We get so caught up in this stuff where we can access information.  I was impressed at how the thing was handled.

I love that the Catholic church stands firm to tradition.  I don’t always agree with their methods, but they stick to their guns despite societal pressures and despite what the world thinks or judges.  That takes guts and gumption and strong belief in a system.  I find the tradition of picking Popes and the hierarchy odd, but I also find it fascinating that it all works even in this day and age.  Patrick heard in one interview with a professor who is a specialist on the subject that the Cardinals really don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of the process or the new Pope.  Because that really isn’t what matters at all in the process.  I liked that.

It is cool that the new Pope is from Argentina and that he does sound like a really awesome guy having done a bunch of charity work and such.  Sometimes, it seems that by the time people get that high up in anything, not just the church, they give up on the little people and focus on things like administration or politics, but according to what I’ve read, he was still going out to the streets and reaching out to people.  That makes him a winner in my books.

His new name is Pope Francis I.  Way to be unique instead of being the 15th of a generic name.  Yes, I am not pro-saint and I don’t get why he can’t keep his real name, but if you are going to have to get a new one, why not pick a unique one!

As I said earlier, it is a big accomplishment to become a Pope.  So, even though it really isn’t anything overwhelmingly thrilling to me, I do think it is neat to see this happen.

As a member of the greater Christian community, I believe God is working through the Catholic church and that He can do great things through this new Pope and the changes that are happening.  That is exciting!

So, although I am not overly interested in it, I must confess, the whole Pope thing is something I am not a big fan of.  However, I have to say, the news is kind of cool and has great potential.

I know not everyone will share my perspective.  I would love to hear what you think about the whole new Pope thing!  Just please don’t eat my face.  And if I offended you, this is just my opinion on an issue the world is talking about coming from a person who has lived on a few sides of the argument.  I am not out to be malicious.  Just to share and have a conversation.

One of THOSE days

Have you ever had one of THOSE days?

One of the days where doing your job… The job that you love and feel called to do feel feels like a chore.  Where duties that you like are enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out and you drag your feel at every step?

That was my today.

Well, at least that is how my today turned out.

It started out like any other day doing routine morning rounds on the inpatients when I got a call about one of my sicker and more complicated patients.  They weren’t well and were asking for the attending to come see them.  Instead, they got me.

Needless to say, although we like eachother (I think) they weren’t thrilled to see me.  And I really couldn’t do very much at all to help, except hold hands (until I got yelled at because I was limited in what I could give or do until I spoke with someone else).

And thus began a roller coaster of a day.  I somehow managed to speak to every consultant involved during the course of the day, some of which have starkly different opinions and approaches, all of whom want me to in speaking with my staff have a million changes happen.  And some of them are discongruent.  And I seem to be one of the only common points of discussion except the patient.

As the day went on, I found myself caught up in a he-said she-said drama and somehow managed to get paged at least once an hour about some sort of issue with orders, a need to reassess a new symptom, talk to a new family member/team member and yet still needing to do the rest of my work.  And I still needed to complete my other regular duties (not that they are particularly heavy at the moment, but nonetheless they do exist and I missed rounding with staff on our other patients and teaching and part of clinic due to this important, but relatively non-life threatening conglomerate of events…)

Normally, I would take all of this in stride.  But, by noon, I was frustrated with being pulled in different directions, tired of having to go back to that floor every time I tried to leave and annoyed… Not with the patient or their family or the team, none of this is within their control (one might argue the team could do better, but it is really complicated), but with the whole package and with myself for being annoyed.  I began to feel resentment at whomever was the source of my pages.  A little voice inside my head wanted to yell “No, I don’t want to go up and reassess the patient!”

But, I didn’t do that.   I took a deep breath and prayed for the patient and for myself.  Then, I smiled and ploughed on.  There was a lot of fake it until you make it happening on my end today.

I feel awful when I don’t want to see patients or when I get annoyed with people calling me.  It is my job and it is their job.  I try not to show it ever and it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, it really can be a struggle. Sometimes calls or duties that are not necessary happen.  Sometimes you work with people who you don’t always enjoy spending time with.  Neither of these sometimes were in this situation, this was more of a sheer volume and confusion thing.   And often, it snowballs and the feelings get more intense if I don’t do something to calm down and regain perspective.

Was I the picture of perfect?

Nope.  I sighed and occasionally rolled my eyes while writing notes.  At one point I contemplated throwing my pager out the window.

By the time the afternoon was starting to come to a close, I thought I was in the clear.  But, then I had to go do a procedure.  Which, of course, like the trend of my day was not without complication and then a page from my staff wanting to see the patient immediately after (which turned out to be longer than they would have liked).

This all made me think of this song by (one of Patrick’s favourites) Mark Schultz… Including the getting the name wrong piece… One of the staff I work with is convinced my name is Krista, no matter what I tell him.

I would like to say I was never so happy to go home, but as it turns out, I was on call.  I missed the last shuttle to the other hospital, so I had to power walk with all of my stuff.  Where it has been busy since my arrival up to right now.

But again, there is something to be said about keeping my cool.

I know the nurses appreciate it.  And as irritated the patient and family are with the circumstance, they probably prefer me to be calm and pleasant (I hope anyway…).  And I always appreciate people who are nice, especially if I expect them to start getting annoyed.

The day is far from over.  And, to be completely honest, I want nothing more right now but to go home and curl up in the fetal position next to my husband. However, I look at it like this… I am usually happy.  I love what I do.  It was a bad day and things like that happen.  I remind myself I did my best.

I am far from perfect.  I know I wear my emotions on my face.  I have been told that before.  So, I am sure someone along the way picked up on my frustration or angst or fatigue.  And sometimes I overcompensate.  But, I like to think I was still helpful and open and wiling to try at a times (and they were multiple today) where I could have thrown in the towel or avoided the situation.

Tonight, I still feel on edge.  I still feel bitter about a ton of things that happened.  I also feel good about some of the things that happened.  About what I learned.  About the progress we made, even if it felt small.

But, the cool part of it all is that this is just one day in a million. There will be other bad days, but there will be many more okay days and some awesome days too.

The other cool part is how great God is at getting me through the suckyness without gouging out someone’s eyes.

Without Him, I would never have the patience or the perseverance to deal with stuff.  As strange as it may sound to some of you “Trisha is all crazy and Jesus-freaky sometimes” folks, the brief pause to say a prayer is time to gather myself.  And my premorbid personality is such that I get annoyed with inefficiency, disorganization and complaining, three things that today was full of.  So, without big changes that have taken place in my life, this would have been much worse.

I also firmly believe that God acts in some of the tough situations to help work things out.  Can I prove it?  Not especially, but I still believe it (maybe I am crazy, or maybe I have seen some pretty weird things work out the right way).

And God keeps my perspective right.  Again, this is something people can do without God, but I like having Him in the equation, I think it makes it easier.  But, I try to see people how God might.  With love, with respect and I try to treat them as such, even when I don’t want to.  It is hard.

I guess you could say I tried to Golden Rule-it-up today by treating others how I wanted to be treated.  And some of them treated me nicely back… Even though their days were clearly going poorly too.  Funny how that works?!

Sometimes, I think people need a V-8 (remember those V-8 commercials where people would smash others on the forehead?  No… Well, I do.).  It isn’t always my place to give it.  And some days, I do too.   And sometimes there doesn’t seem to be anyone to crack me on the head.  So, you get through it and carry on.

When you love what you do, when it is a calling, not just a career, having one of THOSE days is not enough to make you want to quit, but it is enough to require you to take a step back and breathe (and possibly consider taking up some bad for you habit as a vice), but then carry on happily (maybe not quite that same day, but a few days later).