Saturday, March 31, 2012


I have often wondered what stops us from being exactly who we want to be. 
Exactly who God created us to be.
I think most often, in my own experience, it is myself.

I was reading this blog written by Katie Davis.
A mother of 14 girls in Uganda. She is 22. She is from Nashville.
Thank you Stephanie Riebe for introducing me to her story.

This video is contagious. 

My reaction to this video is to first, get excited about studying. To do what God has given me to do with the same passion portrayed in this short video of one faithful follower of Christ.

And also, to make a commitment to adoption. To loving on a child. To reminding him or her that they have not been forgotten by God. It kind of scares me to think about making such a statement. But, then, I think, why stop myself from being exactly who God has created me to be. Why write safe things I know I can do without any help from God. I used to tell people I thought I wanted to be a doctor using phases like, "If I get in...If I don't change my mind...If I don't fail...If I don't do that bad on the MCAT...If a school accepts me..." All these phrases did was undermine the God given desire placed in my heart to heal. I was preparing for failure instead of planning or fighting for success. I was limiting myself by what I knew I could do without God, instead of growing myself and trusting God.

So, I make that statement with the knowledge that if God has given me a gut reaction for or towards something, I should not tip toe around it until it falls in my lap. To stop thinking about it, and do it. Even if, for right now, that just means to write it here.

Today is the day I pray for the opportunity to love a child, or children, with the same love Christ has shown me. Don't ask me what that looks like. I'm afraid it will be years before I can adequately provide for and thus adopt a child, but I hope not...this young girl didn't wait. What does that even mean? To provide? Anyways...even as I write this I'm fighting the voice of reason in my head that says, "Don't write these things with such reckless abandon...what if you can't make this happen?" But, right now, I don't care. I want to remember how I feel right now. I pray that God prepares me for loving a child who becomes my own with every day between now and then. I pray mostly that I wait patiently and purposefully.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Intubation and Chinese Food

Two things to report!

1. We had an Advanced Cardiac Life Support lab today where we learned all about how, when, and what to do when someone is experiencing heart/breathing problems. You know when someone calls Code Blue and the place goes crazy....all those things that happen at that point are what we were learning about. It's pretty's a video of a patient getting intubated before surgery. The procedures we learned were all on manikins and were in preparation for an emergency, but, it should help convey the idea.

We learned about how to shock patients too, only for those in serious's another video. What we learned to do was to be the guy in black, directing all of the events and analyzing the heart rhythms, knowing when to use what medicines in the IV, and we learned the intubating part where they add an airway to assist with breathing. I can't imagine experiencing this in real life for the first time. I'm hoping to learn the protocols and algorithms for the treatments like the back of my's learning with a purpose in sight, and it's so great! Kind of like when we were learning to interpret ECG's in cardiology, it's nice when skills and knowledge line up. Cool stuff.

2. I went to dinner with a few med students and when the waiter came to pick up our completed bills with tips he looked at the amounts we'd written down, and no joke, asked the other two girls, "Was everything ok??" To which they said, "Yeah." And he says, "Then can you give me more for a tip....(handing the receipt back in their direction!)" We were in shock!! And hardly knew what to say. He said he needed 15%. He was so serious! Woah. I mean, really?? The staff had been kinda weird all during dinner, but I have never been somewhere where they actually demanded more tip and then proceeded to wait, staring, until the girls left another 50 cents. Crazy! Keeps life interesting I guess...but really???

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The OCCDA Internship

Spring break week was also kind of decision time...

It's crazy how life goes sometimes. I wasn't planning on being involved in a med student retreat, nor was I really looking for it. But, it was great and I'm glad it all worked out (I promise, I'm not just saying that). Because through that, I spent hours on the phone with Dr. Barb Carlson, the doctor who planned the SWMC Retreat for us. She put me in contact with the OCCDA (Overflow Christian Community Development Association in Benton Harbor) and before I knew it, I was considering, SERIOUSLY considering, taking a year between my 2nd and 3rd years of medical school to work as an intern for OCCDA while concurrently working on a Master's in public health.  Please note I didn't say "to take a year OFF" important distinction--that's how important I think doing something like this would be. I even e-mailed the Air Force requesting a leave of absence. To which they said, "Apply, but don't get your hopes up. It's highly unlikely your request will be approved." I spoke with a couple of students who have done the MPH...with've gotten lots of opinions--for which I am incredibly grateful. Anyone who had to listen to me consider all this and process it out loud, I owe you one.

All things considered and believe me, I considered them ALL at least 10 times, I've realized a couple of things which I've listed below. "Things considered" included awesome, AWESOME people and role models in Benton Harbor I'd get to spend a year with, a church body that meets in a movie theater, learning tons about how to spearhead community development projects, immersing myself in a new culture, stretching my faith, taking out another $$20-25,000 in student loans, another year of coursework, extremely interesting classes in the MPH program, learning about how to improve the foundation of health in an inner city, seeing deep rooted division between classes in society...)

I've come to the decision that I'm going to use this experience as fuel for what I hope to discover  once I get to Bay City in July, either by a previously established organization or by my own initiative. I didn't get a big sign from God or anything regarding which was most definitely the absolute best. I believe choosing to spend a year in Benton Harbor would have been very worthwhile, but there are a ton of benefits to Bay City too. Benefits that extend beyond me and that I can see God using in big ways. For example, totally free housing (all utilities and laundry included!!) and an AF stipend that can be put to use building God's kingdom instead of paying rent. But spending time in Benton Harbor over spring break and learning about the MPH program (in which I hope to try to audit some classes...for free!) have served a purpose and thus, were not for nothing. With that, here are my reflections:

Big picture take-aways:
1. God has completely changed my 10 year "this is what I'll be doing" plan I'd set my eyes on only a year and a half ago. For years I pictured myself at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. That transitioned into any country overseas...basically any continent except North America. Now I'm thinking Detroit, which is only a short 20 minute drive from my hometown, is looking pretty attractive. It's funny how new experiences have begun to help me discover more about what makes me tick. I wonder where I think I'll be in another year...

2. Be ready for something to reset the timeline you've so carefully planned out. There is a quote from a sermon I shared a while ago..."those who follow God's mission will face constant temptation to exchange God's agenda for personal ambition." I think personal ambition here can sometimes refer to the timeline we carefully construct for ouselves. One we control and that a lot of people have proven work. It's safer. I'm praying for the ability to be flexible. To look for a road less traveled. Rather than see an interruption in the day, in the month, or like in this case, an entire year, as an interruption, I've learned to embrace it as an opportunity. Trusting in God and learning to be irrationally in love with the idea of serving a God who can do immeasurably more than I could have dreamed or imagined is starting to become a new standard I'm asking friends and family to hold me accountable to.

3. Above all else, put on love. "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." -Maya Angelou Sometimes I get freaked out when I try to interact with people I don't know or am for whatever reason uncomfortable around. I wish it wasn't the case. But it is. I learned while shadowing and interacting with volunteers at Mosaic love goes a long way and it starts with being interested in a person. After all, who doesn't love to talk about themselves if you ask them a question?

4. Stefenie, one of the co-directors of Mosaic, left me with a pearl of what she has observed. She said community is giving up our own privileges and intrinsic power we were born into, and working to empower those who weren't handed life on a silver platter. I know I don't have it all together, but a well paying job, warm home and running car (...silver platter) make life a little less stressful, right? I thought a lot about that and what that actually looks like. It sounds nice, but what does it look like? The problems people are so quick to point out in society are so deeply ingrained in brokenness that stems from generations of suffering. Andrea and I wrestled with solutions while we drove from Benton Harbor, over the bridge, and into St. Joe. Two cities divided by race, class, education, employment, and economics. It's a deep division that extends into how the two populations interact as human beings. I was even told by a Benton Harbor volunteer that he wasn't surprised when we told him we weren't from St. Joseph. "They never come over here, I don't know why...," he said, "they just never do." It took the disparity I saw merely in the homes and heard about in reference to school districts for example, to an entirely different level. A much more personal, heartfelt level. I learned in this that I have a lot to learn. And that I might never have the best answer, but am thankful for a God who sustains me when I get frustrated and feel out of control. There's a plan. He promised.

5. I struggled with not taking a year to spend time in Benton Harbor because I was afraid of what people thought. I'd spent so much time and energy investigating in the opportunity that I felt as though I'd be letting people down if I didn't follow through with this crazy idea to not stick to the said "plan." Sort of like I had to follow through in order to maintain credibility. Insecure? Maybe. But, hopefully you understand. Part of me was tempted to do it for the sole purpose of not sticking to the plan, which was extremely attractive in its own way. Maybe a little to prove to my parents that the experience would be worthwhile (Sorry Mom and Dad...) All in all, through that mental tug-of-war, I've learned to remember that I will best serve the Lord no matter where I am--just so long as it's about Him. Not me, not my insecurities, or to  maintain my own credibility with people. I have become so passionate about community health as a vehicle for Christian community development and will make it a priority in Bay City. And instead of feeling burdened by the thought of what people thought of not choosing to work in Benton Harbor, I feel empowered and encouraged by it. Like I said before, it's lit a fire under me for finding similar opportunities in Bay City this summer.

I'm so excited to move to Bay City. I can hardly wait. That also means boards will be over...which can't come soon enough!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Break 2012

This was supposed to be done weeks ago...I contemplated not even posting about it since it's sooo late. And ridiculously long. Most of it was written, I was just having trouble finishing it. Alas, here is a synopsis of what I did for spring break this year. It was all too important to my own personal growth not to document it. And....I know I'll forget the details if I don't include them here. I was in the St.Joseph/Benton Harbor area which began in planning a medical student retreat hosted by the Southwestern Medical Clinic for us up at MSU. So, that's where I'll begin.

Southwestern Medical Clinic is a collaboration of clinics in the Southwestern MI area that essentially acts as a hub for medical missionaries all over the world. Doctors either come there during a year off from the missions field, work there to provide financial assistance and overall support of missionaries all over the world, or settle there after having spent significant time in medical missions throughout their career. While the clinics may appear like any other "normal" medical primary care clinic, knowing that they are run by like minded followers of Christ makes the clinic and the doctors an interesting model for Christian health care and missions.

We spent the afternoon at a local church catching up with friends from other MSU campuses and being challenged to consider how we may use our Dr. title down the road. We went to the dunes, which was cold and windy, but still fun and then spent time that evening at the Hayward's for a dinner that could easily be considered a feast. And Chris gave me a bloody nose at the dunes. I played a small role, but it just sounds way better if I say he did it. He did find this heart shaped rock though, so I'll call it even.

Those are wine legs (drips on the sides) that tell you about the
bitterness or sweetness of the wine based on alcohol content.
More dry = bigger width between the individual legs

I stuck around for the rest of the week and got to stay with a local doc (Dr. Barb Carlson) who works at one of the Southwestern Medical Clinics. It was nice to change up a weekly routine. We had some good conversations and she has some awesome golden retrievers. She took me out for pizza on Lake MI and we even went wine tasting with some of the other physicians in the area at the Tabor Hill winery. So delicious. And so informative!

Mosaic is a resale store in Benton Harbor, MI that Erin, Andrea and I all spent some time at this week. It's affiliated with the OCCDA: Overflow Christian Community Development Association. OCCDA was started about 4ish years ago in hopes of making a difference in Benton Harbor, MI. As stated on their website, "We have strong hopes and dreams to see God’s love poured into the city by putting our hope in action. We strive to break down the economic and racial disparities in Benton Harbor and its surrounding communities through community development."

An overhead view of the store

An awesome mural in Benton Harbor. I'm secretly hoping I discover I'm an artist later in life.

The HERBIE Clinic. Where Doc Sherry and tons of volunteers see 80+ patients from 8-noon for free every month. They have a diabetic counselor, an orthopedic surgeon providing joint injections, an ER doc who is a DO and does osteopathic manipulative medicine, about 5 primary care providers, a lab with cholesterol, urinalysis, and hemoglobin A1C testing, and a pharmacy. It's all funded by donations and by the doctors who contribute out of pocket. I loved the entire week, but this was for sure a highlight. A special thanks to Doc Sherry and the time she spent helping me understand how to make something like this a reality.

I learned a lot of lessons this week. Two of which came from my time with her. Number one, I was convicted about believing people without jobs, no heath insureance, an income below the poverty line, and maybe even without a house were more in need of a Savior than people in nice looking homes, in nice looking clothes, with friendly looking smiles. While I still wonder how those basic needs I've taken for grated for years might be met, the lesson learned: Everyone needs a savior. I was ashamed I'd become so blinded to that. Doc Sherry has a private practice, a free monthly clinic, and a warehouse ready for mobilization in case of a disaster relief effort. So watching her interact with patients that spanned a huge spectrum of different cultures or financial stabilities with a heart transformed by a God, who doesn't see the barriers we put up within society to separate people, was an enormous encouragement and challenge to begin asking God for an ever changing heart and mind for all people.

Second, I learned the power of an intentional doctor patient relationship. She has a relationship motivated by Christ's love. End of story. The interactions I was privileged to sit in on taught me to be bold, to ask hard questions, and to have compassion for all areas of a person's life. Our patients deserve that. She was the family doc/psychiatrist combo I've thought would be so cool. It's hard in a medical community where for so long medical professionals have been trained to intentionally neglect such a personal topics. It's hard when you worry how a patient will respond. Or how they may view you differently. I'm learning I have to fight for the spirit of love, of power, and of self-discipline. Paul reminds Timothy, God did not give us a spirit of timidity. Another good thing to pray for...wisdom and a spirit that is in tune with the Holy Spirit in those sacred times with patients.

A trip to the west coast of MI wouldn't be complete without a walk to a lighthouse, the enjoyment of a sunset, or an overpriced Kilwin's ice cream cone. I spent the afternoon in solitude in downtown St. Joe browsing the shops and eating the most delicious falafel EVER. After working at the HERBIE Clinic Saturday morning, the week at Mosaic, and a couple of job shadowing days (one with a nurse midwife!!)... it was the perfect calm before the storm I knew was coming at school.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good Morning

Erin and I are sitting in a coffee shop, Coffee and Friends, this morning. It's sunny. I got to talk to my family. I had a spontaneous coffee shop conversation about mass media, vaccines, work ethic, the medical society, and goats with the owner who was an older gentleman with suspenders and a farm.

I feel happy. I feel fortunate. I feel the sun through the window and I love it. I'm wearing sandals and shorts and a t-shirt and it's March. As Alison would say, "PRAISE-THE-LORD!" (Al, if you're reading this, we need to get together asap...)

Lake Michigan from St. Joseph, MI
Taken during spring break last week

I also wanted to share a poem from The Cost of Discipleship, my newest book I shouldn't have started yet. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is described as "a man who lived in, and loved, this world. He, a giant before man, was but a child before God. While he was in the body, the fight between flesh and spirit, Adam and Christ, was going on in him. Sometimes he seemed to have become a riddle to himself. One day he gave expression to this conflict in his soul in a moving poem written from the prison cell..."


Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mental Preparation

I just thought, "Why is studying the kidneys so hard? It feels harder than cardio...and cardio was supposed to be the hardest?!" And that got me thinking...

Everyone in medical school talks about how hard the cardiology unit is going to be. That's all I heard for the year and a half leading up to it. I was prepared for the worst. Now it's over and it didn't seem so bad. (Of course that's always easier to say when something is over...I know.)

I was warned by many and am still reminded by my classmates about how terribly hard med school is. And so far, I've picked up more hobbies and had more good times with friends than I could have anticipated. Med school isn't that bad. But then again, I was prepared for and expected the worst. So, it's like cardiology.

My hardest semester in undergrad, I got my best grades. My easiest semester, I got my worst grades. I think (hope) you see my point...

Now I'm studying the genitourinary system. I am not prepared for it. Mostly mentally. We started it right after finishing spring break. It's hard. I thought it would be easy. So...this is my thought.

I think I know why it's hard. I didn't prepare. I didn't mentally prepare for it to be hard, and when I struggle with it, it catches me off guard and I loathe it. Strong word, but yes, I loathe the genitourinary system right now. I don't have any real desire to master it because I didn't enter into it with a "I'm going to try to do really well!!" attitude.

I hear boards are hard. Really hard. I hear studying for them is hard. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. I hope what experience is telling me is that if I prepare for the will end up not actually being that bad. Logical thought, yeah? Yes.

That was my thought as I was trying to figure out why studying this stuff was so hard for me. This is my conclusion. My expectation and subsequent preparation for something being hard is apparently directly proportional to its success. Now that that's settled, I can get back to studying...