Enabled, Empowered and Equipped

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My only wholeness is in Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.