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Here it is October, and I’ve just realized I haven’t posted for my readers since the end of July! So sorry!
I’m busy in school, full time in the school of nursing and the school of public health this semester. I’m doing OK so far, but because of technical problems with the school I haven’t started my clinicals yet! This basically means I will need to be in school for an additional semester, and I don’t know what that will do to my financial aid status so please be praying about that. I’m actually more concerned about how I will get all my work done once clinicals do begin!
I’ve taken this morning to clean out my email (somewhat) and get caught up on business things, but really I can’t get it done before I have to leave. But it got me thinking about who I am as a mother, wife, student, servant of God. It made me wonder how I choose what things I do, and what things I don’t. Honestly, there are things I “choose” not to do, like this blog, even though I think they are important and I would like to be more trustworthy with this.
The thing is, I don’t consciously ”choose” not to do it. Instead I consciously choose to do the things that are on my “to do” list, both my written one for school and my mental list for my family. If things are not on those lists, even if I would like to do them, they don’t get done. So here is my question for my readers. How do you decide what to do each day? Does your actual “to do” list reflect what you do; does it reflect your real goals or only the urgent things of the moment?
As I was packing for our trip to Nairobi this morning I was struck by my malarone tablets. If you’ve never traveled to a place where malaria is endemic, you’ve likely never heard of this medication. It prevents the parasite (malaria is not caused by a bacteria but rather a parasite with a rather complicated life cycle) from successfully invading my body.
As I looked at the bottle I started thinking of the line of Christian thinking that teaches the avoidance of medications. There are several different reasons depending on your particular line of thinking. Some feel healing comes only from God, and medications take away the glory of God. Others feel that because drugs of any kind alter the body they should not be used. Still others feel there is a verse in the Bible that calls the use of medications witchcraft, although what verse that is and the wording it uses is not in my head at the moment.
This brings me back to the idea of medication in childbirth. Perhaps it isn’t a fair contrast because we do have documented increases in labor stimulation medications in the United States. But I can’t help but think that as much as I would hope to avoid using medications in labor, I have no problem taking malarone just in case I am bit by a mosquito that carries the malaria parasite. Should I use the same logic? Should I assume my body is healthy and will fight off infection, using medications only if I contract malaria? Or is it better to take a pill every day to prevent the illness from happening? I know I could say childbirth is a normal and healthy process of the human body, but in prevention of malaria I will be taking a pill every day while my body is healthy.
It’s a sticky question and I’m sure I’ll need to think more on it before my mind comes to a conclusion. But tomorrow, I’ll start the malarone.
Tomorrow my preceptor (the midwife who is teaching me to be a midwife) will leave for the Christian Midwives Association annual conference. I cannot go because I have school responsibilities and will be leaving for Kenya the next week. This is the second year in a row I will be missing this conference.
I love the friends I meet at the CMI conference. My husband calls these ladies my church – they are the women whose hearts are so similar to mine. We feel the same call from God. We are able to encourage and support each other, and they always build my faith. I wish I were going to the conference. I wish I could listen to their stories and learn from their lives. But that is not where God has me right now.
My dear friends, I miss you. I hope it is within God’s plan for my life that next year I will see you all again at the the CMI conference.
During Lent, I challenged myself to find a Bible verse for labor for every day. I challenged myself further by requiring the verses must come from the book of Psalms. I posted the verses every day on the Facebook Page. A few weeks after it ended, a reader asked if I had a copy of all the verses I had used. Actually, I didn’t.
But I had posted them all on Facebook, so it didn’t take too long to go back and get them all. Here they are for you, in no particular order.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
My times are in your hands;
May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.
He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.
Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.
Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Psalm 46 1-3
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
Psalm 89:21 My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.
my life is. It seems I jump from deadline to deadline without much room to do in between. The latest adventure, Tammy and I are off to Kenya for a doula training.
This time it is all Tammy’s organization. She is a trainer with DONA and has been contacted to help start a doula program in Nairobi. We’ve spent the summer talking about my going, then for a week we thought we were sure I wasn’t going, and now I’m going with only a few weeks to prepare. Yikes!
So today is Visa day (I cannot go to sleep until all the stuff I need to do to get my visa is done and in the mail). Tomorrow is vaccination day (which I hope means I just walk away with a prescription for malerone). And in between it all I have classes and papers and on call at the birth center.
I keep remembering the Christian Speaker Erwin McMannus sharing how Christians often mistakenly believe that when they are right where God wants them they are in the safest and most peaceful place – because the Bible teaches us that God moves people to do very brave, somewhat dangerous things in far off lands with most everything out of their control. I love being called by God to serve in this way. I love the excitement and the uncertainty. I’ve even learned to love the often competing deadlines. But I am still nieve enough to think that when I am finished with school it will all calm down. :-)
If you live in the USA, chances are you wash your hands. You probably don’t wash them as often as you think you should, but you wash them. Reading this may even make you feel guilty, that you should really go wash your hands now because it’s been a while and your hands are probably covered with germs.
Chances are you’ve known about the benefits of hand washing since you were a child. Your mother probably taught you to wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom, before you eat, after having played outside – all the ritual times. I’m sure your mother took hand washing very seriously, because if she didn’t your health could suffer. You learned to share her concern, you learned how important hand washing is to being healthy.
Now suppose I were to tell you hand washing didn’t make you healthy. Suppose I told you it wasn’t the hand washing, but something else that was at work. Suppose I told you to stop doing your hand-washing because it was a waste of time and energy, and took your focus off the real source of health. Could you do it? Could you stop washing your hands? Could you change your habits, your thoughts and your fears about what will happen if you don’t wash your hands?
I feel I should admit I’m a hand washer. Not only do I practice hand washing, but I act as a sort of leader of the hand washing movement. I share with others the benefits of hand washing. I explain the reasons they should, and the dangers if they do not. But because you and I are probably in agreement that hand washing is a good health behavior, arguing that you should wash your hands wouldn’t cause you to raise an eyebrow.
But if I argued against hand washing, if I tried to convince you it was all superstition and blind faith – do you feel your reaction to that? Do you feel the disbelief? Do you start to get annoyed, frustrated or angry? Do you start searching for support for your hand washing ways? Do you immediately try to prove me wrong? Do you immediately decide I’m not worth listening to? Do you feel how deep a blow to your basic belief system strikes?
I wanted to share this feeling with you because I wanted you to understand that culture and beliefs are not simple things to change. It is often not enough to go to an area and tell the locals how they should live their lives. In fact, that is often the worst thing you can do to improve global health because instead of improving situations, it makes them worse. If you feel called to make change in international maternal health issues, you need to understand this basic truth. You need to understand the magnitude of the changes you propose. You must have empathy for the struggles, both internal and system wide, that happen when change begins.
I have had a great few weeks. I was accepted into a program at school that will allow me to spend two weeks working with non-English speaking immigrants with little or no access to health care. I was also asked by a colleague to accompany her to Narobi Kenya for a program she is planning. It is shaping up to be a great summer.
And as I reflect on how much I love my life and the call God has placed on it, I am reminded of the comments I often receive from other women interested in birth. The comment that often makes me wonder is, “I’m waiting to receive the call.”
Waiting to receive the call? I guess I don’t see “the call” as happening that way. If your heart is drawn to midwifery, I think you have already received “the call.” In fact, if you cannot keep from asking about birth stories or offering to help women breastfeed, you are already responding to the call. You simply need to recognize this fact.
The way I see it, if you don’t recognize that you have “the call,” you may risk making decisions that prevent you from acting on it. For example, I have a lovely friend whose heart is drawn to service. When disaster struck Haiti her heart was broke and she cried out to God to send her. She did not go. Why? She didn’t think she had received, “the call” because no opportunity fell into her lap. I believe she did receive the call, but didn’t understand how to act on it. She didn’t look into organizations already at work where she could volunteer a week or two. She didn’t make arrangements to raise support for a trip, providing opportunities for those who wanted to be part of a tangible work to participate. She just waited, assuming that if she was to go God would put a fully-funded trip, scheduled for a convenient vacation time, into her back pocket.
This is the funny thing about “the call,” it isn’t necessarily easy to follow. Think about Abraham, God called him to move his entire household to a part of the world he was unfamiliar with. Ruth had to leave her family and homeland to accompany Naomi. David’s first step was to face a giant. I could go on and on, and so could you. The call is amazing, and the results of accepting the call are life-changing, but you need to accept the call. You need to act on it.
If God has given you a heart to serve childbearing women, that is “the call”. Your job, should you choose to accept “the call”, is to find the ways you can begin to act on this call now. It may not be easy. You may have to make some sacrifices. You probably will not start by traveling to Kenya to work with nurses and midwives. But as you begin to be faithful to the call God has placed on your life, you will be trusted with more.
My dear readers, I cannot wait to see how God is able to bless the world through your responding to “the call.” Thank you for all you do.
When I was working as a doula I was always amazed at how perfectly God timed births. They always began and ended at times that fit so amazingly into my schedule in ways I would never have thought to plan them. God thought of everything as he prepared these women to labor.
My faith in God’s perfect timing is being tested as I wait for labors to start. I am only able to be at the birth center for a few days each week, and it seems these tend to be the few days when no one will labor. So I spend three or four days away from my family and come home without having achieved the goal of experiencing another birth.
I try to be patient. I try to remind myself that God has ALWAYS had perfect timing when it came to labors. I cross my fingers and hope no babies are born until I can get back there. But in the end all I can really do is trust that God would not have sent me to midwifery school without planning for me to get the midwifery training experiences I needed. If I must wait, I will wait.
This semester I’ve been working through a postpartum study guide, and it seems it is the lactation part that always makes me stop and wonder.
Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert.
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
Give them, LORD— what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
This physiological wonder was so normal in the Bible that it was used as metaphor. So important was lactation to societies that to wish dry breasts was a curse. I think sometimes we read these passages and assume breastfeeding was easy for the women of the Bible. After all, without the cultural taboo of breasts and with mother’s who breastfed themselves, what could be more natural. And isn’t natural always easy?
Today I am trying to read these verses not as if breastfeeding were easy, but as if the women who breastfeed had just as many struggles as the women I know. As if it took just as much time and energy to ensure a baby started out right. As if there was just as much pain from cracked nipples when the latch was bad. As if candida, plugged ducts and mastitis were possible. As if breastfeeding wasn’t always easy, idealistic and fun.
I am not a wordsmith like some of my friends, but I do enjoy words. I enjoy the way similar words have slightly different meanings. I love finding just the right word to express a feeling. Well written songs move my heart. Basically, I try to pay attention to words.
So this weekend at church I found myself lost in thought after the Bible reading – Ask, seek, knock. I had always read that as a line of repetition as if each word meant the same thing and it was repeated for emphasis. As if Jesus were saying, “Don’t you get it, just ask.”
But this week, for the first time, I realized that if God had meant the words to be the same he would have used the same words. To ask is not the same as to seek. To seek is not the same as to knock. These are different words with different meanings. And at this point, I wish I could speak Greek, or Aramaic or whatever language is recorded in this passage because I’m suddenly very suspicious that the full difference in these words is lost in translation.
Asking is pretty straightforward. I ask when I have something specific I want and I can go to the source. Asking a question, asking for help, asking for an object – in every instance I can think of today asking is about specifics.
Seek is a little more ambiguous. I seek when I have an idea of what I want but I’m not sure where to find it or maybe I don’t even know exactly what it is. Sometimes I find it quickly, other times it takes me longer. Seeking is alot like waiting, there is really nothing you can do to make it move faster – you must continue to seek until you have found.
Knock is the most different. I knock when I don’t have access on my own. Maybe I don’t own the property or maybe I have permission to be there but do not have a key. Either way I knock because I need someone else to open the door for me.
So, why does this matter? This matters because the verse is about our (well my) relationship with God, about my being willing to request from God the things I need. In a way, I had always thought of it as asking – I need to ask God for this or ask God to change me. But maybe it isn’t all about asking God to do this or do that. It makes sense to me, most of my “asking” of God has really always been seeking – Why do I do this God? How do I change this about myself God?
But what really stopped me today was knocking – seeking entrance or permission or however it might be referred to. Knocking to gain entry to another “space.” There is another verse about knock – where Jesus says he stands at the door and knocks. I guess this verse as always tainted my reading of the Ask, seek, knock verse because I automatically think knock of my heart or knock on heaven’s door. But unless there is something in the original language that doesn’t translate this is not just referring to my heart or to heaven. Knock and it will be opened – I can gain access to another … place? space? area? I’m not really sure. (I did explain this is the first time I’ve thought of this verse differently didn’t I?)
So tonight as I go to bed, I go SEEKING better understanding of the KNOCKING part of the verse. And if I get brave, perhaps I’ll even spend my prayer time knocking instead of just seeking and asking. I wonder what amazing things God has in store for me when I do knock.