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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.

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.

DoNot Lose HeartTherefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1, NRSV)

I found this in the New Testament in a year reading our local congregation was challenged to follow this year, and needed to publicly confess it, highlight it, bookmark it, and remember it.

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Some people are cast right into ministry, while others are called to make arduous preparations for it. Jonah got spit onto the beach of Nineveh, but Noah was called to labor on his ark about seventy-five years before there was ever a drop of rain in the sky.

I was feeling pitiful, wondering why God could not just use me like I am rather than calling me to nursing school, but I considered Noah. It had never rained before, but he stacked gopherwood. The earth was high and dry, but he cut timber and boiled pitch. Noah was faithful to his calling, even though it was years before God would call him to climb aboard and batten the hatch.

As I considered the years of schooling I have yet to complete before receiving my nursing degree and the preparations to be made for whatever God has planned for me, I thought I would read the account of Noah, hoping for some encouragement.

This is what I found:

Genesis 5:28-29 NIV
[28] When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. [29] He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed. "

His father named him Noah, to be a comfort for those of us who toil. Thank God for the story of Noah! and for the fulfillment of his type in the person and life of Jesus Christ, who seals us with His Spirit to withstand the tumultuous elements of this Earth for a promise on the other side of the storm!

Dear Father, today, make me diligent to the tasks at hand, keeping my focus on You, with my life in Your hands not mine. May the goal be before me, but my attention be always on following Your direction for my next step. Forgive my impatience, Lord, and cleanse me of it. Thank You for motivation, and for the promise of working according to Your purpose. In gratitude, I offer You this small gift: me.