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.

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).

Adventures in church hopping

Image from gatewayaddisonny.com

It is Sunday yet again and we are at our new home… Which meant it was church shopping round three.

*Huge groans from the M household.*

I remember when I first moved away, I was excited to find a new church and the change that it might bring.  I tried three churches.  I settled at the third one I went to and went to evening services from time to time at the second (and a fourth…Thanks to Patrick).  Somehow, it took just a small fluke, a single old friend and a church bus for God to lead me to that church.

This time around, we were not quite as excited to find a new church.  Probably because we loved our old one and miss our church family from both places terribly.  Also, in a city this big, there are many options to sift through.

Needless to say, our last church visited was awesome.  There were no big red flags.  No overwhelming calling from God, but something keeps making me want to go back that makes me think God has something in store for us there… Maybe.

But, this week, because we had said we would check out a few more churches and because I am super stubborn, we visited another church.  This was a Weslyan church about 20 minutes from our apartment.

First of all, the whole 20 minutes from the apartment is big to me.  It isn’t an unreasonable distance, but much of that trip is highway driving.  I like drives, but I don’t know if it is something I want to do regularly.  Especially come winter.

We get there (late thanks to poor signage on the roads leaving the city) and it is a beautiful, modern looking building.  Everything is pretty and new.  Including the classy lights and such in the sanctuary.  The church is full.  In fact, they have two morning services there are so many people.

This combination leaves my head wanting to explode.  I think it is fantastic that a church is thriving, but I struggle with the separate service thing.  I mean, I want to go to church and have a community.  Yes, small groups do that.  But, it is pretty crazy when you don’t necessarily even see the people who go to the other service.   And the newness of the building and such…  It is lovely.  But, I always think that money could go elsewhere.  Maybe because my church at home-home often can’t even pay bills from month to month, let alone modernize, but there is still all kinds of stuff going on.  It frustrates me that so much money would be used for new buildings and pretty buildings when you could have something decent for part of the cost and put the funds towards other things.  Things that are more kingdom minded.  And yes, new and shiny brings people in… And sometimes new and shiny is needed when old gets too old.   But new and shiny can also detract from things.

But, I tried (really hard) to push down my irrational issues with drives and fancy buildings to pay attention to what was happening. I liked the worship.  The worship team was huge.  The preaching was practical… Lots of scripture references.  Although, I didn’t like how much the pastor kept going back to famous people quotes too… For every scripture there was a famous person.  Interesting, but it felt overdone.  Again, different styles.  Only one service.

The church seemed missions minded.  They had a few projects on the go for things overseas.  Big childrens’ programs.  Lots of young families.

We left after talking to one greeter who noticed my university jacket from med school.  Other than that, we slipped under the radar.  I was okay with that.

On the drive home, Patrick asked what I thought of the whole thing.  I couldn’t phrase it.  There was nothing wrong with the church.  There were no “big red flags.”  On the other hand, there was nothing that made me want to go back.  He agreed.  He found it reminded him a bit of his church growing up, which he loved (and I like) and yet it didn’t really beckon.

It just isn’t the church God wants us at.

I guess.

Or maybe it isn’t the church we want to be at.

I have to keep questioning our logic to make sure it is actually the right decision.

Last night, we were talking with our friends who were visiting town for a couple nights about the church hunt.  They are still trying to find a place to call home-home after being in the same city for 9 years.  It has been a struggle.  They have a church home, but no really tight ties.  Not the draw from God to stay they home to one day find.

We discussed how the church we had before was good.  That God really blessed us in our church family and ministry.  That we really didn’t expect that initially.  We also discussed how we feel like it is time for a change (not that we had a choice in the matter).  And how God gives us what we need in His own time.  Maybe sometimes having community in other ways is what God wants.  Or the freedom to investigate other church groups.

Honestly, it is difficult to have the answers.

I feel frustrated because a piece of me just wants to settle down.  I think God hasn’t said “no” to the place we went before and that it would be a change and also offer community we have been seeking.  But another piece of me is scared to settle down or to miss out on what God is offering.  I know God gives second chances and what we need and such, if we pay attention and ask.

We have another friend who thinks she needs to check out at least 5-10 churches before you can really know where to go.  We have been praying about and discussing the places to try beforehand.  It seems more efficient.  But, to each their own, I suppose.  I can’t hop around for another 2 months. At least not without a big shove from God.  I like to think He gives us some direction in where to try to minimize the angst.  Plus, I feel like there is a consumerism side to church hopping that can sometimes crop up that makes me uncomfortable.  That is why God really needs to have the reigns for us to get anywhere at this point.

It would be nice if everyone could be in the same place.  If everyone had a good church home.  I know that isn’t always the case.  But, I think God does direct us for our good and His purposes.  Hopefully we get to stop and stay somewhere soon, though.

Missing Church

I really like church.

To some people, that makes me lame… To others it sounds perfectly reasonable.

I had this discussion with one of my other mothers a few weeks ago.  She was laid up after a bout of pancreatitis and couldn’t get out of the house, let alone go to church.  The first week she got out, she said it felt so good.  Not just because she was getting out of the house or because she was seeing people, but because it just feels right to go to church.  To be with other believers, to learn and grow.

I couldn’t have agreed with her more.

So, as a result, I am starting to feel a bit deprived.

Last week, we missed out on church because we were out enjoying the loveliness of PEI with Patrick’s family.  This week, I have been on call all weekend and despite trying to go in to round early this morning, I had a couple people who became quite unwell and I had to stick around to do investigations and talk with families.  I love my job, so that is fine, but I still was sad to miss out on church.

Meanwhile, Patrick has started the church hunt without me and scoped out the first place.  He reported back it was friendly and Biblically sound and he even thinks it is worth a second look visit with me in tow!

Despite there being good reasons for missing church, I can’t help but feel a bit sad.  Although I can pray and read my Bible and such on my own, the whole teaching and group worship thing is really valuable and a refreshing chunk of my week.

I had a patient agree with me on this one.  She was asking me if there was a church service today at the hospital.  The particular building we are at does not have a service.  She was a bit disappointed.  I wish I could have taken her to the service.  But, I had those other emergencies to tend to.  She was telling me that church is usually one of the highlights of her week.  Something about praising God with other people.   I agreed.

So, Patrick being the lovely spouse that he is thought it would be a good idea to go to church at night, so long as I didn’t get called.  And we would have BBQ first (the BBQ was one of the most challenging things I ever assembled… I am pretty sure we are lucky to have not blown ourselves up).  The BBQ took longer than expected, especially because the wind was unusually strong today and blew it out… Twice.    So, we missed any 6:00 services… The start time of the majority.

Patrick, however, had driven past a church that had a 7:00 service this morning.  So, we went there.  And almost went down a one-way street to get there only to discover the evening service is at 7pm September to June.  Fail.  We were two months early for church.

Despite being a bit discouraged, we went for a walk and enjoyed some of God’s creation.  It was quite lovely.  We only got partly lost for a period of time.

I think it is good that I feel that way about church.  A church is just a building, but it is good to worship with others, whether it is a small group, your family or a random gaggle of people.  Even in the Old Testament, people got together for worship and prayer.  We see it tons in the New Testament church.  If it was good for them back then, it must be good for us now.

Because we value it, we will continue to church hunt.  I look forward to us finding a church we can call home.  I am also pumped that we can do it together.

Your faithfulness stretches to the sky

In my Bible reading, I came across Psalm 36: 5-7.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,

your justice like the great deep.

You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

I recognized in this Psalm the lyrics to a worship song I love.

Your love, oh Lord reaches to the heavens

And Your faithfulness stretches to the sky

And Your righteousness is like the mighty mountain


And Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide

Chorus 1:

And I will lift my voice to worship You my King

And I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings

Repeat All

Chorus 2:

And I will lift my voice to worship You my King (I will lift my voice to worship You my King)

And I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings (And I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings)

Repeat Chorus

Your love, oh Lord reaches to the heavens

Your faithfulness stretches to the sky

-Third Day

The whole concept of God’s characteristics being bigger than our material world blows my mind.  I can’t imagine something so big.  But, it must be good.

With the weather getting nicer, I find myself outdoors more often spending time in God’s creation.  I can’t help but think about how amazing this world is.  I can’t help but know there must be someone behind all of it.  That it can’t be a big accident.  And that if someone is so powerful to make such a beautiful Earth, how much bigger and more powerful is that someone.

The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, NS.

It makes me grateful that God is on my side.  That He loves me.  That He provides my strength and security.

He has to… Because He made all of this.  And sustains it.  Despite all that we have done and everything else He could be doing.

Too much of a good thing… Learning from the evidence.

Oxygen could kill you?

Who knew?

I knew it could give premature babies retinopathy, but critically ill adults?  Seriously?

Before you start to panic and demand physicians everywhere to remove oxygen from grandpa, allow me to explain…

Today, we saw all 6 of our patients in the first hour and a half (I saw them twice).  We didn’t have clinic scheduled today because the call schedule was late coming out and he doesn’t like to have patients scheduled on call days.  On a related note, we found out that we are on call all weekend.  ALL WEEKEND.  Surprise!   Not impressed (**whines).  Anyway, he decided it would be a good idea for me to go home early today (no complaints) but to read a few journal articles to be ready to talk about them tomorrow.

I am a big geek, so no problem there!  He suggested checking out last week’s Archives in Internal Medicine because it was interesting.

So I did.  And this is what I learned.

Something that caught my attention was the article Supplemental Oxygen in Medical Emergencies: More Harm Than Benefit?  It discusses how research is starting to point to the fact that our instinctive strapping on of oxygen to every sick person is not always good.  That people who are having ischemia can actually have more ischemia on oxygen.  Increased oxygen concentrations in the blood can cause vasoconstriction and free radical formation.  Thus, they can increase ischemia and tissue damage.  People who receive high concentration oxygen with normal saturation on room air can have poorer outcomes.  Wild!

I did further reading and found articles about oxygen administration and how we tend to over use oxygen outside of guidelines for requirements in hospitals.  The cost savings from more appropriate usage of oxygen would be ridiculous.  One study quoted 45% of oxygen administration is not medically necessary.  Plus, with what scientists are discovering about oxygen, imagine the impact.

I read another article entitled Effect of Aspirin on Vascular and Nonvascular Outcomes.  This was talking about the use of aspirin as prevention of cardiovascular events, cancer and death.  Interestingly, despite the medical profession’s view of aspirin as a benign drug, it still has side effects and in this study had no impact on cardiac death or cancer mortality.  It did reduce non-fatal MIs.  But the authors suggest that this needs to be weighed with the bleeding and GI side effects of the drug.  Crazy.  I have been in clinics where aspirin is prescribed to patients with any cardiac risk factors, even if they have not had an MI.  But apparently it is in people with known cardiac disease that it has shown benefit.  This is not to say there is no benefit.  Just that you need to think before prescribing or leaving it on the person’s drug list.

I don’t think I will stop giving oxygen to sick patients… If they need it.  But maybe I will re-evaluate more closely those who are receiving it and may not need it.  I will still prescribe aspirin, but maybe not to the healthy people with no risks and I won’t be as scared to remove it, especially with side effects.  I am still so new and learning.  But it is good to learn these things and the balancing skills now, before I am on my own with no preceptor to approve and co-sign my decisions.

Reading these articles about things that are so common, so reflexive in practice got me thinking.  Why do we do what we do?  We pride ourselves in being evidence-based, but do we always look at the evidence?  There are some things we do based on clinical experience or habit that are not necessarily the best.  Like ordering blood work every day.  Not always necessary.

Not that reading a single article on a topic will make me change my practice, but it should make me think about what I do.  Consider change.  Consider further reading.  Sometimes there are different subtleties in a research paper.  It takes more than one positive or negative study to really make changes.  But, even one should make you think.

I think it is good to think about why we do things.  Especially in medicine, but also in real life.

I set alarms for only 3 or 7 past an hour.  I have for years.  There is no evidence for this.  I am clearly just bat crazy.  But I think about why sometimes.  I think it is to give me an extra few minutes of sleep.  And because my OCD won’t allow me to change it.

I have a side of the couch.  I get agitated and anxious when someone sits on the other side.  Does that mean it is proven to be bad?  Nope.  I am just nuts.

But these are things that cause little harm (except to me and my poor spouse).  What about bigger things?

I drink coffee most every day.  It is a habit.  It isn’t the best habit.  It isn’t the worst.  If a research article comes out saying caffeine causes cancer, will I stop?  I don’t know.  Honestly, probably not.  It would take more than one article.  It would likely take first hand clinical experience.  But, is that what smokers once thought?

But bigger than that… Why do I go to church every week?  Why do I read my Bible every day?  Is it some sort of routine or ritual or is it something that is proven or real or legitimate?  For me, it is definitely the later.  I may not always be entirely realistic with my routines or rituals, but lets face it, church and bible reading and such, they aren’t as fun to most as drinking coffee or even sitting in a designated couch seat (though I admit that when the seating in church is really off, it bothers me a tad).  I feel like I need to test those desires, to make sure they are legitimate on a regular basis.  I need to worship God for who He is and what He is.  Not because I did it last week.  I need to do it because I know it is proven to be a good thing.  I see it in the lives of others, I read about it in the Bible.   I feel it.  I know that won’t be disproved or disputed.  At least not to a significant degree.  God is one of the few things we can’t have too much of.

I love reading about medicine.  I love learning about progress and how things affect our bodies and how the practice is shifting.   I especially find it crazy when something I thought to be so second nature, so common turns out to not quite be the best thing.

We can have too much of a good thing.  Just because it is what has been done for 50 years does not mean it is the best thing.

We need to evaluate our practices, both in medicine and in life.  Are our action the best for the circumstance, or do we need to adjust?

Small surprises from a sovereign God (and Patrick).

My life has been full of pleasant surprises and reminders from God, as well as one from Patrick (which can be a throw back to God, as well).

For Valentine’s Day and coming back after interviews, Patrick has a surprise for me.  A guitar.  Yes… This sounds like a crazy gift… But, Patrick is ridiculously romantic and I have been on the prowl for one for years.  You see, I always wanted to learn and never really had the time or instrument.  Now I have a bit more time and an instrument.  Apparently my face lit up like my face has not lit up before (at least not for a long time).  Apparently, he searched online and asked friends and got me a legitimately good guitar with a learn-to-play DVD.  My fingers are sore, but I feel like I am getting somewhere!

My new buddy and I. We make beautiful noise together.

This morning, on our way out to run errands, I opened the door to the porch and then screamed bloody murder.  Thankfully, it was not an earwig.  But a cat.  A pretty, fluffy white cat.  I am not scared of cats.  I am scared of live beings in my porch that I do not anticipate.  Apparently the landlord came in to grab a tool and didn’t close the door all the way.  And this cat got in.  Well, Patrick was overjoyed.  He loves cats more than people sometimes.  We can’t have pets here.  But it was super cute.  She was way too clean looking to be a stray.  So, sadly we had to put her back outside… In the rain.  Poor kitty.  Patrick took his good old time taking her out, though.  A lot of pats and cuddles for him.  I was more scared she would attack us.

This cat looks very similar to the one hiding in our porch this morning. Image from terrybitner.com

After parting ways with the cat, I noticed our mailbox was open.  Now, I am at an all out mental war with the mail man (please note, I am the only one having this war because he has no reason to believe the war even exists).  He leaves our mailbox open with mail in it.  Then, the rain and roof drips get in and our mail gets all soggy.  Ugh.  Clearly, he should know the angry vibes I send.   Anyway, there is a single letter.  From the school district!  Its Patrick’s first real teacher pay cheque.  He has finally had a few substitute days and thus he finally gets a teacher’s salary type payment.  This cheque was only for his first two-hour day…  He made more in those two hours than I make in two weeks as a clerk and almost as much as he makes in two days at the Y.  Wowzers!

Patrick and his big money. Yes, I altered the image so that crazy internet stalkers can't steal his identity. Point: Me.

Surprises are great.  Especially when they aren’t bad things like earwigs or moldy food.

The surprises I have been getting lately make me grateful for what I have and what I have gained (well, except the cat).  I am thankful that we have enough money that a surprise like a guitar is possible.  I am thankful that I have the musical ability and time (well, sort of) to learn to play the guitar, so that I can one day use it in worship and in relaxation.  I am thankful that Patrick will get the odd teacher cheque, as that will make a huge difference both to our finances and to our giving.  I think that how we live now will impact our gratitude in the future for what we will one day have.

A bigger lesson from these surprises is the sovereignty of God.  He really is in control of all things and takes care of us.

You see, the guitar thing has been something on my mind for a while.  I am too fiscally prudent (cheap) to purchase one on my own.  I have been missing playing music as much as I once did and was yearning to undertake something new.  Patrick knew this and got the guitar.  Sure, it is my smart spouse who made it all happen…. But working out the sales so that it is possible, as well as the timing… God.

A better example would be the whole teacher thing.  First of all, Patrick getting a substitute teaching day is pretty huge.  We have been here for three years together and he was on the list for over a year before receiving a single call (and not for lack of trying).  He had two calls in a week.  Before this happened, he was starting to be very discouraged and wondering if teaching was what he really should be doing in life.  Then the calls came.  And he did well.  A pleasant confirmation.  Plus, despite not teaching in the purest sense, Patrick has had opportunities to work for an after-school program, do supervised access work and help run our church’s wonder ministry.  If he was teaching full time, maybe he wouldn’t have had those chances… Or maybe those opportunities have made him a better teacher.  I think that this is all preparation for things to come.

Along with the teacher thing is the pay cheque thing.  It is not a lot of money.  But, aside from my line of credit, we are not making a lot of money.  By global standards we are rich and very blessed.  I am not complaining about having too little.  I am just being grateful for the bit more.  Especially given one of my student loan cheques got lost in the mail and I have had to do so much travelling this year.  Something as small and simple as this extra money will be able to put a bit more on his student loan or my line of credit. We were talking in the car about how cool it is to have a bit more to tithe this week.  And I was worried about our budget last night.

The cat… Well, how is that a sign of God’s sovereignty?  As I said, Patrick loves cats.  Today, the after school program for which he is the site leader is having an external reviewer come to assess the program.  He is stressed out.  He was up late doing paperwork and has been rehashing possible scenarios in his head.  So, he needed a break.  Something to clear his head.  And then there was a cat.  I am pretty sure I could have left and did the errands and come back and he still would have been in the porch with the cat.  It was just the thing he needed.

These surprises aren’t big.  They aren’t of the thunderbolt from the sky and blatant divine intervention categories.  They are little things that mean a lot and happen at just the right moments.  Some people may argue they are just coincidence.  But when enough of these things happen.  If you take time to listen and to pray… They aren’t.  Just look at how Ruth got from where she was to where she went and what became of that.  These are the things that keep me trusting and help me to know that someone is looking out for us, whether it is a random cat or a cheque for $86 that helps me to know we will be okay in the future.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  -Proverbs 16:4

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  -Romans 8:28

Musical motivation

While travelling, I have been listening to a lot of music.  Shocking, I know.  Realistically, I don’t think I have been listening to any more music than I normally do  based on the amount of time I have to spend with other people and such.  The thing is, I develop go-to songs in times of stress.  Because I like them, or they mean something to me, or they are just fun to belt along to (my poor hotel neighbours).  The songs are often not necessarily new, or new-to-me or even that good.  It is just what seems to click with me one one level or another.

I remember a lot of things based on songs.  For instance, my wedding day is “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” by the Blacked Eyed Peas (semi-appropriate, but not really).  “Say Your Prayers” by the Wedding covers my MUN medicine interview, “Boston” by Augustana covers my Dal interview.  JJ Heller’s “Your Hands” is one of my favorite songs and is forever etched in my mind as my summer school in Europe when Patrick’s grandmother died.  I listen to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (in its entirety) to go back to my childhood driving around with my parents.  You get the picture.

So far on interviews, my songs of choice have been somewhat varied in genre and style. I will now highlight a few of the goodies that have been popping up more frequently than not on my playlists that may or may not be new to my playlist at any other time

“Mr. Medicine” by Eliza Doolitle.  For starters, this was a find on a random CD from the Child (fake kid sister) for my birthday last year.  The song is hilarious… The video makes no sense.  It brings me great joy. 

“Keep You Safe” is another JJ Heller song.  This one really resonates with me during interview time.  It’s a song sung from the perspective of God that is all about protecting you and calming you. 

“Chop and Change” by the Black Keys.  It has a different sound.  It is fun to sing along to.  It is a great getting pumped up and/or ironing song. 

“Rococo” by the Arcade Fire.  I need some Canadian roots in my tunes and what better band to do this than Montreal’s own.  This song has been argued to be repetitive, but I think that is why I like it.  It is soothing.  And Rococo is fun to say over and over.  Plus, the instrumental involvement is phenomenal.

“Close to Me” by the Cure.  This is one of my all-time favorite songs.  I tried to convince my Hospice jamming buddy to learn it, (refer here to learn more about that adventure) but he argued it had too much going on, though we both agreed the Cure is a great band.  I discovered the Cure in first year of my undergrad.  This song actually brings me back for studying for Pathophysiology in Nuc Med, but nonetheless, is strangely familiar and comforting.

“Amazing Because It Is” by the Almost.  This is my workout song and has been for some time.  Thus, it has turned into another of my pre-interview pump-up songs.  Who can’t love a new version of Amazing Grace that is a million times better because of the use of different melodies and vocal styles.  Plus, the words are powerful.

“Zombie” by the Cranberries.  This is just hilarious to me.  I listen to it and laugh because I have this friend that sings this to SingStar with all sorts of gusto, but not too much glory.  Though, it is his specialty.  He made the song more awesome than the original. 

“The Happy Nihilist” by The Classic Crime.  They never get old.  It is good to bounce around to.  The lyrics are clever.  Need I say more?

I think that is enough for now.  I may update on more awesome pre-interview tunes as I notice them popping around more frequently.

Nursery duty

I have been in the nursery at church the past two Sundays.  Last week was my regularly scheduled week and this week, I was asked to help out because one of the people scheduled was home sick.  I have been volunteering in the nursery for the past three years.  I quite like it.  I love babies and toddlers.  Kids once they start talking and such make me nervous in mass, but I can do the babies and toddlers thing.

The thing about doing nursery is that you end up missing church… The service in its entirety because you are upstairs hanging out with the kids.  It sounds really legalistic of me, but I love church services and feel quite disappointed and as if I am missing out on something when I don’t get to go.  I like the community of worship.  I like learning.  I like music.  The actual service gives me all of these things.  But really, it isn’t about me and I am happy to help and worship in giving of my time and ministering to the little children.

I was not exactly pumped about week two of nursery because of the whole missing church again thing, but went up anyway.  There was a reason I had to do it this week.  The other lady I did nursery with was someone I had never met before.  She was older and very nice.  She has been going through a difficult time with the health of her husband and her sons living in another province (interestingly in the city where I grew up).  She told me all about all of this and I just sat and listened while we waited for the kids.  I didn’t have any wise words to say other than “I’ll pray for you,” but by the time the children came, she said that she felt much better having talked about it.  She doesn’t feel she can tell others, as they know her husband and he would be embarrassed.  Sometimes it is amazing how a circumstance can put you in the right place at the right time, even when you thought you were there for another purpose.

Back to the nursery…  Our church is currently going through its own little baby boom.  So, the nursery is packed (well, compared to where I grew up it is packed… I am talking 3-6 babies/toddlers and three nursing moms that come in and out).  Thus, the nursery ministry, or “Welcome” ministry is becoming more and more significant, which is cool.

I love watching these kids grow up.  A few of them have now since “graduated” into Patrick’s “Wonder” ministry.  Now, we get to compare notes on how they are changing and growing.  It is neat to see them crawling, then walking, then talking.  There are two twin boys (identical…. I still don’t actually know who is who most days) that started coming when they were just crawling and are now speaking in full sentences and doing things like learning how to blow bubbles (whist getting more solution on me).  The second Sunday I had them, one cried so much he threw up after his parents left and now they run in and start showing us everything they can find to play with.

The whole baby caregiving thing is also fantastic for my biologic clock.  I am not in the ideal position to be having a child.  Not that there really is an ideal time or position to be having a child.  I will graduate from med school in May, but residency will start in July and the first year or two, in particular are grueling with plenty of call and busy rotations that are outside my area of interest.  Not exactly the setting to be dreaming of morning sickness and screaming children.  If I were to have a baby, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  If God wants me to, I am there.  But I hope he doesn’t.  Needless to say, I still “want” a baby.  I just don’t “need” one.  Watching other people’s children has been sufficient to soothe my need for cuddles and such and also show me the not-so-sunny side of parenting (tantrums, sickness, fighting).  Good to be aware.  Good for reminding me I don’t want that yet.  But, someday….

Today, one of the little guys was a whirlwind.  Sweet, but busy.  Dump every box of toys out busy.  And he is going through a pushing phase.  So, every now and again, you have to intervene, as he tries to take out another toddler.  Good times.  At one point, he shoved another little girl and I stopped him just before he did.  I told him shoving wasn’t nice.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Hitting is bad, shoving is wrong.  I know.”  He proceeded to go do the same thing 5 minutes later.

Its tough when kids go through phases.  His mom said that she is getting so frustrated with his shoving because she has no idea how he picked it up or how to make it stop.  He is a good kid.  He apologized to the little girl and to me.  But then he does it again.  The good thing about phases is that they usually end.  Especially with discipline and positive reinforcement.

We are like the little boy.  We may no longer shove other people, but we have our own phases, even in adulthood.  We do things wrong.  We do things that hurt people.  And we don’t always stop, even though it has been pointed out to us time and time again.

I have this habit of not using my words (funny given I write a blog).  When I am hurt or upset, I shut down.  I show my emotions on my face, so I can’t hide it, but I can choose to not speak.  Drives Patrick nuts.  As it should.  People need to communicate when they are upset or hurt.  I know that.  And yet, I go back to doing the same old thing over and over again.

We all have sin in our lives.  Nobody is perfect.  Sometimes they are things that others can’t see.  Sometimes we don’t yet even realize that what we are doing is wrong.  The thing is, God, like a parent sees us doing these things.  The Holy Spirit guides us to recognize what we are doing as wrong.  He brings others into our lives to rebuke us and to support us in changing.  God will help us to stop sinning.  Like small children, though, we first have to learn that something is wrong.  And even after that, it takes time to remove the sin from our lives.  It takes time to remodel habits.  To learn a better way of coping or functioning.  And like a parent, God will keep reminding us, will keep watching and redirecting with the help of others to make us into the people he planned for us to be.

When I look at the frustrated mother, who has been telling her two year old not to shove, I think, wow, that must be tough.  But when you look at it, God has been telling me not to boast or lie or be spiteful for much of my life.  And I still do it from time to time.  That is a lot more correcting.  It is a good thing He has all the time in the world.  And all the patience.  Because like a good parent, he cares about what we do and wants us to turn out for the best.  He knows that we make mistakes, but that one of those times we will listen and learn.

Choir hangover

I am very sleepy.  I had choir practice last night for our church’s Christmas Musical on Sunday morning.  And I mean our home-home church.  Because that is where I am.  The practice went ridiculously late… Well until 10:20.  For me, when I have a 15-minute drive home and have to be back at work the next morning for 7:30, it is ridiculously late. Thus, I have concluded… I must have a choir hangover.

It was wonderful to see my church family again.  Lots of hugs and good chats.  And my billionth explanation about the residency application process…  And lots of explaining where Patrick is…  Lots of singing.  And re-singing.  Some things never change.  The slow uptake of the choir learning music is one of them.  The choir in its majority is rather elderly.  Not that there is anything wrong with being of advanced age.  Very advanced.  I look forward to it.  I also think it is awesome that they are still singing in the choir!  The thing is, some of them cognitively aren’t where they used to be and they were never really the most musically inclined bunch.  And they have been singing in the choir for years and years.  They don’t read music.  They don’t listen well.  But, they love the Lord and they love to sing.  And they are dedicated.  It makes life interesting and I wouldn’t trade this choir for the best one in the world!

One of the things that always got me through choir practice was taking notes on ridiculous things the choir director would say.  Either in jest or in an attempt to explain for the millionth time how to sing (or not sing) a particular portion of a song.  I found myself doing that again.  The key is to put the comments in quotations at the point of reference of the comment.  And then, of course, give reference to the person who stated this.  The best part is when you get the music back to sing it another time, your comments are still there.  And you get to laugh all over again.  Nothing is better than seeing something like “put your guts into it,” “you wouldn’t pee this loudly,” or “this is big F loud” to get yourself smiling.  Maybe that is just me.  But still.

Woo Christmas sweaters. Image from myitthings.com.

The musical this year, interestingly, given the choir composition is “Never Too Old For Christmas – a simple musical for senior adult choirs.”  True story.  It made my night.  It is indeed simple.  Though, the kids choir and youth are also involved.  And the entire choir is not made up of seniors.  Why… there are three young adults (two of which live elsewhere) and three youth and several people my parents’ age.  So, take that!  They want us to wear Christmas sweaters for the musical.  “Nice Christmas sweaters.”  The example sweater is one I would wear to an ugly sweater party.  I love my life!  I have concluded I will plead not having a sweater with me and just wear red or green.

It feels good to be home and to be singing in the choir.  Despite some changes that make me sad inside (like the absence of some of my favorite people), it is still homey and familiarly frustrating and yet entertaining.  I love music and the people.  I miss it when I am away.  Today, however, I remember that late practices cause me to miss sleep the next day.

Its interesting how things change so much and yet they stay the same.  Since moving away, the music minister, my other father died.  When I come back, things always feel off.  I have never really fully processed things.  My other mother, his wife, is the music minister now.  She has a different style and yet I see him in her.  It helps with the hurt a little.  I still feel crushed when I come home and he isn’t there.  Or when I call their house and he doesn’t answer and talk my face off.  But those memories don’t go away.  Some other choir members have become too unwell, have died or have decided to stop singing for other reasons.  In a small, close-knit group, you notice those changes.  They become more and more apparent to me.  And yet, when someone has a quivering voice and another is off key… and that guy in the back comes in before everyone else, you feel at home.  It is nice to be welcomed.  To feel comfortable enough to stick a pencil in your hair and put your feet up.  To know that these people pray for you when you are there and when you’re not.  To feel the element of the routine of passing out candy.

Going home again is possible.  The thing is, life goes on while you aren’t there.  The world keeps turning.  The people you love, they can change, they can move, they can die.  It is comforting to know that despite overwhelming change and uncertainty in this world, those you love are there for you.  The same is for God.  Despite changes in everyone in everything, He never changes.  He is the only thing that doesn’t change.  Even the choir changes.  Our friends change.  Our families change.  We change.  But He is stable.  Its nice to know that there is something out there that doesn’t change (especially when you are as scared of change as I am).  He provides for our needs and He provides the balance and comfort when other things change or become uncertain.  I like that.   Whenever I go home, I look forward to things being the same, but they never are, not in entirety, though there is always something comforting.  That is the great part about being home with people you love. The even better thing is that going to God, things are always the same and always comforting… He is our most stable home.

On a related change note, my parents have been slowly fixing up my childhood home.  Each time we come home something is different.  It has come to the point where I now walk in the door and prowl around to find the thing that is different.  Almost a game of sorts.  This time… It was the bathroom.  Patrick and I were guessing the living room carpet (though he really likes the carpet).  A new sink and tiles.  The sink kind of reminds me of a fountain.  My uncle said it looks like a urinal.  The tiles are nice.  Change can be good.  But stability is nice to have as well.

Back to Christmas… Here is a church choir classic.  We liked to say “them bells “ instead of  “those bells.”  Mainly because it drove a certain someone nutty.  And because half the choir thought they were the words and were corrected a million times.  That made saying “them” entertaining.  We needed to get out more.