Tag Archives: Nursing

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord! Wave after wave buffeted the hull of Noah’s ark, yet all mankind still descends from his sons. Joseph, though tormented in dungeons, still brought to bear his ministry of deliverance for Israel. Persecuted and scattered, Christ’s own disciples wondered if they’d come so far for nothing, yet they sit as fathers of the Church. “In his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV 1984). Special waypoints confirm themselves, but the steps in between call for faith in the One who set the stars.

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord!

In July, I reported a miracle of God’s providence when He landed me an unimaginable job ("Nurse Todd takes a Job"). The Lord planted me in an intensive care unit when I had never dreamed of asking for such a distinction. Since then, I have toiled, wrestled, grieved, and strived, only to find myself involuntarily moved to another assignment less demanding. I grieve the loss of the work family I developed in the ICU, and the blow to my pride since I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.” I would be remiss, however, to think that such was never His will. Any one of the patients I’ve served, the families I’ve comforted, the coworkers I’ve encouraged, the complex health issues I’ve studied, the severe situations I’ve experienced, or even this recent lesson in humility I’ve been dealt could be reason enough for me to have been brought through this season.

I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.”

I well remember that a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary. That very notion has helped me to make a decision about where to plant my next footfall. Given the option of a sparklingly attractive job in predictable, routine orthopedics or a more clinically demanding medical-surgical unit, I have opted for the latter and have already joined the ranks of my new work family. They seem to be happy to receive me and, only two days in, I’ve already had an opportunity to make an impact on patients and coworkers alike.

a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary

I am learning that the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude. I am grateful for the knowledge that God is sovereign over my circumstances and has a plan for me. I am grateful that my end destination is not God’s only plan, but that every stepping stone en route is no less carefully designed and appointed. I am grateful for relationships built, experiences had, and ministry opportunities capitalized. Today, I honestly thanked God for the lesson in humility represented by my reassignment. I don’t need to know what lies ahead to trust the Navigator.

the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude

Whether you are experiencing turmoil in your life or not, I hope you will remember that the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses, and He will plant your every step if you surrender your course to His will. That said, I cannot overstate the value of faithful encouragement. The words of my friends through this have really propped me up when I needed it. My hope is that every child of Christ has a family of encouragement to prop them up. The entire purpose of the Church is to glorify God by caring for one another in the manner Christ taught us.

the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses

Where the Lord guides the Lord provides. The battles to which He brings us are His to win, while the orders of a spiritual warrior are to “pray without ceasing,” “be still and know,” and “after all, to stand.” When those battles have to do with health, we are further instructed:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14, NIV)

It is in response to these orders that I write this update, which may err on the side of overshare since my recent prayer concerns are of a physical nature. You may remember I alluded to some of this in September's post.

For the last couple years I have endured minor pain and stiffness in my back, but dismissed it as merely part of nearing fifty. It turns out that aging is not supposed to hurt and pain really is an alarm for something amiss. After many sessions with my doctors and an MRI machine, it has been revealed that I have a lower spine issue that requires intervention. I have had two lumbar epidural steroid injections and have been going to physical therapy in hopes that surgical spinal fusion can be avoided. At the same time, another pain symptom in my groin, which green-flagged my start to the doctor after all this ignored pain, has proven to be an inguinal hernia, for which I have been referred to a surgeon. Each of these issues has brought warnings not to lift heavy objects, difficult orders to obey when one is a new nurse on an intensive care unit.

A good military commander will not attack merely one front, but will overwhelm an enemy with flanking maneuvers from all sides possible, and Satan is a crafty destroyer. So it is with my family recently. My physical concerns come at a time when I am also under the pressure of an extended orientation at work. Having failed to achieve satisfactory progress in critical decision-making necessary to remain in the ICU, I risk being reassigned to another new unit where I may have to learn everything anew. On other fronts, someone very dear to me faces the news of a cancer diagnosis, my parents are addressing their own health problems, and so on and etcetera.

I am reminded that the Lord has crafted His handiwork, and the maintenance of our bodies is a shared stewardship. While I should care for His temple with the diligence of one loaned an antique car, I also have to remember that He is the Chief Mechanic and Great Physician. We are called to pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, because the will of God is not the rule on this dirt world. God gave authority over this world to Adam, and man has been running the way of sin, decay, and death ever since. The Son of God and Son of Adam, Yeshua (Jesus), was born to combine the power of Heaven with the authority of Earth, and we as heirs were given permission to wield that powerful authority with prayer. It is precisely this miraculous combination that we celebrate at Christmas and, as Christians, every day in prayer. Thank you for fortifying my position with your prayers. My hope is for full remission after my loved one's treatments are complete, that I may be spared spinal surgery, and that a hernia repair will not interfere with my new job.

I am an ICU nurse by the will and design of God - the Lord of Heaven’s armies, and He will resource my development. For where the Lord guides, He provides!

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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.

Matthew 20:27-28, NRSV:

and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

foot washingJesus’ instruction was that we should consider others’ needs ahead of our own, to be servant (or slave) of our fellows. Have we given enough of ourselves? Certainly we have not given our very lives! Christ, the God-man, demonstrated the extent of His commission: “Lay it all down like this,” as He again attempts to convey to His followers that His death was imminent.

There are certain things about my new calling toward becoming a missionary nurse that I find unsavory, and I can’t help but think about some of them when I read this verse. How disgusting and humiliating a task is before you? Is it worse than leaving the throne of Heaven to come to a stable hay feeder, to touch lepers, embrace sinners, be grabbed by the “unclean” bleeders, be betrayed by friends, abused by guards, miscarried by a faulty justice, beaten with a cat-o-nine-tails, nailed to a log, and suspended till you could breathe no more? Nope! I think, given the example of the Model before me, I might be able to put up with a little more discomfort on behalf of those precious lives Jesus endured all that to save.

Dear Father, today, I lay down my life for Your purposes. Help me remember not to snatch it up again when Your purposes reveal themselves as unsavory circumstances or people. Save me from selfishness!

PrepareThe great heroes of the Bible endured long waits, disappointment, discouragement, and real strife, yet were commended for their faith.  Noah likely spent seventy-five years building the ark amid many who scoffed at him on the high and dry hill.  Jacob toiled seven extra years, a total of fourteen, for the bride he loved.  Even the leprous army commander Naaman, who at first went away angry, expecting Elisha to instantly cure him with a wave of his hand, obediently baptized himself in the Jordan River seven times before he became clean.  So who do I think I am that I should instantly be equipped for my ministry, though God has not even revealed to me exactly what it will be?  Why do I feel disappointed when those who might support me chuckle when they hear that graduation is nearly four years in the future?

Mine are trivial discouragements compared to what lies ahead.  They stretch me just enough to make it to and through the next one.  God is doing in me what I could never ask or imagine, and He is preparing me for something I cannot even fathom.  Every day my heart grows closer to that which lies ahead than that which I leave behind.  My grip on the material things around me is loosening, and the reality that we will likely remain stateside only a few more years is firming in the minds of my wife and me.  In our hearts, we are already in Uganda loving children not our own and serving brothers and sisters who today remain strangers.  In our minds, the Lord has made our calling clear, but in the minds of those around us, we are as lunatics forecasting rain on a high and dry hill where rain has never fallen.

We are looking forward to our visit in April, partly to make new friends, visit mission clinics and orphan ministries, and perhaps view a sample of the work before us – a spying out of Canaan so to speak.  A mostly selfish part of me also longs to put an end to the ridicule that comes after the inquiry, “Have you been there before?”  What always comes next is, “How do you know you will want to live there?”  The answer is simply: God didn’t ask me what I wanted.  I asked Him what He wanted.

“Want to” is something I am learning to submit to God, and what I find is that God changes my “want to” to conform to His will if I let Him.  Since He has called Cindy and me to prepare for missionary work in Uganda, God has fashioned my desire after His calling.  He has made me want Uganda.  My heart aches for Uganda’s children every day, and I’ve never met one of them.  Not only me, but He has imbued Cindy with the same passion.  Why Uganda?  I don’t know why, but I know!   Why wait?  Why a degree in nursing?  I don’t know why, but I know I am to become a nurse.   I am just doing what I am given to do.  “Want to” would not have had me in Uganda.  “Want to” would not have had me ministering to others in the first place.  “Want to” would not have me investigating the northern territories of Uganda, where war and violence are still fresh and where the Karamajong still fight over cattle and sometimes offer human sacrifices to appease an idol god.  “Will do” overcomes “want to” and God, who directs the hearts of kings like a watercourse (Proverbs 21:1), can move my “want to” according to His will.

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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.

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Uganda mapAs my first career draws to a close and I begin preparing for what comes next, God has drawn me to go to nursing school to become a missionary nurse, and has tugged the hearts of both me and my wife, Cindy, in the direction of Uganda, where war and AIDS has left a vast population of orphans who need His loving care.

One night a few months ago, I caught myself giving advice to a teenager who had made extensive career plans but had never bothered to meet with someone serving in her selected occupation, or to visit the work-site of such a professional. As I heard myself criticize her for not exposing herself to the work and workers in her chosen field, I heard God say the same thing to me.  I immediately recognized I needed to go to Uganda, to visit the orphanages and mission hospitals, and meet the people whose needs I will someday serve as well as some of the people who are already serving there.

Since my retirement date is set for March 14, 2014, Cindy and I are planning to fly into Entebbe, Uganda in April and make certain stops, visiting orphan ministries and mission clinics where we can before returning home to build on that vision, and take the necessary steps to make this mission a reality.

I have already resumed my college classes to finish the prerequisites necessary to enroll in nursing school. I have long way to go, but it has to start with a vision. My hope is that this trip will fuel me with the passion it will take to drive me through the obstacles that lie ahead.

Thank you for stopping by. I would appreciate your prayers.

- Todd