when leaving is harder

welcome-to-maine

I never doubted that God was calling me to leave the ship.  I knew if I stayed it would only be out of fear of what was next.   The ship was comfortable and known.   The ship was family.   The ship was home.   But I knew I had to choose faith, not fear, in response to the unknown and leave even though I had no idea what I was heading into.

I am almost 30 and for the first time I do not know what is next.   In the past, even if the path was a little uncertain, I always had a plan or goal or something that I was moving towards but not this time.  For the last few months I’ve been mostly excited for the unknown; the adventure of open possibilities that were going to be in front of me.

Who am I freaking kidding?

I am almost 30, unemployed and essentially just moved in with my parents.  I’m still in denial on that last one.  If I don’t unpack my bags am I really living here? No, right?  So instead I’m continuing to live out of a heap of wrinkled clothing strewn about my brothers old room so I don’t have to see it in mine – that is if I can muster enough motivation to even get dressed in the morning.

It’s hard to not just stay in pj’s when there is nothing I need to get dressed for.  It’s hard to get out of bed when there is nothing to get up for.  It is hard to get out of the darkness when I can’t see the light.

For the first time home doesn’t feel like home.  It feels like a prison reminding me that I have no idea what is next, how long I’ll be here, and that I’m alone and apart from community.  For the first time I was not excited to be flying into Boston because I didn’t know when I’d be flying back out again.

I’ve always known I was meant to live and serve overseas.   So why am I back in the US, God?

That is a question only he can answer and only in his time.   I know all I can do is trust.  He has gotten me this far and he won’t fail now.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to stay on the AFM.  God called me into the next stage of life, whatever that stage is.  My heart was completely sown into community and life there but it was time to go.  There is nothing drawing me to this home.  Nowhere feels like home.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S.  Lewis

I am made for another world but I am here, now.   So I will sit and wait and pray myself into truth and light.   I will get up in the morning.   I will get dressed.  I may even unpack one of these days.   And I will trust.  Trust that God has already written my future.   Trust there is a reason I’m back in Maine.  Trust there is community here even if it doesn’t look like what I think it should.   Trust that no matter where I end up, it is temporary, for my home is in heaven.   And trust that all he wants from me is an obedient heart.

Here’s to the next step in this journey.

 

Dark Days/Light Days

 

dark days

  • Tired
  • Exhausted
  • Drained
  • Overwhelmed
  • Stressed
  • Pager
  • Missed laundry slots
  • Sick of a tiny bed and an 8 week menu
  • Can’t sleep

Bad Days

  • Shawarmas
  • Move nights
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Depth
  • New songs
  • Ice cream
  • Community
  • Laughter
  • Good conversation with good people at any hour of the day or night

Good days

  • New friends
  • Goodbyes
  • Joy
  • Heartache
  • Don’t want to leave
  • Ready to go home
  • Being supported by community
  • Being trapped by community

Confusion

I don’t know where to begin to process these emotions.  All of these things can be felt and experienced at any time on any given day.  In less than five weeks I will be back in the US with a completely blank future staring me in the face.  I truly am in love with this ship and this community but I know I cannot stay.  I know God is telling me to leave.  I know it is time to “go home” but where is home?   What is home?

I have spent the last three years calling this pressure cooker of an environment home.  Here we experience emotions to the max and sheer proximity accelerates how often and why we interact with one another.  All that is to say, especially now as I am trying to exit gracefully which I’m beginning to think is impossible, that a good day can turn into a bad day with one brief encounter or vice versa.  Patience is running low, emotions are high and we are all messy, complicated human beings (or in the words of Van Halen – humans being.  Shine on).

However, I have started to look at my days in terms of light and dark instead of good and bad.


A dark day is one lived apart from the light of truth.

A light day is one lived in truth in the midst of hardship and struggles. 


There can be good things in the midst of darkness just like there sometimes has to be bad circumstances in the light.  But more importantly, light is the cure for darkness.  Light shining, truth exposed and gloried in, this is the antidote for the darkness in my life.

Looking back on life, there were plenty of instances when I had a smile on my face, was enjoying life but was secretly enveloped by darkness on the inside.  Now, as I’m nearing the end of what has become “normal life” and am preparing to leave a home which I dearly love, I am being run over with more feelings than I have ever experienced and am desperately trying to stay above the emotionally stable surface.  I’m not going to lie, there have been a lot of dark days recently, but I have to stop and ask myself, why am I not living in the light of truth? 

What is making my dark day dark?

Is it people?  Circumstances?  My perception?  All of the above?  Whatever it is, why am I letting these things shadow my life in darkness when I can run to the source of light?

God never promised this life would be easy.  In fact, more often than not in scripture the opposite is true, but Jesus commands the weary and heavy-laden to go to him for rest.  I am to find shelter in him.  I am to cast my anxiety on him.  I am to trust him.  I am not to be afraid or terrified.  He is my friend.  He is my Father.  He will comfort me.  He will protect me.  He will provide for me.  He will trudge with me through the mess of this life, shining light into the darkest corners of my soul…if I let him.

I am not saying that the goodbyes and the grief and the confusing bits of this transition should not be felt and experienced or that any of it is easy.  I am saying that the difference between my light days and my dark days should be how much I’m living in Christ and not the good or bad events surrounding me.  We will all have bad days, that is the reality of this life, but bad days do not have to be defined by darkness.

 

I guess the hard part now is actually living in that truth.

 

 

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters

 

 

(Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 91; Philippians 4:6-7; Joshua 1:9; John 15:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 10:23)

 

 

 

 

Fear and Terror

Maybe I have no place entering the debate on matters I am hardly aware of as I sit on a ship in Madagascar completely separated from the world.  Maybe this is not what or why I blog and shouldn’t get into it.  Maybe the only thing I have to be afraid of here is that my purse is stolen out of my tuktuk.  Maybe at the end of the day what I have to say doesn’t reach anyone who will listen.  Maybe this is all true but maybe it isn’t.

I see fear every day.  Patients travel across their country to an idea that is completely foreign to them for a surgery that may or may not be possible.

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Screening day 1 Top 5

Patient screening. Photo Credit – Ruben Plomp

Earlier this field service a 26 year old patient ran away from our outpatient facility before surgery because he was completely frightened of the unknown.  After returning with his father and being comforted by our crew this patient received surgery, has recovered and been discharged with new life.  He was able to overcome his fears and his life will forever be changed as a result.

In the last few weeks and months I too have been terrified.  Not of terrorist attacks or potentially dangerous refugees.  Not of being in Madagascar working a job that I pay to do.  Not of sickness or danger or physical threats.  No, I have been terrified that the body of Christ has so turned against itself we are no longer a united front against the enemy and in this weakness we are letting the enemy win.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln from Mark 3:25)

Yes, there are some very controversial issues – gay marriage, abortion, refugees – but when these issues start tearing at the fabric that is the body of Christ the enemy has taken hold of whatever power we have to fight and torn it to shreds. No, we don’t all have to agree but the more we fight with one another the less the enemy even has to work.

But even this does not deserve fear since I know that in the end the enemy is defeated and God does and will reign sovereign.

We live in a world of fear and terror.  Whether it’s a patient afraid of a big white ship or a kindergartener afraid of his first day of school, fear is one of the most natural reactions as human beings.  However, what in life do we really have to be afraid of?  There is a scene in Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry’s boggart turns into a dementor proving what Harry fears most is fear itself

Screenshot (5)

or perhaps the more famous Franklin D. Roosevelt quote

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

While this is obviously full of wisdom I think there is another answer.

First, what is fear?

Fear (according to Merriam-Webster): noun – an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger; a feeling of being afraid; a feeling or respect and wonder for something very powerful

The scenarios mentioned above fall into the two first definitions.  Fear of danger or being afraid.  I however think we should focus on the last definition “a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful.”

What are we to fear?

The answer is given to us over and over again in Scripture.  We are to fear God.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. – Psalm 112:1

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – Proverbs 9:10a

 

This is not a fear that makes us hide under the bed or build a bunker to survive a nuclear war.  This is reverence and respect knowing that God is the almighty creator of the universe and everything in it, and he has chosen to commune with us.  God chooses us.  This fear is to motivate our actions not out of terror but out of devotion.  We do not have to engage in the first two types of fear since we know that God triumphs in the end and if God is for us none can stand against (Rom 8:31).

We must then look at our actions and our fears and determine if we are running away or fighting one another when we should be united in a reverent fear of the Lord.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  – Hebrews 10:25

 

.

if it’s not one thing its a propeller

It was roughly a year ago that I arrived back on the Africa Mercy in Tenerife with the expectation of sailing to Benin in five days.  Well as you may remember or can read here not only did we not sail in five days we did not sail to Benin at all.  Roughly two months later we arrived in Madagascar to begin an incredible field service in which we saw the Lord move in amazing ways through incredible crew, day crew and patients.

Well as it is often said, the only thing that is constant in Mercy Ships is change.  Yes we are still sailing to Madagascar but seeing as we were scheduled to set sail on 3 August and are still in a dry dock berth with the propeller and shaft disconnected we are once more in a period of delay.

FullSizeRender3FullSizeRender

Surrounded by frustrated nurses and other medical professionals who are again eagerly waiting to begin the work they are so passionate about we tend to wonder why.  Why are we once again stuck when all we want to do is serve the Lord who has called us here?

But where is here?

I was sitting in church on Sunday and the pastor was preaching from some of my favorite verses in Jeremiah 29.  A lot of people will know Jeremiah 29:11 by heart.  They have seen it on an inspirational greeting card or as part of a graduation message “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  However, the verses that precede this have become some of my favorite in the Old Testament and are often overlooked when quoting verse eleven.

The Israelites have been uprooted from their home and exiled in Babylon for 70 years.  While the normal reaction would be to sit and pray to be returned home or to remain in a small community waiting, God commands them to invest in their new home.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:4-7

While I am not saying we are in exile and we certainly will not be here for 70 years, at least I hope not, we are in an unexpected location apart from what we perceived our calling to be.  God knows what he is doing.  He knew that we would be in Durban for the next few weeks and I am sure he has a mission for us here just as much as we thought we had a mission in Madagascar.

Sometimes I have such a vision of what I think I am supposed to be doing that I miss what God is actually asking me to do.  I miss that he is saying just surrender to me here.  Be with me here.  Meet with me here.  Be a light to the people here.  Be a light to those around you whether they are crew members, DORMAC workers in a Durban shipyard, the people of Durban or the people of Madagascar.

Why am I limiting God’s call on my life to a specific job in a specific location?  No I don’t think I am supposed to build a house here in Durban but I am called to invest wherever I am for however long that season may last.  One of the most crucial lessons I have learned in recent years is to bloom where I am planted.  Right now I am planted in Durban.  Yes I’d rather be sailing on the ocean or securely tied to the dock in Toamasina, Madagascar but this is where I am and my attitude is the only thing I can change about the situation.  So for the next few weeks or until whenever we arrive in Madagascar I will chose to meet with God here and invest here in my current location.

FullSizeRender11293029_901968102892_1748352987_n

.

8 by Friday

Faith is an interesting thing, prayer even stranger.  To think that I can intercede on the behalf of another person to the almighty God for healing and not only believe it will have an effect but wait in anticipation for the results is nothing short of mind blowing.

There was recently a patient on the ward who underwent a total thyroidectomy back in February.  Unfortunately, in the process her parathyroid gland was disturbed and stopped functioning properly.  Why is this important?  The parathyroid is responsible for controlling calcium in the body.  Calcium is necessary for nerve communication and muscle contraction.

Photo Credit Justine Forrest, Dr AJ Collins (AUS) General Surgeon and Dr Shehnarz Salindera (AUS) General Surgeon PAT16147 Hanta

Photo Credit Justine Forrest, Dr AJ Collins (AUS) General Surgeon and Dr Shehnarz Salindera (AUS) General Surgeon 

This patient, Gloria*, was receiving copious amounts of IV calcium as well as oral and still she was symptomatic with labs well under the normal range (8.4-10.2 mg/dL).  Week after week she continued on the medication without seeing any results.  It was to the point that, in my opinion, all medical options were exhausted and still no improvement.

One Saturday evening I was praying for Gloria and I felt the Lord say “8 by Friday.”  If this was her calcium it was a great deal above what she had been running and frankly seemed impossible but who am I to argue with the Great Physician.  The following Monday the general surgery team leader informed me that the goal for this patient was to have her calcium reach 8 mg/dL by Friday.  I just nodded and said, “Yeah, I think it will be.”  Little did she know the confidence in which I was making this statement.

As the week progressed Gloria’s calcium was steadily increasing as her dose was also increasing.  By Thursday she reached 8.4 mg/dL.  We were all in awe.  Friday morning I eagerly awaited her result.  It was exactly 8.0.  I almost started crying.  However, in the days that followed her medication was weaned back resulting in her levels once again dropping.  Many people onboard were discouraged and doubted if she would ever be healed.  Gloria herself started doubting.  Sure, she was 8 by Friday but she was also on a mega-dose of calcium so those levels weren’t necessarily a reflection of her true condition.  For me though, it didn’t matter how she got there, God was saying “I’m still in control.”

Weeks went by and still no improvement.  “God, where are you?”  One night I was reading my Bible and came across this verse in the book of Habakkuk

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:2

I heard God once again speaking to me, this time simply saying “I will heal her.”  I was overwhelmed and convinced that this would be my declaration the day Gloria was healed – I would stand in awe of the Lord’s deeds!  I have seen that God works on his own time table in his own ways and who am I to doubt or question.  The only thing I can do is pray and have faith in his Word and his promises.

Fast forward of few weeks and Gloria’s levels are once again rising.  This time her dose was either remaining the same or steadily decreasing.  She was taken off IV calcium and still her levels remained in range.  Her oral dose was decreased and still she was on target.  Last week Gloria was discharged.  The day before she was sent home there was a party on the ward for her.  Our physician who has been managing Gloria’s care for the last 4 months walked over to her and put her arm around her – Gloria had tears running down her cheeks.  I’m sure she thought the day would never come.  There were a lot of people on the ship who thought the day would never come, myself included.

Photo Credit Catrice Wulf - Ward nurse Maria Geary (USA) cares for patient

Photo Credit Catrice Wulf – Ward nurse Maria Geary (USA) cares for patient

Gloria is not totally off medication but she is now on a much more manageable, oral dose with continued improvement.  I know God is not done.  I know he will heal her fully.  I know that he does things for his purpose and his time so he receives the glory.

On the day she was discharged a friend of mine and nurse on the ward was excitedly saying she too was amazed that Gloria has finally been discharged and said “Doesn’t it make you want to say ‘Go team.’”  I looked at her and said “No, it makes me want to say, ‘Go God.’”

We had nothing to do with her healing and I fully believe that.

heb412

.

*The patient’s name in this post has been changed to protect confidentiality of the individual.

.

From Cookies to Cars…

…QC: The Necessary Hassle

When I tell people I work in a laboratory which includes chemistry they usually picture the “crazy scientist” wearing goggles and a white coat behind a bubbling flask.

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney

This could not be further from what I do – especially in the world of clinical chemistry.

Chemistry in a hospital or clinical setting is more about numbers and charts than anything else.  It is about Quality Control (QC), Calibration, standard deviation, numbers, graphs, trouble shooting and this set of rules developed by a man named James Westgard.

jamse

   This is James

In a large lab with a high volume of work, values are evaluated and charted on every test every few of hours.  In a smaller lab it may be done once a day.  Here on the Africa Mercy we chart some tests daily and other tests weekly so we don’t run out of supplies but none the less the quality control is run, evaluated and documented very often.

QC is to make sure your instruments and reagents are working.  Once the numbers are acquired they are plotted on levey-jennings charts and evaluated for patterns and outlying results.  If any one of six Westguard Rules is broken (the value is too far away from the mean, the values are too much on one side of the mean, the value is too different from the previous day’s value, etc.) the problem has to be addressed and fixed until the results are no longer in violation.

mrf14 mrf5

Some people love this aspect of the job.  For me it is my least favorite.  Give me a microscope over math any day.

However, after listening to a talk the other day, I realized that just like in other industries where QC is performed on everything from cookies to cars we should be performing QC on our lives as well.  In chemistry, QC is performed to ensure that results are valid.  What does this look like in life?

In life, the amount of time I spend reading my Bible, God’s instruction manual and love letter to guide my life, correlates to how much I can trust my decisions and know that the results of my life are valid.  Spending time getting to know my Savior is my Quality Control and He commands me to do this daily.  I have to daily chose to follow him and his commands.  It is not a onetime action, it is a daily commitment, a daily decision, a daily action to follow him.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”                                                                                                                                                                   – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me.”                                                                                                                                                                      – Luke 9:23

Data is not put on charts and there are no calculations but the only way I am surviving each day is to daily spend time with God.  The only way I know that at the end of the day the results of my thoughts and actions are valid is if I have spent time and actively made the decision to follow the Lord throughout the day, starting with a daily check in his Word.

20150214_062414a

.

.