tall buildings & icy city streets

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Yesterday was my college orientation. It was chock full of information on signing up for classes, setting up accounts, and learning campus locations. To be honest, I really hoped college would be much more simple than it is. Apparently the degree I hope to purse currently has around a three year waiting list. That was not the news I was expecting...I thought I could just take the appropriate prerequisite classes and wait (maybe) three semesters, then start nursing school. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

At this point, I have two or three semesters of prerequisites to accomplish (at the rate I'll be taking them) before I'm even on the waiting list. Now I will also have to apply to multiple nursing programs to ensure that I can purse this field as soon as possible.

As I walked the streets of downtown Grand Rapids with the school's tour guide, I felt very tiny on such a large campus. (And to think this is a "small" community college compared to large universities). It seemed almost intimidating.

That building if you're taking theater. This location for science classes. Down the street for psychology. Floor four of main for nursing.

So many questions flood my mind. Should I take a small class load and keep working full time to balance the financial aspect of college? Maybe I should start right off with 18 credit hours and finish my prerequisites ASAP? Do I need to stop working night shift? Will I be able to find a feasible class schedule? How will I handle parking? Should I retake placement tests to try to bypass some classes? What can I do during college? And what do I need to remove from my schedule during college? Would I have better chances of getting into a nursing program at another college?

I really don't know.

Something I have been coming back to this morning is a passage in Proverbs:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (3:5).

By His grace, I want to walk in joy & trust as I pursue what He has placed before me.

When I was younger, I remember a time I prayed, "Ok Lord, you can do whatever you want with my life, but I'm not going to be a nurse and I'm not going to be a doctor." And today I have a strong sense He is leading me toward a job in the medical field that will make me a mid-level provider. Doesn't God have a sense of humor?!

Nearly two years ago, I spoke with a new friend about what God had placed on my heart. I didn't know her well, but she had a reputation of a very godly woman, so I thought surely it would be safe to share the deep things of my heart with her. I was surprised that when I told her my hopes for the future, she flatly and rather unfeelingly told me, "Well, God may not be calling you to be a nurse."

I suddenly felt so uncomfortable.

She didn't know my story. She did know how the thought of blood used to be enough to turn my stomach. She hadn't seen that it was in giving up & surrendering my dreams of being a school teacher that God was leading me toward the medical field and breaking my heart for what breaks His.

In December, I was reading through Mark. The story of Mary pouring out her best for Jesus has often struck me:

"And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, 'Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.' And they scolded her. But Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her'" (12:3-9).

I penned these words after reading:

Sometimes our acts of surrender do not make sense to those around us. It is possible to pour out our everything at His feet and still receive criticism from others who walk with Him daily. Yet Jesus saw Mary's act of worship as worthy of His acceptance. "She has done a BEAUTIFUL thing to me" (Mk. 14:6).  

I'm challenged in this new season to remember the purpose of my work and study. I am not pursuing this field for my own comfort and ease, but for His glory. He has very specifically shown me what it means to walk in obedience to Him now; am I willing to "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" (Rev. 14:4) today? If other Christians look down on me for taking steps forward, will I allow their opinions to be of greater importance to me than His clear leading?

These are the moments of our lives we reveal who we're truly living for. Is Jesus my all and all? Or do I depend upon the acceptance of those around me for security?

He has protected and kept me all these years. Surely He is worthy of my every day & every moment. "Yet you are He who took me from the womb...On you I was cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God" (Psalm 22:9-10).

I answer to Jesus for my life.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight...we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Cor. 5:7,9-10).

So in the midst of having seemingly thousands of complicated college steps to complete, I am finding great joy in the Truth that Jesus is constant. He is my faithful friend, the defender of my soul, and my guide. No matter how hard or easy this path becomes, He is with me every moment.

It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place \\ Elisabeth Elliot

I am called to walk in surrender and follow Him no matter the cost. That cost could include criticism, difficulty, and logistical busyness. But HE IS WITH US! As A.W. Tozer has said: "The Triune God will be our dwelling place even while our feet walk the low road of simple duty among men" (The Pursuit of God, p.101).

....Onward forward.

Attributes of the Church

Sunday, December 2, 2018

When I attended missions school, I had the privilege of studying out the attributes of the church. Just tonight I was looking through this study again, and thought it would be a joy to share those notes here! I was so refreshed as I read through, and I hope you will be as well. May we love His Word and hold it high, trying our every thought, belief, and attitude to it.

Prescriptive attributes of the church

Above reproach (Titus 1:6,7)
Hospitable (Titus 1:8)
A lover of good (Titus 1:8)
Upright  (Titus 1:8, 2:12)
Holy (Titus 1:8)
Disciplined (Titus 1:8)
Holding firm to the Word (titus 1:9)
Sound in doctrine (Titus 2:1)
Sober minded (Titus 2:2)
Dignified (Titus 2:2)
Self-controled (Titus 2:2, 1:8)
Sound in faith (Titus 2:2)
Sound in love (Titus 2:2)
Sound in steadfastness (Titus 2:2)
Renouncing ungodliness (Titus 2:12)
Renouncing worldly passions (Titus 2:12)
Living godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12)
Waiting for Jesus (Titus 2:13)
Obedient (Titus 3:1)
Ready for every good work (Titus 3:1)
Speaking evil of no one (Titus 3:2)
Avoids quarreling (Titus 3:2)
Gentle (Titus 3:2)
Showing perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:2)
Compassionate of heart (Colossians 3:12)
Kind (Colossians 3:12)
Humble (Colossians 3:12)
Meek (Colossians 3:12)
Patient (Colossians 3:12)
Bearing with one another (Colossians 3:13)
Forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13)
Loving, above all (Colossians 3:14)
Ruled in heart by the peace of Christ (Colossians 3:15)
Thankful (Colossians 3:15)
The Word dwelling within richly (Colossians 3:16)
Teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16)
Does everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17)

Descriptive attributes of the church

Baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5,8, 2:38)
Heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7)
Loving (Galatians 5:22)
Joyful (Galatians 5:22)
Peaceful (Galatians 5:22)
Patient (Galatians 5:22)
Kind (Galatians 5:22)
Good (Galatians 5:22)
Faithful (Galatians 5:22)
Gentle (Galatians 5:23)
Self-controled (Galatians 5:23)
Have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24)
Complete (2 Timothy 3:17)
Thoroughly equipped unto every good work (Galatians 5:23)
Known by the Lord (2 Timothy 2:19)
Sound of mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
Called to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Burn the Bitter Roots

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I was driving home with my mom one evening when I received a message. A coworker's spouse had to go the emergency department and she wondered if I would pick up her shift the following morning at the assisted living facility so she could rest up after her eventful evening in the hospital. I quickly messaged her back and agreed to work the shift, and told her that I hoped her husband felt better soon.

My mind was cloudy that next morning. Running behind, I rushed to get ready, putting on a pair of light blue scrubs, tennis shoes, and a light jacket. I ran out the front door and started the car, noticing how icy and dark it was. The 6am shift was not my favorite, but I knew it was important for me to be there to care for the residents and support my coworkers.

As I pulled out of the driveway, the street seemed even more slick than I had first thought. I traveled down a hilly road, glancing at the clock. I could generally make it there in 8 minutes, but the inconvenient weather was going to hold me back.

Suddenly, coming over a small hill, I saw a down tree completely blocking my lane. I gasped, slamming on my breaks. It was too late. A sheet of ice beneath my car prevented me from coming to a stop. The large tree and the front of my car met forcefully.

I started to pant. What happened? Was I alive?

My airbag had never deployed, so my chest went forward into the steering wheel. I was ok, but confused and shaken up. Noticing the smell of smoke, I got out of my car in a rush. Was my car about to go up in flames? I stood outside in the low temperatures, on the other side of the road from my car. Freezing rain was coming down and the wind whipped right through my insufficient jacket.

Lord, help.

I called both of my parents, unsure of what to do. Because of where I had crashed, if another driver wasn't watching, they could drive right into my car, causing a second collision, so I waited in the cold.

I dialed the number of the assisted living facility, explaining what had just occurred. "Well, can you get here soon?" I don't think that will be possible for a while.

My dad graciously came and picked me up. While insurance was being handled and the police were called, I sat in my dad's car, sinking back in the chair.

In that season of life, I had been working to get past some rough experiences I had gone through. My heart was racing as worrisome, frustrating thoughts came to mind about certain people I had known.

Would they actually care about the way they treated me if I had died today?

They would probably wish I had been hurt.

I bet they think I'm too immature to handle anything; a job, driving, early mornings....

It was more than the ramifications of an accident. The circumstances brought some unpleasant thoughts from deep in my soul to the surface. I felt discarded, ostracized, and put down by a group of people from my past. I hadn't seen them recently, but it was apparent that I had been festering unforgiveness toward them. I felt that they did not value my life.

Instead of being grateful for the Lord's protection and rejoicing over His faithfulness that morning, I was moody and bitter. I wished there was a way to peek into the lives of those who had been unkind to me and see if there was a ray of care about the fact that I could have been hurt much worse that day.

My car was towed away and I was dropped off to work. I struggled to even smile at my residents; the weight within my soul was great. How do you make the choice to forgive when you're so entangled in traumatic memories, flustered emotions, and aching pain?

Do you ever find yourself asking the same questions? How can we walk in forgiveness when our own souls are so broken?

Painful, all-important redemption

In the introduction to “Choosing Forgiveness,” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth shares the compelling illustration of Charles Dickens’ classic character Miss Havisham--known for her bitter heart toward her fiance who abandoned her on their wedding day and ran away with another woman. There she sat in her living room, still adorned in the very wedding dress she had chosen for the forgotten day. As the lace slowly lost its color, Miss Havisham’s heart continued in the opposite direction, becoming sharper and more animated with ugly unforgiveness. Broken and sad--hardly able to look beyond herself and the hurt she had sustained---Miss Havisham admitted, “the mice have gnawed away at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me.” (1) Bitter resentment was eating her from the inside out.

These words caused me to pause:

Has the clock stopped in your life? Was there a moment when someone or something hurt you--and everything changed? Perhaps you can still remember the day, the time, the year, the scenery, the circumstances. Your hopes, dreams, and innocence felt the sharp sting of betrayal and disappointment. Ever since, the story of your life has been to recapture your loss and seek your revenge, either through outright action or the withholding of love and affection.”

She continues:

“Do you know full well what those gnawing teeth feel like? I want to say to you that you don’t have to live there. It’s time to pull back the drapes and move out of the darkness. To do so may seem risky--even impossible. The process may be painful. But there is life and health and a whole new world outside of the dark, musty walls of hurt and disillusionment behind which you have barricaded your heart. God wants to...set you free.” (2)

Like Miss Havisham, I found myself frozen in replays of ugly, heart-crushing memories; life occurrences I wished I could control and change, but could not. What my pain-stricken heart needed the morning of my accident was a fresh reminder about the reality of the forgiveness that had been shown to me and a resolve to walk in it, by His grace.

Do you know how much you cost Him?

As followers of Jesus, we're well acquainted with the fact that apart from the grace of God, we would be condemned forever. Our sin is so ugly and opposite the the beautiful holiness and purity of our perfect King. All the people of earth had no hope of restoration, dying in their sins; it would have been entirely just of our God to allow us to face the consequences of our rebellion against Him. Bring this truth close to heart; it would have been rightful for God to allow me to spend the rest of eternity separated from Him in hell. Yet He sent His only Son, the Perfect Lamb, because He is worthy of each life He has created for His glory.

What mercy.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

"We like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

The Most High passionately pursued our souls. In His great love, He fought for us, even when we had spat in His face.

The only reason I can say: "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 116:9) is because Jesus was "cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people" (Isaiah 53:8b).

The greatest work of forgiveness in the history of the universe was accomplished by our God, willing to sacrifice His own Son's perfect life so that He could redeem us fully, if we would yield our hearts to Him. As 1 John says: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (vs.9).

Jesus is the only reason I do not have to face the wrath of God, which I deserve to have bestowed upon me. John continues: "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (2:1-2).

How redemption empowers us to forgive our offenders

I was hit right between the eyes with words from a woman I have often pictured as a loving mentor-like figure in my life:

“We never so fully experience the ocean of God’s love as when we forgive our enemies” (Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord). 

The very woman who was put through death camps, persecuted by the Nazi's, lost deeply loved family members, and had her very life as she had known it taken from her, shares out of her renowned child-like faith, “Here’s how you can know His love--forgive.”

God supplies grace for me to walk in forgiveness toward others even when I may not feel equipped for it emotionally. “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart" (Corrie ten Boom).

His Word calls me to forgive those who have hurt me:

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).

"And if [a brother] sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (Luke 17:4).

As I chose, by His grace, to forgive those who had hurt me, I began to feel immense freedom. It became clear that bitterness was a weight I carried on my shoulders; I had allowed my mind to be the breeding ground for frustration, unforgiveness, and continual replay of hurt-filled memories. When we confess our bitterness and unforgiveness before the Lord, it's amazing to see how He will cause our lives to be a display of His mercy to those around us.

Is there a memory in your life that fills you with dread and anger toward someone in your life? Are you holding on to unforgiveness in any capacity in your life? Enabled by His grace, are you walking in forgiveness toward those who have treated you unjustly?

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. // John 8:36

I encourage you to get away with Jesus and allow Him to expose your heart. Is your all on the altar? Is your greatest longing for Him to be lifted High?

If so, forgiveness will be simple. It may be painful and hard, but as we go about each day abiding in Christ, we can walk in freedom and strength.

He has given you everything you need for life and godliness. Including the grace to forgive fully.

Those who harmed me in my past left my soul feeling bankrupt, unloved, and cast aside; the beautiful thing is that as I pushed forward and chose forgiveness, I had a greater understanding of the cost of my own redemption--the great weight of the truth that Jesus has removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. And because He is enough, I can show the forgiveness of heaven to both unbelievers and believers around me. Displaying the pardon He has shown to me. I don't deserve it, and there is nothing I could ever do to repay Him for it; yet He lavishes His love on me.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (Oxford University Press), 82
Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, Choosing Forgiveness (Moody Publishers 2008), 27


Sunday, November 18, 2018

It was June. Not even one month after graduating as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and I was practically on my tippy toes, just waiting and hoping to help others with any kind of medical need they might have. I would even go so far as to pray that if there had to be an accident in the day that I would be the first to see it on my drive home. I longed to put my first aid training to use, as we didn’t have a plethora of emergency situations at the assisted living facility I worked at.

That summer I temporarily moved to Colorado. During my first week of school, we had a lecture on campus safety and were asked if anyone had medical training, and I was so thrilled to raise my hand into the air! Yes! Yes! Yes! I am happy to help with absolutely anything medical! I practically had to bite my lip to keep from saying it aloud.

I kept my eyes open, looking for any opportunities to serve others in this capacity, but at first, nothing, as far as I was aware, had come up. I sat down outside the 300 dorms and opened up the assigned book for that week. As I flipped to the page where I had left off, I glanced up at my water bottle; it had a medical symbol on it with my name below. It was like there were ants in my pants or something. No one had punctured an artery, taken a tumble on the sidewalk, or fallen unconscious into the campus lake, which was good. But at the same time, what’s a passionate CNA girl to do?!

At last, a month later something had { finally } come up. All 105 or so of us students were having an evening of fellowship at a local park. Some were playing volleyball or ultimate frisbee, while others were just enjoying talking with one another. Being the stellarly athletic type that I am, I avoided the competitive games and sat down in the grass, picking up a conversation with several ladies who I hoped to get to know better. Suddenly one of the girls said, “Cassidy! Someone’s down over there! Can you go help?” My back had been turned to the frisbee game in which a guy had landed wrong on his ankle.

Quickly, I jumped up, feeling elated and trying to recall what I had learned about sprained joints. Only a few feet away from the scene, I looked over to see a staff member also running in that direction. She said to me, in a gracious tone of voice: “Why don’t you go back and sit down?”


It felt like one of those slow-motion moments. “Oh ok.” I said, feeling my heart drop. With disappointment, I turned around and went back to the same spot where I had previously been seated.

That evening was a good one for my soul; it was a reminder that truly serving others is so not about me. If I am not needed, then it may be best to stay out of the way. There had been an RN involved on the scene of the sprained ankle, and plenty of other individuals nearby who could help.

A few weeks later while I did my chore in the Lakehouse, I spotted a friend. I started a conversation with the lady coordinating volunteers for the upcoming 5K and mentioned that if they happened to need any medical help, I would be thrilled to provide any care I was able to. I also passed along the name of a classmate who was an LPN, who I was certain would be just as excited about this opportunity as I was; maybe we could work together!

Eventually it was 3:30pm.

Internet hours…. I refreshed my email several times, thinking about how amazing it would be to look over the volunteer assignments. I pictured pulling my hair back and placing my pink stethoscope over my shoulders. I could bring my first aid kit, pulse oximeter, and purple sphygmometer; each of which were sitting sadly on the top shelf in my dorm room, only used on occasion or when I pestered someone about taking their vital signs. I didn’t want to just ask others if I could practice taking their blood pressure anymore, I wanted to be there answering the call when someone pulled a muscle, broke a leg, or fainted of heat exhaustion.

A few days later, a subject line in my email rekindled all the excitement. “Volunteer Assignments For 5K.” I scrolled through the list, urgently looking for the column of “Nurse/First Aid.” I glanced at my phone with utter thrill; I was assigned to be the 5K first aid provider!!! And my LPN friend was going to be working with me; it seemed like the most exciting day ever! I jumped out of my chair and told my excitement to a nearby friend. The 14th of July could not arrive fast enough!

As I prepared for the day, I had to restrain myself from shrieking for joy; I put my student ID on the same way I had worn my medical ID during clinicals. Even if no one would get hurt that morning, just the idea of being available to meet the needs of others had me about jumping up and down. I threw all my medical supplies into my backpack and headed out the door.

When I got there, the volunteer coordinator needed to speak with me. It turned out that one of the other people involved in coordinating the 5K had already arranged for three other people to provide medical care for the day. A nurse's station had been arranged with an RN, EMT, and first responder.

Wondering how it could be that another medical opportunity had fallen through, I walked over to my LPN friend to let her know that we would not be needed at the nurses station that morning. She told me she was relieved; she had been willing to help if there was a great need, but hoped to instead participate in the 5K. I understood her relief since she was such a hard working nurse, but I did not share in her relief… I still felt restless to help others.

A few days later, I lost my water bottle with the medical sign on it. It was like everything I used to identify myself as a medical professional was nonexistent.

Jesus was, in a way, speaking to me. I was finding the whole of my identity in medical care.

The position of my soul is not in nursing, CNA-ing, blood drawing, first-aid administering, CPR-giving Cassidy. My position is in Christ, and I was getting a crash course in it. I had been living in the clouds, with “Oh for the day when I’m finally a nurse” type thoughts dominating my heart and mind. I had no grid for any other kind of future than one of charting, injecting, observing, and compassionately caring nursing.

I think it’s a common phenomenon of girls of the 21st century to misplace their identity. We somehow come to a conclusion that we have to be identified with something, be that good grades, a thriving career, a certain interest well pursued, a boyfriend nearby, or something else, whatever it may be.

Despite what our culture daily attempts to instill in us, our identity is not in our personality, our accomplishments, our abilities, or our passions; our identity is in Christ alone. (May He ever be out all-consuming passion!)

Here I am, over a year later, looking back with a smile. I now work in the emergency department and get to do many of the things I was dreaming of. The other day I administered over 91 compressions to one patient. My weekly life includes obtaining and charting vital signs, ambulating patients, assisting in high acuity traumas, taking EKGs, drawing blood, and sometimes praying with patients at their lowest point. There are moments I about squeal for joy! But there are also moments I long to go home.

Getting to help people in emergent and traumatic moments of their lives often thrills my soul, but it does not satisfy me completely.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1-2).

I wasn’t created for myself. I was not made to follow my heart and dreams. (Prov. 4:23).

I was put into existence for the glory, honor, and praise of Jesus Christ. (Is. 43:1-7, Eph. 3:20-21).

That does not mean the vision He has planted in my heart--as I offer it up to Him in full surrender--has no eternal value, but it is not my purpose for existing on this earth.

God did not create me merely to chase whims, hopes, and wishes.

I was made to know the very Source of life Himself.

The essence of who I am, even in this fallen world, cries out His praise. "All my bones shall say, 'O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him" (Ps. 35:10a). My fulfillment cannot be found in a job, human being, life setting, or particular circumstances. I need something more than things and people; at the core of who I am, I long for the Author of Life.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing...The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (Ps. 34:8-10,22).

Knowing the Most High is not a hobby or merely one segment of life. It is an all-consuming pursuit. As A.W. Tozer has said: "Too many persons try to make Jesus Christ a convenience. They reduce Him simply to a big friend who will help us when we are in trouble. This is not Biblical Christianity! Jesus Christ is Lord, and when an individual comes in repentance and faith, the truth flashes in. For the first time he finds himself saying, 'I will do the will of the Lord, even if I die for it." [1]

Putting Jesus first and claiming Him as my identity means death to self and living for Christ. "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3).

Living in Pursuit of a Heavenly Agenda

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain...Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:21a, 27a).

People who are without Jesus live in light of what is temporary; it's all they know to give themselves for. Flashing headlines like "Live your best life now" sum up the mainstream attitude. As citizens of heaven in a broken earth, may we display the loveliness of an existence surrendered unto the Alpha and Omega. Happily stepping into the mud and mess to share the all-important secret with all who will hear: Jesus is Lord.

Oswald Chambers has shared an important piece of advice on God's intent for His children:

"His purpose is not the development of  a person--His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that really counts. God's purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us--and we cannot measure that at all [...] 'He who believed in me...out of his heart will flow rivers of Living Water'--and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. Now is the time for us to break "the flask" of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?" [2]

Ultimately, my identity as a Christ follower is not about me. It's about the Savior who is worthy of my utmost and entire givenness.

Know that the unique way He has made you is for a purpose, yet the longer my eyes remain upon self, the less I can be used. If I spend my days worried if my gifts will be spent well, I am not seeing myself in perspective. I am not the story and I am not the main character. He has made me a part of His plan and Kingdom, but not so my name would be known, but so He will receive more glory, honor, and praise.

He is the One this is all about.

I was made uniquely for His glory because He is worthy of praise in a billion different ways.

Do I still love the emergency department and sometimes achingly long to give CPR? Yes. Yet, I must leave my desires in the hands of the One who created my heart and knows my every dream so intimately.

God is my Creator and He knows my purpose far, far better than I ever will. This means the best way I may accomplish the intentions He has for me is by obeying and yielding to Him. 

1. Tozer, A.W., and Gerald B. Smith. Mornings With Tozer . Moody Publishers, 2008, p. March 24
2. Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1992, p. September 2

Spurgeon Speaks to Patient Care

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I spend a lot of time with patients these days....Some are simply the sweetest and others are harder to show love to. I sat to read some Spurgeon the other day, and was blown away by these encouragements:

“I venture to say that our Savior never taught us to confine our giving to the deserving. He would never have bestowed His grand gift of grace on any one of us had He carried out that rule. We cannot afford to cramp our charity into a sort of petty justice and sour our giving into a miniature court of law. When a man is suffering, let us pity him, however this suffering has come...[Jesus] came to the sinner, not with reproach but with restoration. Jesus saw his disease rather than his depravity and gave him pity instead of punishment. Our God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil; be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful...Let us imitate Him in this, and wherever there is pain and sorrow, let it be our joy to relieve it.”

 “Our Lord was at home amid this mercy, for here was room for His tender heart and powerful hand. He feasted His soul by doing good. Let us learn this lesson, dear friend, that in the times of our brightest joys we should remember the sorrowful and find a still higher joy in doing them good....blessed are they who, like the Lord Jesus, visit the sick and care for them.” [1]

It's probably fair to say that it's our human nature to ponder if our patient is worthy of our kindness. When fits are thrown, voices are raised, complaints are made, or a patient is just plain difficult in some other way, is it my delight to show them the boundless love of Jesus?

I have been working in the emergency department for nearly two months now, and a recurring theme seems to be: "You need to learn to lay down the law with patients who struggle to make good choices. Don't be too nice to them."

We certainly have to be cautious with patients who are violent or emotionally unstable, but we must also remember that we walk with the Lord Jesus at every moment when providing care. When He was so worthy of our everything, we spat in His face and disdained Him. Even so, "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

The passage continues:

"It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:7-11).

Jesus has done this incredible work of redemption. There is something wrong with my perspective if I am still looking at others with a measuring stick and saying, "If you do this, and don't do that, then I'll care about you and be kind." If such a standard had been held upon us by our Savior, redemption would be completely impossible and I would be forever stuck in my sin, on my way to an eternity of destruction and torment. That is what I deserve! It's what we all deserve! "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). And yet He did not allow my unworthiness to stop His grand plan of redemption. In the midst of my mess, He showed me mercy.

Our God is all wise, and He Himself was moved at a heart level for the broken. He didn't shut up His heart because, "I'd burn out if I took all that to heart" (He is all-sufficient, after all). He let the sadness, sickness, and brokenness others were experiencing affect Him:

"And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean" (Mark 1:40-42).

The word there for "moved with pity" is splagchnizomai. Strong's defines this word: "[to] feel sympathy, to pity -- have (be moved with) compassion." [2] Splagchnizomai speaks of the seat of affections of the heart [3]; Jesus was not simply pondering head knowledge on the situation; He felt the depth of the need.

Whenever we feel tempted, as healthcare workers, to disconnect our emotions from our work for the sake of self-preservation, may we remember our Lord Jesus who wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, to the point that the Jews who had been observing Him said: "See how [Jesus] loved [Lazarus]" (John 11:36).

May our work display the same; "See how Jesus has loved you." Because we know, as Elisabeth Elliot has said, "You are loved with an everlasting love; that's what the Bible says! And underneath are the everlasting arms" (Jer. 31:3, Deut. 33:27).

We have the opportunity to wrap the broken in hope or push them further into despair. By His grace, may we bear His light into the darkness sick people are facing. Jesus is the Light of the World, and He has placed us here--displaying His light--for such a time as this. May we feel compassion for the broken as our Savior does. May we stoop down into the mud with the dirty, listen with care and attentiveness to those who weep, advocate effectively for the confused, and--with every patient--be moved at a heart level; displaying the "splagchnizomai" of their Creator.

"Jesus, the Light of the World, caused His light and truth to dawn upon your heart, removing the veil and fog of unbelief that once blinded you to Him. He gave the light; He did the shining, and you found you could see God for who He truly is and love the Gospel for what it really is" (Kristen Wetherell). [4]

We know that hope is not merely a feeling or put together circumstances; Hope is a person named Jesus. And this Hope isn't bound to ease or situational peace; He is willing to rescue the lost and restore shattered souls.

"Wherever there is pain and sorrow, let it be our joy to relieve it" (Spurgeon).

(1) Spurgeon, Charles, and Lance Wubbles. Discovering the Power of Christ's Miracles. Emerald Books, 1995, p. 15,14
(2) Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, as found here.
(3) HELPS Word-studies, Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
(4) Wetherell, Kristen, and Sarah Walton. Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Your Suffering. The Good Book Company, 2017, p. 19

Enabled, Empowered and Equipped

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The other day, I was assigned as the compressor for an incoming patient in the emergency department. I walked into the trauma room and was instructed to apply gloves and stand on a stool right next to the hospital bed. As the patient was brought in by EMS, I began CPR. With one leg on the hospital bed, I furthered my reach as the patient was transferred from the stretcher to the hospital bed. I started counting each push into the patient's chest.

one. two. three. four. five. six. seven.

I did my absolute best to give quality compressions. The fast-pace emergency started to play out slower in my mind; I thought about the time between each compression, the depth I pushed into the patient's chest, the respiratory therapist to my right. Would this patient come out alive?

If my patient had refused care and told us, "Nope, I'm not experiencing cardiac arrest; keep your hands off me," then we would have been unable to rescue the patient. (Obviously if the patient was conscious and talking then we would not be doing compressions anyway).

In a similar way, every human being to ever walk the earth has a terminal disease: sin (Romans 3:23). If we refuse to come to grips with the truth that our sin separates us from God and that we cannot save ourselves, then we will die in our sin and spend all eternity separated from our worthy God. The Great Physician longs to rescue the broken, fallen, and sinful.

The notably religious people of Jesus' time were the Pharisees; they followed extensive ritualistic laws, taught in synagogues, and were admired by many. They looked spiritual, but their hearts were full of pride.

Jesus said to them: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:27-28).

"Those who are well have no need of a Physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17b).

Those who are self-righteous aren't needy for God (truly they are, but they refuse to admit it); Jesus did not come for those who believe that they have it all together, but for broken sinners who acknowledge their need for a Mighty Savior to lift them from the miry clay. My redemption could never be accomplished through human whims and performance. If I don't acknowledge my need for Him, I resemble the Pharisees. Do you know how Jesus felt about the Pharisees' hearts? He was "...grieved over the hardness of their heart" (Mark 3:5). Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has said,

"If I lose my my neediness, I lose my usefulness."

It's in our desperation for our Savior that we may be used in the way He intended. He is the only One who can give us new life and cause us to walk in His fullness. "God isn't looking for sponsors; He's looking for servants. He isn't looking for people who have sufficiency" (Leonard Ravenhill).

My only wholeness is in Jesus.

"And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:10).

He is Lord, and I am not. I need Him to lead, teach, help and sustain me. Despite what this world loudly proclaims, no, I am not enough in and of myself. If all there is is me and that has to be sufficient for this entire lifetime, my am I in trouble.

In my own pockets, I do not find the strength, hope, grace, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, love, or self-control I need to triumph in the journey ahead. I am so empty of all good and full of what is wrong apart from Christ.

But in Jesus, because He laid His perfect life down for me, I have what I need.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge [epiginosko] of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3-4).

As we abide in Christ, by His transforming grace, we are changed more and more into His likeness.

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:26-29).

My patient had to come into the hospital acknowledging their need for resuscitation. (In regard to medical situations, passing out is a definite acknowledgment of needing help). Even so, we fall at the feet of Jesus, desperately lacking, but willing to give our everything up in full surrender to the only One who can revive us our of our spiritual disease and deadness. We must come to Him with humbled hearts; we do not have it in the bag. We are not everything we're meant to be. Oh how we need our Savior to work in us; as believers, it's only by abiding in Him that we can bring forth any fruit that will glorify Him.

This abiding is restful, enabling, and empowering. By running to Him for strength, we are equipped to "...live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10).

Lean. Depend. Abide. Be desperate for Jesus. He will empower us as we look to Him for grace to continue onward and inward.

The well of Living Water never runs dry; He cares about our needs even more than we do, and provides for us. Jehovah Jireh dwells in us and goes before us; He is gladly willing to meet the needs of His desperate people, if we will acknowledge our need for Him.

H e l l o || n i n e t e e n

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The past 365 days have contained more than I would have known to dream up. Today I leave 18 behind…

This time last year, I was finishing my final weeks at missions school. Homework, class sessions, sleeplessness, to-dos, and time with Jesus filled my time in Colorado to the max. As a Michigan native, the sweeping, majestic mountain view from the small campus often left me in awe. And the sunsets regularly left this talkative extrovert wordless; the depth of the blazing red and orange skies caused me to ponder how detailed, creative, and brilliant our Maker is.

I’ve struggled to adequately sum up my time there; messages like “The Majestic Jesus” and “The Lowercase f,” along with regular devotional thoughts on the nature of God, as revealed through His names in Scripture, opened my heart to a new level of knowing our incredible Jesus. I could use the word awe again and again, because that’s what I experienced nearly every day. He’s just so worthy!

There were also some rough patches in my time there right after my birthday last year; though they aren’t all easy memories to look back on, I trust the Truth of His Word that absolutely everything will be worked together for good, and that nothing in all creation can separate me from His love (Romans 8:28, 35-39).

In all honesty, I came back broken. Probably more so because of myself than anything else, but life was a struggle.

I began working at Bishop Hills again two days after arriving home from school. I had received my license as a Certified Nursing Assistant five months before, and felt it would be wisest for the time being to continue gaining experience in assisted living. As I previously chronicled on this blog, not every moment of working as a CNA has been a breeze, but caring practically for those who are hurting has been such an eye-opening experience. This past year of employment as an aid has been so important; Jesus was graciously giving me opportunities to humble myself and take the lowest place. The truth is, I’d love to be through with school and already have the position in healthcare I anticipate having in the future. It’s been a continual opportunity to lay every desire at His feet and trust His perfect timing and leading.

There’s a reason for this season. Every day of assisting my residents with their ADLs {activities of daily living} and other needs is preparing me for the future. It’s been my deep hope to serve well at Bishop Hills, even as I simultaneously see it as a “stair step” in my experience in caring for others facing crisis or just needing assistance.

In addition to that job, I also ended up nannying for three different families at various times throughout the year. Little Miss Lucy was my “regular.” Every Monday when her mom and siblings went off to homeschool group, Lucy and I got to hang out. She has the most precious smile and laugh; her strong will, love for her family, and curiosity have made my day many a time. Home life over the past year has been on the unstable side with my parents’ separation, but amid brokenness, Jesus was using little things to lift my eyes to Himself. Lucy was one of them!

Many tears were shed as our family worked through logistics, and all things life-change that come with the dividing of a home. It left me with an assurance within my soul that I was entirely and completely unable to do anything apart from His grace. Looking back, I see the pain and sorrow, but I know He was bringing about beauty from ashes.

I’ve always had the propensity to keep everyone at an arm's length, which created more ramifications than it helped while I was walking through what one might term “rawness” of soul. I’m the one who would prefer to cry in the bathroom, and not come out till I can put on a convincing smile and go on in conversation as if nothing ever happened. I did that a fair bit last year; people would reach out to me mercifully, having heard a piece of what was happening, and rarely did I feel comfortable enough to actually open up and share with others. Learning to be vulnerable in a way that also honors those around me has been a difficult lesson. I tend to be silent about the “deeper,” more achy things that are going on in my life, but I have been seeing afresh that because of the hurt I have walked through, Jesus has given me a special door of entrance in showing mercy and care to those facing similar circumstances. You learn to truly mourn with those who mourn when you have suffered yourself. I’m grateful He graciously uses what has been trauma in my own life so that I can meet other women where they’re at and remind them that our God is always faithful, even when our hearts are breaking.

I walked out of our local movie theatre, after watching a pro-life film with a sweet friend and saw Laura Alexandria, the Director of Operations with Grand Rapids Right to Life. A brief conversation had a new idea excitedly planted in my mind...They were looking to hire a new staff member, and my friend recommended me for the position.

I was conflicted. This.is.not.medical.

Should I even apply for a job that I would be super passionate about, but that wasn’t in the industry I was pursuing??

Three interviews and five months later, I was the Student Trailblazer of Grand Rapids Right to Life.

Since I accepted this position, I have had the privilege of coming alongside high school and college students as they seek to advocate for the unborn. It has been sort of strange to be the eighteen year old visiting the college Students for Life groups with the desire to encourage and mentor individuals--many of whom are older than me--in this battle for life. My passion to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves has continued to grow as I have worked with GRRTL. From tracking down the Democrat pro-choice table at the Women’s Convention and having intentional conversations about life, to meeting amazing Students for Life group leaders for coffee and getting the opportunity to uplift them and pour into their lives; I feel like a kid in a candy store.

The longer I know Jesus, the more I feel entirely unable to do nothing about the incredible injustice of abortion. He deeply loves every single person He has created, and I long to share all the more in His incomparable compassion for those who are at-risk.

Speaking of knowing Jesus, this summer marked 7 years in Christ. In Scripture, 7 is often a mark of completion, which I know is so intentional on His part; He knew this would be a year of turmoil and loss, and now more than ever I see the reality that I have never been complete apart from Jesus (Col. 2:10). Within a culture that constantly proclaims a message of self-sufficiency, ever saying, “Yes, you are enough!” I have been comforted with the exact opposite. I’ve never been enough on my own; it’s trying to see myself as enough that turns into a culturally-applauded fiasko of self-adoration which leaves my soul feeling bankrupt and insecure. But when I take my eyes off of myself and my innumerable insufficiencies and instead place my heart and mind on the One who has taken my place, suddenly, my perception of life changes. No longer does my peace and joy hinge upon what I can and cannot do; instead it’s about Jesus and all He is. He never fails and always gives me exactly what is needful for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

Jesus is enough!

It’s been a theme this year. The easter drama I was in was named “Enough.” My job as a CNA began to change when I chose to stop centering it on perfectionism and instead saw it as an opportunity to worship the Sufficient One. My daily life changed as I consciously rested my heart in His enoughness.

 I also started multiple blogs, led Bright Lights, moved, drove my car into a tree, got bodily fluids on my scrubs on several occasions, witnessed many babies saved from abortion, and did the dishes more times than I’d like to count, but through it all Jesus has been completely faithful. New critics, new friends, a new town, and all sorts of life changes surround this season of life. And I know every day of nineteen, He will faithfully lead me. From sleepless night time studies, to continuing to write all 640 some youth Pastors in the Grand Rapids area about the pro-life movement, it shall be anything but boring!

(Yep, I’m still an incurable nutcase like that…)

My sweet friend Bri Stoltzfus shared these words with me on our birthday last year (we were born on the same day!):

“Isn’t it exciting to think that we can give 100% for Jesus every single day of 18?!”

And that is my prayer for 19 as well, because His grace is always enough through every year of life.