Aftermath

All of a sudden, the vacuum got hard to push while vacuuming the closet today.  “It must have hair caught in the wheels,” I thought, as I flipped it over to investigate.  Sure enough, there was plenty of hair and fuzz and dirt stuck in the brush and the wheels.  As I began to pull it off, I realized it wasn’t mine… at least not all of it.  Her long dark hairs were tightly wound round and round interspersed with a few of my blond ones.  As I continued to yank and pull at them, dislodging them a few at a time, it felt a bit like life over the past 2 years.  Those hairs are just one of a thousand remnants of the person whose place I took, tightly entwined in the memories, emotions, and patterns of my best friend.  As the vacuum brush became more and more clean, I hoped that life too might be near the end of the aftermath.  No more tears when accidentally finding old photos, no more well-meaning family members accidentally calling me by her name, no more anxiety attacks when we go somewhere she didn’t think was good enough.  It seems like she never thought it was good enough, the gifts, the sacrifice… his heart.  I can’t help feeling again this wild excitement and joy knowing that I win.  He is not just good enough, he is more than I ever could have asked for or imagined.  He is a gift from God who loves me better than anyone ever has, has taught me a thousand real-time lessons about grace, has patiently overcome my fears with truth, and makes me laugh every day.  The vacuum brush is clean now and the overjoyed winner marches off to the next chore.

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Love (& my Burma story)

“This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”  1 John 3:16-18

Today I’m overwhelmed by love.  The kind of love that reflects what Christ gave; a great sacrifice to purchase life for people who are beloved.  A reflection of this love and sacrifice was poured out by my friends last night at my Christmas party.  I’m undeserving of the grace that put so many people in my life who imitate Christ, who celebrate His coming and His gift in their lives and actions.

The gift was given for the country of Burma, a place I knew virtually nothing about 5 months ago.  It is awesome that God moves people, provides for and protects His own, and brings it about by creative means.  My story about Burma started last August….

After church on August 9, I stayed to hear a local political figure talk about loving our community.  Her talk sidetracked onto the topic of having a calling, how to discern your calling, and how she was called to the Seattle area to invest in the community here.  As she spoke, I was having this conversation with God:  “Lord, I know you called me here for a season, but I don’t feel called to Seattle forever…. where am I called to?”  My mind wandered to Joel, the missionary I stayed with in Nepal last year.  During our time with him, he felt God calling him to the country of Burma when his time in Nepal was done.  As I sat there and continued to listen, the country of Burma lingered in my mind, and I asked “God are you calling me to Burma?”

On Wednesday of that week, I sat down to lunch with my co-worker and hiking buddy Jessica who is from Burma.  I had never heard her talk about her country before, but that day without any prompting she just began to describe the great poverty of the people there and the evils of the military that abuses its own people.  I prayed that week for Burma, for the people, and for Joel’s future work there.

The next Sunday before church, I overheard a total stranger talking about his work helping Burma.  My ears perked up and I asked him if I could talk to him about what he was doing.  How random that I should run into such a person who happened to be visiting from Thailand for the week!!  I met with him and we talked for three hours about Free Burma Rangers, the organization he works for.  His story about Burma was simple and sad.  The military dictatorship there wants complete control so they attack their own people, burning down rural villages, placing land mines, and leaving people homeless, wounded, and hungry.  Free Burma Rangers trains teams of people to be medics and sends them on “missions” packing medical supplies, food, Bibles, and other supplies into the jungle for the “internally displaced people” (IDP’s). There were over a million IDP’s in Burma, and I found out recently that an estimated 50,000 more people lost their homes this past summer alone.  Nick gave me lots of info and connected me with Marci, a nurse who serves in Burma.

After 2 more months of prayer and eager anticipation, Marci came to Seattle for a visit and we had coffee.   She has been serving in Burma about 9 months out of the year for the past 5 years.  She helps at a clinic where Burmese people are trained to be medics to go and help their people.  She showed me pictures and talked about the work there.  I really really really wanted to go and help teach microbiology and medical stuff in that clinic, and we talked about going together in March.

The next few weeks were a time of prayer and surrender for me.  I was sooooo excited after meeting with Marci, but several people warned me against going because it’s such a dangerous place.  I sought counsel and a very wise friend asked me to examine my heart and wait to see if God was calling or if I was just excited about going on an adventure.  So I waited.  And then my brother got engaged.  This seemed a pretty clear answer from God because it did not make sense to risk my life right before the wedding of two people I love very dearly.  So I surrendered my overwhelming desire to go this spring and just prayed.

A month later, I read some news about a huge rice shortage in Burma because so many land mines had been planted in the rice fields that the people couldn’t harvest their rice crop this year.  It was predicted that many would starve in the next few months.  I wanted to help, so I emailed Marci and asked how I could give money that would actually go to helping the starving people.  She recommended Partners Relief and Development, and I sent off a gift.

Meanwhile, the holidays were coming up and we were planning our 5th Annual Swanky Christmas Party.  One day randomly in the shower I had this idea that I could make a “Burma Room” at the party and ask people to donate as a Christmas gift for Burma.  I was excited about it (as I am about most of my new ideas), and talked to a friend who gave me some great suggestions, but then forgot about it as life got busy.

A month went by, and one day while driving around on a quest for ski boots, the Burma room came back into my mind, a vivid reminder.  The next day, I answered a random phone call, and it was Spencer from Partners Relief and Development, calling to ask if there’s anything they could do to connect me with the work in Burma.  We talked about going on medical mission trips, and he gave me his email.  I was so excited talking to him that I forgot all about the Christmas party idea, but later that night I remembered and emailed him about it.  He agreed to send some info that I could share at the party.  The next night I mentioned the idea in my Bible study and my dear friend Margaret volunteered her graphic design skills, software, and printing stuff to help me make posters.  It amazed me how everything I needed smoothly fell into place, down to finding a huge fallen branch on the sidewalk to use for a giving tree!!  God faithfully connected me with the right resources and people in the perfect time frame for it to happen.

There are no words to express how amazingly God keeps His promises to answer prayer.  All week we prayed for the party, that the right people would come, that a manageable number for our house would come, that people would feel loved, conversations would glorify God, and that everyone would have generous and soft hearts of love for the people in Burma.

And it happened just as we asked (Matt. 7:7-8):

– So many sweet people helped with decorating, baking, and setting up for the party that it was the least stressful prep of any of the other years we’ve thrown the party

-Between 60 and 70 people came and had tons of fun!!!!

and…

-We received a total of $1534 in gifts for Burma!!!!!!  I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness and the kindness of everyone involved.

It is fun to be part of God’s plan!!  I am so thankful that He gives us His love for the people He has created, that He opens doors for us to love people we would know nothing about apart from Him, that He promises to answer prayer and lets us see Him do it.

Please keep praying for the country of Burma, that God will move and bring justice for the oppressed, that He will overcome evil and show His glory so that many people can come to know Him.

Merry Christmas!!

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Hope

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1

This summer, in the midst of much loss, God has been faithful in sending along random people to speak truth and encouragement to me:
-First, it was the Ethiopian guy who came to fix my washing machine.  He told me an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to him and encouraged me to worship with music.
-Next, it was a computer programmer I randomly met who was visiting from Thailand and spent 3 hours listening to my story, talking to me about calling, and praying for me.
-Next, it was a woman who turned in an info card at church that I called to follow up with.  She told me stories about praying with prostitutes downtown on her way in to church, of witnessing to people, and of miraculous answers to prayer.  She reminded me that everything happens for a reason and not to dwell in sorrow but to live out of God’s joy.
-Next, it was a missionary in China who does not know me, only saw my photo and spoke a prophetic word to be delivered to me about seeking God for the healing of my heart.
-This week, it was an acquaintance, a guy I had only talked to once before, who is in North Carolina being trained for Army Special Forces.  He talked to me for over 2 hours about God’s faithfulness, answers to prayer, and seeing elements of the gospel in everyday life.  We prayed twice together during the conversation and he reminded me to give thanks for the amazing work that God is doing in Seattle and for the huge gift it is to attend a healthy growing church that preaches the Bible, addresses sin, and calls people to repentance.
All of this has been a gift.  I am overwhelmed by God’s kindness in speaking through these people, it sustained me through a very hard season.
Now, once again, I’m overwhelmed, delighted, and rejoicing because today I saw it happen to someone else.  In spite of me, God let me participate in His fighting for someone’s joy!!!
It really started yesterday… I arrived at work and found out in report that one of my patients was dying, and then she passed away less than 2 hours later, right in the midst of the morning busyness.  I took care of the basics with the death and then rushed on to check on my other patients.  The lady in the next room whined, complained about everything, and wanted me to change things that were completely out of my control.  I started to cry as her blatant self-absorption stood in such stark contrast to the death that had just happened on the other side of her wall.  Death puts things in perspective… (your medications could be scheduled wrong…or….you could be DEAD!!!)  Thankfully, I was behind her back listening to her lung sounds when the tears came and I wiped my face on the sleeve of my isolation gown in hopes that she didn’t notice.  The day went by and I was weighed down by heavy sadness and battled to keep joy for the sake of my other patients.
This morning when I came in, I dreaded seeing the whining woman… but she was assigned to me again.  I entered her room with her morning pills and started attempting to assess her.  Somewhere along the way, she began talking about her life and before I knew it she was crying and I was holding her hand.  I don’t know what happened, but somehow God changed my heart toward her and opened my eyes to see her more as Jesus sees her.  Her story was hard; she had been a high-functioning professional until health problems forced her to quit her job and move away from her family and community.  Being isolated and living on a low budget, she became more and more depressed.  It was hard for her to accomplish even simple tasks even though she knew in her head that she was fully capable of doing them.  After all, she had been the person who accomplished everything, the person who took on the hard stuff that others were afraid to take on.
Somewhere in the midst of talking about eating right when you’re feeling depressed and battling negative thoughts, I asked “Do you pray? Do you love Jesus?”
She said “Yes,” she did.
I was so humbled.  Here was my sister in Christ, in desperate need of encouragement and truth, who I had just barely tolerated the day before.  Here was an image bearer of God that I was given the privilege of interacting with, and I had not had a soft heart to serve her even as “one of the least of these.”  So I prayed for help.
From there the conversation was God’s… she was reminded of the power of prayer and of reading scripture.  She was reminded of how much she is loved by God.  She heard stories of God redeeming people, of calling believers to Seattle to be missionaries, of God multiplying His church here.  She was reminded that God is the source of her strength (Ephesians 6:10, 1 Peter 4:11), and her competence (2 Corinthians 3:5).  She was reminded of the importance of community and praying to battle through all of the hard stuff.
By the end, God had given her hope.  Her head had been lifted up; she was giving thanks and believed that with God she had the strength to do what was needed to get her finances sorted out and move closer to her family.  She thanked me over and over, and I just told her to praise God.  I had not done anything, I was only loved by Him just as she was.
God is powerful.  His truth is powerful.  Watching Him restore someone’s hope with reminders of Himself restored my hope as well.  He is so good.

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22 Weeks

I rarely dream, but quite vividly there were children in my dreams last night.  An 8-year-old named Wendy Daisy and her baby sister Emily.  I feel like it’s a recurring dream, like last night was the second episode.  Both times, I snuck into Wendy’s room at night and sat there praying for her and holding Emily until Wendy woke up, and then we talked a little before I put Emily in her crib and rushed out so their parents would not catch me, a total stranger, in their home.  They were so real, I thought about them on my bike ride to work.

Every few months comes a really bad day, traumatic in some way, like someone bleeding out all over the floor, or someone threatening suicide, or someone falling out of bed and dying suddenly.  I almost never cry.  But today I cried uncontrollably and for hours.

It started out insane and just got worse.  The computers were down because of a fire in the building where our server resides, so no one knew what was going on or could communicate very well.   When I arrived, one of my patient’s blood pressure was dropping and no one could get an IV in so we couldn’t do much to help her.  Somehow the controls on her bed had failed to work too, so I found her slanted with her head down- and stuck that way.  Thankfully, that’s where she needed to be with a low pressure, so I made sure she was ok (at least temporarily ok…) and dove right in to checking the other patients.

Down the hall, I began taking vitals on the next one.  She was 18 weeks along when she found out she was pregnant.   Young, and with too many other children, she wanted to get rid of the baby.  Some other health issues in the next few weeks caused her to come to the hospital, and that’s how I came to meet her.  I heard the story during report in the morning- how she had an appointment to take care of it in 4 days if she was stable and out of the hospital.  She slept through vitals, and for the rest of the morning seemed to be busy when I passed by, talking to the resident, the social worker, or on the phone.  The resident came out and said they were going to do an induction, a 3 day process.  I was sad, and told the resident so, but I didn’t really understand what they were planning to do, I was not familiar with the procedure.  I wanted to talk to the patient, make an attempt to talk her out of it, and I just assumed that when the craziness of the morning slowed down I would have an opportunity.  The problem was that it never slowed down.

When I went in to hang a new bag of her medication, the OB was with her, talking about tubal ligation.  She refused it.  During their conversation a transporter arrived to take her to Ultrasound.  He whisked her away as I hurried around doing innumerable other things for my other 3 patients: sent slanted-bed lady down to get an IV placed in her neck, gave antibiotics, paged Dr. twice, charted meds and pain re-assessments…ran around until I was ready to pass out from low blood sugar and left many more things unfinished to go downstairs for lunch.

It hit me when I sat down to eat, and the crying started.  A beautiful child possibly dying while I was sitting there eating yogurt…  I hadn’t had a chance to say anything, not a single thing.  22 weeks old.  My friend delivered a baby prematurely just a few weeks older than that and she is a happy thriving beautiful little girl now.  I would adopt a baby now, in an instant, as a single person, if it meant saving its life, and I hadn’t even had a chance to offer that.  I prayed that God would cover this baby with the blood of Jesus so that it could go to be with Him.  I wondered if it had already gone.

She returned from ultrasound just as her brother arrived with her oldest child, a darling little 6-year-old.  He smiled, shyly told me his name when I asked, and then sat quietly playing games on someone’s phone while his mom showered and I changed her sheets.  He did not know that 20 minutes before, she had chosen to have a tiny needle stuck into her tummy, straight into her baby’s heart, injecting a lethal dose of potassium.  Maybe he didn’t even know that he had another brother or sister.  Hopefully he will not have to be around when his mom delivers the dead baby in a day or two.

I still don’t know what to do with this.  After hours of crying I finally stopped to think and remember that God is sovreign: He numbers the hairs on our heads, He knows when a sparrow falls, He created this child and ordained its 22 weeks of life.  He is also good: He came into the world to proclaim the truth about Himself, to be killed- taking the penalty for every selfish thought, every action born out of people worshipping convenience and image and comfort more than Him, and then to rise again triumphing over death- a promise of the eternal life that He bought for us with His life.  I pray that this child will enjoy that, enjoy God, without knowing the sorrows of this broken world.  I pray for its mom too, that she will find hope, forgiveness, redemption by Jesus’ blood, so she can see her child again and know God.

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Birthday

I did not open a single present on Christmas, yet I feel like I was given more than I could ever imagine or ask for.  God richly blessed me with a sweet family in Christ to celebrate with and answered so many prayers that day.

My birthday today began with the reminder again that the best gifts are the ones from God, and are often not tangible.  I was scheduled to work, and at 5:55am my work called and said I could have the day off!!!!!  Yay!!  Time is an awesome gift from God, a sweet opportunity to rest and reflect on the past year and the year to come.

So 5 minutes later I was dressed and driving with Brittany to morning prayer, another of my favorite things that work usually prohibits me from doing.  We meditated on thanking God for His righteousness.  How great it is to worship a God who is always right, who does and says nothing out of mean or selfish motives.  He is Lord over everything.  We pored over Psalm 95 and I saw something beautiful: a call to worship and give thanks with song, a reminder of the greatness of creation, a call to bow and kneel to a God who shepherds us, and a reminder to not harden our hearts when we hear His voice.  A call to not test God, but instead to remember what He has done, how He has been faithful in the past.

In the beautiful, living words of God, I was overcome with joy.  This week I had to give up something I wanted because God had spoken and He is Lord.  I was tempted to ignore His voice and “test” Him, but I acted in obedience even though part of  me was pulling in the other direction.  I remember the fruit of obedience in this area, I remember how He has so faithfully protected and provided for me in the past, and I’m thankful that His Spirit is stronger than my flesh and my rebellion against His voice.

The Holy Spirit is the best birthday gift ever.  Sitting on my living room floor when I got home, I got to play guitar and sing praises to Jesus, for His death on the cross, for reconciliation and redemption, for God’s strength triumphing over everything in me that opposes Him.  I am overflowing with joy.

My birthday wish and prayer is that this year will be a year of joy.  That it will be overwhelmingly more than any other year yet, that my joy will overflow in seeing God in His Word, in ministry, and in answers to prayer.  I’m excited to commit to praying for people specifically in order to see God work and answer and reveal Himself.

I worship You

I give thanks to You

My life is not my own

You are the source of my joy

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A Rare Treat

dec-2008-025Today is my sabbath and I woke up to the rare treat of snow falling.  The buses did not come up the hill, and after waiting a while in the snowy blizzard, Brittany and Aileen came back home.  Determined to get them to work, we bundled up and set out on a slippery snowy adventure in Aileen’s car.  I got to practice my long forgotten Idaho snow driving skills…plenty of “turning into the slide”.  We had a great slide off Denny way, but somehow gained control and made it up the hill to get Brittany to Virginia Mason.  Then it was back down to 2nd and Union, almost turning the wrong way down a one-way due to the crazy lack of visibility.  The most providential was safely getting back up to the top of Queen Anne.  God totally answered prayers and got me home, slipping all the way, but somehow missing all the parked cars!!!

The view from my front door

The view from my front door

Any beautiful day necessitates a walk to Kerry Park for the view

Any beautiful day necessitates a walk to Kerry Park for the view

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Roommates

I thank God for them!!

dec-2008-070

dec-2008-069

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