Tag Archives: doubt

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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.

Copyright © 2015 HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

I confess I am much like the Israelites delivered from Egyptian slavery. A few days in the wilderness with Moses, and they seemed to forget the mountains of water between which they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, and instead began whining about where their next meal might come from. Here I am, a new graduate from nursing school, draped in honor cords, after repeatedly begging for deliverance from what seemed like countless narrow brushes with disastrous failure. My feet are dry and the fish are watching my onward march from the confines of their heaping habitat. No sooner have I heard the crashing of the waves behind me before I’ve turned my eyes to peer past the pillar of fire and smoke to what lies ahead.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced... (1 Chronicles 16:12, NIV)

How will I pass the nursing boards? Where will I work? Who will hire a middle-aged man when there are so many young kids graduating with me? Why did my first-choice hospital pass me over? Why haven’t I heard back from the other recruiters? How did s/he land a job ahead of me?

What is this manna? Did you lead us out here to die? When will we get some meat? Surely we were better off as Egypt’s slaves than being stuck in this wilderness!

“…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability…” (Deuteronomy 8:18a, NIV)

As it turns out, God is already doing new and wonderful things. Allow me to share a miraculous demonstration of His undeserved goodness:

I was invited to apply for a nursing job about which I was eager but mysteriously uneasy. It seemed perfectly tailored to me with elements of corrections, addiction, and youth all rolled into a low-stress environment which was even conducive to continuing education. It tempted me with its apparent answer to my ongoing question: “Why would God make a nurse out of a retired police officer?” The drawbacks were that it would not give me much clinical nursing experience and it seemed like a step back toward law enforcement rather than forward into nursing. I prayed with friends at church about it, that God would make the right decision obvious, and that a clear “Gideon’s fleece” would be if the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. The next day, I woke up horribly dizzy (a condition that passed in about 6 hours and was likely related to a recent sinus surgery). When I contacted my friend to postpone our meeting about the job, she informed me that there was no rush to meet because the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. Soaked fleece identified! The job is not for me. Out of respect for my friend and her invitation, I proceeded a few days later to meet at the rehabilitation facility where she affirmed in several ways that, while this was a good paying job and a wonderful ministry, it was not a place to build the experiential nursing skills I will need to be a productive missionary nurse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

The very next day, at precisely 3:06pm, my friend and pastor sent me a text inquiring about my health. I shared with him the details of my progress and the soaked fleece story. He responded prayerfully, “Ok God, send Todd the next test on your agenda.”

At 3:24, only eighteen minutes later, I received a call from a recruiter who represents my first-choice hospital, one I had been informed had passed me over. She informed me that, if I was still interested and not turned off by the prospect of night shift, she had a spot open for me. We scheduled an interview for later this week, and I am over the moon with excitement about the prospect. Other options continue to become available, and I am reminded that, whether I get the whole picture of the destination on the horizon or am blinded by the blazing cloud in front of me, the One in the pillar is directing my steps and I have nothing to fear.

I do believe, Lord Jesus! Help me overcome my unbelief. *

"And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.”  - Florence Nightingale

“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. …How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.” Judges 2:10, 17b NLT

I am ashamed to confess that my faith is like multiple generations of the Israelites who, even after deliverance from Egyptian slavery, began to doubt that God would do the next good thing. Just like those who walked across the Red Sea on dry land, I have come out of a bondage and through terrors all my own, only to stand in my current wilderness wondering what's next. I have no doubt that He can do a new, good thing or that He is sovereign over my every circumstance and condition, but I still find myself doubting that I would be the recipient of any more of His wonders. I know it is the religious prejudice in me that judges myself as unworthy of God's delight, but it is a profoundly deafening voice. I need to constantly recall that, through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"

The storm of nursing school has swirled to a single funneling cloud and it looms over this week, slurping up hope and spitting out turbulence that obscures my vision of deliverance. I remember Peter, who began to sink when he "saw the wind and waves" (Matthew 14:30), and I'm trying to keep my eyes on the Savior rather than my carnal condition, but the stinging surf laps at my ankles and the blistering winds blast my face. 

Plotting a course through my obstacles feels like naming the winds and waves I see, but trusting God to get me past them requires I let go of my illusion of control and perfection concerning them. It also counts as prayer requests when I meter and chart them for you my prayer supporter. So know that this week is a torrential beast. On Tuesday I see a dermatologist to have several precancerous (actinic keratosis) lesions removed from my face. On Wednesday I take our unit exam. Then Thursday I will sit for the standardized nursing school exit (Hesi) exam, which determines whether I graduate and am eligible to sit for the national licensure (NCLEX) exam in about four weeks. Following that, we have our final exam next Wednesday, and the celebratory proceedings including the nurses' pinning ceremony on May 8th and college commencement on the 11th. 

...through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"

I am surrounded by classmates, some of whom face this week without the advantage of knowing a Savior who has their future in His hands, some who do, and others like me who do but have a hard time keeping Him in view amid the thick, dark, cloudy demands of nursing school. I pray for them faithfully, even when I am too overwhelmed to pray for myself. I do so hope to encourage and inspire them rather than capsize anyone's already unsteady vessel!

This spiritual swamping is why I need friends like you on stable footing to throw out lifelines and prayer from dry land. I covet your intercession and thank you for your support. God bless you as you read, as you pray, and as you go into your own mission field of life, spilling out grace that overflows.

God has been correcting my attitude of trepidation that keeps His joy from being complete in me and limits my effect on others while I trudge through Nursing School. Since the last of four terms in the Associate Degree program starts tomorrow, it is a good time to address this.

I have addressed many in crisis, often in the wake of trauma, and one of the pearls I share in such times is that trauma, whether physical or emotional, causes the human body and mind to focus on self as a preservation mechanism. We need to expect it, address it, let it do its job of preserving our lives, then overcome it so interpersonal relationships aren’t overwhelmed and capsized by the experience. An example of this is the warrior shot in battle who loses peripheral sensation, manual dexterity, complex reasoning, and many other functions as the body focuses all its resources on the wound and survival from it. An emotional example is the grief shared by a family when a central member is lost. While each party recoils from the bereavement, their interpersonal sensitivity and capacity for consideration is shunted in a preserving mechanism of self-interest. Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds. Any who attempt to settle a relative’s estate while empathy is in such an impaired condition soon witness the self-serving effects of this biophysical reaction as an attitude of “every man for himself” prevails in such proceedings, often destroying family relationships.

Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds.

I am discovering it is similar for those in the tumultuous realm of Nursing School, where fear of failure makes every experience one of perceived trauma. It is something like teetering on a high balance beam when you’ve stumbled once already. Every muscle quakes with the trembling awareness that another slip may send you crashing. Every communique from the faculty seems to impale a student’s spirit with the same advice: “Try not to worry, but if you screw this up you’re out!” It is about as helpful as the dubious advice, “Don’t look down!” to one scraping for their lives on a rock face. I’m tired of looking down and worrying about what happens if the unknown ahead of me is unfavorable. The immutable truth is that God will still be on His throne, and I will still be His no matter what happens. So what is there to worry about? Nothing! (Someone please remind me this in twenty minutes.) God is fashioning me into a nurse. It is not an overnight process. He might be done in four terms and He might take longer. Either way, I will be answering His call to “become a nurse” so I’m fulfilling my part. The rest is to be diligent and live out my calling as a missionary while I’m at it, rather than waiting for some far off day when I am somehow magically transfigured into something I haven’t been.

To grow into tomorrow’s version of me, I have to be today’s best version. That may mean letting go of a lot of yesterdays worth of dysfunctional living, but it most certainly means letting God do the whittling and plastering instead of insisting that I get to be art, artist, and architect. His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts, and neither is His timing mine. That’s the tough part of servanthood: doing what the Master says instead of what I want; letting the results be His design and not mine; allowing Him to fret over the details instead of me. I don’t have a dog in this hunt; I am the dog in this hunt!

One of the ways I plan to accomplish this revolution of attitude is a new way of thinking. When I start my morning reading Scripture and praying, it is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance (especially when reading Old Testament Scripture). God is showing me that I have no business remaining on the floor of repentance once it has done its work. He longs to lift me into His lap if I will but stand in His grace and allow Him access to lift me. Still, we worms have great difficulty standing with no feet to stand on. That is why I plan to limit my morbid reflection to that which is necessary to lead me to Holy Papa’s throne of repentance then, without delay, move into a receptive attitude to receive His grace, declare my royal priesthood, and don His heavenly character with the authority and confidence of one purchased at high price.

It is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance...

This morning, I invited my bride to join me in such a celebration as we took the Lord’s Supper together. The sacraments do have significant power to change spirit, emotion, and attitude! Even as the elements were blessed, those words of affirmation began to have effect.
Furthermore, I was reminded that, since we will be called to account for every idle word, I need to be more careful of the words I say, the thoughts I think, and the postures I assume. Each has a bearing on my faith, and I refuse to be hung by the tongue.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

  • I am a child of God, dearly loved, highly prized, and purchased at great price; a warrior, prince, and priest by Jesus’ declaration and Holy Spirit power.
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can say to that mountain, “Be moved,” and watch it march into the sea.
  • I have the dominion of Adam, the blood of Jesus Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the favor of Holy Father who supplies my every need.
  • I will seek God’s will for me and follow it with all I am, have, and do. I will cease to give evil a foothold in my life by doubting, worrying, or fearing those things over which I know God is already sovereign.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

What about you?