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“In his heart a man plans his course,” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV 1984) says, “but the Lord determines his steps,” and that could never be more true. Mix in a little Psalm 37:4, and you figure out quickly that it could only have been the Lord, my delight, who granted me the desires of my heart the way He just did. My previous post mentioned a job offer from my “first choice hospital,” even after it appeared it was no longer an option. Since then I have officially accepted that job offer, completed my pre-employment screening, have received my parking decal, and am now awaiting the first day of work, July 17th. I will begin with a two-week orientation, then rotate to my night shift on the intensive care unit which will apparently be my home for the next few years.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, NASB)

Let me draw a more accurate picture of what I have just been given. In every sphere of existence there is an untouchable get, the carrot just out of reach. In the crib it’s the pretty toys dangling from the mobile above. In school it may have been that star cheerleader no one dared approach. In the workplace maybe it’s a job assignment or corner office with a view. That’s what this nursing job is! If it had been on a checklist of wants I wouldn’t even have wasted a checkmark on it, knowing full well the competition for it would be far too fierce. On one hand there are jobs a rookie gets and on the other there are jobs to which a rookie can only hope to aspire. This job is in the fist of the wishful thinker. Yet here it is. Throughout nursing school I’ve tried to imagine the most experience-intense workplace to build my skills for disaster and missionary nursing and, in my limited perspective, focused on emergency department (ED) practice. God’s plans are better than my plans and His ways are higher than mine (paraphrase of Isaiah 55:8). A medical/surgical intensive care unit (MSICU) will be more critical, varied, and care-focused than anything I could have dreamed up. You just can’t ask for presents this big!

God’s plans are better than my plans and His ways are higher than mine.

I wanted to share a couple details about the events that led up to this job, just to set it on record. There are sister hospitals in town, one a children’s hospital and the other adult. When I applied online for a job with them, there were checkboxes within the application to select which facility would receive it. I checked both and confirmed in another interactive query that I wanted my application to count toward both hospitals. I waited as patiently as I could for someone to contact me. As time went by and friends began posting online about their new jobs, I started to notice the wind and the waves around me, like I had stepped out of the boat onto the water, but was beginning to sink. About that time, I met a woman who has worked as a nurse recruiter for another organization. She recommended that I squeak as loud and annoyingly as I can to get the job I want. She said the polite applicants stay unemployed. So I got off my manners and sent a quick email to my recruiter, who explained that the children’s hospital only hired bachelor degreed graduate nurses for this cohort, and encouraged me to try again in three months. I pointed out that my application was to both hospitals and asked her to ensure it had been sent to the adult hospital. After checking, she told me it had not, and again recommended I try again in three months but placated me with a concession that she would put me on a waiting list. I hung up devastated. I began flirting with Hagar instead of believing in the promise (Genesis 16), and I sought employment out of town. I had a promising interview that would require either partial separation from my bride or more than an hour commute. Less than ideal, but compromise always is.

Then one day as I was expecting a call from the out of town job, the call from my in-town first choice hospital came in. If I wasn’t opposed to night shift and wouldn’t mind an adult MSICU, then I was welcome to interview for it. I am no stranger to night shifts, having worked it by choice for eight years of my police career. This was the chance of a lifetime, and no way was I going to miss it!

When I arrived for my interview, I met the unit nursing supervisor. She was pleasant, and it was a struggle to remain on a professional first-impression edge even though I was sporting a brand new business suit, because meeting her was like talking to a friend, which we did for more than a half hour. She then introduced me to a team of staff nurses from the unit, my future nurse siblings. They interviewed me for awhile, but seemed more uncomfortable asking some of the rote questions on their forms than answering them was for me. Since each inquiry required professional anecdotes, I was forced to answer with police stories, which this team seemed to enjoy. Our meeting was interrupted by a call indicating the nursing director of the facility was waiting to see me, so off I was whisked.

While I waited in the director's outer office, I amused myself looking at the historical photographs of the hospital and its employees, and began to expect an encounter with someone more like the pictures — old. To my surprise, I was greeted by a lovely woman who appeared younger than I. (That seems more common the longer I live, a side-effect of aging I suppose.) She introduced herself and led me to a conference room, where she told me of her passion and care for the units in her facility and particularly the MSICU. Like a protective mother hen, she seemed unsure whether she could trust this dog at the door of the nesting house. As the interview proceeded, she warmed up and I could tell her anxious alert was appeased. At one point she described how nurses seldom leave the MSICU for displeasure but usually for better paying jobs. I leaned over the table like a salesman laying down a pitch. “I’ve got a police pension keeping the lights on at home, so if you hire me I promise I’ll never leave just for a better paying job.”

“Then you're hired!” came with a burst of just enough surprised laughter that I knew she would have to conclude other interviews and make a real decision before any such words were official. Still, the next business day, I was contacted by the recruiter who told me she was under orders not to let me get away but to call me first thing in the morning. Many procedural steps later, I am employed, though my start date is July 17th, my daughter’s birthday, memorable now for another great reason.

At the risk of sounding like a numerologist, did you notice how many sevens there are in 71717, my start date? At any rate, I like to imagine God’s signature on His blessings. I’d rather see Him than not. Wouldn’t you? He’s definitely been in the details of this tapestry! I'm counting on Him directing every one of my steps though this ministry too. 

Thanks for the prayer support. Please keep it up. God is building something good, and He's allowing Cindy and me to be a part of it.

Cindy and I sort of have an agreement that we will not spend our household budget on inflated gifts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put something celebratory in her online profile.

A social media caption I wrote this morning, which grossly understated her contribution, read:

“There’s nothing quite like a girl who's willing to put up with late night shifts, extended hours, insecurity regarding hubby's safety, taking care of things at home, and habitual control issues that can wear and tear on any relationship. My valentine is a champion! "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. ...Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:10-11, 29, NIV) Happy Valentine's Day, Cindy Lemmon!”

Her husband has full confidence in her......

Cindy’s had anything but a happy way of it lately. Our precious furry friend, Duke, took ill a couple months ago and we finally had to put him down.  In his last days, Cindy broke her shoulder heroically cradling Duke instead of catching herself in a fall.  She’s been nursing her gimpy fin ever since, dealing with intense pain and all the inconveniences of not being able to flap both wings, but she’s done it with a smile. As if pain and grief weren’t enough of a duo, they teamed up to form a villainous alliance with unmet deadlines at work, an upper respiratory infection, and the typical specks of irritation in any home or relationship that make everything chafe when rubbed together.

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. 

I’ve been so overwhelmed with Nursing School and whether I’m making a passing grade on any given day that I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. An honest inventory of the foes she’s fighting would include: my mid-life career change, being a Nursing School wife (every bit as demanding as police-wife), seemingly endless missionary preparations with ambiguous ministry launch plans and dates, plus all the stuff that goes in between like medical evaluations, surgery prospects, emptying nest, outstanding debt, and more. The truth is life is tough. But when the ones who live it give it what they’ve got and come out shining like my wife does, that’s a sparkling example of God’s refining fire at work.

I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. 

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

Thank you for praying for my Valentine! She’s got her hands full and I’m not always the most attentive sidekick.

victoryPraise God! My Nursing School acceptance letter has arrived. Thank you for all the prayers.

I have an amazing encouragement support network. Even my postal clerk was vigilantly checking my box, eager for the chance to congratulate me upon receiving this good news. As I opened the large white envelope with all the enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, I was surprised to find that a congratulatory greeting was not the first thing out of the package. Where I would have expected it was a laundry list of things to do, prove, and buy, along with very strong warnings not to miss deadlines which were emphatically repeated in multicolor boldface. About three pages back was a letter that began with the word “congratulations” but the context was even less celebratory than its position in the packet or its peculiarly small and plain font.

“Provisionally accepted” are the terms which describe my current status. They hit me like Mother’s “maybe” (if you can remember those). Some of the provisos about which I have no concern are a background check, fingerprinting, and drug screening, but the one that slows my hallelujah roll is the physical exam. I was almost excluded from being a police officer decades ago because of a spinal condition of which I had no knowledge and even since have had no symptoms. Since then I've aged a bit and lost enough of my hearing to require correction. This struggle with a stethoscope seems far more relevant than whether my vertebrae connect to the tailbone. Perhaps it is in my human nature to be cautious before celebration, or perhaps it is just plain doubt, but either way, my prayer warriors should know to shift from focusing on the acceptance letter to the tedious processing that now follows.

I have ordered most of my supplies and uniforms, have submitted my drug screen sample and fingerprints, and am checking off my to-do list as I go. There will be a basic skills pre-test at our orientation, November 15th, and I am studying for that, brushing up on fractions, ratios, learning how many drops are in a milliliter, how to convert milliliters to teaspoons and tablespoons, and things like that.

Meanwhile, Cindy is on her Walk to Emmaus (a weekend spiritual experience, similar to a retreat but with too many differences to call it one), so I'm playing the bachelor at home, trying to ready the place to surprise her when she returns. In between trying to find a men's nursing shoe and properly size myself up for white scrubs, I’m cleaning and repairing to beat the band, and praying fervently for her and the other lady pilgrims on her walk.

I was confronted with a very basic principle during a chapel visit on my walk last weekend. I confessed to those with me that I have a basic fear of not being enough. As I worked it out in meditation, God reminded me that I most certainly am NOT enough, but that no man is. “All…have fallen short” (Romans 3:23, excerpted for emphasis), “but,” God seemed to continue, “I AM!” So the passage in Romans continues, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24, NIV). I am redeemed, not just from sin and its eternal consequence, but from failure, from not measuring up, from falling short of the glory of God. Who am I to counterfeit the glory of His perfection anyway? I don't have to impersonate the Victor. His victory is already mine by His grace! My sufficiency is not in my bones, my ears, my aptitude, or my grand plans, but in Christ Jesus alone. There’s my hallelujah roll!

Thanks, everyone! Please keep praying.

- Todd

Walk to Emmaus stampLast night I returned from a three day Walk to Emmaus, a spiritual renewal event that jump-started a new chapter of my life. Each new pilgrim on the Walk was asked two questions toward the end of the weekend: what he got out of the experience, and what he would then do about it.

For me the takeaway was summed up in one word: inclusion. Situated between two careers, no longer a part of the brotherhood of law-enforcement which had been my family for two and a half decades and not yet a part of the community of nurses to which I will soon belong, I often feel lost, stuck in the crevice between. The Emmaus community welcomed me with a warm embrace, and I look forward to being a part of that community and a more integral part of my church family.

The second question, which asked what I would do about my spiritual renewal, required something more of me. I made a commitment to abstain from fabricating excuses.

When I arrived home last night, the first thing I did was kiss my precious bride, but the second thing I did was throw away a video game that has become a foothold of sloth in my life. I have found myself in the past weeks manipulating my schedule to allow more time with that silly electronic mind magnet. It has done nothing for me but rob me of energy and time that I might otherwise have used developing myself and supporting others.

This morning, after a refreshing sleep, I returned to the gym after an absence of almost seven months. This absence began with a legitimate excuse, a lingering chest cold that did not permit my physical exertion and which also waylaid my running regimen. Abstaining from excuses meant I would be starting over today, and start over I did. My muscles responded as though they had never even seen a gym before. The stacks of weights were cut nearly in half from my last visit, and my repetitions were also dramatically reduced. Still, I gave myself grace rather than giving into excuses, and finished the workout. Afterwards, I ran the errands I needed to run, and found myself available to support and encourage friends at the hospital.

Nursing School acceptance and rejection letters are being received by some of my fellow applicants, but there has been nothing in my mailbox yet. I was encouraged myself, to learn that my application score is well above the cutoff limit, so I have nothing to fear, but I will still rest easier when the letter is in hand. My primary study partner was one who got disappointing news today, and I spent time adjusting to the loss of her partnership then reached out to encourage and affirm her as she seeks other options.

It would have been convenient to return home and relax, but a precious friend from church is leaving to resume her missionary work in Haiti and was being honored at a send-off party at our pastor's house. I was blessed to participate and to have the opportunity to bless and love on her as she prepared to embark on her mission.

Saying "no" to excuses today freed me up to say "I love you" to those who needed to hear it, including myself.

IMG_3317.JPGGod allows us to be prompted along His way for us in sometimes strange and alarming ways. After serving there for more than twelve years, Cindy was let go from her position at the school our children attended since it opened its doors. It was no one's fault. When the school board finds a replacement for the Head of School, his Assistant is bound to find herself awash with the wave of ministers brought by the new regime. Now we look forward to whatever lies ahead, faithfully choosing to view this as an opportunity to follow God's divine guidance to more fitting training ground. Meanwhile, with me on a pension and her without a salary, the words, "give us this day our daily bread" never meant so much. Still, I know His plans are to help us, not harm us, and His timing is always proper. If I've learned one thing it is that God signs His handiwork with astonishing timing and breathtaking occurrences of what the world might call "coincidence." I choose to see His hand at work, and I gratefully submit to His will.

Our household is busy with excitement. Long overdue repairs, arranged before news of Cindy's unemployment came, have just been completed; our daughter is facing some medical challenges and is in unsettling discomfort; and our son is facing big career decisions. These all add up to a turbulence that would rattle the rafters of any home. I am trying to keep my focus off the wind and the waves and onto the gaze of the beckoning Christ, to keep from sinking into doubt as, like Peter, I seem to have been called out of the boat. If it is true that only an advancing troop gains the attention of its adversary, then Satan must be fully alert to the Lemmons, as evidenced by the volley of firebrands in our proximity. He is no foolish opponent, but he is already defeated in Jesus' name, and it is that name by which I claim dominion over all that would stand against my home and family, and declare once again that all I am, have, and will become belongs to God. None can take, torment, nor tarnish this offering, because it is God who created us, God who crafts us into what we are becoming, and God who receives the living sacrifice of men as a glory to Himself. And God will not be robbed, least of all by an enemy who stands already defeated.

Romans 8:37-39 NIV
[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:1 NIV
[1] Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship.