Friday, October 9, 2009

Ethiopia tomorrow

Tonight, sitting on the floor with two dogs vying for my attention, I glimpsed again the tattoo on my friend Seth's foot.

"Walk humbly," it says, to match the tattoo on his chest ("love mercy") and the tattoo on his wrist ("do justice").

There are so many ways to encourage ourselves to love mercy. We might title our blogs certain ways. Inscribe the verses on our bodies. Write them on our doorposts.

Or go halfway around the world to try to find out what they mean.

Tomorrow I leave for Ethiopia on a two-week medical mission trip. The plans have been brewing for some months, and at last the day is almost here. Back in August I excitedly signed up, hoping I would sample my future life calling while binding up the broken hearts and wounded bodies of brothers and sisters in Addis Ababa. This journey, I hoped, would be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. From this trip I believed I would learn how to structure the rest of my life. Go with this mission organization or an NGO? Go in the future as an RN or should I return to school to become a nurse practitioner? And so on and so forth.

Instead I have learned that the way Jesus wants me to love mercy is to learn how to love through Word, not deed. In other words, this trip is not going to be very medical at all. There is no doctor going on the trip, and so we cannot run clinics or treat patients. Instead of the medical aspect of this trip being a lamp and a light to my future path, the Word itself will be the lamp and the light and the focus of this trip. Instead of treating headaches and heartburn, I will be leading support groups with young girls, knitting and making jewelry alongside Ethiopian women in the mission, sharing my testimony with clinic beneficiaries in their homes, and participating in a daily Bible study for team members.

Not what I envisioned. But oh, how needed! As I have returned to the Word and poured over my journal in my hasty preparation for this trip, I have seen again my own lack of knowledge and sorry slipshod reliance upon Jesus. As Chrissie pointed out, perhaps this trip is pinpointing my greatest need... and my greatest need might not be to get clear direction about my medical future. Instead it might be to grow and mature spiritually and as a spiritual leader.

Learning to love mercy (and do justice... and walk very, very humbly) is taught in so many ways.

He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom.
Isaiah 40:11

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

such a need for control

How concerned I am with staying on top of things! I blame it on my job a little bit: every nurse takes so much pride in an organized room, a clean patient, a tidy flow sheet, checking every box. I wonder how much 7 months of ICU nursing has begun to effect my personal life? This rigorous work environment: do I bring it home to my lifestyle?

I think I do. I strive for fairly tight-fisted organization in many things these days. An example from this afternoon: the apartment is full of the aromas of chicken curry, which will be my dinner and lunch for the rest of the week. I could have come home from work and collapsed into a nap, curled up with a book, watched Into the Wild instead of waiting for when Elliott comes back next week. But instead I marched right off the T into the grocery store, purchased food for the rest of the week, walked swiftly home, and then cooked the entire meal while multi-tasking and listening to a sermon by Tim Keller.

Organization, simplicity, cleanliness, neatness, a place for everything and everything in its place... all of these are good and wonderful things, but I fear how they may be affecting my personal life. The other night I came home after a long 12-hour shift and tackled the dirty apartment with a fury, unleashing my frustration on dust bunnies and crusty dishes. Later my roommates pulled me aside and asked what was going on. Was dirt they couldn't see simmering deep inside me, festering passive aggressively into bitterness about the apartment's state of cleanliness?

The truth of it all is that I am filthy, disorganized, and all my righteousness are dirty rags, and it is only the purity of Jesus that gives this rocky soul any hope of sanctification. The desperation for tidiness inside me is only a reflection of where I put my hope: in cleaning solutions and color coordinatioon, in the appearance of things instead of the heart. Jesus, please, in this world where all that matters is the outward appearance: please show me my own sin and cleanse me from within.

Monday, March 9, 2009

thoughts on free time

Rain and snow today. I've spent the entire day in the apartment, other than 5 seconds outside when I put "An Inconvenient Truth" on the lip of the mailbox in order to get my next Netflix movie ASAP. From where I'm resting deep in the couch, I can see fine snowflakes driven horizontally down Upton Street, and can hear them melting into rain in the drainpipes outside.

Today is Elliott's birthday, and I miss him. Haiti gets to enjoy him today instead, which I have reconciled myself to being the next step of life for us.

In his absence, I have found a wonderful opening up of time. The truth is that these are probably the days of my life in which I have the most time; no anticipated future for me will offer as many free hours in between working, as many quiet afternoons resting up for night shifts, as many evenings with no desire to go out and a whole apartment and libraries full of books.

My response has been to try to maximize this time, even in the last week. So thus I've been reading (Mountains Beyond Mountains is done, The Omnivore's Dilemma is in progress), watching films (An Inconvenient Truth and Super Size Me just today... blame that one on being home-bound!), knitting (gifts for Sarah, Kate, and Aileen are done; I'm hard at work on another afghan), catching up with family and friends (meals in and out, although I'd love to aim for more meals in and times of fellowship in our home, if I can), journaling, and finally getting started on writing that article with my thesis advisor from UVA. It's encouraging to see good things done with free time.

In the midst of all this there has certainly been more time to think, and I hope that will be the fodder for upcoming blog posts. Perhaps some on the Beatitudes, nursing, the environment, and food are upcoming.

But for just now, I'm going to spend time with my roommate. Peace out, Mac.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Frog Pond

Elliott and I went ice skating on Frog Pond earlier this afternoon. Despite the fact that it is 24 degrees outside (and "feels like 10," says, we bundled up and braved the cold. This isn't us, but could have been:

The only problem with this picture is that the subjects have their own skates, and Elliott and I haven't bought our own yet.

We're cheapskates.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


If my intention had been to truly start at the beginning, this blog probably should have been created in August. August, when I left Virginia and began a new life in Boston. At this point so much has happened that this beginning is more like the middle.

But perhaps that's really the case with every story. For we are not the beginning of anything, but merely a part of the whole, the entire story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. Our ending is not the End; that will be determined by Someone Else.

In the meantime, our mission is to be a part of that story, and we are now in the redeeming stage. As a nurse, I think about this often, as I care for patients in the ICU ravaged by the effects of the Fall. There is a growing hunger in my heart for redemption, and redemption in all things: bodies, relationships, the Church, love, families, minds. I am learning, bit by slowly acquired bit, what it means for me to take part in this redeeming, and what perspective I should take as a believer in an fallen world. What is my role in politics, missions, the role of the Church? What should be my attitude towards the poor, the hungry, the unborn? How do I live out my role in a world filled with disagreement, even disagreement between those closest to me?

And thus I begin writing: one girl eager for mercy, eager for justice, eager for redemption. I am a nurse, using my hands each day to do these things, but dissatisfied with my status quo. Here is a bit of a written record of one not-alone believer caught up in the search for true Truth.