D.R.E.A.M.

Image result for dream banner

D.R.E.A.M. 

Determination, Resolve, Endurance, Ambition, Miracle…..

OR

Doubts, Ridicule, Euthanasia, Avolition, Mistake…..

Your choice, my friend.

Dream, my soul.  Breathe, weary one inside my chest.  Hope with all you have.  Believe, cynical voice inside my head.  Dream like yesterday is gone and today is just a passing breeze.  Dream with everything you have, because sometimes in the end, dreams that are dared to be dreamt are all that keep you believing, keep you breathing, keep you alive.

Dream, my soul.  When passions fade, when fears invade, when doubts pervade.  Yet every breath says “dream”.  My weary soul protests, says it can’t keep going, it’s tired, says it hurts too much to keep dreaming, says the efforts not worth it but still relentless breaths whisper “dream”.

Dreams spark the eyes and zing the steps of a hopeful soul.  Dreams sharpen your senses at the start of every new day.  Dreams curl the toes and tingle the skin.  Dreams fuel your journey.  Dreams conquer your every Mt Everest.  Dreams win the gold Olympics of life.

What’s your DREAM mean in your life?

P.S.  I know I’ve dropped off the blogosphere and for that I’m sorry.  I lost my writing voice and I’m trying to find it again.  Stick with me friends.  I’m in DREAM training.  I successfully completed my nursing degree – YAY! I can officially sign my name as Sara Martin, RN and folks does that ever make goosebumps crawl!  I thought this day would never come – I dared to dream big and I dared to believe that determination, resolve, endurance and ambition could result in a miracle and God came through on that.  But the enemy of my soul also came through on the ugly DREAM acronym and the battle of believing the purpose of all your schooling when you can’t seem to find someone willing to hire you, well I’ll be honest – it can dash you to the ground and plunge you into a pit rather quickly.  But like I said at the start of this lengthy postscript:  I’m in training to learn how to grasp that brave DREAM acronym like a drowning man hangs on to the lifesaver tossed out to him.  See you around friends!

The Jesus of the Gutter

Last week, when reading Janet Hanson’s blog post one sentence jumped out at me: “Jesus looks different from the gutter than he does from a throne of self-sufficiency.”  Little did I know that two days later I would get to experience the powerful impact of this in real life.

A little background:

This past weekend I started my LAST year of nursing school (YAY!!!).  My first clinical rotation experience will be in the mental health rotation at a local psychiatric hospital.  I will be there for the first 5 weekends of my clinical experience.  I am excited about the learning potential but Sunday, the first day of my student nursing on the adult unit of the hospital, I was a bundle of nerves!  The day was to be a day of observation of the milieu (mental health speak for environment) and also practice how to communicate therapeutically with our patients.  Each unit is always in lockdown (meaning that only those with keys can leave the unit) and the units are divided into pods with approximately 6 or 7 rooms with two beds each.  The unit is open but the patients need to stay in their respective pods at all times.  Everything has locks on it so we were given a master key that we were (and I quote) “to guard with our lives”.  There isn’t much in the way of privacy for the patients: every 15 minutes, a staff member walks around and does a visual check for each patient and makes sure they are all accounted for.  Any rooms that the patients have access to have no way of being locked from the inside of the room and as much as possible any means of killing oneself is removed.  Although as our instructor said, if a patient is determined enough, they will be creative in their attempts.  Her advice for us was to learn to think in terms of the perspective that a mentally ill person would approach life.

Opening my eyes to the Jesus of the gutter:

Sunday morning, my patient was sitting in the activity room waiting for chapel to begin.  With his permission, I joined the chapel service.  Gotta say it was one of the most beautiful chapel services I had ever participated in.  As I sat there where brokenness permeated the air and sadness seeped into the very marrow of our bones, it hit me that this is what the real Jesus looks like.  The real Jesus looks like each of these broken souls (including myself) sitting around that table.  The real Jesus doesn’t fit into our “perfect” little molds of self-sufficiency.  

The real Jesus fits in best in the most messy, the most raw, the most vulnerable situations.  It doesn’t get any more authentic than what we see when we look to Jesus from out of the gutter of rejection and homelessness, of major depression, of psychotic whispers, of suicidal ideation, of the grips of self-harm, of bipolar disorder, of OCD, of insistent delusional thoughts, of anorexia and bulimia, of substance abuse and other addictions, and of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse.

If despite our illnesses, our brokenness, we can worship Jesus out of even the smallest desire to worship from out of the depths – there is where we find Jesus.  We find him in our desperate cries, our whimpered prayers, our weakest attempts to lift our eyes to his.  We find him there where we blend our voices amidst our pain and sing “Draw Me Close to You” and “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. 

What spoke to me the most is that there was no need to hide our brokenness while sitting around that table there in the mental health unit.  So often we all paste our plastic smiles on our faces and sit in the padded pews in the perfect atmosphere of a church that has its act together.  And for 1 or 2 hours we pretend, along with everyone else, that we have our lives in control, that we don’t have doubts and fears, that we aren’t sobbing in the lonely dark night, that we aren’t stretched too thin in our finances, that we aren’t bound by shame, that we aren’t struggling in our faith, that we aren’t fighting to save relationships.  

Friends, we are missing the point of community if we can’t show our brokenness to each other.  We are missing Jesus in each other if we hide our vulnerabilities, if we cover over our gutters and perch on self-made thrones.

Discover the way the real Jesus looks by looking for the gutters in your life and in the lives of others.

“If You Want to Love Someone” by Jason Gray

 

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Snapshots of my life

My life consists of a lot of this:

Studying…

Image

And memorizing lab values…..

Image

All of the brain juice going into studying requires substantial amounts of C.O.F.F.E.E.

Image

Which leads to me looking like this

Image

or like this

Image

When I don’t have enough caffeine in my system, this happens

Image

Some days I wonder if this craziness is all there is to life but then I have the following moments in life that remind me that life is more than just the craziness.

LIFE IS….

reveling in the little moments,

the snapshots of beauty that God puts in my path.

Image

Image

Image

Image

LIFE IS….

peaceful moments by the fireplace

Image

LIFE IS….

friends and happiness

Image

LIFE IS…

soul snuggles

Image

LIFE IS….

licking the ice cream bowl out down to the last drop

Image

And finally,

LIFE IS…..

the light of a new day,

with beautiful mornings

washed in the new mercies every day from our compassionate Creator and Father.

Image

Comfort Care

My soul is in agony. 

It’s torn around the edges. 

Jagged sharp edges that cut into my heart no matter how I twist and turn. 

Grief will do that to a person.  I guess.  

It’s done it to me.  

Every time I think those jagged edges have been smoothed…something comes along to remind me, they haven’t been sanded smooth.  Those edges will be there the rest of my life, ready to slice into my consciousness at any reminder of painful memories.  Whether those reminders come by smell, sight, hearing, or feeling.

What, you ask, has any of this got to do with the title?  

“Comfort care” is hospital speak for patients who have crossed that invisible line that all of us has in our journey of life.  The line between life and death.  The line between hope and grief.  The line between medical cure for the living and medical comfort for the dying.

This past weekend, I helped take care of a patient just placed on comfort care.  My heart hurt for the family.  I knew the helplessness, the pain that was written all over their faces.  I knew the hollowness carving a dad-made hole in their hearts.  There was only so much I as a nurse could do to bring the comfort to both the patient and the family in my care.  With one glance at their faces, I was transported back to my dad’s bedside. Comfort care is a time of grief and pain for the family.  Isn’t it typical of our paradoxical life that we attempt to muffle death by soft choice of words?  But Death hovers, mockingly threatening to disrupt life as we know it.  

Folks, I admit I left the hospital this weekend, struggling.  Fighting against God’s comfort care.  I wanted to savor the taste of the anger, the bitterness, the pain of loss and I wanted someone to blame it all on.  And so I mistakenly railed at God.  

      “Why, God?  I thought You said You took away Death’s sting, Death’s victory.  
       So why is it still able to sting deep within my soul?  Where are You when 
       Death is hovering?  Where are You when Death laughs at our helplessness?”

God was waiting there in the midst of my spitting fury.  He wasn’t deterred by my raw anger, my visceral pain, my biting bitterness.  And when I stopped screaming, He spoke. He soothed the pain with the balm of His presence.  He told me it’s okay to hurt, to grieve, to weep but to please allow Him to be right there in the pain with me.  

I still hurt yes, but it’s not a consuming chasm now that I allowed God to enter into it with me.  He created me.  He knows the depths at which I feel.  He knew the depths of pain that family was in this weekend.  He is here.  He knows what pain and loss feels like. We need only to invite His Presence to speak into our pain.

Lamp Post Ponderings

I was at my school yesterday sitting outside studying between classes.  And as usual my mind wandered to anything but lab tests and lab values and lab diagnostics and lab blah blah blahs.  I saw this light post alongside the main entrance to the school.  And I immediately thought of the lamp post in the Chronicles of Narnia. 

The evening I came to school for orientation over a year ago I felt a lot like Lucy stumbling into Narnia the first time.  I was excited and enchanted but yet knock-kneed with apprehension. And not sure if I really wanted to proceed beyond the lamp post. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had all these lofty idealized imaginations.  And if I would have had an idea of the actuality of nursing school….I’ll just say it out loud…I may have chickened out.  Actually, make that…I would have chickened out.  

I told my Mom last night that I mourn the loss of my life as I once knew it – that was in reference to a really good book laying out in broad daylight calling my name.  But no, I had to turn away from that book and stick my nose in the textbooks instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy studying.  But there are limits to things, right?  For some reason, this semester really has me feeling like I’m running at my max and yet never getting anywhere. And supposedly this semester is when things were supposed to lighten up for us part timers in the evening/weekend program.  I just hope that somehow in all this studying there’s actually some things sticking in my brain. 

Life as a nursing student is…, you know what, I don’t have any words to really embody what it is.  It’s blood and sweat and tears, lots of them.  It’s exhaustion, exhilaration.  It’s studying till you’re cross-eyed, till your brain hurts with all the info you’ve inundated it with.  It’s sleep deprivation.  It’s 4 hour lectures after a day of work.  It’s memorizing a myriad of medications that all sound the same but have different adverse effects.  It’s nightmares that you overslept on clinical day and now a patient died because you weren’t there on time to intervene.  It’s crying without warning at the smallest thing.  It’s frustration.  It’s missing out on fun social stuff.  It’s working weekends instead of chilling on Saturdays and going to church on Sundays. It’s neglecting your family, your friends, and in my case, your horse. And the list could go on. 

Like Narnia, the land of nursing school has its enchantments too. Nursing school is also giving a patient a back rub, holding their hand and listening to them; it’s seeing a baby enter this world and cuddling with them in the nursery; sometimes it’s simply the joy on a patient’s face when you bring them ice water or the sigh of relief when you help them bathe.  It’s satisfaction in a good grade. It’s laughing till your sides ache at jokes that only nursing students think are funny.  It’s the fun of horrifying your family/friends over dinner with tales of gruesome sights and facts that you thought were just pretty intriguing. It’s lifetime memories made with your close knit nursing class.

The most “enchanting” experience is the opportunity to work with patients.  Which I might add is also the “scariest” thing as well.  To realize that this is someone’s loved one that you are ministering too and that they are entrusting into your care.  And too, the fact that I’m carrying not only the reputation of the school on my shoulders but more importantly, God’s reputation is at stake in me and the way I conduct myself.  For better or for worse.  

I’ve had some really good discussions about faith with my patients.  You know we Christians can tend to be like Elijah and think that there’s only me left anymore. No one else is serving God anymore.  But let me tell you, I’ve been blessed by the expressions of faith in God that I’ve heard coming from patients.  The ones that make me tear up are the words of faith and trust I hear coming from patients who have been diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness.  

I’m working on the cancer unit right now.  It’s a place of sadness.  But yet numerous patients have left an impression on me at how quick they are to say “The Good Lord has a plan in all this.”  Or, “God knows what He’s doing.”  It’s a challenge to me because I don’t know how quick I would be to say that if I’ve just received a diagnosis I wasn’t expecting and one that I know doesn’t have a cure.

Whew, don’t ask me how all this came from a glance at a regular old lamp post.  My only answer is “Behold, we are fearfully and wonderfully (and mysteriously) made.”

Whatever lamp post may be at the entrance of your Narnia, may you have the strength and the courage to walk past it and embrace with awe the enchantment that your Father has called you into.

Assessments in General; Inspection in Particular

My fingers have an urge to write but my heart wants to shut down.  So forgive me if this doesn’t flow very well.  I have no idea as to what is going to come out but I’m just letting my fingers on their own.  Rest assured I will attempt to engage my mind as well.

We’ve been focusing on head to toe assessments in nursing school for the last multiple weeks.  And we’ve been poking and prodding our patients in a very intrusive, bumbling sort of way.  So far the patients have all been very kind about the fact that they are the newbies’ guinea pigs.  I still feel bad for them though because who feels like having slow and tedious assessments done when probably a dozen medical staff have already assessed you in the last 12 hours.

All that aside, doing all this studying on physical assessments has had me thinking a lot about spiritual assessments.

There are four main aspects to an assessment of your patient:  inspection, auscultation, percussion, palpation.  We’ll take a look at inspection in this post.

Inspection:  With inspection you’re on the look-out for scars, pressure ulcers, swelling, discoloring, asymmetry, and just the general condition of the patient.  Initial inspection upon walking into the room can tell us a lot about the patient but it doesn’t disclose the deeper conditions present.  That is why with each step of the assessment we get a little more intrusive. Close up inspection often gives away the presence of something internal.  And so it is with spiritual inspection.

We think we can successfully gussy up our outsides so that on initial inspection we look as though our hearts are in excellent condition before God.  But upon closer inspection, our veneer will eventually crack and the tell-tale signs of inner struggles will tip others off.  We humans are proud fools.  We don’t usually stop at just trying to fool others – we try our hardest to cover up and fool God.  People may pick up on the outward anomalies but they may not be able to put their finger on it right away, however, God is like the X-ray machine – He sees right through you at first glance.

Do I allow others to see my scars, my wounds, my pressures, my swelling, my discoloring, and my asymmetry?  If the answer is no – why?  Why do we as Christians fear to let our insecurities, our doubts, our spiritual deformities show?  People who admit their doubts and spiritual deformities and share the story behind their scars are far more effective in God’s kingdom than are those who act like they aren’t the wounded souls that all humankind essentially is.  Scars are not shameful.  If you, like me, struggle to believe that your wounds and scars are not something to be ashamed of, take a look at Jesus.  If He would be ashamed of His scars and wouldn’t have revealed them to us, for me the reality of what He went through would have less impact on my soul.  Those scars are testimony of His love for us – the unfathomable love that drove Him to suffer the worst imaginable horrors of suffering.  Same with us, I think that the more we are willing to bare our scarred souls and wounded hearts to others the greater the impact of God’s redeeming grace on the souls we are trying to reach.  So drop the mask of mastery in life and allow the wounded glory of your God-touched soul to shine the Gospel’s healing Light on those you meet along the way.

So far I’ve just been focusing on what we ourselves appear like upon others’ inspection of our lives.  But what about our inspection of others?  I guess my biggest question is…Do we inspect others through the eyes of Jesus?  Or do we inspect them with a harsh eye of judgment?  Do we allow the longing ache in others’ eyes to register in our hearts?  Or do we, in our selfish, hasty pursuits of life, quick glance away from their hurt, their empty looks and think to ourselves “if only those hurting souls could get help”?  What about the friend who says she’s fine but you see the contradiction in her eyes? (Let’s face it – we women are excellent cover-uppers.  Somehow we’ve imposed upon ourselves the need to be strong at all costs and bear the weight of the world on our shoulders alone.)  Do you glibly promise prayers for her and then fail to take time to hound the throne of heaven on her behalf?  Do you take the time to follow up with those who share their hearts with you?  Does your worldview consist of only you and the immediate circle of close friends in which you move?  Or do you see the loner on the street, in the coffee shop, in line behind you at the grocery store, sitting next to you in school, or how about the person next to you in the pew on Sunday?

I guess what I’m aiming for is this: humans naturally try to appear like they have it together because they fear the scorn of others.  In truth though, more often than not, we are struggling bravely in the throes of our wicked hearts’ battles and are secretly wishing that someone would see through our thin facade and hear our silent, desperate cries.

I’m challenging myself to learn the art of inspecting with the eyes of Jesus and recognizing the emotional scars and wounds of others without quickly averting my gaze so I don’t have to become personally involved.  The world around me is a kaleidoscope of hurts, fears, insecurities, disappointments, sorrow, loneliness, rejection, and desperation.  My job is to be on the look-out for opportunities to allow God to use my battered being to reach out to those souls with His hand of compassion and hope.