Wednesday, July 2

Of Babies and Brick Walls

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. But, shhh. You can't tell anyone. 

I absolutely love my job in the NICU, but... 

Occasionally I get really frustrated with the way things go at work. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. 

As a bedside nurse, I spend the most time of anyone (excepting parents sometimes) with the babies I take care of. I learn their cues, know how well or how poorly they can eat, recognize "normal" patterns for them, and see red flags when the babies have deviated from their norms. Generally the neonatologists that I work with are more than happy to hear the nurses' opinions and suggestions to help them in planning a baby's care and goals to get them home with their parents. However, this is not always the case. 

A while back there was a baby in our NICU that I had taken care of often. Very often. I knew him very well and knew that he could be quite a fussy baby. But then, it was different. He was not just fussy; it was almost as if he was in pain and was crying out anxiously for someone to do something. He was almost panicked in his cries. For about two weeks I kept on telling the practitioners and doctors that I thought something was wrong, and I persisted in asking them to check into what I thought might be the problem. And for about two weeks, I was practically ignored. The worst part about it was that the patient I was advocating for was completely helpless. He had no way to voice what was wrong or what his needs were-- that was supposed to be my job. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was shouting at a brick wall, and it was so frustrating.

Have you ever felt like that before? It is a maddeningly helpless feeling.

Can I let you in on another little secret? 

Sometimes I feel that way with God. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. 

In the past few years especially there have been things that I have prayed for so persistently. Good things. For people to make positive changes in their lives, for them to choose to let God in. I have prayed for overcoming power for personal struggles. I have prayed for answers. And sometimes, I feel like I am shouting those prayers at a brick wall. 

Have you ever felt like that before? It can be a maddeningly helpless feeling.

But you know what is comforting to me in all this helplessness? Regardless of the way that I feel when I pray to my God, I know that He hears me. I know this because history has shown it to be true.

God heard Hagar and Ishmael's cries in the desert.
God heard Isaac's pleas for Rebekah to have children.
God heard Israel's cries for relief from their slavery.
God heard David's prayers over and over again for deliverance from his enemies.
God heard Solomon's request for wisdom.
God heard the leper's entreaty for cleansing.
God heard Paul's prayers for each of the churches he planted.
God heard the Centurion's plea for healing for his servant.

And the list could go on. Forever. Even in my own life I could probably list a hundred times or more when God has heard and answered my prayers-- some even before I knew to pray for them.

So if you're feeling like your prayers are hitting a brick wall, take courage. And "know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when [we] call to him." Psalm 4:3, ESV

Friday, May 9

Little Green Sprouts

Timothy and I have a very small "garden." Currently it consists of strawberry plants from last year that came back with no coaxing from us and tomato plants that grew all on their own as well. Very low maintenance. We have also planted several clusters of basil plants in pots and watermelon and pepper seeds in little planters.

For quite some time before we had any sprouts or signs of life from our planters and pots we were very faithful in watering the seeds every day. The first time we even saw the tiniest bit of a green sprout in one of the basil pots we were ecstatic! It was so exciting and fun to see something that we had planted and watered every day finally show some signs of life. In hindsight, we were probably a little bit ridiculous in our level of excitement over one little tiny shoot of green.

Tiny basil sprouts
As time went on there were more and more signs of life from the basil plants, and you could almost see the resemblance in the tiny sprouts to basil leaves. But our watermelon and pepper seeds just weren't coming up. Still we faithfully watered them every morning and sometimes in the evenings when it had been a particularly hot and sunny day.

Then-- joyous day! One of our watermelon planters had two little stalks of green with leaves! And one of the pepper planters did too. Again, the amount of excitement was probably a little excessive, but we were finally seeing our faithfulness pay off!

Little pepper plant
Watermelon shoots!
Not too long after these thrilling events life got extremely busy. I was working overtime at the hospital and Timothy was chipping away at his clinical hours while frantically spitting out papers and studying for final exams. During this time there were probably two or three days where our little garden and planters were completely forgotten.

When we had a little moment to catch our breath from life's busyness, Timothy went to water our little plants. The sight that met his eyes was rather disheartening. The basil was doing alright, but the watermelon and pepper sprouts were completely dry and withered. We were so upset! All that faithfulness and work we had put in was wasted.

We decided to see if we could revive them anyway. So for the next few days we were extra attentive to the little plants; we watered them faithfully and checked their progress often. I am quite happy to report that they are finally (after probably a week or so) beginning to make a recovery. They are not quite as spry and green as they were at first, but they are getting there.

So why am I chronicling the progression of our little garden plants and sharing it with you? Why do you care?

In the weeks of growing, nearly killing, and reviving our little plants I feel like God shared with me an object lesson.

These little plants are so much like my relationship with God and my spiritual growth. Sometimes in the beginning it feels like all work and no noticeable progress. Then, slowly but surely I can see small improvements and start to feel like I'm really getting somewhere with this God business; I begin to feel like a real Christian. Maybe even other people can see the change.

Inevitably life gets busy. Sometimes so busy that I neglect my relationship with God. I spend time in prayer, but it's hurried and not as thoughtful as it should be, or I read my Bible but don't take the time to really contemplate the meaning of what I just read or search out the lesson in it. I stop drinking in that Living Water that I so desperately need to grow and flourish.

Then suddenly one day I stop and realize that I'm all dry and withered up. I notice that I've been selfish or lashed out at Timothy. Or I've not been patient with one of my coworkers or patient's families. And when I try to get down to the root of the problem I realize that it's because I've neglected my spiritual life. I haven't put priority on my time with God.

Thankfully, I serve a merciful and forgiving God; He always accepts me back. But often getting back into spending time with God and "watering" your spiritual life seems like it takes twice as much attentiveness and purpose as it did the first time around. And what you lost in two or three days of neglect seems to take two weeks to rebuild and regrow. But the beauty of God's love is that it can and will regrow.

Friday, April 18

(Un)Intentional Living

Do you ever feel like sometimes your life is just a constant barrage of information that you passively take into your mind without really stopping to think about it? Yeah, me neither.

Ok, well on occasion maybe. Actually, maybe more often than I would care to admit.

Sometimes I feel like I get so caught up in the flurry of activity that has become my life that I don't take the time to process what's happening or what I'm allowing into my mind. This whole idea recently occurred to me because of something that Andrew Peterson had posted online. He said that he hated the song, "Let it Go," from the new movie Frozen. Most of you have probably either heard this song or have heard about it; regardless, you don't need to have listened to it to understand what I'm getting at in this post.

When I read that Andrew Peterson hated "Let it Go," I must admit I was a little shocked that he would use such a strong word. It surprised me a little bit, but I didn't think too much about it. I mean, everyone has different tastes in music, and I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right?

A day or two later, Andrew Peterson posted his reason for hating the song "Let it Go," apparently because he received so much negative feedback and questions on how he could hate such an innocent, catchy song aimed at an audience of young girls (mainly). His reason?

The main themes in the movie Frozen are about true love-- giving up your own desires in order to meet someone else's needs, the importance of family and being there for one another in a messed up world, and self-sacrifice. The song "Let it Go" has essentially the exact opposite theme. It's a song about shutting people out and living to yourself, with no rules, no regulations, only whatever floats your own selfish little boat.

When I read Andrew Peterson's short discourse on why "Let it Go" was a terrible song, I realized that I had heard it many times and never really thought about the message of the song. It was just a catchy little ditty from a sweet, family-centered movie. Wow, how did I miss that? And what else have I not been really thinking about?

This whole experience made me realize that we are so constantly inundated with entertainment media of all types that we begin to disengage our minds and let them soak everything in like an indifferent sponge. If my purpose in watching/reading/hearing/seeing different movies/books/songs/pictures is just for entertainment's sake-- a few moments of escape and unwinding at the end of the day-- then I don't take the time to truly process what I'm taking in and apply it to life. And I believe that in this cycle of passive digestion of information Satan has us right where he wants us. In a non-evaluative, unassuming, and unsuspecting coma of sorts. This is the sleepy state of Laodicean numbness. And I want out.

But how? Well, for starters... less is more. If I can begin by limiting the volume of media I'm taking in, I will out of necessity need to evaluate the quality and content of what I read/see/hear/watch so that I am consciously choosing what I ingest in my mind rather than passively accepting the stream of media that is constantly hurled at me.

What it really boils down to is living intentionally-- in all areas of our lives. And, by God's grace, I hope to begin living more intentionally starting today.

Monday, March 31

Oh, Those Israelites

Occasionally, (ok, sometimes more than occasionally) when I read the story of the Israelites and their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land I stop and think to myself, "Oh, those Israelites. How quick they were to forget and how quick to doubt."

Most recently I had this thought in my mind last week when I read Numbers chapters 13 and 14 for my daily devotions. These chapters tell the story of how God told Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan to determine whether or not the people of the land were strong and whether or not the land was good to live in. At the end of Numbers 13 the general gist of the spies' report is that the land is very good and the people are very strong. The spies even go so far as to say of the people of the land, "... we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them." Numbers 13:33, ESV.

And then... here it comes-- Numbers chapter 14 begins with those faithless Israelites wailing and grumbling against Moses and against God (again).

"And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?' And they said to one another, 'Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'" Numbers 14:2-4, ESV

The options that they set out for themselves still baffle my mind a little bit. Essentially those doubting Israelites say that they wish: 1) That they had died in Egypt, 2) That they had died in the wilderness, or 3) That they were slaves in Egypt again. So, to recap-- death, death, or slavery. Nowhere in that list of options is God at all present.

Then we hear God's response to the Israelites' despair.

"And the LORD said to Moses, 'How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?'" Numbers 14:11, ESV

Ouch. As I read that, I could almost feel the hurt in God's questions. He loves the Israelites, protects them, provides for them, and desires to do good to them. And their response? Distrust. Doubt. Oh, those Israelites. How could they so quickly forget the miraculous things God had done to bring them to that present point? How could they so easily doubt His power and His desire to give them good gifts?

After I finished reading these chapters, I began to pray to God to finish out my morning devotional time. One thing that I've been praying a lot about recently involves mine and Timothy's future. We hope to relocate sometime this summer and have been looking at many options. And it has been stressing me a lot. So, I was praying and asking God to help Timothy and me to find good jobs that we would enjoy and that would help us to provide for ourselves and pay off our debts. As I prayed, I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. I found myself listening to all the doubts and fears in my mind instead of feeling the calm release that should have resulted from my prayers to the God of the Universe, who loves me, provides for me, and desires to do good for me.

I stopped myself mid-prayer. Ouch. Oh, faithless, doubting Kristin. How my distrust and doubt in God's ability to lead and guide in mine and Timothy's lives must pain Him. How could I so quickly forget how God has led me to where I am today? How could I doubt Him? I have very clearly seen His orchestration of my life and path in the past, even up to this very present moment. He has always provided for me and led me before; why should the future be any different?

Oh, those Israelites. How well I identify with them so often. May God continue to be as patient and long-suffering with me as He ever was with them.

Wednesday, February 5


For those of you who have followed my blog for a long time... This post is a repeat (albeit, an edited repeat). Except this time it does get its own post. Last time I tacked it onto the end of another post. So, I apologize for the redundancy, but this thought is one I come to every time I read in Genesis and Exodus. And I love it.

I was reading Exodus 2 yesterday, and I read the last verse (25) in that chapter: 
"God saw the people of Israel-- and God knew."

It seems almost an incomplete thought, to just say that "God knew." But I think that's all that needed to be said. God saw their affliction, their trials, and He intimately knew what they were going through. And His heart reached out to them. That is why in the very next chapter, God tells Moses to go back to Egypt to lead His people into a better place.

That phrase, "God saw... and God knew," always reminds me of another story in Genesis that I love as well. It's the story of Hagar.

If Abraham and Sarah had gone by God's plans, the whole situation with Hagar and Ishmael would never have happened. 

But it did happen. 

However, just because it wasn't in God's plan doesn't mean that He forsook His own. Even though Hagar and Ishmael were not part of God's plan, He still had compassion on them.

In Genesis 16, Hagar is fleeing from Sarai because she just can't take the harshness and abuse anymore. As she's crying in the wilderness, God comes to her. He comforts her and speaks to her. He tells her to name her son Ishmael, which means "God hears." And when He's done, Hagar calls God's name, "You are a God of seeing," and she names the place "the well of the Living One who sees me." (Genesis 16:6-14, ESV)

Fast forward to Genesis 21. Hagar is once again in the wilderness-- this time because Sarah has sent her packing (and God okayed it). Hagar is once again crying, at the end of her rope, and believes that she and her child have been completely forsaken by everyone. As she's crying, Ishmael is praying. In verse 17 it says, "And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is." God hears. Ironic, because that's what Ishmael's name means. Despite the fact that God allowed Hagar and Ishmael to be in this wilderness of despair, God reminds Hagar in her darkest hour that He still hears. He still sees her. And He will take care of her. (Genesis 21:8-20, ESV)

Never forget this. God sees you. He hears you. And He knows. He knows better than anyone what you're going through. And He will take care of you.