Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sickness and Taking Medicine

Everyone deals with sickness differently.

Some people want to be left alone and never asked about it.
Some don't.
Some people think that medicine is bad.
Some people will push for medicine thinking it will make everything better.
Some people think that things will go away if you don't go to the doctor.
Some people go searching for health issues when there aren't any.

Last year, when I visited my mother's hematologist with her, she told me to only search as far as I had to--and then to stop.  I was given the same advice by a rheumatologist.

We live in a complicated time.  Women are getting double mastectomies because they have a certain gene.  In a time when people think that doctors want to prescribe everything and do every procedure they can--that is not what I have experienced.

What I've experienced is:
+ One specialist telling me that I'm not sick, but that I do need to take Vitamin D (blood test showed it was low and it's very important to bone health) and exercise daily so that my shoulder doesn't get frozen (because it was well on its way).
+ Another specialist asked me why I went to see him in the first place.  I explained that I'd had some strange test results--which he then kindly explained to me--and explained that I wasn't sick.  He told me never to have my kids ANA tested and he wouldn't have recommended it to me.  From his perspective, there is no reason to live your life for the shoe to drop if there's only a 15% chance (or less) that it will!
+ My children's pediatrician doesn't want to give them antibiotics unless they really need them.
+ The allergist my son sees didn't recommend taking foods out of his diet unless we discover (through experience) that he really is allergic to them.

My general experience is that doctors will prescribe medicine if you really want it.  The urgent care doctors I have seen are usually the ones to more quickly prescribe.  But, what I've learned as I've listened to people is that people who want doctors to prescribe a lot of medicines find doctors that will do that.  The doctors my family sees don't.

I remember a story from an acquaintance years ago.  She told me about how she wasn't sleeping so her OB prescribed her a sleeping aid when she requested it.  She was prescribed this medicine eventhough it was a riskier medicine, she'd taken it during a previous pregnancy, and her baby was born blue (but recovered).  Many people might assume it was the doctor's doing that she would take this risky medicine, but that wasn't the case at all.  It was the woman who pushed for it and chose to take it.

On the other hand, I never had an OB (of the ten different providers I saw--several were in group practices) that offered me a sleep medicine or even asked if I wanted one!

We live in a cynical culture, so many people go to the doctor believing that a doctor is automatically going to prescribe medicine--medicine that you likely may not need.  This is unfortunate because I've known several people to shy away from the doctor or from medicine prescribed from them because they don't believe that the doctor will only prescribe it if they need it.  What this really boils down to is not trusting one's doctor.

When I didn't trust my son's doctor, I went looking for another one.  It was empowering.  I learned that I didn't have to see a doctor who didn't care enough about my son to look at his chart and know that we're there for an annual checkup.  I asked around and couldn't find any recommendation, so I went with the hospital that folks I knew recommended and picked the first doctor off the webpage that I saw.  I was trusting that the Lord would direct me to the right doctor--and he did!  My son now sees a great specialist who knows exactly who he is--even though we only see him once a year.

We are blessed to live in a place and a time when we do have choices when it comes to medical care.   Medicine is a blessing.  I know that it is wise not to take too much and not to overmedicate, but I do get concerned that just as a phobia developed about vaccines (leading to various outbreaks of these diseases), that people who really need medicines may not take them when they need them.  I hope that this won't happen.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hope and Voting

Recently, I was talking with two friends about a YA book I had recommended.  Neither of them connected with the book, though they had enjoyed other books I'd recommended before in the past.  I couldn't explain exactly what I had liked about the book because it had been several years since I'd read it.  So, I headed for the library to check it out.

The book was Hope Was Here, but Joan Bauer.  The book is recommended for ages 12 and up (7th grade).  I have found with other books by Ms. Bauer that I usually think the recommended age should be two years above what it is.  The story is about a teenage girl named Hope.  The story begins with her traveling to Minnesota with her Aunt Addie, who is essentially her mom.  They are leaving their restaurant where her aunt was cook and she was a waitress.  Addie's partner stole their money and they were forced to close up shop.  The story follows Hope's journey in this new place.  Much of the story centers around G.T. (the owner of the restaurant where they go to work) and his campaign for mayor of the small town where they live.

Yesterday, I sat down and reread the book, seeking to understand what had made me like it in the first place.  My friends' main comment was that they couldn't connect to the story.  As soon as I read the first page, I knew why I had like it.  The main character Hope reminds me of my best friend from high school.  She lived a life that had commonalities with Hope's.  She was even a hostess and waitress, like Hope.  My friend was an independent, no nonsense girl.  She wasn't a super emotional girl, but was extremely level headed and took care of herself.  Her relationship with her mom, stepdads, father, brother, and other extended family members were similar as well.  Even the advice about waitressing that Hope shares over the course of the book is advice that I can imagine my friend giving to new waitresses.

The mentality that Hope has about being responsible for herself and making her own way, yet being thankful for the roof over her head and food on the table is one my friend shared.  I find that in many books teenagers are portrayed in extremes.  Either they are coddled and totally dependent on parents, or they are neglected by parents and have to scrape by.  But, some teens do have a family member who steps in and cares for them--when they are abandoned by their parents like Hope is in this story.  Hope recognizes that she has always longed for a father, but she's thankful to not be completely abandoned and adrift.  She has only seen her mom 3 times prior to this book in her lifetime.  Every visit is a bittersweet reminder of the blessing of her Aunt Addie's love.

Hope doesn't talk to Addie about what she's trying to understand about the world, but neither did I nor any of my friends when we were teenagers.  On the other hand, the relationship I have with my daughters is completely different.  We talk about everything and when they're trying to understand something they talk to me in a way that I didn't talk to my parents when I was in middle school.

So, why do I like this book?
First, I resonate with it.  I was independent and making decisions like Hope did in high school.  I had a part-time job from the time I was 14 years old on.  I applied for the jobs myself and my parents didn't have a hand in me getting the jobs or in even suggesting that I apply where I did.  Secondly, until I had children, I was not particularly emotional.  I was pretty matter of fact about life--just like Hope--and like my friends in high school.  Third, this book conveys the importance of voting to teens.  I want my children to vote and to value voting.  This book has some unexpected twists and turns that could feed cynicism, but instead it dispels them because the good guys win out.  Lastly, this book reminds me of my best friend and why I respect her so much. She was the one who taught me what loyalty means--when she called me very single day from several states away while I was pregnant, very sick, and my husband was deployed overseas.  No one else did that.  In fact, no one else called.  But, she did.  She cared--just like Hope cared.

Joan Bauer is one of the better YA fiction writers in my opinion.  That's not a blanket recommendation to read all of her books--I posted earlier about Almost Home and a recommendation for teens not to read it until high school.  But, I like this book.  It was a Newberry Honor Book and I can understand why.  It isn't gushy and filled with romance.  It's not filled with vampires and darkness either.

Ironically, I think this book would be a great discussion starter for Christian teens.  Hope chose her name because she wanted a name that meant something.  Is she a Christian?  What makes you think she is or isn't?  What is her definition of "hope"?  What is a Christians' definition of "hope"?  Are they the same thing?  At the end of the book, she gets something she desperately had wanted.  Did she know that this was what she wanted at the beginning of the book?  How is she changed by getting what she wants?  Compare/Contrast this book with Son and the morals of the two books.  In Son, by Lois Lowry, the moral is that you already have what you really need--what you wish for may not be what you really want.  On the other hand, in Hope Was Here, the moral (I think) is that getting what you really want will change you--for the better.  It will fulfill you.  Which book do you agree with?

So, those are my thoughts.  Reading Hope Was Here was like putting on my Vans for me--it reminds me of who I am and where I come from.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Thoughts

Yesterday, I shared a devotion at our church's women's brunch.  I thought I would post it here.  These are thoughts that have been on my mind this week, because it was such a crazy, busy, over the top stressful week for me.  But, it is done now.  The next week portends to be a stressful one as well, but it is Christmastime!  I want to focus on the Lord and remember Christ's birth, but it can be challenging when life is crowding in.  These were the thoughts I wrote down when I sorted through it all...

What are you dwelling on?

Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? Yesterday, I was struck that these are amazingly simple questions that have enormous relevance to our lives. I'm going to tackle these questions today in a round about way and how they apply to Christmas and our lives.

The Who is the easy part of the picture—us.

Then we can move on to the
WHAT: What are you dwelling on?

The Past? The Present? Or the Future?

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved the traditions that came with the season for my family. Thanksgiving was always at my Grandma's house with the same foods (divided up among the family to make). Then, came the wide extended family Christmas party
that happened with people that I wasn't even sure who was who. But, I was a kid, so I loved the yummy fudge that was always a dependable guest at the food table. On Christmas Eve, we had my grandma, great-grandma, and three families over that we knew. Every year they came and every year the menu was the same. Homemade noodles, meat sauce, bread, salad, and ice cream for dessert. Christmas Day brought presents under the tree and then dinner at my grandma's house with my aunt's family.

When I became a young adult, headed off to college, and my parents divorced, everything changed. I still came home and enjoyed Christmas with my mom, but it wasn't the same. Christmas Eve was the same, but at her home, and I had to leave her to go spend Christmas Day with my dad's family. And then I got married. And Christmas got complicated for many reasons. Chris and I began navigating which traditions we'd keep from each side of the family. Because it was my family traditions that I remembered most, it became really important to me to make new traditions for my own family.

As an adult, I realized that holidays in general are complicated. I think it's easy to focus on a lot of things besides what we're supposed to be focusing on at Christmas—Christ's birth.

So, what are some of these things?
They could be the past-- hurts, stresses, bad memories—or good memories that you miss and wish you could have again

They could be the present-- Christmas brings lots of activity and busyness that can be consuming. My week sure was! Your life might not be the way you wish it was, or there might be an unpredictable family member that you just don't know how they're going to act on Christmas—or you may love Christmas with your family and be focusing on presents, gift giving and your friends and family, but you know it is only for a time

They could be the future or near future-- what are your expectations? How will you react if they aren't met? How will you react if they are?

So, what do we do with all of this?

WHEN: When do we dwell?
WHERE: Where do we dwell?
WHY: Why does it matter what we dwell on?

Last Sunday, my husband spoke at the beginning of service of thinking of God throughout the day. I find that the room in my mind often gets crowded by some mixture of the past, present, and future and it ends up all muddled. All of these things are the cares of this world. This doesn't mean they don't matter. They do, but we have to be careful about getting lost in them and losing sight of Christ. We also have to be careful about dwelling on these things because we can start thinking more about what we think God isn't doing instead of seeing what He is.

I was listening to a 69 year old woman in a doctor's office on Wednesday afternoon tell me that she struggled for years—believing that God didn't care about her because her family wasn't at peace and her husband was still an unbeliever after 40 years of marriage. Just last January, her family found peace. Her husband is still an unbeliever, but there was reconciliation in her family and she saw that God cared. I understood how she felt because I had the same thought about God, “Does he care?” when I was 21 and had doubts.

The truth is that God is always enough. He does care. Sometimes the cares of this world can bog us down, though, and make us feel like he doesn't.

Cynthia Heald writes in her book, Becoming a Woman Whose God is enough, “God is always enough, but we have the choice of believing whether He is enough or He is not. The Bible encourages us to believe, trust, and let go of these cares.

Luke 9:23New International Version (NIV)

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Philippians 3:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2New International Version (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Romans 12:1-2New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.

Luke 12:22-30 English Standard Version (ESV)

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,[b] yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[c] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

So, HOW can we change what we're dwelling on?

I like this quote from The Renewing of The Mind Project by Barb Raveling,

“Our job is to open up the windows and let the light of God's Word in so it can transform us. That's different than opening the drapes and plopping down on the couch with a good book. But too often that's what we do as Christians....

We're starting from a point of already being accepted by God if we're his children through faith. We can rest in His love and walk hand in hand with Him, working on this project together.

How do we do this? How do we dwell on Christ in this advent season instead of getting lost in the cares of the world?

Last week I read an email that Marti Mylin had sent me just before Thanksgiving. In the Lord's timing, I read it in the middle of my muddle this week.

She encouraged me to read Hebrews 12 and here are a few verses that spoke to my heart from it.

Hebrews 12: 12-15
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 andmake straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for theholiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled

Barb Raveling lists in her book 7 things and explains each one that we should be doing after we're saved, if we want to be transformed.  Barb's book goes into each one of these in detailed, practical ways. But, I'm going to focus on one thing we can do that addresses #1 Renew your mind and #2 Hiding God's Word in your Heart.

How do we do this at Christmas time?

Well, around Christmas time, one of the quickest, fastest, and easiest ways for me to renew my mind and rethink my day is to sing a Christmas carol—either outloud or in my head. I watched a movie once about Fanny Crosby, the hymn writer, who said that people get their theology from Hymns. I remember getting upset about this quote at the time because I felt the Bible was where our theology should come from. Looking back, I see now that when she was writing hymns, many people couldn't read. Yet, they did know hymns. Today, we can read, yet it is worship songs and hymns that often stick in our heads easiest. Christmas carols bring joy to our hearts with their words and remind us of the hope of Christ's birth. It is this hope that shines the light into the darkness that comes when the cares of the world creep into our hearts.

Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time when we come together to celebrate Christ's birth. What a blessing it is that God sent his one and only begotten son to die for our sins that we might be saved and have eternal life!

I know there isn't a magic pill that I can take when I have a week like this one. Doctors appointments and tests, birthday parties, homeschooling, a car accident, and all the regular stuff of life to boot! I know I'm not alone in all of this—all of you have so much going on in your lives as well! But, at the end of the day, there is HOPE. The HOPE of Christ. We can savor and be thankful for Christ's birth, remembering the much bigger picture—that Jesus is the reason for the season.

I've made some bookmarks listing some common Christmas carols. I thought that maybe you could put one where you'll come across it and see the name of a familiar carol you can sing (outloud or even in your head) and remember the Hope that the Christmas season reminds us of.