Monday, December 15, 2014

Life in a box of chocolates

A little story about how practically and impractically God provides for me. This is from the last few minutes of my life.

I’ve been helping to care for my Grandma in the hospital since she just had a big surgery.  That isn’t really what the story is about, its just background. Well, my Grandma is a simple lady – easy to please, difficult to anger, a pleasure to care for. She doesn’t require much. But over the past many years, we’ve come to a little “tradition” of me getting her Godiva chocolate for special occasions. The tradition goes that I buy some at a discount store (I don’t tell her that part, because part of the fun is that it seems like expensive, fancy chocolate), and then she takes it from my hand saying things like “you’re trying to make me as big as a cow” and acting like I shouldn’t have gotten it. And then she keeps it on the counter at her house and rations it out one piece every day or two, until its gone.

Well, I’ve been planning to go get her those chocolates each day that she’s been in the hospital. And each day I’ve been too tired, or too busy. So, when I come back to the hospital, it’s been empty-handed with regard to my planned gift. Plus, though I’ve determined to do it because it is something special, I’ve thought many times about how I shouldn’t really buy things that aren’t necessary. I’m not completely broke, but it’s the principle that if there’s no income, there shouldn’t be any purchases apart from necessity. But a few minutes ago I just thought to myself that I needed to be sure to take care of getting it done today, especially cause Grandma’s appetite is starting to come back.

So, I just stopped by the house to find a package addressed to me. No joke, “Godiva Chocolate” is printed on the outside, and inside is a box of chocolates with a gold bow tied around. I smiled as I picked it up, seeing my name on the front. Immediately, I told Him thank you for His provision. I mean, I could tell you a thousand times when “coincidence” provided exactly what I needed. Time, and paper, would limit me if I started to name the ridiculous things - ranging from the right color socks to thousands of dollars- that have appeared at exactly the right time. I’m no fool, that’s no coincidence. By no means do I mean that God is some genie who grants my foolish wishes when I rub the side of my Bible in just the right way. Nope, He isn’t like that. And His gifts aren’t like that either. They are usually more like this.  Unexpected, undeserved, and just right.  Now sometimes He seems like He hasn’t heard, or hasn’t seen, or once in a while, like He doesn’t even care. But I’ve learned to trust that He always does, regardless of whether it is really clear to me. But sometimes, He really does do this kind of practical provision. And I love it cause maybe it is something tangible that someone else could actually see and understand.

And then I’m reminded of the impractical. One story always leads to another it seems. Like even Christmas. That was a totally impractical, destined to fail kind of plan. I wouldn’t have wrapped up God in flesh. And I sure can’t understand why the hope of the world was stuck in a little podunk town with average parents. Nor do I really grasp the life He lived and how His righteousness gets to cover my unrighteousness.  And then there’s the cross, and blood, and death, and resurrection – none of those sound reasonable regarding options for saving the world. Sounds kind of impractical for a God who just spoke and the world came into being. Why such an elaborate plan? Why didn’t He just speak again? But as I read the story I am reminded of how lavish this impractical love was. That Somebody chose to give their son to save me. I can’t understand that. I’d like to think that I’d give my life for lots of different people. But not my kids (the theoretical ones, how much less willing if they were actually real onesJ ). And not for a kind of wobbly plan. Or messed up, selfish people.

I think about the crazy extremes of His love. Wishing I could see Him smile as I opened up that box on the porch, understanding His care and provision through chocolate that will bring joy only for a moment. And then a minute later considering the kind of love that bought my life, at a much greater cost than it was even worth.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Small things and great things

The cell phone sings out its tone, indicating a message has been left. Fingers quickly go to pushing the numbers and letters on the screen, communication activated. Minutes pass and no one realizes that all around the dinner table the scene from each seat is the same. A small screen held between two hands, a slight glow of blue light reflecting up to each face. After a little more lingering with occasional pauses to slip the fork again into the mouth, deeply engaged in private conversation, dinner is finished and the people turn their separate ways and return to their respective individual lives. Though, in fact, they never left their own insulated worlds to engage with anyone else, not even to break bread and give thanks.

Christmas shopping done with no lines, only a few clicks, and a charge through some unseen, yet not imagined network. No reason to brave the cold, plan with friends. I mean, the only friends one really needs can be found on Facebook. There one can live a life imagined. Whoever they desire to be can be the presentation they give. Wild and free, perpetually beautiful in 1000 “duckface” selfies, happy family, happy pets, mom of pets, mom of six, healthy, sexy, with someone who is sexy. In fact, why would one even need flesh and bone friends. Fewer “off screen” friends just limit the amount of shopping that must be done. And, anyways, they distract from the games on the computer. So little time. So many computer games. Interacting with society just limits the ability to fully connect with your Mac or PC.

And it is all so quick. So many things done with just a click. What did we ever do before we had devices like this. Cords. We did corded telephones. Cords were so binding. And before that it was the dark ages, and I wasn’t alive, so I don’t know what those poor souls did.

What is really amazing is how we get so much done, but still don’t have enough time. So many friends, but few real friends. So efficient, and yet still not completing life as we had hoped. How does that work? We don’t even have to wait for a pause for a breath between words like we did in the old days, we just read the rapid fire texts to keep up with friends. But there is something lost when you laugh alone at a friend’s post online, and can’t laugh together. There is something that feeds a friendship about a good snort, breathing warm life into the both of you. And you miss them when you close the door to part ways. All that is lost when all your friends are online, make believe friends. You never really miss them. They sometimes catch your thoughts, but rarely really steal your heart.

And then there are the families, texting one from upstairs to the one a level down. The kids see the list of things to do, but they don’t feel the love of the parent. There is communication, but it is unintentional – squished in between sports games, trips to the refrigerator, and a quick rush of gifts on Christmas morning. Not enough time or energy for discipline, at least not the consistent kind. But kids are resilient, they’ll probably grow up fine, right?

And the worst is that we think that because all of the rest of life is a fast food, right now mentality in which the only relationships which are often maintained are superficial, we believe that God will find that acceptable too. So, we say a quick prayer here and there, mostly in a genie like manner when we need a parking place, or when our team is down a few points. And then expect that such, combined with fulfilling the obligation of church (when we have time enough to fit it in) entitles us to good graces with the Father. We make God small, because we have only a few crevices left in life in which to fit Him into. And then we know Him shallowly, call on him superficially during times of need, and expect Him then to be a God who makes all our dreams come true. We have confused the short lived pleasures of visiting Disney, with the everlasting delight of living relationally connected with the Father.

But He has a bigger, more costly, more fulfilling agenda than we usually like to acknowledge. And He invites the weary, broken, tired, and scarred into it. He offers rest, but not a 10 minute cat nap. Rather a soul at rest in both hurricane force winds and sunny, pleasant days. He welcomes into relationship. But there is nothing superficial in this offer. It is a bit unfair, I will admit, for He enters the relationship with complete knowledge of our deepest parts and we begin with only glimpses of His character. Most interestingly, as we grow closer, we only see more and more how big He is, and though we know Him better and better, He only feels bigger and bigger, and we always smaller.  Though we try to hide our faults and failures, He knows them all. He is not interested in mere trivialities found in acquaintance-ship. He is always a strange mix of bruising and healing, ease and tension, work and rest, play and seriousness, comfort and a sandpaper rub. But never is He coldness, never careless, never unloving. And with Him, we are always part ourselves - plain, ordinary, sometimes dirty and much less than we would wish -  and part the best of who we could ever hope to be. In fact, He wants the best for us, and the best from us. He is strange that way, always wanting to better us, sharpen us, strengthen us. Indeed, one of His dear qualities is that He is not one to leave well enough alone. No, if He welcomes us, it will change us. Delightful, yet painful is His love. But I suppose all real love is. His relationship will test and try, as He has done from the very beginning. Not a kind of twisting such as a desire to break into pieces, but more of a process of refining, like obtaining pure metal by putting it through the terrible heat of fire.

I want to be better. To be known. To be accepted. To be made right. And yet, all this takes time, and process. It is not something rapid. But it is something that, in its finality, shapes well. It is enduring. The problem, though, is that He only offers it as a long walk, through all of life. Not only when we are aware of our need, but at all times. No, it doesn’t really work to order Him around as if in the drive thru on the way to work. In fact, He never has seemed the sort to take orders at all. But He has said that He hears the humble, and that if a man draws near, seeking beyond all else to know Him, then indeed he is welcome into relationship. He offers that man may engage Him in conversation. And yet, it isn’t the kind of conversation that we often desire. Answers are not immediate, nor always are they clear. Sometimes he answers with a story, or parable. And often we only see that He answered as we look back behind us. It seems once in a while that He wasn’t paying attention at all while we were talking to Him – but of course I guess He could say that sometimes it doesn’t appear that we were paying any attention to Him while He was talking to us either. And in truth, the latter has been indeed true many a time, though the aforementioned never once has been. And besides the guidance that we’ve specifically asked for, He has given us page after page of lessons, counsel, warnings, promises, direction, and command. But, turning page after page to see what His thoughts are takes…time.

So, too many of us don’t want what He offers, at least not on His terms. But, alas, the only way that relationship comes is on the eternally assigned conditions, set up by Him.  It isn’t a quick fix. No, that it isn’t. Not duct tape on the pipe. It is a real fix. In the long haul, it requires effort, and diligence, and persistence. But really all of relationship with Him is founded on faith. Believing the unseen. It can be so hard to believe what is not seen, so many desire no part of that. Unless they are out in the cold snow, heavily bundled in coat, hat, and gloves. Then, it is all too desirous to see the exhaled air lifted from their nose and mouth in a funny little white puff. Something unseen, yet quite obviously going in and out with every deep breath. But now away from silly things and back to the matter at hand. Faith. It is too much for so many.

And then there is time. It takes too much time to really seek Him. Many a night I would rather fall asleep under the covers than truly take the time to talk with Him seriously. And after a few weeks of relatively little deep conversation, I have wondered, “why does it feel a bit distant here recently?” And then I remember, that I pushed Him away a little as I put the phone on the bedside table (to be sure I was available if any important text came through) and pulled the covers up. At first He didn’t mind much cause He knew that I was oh so tired. But honestly many of those nights I was just too lazy. Too lazy to talk, too lazy to listen. He saw that I seemed to want some space, so He gave it to me. That is how we are, not willing to invest time. Pulled away by small connections, small warmth and small hopes of just a little rest. When He is offering us better connections, better warmth, and complete rest.

There are many things in life are so useful, and can be so distracting. In their own realms, it is difficult enough to maintain boundaries to keep the important things important. Family, and friends, and loves should be pursued, for they are worth it. How much more is our relationship with God worth? Whatever it is that holds us back from full devotion and pursuit are just small things through the view of an eternal lens. How greatly He has loved us. Endless writing couldn’t contain even the love shown in the life of Christ. And then, far less, yet still infinite are His provision, care, and love shown a thousand times over each day that we live. He is worthy of continually being our first affection, first desire, and first priority.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I could barely control my excitement as I sat on the plane. Realization of longings to be near those I love, to feel the fulfillment that they bring – it was so close. The thousands of miles I traveled over the days comprising the journey was made shorter and more delightful by the anticipation of joys to come.

My family awaited me at the airport. The familiar burden of the clinging weight of my nieces and nephews hanging off of me almost immediately returned me to a feeling of normalcy. I felt my heart beating with an old, deeply soothing rhythm of pleasure and wondered at the sudden return of its song. Perhaps its pulse had missed beats here and there since I had been gone, and I hadn’t really noticed until the sudden restoration. Whatever it was, it was good, and right, and pleasant.

Conversations were again simple. “Will you be here until Christmas?” “Can you hold me?” “Did you see any lizards?” “How big were the lizards?” The important things were just small things. And I was glad for the feather-light weight of them.

They have, however, begun to have a significant interest in finding me a husband. Even in the airport my oldest niece was picking out men, suggesting which ones looked like nice ones. She has apparently determinedly been searching on my behalf. There have been some issues though, as she doesn’t consider age or marital status in her assessment. My nephew is the only one with significant insight and clarity on the issue. He says that he hopes that I only meet grumpy, old men, since that way I can just live with their family forever (or at least until he’s 20, he says).

The pleasures have been deep. Deep enough to swim in. And they have been shallow. Shallow enough to miss if not attuned. I’ve sat around the dinner table, passing bowls of home cooked food to the hands of those who share branches in my family tree. I’ve picked handfuls of blueberries off of the bushes out back of the house, remembering when we planted those little sprigs that now are high above me. I’ve tasted the freedom that comes from being able to get in the car and drive (something that I have greatly missed), to feel the wind blowing in the windows as I sing Motown off-key at the top of my lungs. I’ve had four children’s bodies strewn all over my bed, clinging to my words as I read them the stories of Narnia. I’ve seen glimmers in the eyes of old friends. I’ve given long awaited, strong hugs, filled with gratitude and love, to those who have prayed with me and for me.

What comes next, I do not know. But I am thankful for this season now of simplicity and restoration. Of seeing small things as great things. And enjoying Him through winding foothills of life in Travelers Rest. Like a promise, it resonates with me. Rest for the weary traveler. Rest in Him. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Barrenness of Seventeen

This all started over a month ago. She was pregnant at seventeen. Scared and unprepared, she looked for a way out. Traditional medicines were taken for a month trying to provoke an abortion. Finally, she had gone to another facility and gotten a D&C procedure to scrape out the little life. And for reasons unknown to me, a second D&C was done the next day. Unfortunately the results of those procedures included complications all too common in the developing world.

All of that happened before she came to me. She moaned and then gasped as I touched her abdomen. It wasn’t just tender along the uterus, it was tender everywhere. I knew that the prior procedure had likely caused a hole in the uterus. And I knew that there was likely infection taking hold inside. I counseled her that there was a true possibility that I could even have to take out her uterus, leaving her barren. But she was in such pain, she just nodded. I counseled the family as well.

During the operation I sent word out to the father and mother that indeed, the majority of the uterus was rotten. It had to be removed. They understood. “Clamp”, “tie”, “suture”, “cut”, again and again until the malodorous, dead organ was out. I closed her up and continued antibiotics.

The next day I sat on the edge of the bed and counseled her again. She nodded, eyes glazed over, barely listening. I told her that we would talk more specifically when she came to see me in the clinic. I counseled the family again. Each day she made progress, and finally I sent her home with follow up a few days later.

She was doing amazingly well on her return. Too well. There was no somber spirit, no sense of sadness. I needed to counsel her again. She was either in denial, or she hadn’t listened at all.

This time she started to weep. Her head bowed low. Her tears ran down her cheeks. Everything changed in that instant. She finally understood. She hadn’t before, and though her family had known, they didn’t tell her. The fact that she otherwise would have died was no consolation. Her life changed in those fleeting moments as she sat in that straight backed wooden chair. The carefree youthfulness of her seventeen years became shackled by the adult understanding of a barren life. She realized then that huge parts of her adulthood and womanhood, had been taken away. Her moans were heard in the adjacent rooms as she heaved, rocking forward and back.

Finally her breathing slowed toward normal and her tears dropped to only one by one rather than the prior river’s flow. I told her that her pain was real, and there was loss, but that her value had not changed. A conversation too often repeated with patients struggling with infertility of all types, women stuck in a culture that says they no longer have any value. It didn’t make it all okay. It didn’t make her leave with a smile. It didn’t take the pain away. She was overwhelmed by the thoughts of what her life would and would not be. New fears and insecurities were already taking hold. The depths of her tear-filled eyes laid her soul bare before me.

Mistakes made, consequences realized, naivety lost – all of it too real. Bitter truths. “Valuable, God says that you have worth and value, and none of that has changed”, it was the one truth that had the ability to resonate deep in the darkness of her soul. It is the one truth that can carry her now and through a lifetime. 

A little Bible study for a Sunday post

Amos. One may ask, why in the world read in the obscure book of Amos??? But I love to read the old words, see the way God has worked from times past. No one can pin Him down as to what He will do next, or presume that because once He acted in such a way, He always must. For He is God, infinitely greater in imagination, wisdom, and knowledge. But sometimes I like to see the things He does over and over, the themes that always seem to return. Through those age old texts, He still guides and instructs.

Amos was just a normal shepherd. He had no social standing, or religious authority. He was just a simple guy, doing a simple job, living a simple life. Until God gave him words to say, elevating normal flesh to the mouth of God. His prophecies were hard for the nations surrounding Israel, they had been evil, and judgment was coming. And come it eventually would. But more interesting, and pertinent to the church today, seem to be his words toward Israel.

Specifically he addressed neglect of the poor, direct abuse of the poor, and the pursuit of injustice. The Israel that he addressed was then a wealthy, place, full of people reclining at ease. Satisfied in their religious practice, they sought God only partially, and with an impure heart. He was not their everything, but had become small to them. Amos reminded them of His greatness “He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, who also darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is His name…” The simpleness and greatness of morning and evening, the steady stars, the seasonal rains – all made and changed by Him. But they had forgotten. Their lips spoke of Him, but life showed that their hearts were far from Him. “You impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them…For I know that your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate…”

Their perceived themselves as dressed in robes, but really they were dressed in rags. They self-righteously envisioned how good they would look when they would one day stand before the Lord, as if He should be so glad to have the honor of meeting them. But harsh words awaited them. “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” He goes on to say that he has come to despise and reject their sacrifices and offerings, for their hearts are wicked when they offer such things to Him. Instead, He desires that “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. Real faith wasn’t going to live turning a blind eye. He didn’t want vain words, or monotonous service, He wanted hearts devoted, lives changed.

The people were like mahogany veneer, overlying pressed board. External service looked good, but beneath was cheap, self-centered religion. I wonder how much of religion today fits that same analogy. Filling the visible roles necessary to find acceptance within the church, and yet really being all about our own wants, desires, and pleasures. We cast away thoughts of the poor, walk a shady line of righteousness that appears acceptable, and turn a blind eye to injustice. Faith is spoken of, but lives never show the change that real faith inevitably brings. We say that we care about what God cares about, but our lives are quite revealing otherwise. What a sad delusion to say to ourselves, “Oh, we long for the day of the Lord…” only to realize that justice on that day will surprisingly be unfavorable to many.

The book of Amos goes on to tell that even though justice would come and would be painful, God was eventually going to purify and draw people closer to Him. Restoration and redemption would be accomplished, and would be amazing. It is a common theme through the scriptures. The world is messed up, it will feel the repercussions of the paths chosen, but there is yet a plan for something better to come. God will not stop pursuing His children, even through the brokenness they have created.

Another theme found here, and recurring through so many other parts of scripture, is how God over and over again directly correlates the honest and transparency of our relationship with Him to the way that we care for those in need among us. If our eyes are blind to the orphans, widows, poor, suffering, etc, it could be that we are really blind to the desires of God. Just as later when asked, what are the greatest commandments, Christ would answer “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” This even includes the prophet Amos, speaking so long before Christ about the truths of loving those around us. For Gods people, to be made right with God would mean also to be made right with others. To just turn away from the needs of people around us is an indicator that our hearts have probably not been truly inclined toward God.

It is incredible to me to know more of the story. How often the themes repeat, the same story and lessons at different times in history. Things veiled and seen only dimly by the prophets of old, now made much clearer by Christ. Redemption has been completed. And yet the gracious character of God is still made known again and again, even as His people fail time after time. As the church, may we have eyes to look on the accounts of old and have a clearer view of the God we serve. I hope that we can learn the hard lessons through the lives of others, have our eyes opened through their stories. Too sad it is to waste the years, only to look back and realize that our affections were wrongly placed, our energies thrown into foolish pursuits, our lives poured out for things that don’t matter. May our hearts be always inclined toward Him. And as we serve Him, may others see the greatness of His love and compassion, even in the midst of a broken world.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fighting for health, and knowing God's hand in the midst of it all

I knew that something wasn’t right when I heard her story. She had been taking malaria treatment at home, and the sickness should have been better. The treatment she had gotten was almost always effective. But still, she was sick. We put her in the hospital and put her on IV medicines to make sure that she received all that she needed.

But she got worse. She started vomiting, and contractions started. Labs were drawn as she was prepared for a repeat C-section. Her twins were delivered safely. But her labs came back, showing that something was terribly wrong. But what it was didn’t seem to fit in any typical specific diagnosis. She was destroying her own blood cells, and her kidneys and liver weren’t working well. This type of pregnancy-induced disease can always be dangerous, but her type was worse than normal because it was much different and more complicated. I drew more labs to rule out rare disorders, hoping to find a medical diagnosis that she could fully fit.

The day after surgery, she started having trouble breathing. People like her are at risk for this. Suddenly they go from feeling relatively okay to drowning from the water filling their lungs – we call it “flash pulmonary edema”. I had already restricted her IV fluids to less than what is normal to avoid something like this. But she was so sick, and even minimal fluid went straight to her lungs and tipped her over into respiratory distress. If the fluid got any worse, she wouldn’t be able to breathe. No breathing, no living. I knew what to do, and I quickly and urgently gave orders. Sweat pooled in the notch at the bottom of her neck. She leaned forward, muscles straining for every breath. There was only one way to help, I had to get the fluid out. The only way for that to happen was to make her urinate. Her kidneys were going to have to make urine, make a lot of it, and make it quickly. But they were damaged already by her disease process. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to do what I was going to ask them for. I pushed medicines into the IV line, knowing that the next several minutes would tell me if her kidneys were still functioning enough to get the fluid out. I watched her urine bag. The kidneys rose to the occasion and began filling the bag with clear, beautiful urine. I delighted to see it coming. An hour later, there were only a few beads of sweat on her brow. A victory won, but the war ravaging her body was far from over.

There were fevers starting too. This seemed like a separate problem. Fevers should mean infection, but it seemed there was no infection to be found. I knew that they weren’t from her recent malaria after a day or two of continued treatment. But blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, ultrasounds – nothing was showing where the infection was coming from. Antibiotics were started. Fevers continued. Finally, the only thing left was to assume that she had an infected blood clot within her pelvis somewhere. I couldn’t see it on ultrasound, but I knew it must be there. It is sort of a last-ditch diagnosis, when everything else has been considered. So, I started her on blood thinners as treatment to break up the clot.

I waited, and doctored, and prayed, and hoped. By this point she had required five units of blood (since her body was killing off her own blood cells, we had to replace them with transfusions). The blood would drip in, but by the next day, the blood level would have fallen again. Finally, the blood level remained steady overnight. Her other labs also began to move in the right direction, indicating that the multiple organ systems which previously were struggling were heading toward normal functioning again. And lastly, the fevers finally stopped. We turned the corner.

She held her babies in her arms today as I signed her discharge paperwork. I realized that every day that I had come to sit on the edge of her bed I had come to like her more. I had become more invested. I had been the one in charge, working to save her life. I had been the one trying every morning to figure out how to manage her to restore health. But I wasn’t the one who could actually make her better. Sometimes women just like her don’t turn the corner. No matter what we do - not with the best care, not in America, and certainly not in Africa. I don’t know why one and not another. I only know to ask for wisdom and guidance as I practice medicine, and know that He is able to be trusted with the outcomes. So as she left and I said “Thank the Lord for two healthy babies and a healthy mom”, I didn’t say it lightly. He holds it all together, and I see that is His hand doing so. Mine are too small, too human. I am grateful for the work that they have been given to do, but alone they are not enough. Indeed, thank the Lord for two healthy babies and a healthy mom. He has again provided. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Normal Patient, Extraordinary Moments

It was the most normal of surgeries for me. An abdominal hysterectomy. Big fibroids distorting the uterus and causing heavy bleeding. Her story was all too common, not at all thrilling. She had lost significant amounts of blood from the menstrual flow, and her blood level was one third or one fourth the amount of normal. Each time she stood up, the dizziness came because she had lost too much to really sustain herself anymore. She had already received one bag of blood replacement, and two more were on the way. So, I gave her the options of medicines versus surgery, and she desired a hysterectomy to remove the offending uterus and permanently stop the bothersome flow of blood. The bleeding was too much to send her away, so I put her on the schedule for the next morning.

The case went well, no complications, no excitement. And just as I was closing up, I heard her crying, almost weeping. I leaned over the curtain that separates the body from the face, usually keeping the humanity veiled away from the surgical field. I asked, “Is she okay?”, wondering if she was feeling pain from the surgery. The response was rewarding. She was weeping for joy. She had just asked the anesthetist if the bleeding would ever return (which I did cover in my counseling, but she must have not completely understood). When he told her that she would never again have this problem, the tears began to flow. She heaved her chest as she gasped air in between sobs. And then she began to sing praises to the Lord. A sweet, sweet moment breaking through the ordinary clamps, knots, scissors, scalpel of routine surgery.

Just a half hour before, while I had my hands buried in her abdomen assessing the size and mobility of the distorted uterus, I had thought about how blessed I am to be able to operate. Blessed that people would trust me inside their bodies. Blessed that I’ve had training to provide good surgical skills. Blessed that God cares for my patients long after my hands have finished their work.

My contentment in my calling, and her delight in newly found relief from the heavy burden she bore mixed together in that operating room – swirling around in worship to the God who gives good gifts, and allows us to do the same. I’m grateful to be able to pour energy and life into another. And I’m grateful that He is the One who she praised and glorified.