20 Years of Existing // defying impossibility

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

This blog post already bothers me, mainly because the title is technically wrong. I've existed twenty years AND nine months. (And if you know me well enough, you know why I can't help but think of that). #unbornequalshuman

My goodness, this year has by far been the craziest yet, but with that came so many adventures, changes, challenges, incredible joys, surprising lows, hopeful plans, and ultimately a good and faithful God who saw me through each day.

I worked in the Emergency Department, for Grand Rapids Right to Life, did photography, wrote my heart out and started a new position at another hospital. And did I mention I started college? Where is the face palm emoji? I'm one of those ultra type-a people who feels like they never get anything done, meanwhile a lot of life is actually getting accomplished and lived (and, of course, there was a good dose of failing in there as well).

This time last year, there were a lot of unknowns in my life. I wasn't sure when I'd start college or where to go, I questioned what I'd study, and I didn't know for sure what hospital setting I could best serve in.

My days were filled with coordinating events and students when I worked for Grand Rapids Right to Life. I had lots of coffee dates with many amazing pro-life youth, had the coolest boss on the planet ;) (love ya Laura!), and did some public speaking on behalf of the unborn. Sadly, I had to decide between the hospital and GRRTL because of the time commitment, so I ended up finishing my time there in December. Soon my work duties went from office work and activism related, to only the medical side of things.

From assisting with traumas to sitting for psych patients, the ER taught me many things. Mainly, it instilled in me the absolute necessity to genuinely care for my patients no matter what they're facing. That's not a belief held by all in that field, but I had several inspiring coworkers who rose above the typical and talked with that difficult patient, cared for the one who was especially needy, and did not allow the many sights of trauma to deaden their will to serve. Those are the people I will remember, looking back.

After leaving the ER, I took a month-long break from healthcare, uncertain how much I really wanted to try that field again (for the third time, job wise). Maybe I had made a mistake? Maybe I wasn't "tough enough" for that line of work? Maybe I don't have the gift set to make a difference in the lives of patients? I wanted to serve, help, and assist, but I also wanted to change things. I desired for the cries of those in distress to be met with mercy and I honestly wasn't sure if I could find a job like that in healthcare. Certainly, we each make our own choices that contribute to a patient's experience, but we can't control our coworkers, and if we're not on the same page about patient care, it's not going to be good for anyone.

In the midst of this break, the Lord graciously convicted me over how much I worried, ached, and strived over the future. What to plan, where to apply and how could I accomplish things He's leading me to do? A few weeks after leaving the ER, I sat in my car with such a sense of weariness and laid my life afresh in His hands. So much anxiety went fleeing away as I surrendered to the God who is so much bigger than my earthly problems.

I was broken from that season of life, and needed time to heal. But this season of brokenness was different that past hardships. I would not take back the challenging life circumstances, painful job, or unplanned problems if I could, while previously, I had the tendency to wish with all my heart I could undo the rough things I had experienced. This time, I saw His hand and knew He was refining, teaching and disciplining me, and in that I sensed His love. (Of course, He was so present in the past circumstances where I could not see that, but He graciously changed my perspective so much this time around).

If I were honest, there was a time in the past year I did not sense much hope. I did my best to get through each day, but surviving would be a much better word to describe my mode of living than thriving. I was reading through the book of Genesis when I was struck with an important truth. In chapter 18, Sarah laughed at God when He told Abraham that she would bear a child in her old age. To which God replied, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13b, emphasis added). Such conviction filled my heart. I was praying for what seemed possible to me, so if I was feeling pessimistic that day, my prayers sounded quite similar. But things started to change. Even while feeling uncertain about what was to come, by His grace, I began to pray bigger. I prayed for Him to overcome problems in my life, rescue the unborn (all of them everywhere), to bring healing in my family, and for many more things.

Soon after, I discovered a stirring quote,

"Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." C.T. Studd

These weren't just nice sounding words, though. Jesus was challenging my view of Him; did I have a small and compartmental view of my God, or did I believe that He is bigger, stronger, and greater that anything I ever face? Maybe I don't see breakthrough yet. Maybe things in my life still feel heavy and difficult. On the darkest night, am I found with eyes on the storm, shaken at the thought of what is to come? Or do I stand with radical expectancy that He is yet in control, faithful, and entirely good through the worst of the worst? My circumstances are incapable of overwhelming my God! "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My Refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I trust" (Psalm 91:1-2).

God is not bound by what I see to be possible or impossible. He is sovereign and supreme and He reigns!

"When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood; when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay" (Edward Mote).

When I am tempted to dread trial upon trial, I can instead rejoice to taste the sufficiency of His grace upon grace! He is enough amid my lack; when life goes south, my Savior remains completely faithful. The fact that I have been rescued by Christ for all eternity defies impossibility. Apart from Him, I was destined to hell and an eternity of torment that I deserved because of my sin. Yet He laid His life down for fallen, broken, needy sinners who were unable to lift themselves from the miry clay. Experiencing the barbaric death I deserved, Christ broke the bond of sin and the hold of the enemy in my life and made me His own. Thus hope exists. Not merely theoretically or philosophically, but in a person who has been our ransom: Jesus Christ!

When I ponder these truths, I am all the more thankful for this year. I'm grateful I didn't know in advance what hard things were to come in year nineteen, but those very circumstances, friendships, and issues stripped me of my natural "feeling" of hope, and caused me to dive deeper into His Word. I had to set aside a "feeling dependance" in order to come to believe in His ability no matter what. Thus I began to experience a much deeper hope. One that refused to relent when environments felt toxic, relationships died, people seemed to attack, and circumstances failed me.

When Christ is my hope and stay, my circumstances are no longer capable of making or breaking me.

What do you hinge your hope on? Yourself, friendships, a line of work, finances, feelings? Maybe something else?

As Leslie Ludy has so eloquently put it: "Until Jesus is our all and all, we aren't truly living the Gospel life."

...On to twenty! Here's to a new year likely to be full of college, healthcare, challenges, joys, and certainly of Jesus, who is Himself the epitome of Hope.

now that "teen" is no longer the suffix of my age, I think I'm getting quite old.....

Surrendered Scars: Finding Unshakable Hope on the Darkest Night

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Do you have any of "those memories" in your life? Things you've been through that you certainly know God will use for good, yet you also still feel the pain. There's a scar in your heart; it doesn't take any convincing for you to believe this is a fallen world. You chronically see it, take it in and experience the ramifications of brokenness in your own life.

In my life, I've been wrestling with a question. What should I do with the scars...?

Those hard things you reflect on and cannot yet see redemption in, but expectantly await His glorious transformation. Right there. Healing in the full capacity. Getting to understand His eternal purpose in our sufferings; seeing how His name was lifted high in our darkest nights, even when hopes were dashed, hearts were broken, and life seemed to fall apart.

The Truth remains true in the bad things of life that we experience.

Though we walk through seasons that feel like a wilderness, He is alive.

One of the names of God is El Chay: the Living God (Joshua 3:10, Ps. 42:2). From Hebrew, Chay can be translated as: alive, fresh, strong, life, living, springing. Its meaning goes yet further: to sustain life, revive from sickness, revive from discouragement, revive from death, vigorous, fresh [water], running [water].

One commentary has this to say:

"The OT places a high value on life and views it as being good. It came from God [Gen. 2:7], but death ensued because of sin. Man was no longer allowed to partake of the tree of life [Gen. 3:22]. God is the source of life [Ps. 36:9] and the Lord of life and death [Job 12:10]...Chay is a set of experiences, not an abstract principle of vitality which is separate from the body. The Hebrews viewed man holistically, i.e. body, mind and spirit were a unified whole. Life was associated with health, prosperity, vitality, etc., while death was the very opposite" (In the Bible Commentary).

We live in a world affected by death.

God is so loving. He placed His creation--in the beginning--in a beautiful garden. This simply was a taste of heaven. We cannot fathom what this world was like in the beginning, exactly as God intended it; a place where there was no such thing as brokenness, pain, sorrow, trauma, or sin. Adam and Eve walked closely with God and enjoyed His creation.

But even in literal perfection, Eve chose to heed the words of the serpent rather than to obey the One who had given them life. For a moment's pleasure of tasting the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve traded closeness and intimacy with their Maker and a life with no scar or stain of sin for what the enemy promised would be better. He cunningly spoke: "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4b-5).

Perhaps as Eve examined the fruit, she pondered the words of the serpent. What would it be like to have this fruit? Maybe God was being cruel in telling them not to partake of it? How could her perspective of the world and of life at large be different if she was "like God" as the serpent proposed?

The serpent's idea did not lead to her liberation, power, and exaltation. Instead, for the very first time in their existence, Adam and Eve hid from God [Gen. 3:8]. God had given His prized creations the choice to obey or disobey, and when they had chosen the latter, there were consequence that would not only affect them, but every person to come.

God told the serpent that he was cursed above all livestock and beasts of the field, and that he would traverse the fallen earth on his belly, eating dust for all the days of his existence. In the next verse comes the first prophecy of a Savior who would bring redemption to fallen, broken human beings, and the ruin of the enemy.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal" (Gen. 3:15). 

God here proclaims His supremacy and sovereignty, exalting that He is greater than the enemy's attempt to overpower Him. Satan's effort to ruin His creation would not be the end of the story. God would yet be exalted in all the earth and bring glory to His name and no other. "I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols" (Isaiah 42:8).

Adam and Eve rebelled against God even when He had given them everything they could need. Yet, in His mercy, He would use the their line to eventually bring a Savior to lift His sinful creations from the miry clay into the redemption and wholeness that can only be found in Christ.

Here we are, several thousands of years later, and we know the story and name of this Savior.

In order to rescue His creations, Jesus willingly came and died. Isn't it amazing to think that the Creator of the universe would suffer for us and die an excruciating death, bearing our sin, experiencing the death we deserved, and ascending into hell where we were supposed to go, and rising again in triumph that any person who put their faith in Him could be set free?

If you walk in this reality, as His child, hallelujah. By His grace we proclaim to this fallen earth that the fall, suffering, death and sin are not stronger than our mighty God. Yes, we feel pain, experience suffering, and have anything but simple lives, but your relationship with God never promised you an easy existence.

When preaching to great crowds, Jesus spoke these words: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? [...] So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14: 27-28, 33).

Following Jesus is not a program to make all your dreams come true, send all your problems fleeing away, deposit tons of money into your bank account, or to please you every second of your existence. To pursue Christ means death to self, refining sanctification, and the exaltation of our God. It is difficult, and He calls for a counting of the cost. Are you willing to lay everything down for His glory?

We'd like to think that surely God would be most glorified in our comfort, peaceful circumstances, perfect health at all times, and a sense of worldly security, but this is often not the lot of those who have chosen Christ.

Paul was so purposefully pursued by Jesus, as a shining light blinded him and he heard Jesus speak directly to him (Acts 9); after giving His life to Christ, Paul became a great leader in the early church. If it was the will of God to spoil His redeemed in every happiness of earth, surely the one whom God pursued in such a way would experience such ease. Rather, in one of his letters, Paul shares some of the many sufferings he endured for the name of Jesus:

"...far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:23b-28).

 Even having experienced each of these things, Paul had not lost heart. His hope did not hinge on outward circumstances, but on His eternal God.

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart [...] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:1, 5-11, emphasis added).

As a Christian, you will go through hard things, there is no doubt. Yet, even in our darkest night, we have a Defender and Savior who ever lives and intercedes for us (He. 7:25). You are never abandoned, forgotten, let go, unseen, or cast aside amid your suffering; He intends for the strongest storms to cast us upon Himself more fully. How would you know your need for a Savior if you felt self-sufficient? Praise the Lord for challenges that make beautiful displays of His nearness to broken souls.

If you're in a similar place to where I am--not yet seeing every way personal hardships work our for my good and His glory--rest your soul afresh in the truth that your all-knowing God is not silent in your heartbreak. When we walk through immense difficulties, it is then that we discover the sufficiency of His grace to sustain us amid our human weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-11).

"Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life" (Psalm 54:4).
If your heart is broken, your body is failing you, or your circumstances threaten to unravel entirely, I'm certain you've already sensed the emptiness of the solutions this world offers. A focus solely on the here and now seems nearly unbearable for those of us walking through deep waters. Praise the Lord for this reality; when we sense the fleetingness of this life, we are beginning to grasp that God intends much more for us than a comfortable worldly experience. As C.S. Lewis has said:

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world" [1]. 
Rest for weary souls is not ultimately found in what this world has to offer. We are in desperate need for our Savior who is Himself the epitome of Hope, Rest and Salvation. "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all [...] The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (Psalm 34:15-19, 22).

Your circumstances may continue be difficult through the twists and turns of life, but no matter the ferocity of the storm, our God will be stronger and He will lead us in triumph, displaying His sufficiency in a broken world with hurts, tears, and pains. In Christ, you will not get everything you want, but you will have everything you need (2 Peter 1:3). He has gone before you and knows your frame; you do not serve a cruel God who wants to harm you, but a gracious Father who knows how to strip His children of self and more fully display the life of Christ in us. This may be painful, but it can also be immensely joyful, because we may always find hope in Jesus, our Rescuer and He is always with us through every tempest.

"Do not let yourself be thrown down or give in to despair. Stand evenly at the will of God....For after winter comes summer. After night comes the dawn. And after every storm, there comes clear, open skies" (Samuel Rutherford, as quoted by Amy Carmichael) [2].

1. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Collins, 1977.
2. Carmichael, Amy and David Hazard. I Come Quietly to Meet You: an Intimate Journey in God's Presence. Bethany House Publishers, 2005, p.146.

Unrelenting Compassion: Choosing a Selflessness in a Self-Preserving World

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

When you work in the ER, compassion becomes a joke to some employees. Caring for patients that can be overly needy, manipulative, rude or demanding has caused individuals in this field to conclude that to genuinely care is not only unnecessary but naive. Surely if we allow ourselves to be affected at a heart level by the individuals who walk through our door for care, we'll just burn out and come down with a permanent case of "compassion fatigue."

"Don't let them get to you."

"I know your games. We're not playing."

"Oh 'so and so.' Just another frequent flyer."

The single most disgusting thing that I have thus far discovered in healthcare is not the blood, body fluids, smells, behaviors, or messes of my patients. It is the conclusion that--for some reason or another--it is ok (or even most professional) not to care.

It is utterly counterintuitive to observe and hear when you are new to the healthcare industry that a twisted version of discernment is permitted; go ahead, say those harsh words to your patient. They deserve it.

You may even be praised, applauded and encouraged to "stand your ground" and tell your patient to cooperate, if that is a struggle they are experiencing, even if this is done in a less than life giving way.

It's certainly true that emergency department employees experience a lot of rough things; some patients yell at us, are inappropriate, or refuse to listen to anything we say. But do the wrongs of our patients justify an ongoing attitude that assumes the worst about everyone?

Though I have only been a CNA for two years, I dare to say that the worst patients I've had have only more fully convinced me of the necessity to genuinely care. Yes they're needy, covered in germs, and sometimes make me question my own sanity, but what did you expect? This is not a fashion show, it's a hospital. People are broken here. People will get sick on you here. People may be experiencing their "lowest of lows."

Yet I find a disturbing trend in response to the needs of patients; at times they are looked down on for their medical complaints, quickly termed manipulative, and gossiped about to other staff.

Within my own heart, I've been tempted either to quit completely or become the most committed nonconformist the ED has yet seen, in this regard. I did not go into healthcare to be an uncompassionate person. I did not sign up for this line of work so I could be heartless and make sheepish justifications on why that's acceptable.

What challenges me to take a different perspective than the pervading thoughts in healthcare is the fact that Jesus was moved with compassion at a heart level for many who were broken. There are multiple passages in the Gospels that show us His response of those who were interrupting, sick, begging, needy, or outcasted by society.

"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:35-36).

"Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. When He went ashore he saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, '...the day is now over; send the crowds away to go to the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.'...They all ate and were satisfied" (Matthew 14:13-16, 20).

"And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'...'I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.' And he rose immediately..." (Mark 2:3-5,11-12).

"I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat" (Mark 8:2).

We who are in Christ are given the amazing privilege of displaying the nature of our God in our fallen world. Jesus is all wise, and in His perfect discernment, He is lacking neither in compassion nor love for the broken.

The greek word used in several of these passages for compassion is "splagchnizomai." Strong's translates it: "To be moved in the inward parts, i.e. to feel compassion." It can be defined: to feel sympathy, to pity, to have compassion, and to be moved with compassion. [1] "From splanxna, 'the inward parts,' especially the nobler entrails--the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These gradually come to denote the seat of affections" (Help's Word Studies).

Jesus truly felt compassion. He did not self-preserve, but poured out.

Do we cave to the temptation to be unfriendly and disconnected from those in need or do we willingly and joyfully invest in those who are draining and difficult?

Oswald Chambers once spoke these convicting words:

"A true servant of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to experience martyrdom for the reality of the Gospel of God. When a moral person is confronted with contempt, immorality, disloyalty, or dishonesty, he is so repulsed by the offense that he turns away and in despair closes his heart to the offender. But the miracle of the redemptive reality of God is that the worst and vilest offender can never exhaust the depths of His love" (My Utmost for His Highest). 

The grandest display of love was made to the utterly undeserving: you and I. Every person who has ever existed has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In today's world, you're told it's enabling if you rescue someone in the midst of trouble. But it is not the Gospel to avoid those in need in the name of self-preservation. God reached into the depths of our mess, sin, rebellion and hellish potential and laid down His very life that we might come to know Him and be saved. That is radical. This self-focused culture wouldn't be caught dead reaching into the needs of others unless it had benefits to self.

The book of Romans says: "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (5:6-8).

Does our treatment of the difficult, problematic, smelly and just plain rude people in our lives reflect Christ? Or can we be found with overly critical tones, whispered gossip on our lips, and inward disdain for challenging people?

Amy Carmichael has said:

"If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting 'who made thee to differ? And what has thou that thou has not received?' then I know nothing of Calvary love."

You and I have the opportunity to expose the Gospel to broken people. Will we lay aside self-preservation that Christ might be made known more fully?

"Some want to live within the sound of a chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell" (C.T. Studd).

(1) Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

An Accidental Crash Course in "Flight Nursing"

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It had been an incredibly eventful week. I had spent many hours of the previous twelve days in the emergency department, assisting patients. I was grateful for the opportunity to get some overtime before the start of college, but I also keenly felt a need for rest.

Thankfully, I had finished my last shift and was on my way to sunny Arizona to join my family for vacation. 

God graciously brought conviction upon my heart; did I look at this vacation as my only source of rest? Did I believe this circumstantial deliverance from work was more important than serving others for His glory? These questions were about to be put to the test.

I was sitting in a lovely window seat in the plane taking in the calm, dark outdoor views, with hopes of going off to sleep, when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker. 

"Attention passengers, do we have any medical personnel abroad?"

My mind was groggy from a lack of sleep, but quickly, I raised my hand in response. I was directed to make my way to the back of the aircraft. Here I discovered a gentleman who had apparently passed out. An RN from a Spectrum outpatient clinic had also responded to the incident. Quickly, we both began to assess the situation. 

The gentleman was seated awkwardly, making it look as though his legs had given out on him at the time of his possible syncopal episode. Bits and pieces of his medical history were being obtained. The individual had a history of high blood pressure and was on medication for it, but recently his physician noted that this medication was softening his pressures too much. But the physician--for some reason--had not yet taken the gentleman off his prescription or changed the dose, knowing this risk.

When the RN obtained a blood pressure, it was low enough that if we were in the ED, I knew our providers might already be thinking along the lines of intubation if the pressure would continue to drop. I felt nervous. He was confused and appeared to be lightheaded. We were 40-some minutes from landing, and if this individual went unresponsive, all we had to offer him was CPR. We did not even have a way of obtaining an oxygen saturation, let alone interventions. 

The gentleman also noted a family history of heart disease, which was not reassuring. After obtaining a respiratory and heart rate--both within normal range--the RN and I assisted the individual to a nearby seat, then preformed a fuller assessment. The next successful blood pressure was closer to normal range; I was so grateful to see this improvement. Things can go pretty south with soft pressures and quickly so. 

I began to keep a written record of the man's symptoms, the bit of medical history I knew, current medications he was taking, vital signs we obtained, and what happened that evening so I could give an accurate report to EMS at landing. 

The gentleman was very thankful and kind. What a change this was compared to some of the aggressive patients I had recently worked with. He thanked me and asked me my name--even while experiencing some continuing confusion from his syncopal episode--and shared about his own life. God is so gracious; He knows how much I love to connect with my patients.

Eventually, we landed and two firefighters boarded the plane. I gave report to them; then off went my "patient" and his son with a flight attendant following closely behind, to receive more adequate medical care.

After exiting the plane several minutes later, I saw the individual again, surrounded by several firefighters as they obtained an EKG and gave him a chance to rest. 

I smiled, thinking how thankful I was that the Lord allowed me to be involved in this gentleman's care. If Jesus had given me my way and allowed me to have an uneventful flight, I would have missed out on a chance to see His ability to provide strength to me amid exhaustion. And answer my prayer as I silently asked Him for a supernatural ability to hear the blood pressure--with a noisy plane and very low quality stethoscope. While I felt so funny eventually being the only medical person attending to the man--feeling like I needed a doctor and RN to tell me what to do next--the Great Physician Himself directed me and attentively watched over the individual.

I had the idea that to keep from burning out of medical care, I needed to fly thousands of miles away from my job and have a full out break. Jesus gently reminded me that I am not only called to pour into others lives when I'm on the clock, but whenever He places someone in my path to share His love with. 

Sometimes the best rest I can receive comes in a way that seems counterintuitive to self. We think we can only give so much of ourselves before we break, but the amazing thing about being in Christ is that we may depend on His grace which never runs out! 

"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then, I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Though we may find ourselves tiered, exhausted and even personally in need, God often provides the chance to turn outward and look into the needs of others, empowered by His strength. As Oswald Chambers has said: "Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake" [1].

There's no doubt in the minds of those who invest care in other's health; our jobs are hard. There have been times I've come home from work and just cried, and other times I've literally jumped for joy. What is my response to a line of work that can be so trying? Where do I run to for refreshment for my soul?

In Psalm 34, we find this beautiful encouragement:
"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 eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry...When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (34:8-10,15,17-22).
My refuge, rest and refreshment do not lie in my circumstances. No amount of vegging, vacationing or self-care can provide all that my soul ultimately needs. Taking time to breathe, enjoying family trips and showering are all great gifts from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17); yet even when we have attempted these things to their fullest degree, we eventually still discover a lingering emptiness.

All of creation is crying out for redemption (Romans 8:19-25)! Our only completeness lies not in momentary peace, but in the One who laid down His very life to make us His own.

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

Jesus is the only One who can ultimately satisfy our souls. As we rest ourselves in His sufficiency, He cultivates in our hearts a love for those around us.

Paul wrote to the church at Galatia: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:13-14).

Do you know what Jesus deserved? Adoration. The worship of multitudes of angels and every creation He has ever made. To be served entirely and treated as the King He is. Yet this is what Scripture tells us of Him:

"...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" (Philippians 2:6-8).

The Most High willingly made Himself low for our redemption.

The only reason I can ever say "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 116:9) is because the One who is Life Himself took my place. "By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people" (Isaiah 53:8).

Because Jesus lives in us, we have everything we need to serve others with joy, even when it is difficult. I do not serve others as an attempt to gain God's favor, but out of the restful knowledge that no one in the world could ever earn God's approval by our works. "Yet we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no man shall be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

For all who are in Christ, there is no condemnation! Never do we have to worry that we must alleviate the wrath of God by our efforts (it would be impossible), instead--only because of Jesus--we are set free from the punishment we deserved, and may serve Him without fear (Luke 1:74).

Finding refreshment for our own souls in Christ alone, we may turn outward and walk in His steps, being moved with compassion for those who are in need (Mark 1:41,8:2).
"Wouldst thou be a chief? Then lowly serve, Wouldst thou go up? Then go down. But go as low as you will, the Highest has been lower still" (author unknown).
Are we willing to lay aside our own comfort that we may pour out and serve other as Jesus has done for us?

1. Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1992, p. February 23

The Not-So-Fluffy Happy People

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Not long ago, I rediscovered this post I wrote over the summer. I never published it because I wasn't sure if this message was just something the Lord was having me process in my quiet time, or if it was to be shared. I'm certain I'm not the only one with this perspective, and wanted to put this on the blog in hopes of encouraging others whom God has shaped similarly not to lose heart--knowing that He is so purposeful in each aspect of His design, and that He continually sanctify us for His glory.

I recently sat down at a coffee shop with a sweet friend from high school and got to have “that conversation.” We have similar personalities in some ways; we both love people, want others to be encouraged, smile a lot, and probably seem like we’re happy day and night.

But I’ve gotten the impression over the years that people think I’m fake, childish, a flatterer, or maybe just fluff.

My friend had experienced it too...

It’s never fun to be stereotyped. Just because I want to encourage you does not mean I think you’re perfect or don’t need Jesus. Just because I smile more than I wear a straight face does not mean I have it all together and never experience suffering. Just because I look happy does not mean I never go through difficulty or don’t have much of a life story.

The assumptions that can be directed to those of us whom God given a special desire to show mercy and encourage others are bizarre. So because I tried to encourage you, I’m ingenuine, looking for attention, and lack depth?

That’s a lot of assumptions, don’t you think!

Not everyone is quick to be verbally critical, but it is odd how many unspoken times there are when people let you know that you don’t fit their mold, and you need to change.

I’m sorry, but peer pressure is not a good enough reason, in my mind, to stop sharing love with those around me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to show love to those who hate being loved; it’s those who would prefer criticism to kindness that always leave me with questions. How can I care for them well without making them feel uncomfortable? What exactly did I do to push them away? (Gotta love the nonverbal “wow you’re one of those” treatment....)

I do not encourage other people for a hobby; you would not believe the number of people who take thought-out, (hopefully) uplifting words to not be anything of value. “No, I’m not actually as nice as that.” Ok. Well I never said you were perfect; I just wanted to remind you that you have value to the King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He is transforming you by His grace.


That one word so often used as a compliment reminds me of these conversations. “Cassidy is just such a bubbly person.” Ahh, that’s interesting. When I hear bubbly, I’m reminded of the time at missions school that I was told I was a flatterer after I attempted to uplift a staff member. Maybe there’s not much there; if only encouragements are spoken, then obviously there has to be something wrong with me. I’m probably a fluffy, depthless, simple-minded, unwise, undiscerning little girl who really needs to go through some trials in life so I can be more refined and get rid of this horrid tendency, right?

Well, I actually went to school right after one of the worst years of my life, full of suffering and pain. Does that make it better? Am I allowed to speak into others lives now since I’ve experienced a season when I felt entirely unable to smile or rejoice and felt that there was no hope except to keep running to Jesus and begging for an extra measure of strength?

Did you know that sometimes when you see me smiling on the outside, there’s a battle on the inside with these exact memories? Maybe it’s more biblical or something to just ignore people and go about my own business? That doesn’t sound right, but it’s the impression I’m left with time and time again.

I’m tempted to take the words “flatterer, ingenuine, depthless, fluffy” to heart sometimes. Did you know it would be a lot easier not to look for the work Jesus is doing in your life? People don’t like to be told that they are important and wanted, at times.

Amid desiring to change this incredibly angry, mean, critical, unhappy world, my greatest surprise is always the other believers who act awkward or standoffish when I try to care abut them.

Is this exhibit 428b of, “you’re just a kid, so how could you know anything?” Or is it something else? I couldn’t actually be “real,” right?

Well, to set the record straight, I genuinely care about you! Not for personal gain, not to make you like me, not because you have it all together, not as a conversation-filler, not to bring attention to myself, not to make you feel odd, but because YOUR LIFE MATTERS to Jesus.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life // John 3:16

It’s this reality that changed the heart of an uncomfortable, introverted middle schooler who could barely even make eye contact with people she did not know. It’s always been naturally easier for me to avoid people. Despite what people think, no, I did not walk out of the womb with a smile on my face. I was a critical, insecure, self-focused, sad little lady apart from Jesus.

As Jesus drew me closer to Himself, I realized that the people He had most used in my life were those who were willing to be vulnerable and speak words of care and encouragement with younger Cassidy who probably didn’t look like her day had just been made by their kindness--even though it was a thousand small acts of like this of care from others in the body of Christ, and knowing His Word that opened my eyes to the reality that it’s a lie to believe that I’m worthless. And if Jesus will graciously open my eyes to this truth, then by His grace I’m going to go share that with others. The saved and unsaved. Both of whom are deeply wanted and desired by our God, who is our only Hope in a world of deadness.

The enemy will keep trying to instill lies, and by the grace of God, I will continue to be defiant to the enemy’s deceptive works.

You are so valuable to our God that He went to the Cross for you! He is so worthy of our lives, and yet when we rebelled completely, He did not stop pursuing our hearts. Can you believe that? He would transform the life of even a pessimistic, sin-enslaved, “my life will never amount to anything” Cassidy, to be one made new for His glory.

It’s this truth that serves as a deep reminder; I cannot hide the candle. If Jesus is Lord of my soul, then it must show. We have the Light of Life; will we share Him with those around us? Will we remind those around us that Jesus is present, worthy, and loves them greatly?

I don’t want to look back someday and realize I listened to all my critics more than I allowed His Word to refine me and His Spirit to lead me.

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