Praying with a pen


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Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

My husband Jule used this phrase to describe the blessing of his journal each day. I have heard it said “I write so I will know what I am thinking.” When I write in my journal, I feel that it is a way for me to slow down and really feel what God is trying to say to me. Have you ever had a meaningful conversation with someone in a hurry? It cannot be done! It would be like trying to talk to a person in the car riding beside you as you are both speeding down the highway. When we are talking with God, we cannot listen to him if we are rushing out the door or running to our next “thing.”

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Lately, I have felt this truth more than ever. Before I left on the recent trip to Ethiopia, I was as burnt out with work as I have ever been. I was just overwhelmed with the burden of all the busy-ness of life. I have said so many times before….if only I could just see patients and nothing else. The hours of paperwork, phone calls, insurance appeals, meetings and administrative responsibilities were killing me! At no point in medical school did I ever have a true understanding that being a doctor was really about 20% patient interaction and 80% “other.” (Would I have still signed up for this??? – – this is a real issue – – see the recently published article here…. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/04/27/why-do-so-many-doctors-regret-their-job-choice/ ) Doctors would not again choose medicine

As our health care environment continues to evolve – in a most painful way due to the unsustainable rise in costs related to providing quality health care, the stress grows with it. And there is a threshold where one person cannot simply do the work one person was previously able to do. And then comes burn out.

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And physicians leave or die from the stress. I was hoping to be the former not the latter, but before my trip to Ethiopia, I was starting to wonder which it would be….

Psalm 118:5-6
In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

So the day before our trip, I had yet another breakdown with my husband, complaining once again about the road to destruction my career was leading me down. And his response to me was, “Let’s leave the country for a week and let God tell us what we need to do. He will work it out.” That night we left for Ethiopia.

Romans 16:20
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Psalm 118:5-6
In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

While on the trip, I was determined to leave work in the the United States and focus only on what was there for us in Ethiopia. I did not talk about work, I tried not to think about patients, or staff, or schedules, or charts, or my practice.

And for the most part I was successful in ignoring the looming problems waiting for me to get back home. But God has a way of tapping on your shoulder and reminding you that He is right there waiting for you to turn back to Him in your time of need, and in all other times too.

On one of our last nights of devotion, the team leader raised the question, “How will this week change you when you get back home and what issues will you face when you return?” (…this is the “tap on the shoulder” I was referring to…). Of course, I remained steadfast that I would not let the problems of home dampen my mountaintop experience in Ethiopia, so I elected not to participate in the conversation….which is very hard for me to do by the way.

Psalm 118:5-6
In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

But my husband is particularly stubborn, and he didn’t let me off the hook. In fact, the group discussion seemed more quiet than our usual discussions had been. During a quiet moment, he turned the attention to me and asked, “How will this week change you when you get home Heather? What are you thinking about right now?”

Yuk. I had to talk. So I shared my frustration with my job, my stress, my work load. I tried to keep my comments brief, because as I have said, I did not want to bring this up at all on this trip.

The devotion concluded with prayer and not much else with regards to my restrained comments. I was glad it was over so I could retreat back into my shell of denial, pretending I never had to come back to work and that I could just stay in the missionary experience forever.

After the devotion, one of our team mates approached me and asked me if I had ever thought of hiring an assistant? She is a physician assistant, and had worked in oncology for many years before moving to NC. She was presently working at the urgent care center division of our practice. I truthfully had not considered hiring an assistant, for a lot of reasons I just cannot fully explain here – suffice it to say, I accepted the full responsibility of my job on my own shoulders and did not feel I could delegate the emotional and physical stresses of this career onto someone else, even for a minute.

But as we spoke, and I heard what she was saying, I was moved with a quiver of excitement that maybe this could work after all. She told me of her experience and where she had previously worked, and what her background was. We had the luxury of having an already life-changing relationship building experience just by planning and taking this mission trip together.

So a month after we returned, she became my assistant and my life has changed. (Lord I pray hers changed for the better as well!) I can enjoy my work again, and I can actually finish a day’s work in a day. I am afforded the luxury of having more time to spend sitting with my patients when they need me. And more importantly, I have more time to spend with my family….and when I am with my family, my stress is less, my happiness is greater and my peace is palpable. I am a happier wife, daughter, mother, friend and oncologist. I just had to go all the way to Ethiopia to figure this out.

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

What if I have remained so stubborn that I had not even allowed myself to explore the possibility of what God had in store for me? What if I had kept my back turned to the door HE WAS TRYING TO OPEN FOR ME? What kind of doors could opened for all of us if we only took the time to slow down, get out of the fast lane and have a conversation with our creator? Is there any thing in this life that could possibly be more important that spending time with our Father? We are children of the King and he wants our hearts and eyes on Him through everything! When we fellowship with Him, our lives are transformed. And days that we thought were too short to have any extra room for anything but work and our schedules, suddenly become more spacious and easy, and blessed beyond words or measure.

Jule and I are away this weekend for our anniversary. The weeks leading up to this trip were strangely peaceful, unlike the days before having an assistant. Prior vacations were prefaced by longer hours in the office making preparations for being away. All is different now. And as I relax this weekend in Ocracoke, celebrating eight wonderful years of marriage to my amazing husband (a true blessing from God), my prayer is for everyone to have this same epiphany: In order to grow your time with God, you cannot steal away from Him the time that is preciously reserved for His word in your life. You cannot see the doors that He will open if your eyes are turned away from Him. You cannot hear His words if you do not slow down to listen. You cannot live the life He has for you if you are busy making your own life with your own agenda. You cannot live to be the witness for Him if you are not walking with Him. You cannot give God the control when you are trying to control it yourself. His plans are greater, wider, deeper and more wonderful than you can imagine when you surrender your heart to Him completely and eternally. Your marriage, your job, your family and your life will be transformed the moment you commit yourself to His presence in your heart.

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