Dead Dreams but a Living Jesus

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I made my way down the dorm building stairs; it was a weekday evening and Bible survey class was on the agenda for the evening. With my Bible and notebook in hand, I walked past the campus lake’s delightful deep blue haze, expectant to learn a lot and take many notes.

I took a seat next to a friend as our teacher expounded on the passage of the evening. I was around three weeks from completing the on-campus portion of the missions program and was mentally planning all I hoped to accomplish when I arrived home. Work, family life, and a million to-dos seemed to spin around in my mind; I knew much was ahead.

As the class wrapped up, I was approached by one of the school’s staff members. It was a conversation that would echo in my mind for months after I left.

“Knowing all this ministry stands for, [I need to tell you something].”

When the words had been spoken and our conversation wrapped up, I quickly approached the chapel door, with my heart racing in my chest. I felt like a thin piece of paper floating down to the ground; I deeply hoped no one would see or talk to me for the rest of the evening.

It was clear. I had not met the standard of the school and was not considered to be a very godly woman; my word choices in an attempt to encourage a staff member had not been ok. It was communicated to me that I was seen as a flatterer and not one who uplifts others, despite the fact that it had been my hope to point to the work Jesus had done in her life.

Later in the evening, I rushed into the dorm bathroom and sobbed. I felt like there was nothing left; strength seemed to flee and my heart felt as though it had been broken in a million pieces.

I hadn’t shared the hope with a single soul on the campus, but secretly, I wondered if one day I might work for this ministry. Maybe I would get to walk with other women through the valleys of their life and be able to point them to Jesus and how He would triumph gloriously in their existence. Maybe I would contribute to their renowned Christian women’s magazine. Maybe I would move nearby and go to college in the area, thousands of miles from my home in Michigan. So many hopes and dream surrounded the little missions school.

Suddenly those dreams seemed far away and impossible. The hopes were dashed.

An ocean of tears seemed to flow as I thought through the heartrending evening. I was not their desired alum. I wasn’t someone they would want influencing other women. I wasn’t fitting the mold.

“Cassidy.” The tap on the shoulder came. It was a few weeks later, and the day had come to return home. It was 3am and I was down to my last half hour on the campus. Life was about to change. I tried not to think back on what had happened just a few weeks previously so I could end my last bit of time on campus without going “there.” It wasn’t my roomates or friends fault that I had messed up, so I reasoned that I needed to hold it in. Don’t burst out in tears. Don’t whine about how things ended so roughly. Just smile.

I got in the car and took a final glance at the campus. I was sad to be ending this season of life and to probably not see many of my classmates again, while simultaneously feeling that I maybe shouldn’t have come in the first place.

I eventually arrived home, got back to work, and the flow of regular life began once again.

Yet my heart seemed affected. I couldn’t just fly away from the things that had happened; like a broken record, my mind replayed the mistakes I made, what I should have done, and how everything could be so different if I had not said this, and done that.

Some deep dreams had died, but even then Jesus was at work.

Amidst personal failure, Jesus had not failed for one moment. He was ready and willing to take even one such as me--one who did not reach the bar--and heal me and give me new vision and hopes for the future. He reminded my soul of ways He had been burdening me for the vulnerable. He gave me new hope for ministering to the women around me. He stirred the desire to keep writing for my own blog, even if my feeble words would never make it around the world. It could reach one hurting soul who follows me on Facebook who might never even hear of the magazine publication I previously dreamed of contributing to.

Life was not over.

It seems like an obvious statement, but at that time in my life it was a new revelation. It was possible for deep hopes, the secret ones you only tell Jesus about, to die but then be used in the way He intended.

A grain of wheat must die and fall to the ground if it will bring forth its crop. I was seeing that truth play out in my personal life. When I freshly surrendered and laid my dreams down at the foot of His Cross, they could finally be used.

For the Broken Soul

To any friend who has stumbled upon this post amid personal pain and hurt, may I remind you that our God is gracious and He loves to meet us where we are at. His love has never hinged on what you can offer Him (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 3:23), so when we feel empty and don’t think we bring anything of value to the table, it’s great to remember that it’s all about Jesus and His sufficiency (Col. 1:18). It isn’t about all the times I have failed, all the ways I don’t measure up, or all the things I cannot seem to do well. It’s about Him. We know that He so graciously works even the worst of the worst together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).

If you are in Christ, then absolutely nothing in all creation can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:35-39)! Your God loves you and desires you; He does not quit pursuing our souls when we mess up. He provides grace for us in the exact measure we need it. When we feel like nothing, Jesus remains everything. He lovingly holds us in the hollow of His hands, and attentively watches over us.

If your dreams have died at a measure or even entirely, may I remind you, sweet friend, that your God has not! When our future is confusing and we don’t know what’s next, He always does. Place your soul’s confidence in the One who has taken your place and stood in the gap for your soul. He values you so much that He shed His very life’s blood to set you free and make you His own.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16a).

The utmost display of love was made to us; ultimately to place every eye upon Jesus, who is worthy of all the glory. Jesus pursues His bride and calls us ever deeper in knowing Him, even though we are imperfect and unworthy; yet He loves us entirely and draws us closer to Himself.

In this broken world, sadness and mistakes are bound to happen; but our hope does not die then. Hope is not a mere feeling or experience, but a Person named Jesus. Keep your eyes on your capital h Hope, who never fails, never slumbers, and always cares for you.

When our hearts feel dead for the weight of failure and pain, what freedom there is in running to the Saviour who has never failed us and ever lives and intercedes for us (He. 7:23-28).

As Corrie ten Boom has said, “If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest.”

Lift up your heart to the One who knows your every weakness and simultaneously loves you more than you could ever comprehend. Our past, our brokenness, and our lack do not intimidate our God. He delights to redeem from the dust; no matter how much you may feel that you fall short, you are not beyond the reaches of His perfect grace.

Run to Him with expectancy that He longs for you to come away with Him.

In Isaiah, there is a beautiful passage that gives us a glimpse into the work of redemption God was working in Israel, as He shared with them through the prophet Isaiah:

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel” (Is. 44:21-23).

In the verses leading up to this passage, the Lord exposes the folly of idolatry. Would they have dead, meaningless idols or the Living God?

“Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses--is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock--not one!" (Is. 44:8).

Even so we must offer up our dreams, plans, and desires to the God who knows all things. Even the desire for good things can become an idol if we do not relinquish our grip in surrender to our Sovereign King who knows all things and will never fail to lead us.

As Lilias Trotter has so eloquently put it:

"The fair, new petals must fall and for no visible reason; no one seems enriched by the stripping. And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender. Not man-ward but God-ward; an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped its true meaning. That is not worthy of the name, for no polluted thing can be offered.”

As we place our everything at His feet, with the prayer of the Psalmist on our lips: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Ps. 115:1), our hearts find meaning and healing.

HE is the reason we exist. Because He is worthy, and because He loves us. When our lives are all about Him and are utterly dependent upon His grace, life changes. No longer is it a constant cycle of meaningless and suffering, but of knowing Jesus and experiencing His sufficiency, amidst our great lack. We have been pursued and redeemed by the one who lacks absolutely nothing!

Place your soul’s confidence in the One for whom nothing is too hard. He will triumph wondrously in your life, even amid brokenness, as you keep Him first. It may not appear that way to every on-looker, but what matters is having our focus on Him.

When our dreams seem dead, our God is alive. He will never fail, and He will always be glorified; therefore I have confidence that the most heartrending things I may ever face can and will be used to magnify Him more fully. Because of His grace, I am free in Christ. He is my Healer and He is my Provider; never will I lack what is needful.

May our hearts trust Him in the deepest place, no matter what tomorrow may bring.

The Social Media Exception

Monday, July 2, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I post a wide array of things on social media; pictures of my cat, an article about at-risk children in the womb, random thoughts, an encouragement to a coworker, some favorite Lilias Trotter quotes….

Lately I have been pondering the difference between person-to-person communication and what we do on social media. In person, we’re using eye contact, other senses, reading non-verbals, and we generally build up the relationships we already have, and get acquainted with those we do not yet know. Right?

Well…. Then there’s this awkward thing about social media.

I’m currently on break from social media because it has been too hostile for me.

Though we might attempt to be winsome, respectful, listen well, and show over all kindness to those we interact with in person (even when we don’t see eye to eye), that is not a trend I most often see on Facebook.

Things I’ve observed….Need to rant about how horrible your family is? Post it in your status update on Facebook. Tired of life? Post a selfie on Instagram and tell people you need compliments. Angry with a stupid politician? Then just tweet about in in 280 characters, and you’ll definitely feel better. Bored? Scroll through Pinterest for an hour; you’ll start planning your non-existent wedding before you know it!

I appreciate that we have a way to communicate with people out of our vicinity and are able to discuss a vast array of things, but in my personal experience, social media can sometimes become a space where people will voice criticisms against one another they might put more graciously in person, react angrily whenever they disagree, take sides and shun friends, and in many cases treat others like they are less valuable if they do not agree with them.

Facebook has their cute little add where everyone smiles and shares pictures of cute babies, and it’s just such a nice little place with happiness, encouraging posts, adorable kids…

Um. Such things are posted at times, but I more regularly see frustration, disdain, disapproval, and venting on our personal opinions on everything. And it is not refreshing to our souls.

This morning, I woke up and checked social media. Before I hit the “notifications” button, I was a lot less discouraged. When I did hit it, a nice long comment of disapproval was waiting for me.

Maybe I’d have the experience with social media that Facebook describes if I wasn’t so politically incorrect…I don’t know?

It’s one thing when those who do not know Jesus get angry with us. In such cases, we know that they do not have grace for dealing with people because they are not in Christ!

It’s quite a different thing when those who profess to love and worship Jesus are quick to voice anger, unlovely comments, and try to pressure us into being different and not having the convictions that we have been given as we have pursued Him.

In the past week, I have gotten more of what one might term “flack” from other Christians and pro-life activists than entire months combined. It is exhausting.

I do not like that we use social media to pressure people. Yep, I’m the persuasive first-born type too, but our personalities do not justify ungracious choices.

Evaluating Social Media in Light of Scripture

I’ve been pondering this idea that everything the Word says about the tongue should also apply to our social media etiquette.

Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue

“From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:20-21).

The words we use have the power to build others up and strengthen them, or to tear them down and hurt them. Do we think about this before we hit “post”? I’m a firm believer in sharing strong truth even if the world disagrees, but we must do so within the nature of our God. He understands all things, is the wisest of all, and yet treats us with such mercy and kindness.

I think of the verse from Jeremiah oft-quoted by Elisabeth Elliot: “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (31:3). When we speak with those who do not see eye-to-eye with us, it’s important to remember that when we were far off from Jesus--far away from capital t Truth--that He did not shun us and tell us how ridiculous we are, even though He is so worthy of our lives. He pursued us with lovingkindness! I want the way I interact with those who disagree with me to reflect the nature of heaven.

Presented with the Wisdom that is From Above

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18).

This passage in James points out some serious differences between earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above. Are these words that describe our interactions on social media?

Are our words marked by bitter envying and strife (vs.14)? James describes this kind of motive as “...earthly, sensual, and devilish” (15). In the following verse he says, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (16).

Are our social media words pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, and sown in peace? If so, I do believe social media will become quite a different place.

This morning, as I evaluated these passages, I also took time to pray and ask for an extra measure of grace for the way I interact with others on Facebook, Instagram, etc.. I want even my online demeanor to be one of grace, abundant kindness, and joy, even when we have hard conversations. Jesus is worthy of our everything; He is worthy of worship in the way I treat others.

May our interactions with one another on social media show forth His glory.

Only One Life || My High School Grad Speech

Monday, May 28, 2018

It's hard to believe that it has been over a year since I graduated high school! So much has occurred since then; Jesus has truly been so faithful to hold me fast through everything that these past few years have included. He truly is our Strength and Shield; ever and always watching over us. 

Today we are sharing the speech I gave at my high school graduation. It was an immense honor to be able to share with my class; each of us were heading in different directions, but it was the plea of my heart to every single one of them to hold fast to Jesus, regardless of the pressures around us.

As a disclaimer, I wrote this presentation before I understood hermeneutics..... And thus I failed to give context for the Scripture passage I quoted, or the condition of the promise. So, please, as usual, don't take my word for it, but be a Beren and try every feeble word of mine to THE Word. :)


“Only one life, t’will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I’m dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life was burned out for Thee.”

These words were spoken by a spectacular missionary to China, named C.T. Studd, in the 1800s, but every letter of it is applicable to us today. We are graduating. Wow, It’s starting to set in that it’s for real now, isn’t it?! 

It’s kind of like we’ve all been taking a nice walk together for the past twelve years or so, and now we’ve landed in the airport, all about to take off to different destinations. Some of us will soon be found serving kids in developing countries, others, writing notes on Calculus 2 (it won’t be me!); some of us will adventure into our own apartments, while others will take true delight in sharing a dorm with four new friends. Some of us will travel far away and cross oceans, and some of us will enjoy the cute town of Rockford longer.

But wherever we go, whatever may change, there is one thing that does not change. Or I should say, there is one Person who will not. "I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6a). Most of us are about to be thrust into an environment that completely denies our Jesus. I have a friend who came from a spectacular Christian family, and had a great, bright future when he graduated from high school, going forth as a believer into an extremely liberal college. Sadly, after several years of school, this guy has decided his professors have greater credibility than our Maker. He has decided that our God isn’t as “trendy” as his twenty-something friends. I am shocked each time I see him, and I am also confronted with a question:

Will I be there in a few years?

Have you thought about this, grads? Have you watched others walk away from the foot of the Cross, wondering if you can truly stand, going against the current?

I have news for you: if you walk out of this room today in your own strength, you will definitely be taken under in the strong flow of our culture. You can’t do this. Simple as that.

But if you know you cannot do this alone, if you have come to grips with the fact that only Jesus has enough strength to carry you through, then, with a sense of your great need for your Savior, will you be able to stand. Not because you’re strong. Not because you were home schooled. Not because you grew up in a Christian family. Not because you go to church on Sunday. We can each leave this room victorious over the powers of the enemy because of Jesus! He never fails us; whenever we feel unable, it’s a great reminder that we need Him. He is always able; He is never limited by our circumstances.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you… In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you… No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me’” (Isaiah 54:10,14-15,17).

We only have one life. Each of us. If you live to age 72, then ¼ of your life is already history. It’s already in the books.

“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” 

Jonathan Edwards cried out. It’s a worthy cry for us as well!

When I’m dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life was burned out for Thee, Lord. May today be a launch pad for all of us; it’s time to stand up, in His great strength, and go forward. There’s a dying world who needs Jesus out there. Let’s go, friends!

7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 2}

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Saturday, we started a series called “7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA.” Today we will conclude the series with part two. Missed part 1? Click here to read it!

As we continue our discussion on being CNAs, today we’ll be looking at a few especially real-life points. There are so many opportunities as a Nursing Assistant to either speak words of life or discourage those around us. As we look at four new points, I’d love to focus in on a few practical ideas for keeping your head up even in an extremely difficult job, encouraging your coworkers, and lifting all eyes to Jesus! Let’s dive in!

4.  Give thanks and don’t lose heart

It’s easy to complain when you work in healthcare. The truth is, I don’t usually go five hours at work without someone accidentally getting some kind of bodily fluid on me. Sometimes people yell at you. There are days coworkers lose patience and take it out on you. Every now and then, you’ll serve to the best of your ability, and a patient will lecture you on the things they think you should be doing differently.

Do not lose heart! If Jesus has called you to it, He will absolutely bring you through it!

If you want to thrive as a CNA, be willing to completely pour out and expect no recognition from anyone around. In a sense, your job as a CNA does seem to fall to “the bottom of the totem pole” in others eyes. People sometimes do treat you like “just a CNA.”

When others don’t expect very much from you, don’t fall to their low expectations. As we talked about earlier, you aren’t doing this simply so you can leave on time and chart everything right; you are here to worship Jesus and serve others.

What kind of a servant was Jesus when He was physically on earth? Think about this: He is God, and yet He served in the everyday, mundane tasks of life, all to glorify the Father. He was a carpenter! People probably didn’t thank Him very often, either!

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to serve others just as Jesus did:

 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:5-8).

If you find that you get discouraged often in your job, try memorizing the above passage, and bring it to mind whenever you’re tempted to lose heart. Jesus is with us in the hardest moments of our job.

Instead of griping over all the things you would change if you could--be that better hours, improved medical technology, respectful patients, less showers assigned to you, or a certain coworker you’d prefer not to be around--make the conscious decision to praise Him, even in the worst. Speak words of thanks to those around you, and share what you’re thankful for. When you get home from work, instead of venting about all the pressures, choose to speak of all the things there are to be grateful for (even if you can only think of a few). Start somewhere.

5. Encourage your coworkers 

Better than anyone else on the outside of healthcare, you know how hard it can be to work at the facility you’re employed at. Use this to your advantage. When a new CNA joins the team, go out of your way to welcome them and express gratitude that they have started working with you.

If you notice particular coworkers looking overwhelmed, if you are free, take a moment to ask them how you can help. Encourage them and thank them for pouring out; call to mind a specific memory of something they did especially well a few days before and tell them why you appreciated it.

There are so many practical ways you can encourage those you work with. For example, where I work, every shift each CNA has to take out a big bag of trash from their wing. One day, I realized my trash was gone! My coworker had taken both their own and my trash for the day. Sometimes it’s the little acts of service that go the longest way.

When others encourage you, take time to honor those who have trained you and taught you. A certain lady I work with took me under her wing when I was new, and she helped me organize my tasks, gave me practical tips on handling specific situations, and sometimes even made beds for me. It meant a lot. She knew that, at first, I had a hard time picking up my pace, so she came alongside me and made sure I felt confident in my job. The other day at work she told me: “Wow girl, you’re really doing it!” when I had finished all my tasks early; instead of assuming it was just experience, I realized she had been one of the main reasons I was able to improve. In giving words of encouragement, she gave me the opportunity to honor her for all she had taught me.

Think about your job… Who trained you and showed you how it’s done? Thank them. Who gives you a hard time? Encourage them.

6. Embrace the art of caring for others as a CNA

I’ve always loved the art of music and drama, but I had never considered nursing to also be an art. It’s always felt like a systematic science kind of profession to me, but then I read these words by Florence Nightingale:

“Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body--the temple of God’s Spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said the finest of Fine Arts.” [1]

It’s so neat to take this perspective on your job as a CNA. We have the incredible opportunity to care for human beings; we care for the temple of the Spirit of God. What an honor! By His grace, we are working to sustain and improve life--rather if that is helping them fight off a bacterial infection in the hospital, or maintaining independence in assisted living--we get to care for the only creations made in the image of God: human beings.

We are CNAs. We wipe away tears, clean up messes, put smiles on faces, respond to moments of emergency, give hope to the hopeless, share a laugh to encourage those who face heavy diagnoses, give bed baths, reposition patients, shower, bathe, dry, and maintain the health of the largest organ in the human body: skin!

Take a moment to realize the honor you have in being a CNA. Even if you would rather be an RN or a doctor someday, while Jesus has you in the place of serving as a nursing assistant, do it to the fullest of your ability. Most likely, if you get a different position in healthcare in the future, you’ll never again have as much one-on-one time with your patients. Embrace it while you have it!

See your residents as individuals with real needs, realizing that the Lord has uniquely equipped you to serve others by assisting them to maintain their health (within your scope of practice).

7. Remember those who have gone before you

When I was training to be a CNA, I read through a biography of Florence Nightingale’s life. It was so encouraging to me to be able to see the example of another nurse who had experienced many of the things I see on a daily basis in my profession.

When we have examples of other healthcare workers who have gone before us in serving others, it can give fresh inspiration, especially if you have a job that tends to be repetitions of the same skills again and again. It’s easy to feel like you just need to get through the day as an aid, but when we see the “full view” of a life of a nurse--through a biography, documentary, etc.--it inspires one to think of how care can be given in light of improving the individual’s overall life.

When you go to work every day, you don’t always realize that the patterns and habits you set make a lasting impact. We can share Christ’s love intentionally or we can float through from one day to the next. Let’s purpose to be the kind of CNAs who do the former! We have special opportunities to care for others needs that not many other people do. And we can do so with joy unspeakable!

There are a few particular resources I have enjoyed so far:

And there are so many more that could be added to this list! Learning to care for others well in the healthcare setting truly is an endless frontier in and of itself. I don’t know about you, but I am often very encouraged by those who have gone before me and have been faithful to live life to the fullest, right where God had them.

My friend from missions school who is a Registered Nurse once made this statement:

“Yes, I care for people’s physical bodies, but it should only be a tool to rescue their souls. This life is so feeble and insignificant in comparison to the eternity… people are experiencing” (Emily Stoltzfus).
Regardless of where we work--a hospital, homecare setting, long term care facility, or anywhere else--we know Who it is that has called us to serve others: Jesus. He is with us at every moment and will lead us through each task and patient He places in our path. The only reason we can serve others well is because the Servant of all dwells in us; He is the One who will give us the grace, kindness, and strength we need for every task.

All because of Jesus, we can face our often difficult jobs as Nursing Assistants with joy, and find purpose in each task, since it can all be done as worship to Him.

[1] Florence Nightingale, as quoted by S.L. Page in her book How To Pass Nursing School (S.L. Page, 2013), p. 5

7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 1}

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today marks one year as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and in celebration, I'm sharing a two part series with practical encouragements for CNAs. :) 

It was four days into clinicals at a veterans’ facility. My mind was tired and groggy that morning on the bus as I pondered how close the semester evals were; I had a lot of practice to do in the lab, and I needed to review the infection control unit. I looked out the window at the deep snow. We were about ten minutes away; quickly, I checked my ID and scrubs to ensure I had everything I needed for the day.

How am I going to do all this on my own someday?

The thought of having to give full care to multiple individuals by myself in the future seemed quite baffling. During a regular morning of clinicals, two or three student CNAs would be assigned to one resident, and we would have over an hour to complete a bed bath, brief change, dressing, sheet change, oral care, shaving, transferring, and ambulating the individual. I couldn’t imagine how I could do all that by myself on one shift, not to mention the fact that there would probably be eight to twenty people under my care.

What would I do about call lights? What if I get assigned four showers? What if my resident faints? How do you handle inappropriate patients? What if the facility I work for doesn’t train me well?

My mind was filled with questions. Seeing healthcare up close and personal was quite different than lab, textbook, and lecture learning. They had given me a great knowledge base, but I found it difficult to practically take charge over someone else’s personal health when I was given the assignment. If I’m responsible for keeping them healthy as much as possible, how do I handle when they reject care? If they won’t let me brush their teeth, then their oral health will get worse…

I have to follow HIPPA, OBRA, resident rights, infection control, the facility's policies, and my charge nurse’s instructions. How do you keep all those plates spinning at once?

It seemed impossible! As the bus hit a bump, I opened my clinical folder and looked over my previous clinical write ups. Underneath was my nursing assistant textbook with a bunch of index cards. I flipped through them, half distracted as I thought about how experienced aids seemed to handle everything they were assigned so well. How to get there was the question on my mind.

Now that I have been a licensed CNA for one year, and since these clinical memories are almost a year and a half old, I thought it would be a great time to address some of those new CNA jitters.

7 Practical Encouragements For The New CNA

1. Remember the purpose of your work
As a CNA, you will not lose your motivation to do well because of your job, but because you forget why you do your job.

Think to when you first decided to sign up for your CNA class; what sparked your interest? If you’ve been through clinicals or internship, or have had some other kind of first-hand experience in healthcare, then you have an advantage.

When you begin studying to be a nurse assistant, it’s easy to romanticize the profession. You picture smiling patients that are oh-so-grateful for everything and love having you as their aid. You think of getting to sit back with “the cool people” at the nurses' station, and laughing at a sweet moment of the shift. You see yourself performing CPR to rescue a patient who stopped breathing, only for them to sit right up and cough--a sure sign of life--and leave knowing you made a serious impact on that individual, because they couldn’t have lived through that morning without you.

Having experienced a veteran’s home, the acute neuro floor in a hospital, and an assisted living facility as a nursing assistant, I can tell you for sure that these moments do happen sometimes! However, when you go into work with the perspective that you have to do some great big life saving performance in order for your work to be valuable, the “normal” moments of being a CNA being to drag and feel like they are not worthwhile.

But if you go into any job, internship, or situation with the heart to serve others and share Jesus’ love with them, regardless of the circumstances, you will be equipped to pour out well in any healthcare setting.

Remember that it’s not about being a hero; each task, even just pulling open the blinds, is all to be done as worship to the King of kings.

A.W. Tozer once said:

 “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

He continues:

“Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never-so-simple task, he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3).” [1]

All our work is sacred. It is important. Each moment we give care to someone is not simply to keep them alive and well (it is), but our true purpose in serving others is to worship Jesus. This perspective can change everything about your job and life! Instead of looking at your care plans first thing in the morning and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work the day will require, you can be entirely thrilled for an opportunity to worship Him! See your every assignment as a chance to magnify Jesus.

2. Know that you answer to the Great Physician before anyone else

Sometimes we work under doctors who are rude to us or ignore us, but the Great Physician is always with us. Jesus is the healer; it’s His nature to bring about fullness and fruitfulness where there has previously been brokenness and disease. Although He does not always physically heal others, we know that if our patient knows Jesus, then they have everything they need for life and godliness.

Let your soul’s first turn be to Him. When your patient is unstable while you’re transferring them, be quick to ask for help from other healthcare workers, if you need it, but let the first cry of your heart be to your only Solid Rock. (Of course, in moments of crisis, outwardly it probably looks like we first call the nurse [which is a very good idea when problems arise!], but we know Jesus is the one who truly delivers us. Let your heart turn to Him for help).

Who would better know how to care for a physically or mentally ill individual than the One who created the body? Our God invented fingertips, red blood cells, your tongue, the arterioles and venules, and brain waves. He is the One who told our hearts to start beating just five weeks after conception and has sustained it through this day. Remember this truth when you’re at a loss for how to give care to your resident or patient. Jesus knows.

The highest authority in your life is Jesus. Here’s where this comes to play in healthcare: if one of your patients is pursuing medically assisted suicide or the hospital you work at performs abortions, remember what matters most. It’s not getting an award for working for thirty years at the same facility. It’s not blindly agreeing with a doctor of nurse above you in leadership if they instruct you to do something that defies the Word.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality // Desmond Tutu

 When it comes time for you to pursue employment, I encourage you to ask the hard questions in your interview. Does this hospital ever, for any reason, perform abortions? Even on another floor? Even for tubal pregnancies? Does this facility have a policy regarding medically assisted suicide? (At the moment, it’s illegal in MI, but it’s gaining approval and popularity around the US, so be watchful).

In short, even in the secular world we live in, we must have conviction. Honor and love those who are above you in leadership, while knowing that you will answer to Jesus for what you’ve done in your work, not the MDs and RNs. As long as what they ask you to do is ok, follow their instructions to the best of your ability and treat them as individuals who are made in the image of God. Remember how Jesus longs for them to come to know Him; no one is beyond His ability to redeem. Keep in mind that you are showing them, and everyone else around, what it looks like to live out the Gospel.

Whenever someone recovers, you know the One behind it. Worship Him for His faithfulness to heal, and His sovereignty to allow some to pass even when we don’t understand why.

3. Don’t be overwhelmed

When I got my first job in healthcare, I was completely over the moon! My first morning of learning under one of my soon-to-be coworkers, I went out and bought new scrubs just for the occasion. Even though I had already experienced clinicals and an internship, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I observed. Watching the CNA who I was shadowing had me back to the day on the bus. How in the world will I be able to do all this alone?

 It’s easy to feel you are in over your head when you are new to healthcare, but realize that every nursing assistant you work with has been there. At first, when I finished training, I was not as productive as I wanted to be. I was supposed to be able to leave by 10:00 each evening, but sometimes I would leave as late as 11:30. Since I was also balancing classes and two other part time jobs, the inconsistent schedule was not working very well for me. I was getting four hours or less of sleep each night, which made me feel more pressure at work.

I encourage you not to do what I did in my first job. Because I was saving up for missions school I had to work three jobs and didn’t have another option, but, if you are able, I strongly encourage you to scale back your schedule when you first start working in healthcare. It will greatly reduce the stress and restlessness you might otherwise experience if you are taking on too much.

Maybe you do have a balanced schedule and get enough sleep, but still feel overwhelmed in your job. Ask yourself a few questions: why am I working here? What is the purpose of my job? (See #1). What is stressing me out? Why do I feel overwhelmed?

Sometimes, in long term care facilities like nursing homes, assisted living, and veterans homes, you feel a lot of pressure. It can be very hard to work with slow individuals on a fast paced schedule. If you are having trouble with your residents or patients being upset with you for taking too long or not getting to their room quickly enough, try your best to evaluate your productivity. Am I moving as quickly as I can while also being thorough and making sure my patients are doing ok?

Another very important key is communication.When it takes you awhile to get to a call light, explain to your resident that you were assisting someone else and came as quickly as possible. Sometimes, for whatever reason, patients assume that you’re being lazy or ignoring them. Taking a brief moment to tell them why it was a bit of time for you to arrive can ease the situation (don’t forget to observe the HIPPA Privacy Rule while explaining); if your patient is still flustered, then sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, and quickly distract them by helping them with whatever they need assistance with.

Make sure you are also communicating with your charge nurse and fellow CNAs. If you truly have too much on your plate, be willing to ask for help. As time goes on at your new job, you will find out who to ask for help and who not to ask. Some people will act inconvenienced when you ask them to help you; be sensitive to their schedule and priorities, but also realize that healthcare is not a solo act; it’s teamwork! As you quicken your pace (trust me, you will get faster!) you will eventually be able to return the favor more often. When you have a free moment, ask your coworkers how you can help.

If you want to do well in healthcare, you absolutely must be a team player! It will be a key that helps you keep your head above the water.

Ultimately, remember that your security does not come from doing everything just-so in your job. Your security comes from Jesus Christ alone. You are complete in Him.

Curious about the next four points of encouragement? Join us Monday on the blog!

1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 130-131.

Gaining Lasting Security

Friday, April 6, 2018

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, cleaning up after the kids I nanny (who had just gone down for nap), when I suddenly froze and stared at the floor. It wasn’t the crushed chips and sandwich crusts that caught my attention, but a painful memory. It was as if I were reliving the moment, my mind flashed a past situation before me. On a warm Windsor day, I was looking into the eyes of a teacher whose expectations I had not met. No words had been used as I walked by the individual, but volumes were spoken to my heart. You knew better. What were you thinking? You have not met the standard of this school. I don’t care for you. Maybe you shouldn’t have come here. Would this teacher actually have said these things to me if the moment had allowed? I do not know. As my eyes glazed over the brown hardwood floors, I realized that I was allowing this past circumstance to shape me. I was letting a memory paralyze me.
I remembered the temperature of the room. How I felt. The way I wanted to disappear. Yet none of that helped me to move forward. I came to the realization that I could either continually let this memory steal all my confidence and peace whenever it came up, or I could place it in Jesus’ hands and move on. What are we to do when those around us reject us and we feel out of place? Should we cave to insecurity and give others control over our sense of worth? Praise Jesus that we never have to live like that since we are in Christ. And if we have been living in that way, He is fully able to help us to move on and place our confidence in Himself alone.

3 Thoughts on Gaining Lasting Security

Evaluate your perspective

How do you see your circumstances? Do you believe they have the power to dictate the response of your soul? If I look at life this way, I am seeing everything out of the lens of a victim. Even if the worst has come to worst, never forget that the work Jesus accomplished at the cross on your behalf cannot ever be undone! He has been entirely Victorious over the enemy; He has set you free. And we are held in the hollow of the hands of this Victor. You are being carried at this very moment in victory! Hurt cannot undo redemption. Problems cannot undo redemption. Others disliking us cannot undo redemption. Cling to the Truth that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s what His Word tells us!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-39).

Don’t allow the opinions of others to make or break you

Security does not mean that everyone thinks well of us and likes us. It is very well possible that the teacher I mentioned above actually does feel that way about me, but, you know what? Others’ dislike or harshness can never change the reality of our position in Christ. The work Jesus accomplished on my behalf will never be changed by the opinions of those around me. When I sidewalk counsel, there is a pro-choice lady who I try to reach out to who regularly tells me, “I do not like you!!” Does that mean I should quit counseling and go home? Nope. Wherever Jesus has led us, we need to remember that we answer to Him for what we are doing. I will not answer to that pro-choice lady or to that missions school teacher but to Jesus. (Of course we must still respect authority, but my teacher does not have authority to change my sense of security because my security is in Jesus. I do not have to be shaken regardless of what is said because I am founded on the Rock whom no storm may ever confound).

Set your mind on the Sufficient One

Remember that life is too great a burden to carry yourself. You cannot do this alone (John 15:5). You NEED Jesus in order to thrive in the spot in which He has placed you. In our culture, the message of self-sufficiency is continually preached. “You are stronger that you think.” “You don’t need others! You’re a strong, independent woman.” But the Word of God shows us that humanity is insufficient. We could not save ourselves—we did not have what we needed to be rescued—only Jesus was strong enough to conquer sin, death and hell. Jesus, our Victor, lives in us and He is the One who has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. Preach to your soul the reality of His ability and strength in our weakness. He goes with us through every circumstance of the day. As we continue on, we will experience difficulty. The enemy loves to try to shake us up, but what’s amazing is that our Jesus does not only walk with us through the beautiful open fields of life, but also the wilderness. In seasons where we feel a regular propensity to cave to insecurity, may we then, in a new way, regularly experience His grace, which brings us to victory!
My security is not found in everyone enjoying my presence or in perfected circumstances, but solely in my Redeemer. We are free in Christ, and we may experience this liberating reality of victory most when challenges arise. The next time insecurity comes knocking, lift your soul’s vision to Jesus. And, in the words of a lovely old hymn, the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. [1]

1. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel

Even So It Is Well With My Soul

Sunday, March 18, 2018

This season of life has been unique. Kind of like the mornings of sidewalk counseling when the brisk, bone chilling temperatures threaten to turn you blue, when suddenly the sun peeks over the clinic for just a moment. Light exposing the shadows. Clouds moving. Darkness fleeing. Warmth growing.

If I could have written the story of my life, I would not have included the chapters of much of what 2016-2017 included. But I am not in control, and these have been, shall we say, different times of life.

"Growth of any kind demands difficulty."

My missions school teacher preached these words to my class this summer. It's a comfort in the regard. that it must imply that Jesus so desires for me to grow that when worst has come to worst, He is still my True Vine and is growing His branch. 

Between living in a broken family, my health having a hissy fit, encountering work problems, and trying to clarify plans for what's next, life has felt kind of odd. 

You know those people in your life who care but are harsh in the way they respond? (As in have to lecture you whenever they have an opinion about something you said?) We all have individuals in our lives like that; however, not every person will treat us in this manner. Yet whenever someone asks, "So how are you doing?" I am thinking about how I would prefer not to expound lest I be lectured on how I need to keep my chin up.

I'm not looking for optimism. I'm looking for Him here. In the dark. In the pain. In the brokenness. In everything that has not made sense, He is yet present. He is God and He has already overcome. This means that I have grace to push through, because He is always strong when I feel weak.

When I get to cancel my plans because my stomach is sick and tired of being a stomach. When family situations flare up and we have to sort through things. When my coworker is angry with me for being "too nice" to a resident, because she believes we should have a drill sergeant approach. When three timeouts have to be given within an hour to the same child while nannying. When a random guy yells at me outside the abortion clinic because He doesn't want to hear a single thing about Jesus.

In each of these moments and every one hereafter, He is God. He will never change. He is my Healer, my Peace, my Joy, my Discernment, and my Hope. 

When peace like a river attendeth my way
AND when sorrows like sea billows roll

At both seasons of life, He is faithful. Do I understand why some things in my life are falling apart without explanation? No. 

BUT whatever my lot
Thou has taught me to say 
"It is well with my soul."

No matter how much everything around me threatens to fall in, He will never be shaken. He is my Rock. Because of who He is and the grace He provides for me each day, each hour, and each second, I'm going to make it. Up one more mountain. Through a thousand storms. Beyond the valley.

This God of ours is able when we're just not able anymore. 

When the stress, sadness, and pressure are there under the surface, He sees. Even when no one else does. He is our only place of rest when this world has us exhausted beyond taking the next step; what good moments these are to show us how empty we are and how full and able He is. 

It's not as the world says. "You're stronger than you think!" No, I'm weaker than I think (in and of myself), but He is always strong, able, and faithful. The moment I think it's about me and anything I can do, I stop living out of heaven's resource and start living just how the enemy wants. Without abiding in the Vine. And my goodness does our strength ever run out quickly when we do not live by His grace. 

He is Here with us, and He will enable us, if we will look to Him.

An Egyptian servant woman found herself being used for the purpose of growing someone else's family. She discovered that she was expecting a baby, and the wife of her child's father treated her very harshly. Probably feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, she fled into the hot wilderness to get away. Pausing to rest at a spring of water, an angel came to her. The angel asked where she was going, to which she replied, "I am running away from my owner." 

Things were broken in her life. Pain, difficulty, and sadness were likely deeply rooted in her heart. How would this messenger from heaven respond? Tell her to get over it and move on?

No, the messenger told her to return to her owner, and gave her a promise. He shared some of God's plan for what was to come, and reminded her that the Lord had heard her affliction. He had noticed, and had not overlooked even the slave girl. She was important in His sight. She called upon the name of the Lord who was speaking to her and said, "Lord, you see me!" 

This is the only place in Scripture we see Jesus called El Roi: He sees me. (Genesis 16). 

How incredible is it that He revealed more of who He is to her at a place of brokenness in her life. What if she had never faced the troubles with Sarai and Abram? Would she ever have come to call upon Him and know Him?

As I walk through what feels like a wilderness, I want to remember Hagar, and where she was met by Jesus. 

Jesus is worthy of this. If what I'm experiencing now will cause me to need Him more desperately... If all the changes of plans work together so that He might be glorified.... If the pain, sorrow, and heartache cause me to remember that He alone is my Home, then it will be worth it all.

If He will be known better (and how He is worthy of being known and proclaimed), then I want to face whatever He has coming. When I awake to a hundred new challenges tomorrow, He will be there. He sees me; it's who He is, and He never changes. I will not be abandoned while I walk a path that seems dry and dusty. 

There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still // Corrie ten Boom

El Roi is with me; He dwells in me, and nothing in all creation can separate me from His love. Nothing at all. There is nothing I could face that He has not first seen; He doesn't ever abandon His children. We are always in His sight.

God wants to take our problems and turn them into building material for His miracles // Corrie ten Boom, Tramp For the Lord

He is working everything together, at this very moment, for good unto those of us who love Him. He will be glorified here, if I will obey and surrender. If I will listen and follow Him in what seems strange and unexpected from my perspective, He will accomplish His eternal purposes in and through this existence. 

And Lord, haste the day
When my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend 
Even so
It is well with my soul

Because He is God, tomorrow is possible. Pain may be included. Sorrows may produce silent aching. Troubles may create a strain. But if He is with me, then it is possible. He sees me, and He is here, so I may push on. He is worthy, and He alone makes it well with my soul.