Frodos vs. Sams

Almost two months has passed since my last post, which is hard to believe. I have learned so much since then – going from the first couple weeks of mostly shadowing at my new job to this past week of being on call by myself and being the only vet in the clinic for a couple days.

I love my job. Ministering to people by helping their furry best friends (or livestock that they depend on).  Sometimes that means client education and vaccines to prevent problems. Sometimes it means fitting the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out a treatment plan. But it can also mean helping them determine when it’s time to say goodbye.

While I enjoy veterinary medicine and can’t imagine doing something else, sometimes I wonder why I ever chose this as a career path. I agonize over decisions I make where missing something or making a mistake could have serious consequences. I always feel guilty about my student loan debt, even though with the system how it is there was no other way for me to become a vet. I have to constantly have to find the middle ground between what’s best for the patient for diagnosing and treating a disease and what the client can afford.

Every day is a new adventure. And every day is tough and exhausting.

And every day I flip flop between wanting to go home and wanting to just hang out at the clinic.

I want to go home and rest, eat, and play with my dog. But I also hate going home to sit/eat/walk/do chores by myself. I get sucked into the black hole of silence where the voices in my head over analyze every aspect of the day and make me want to crawl into a hole and never be seen again.

And then Satan drags me down even further by telling me that I will always be alone. That life is nothing if you are alone.  That I should feel guilty for feeling like my life sucks because I am alone because I could be dealing with “worse” things. And that nobody understands because I am the only one who is alone.

I found this facebook post character comparison enlightening. Mary Nikkel compares Sam and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings.

She describes Sam as being the typical hero everyone thinks about. He overcomes against great external trials – tough terrain, enemy soldiers, blood thirsty beasts, and Frodo’s struggles.

Most of the other characters (Legolas, Aragorn, Gimli, etc.) face similar struggles to Sam, and I feel like most of us believe they are the strongest characters and the heroes we should aspire to be like.

Frodo’s greatest trial on the other hand is internal. He is carrying a mind-consuming ring whose power gets stronger the closer he gets to Mount Doom.

Mary writes: “Frodo’s challenges are the slow, steady erosion of a soul being asked to carry a tremendous internal darkness without being consumed by it.”

That quote just hit me the first time I read it because I felt like that described my journey  to a “T”.

I’m not like the Sam’s of the world who face mostly external struggles – unpleasant work places, difficult relationships, fallen through opportunities, loss of loved ones or property.

I’m a Frodo. Sure I have external struggles (Frodo did too), but my major ones are internal – depression and anxiety. They are the ones that consume so much energy and perseverance to keep going. And part of the reason they are so consuming is because they are always present unlike external struggles where relief is found when circumstances change.

And Frodo’s story gives me hope.

Frodo withstanding the inner fire to get the ring to Mount Doom was as necessary to saving Middle Earth as was Sam fighting off orcs to save him.

Frodos are no less heroes than Sams are. And yet much of the time we think they are. The victories of Sams’ are visible and glorious to see. The victories of Frodos’ are often invisible and difficult for nonFrodos’ to understand, just as it was difficult for Sam to understand what Frodo was going through until he carried the ring for a short time.

I often feel like my life is a waste because I don’t see much external evidence that I’m choosing to follow God and pursue His work.

And yet every day I choose to keep living and not be consumed by the darkness that wants to overtake my mind is a victory that God is using for the good of somebody even if nobody else can see or understand it.

And the only way I can keep from being consumed is by using God’s strength:

“The God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.
 He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
    and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
    they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
    you made those who rise against me sink under me.” – Psalm 18: 32 – 39

With God’s strength we consume instead of being consumed whether our enemies or external or internal, so run to Him, friends.

 

Image: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-meaning-of-J-R-R-Tolkien-s-second-creation

References: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+18&version=ESV

 

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Too Many Emotions

Something happened 2 weeks ago that I never thought would happen. I received my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. After how sick I was last year at this time I thought there was no way I get through clinics. But here I am. And I haven’t been nearly as excited as I feel like I should be. I’m exhausted from finishing up my clinical year. I’m nervous about my starting my first job as a veterinarian in a new town next week. I’m sad that I had to say goodbye to all the friends I made through vet school when I don’t know when I will see them again. I’ve been stressing over my move to a new state. Being home for a week was nice, but then I had to say goodbye to my family and my horse and hit the road again for my new home. Arranging my new apartment has been exciting, but also daunting. And it is really lonely moving to a new state by yourself.

In my 3 weeks off between last day of clinics and first day on the job I have desperately wanted to rest, but the planning and decision making don’t stop. And then I get annoyed with myself for trying to be decisive and making incorrect decisions because trying to take all the factors into account makes my brain explode.

I must let go of some things. Get a few things crossed off the to do list each day. Release the things I have no control over. Give myself a break and trust that those I’m interacting with understand how much pressure I’ve been under and will also give me a break.

Things will eventually calm down. Some days seem bent on being the most frustrating and difficult (eg. you have to change your drivers license to register your car to get your car inspected and all of them need different paperwork that has gotten scrambled and put who knows where in the move). And while I rarely see God do major things like level all my hurdles (which He could do I would just lose out on huge learning opportunities); I have definitely seen Him at work in the little things. Like my landlord being outside when I pulled in the driveway so we could talk in person instead of me trying to text him a gazillion questions. Or everyone I talked to trying to do things in the wrong order knowing exactly where I needed to go to get the first things done first. Or me somehow pulling out of my brain a cause of bovine hematuria even if it wasn’t the most likely differential.

We want to have a huge goals, but multiple small victories are so much better than never getting anywhere because the goals are too daunting to start.

So now to start chronicling my journey as a new graduate. I now there will be lots of exciting days. Really hard days. Days I can answer all the questions perfectly. Days where I don’t seem to know anything.

I’m really excited, but also really nervous. In my better mindsets I am confident God placed me in the right profession, in the right clinic, with the right people. But then in other moments I question everything.

But God is still God when believing isn’t easy. In fact He is more real then.

We are Free

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1 ESV

I love it when verses just jump out at me. I feel like I spend a lot of trying to connect with God’s word, but I’m making myself focus, it doesn’t seem to mean anything. And then every once in a while a verse is just like BOOM you need me today.

Lately I’ve been really upset with myself because I can’t seem to be nice to myself in my head. My mind seems to enjoy constantly calling myself an idiot, digging through years of memories to playback all the embarrassing ones, and thinking through all the ways I might mess up the next day. Something I have struggled with the most in clinics is confidence and I have no doubt that my thought life is a major contributor.

I’ve tried multiple ways to fix the problem. There’s no easy fix however. Listening to uplifting, meaningful Christian songs seems to help the most, but changing thought patterns (especially deeply ingrained ones) requires constant work.

The first part of this verse seems kind of redundant at first. Like duh, Christ wouldn’t have set us free so that we could be slaves. Yet isn’t that what we do much of the time? We have been made free – forgiven for all the wrongs we have committed, all the ways we have failed, and loved unconditionally. But we rarely act that way. Even though we have been saved by grace, we still think works will somehow help. Then we fail, and we beat ourselves up, and put ourselves in dungeons of the mind. How differently would we live if we acted like we believed we had been set free to be free?

This is followed by encouragement. “Stand firm, therefore.” You can do this. Christ gave you the strength to resist. When your thought life says you are a mistake and will never amount to anything refute it with the Truth. You are a beloved child of the Most High. You were carefully designed to fulfill a certain role in the world. There are people who would feel lost without you.

And then a warning. “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ” When you think those thoughts you are returning to your bondage. You are free; don’t choose to be enslaved.

So when you repeatedly beat yourself up, don’t get discouraged. It takes constant energy to re-make our thought life. Find ways to improve it – music, encouraging notes, turning self bullying into prayer, or find someone to talk to. Memorize key truths of scripture detailing who God is and who you are in Him.

Live like your loved. Because you most definitely are.

Those Days

You know those days. The days you keep trying to push through even though your body or your mind has had it. The days you’re upset with yourself because your brain won’t do what you want it to do. The days you’re upset with everyone else because they don’t understand what your going through. The days you’re upset with God because He won’t make life easy.

I had one of those today. A month of Emergency rotations followed by a busy week in Community Practice and then an 8 hour drive to a weekend long job interview left my body saying it had had enough. Probably I should have called in sick. It’s hard to decide whether its better to force yourself to function through the fatigue and the brain fog and  spend the day constantly feeling like an idiot or beat yourself up all day feeling like you’ve let everyone down and have to make up the day later. And when you’re trying to make that decision your not in a great mental place to be making decisions. Plus I think when you’ve been sick for years you get so used to doing things in spite of your illness that you don’t realize how bad you are actually feeling.

Anyway I chose to show up and do my best. My best wasn’t very good. Thinking through cases took longer than usual. My answers to questions were muddled. Interacting with people took more energy than usual and I had less of it. Instead of improving throughout the rotation I was told I was backtracking.

My feelings of discouragement and failure made my depression spiral downward. What was I thinking? I can’t be a vet. I can’t even express anal glands.

Those are the times I have to remember that it doesn’t matter what I can do. What God can do is all that matters. And He can do anything.

There is no way I could make it through vet school on my own strength. The battle against spirochetes on top of the vet school battle of intense days, tsunami of new information, long nights and weekends on-call, and mountains of paperwork should have burnt me out months ago. The only explanation I have for how it hasn’t is that God is carrying me through because He has a plan.

I found this treasure in Job today:

“Behold, I go forward, but He is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive Him;
on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him;
He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him.
But He knows the way that I take;
when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food.
But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?
What He desires, that He does.
For He will complete what He appoints for me,
and many such things are in His mind.” – Job 23:8 -14

So often its hard when life is tough to feel God. It feels like He has left. It feels like we have been left to figure things out on our own. But Job says God is still working when it feels like He is not. We are safe in His hand the entire time. And if we persevere we will come out stronger and more able to be used by Him to help others. And then Job finishes by saying that nothing can get in the way of what God has planned for us. Which is scary in one sense, but comforting in another. Scary because God often plans hard things for us, so that we can grow and to keep nudging us back to Him. Comforting because the plans God has for us, the things like jobs and relationships, we can’t mess up. It’ll never happen that God will be like “Well, this is where I wanted you, but boy did you mess it up when you had that bad day in clinics and couldn’t do anything right.

Keep pressing on, friend. And if you need a day off take it if you can. Pushing through is not always the best decision.

Live Loved

I think one of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is trying to keep a positive attitude. On top of being tired because I’m in vet school, I’m tired because my body is trying to fight off thousands of spirochete invaders.  It’s easy to become disillusioned that while I’m climbing up a cliff face inch by inch everyone else is running down hill, so envy plants it’s seed.  Then the pity party rears its ugly head and I start to feel like my irritability is justified, so I don’t fight it as hard. Then if enough things happen to irk me finally I blow up at something stupid. And by blow up I don’t mean that I yell at people. Usually it’s just an edge in my voice and poorly chosen words. But its still unwarranted and hurtful and I always regret it afterward. And then comes the self-loathing and depression. I messed up again. I hurt someone else. Why do I keep trying? Everyone would be better off without me.

And so the cycle continues . . .

And the only way to get out takes a lot of work. Reminding myself that self sacrifice has a lot more forms than just dying for someone.

It means swallowing the harsh words even when I feel like crud and saying something encouraging instead.

It means being the one positive voice in the crowd even if I’m the sickest.

It means being glad that other people are healthy even though I’m not.

It means keeping going even though life seems more of a struggle than it’s worth. Even though I mess up and hurt people I also make the right choice sometimes and help people.

I have to remember that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is a feeling you get when everything is going your way. Joy is a choice you make when nothing is going your way.

I have to crowd out the unhealthy thoughts in my head with scripture and music so that Satan doesn’t take control.

I have to remind myself that I’m human and that I will make mistakes, but my God loves me in spite of them. In fact He loves me so much He bore the punishment for them Himself, so that I could be free.

Live loved, friends.

 

 

When God Says “No”

While He [Jesus] was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged Him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. – Luke 15:12 – 13

The passages describing Jesus healing in the Bible have always been a struggle point for me. I asked God so many times to make my Lyme go away and He said no. And then the Summer of 2017 I was preparing to go on my first veterinary mission trip. On the trip we were asked to lead a few devotionals and I was desperately waiting for God to reveal to me something unique, something I could tell the group that would be meaningful.

I rarely hear God speak clearly to me. Usually the times I set aside to meditate on His Word and pray seem like a big muddle and speaking into a black hole. But that Summer I was reading through Luke and had come to when the leper asks Jesus to heal him and Jesus does. And I felt God answering a question I had had since I had first gotten sick.

What if Jesus had said “no” to the leper?

Jesus is able to fix all our problems from health to relationships. So why so often does He choose not to?

What is OUR response? We kick and scream and cry out, “How can you love me if you don’t fix this for me?”

And yet love isn’t about fixing everything for someone, but being with them throughout their broken life. When we ask, “Lord, if you will, you can make this right.” He still responds with reaching out and touching us. But then instead of the words we so long to hear He says, “You’re right, I DO have the power to fix this for you. I LONG to fix this for you. But you will learn more about me and be a better light for me if you endure this. And I will be there to comfort you, hold you up and encourage you every step of the way. In a broken world you are better fit for service if you yourself are broken. And then He breathes courage into us, so that we can face the next minute, and the next, and the next . . . and that hand He reached out to us with, it never lets go.

Since God spoke to me that day bearing my Lyme has been easier. However, I needed a reminder as I move from my Equine ER rotation to my Small Animal ER rotation. The ER schedule has really messed my body up – my sleep, meal, and medications schedules are a wreck right now. I’m exhausted even though I don’t feel like I’ve been doing much. I’m crabby and the thought of interacting with people is so tiring I’m really anxious about going to school tomorrow. And the worry that my classmates and instructors are judging me for not volunteering for things because I need the rest or doing things wrong or not efficiently because my brain won’t think has my mind in a turmoil.

I need to remember that God never let’s go even when it feels like I’m all alone. I need to remember that if others judge me because they don’t know the whole story that is not my fault. I need to remember that God is using my Lyme struggles to help me and others grow closer to Him. I need to remember all the things I have to be thankful for: the ability to walk, talk, see, and hear; I’ve almost completed my dream of becoming a vet; my dog; my family; my friends; a free country; and my God that hates to see me hurting, but knows the true definition of love.

The Blame Game

Growing up it always bothered me when people didn’t know the TRUTH. Like when my family went on a road trip from Vermont to Wisconsin and borrowed my Aunt’s car top carrier. For whatever reason I spent a lot of the time in car worrying that the people driving by were thinking my family owned a car top carrier when we didn’t.

Thus it was difficult for me to keep my mouth shut when it was stated publicly in ward rounds that I had failed to properly take care of one of my patients.

I also am extremely sensitive to what people think about me and extremely hard on myself. Thus my thought life started swinging between outrage of being told that I didn’t do something that I did and despair that everyone would think less of me now and it was probably warranted because I somehow should have done more. I failed again as I always do.

I really wanted to say something to counter the rumor in rounds, but I don’t like conflict and didn’t want to seem disrespectful. I really wanted to take the person aside afterward and explain what I indeed did do for my patient yesterday, but again conflict and being respectful to authority.

And what was me explaining going to help anyway? I knew people had seen me taking care of my patient. What I did was all recorded in the medical record. And the more I think about it the more I think I was blamed not because my hard work had gone unnoticed, but because somebody needed to be blamed and it was easy to land it on me.

It was a frustrating case. For no want of knowledge, experience, and trying the cause of the patient’s illness was unknown. The clients’ were very attached, which is as it should be. The patient was declining and hard choices were having to be discussed and made. So the clients’ were frustrated and emotionally torn and blamed the clinic for a number of things. Students are responsible for patient care and so the blame passed through the ranks down to me.

And what was I going to do? I couldn’t keep emotionally boomeranging all day.

The anger at being falsely accused had to be countered with if people take the time to know me they will know that I do take good care of my patients. And if no one else, God knows everything I did and His opinion is the only one that really matters.

The despair that I’m a failure had to be countered with a truth that I’ve been struggling with for a long time. I tend to define myself by my mistakes, failures, and awkwardness. And none of those things have any say in defining me at all. I’m redeemed by the Creator of the universe. He defines me. And He says I am precious, loved, and a delight.

So in the end I was able to let it all go. I was able to make excuses for those I was working with – difficult case, stress from the holidays, miscommunication from days off.

And I think in today’s society we need to work harder at this. We sling blame at each other all day long for all kinds of things.

And I think the reason the blame keeps going round and round is because on our own we are unable to bear the blame without crumbling. If we are unfairly blamed we cannot keep quiet because of our inborn sense of justice and fairness. If we do bear some blame we have to pass it on because we label ourselves failures and fall into depression and self-loathing.

To put an end to the blame game we have to remember first that God sees all that is done in secret and justice will be done if not now then in the future, so we can be strong enough to take the blame for things that are not our fault. And we have to remember secondly that He defines us, not our mistakes or what other people think of us so we can bear the blame for what is our fault without having to throw it on someone else in self preservation.