I recently read the following in a book I highly recommend, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, “If the miracle comes too quickly there is no room for discovery, for relationship.” Substitute “answer to prayer” for “miracle,” and Paul Miller’s statement does not change. The point: God tarries in answering prayers and performing miracles only for GOOD reasons.
In the past few posts I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been struggling to understand what God has been up to. This evening seemed a good time to come clean with the details. Several months ago I began experiencing a stirring in my soul. You might even term this stirring, restlessness. In anticipation of the birth of my first grandchild, I strongly desired to be available to invest in his life as much as possible. While my job in ICU permitted several consecutive days off and provided for invaluable experiences both as a nurse and a believer, working nights began to deplete me emotionally and physically beyond what seemed healthy for me. I sensed God releasing me to pursue a day job in a less stressful environment – one even better suited to the way He made me.
Before I graduated from nursing school I contemplated serving as a hospice nurse. Three years into my practice, the time seemed ripe to set out on a new adventure of comforting dying patients and their families. Of course, my mind filled with preconceived ideas, and peaceful scenes of alleviating suffering in softly lit rooms set me up for a heaping dose of reality. You know if you’ve read much on my blog that I live a lot of life in the fairy tale mode, in part because we were made for once upon a time and ultimately happily ever after, but also because as a passionate idealist, I cling tightly to the notion that the love of God in my heart can transform anything and anyone.
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Finding the job was step one in venturing out of the hospital with God. This amounted to several interviews and a great deal of waiting for an official offer. Prior to my start date, God arranged for me to take a little trip with Him and with my friend Sherrie to an isolated beach on the Florida coast. From the moment I entered the car bound for unexplored shores, the breath of God blew calm and exhilarating, providing the pause much needed. And in the breeze He spoke to me, through the sugary sand and mighty waves crashing rhythmic and constant, He prepared me to move ahead.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that in His mercy He shared only what I needed to know to advance confident – confident in Our relationship fitting me perfectly for the work. That which I didn’t need to know, He kept to Himself, breasted, veiled, all the while whispering sweet and low, “Hope and do not doubt. I am leading you into what you are made for, My calling on your life in this season.” As we strolled along the beach several mornings together, He drew my eye to fragments of once majestic sand dollars.
Compelled, I collected them and at one point spilled and arranged them on the beach at my feet. I perceived God doing the same with my life at this juncture – arranging and fitting together broken isolated pieces at His feet for me to study. There, like a puzzle coming together, a tapestry topside exposed, He showed me how past experiences with loss, with death were preparatory for “new life” in my fifties, life lived peace-filled alongside fellow dying ones. I recorded the following one morning as God spoke reassuringly:
You have stared terrified at death through unredeemed secular eyes, thus you’ve some understanding of what many face and feel on their deathbeds. Your work at the funeral home put you in touch with your own mortality, but it also taught you that all people will indeed die, and that on the surface of things this business of putting off earthly life seems anything but “pretty.” You know death raises many questions and are comfortable with that fact. You understand why most people dismiss thoughts of death until unavoidable, and when forced to acknowledge death as part of life, tend to shrink back and dance around both the subject and experience as much as possible. You know what striving hard to keep death (and Me) at a distance is all about!!
You have within you My courage for the task – the courage of Father sending son, of Jesus in the Garden and on the cross, of Comforter who comes near to touch lepers and dying ones. Herein lies your confidence: I AM in you and you in Me. Knowledge of drugs, procedures, methods, and earthly documentation will come. Move ahead bold and confident in your weakness, for I AM in you, strength to meet death face to face on a regular basis. Remember, I’ve overcome the grave, and absolutely everything associated with it. Carry my good news joyful and unafraid. My peace I give to you. Draw near, be present, give away My peace to others. I promise to fill you anew and be with you.
I’ve walked the halls of nursing homes and hospitals with you to touch those who suffer. I’ve stood at the bedside of your mother-in-law and your own mother with you. I’ve consoled your dying aunt through you. I’ve walked with you through the sudden death of your husband, and through the valley of the shadow of death with your son. I have convinced you that you are not alone – that I will never leave nor forsake you, Terry. Carry this bedrock of security with you into your practice as a Hospice nurse. Laugh in the face of doubt – remain in My love convinced. Share your otherworldly security in Me liberally with those whose paths I’ve arranged for yours to cross. I’ve blessed you, My little nightingale to sing of Me in the dark, to proclaim the empty tomb!!! Indeed, it is what I’ve made you for, trained you for, called you to do for My honor and glory, and your fulfillment in this hour. BELIEVE AND BE BLESSED in My love and calling on your life!!
During my first week deep in the learning curve of a new job as an RN Case Manager for VistaCare Hospice, I reread often the above and soaked up like a thirsty sponge volumes of new information. Tired, but still not overwhelmed, I forged ahead confident that God would master all of this in and through me. My first ride out opened my eyes to practicing medicine in the field – to the field itself. I confess to no small degree of shock. At the same time, adding to a growing feeling of panic was a commitment made long before changing jobs to coordinate a wedding reception for a dear friend. This entailed spending many hours (essentially every hour of “leisure”) crafting handmade decorations and planning food for 250 people as well as setup the day of the wedding. Realizing I had committed to being on call for a total of 90 hours per month with my new job, reduced me to inconsolable tears on more nights than I care to admit. I envisioned trying to find my way in the wee hours of the night to people’s homes located in the middle of nowhere to assist in crisis, and terror crept into my heart to steal peace, sleep, and the hope God had instructed me not to let go of!!
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I felt foolish, uncovered, “much afraid.” I began to think as one who self-protects, who takes up responsibility for their own life, safety, comfort, wellbeing, (as if that is possible). My daughter, Lori, verbally took me by the shoulders when others, while deeply concerned, hesitated to tell me what to do. She emboldened me not to quit, and unbeknownst to her or I, opened the door to the invisible cage I felt I’d flown blindly into. My prayers on those first morning ride-outs to meet new patients were simple, “Help me, God!!!” repeated breathing in and breathing out tearfully. Though I prayed desperate, I felt God was playing hide and seek with me, and that He had somehow allowed me to put myself in harm’s way and to commit to working more hours than I’d ever worked. It seemed He had invited me on a mission impossible – irreconcilable with spending more time with Apple Jax (my grandson). To cap it off, He chose for a time to remain painfully silent. My efforts at interpreting His silence began the process of discovery and of Him deepening Our relationship. At times a messy process that included embarrassing meltdowns, sleepless nights, belly and head aches, and a lot of frantic scurrying about, the journey to becoming a hope-filled hospice nurse began with a necessary duel with doubt and FEAR. Really the two are one in the same, I doubted God was for me and with me and therefore I feared anything and everything for few miserable days. All to arrive at where I started, God in me and I in Him shall overcome death together for the sake of others and His glory.
Although I stated God remained silent, I must humorously recount His visible encouragements along the way. As we were leaving the condominium in Florida, I peered out at the ocean one last time from our seventh story balcony, and there looking out with me perched a white dove on the railing. He remained long enough to turn and make eye contact with me and then took wing. I don’t know if he had taken shelter there all night to escape the tropical storm, but he definitely was there for me to see and receive a message from – one heaven-sent. Several weeks later, while in an interdisciplinary meeting at work, facing the windows along one wall of the boardroom I noticed a white dove. There outside those seventh story windows flying in apparent slow motion another white dove carried a message to me. Highlighted against the cobalt blue sky, He took my breath away. The timing could not have been more perfect, for just prior I was thinking to myself, “I’m really enjoying this meeting, the team’s approach, and the education I’m being provided here.” On yet another morning, the first I set out on my own, a white dove flew alongside my car just outside the passenger window for several car lengths and then disappeared heavenward. Three doves, appearing through glass “dimly”, two outside seventh story windows – coincidence? – I don’t think so!!
Finally, on the morning I received God’s peace from heaven concerning my job while driving on a country road outside Mexia, He sent as a seal a virtual sea of butterflies to accompany me on the journey home. I lost count of the butterflies (and plump dragonflies) I saw on this forty mile stretch of road through field after field of scorched pasture. Not one flew into my windshield, but in turn they flew as companions, winged messengers of hope and new life. Autumn orange against sleeping fields of faded gold, God used them to reassure me of the new season He has begun with me, a season of harvesting and of investing carefree into the lives of many – including my grandson.
I am happy to report that after two glorious weeks of worship behind the wheel en route to see patients, of riding out with God to offer love, hope, and comfort, that I absolutely love my job. Moreover, I love the patients and families He has privileged me to meet and share a span of life with. Thank You, Lord, for helping me to assume the risk of living JOY-FILLED THAT I MIGHT LEARN TO DELIGHT IN JOY-SPILLED into the lives of others. On a final note, I have had many stress-free hours to reflect, spend time with family, and love on that chubby cheeked little boy Jaxon – proof that all these things shall be added unto you, even when one such as I fails a test or two and grapples with doubt. God knows my heart is to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and that in my frailty I sometimes cower – but He never fails to come to my rescue, to write the happily ever after to each chapter even on this earth.
|Me and Baby Jax|
Blessed in His Shadow,
For more inspirational reading, please visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com
For more inspirational reading, please visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com