Please, can we start thinking about others more than ourselves?

Coronavirus.

That seems to be all we hear about these days.

That is all that is on the news. Almost all that is on facebook.

I’m sorry to be adding to it, but part of the reason I write this blog is give me an outlet to process my feelings and thoughts. That way I don’t keep them all bottled up inside where they cause problems.

I have always been a strict rule follower. To the irritation of my sisters and friends at times.

I was homeschooled, but in 5th grade I decided to take an art class at the local elementary school. I still remember the day where the boys in the class were not behaving, so the teacher ended up having a lecture on behavior instead of hands-on art projects. Then to my embarrassment she had the culprits apologize to me since I came to school for an hour for nothing.

I feel like I’m stuck in that 5th grade art class again.

And I know that a lot of people are behaving themselves. But like it just takes a couple kids to disrupt a whole art class, it only takes a few people not following the parameters put in place to hamper our efforts.

You may think that your once daily trip to the grocery store is an easy way to get out and do something, but you can carry coronavirus without showing symptoms and each time you set foot in that store you are exposing a new set of employees and customers.

And contagious diseases spread exponentially. That is even if you only infect a couple people each trip, those people then spread the virus to a couple others, and so on.

And don’t get me started on those who are going into supermarkets and coughing and spitting on merchandise. Those who are still throwing parties. Those who are going on vacation, often times to other states.

I know a lot of you are bored. But can you please stop and think about the impact your spur of the moment decision to pull a prank in a supermarket or invite a bunch of people over might have on others?

I know some of you think the coronavirus is still all a government conspiracy. I don’t trust all the news reports I hear about coronavirus, but I still believe it is a serious time and that we need to listen to our leaders. Maybe your chances of contracting or dying from the virus are low, but infants, they elderly, and those with pre-existing health issues are more at risk. Our leaders did not make the guidelines with the expectation that no one would get sick. They made them to try and protect those who are more at risk. They made them to decrease the number sick with coronavirus at any one time, so that the hospitals don’t get flooded. They made them to allow health professionals and first responders to be able to focus on treating people with coronavirus instead of sports related injuries.

The more we choose to not take precautions, the longer this will be drawn out. And the longer this is drawn out the more people will die and the more businesses will suffer.

And by taking precautions I don’t mean going crazy and hosing ourselves down with clorox any time we step outside the house. I mean stay home. Only go grocery shopping once a week. Don’t take family trips to Lowe’s to stroll through the aisles. Wash your hands frequently and disinfect your cell phones, keys, and wallets. Gloves the way most people use them DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Gloves only work if you use them for a job and then remove them before touching anything else. They do not work if you touch a box of cereal then a door then your phone.

And if all just seems like too much effort and sacrifice then think of these people and many others and what they are sacrificing every day as this pandemic continues:

The small business owner who had to shut down and every new day of no revenue means a closer step to possible bankruptcy.

The dairy farmer who is having to dump his or her milk down the drain because the processors are backlogged.

The first responders who are continuing to do their jobs keeping us safe, but also trying to keep themselves from getting the virus.

The doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who are continuously exposed, but still caring for patients.

The grocery store workers who are dealing with frustrated customers who cannot find what they are looking for because people keep buying more than they need.

The truckers who keep delivering, but are struggling with lack of open restaurants, hotels, and rest stops.

And if you feel ready to throw a pity try counting your blessings:

If you are healthy, give thanks that you are not sick.

If you are about ready to strangle the family that you are stuck with, give thanks that you are not stuck in a house by yourself.

If you are stuck in a house by yourself, give thanks that you don’t have to worry about transmitting the virus to your family members.

If you are unemployed, give thanks that you are less likely to come into contact with the virus.

If you are an essential worker and are struggling with all the new policies in place, give thanks that you are working and still getting a pay check.

All weekend I’ve been trying not to throw in the towel.

As a veterinarian I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. To keep us and our clients safe, we are not allowing clients in the building except for one or two for a euthanasia, and we are only seeing sick patients or puppy/kitten boosters. This means trips back and forth to parking lot to transport pets and medications in all kinds of weather. This means not being able to decrease my patient’s stress by leaving them with their owners for most of the visit. This means multiple phone calls to clients for a single visit as we discuss physical exam findings, which diagnostics to run, what the results mean, and treatment options. This means telling clients that their beloved dog is in heart failure over the phone instead of face to face. This means telling a family that only 2 of them can be present as they say goodbye to their faithful friend. This means not being able to hug a lonely, elderly lady who just lost her companion. This means having to make decisions every day as to what condition or medical procedure is necessary and needs to be seen or done. This means trying to figure out what I can do over the phone without risking my license. Also trying to keep myself safe through frequent disinfecting, hand washing, and washing contaminated clothing gets time consuming and tricky. Especially when as an on-call vet on a weekend I might end up making several trips to the clinic in a day.

As a single person living alone I am also struggling. The only people I am seeing currently are my coworkers. In the evenings and weekends I used to go to dinner with friends or visit my sister who lives a couple hours away, but now I am unable to do any of that. And while I am trying to keep in touch with people via video chat and phone calls, it isn’t the same. It hurts every time I see a facebook post about families spending more time together. I have always been a person who likes a lot of personal space, but right now I desperately want someone give me a hug and sit next to me on the couch.

I write this, so that if you are struggling you know that you are not the only one. Please reach out and tell someone. I tried to keep all the frustration and grief I was feeling inside because I did not think anyone would understand and that I was over-reacting and so many others were worse off so I shouldn’t complain. A huge downward spiral resulted where it all seemed hopeless and I didn’t want to continue. The best decision I made was to call my mom. Even though she couldn’t change any of the things I was struggling with, just letting it all out and her praying with me was enough to get me back in a better place.

I write this to encourage us to think about what others are going through. To think the best of everyone. To be kind. To reach out. And to try to make every effort to make these pandemic changes as short term as possible.

In closing I would like to share something from my time with God the other night that has been getting me through this weekend.

I have been reading a book called Get out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. It is about taking every though captive and retraining your brain to think less negatively and anxiously.

One of the chapters reminded me of a scene in Captain America: Civil War. Vision has been keeping Wanda under a sort of house arrest to keep her from accidentally hurting anyone else. Clint comes to get her, so that they can go help Steve and Bucky. Wanda hesitates and Vision frees himself from Clint’s trap and gets Clint pinned down. And I know the whole analogy isn’t perfect, but their next few lines just gave me a picture of what needs to happen in my head if I am going to get my thought life under control.

Vision: “Clint, you can’t overpower me.”

Clint (totally calm and collected): “I know I can’t. But she can.”

Wanda (proceeding to overpower Vision): “Vision, that’s enough. Let him go.”

So I wrote it on a card and personalized it.

Satan: “Rachel, you can’t overpower me.”

Me: “I know I can’t. But He can.”

Jesus: “Satan, that’s enough. Let her go.”

“He rescued me from my strong enemy . . . He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me . . . the LORD my God lightens my darkness . . . the God who equipped me with strength . . . He set me secure on the heights.” – Psalm 18: 17, 19, 28, 32-33

Whatever you are struggling with during this pandemic or anything else going on in your life right now – God delights in you and He will rescue you from Satan’s attempts to drag you into anxiety and despair. We can’t overpower him on our own, but we have a God bigger than anything we might face. Just keep your focus on Jesus.

Are you giving to others or letting others take?

Yesterday I watched the movie End of the Spear. I highly recommend watching it, though maybe read this post later if you intend to watch it as there will be some spoilers. The movie is about 5 missionaries who set out to make contact with the indigenous people in the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador. A misunderstanding leads to the 5 missionaries being speared to death. The tragedy allows for the families of the martyred missionaries to be allowed into the village and teach the Gospel transforming the Waodani and bring to an end the revenge killings that had decimated the Waodani people. At the end of the movie there is a scene where Mincayani tells Steve Saint that it is he who killed Steve’s father and that Steve should kill him. Steve’s response is, “No one took my father’s life; he gave it.”

That really got me thinking, what is my outlook on life?

When I do things for others is it from a spirit of giving to edify and help them? Or a spirit of reluctance, doing things for them so they will like me?

When I offer my life and the things God has given me back to God am I giving them to Him to use as He sees best? Or am I holding onto things and making Him pry open my gripping fingers and take them from me?

Maybe some examples will help highlight the difference.

A friend calls and needs advice and I drop everything to spend an hour on the phone with them. Am I giving them that hour of my time because I care about them? Or am I allowing them to take that time from me since I was afraid if I didn’t answer and speak with them they wouldn’t like me anymore?

Did God take away my health and ability to live an arthritis and brain fog free life when I was 17 and diagnosed with Chronic Lyme?  Or did I give my health to Him freely to use in a manner that helped the most people see Him no matter what the cost to me?

For me it is convicting to think about. I know I want to have a giving spirit, but it takes a lot of discipline of the mind to drive away the selfish motivations and focus on the unselfish ones.

But if we focus on giving our anxiety will decrease because we won’t be focused on what we might lose, but instead what others might gain.

If I give my time to people because I want to help and be a blessing to them I won’t be struggling with anxiety the whole time wondering if that was enough for them to like me and continue to think well off me.

If I give my pets to God and trust Him to know what is best instead of thinking of of Him taking my pets from me one day, I won’t be anxious all the time wondering when I am going to lose them and missing out on the fun I get to have with them now.

So please consider what spirit is behind your actions.

And if we struggle to have a spirit of giving we remember we have a Savior who gave His life for ours, so that we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13).

 

 

How often do you let yourself be recharged?

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Came across this verse today and got stuck on how we are renewed day by day.

Not renewed now to last for the rest of our life, but renewed each day.

I get so overwhelmed thinking about all the things I have to get done and what I need to do tomorrow and the next day and the next week. It would be like my phone freaking out because it forgot that I charge it every night and it thinks it needs to do all its functions for the next year on the battery it has now.

So as the new year starts I need to focus on taking one day at a time. Figuring out which tasks are a necessity for today and which can be tackled another day, and then leave each task in its prospective day instead of worrying about them all at once.

When I feel like I’ll never get through everything I need to remember that each day I will get renewed, I don’t have to do it all on the strength I have right now.

I do have to make an effort to be renewed. God is ready to renew us, but He needs us to take the time to be with Him, so that He can.

So if you are feeling like you will never get through just stop for a minute and let Him recharge you. Then keep on pushing through with today’s needs remembering you will have new strength for tomorrow’s if you give Him the chance.

Even If

I’ve been reading Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler. She is a good writer and has many good points, but I just wasn’t connecting with her until the other night I reached the chapter where she recalls when her husband was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She found comfort in the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. I have read that passage many times, but I always seemed to connect it more to persecution and not other struggles we go through.

So brief recap of Daniel 3. The king of Babylon where the Jews have been exiled to decrees that all his subjects must bow down to this golden image he has made. If they don’t they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Three Jews refuse. Below is what they tell the king:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3: 16 – 18

Lauren Chandler explains how she found comfort in this passage in all the unknowns surround her husband’s illness because God could heal her husband, but even if He chose not to, He was still God and worthy to be praised.

I realized that over the years I have been storing up anger at God for 2 things that I believe God should have fixed in my life.

  1. I have prayed, my family has prayed, my church has prayed, and I still have Lyme Disease even though I know God can completely heal me.
  2. I am 26 years old and still single, never as much as having been on a date. Most of my friends are married and having children now. I have 3 younger sisters and one is married, one is dating, and one has dated. I feel left out, and I have been reluctant to pray about it because I have been afraid that it will end up being God’s plan that I will be single forever.

God has the power to make both these dreams come true for me, but like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego I need to choose to say I will worship Him no matter what.

They made their declaration and God chose not to use his power until after they had been thrown into the fiery furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”  – Daniel 3: 28 – 29

And because of their resolve a whole nation saw the power of God.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    He makes my feet like the deer’s;
    He makes me tread on my high places. – Habakkuk 3: 17 – 19

Neither of my dreams is wrong. There is no sin in wanting to be healthy or wanting to be married.

But if my love for and obedience to God hinges on my getting my dreams fulfilled it means I love Him for what He gives me and not for who He is.

And I know He has used my chronic illness to help others and I trust that He is using my singleness in ways that I cannot see right now.

So I choose Even If.

 

The Edge of the Cliff

Bubble rock in Acadia National Park has been sitting seemingly ready to tip off the edge for hundreds possibly thousands of years. It has sat immovable through major storms as well as millions of tourists attempting to push it off.

It looks precarious, but it has sat there for so long because it it perfectly balanced on the edge.

Our lives are similar to a rock sitting on the edge of cliff except we aren’t always so well balanced.

We have all our insecurities, anxiety, worry, stress, bad circumstances, difficult relationships pulling us over, trying to crash us down into the darkest valley.

Combating all the negatives to keep us on the cliff edge is our reliance on God, relationships that build us up, positive self talk.

I know in my own life I keep crashing over the edge. I stress over mistakes I made, worry about my patients, fear that I am not capable of being a good vet, insecurity that I make everyone’s life worse instead of better. And the negative thoughts snowball, so I make more mistakes and feel worse about myself.

And when I get in these mindsets I end up isolating myself from others and God, thinking that the world would be better off without me, and so I lose my ballast as well.

So far a song, a message, my dog have kept me from crashing all the way down and helped me climb back up the cliff and get balanced again, but sometimes I wonder how many times will I be able stop and pull myself back up?

This is the message that helped me get back up today and I pray that it is something that I can remind myself of daily to keep me from tumbling over again.

“It’s not our circumstances that determine whether today is marked by peace or panic. It’s how certain we are that we can trust God.” – Lysa Terkeurst

Most of my days are marked by panic, which implies that I am not very certain that I can trust God.

Yet if I look back, He has come through for me so many times even when things looked messy at the start. Every place I have moved to He has given me a great body of believers to be a part of. He has provided me with wonderful friends who love me for who I am and are always willing to listen to me. He had the perfect work environment and coworkers picked out for me.

How many times does He have to show me that He has a plan and has it under control before I start trusting Him?

My new resolution is going to be to do my best to start acting like I am certain that I can trust God.

I know that won’t make life easy. But it will mean I won’t waste energy and time worrying when that won’t change anything. And it will mean that I won’t spiral out of control and crash down the cliff as often.

Keep trusting God, friends. It doesn’t always look like it, but He has a wonderful plan for each of us and some day it will all make sense.

 

Building Strong Roots

I like to please people. That is part of why I became a vet because I like to make people and animals happy. However when I get too caught up in pleasing everyone it makes my life hell because I just can’t.

I can’t make their beloved pet’s cancer or kidney failure go away. I wish I had that magic wand, but it hasn’t been discovered yet.

I can’t treat animals for free. I have to have money to live and pay off my student loans just like everyone else.

I can’t know everything. Every animal responds differently to diseases and treatments. Plus we are always discovering new things.  I’m always willing to do some more research, but not everyone is willing to wait.

I can’t make a diagnosis over the phone or often times even just based on physical exam. Animal’s can’t tell me what hurts or what trouble they got into, so bloodwork and x-rays go a long way to giving me a better picture.

And sometimes everything goes really smoothly and I still can’t make people happy because either that’s the type of person they are or the other stuff in their lives is clouding over their day.

And the biggest problem is that I can never make myself happy. I’m always too slow, too dumb, too quiet, too awkward, too out of shape. Even if 100 things went well in my day I will beat myself up for hours over the one thing that didn’t.

Instead of making everyone happy, I need to focus on pleasing God. What pleases Him never changes or contradicts itself.

When I focus on making myself and everyone else happy I am like a tree that is unable to dig roots into the rock it has decided to grow on and so ends up being tossed here and there.

When I focus on God I become a tree firmly planted in the cliff side. The winds and waves may be rough, but I don’t go anywhere because I am firmly anchored and stuck in the Rock.

When my focus shifts off of God I use up all my energy and time fretting and tearing myself down.

When I am firmly anchored I have more energy and love and grace to pour into other people.

Psalm 62:  

For God alone my soul waits in silence; 

from Him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before Him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath;
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no trust in extortion;
    set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.

 

God’s love is steadfast, so we don’t have to be shaken.

Live loved.

 

References

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+62&version=ESV

Feeling Inadequate

For the past 3 years I have gone on a veterinary mission trip to the Navajo reservation. My first year I was excited about the concept of using my veterinary skills to share God’s love with people. I had no idea what I was getting into. I was worried that I wasn’t healthy enough to go. In the end I asked God for a clear cut answer as to whether I should go – if for the last missions class they remembered to video call me in I would go and if they forgot I would take that as a no. They called and I went.

The past 2 years going I have known what I was getting into. I was excited to go and serve and grow alongside amazing team members. I was excited to help people by helping their animals. But at the same time I was terrified that I was more of a hindrance than a help. That my team members just put up with me. That others are much more qualified. For once in my life it seems  knowing what I was getting into made me more anxious.

These fears stem mostly from the fact that I am severely introverted and any type of mission trip (or anything really) requires talking with people. And I feel like I suck at it. Especially on these trips. And it makes me discouraged because some of my teammates who have also gone several years in a row have started building deep friendships with the people we meet out their and I feel like no more than an acquaintance.

So I was feeling low after the trip and my passage for my quiet time happened to be this:

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NIV

“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift” . . . God created me with a special purpose in mind. He put these mission trips in my heart. He made me care deeply about people. And He also made me an introvert.

And while that doesn’t mean I give up on talking to people or stop working on my communication skills, it does mean that I don’t have to beat myself up about something that is not one of my gifts.

The team is a body made up of many parts. I tend to envy the extroverts who jump right in to converse with people (while I’m still going over what to say in my head) or do spontaneous things in front of a bunch of people (which I would find embarrassing). But the team also wouldn’t work without those of us who feel more comfortable prepping for the next visit or cleaning up after a meal or offer an encouraging smile.

I also like the “keep you firm to the end” part. It would be very easy for me to say these trips are too terrifying and I’m not qualified so I shouldn’t go next year. But if I did that I would miss an opportunity to grow in my areas of weakness, the team would be missing my strengths, and the Navajo people would miss seeing one more person who cares about them even though we all show that caring in different ways.

Don’t envy other people’s strengths. If I go through life always regretting that I wasn’t created an extrovert it’s going to suck all the joy out  of my life and make me useless for God’s plan. I can only fulfill God’s plan as an introvert or He wouldn’t have made me one, so I need to be content with that and use it to the best of my ability.

References:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+1&version=NIV