Mosaic Masterpiece

This is something I wrote back in 2013 when I was going thru one of the toughest spots of my life. I recently rediscovered it and decided to share it with you all!

The girl stood looking in dismay at the remains of her shattered vase. 
Once again her bouquet had been tossed on the ground and stomped on. Her vase had been hurled to the ground and smashed into a thousand pieces.

Once again she’d tried to show forth her value, her beauty, and once again it had been smashed into unrecognizable bits.

She sighed. She’d long ago given up shedding tears over it. What did they help? Nothing. No one cared. Why should she care? 

And yet…deep in her heart, she did care. She longed to feel value, to be needed, appreciated.

She turned away, determined this time to never pick it up again. She’d tried so many times before and it never lasted. She’d pick up the pieces, glue them back together, and five minutes later it would be laying in pieces on the ground again, shattered in even more pieces.

It had been patched and glued and put back together and broken so many times it was a most impossible task to put them together the way they were meant to be.

She turned away. She’d given up.

*ahem* She heard someone clear their throat.

Startled, she turned to face this new person. Who dared to intrude on her private burial of her vase, her value?

“Would you give the broken pieces to Me?”

What?! Was this Man crazy?! He wanted the broken pieces?! Why? So He could pick them up and throw them away? “Why?”

“I like broken things. I like to use the pieces in mosaics.”

“Mosaics?!” The girl’s voice was hard and critical, guarding herself. “I HATE mosaics!”

“Why? I love mosaics.”

“Cuz every time I see a mosaic, I see all the broken pieces and think about how painful it must have been to get broken like that!”

“Ah, but I see the whole beautiful picture and joy in the skill that it must have taken to put all those little pieces together into one beautiful masterpiece.”

“You do?” The girl was puzzled.

“Yes, I do. Would you let Me do that for you? With your broken vase?”

“Um…weeelll, I guess You could have them if you really wanted. If that is what would bring honor to You.”

“Yes. I will put the pieces together into a beautiful mosaic masterpiece. It will be done with such skill that people will look at it and wonder who it is that has such skill to make such a beautiful thing out so many ugly, broken, scarred pieces. Then you will be able to answer them and point them to the Artist. Because everyone will know that there was no way YOU could do such a thing. They will be drawn to look to Someone else. That will be how you will be able to point others to Me, and how You will bring me glory.”

The girl bowed her head. “Yes, Abba. I will do that. I am willing to be Your mosaic masterpiece in order to bring glory to You.”

And in that moment, she was given value beyond anything she’d ever imagined.

#Abba.Father’s.mosaic.masterpiece

My Uniform

skirtTonight I walked through the security room at a local emergency department. No one questioned my right to be there or challenged me. On the contrary, several security fellows looked up, smiled, and said hello.

Why was this you ask? It was because of my uniform. My uniform identifies me as a first responder. The patches on my sleeves show the company I work for and the level of training I have. The name badge on my collar contains my EMT number and employee ID.

Tonight I’ve been thinking a lot about my uniform and what it represents, even how it makes me act.

When I am in uniform, I tend to walk and act more confidently. I make an effort to look people in the faces. I walk with my head up. I try harder to act with courtesy and respect. And at all times in uniform I feel a pressure to be professional and at all times represent my uniform well. People stop me to ask directions. Little children are intrigued and want to say hi and talk to me. There’s a camaraderie between other first responders in the crew room. I’m allowed to go places and walk thru doors that are normally off-limits.

In emergencies, people immediately look to me because of my uniform. They recognize it as someone who should know what they’re doing. When people call us in an emergency,  they trust us to come into their homes and they trust us with the most private details of their lives. Because of our uniforms. They look at us to come in and bring order when their lives are upside down.

When I’ve been in uniform,  I have been handed free coffee. I’ve had people come up to me and ask if I knew their friend/family member who also works as an EMT. I’ve had people say thank you. I’ve also had people ask if I was a police officer. (I politely explained to them that I carry neither handcuffs or a gun nor do I have any interest in arresting someone.) People automatically lean toward trusting me when I’m in uniform. My word carries more weight.

All these thoughts got me to thinking. What if I acted this way as a believer in Christ? As a believer in Christ, I am in a sense wearing a uniform. My Christian uniform consists of the armor of God that’s in Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP).

“10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. 13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having [b]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waistband having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [c]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] [d]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all [e]God’s people.”

These verses give us pretty specific commands on how to wear our uniform and how we are to act in the kingdom of God. Let’s look at it.

vs. 11. “Put on the FULL armor of God”. When I get ready to go to work, I have a mental checklist to make sure I have all the pieces. Pressed shirt? Washed skirt? Name tag? Trauma shears? Pager? Boots? Belt? Watch with a second-hand? Phone? Phone charger? Small notebook? Pens? Having all these things insures that I will be ready for whatever kinds of things may come up during the day. It’s the same way with our Christian lives. Do we run through our checklist at the beginning of the day? Helmet of salvation? Shield of faith? Sword of the Spirit? Belt of truth? Breastplate of righteousness? Shoes of the gospel of peace? Is it all in working order? Do we know how to use it? Do we take care of it?

vs. 14 “wide band of truth around your waistband”. My uniform belt is a sturdy duty belt. It’s wide, made of thick leather, and secure. It holds my trauma shears and pager. It provides a hand hold for my spotter when we’re carrying a patient up or down stairs. It gives fearful patients something to hold on to while we’re moving them from one place to another. And it provides a polished look to the uniform. These verses say that we should have a belt of truth. Since we’re wearing armor I imagine the belt should be sturdy and is important. It keeps everything together. It provides a place to hang all our tools on. It provides a handhold for those who are weaker and for our comrades to help us along. Truth is the centerpiece of our uniform.

vs. 14 “breastplate of righteousness”. I would liken this to my uniform shirt. It provides identifying marks that show my rank and company. It protects me against dirt and bodily fluids. My badges on my arms show that I have the training and authority necessary to step into crazy chaotic situations and attempt to bring help, hope, and healing. They identify what my role is and where I fall in the paramilitary ranking of first responders. So as a Christian, my breastplate, which is protection of my heart and vital organs. It should show that I have the training necessary to step into spiritual chaos and bring order, hope and healing to the wounded and hurting. By being willing to wear this, I am also showing that I am willing to step up to my training and use it in the way it was intended.

vs. 15 “strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation”. These are my boots. My boots are all leather, non-slip, rugged sole boots that give me protection on my feet and provide me stability and grip in all types of terrain and places. I’ve walked in hoarder’s homes with filthy floors. I’ve hiked up hills and walked in squeaky clean hospitals. I’ve stepped in blood, urine, ants, dirt, mud, gravel, carpet, hardwood, and pretty much everything else; and yet my feet have stayed safe, protected and clean. I take care of my boots almost more than any other part of my uniform. I clean them, polish them, and use protecting wax. I have not once lost my footing. By staying on my feet I have kept the rest of my uniform from being dirtied by the environment I found myself in. This is how we should be as Christians as well. Our shoes, the gospel of peace, provide our stability in the middle of the battle. It provides us grip and protection. With the proper shoes, we are able to walk in the midst of filth without getting it on ourselves at all. We can pull people out of the filth of their lives without getting it all over us.

vs. 16 “shield of faith”. I don’t carry a shield with me at work, but on certain calls I do work very closely with police officers who wear bullet resistant vests. So at the risk of stretching this analogy to far, I will liken the police officers’ body armor to our shield of faith. Their vests are often made out of materials which resist the impact of bullets and are often stab proof as well to protect from knives. These officers will risk their lives to protect us and others from people who want to harm or kill us. When police officers are on scene, I know that the scene is likely to be more dangerous than other scenes, but I’m also more confident because we have more protection. Our faith as Christians should be like this. We can walk confidently into situations that may be considered dangerous knowing that our shields will protect us and thwart the enemies attack. With our shields up, we will still have to be on guard, but we won’t have to fear any attacks.

vs. 17 “helmet of salvation”. Head protection. Depends where I am working as an EMT whether on a search mission or on the shipyards, I wear a helmet. On search missions I wear a climbing helmet and at the shipyards I wear a hard hat. The purpose of this is to protect my head, obviously. But protect it from what? Things falling down, me bumping my head into things as I walk through narrow places or under trees,  rocks sliding down from the climbers above me, all kinds of things that could cause my head injury. It also provides protection from weather such as sun and rain. With our helmet of salvation on, we can walk through crazy places, dangerous places and have nothing to fear for any type of head injuries. Make sure your helmet stays on and in place and you’re good to go!

vs. 17 “sword of the Spirit”. Now obviously as an EMT I do not carry any type of weapon with me on any scene. But I would like to liken the sword to my tools I carry, my gear. A sword is a tool of a soldier, so I have tools as well. My tools enable me to carry out my job. I have my various bags of gear, and all of the tools in them are at my disposal. However, it is up to me to be familiar with their locations and how they work. I need to train to know how to utilize them and which ones work best for which jobs. So as a Christian I need to train to learn how to best use my sword and how to wield it. It is my responsibility to learn this and keep up with my training. Just like as an EMT I have to keep up on my skills and continue training. I can’t ever assume that just because I learned it once I am done learning forever. Training continues forever.

vs. 18 “stay alert with all perseverance and petition”. Stay alert. This gets drilled into my head more and more as the situation surrounding all first responders becomes more and more sketchy in our current world. Threats against my coworkers. Firefighters off-duty being attacked. Many police officers being killed. Fake 911 calls being placed in order to attack the first responders. Normally safe scenes quickly becoming unsafe. More and more of our training centers around situational awareness and being constantly on guard even on “routine” calls. The more this is being trained into me the more I realize how much this is necessary on a spiritual level as well. Be alert. Watch out for subtle signs that not everything is as it appears. Don’t take things at face value. Be ready to deescalate any situation as needed. Learn HOW to deescalate a situation before it becomes more dangerous. Learn to control your reactions to things like anger and fear. Be able to remain calm in the face of high levels of stress. Always watch your back. Be alert for your partner’s safety as well. Be ready to vacate premises for your own safety as needed. And always remember your own safety comes first, then your partner’s, and then your patient’s. If you get injured, you’re no good to anyone. Stay safe! Not only physically but also spiritually!

Pay attention to your Christian uniform. Do I take as much care of it as I do my EMT uniform? Do I realize the significance of it? Do I walk out the confidence that I should have? My physical uniform makes me think of my spiritual uniform. Is yours in working order?

The Prince and His Bride, Part 1 & 2

Imagine with me for a moment, that you are on your way to the throne room of the King with an important-to-you request. You know that since it’s important to you, it will be important to Him. You heart is thrilled to know that you can enter His throne room at any time no matter what, and you will be welcomed with open arms and given the King’s full attention.

As you near the door to the throne room, you spot a pitiful figure crouched to one side of the door. When you get closer, you can see that it’s a girl. Her clothes are ragged. Her hair is unkempt, hanging loosely in her face. She’s crouching there, rocking back and forth slightly, sobbing.

Your heart fills with compassion, but just when you start over to her, the door to the throne room opens and a figure steps out. You gasp in surprise when you recognize the figure as that of the Prince! It’s the Prince who always sits on the right hand of the King!

He walks over to the girl and crouches down to look into her dirty, tear-stained face. As you watch, He reaches out and smooths her hair back from her face. She recoils instantly in terror from His touch. She cries out, “Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!”

You wonder if she realizes who she’s talking to. The Prince is gentle, especially to those who are scared and scarred. You know from experience; you used to be the same way.

Then the girl starts talking, weeping, “What if the King hates me? What if the Prince kicks me out? I’m not good enough! My troubles are too small to bother the King with! Just look at all those other people entering the throne room. None of them have noticed me, so surely the King wouldn’t notice me either. I should just leave.” She starts to stand, but the Prince stops her.

“Child, the King loves you just as you are. He loves to transform those who think they are no good into beautiful princesses of His. It would thrill our hearts to have you enter the throne room, just as you are.”

The girl seems to take not notice of the Prince’s words. You decide to walk over and ask her if she heard Him. “Yes,” she says, “but I thought that He was talking to someone else. You mean to say He was actually talking to me?” Her surprise is so great that she actually lifts her head and stares at you in amazement. Then she turns to the prince, “Sir, do You think that maybe the King would allow me to be the most invisible servant in Your palace?”

The prince smiles gently. “No,” He replies, “I think that would not satisfy Him.”

The girl’s face falls. “You mean, I’m not even good enough to do that?”

“No,” replies the Prince, “I mean, that I want you to be My bride! My Father, the King, would love that!”

“But…but…I’m not good enough to do that! Look at me! I could never be a suitable bride in this outfit!”

The Prince’s face breaks into a broad smile. “That’s my specialty! I will prepare you and then present you to My Father!”

“Oh! Well…okay, but I’m scared to enter that door by myself. Will You come with me?” She reaches up both hands towards Him.

“Of course, My love, I’ll carry you through that door.” With that, the Prince stoops down, picks up the girl, and enters the throne room.

***********

You decide to follow the Prince and the girl into the throne room. As you enter, you see the girl be suddenly transformed! Her clothes change from rags to the beautiful gown of a bride. Her face is clean and beautiful. Her hair is beautifully done.

You expect the girl to notice her dramatic transformation and sit up in awe or something. You’re amazed when she seems to take no notice of what has just happened. Instead, she just keeps her face hidden against the Prince. She still seems to be terrified and ashamed. She’s trembling in fear.

You expect the Prince to do something, say something to wake the girl to her new reality. Instead, the Prince just quietly holds her, gently stroking her back. He walks forward and sits next to His Father, the King. You want to walk forward and shake the girl to her senses! You don’t understand why the Prince doesn’t say anything! His gift, the beautiful transformation, has gone completely unnoticed! You’ve never known Him to be wrong before, but surely this time…

After just quietly holding the girl for awhile, the Prince hands her to the King. The King continues to quietly hold the girl, while the Prince gets up and begins to dance!

For the first time since entering the throne room, you take a good look around you and realize that everyone around you is dancing in worship to the King. Some are dancing slowly, methodically, with measured steps. Others are dancing, whirling wildly, with reckless abandonment.

The Prince seems to be dancing especially for the girl. He keeps watching her. When you turn to look at her, you notice that she seems to be watching the Prince out of the corner of her eye. Her face still mostly hidden, though, against the King. After a little, she shifts her position to watch the Prince more closely.

The Prince approaches her and asks her to join Him. Instantly, she shakes her head “no” and says quietly, “I’d just make us look like fools.” With that she hides her face again. The Prince and the King just smile.

The Prince does not seem to be at all worried by her first rejection. In fact, He keeps coming back to her, keeps asking her to join Him. You start wondering why the Prince even bothers. Can’t He see that the girl seems to be scared and uninterested?

When the Prince asks her for the fourth time, however, the girl says shyly, quietly, “I’d really, really love to! Honest! But I don’t know how, and I’m kind of scared.”

The Prince smiles broadly. “I have transformed you, and I can teach you to dance. Come! Join me!” He holds out His arms towards the girl. When the girl hesitantly reaches out to Him, He swoops her up and whirls her around.

For the first time since you’ve been observing them, the girl’s face breaks into a wide smile. She throws back her head and laughs joyously.

For a little while, the Prince just dances while holding her. Her arms are wrapped around His neck. She’s laughing and enjoying it to the fullest. Then He sets the girl down and lets her take a few hesitant steps on her own, before swooping her back up into His arms. He does this several times, and the girl gains confidence.

You’re amazed at the complete transformation of the girl! She no longer looks anything like the street waif outside, plus, she’s starting to act completely different. Her head is up. She’s laughing. She has confidence.

The Prince sets the girl down again, and they begin to dance together. The girl is smiling, head thrown back, eyes closed. She’s perfectly content to be dancing with the Prince.

Their joy is so contagious that you catch yourself smiling, nodding your head in time to the music. The King is smiling, reveling in His son’s glory and the transformation of His Son’s chosen bride. The Prince and the girl are smiling, joyous to be together, reveling in their new found relationship.

You are content, happy to have been allowed once again, to watch the transformation from pauper to royalty, from street waif to Prince’s bride. It is enough. You smile and join in the worship.

My Life Story (If You Care to Understand It)

Note: Please don’t be offended by the wording. I wrote it exactly as I pictured it in my head. It’s something that I wrote on Easter Sunday of 2012. I didn’t know or understand everything then, nor do I now, but more of it is making sense as I continue on this crazy journey of mine, following my Jesus.

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How I pictured myself during captivity

I was broken in a million pieces. My hair was matted; my face streaked with dirt and tears. My clothes were that of a homeless street waif. I was covered in sores and cuts; some of my own making; some inflicted by others. I was not beautiful by any means. I lived in the streets, in the drainage ditches, in the filthy muck.

Along came Jesus looking for a bride. I’m not sure how or why He found and chose me, but He did. He saw me sitting in the ditch in my pitiful state and said, “There, that’s the one I want for My bride.”

I was so scarred and covered in filth. I was scared of the kingly figure who knelt quietly beside me in the filth. I recoiled in terror from His gentle touch and cowered in fear before His searching gaze.

“Child, would you like to go with Me to live in the palace as My bride?”

I wouldn’t say anything, but my heart leaped in hope, before I squelched it. I knew from experience that any man who offered me anything really only wanted to take advantage of me. Why would this be any different? Still it would be nice to have a roof over my head for a few days. I decided to accept His offer.

“Sure, I’ll go with You.” I nodded and began to get up, but with one smooth motion, He picked me up. I panicked! “What are You doing? Let me down!” He just quietly held me and began to walk back toward the palace.

After awhile I got tired of struggling and so fell asleep. I actually slept quite well in His arms, which really surprised me, and after I woke up, I was quite content to just quietly ride in His arms for awhile.

Then I noticed on of my old bosses beckoning me from one of my old haunts. I at once became discontent with where I was at. “Sir, will You let me go talk to that fellow? He’s one of my old friends.”

The Man didn’t say anything, but a look of extreme sadness, mixed with intense love came over His face as He released me. I ran over to my old boss who welcomed me back, then pulled me inside, where I was ridiculed for having gone with the Man in the first place.

One particularly ugly character rasped in my ear, “You know you’d never be good enough for the likes of Him anyways. You belong here, in the whorehouse, just like you always have. You know the saying ‘Once a whore, always a whore’. There’s nobody gonna be changing that.”

Even as I nodded in agreement with the man, who was also my boss, I felt something die inside of me. I realized then that I had changed inside when the Man had picked me up. Saddened, I crossed over to the front window and looked out. There, across the street, stood the Man. His all-knowing gaze met mine, and I quickly dropped my eyes and the window shade.

I walked back to my boss, my head hanging. “Hey! Girl! Get your head up and a smile on your face! Our customers don’t like a sad disposition! This is where you belong, and this is where you’ll stay! Hear?”

“Yes, sir.” I meekly nodded my head and plastered a smile on my face. He was right, as usual. This was where I belonged.

This went on for quiet awhile. Every once in awhile, I’d catch a glimpse of the Man who had carried me still standing across the street as if He was waiting for me. Once I saw my boss talking to Him. My boss was talking very excitedly and seemed to be gloating, while the other Man just stood there and quietly shook His head. Whenever I’d happen to catch His gaze, I’d turn quickly away. I was ashamed of myself and what I had done, but I was too prideful to go and ask Him to take me back, cuz even the lowest in society still have pride.

Then one day I happened to meet a couple of girls who invited me to go with them to their church. I went and was soon living two lifestyles. On Sundays and my days off, I was the perfect kid who knew all the right answers to all the right questions. The one who never rocked the boat and followed all the rules, never pushing the line. During the week however, I was the lowest in society. I was a complete rebel who disregarded everything. I sold myself for a few moments of pleasure. I was used again and again.

One day I’d had enough. I decided this was it. I was tired of living a double lifestyle. The only one who knew it was my boss. My friends at church had no idea what my other life was like. I decided to end it all. Once and for all, I’d stop lying to everyone and myself. I’d fess up in a letter to those closest to me, and then take my life and disappear forever out of the lives of everyone that I troubled.

I wrote the letter, left it in a strategic place, then slipped out early one morning. I slipped down to the canal that ran behind my workplace. I sat down on the edge of the dock and was just about ready to jump when I felt strong hands grasp my shoulders.

I gasped in surprise and turned around to see who had dared interfere with my plans. To my shock, it was the Man! The One who had carried me. The One who was always waiting for me across the street.

He had on His face such a look of fierce, pure love that my heart almost stopped. I was so ashamed of what I had done and had been about to do, that I buried my face in my hands and began to sob. I knew that now would be the time. Would He pick me up and carry me towards the palace again? Or would He toss me in the river like I deserved?

Instead, He just knelt down beside me, wrapped His strong arms around me, and let me cry. When I had caught my breath, He picked me up and again started walking in the direction of the palace.

After a little while, we came to a little store that I had never seen before. We entered it, and the Man at once had me outfitted in the most beautiful set of clothing I had ever seen in my life! When we got to the checkout, I was worried about paying for it. It looked pretty expensive, and I hated to put the Man thru so much trouble, but when we got to the counter, the cashier smiled and said that the Man had already paid for everything a long time before.

In amazement, I stared at the Man. He just smiled and said, “I love you.” We walked out of the store, hand in hand.

We walked like that for awhile, but then I started noticing that to the side of the road were people following us. When I looked carefully, I recognized them as my old boss’s bodyguards. When they saw that I was paying more attention to them than to the Man beside me, they started yelling at me.

“Once a whore, always a whore!”

“Traitor! Goody-goody!”

“You think that just cuz you have fancy new clothes that you’re better and all holy now, but you ain’t. You’re still the same inside. You haven’t really changed, and you know it!”

My steps got slower and slower. My hand slipped from the Man’s. Finally, I stopped altogether. Instantly, the bodyguards surrounded me. They pummeled me back and forth, all the while taunting me. I cried out, “Sir! Help me! They’re winning! I don’t want to believe them, but if this keeps on, I feel that I must!”

“He can’t hear you, bitch!” roared the biggest one.

“No, He CAN hear me!”

“You’re a worthless piece of crap!”

“No! He told me I’m His princess!”

“You can’t tell us anything!”

“No, she can’t, but I can!” My Rescuer, the Man, stood there, sword in hand, fury in His eyes! “Be gone, fiends! This girl is Mine! She is My precious daughter, My princess, soon-to-be bride! If you want to mess with her, you’ll have to deal with Me first!”

“But she’s nothing but a loser and an ugly one at that!” yelled one of them.

The Man turned towards him with such a look of fury that I saw the bodyguard actually wilt and start to tremble.

“Now in the name of My Father the King and in My name, be gone! You no longer have any right to this girl! She has broken her agreement with you and has transferred it to Me! Now GO!” With that, the Man gave a violent slash with His sword, and the bodyguards turned tail and ran!

I had stayed face down on the ground throughout the entire exchange. I heard the Man put His sword away. Then I heard the gentle swish of His robe as He knelt down beside me.

I trembled from fear and pain, fear of the Man and pain from the blows of the bodyguards. I shook harder when I felt the Man put His hand on my back. He just sat beside me and quietly rubbed my back. As He did so, my fear melted away and so did the pain. He picked me up and placed me in His lap. I rested against Him, as He continued to ease my pain and fear.

When I started crying because of the lingering ache of the wounds and at the thought of how I had hurt the Man, He hugged me to Himself and started weeping, sharing my pain. Somehow that eased my pain, just knowing that He felt my pain.

After we had rested a little, the Man, whose name I now knew was Jesus, stood up, and we continued walking down the road toward the palace.

I knew that the bodyguards and possibly even my old boss would come back, but for now I could rest. And so I did. I laid my head against Jesus and relaxed.

A Story of Christian Bootcamp

I wrote this on December 2, 2012, and just recently came across it again. It seems appropriate to share it again now, considering where I am at in my life and the things I have learned in the last couple weeks. Enjoy!

A girl enters an army camp. She is carrying a knapsack with supplies. She has armor draped over her arm, and a sword dangling from one hand. Her helmet is crooked. Her shoes are untied. She stares at the ground. Eventually she ends up at the tent door of her commander.

“Sir, I was told to report to you.”

Her commander looks her up and down. What he sees may not look like much, but he knows and trusts that his Commander-in-Chief has sent him what is best for his particular band.

“Welcome, princess.”

She just shuffles her feet and continues staring at the ground. He sees that he has a lot of work to do in readying, in teaching this new warrior how to fight. First thing, how to properly put on the armor.

The first while is spent in learning how to properly put on and wear her armor. She does many things in it, until it becomes second nature to her. Until she is completely comfortable in her armor, and in fact feels quite undressed if she does not have it on.

And she gets to observe skirmishes so as to learn what a soldier is supposed to do, how they are supposed to act in battle. Occasionally, her commander takes her with him and lets her join in. He helps her hold her sword straight, puts his hands over hers to show her how to swing it.

Weeks pass. She slowly grows more confident in her job as a warrior-princess. She still runs to her commander for back up when she is confronted with the enemy. She just isn’t quite confident enough to tackle them on her own yet, even tho’ she knows that her Commander-in-Chief would send backup for her at any given moment. In fact, He’d show up Himself with HIS band of warriors if she only cried out. But still…she finds herself turning and running back to her commander.

Then one day she gets caught in the crossfire. She finds herself alone. She can hear and see the enemy. She overhears their battle plan, overhears where their headquarters are. She races back to her commander, only to find that another commander has showed up! This commander is the one in charge of the band in the area where she was nearly caught by the enemy.

She learns how to give a report. She doesn’t understand what the big deal is. I mean, okay, so yeah, she heard their battle plans and their headquarters, but so? I mean, how’s that gonna help her commanders? But she trusts the word of her commanders and gives them a full report of what she heard and experienced.

As she talks to this new commander, she asks him, “Why can’t I fight by myself? Why does the enemy laugh at me?”

“Because, you have not taken a hold of the power, the authority that our Commander-in-Chief has given to us.”

As her and her commander go back to their band, she thinks and thinks on that.

Then comes the day. She is caught, outside of camp. Her commander is gone, attending to other business. She has one other warrior-princess with her. *panic* Her companion is a much more experienced soldier, so she lets her take charge in the defense and attack.

She feels that she barely even knows how to hold her sword! She’s barely learned how to keep her armor on straight!!

But the enemy refuses to listen to her companion. Now what?

Suddenly, an anger arises within her. How dare the enemy!! She does not need her commander there to defeat the enemy! She has been listening and learning for a little while now. She knows that the Commander-in-Chief has commissioned her as a warrior. He has given HER the resources she needs. He promised to give her backup. (And the enemy HAS to listen to the Commander-in-Chief!)

She charges in, sword up! She knows how to hold it now!! It just happened as she grabbed it from its sheath. But how to swing it? Ah, who cares? She dives in, full throttle, hacking and slashing in a very unschooled manner, poking and stabbing when she forgets how to swing it.

And whaddya know? It works!! Her Commander-in-Chief came in with His band for backup, and the enemy was made to flee!!

Aha! After the victory, she turns around and grins. “Thank You, Commander!”

He grins back at her, “Anytime, princess-warrior.”

When her commander returns from his business, she tells him of the attack and the ensuing defeat of the enemy.

“Aha! Soooo, you HAVE been listening and learning after all? That is great! I’m proud to have you in my band.”

She has discovered that being a warrior-princess in God’s army in this particular band is an AWESOME calling! (And it’s a whole lot of fun to send the enemy packing!) 😀

We Stare Death in the Face…

emsdoodle*Disclaimer: Some of this was written awhile ago. I’m only now deciding to publish it.

Today I held a man’s life in my hands. Just a week earlier I was breathing for someone. It is one of the most intense things in the world to have someone’s life literally in your hands and the training to give them the best shot at living. To be part of a team that insists on “racing the reaper” and giving our patients a fighting chance. We stare death in the face and dare it to fight. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. There’s no other feeling quite like it.

A week ago I was dispatched to a “sick person” near the end of my fourteen hour shift at my volunteer company. We got on scene to find a very sick man fighting for his life. As a basic EMT the paramedic in charge put me in charge of the man’s airway. I had to take over breathing for this man because he was not able to do it adequately on his own. This was the second time I’ve had to do this for someone. It is one of the craziest feelings ever to hold in your hands the ability to provide his lungs with adequate oxygen for his body to use.

As I sat in the back of the ambulance breathing for this man I didn’t even know the name of, I watched the three paramedics work on him. I had one clear job. Maintain an open airway and breathe for our patient. If you have never had this huge responsibility in your hands, picture yourself with a bag filled with oxygen connected to a tube going into the patient’s lungs. It is your job to deflate that bag every five to six seconds in order to do for this patient what is usually automatic. I soon settled into a slow rhythm. Breath…count five seconds…slowly give the next breath…count five seconds…breath…count…breathe…count… Even my own breathing settled into that pattern. I kept up that pattern up until I handed the bag to the respiratory therapist at the hospital.

I walked out of the ER knowing that I had done my job appropriately and had done it to the best of my ability. That is all that is asked of me. That’s what I did. I don’t know the outcome of that patient but I am at peace knowing I did my best and that’s all that I need to do. The rest is up to God.

Today it was motor vehicle collision. I was at the end of my shift, heading back to base, fighting rush hour traffic. All of a sudden I looked to my right and saw that an accident had just occurred on the shoulder of the freeway! A small car had smashed into a work truck that was parked on the shoulder. Instinctively, I knew it wasn’t good.

I quickly pulled over and notified my dispatch what I was doing. As I pulled on gloves and hopped out of my rig, a lady came running up to me. She was completely freaking out and told me that the man was dead! I quickly went over to the car and assessed the man. He wasn’t dead, but if I didn’t take action quickly, I knew he would end up that way.

After attempting to rouse him and getting no response, I attempted to open his airway. His breathing was what they call “agonal breathing”. Suffice it to say it’s NOT good! I stared him in the face as I reached in thru his car window and pulled him upright. I briefly wondered if the blood coming from his face would stain my uniform permanently if it got on my white shirt.

Soon another medic stopped and together we put on a c-collar and then I hopped in the back window to better keep his airway open and protect his spine. Then I started talking to him. When I’m around patients who are unresponsive, I take it upon myself to talk to them and explain what’s happening to them. I don’t know if they can hear me, but it keeps me calm, and I figure if they can hear me, it might help if they know what’s going on.

Eventually the ambulance came and I transferred care to the paramedics there. Then I left the scene and drove back to base. That’s how this job works. A bad scene. Finish your job. Leave it behind and continue with your shift and life. I didn’t know if the man would make it to the hospital. I did know that I did my best. And I took comfort in that he might have been comforted from hearing my voice.

The next day my supervisor told me that he had indeed made it to the hospital and had made it thru emergency surgery. The last I heard was that he was recovering in the trauma unit of the hospital. It felt good to hear that.

Yes, today I held the life of a man in my hands. It’s a part of my job. I’ve trained for this. But nothing can truly prepare you for the moment it happens and you have to use your training. I suppose I will always have certain details of both of these scenes in my head, but I’m also at peace knowing I did my job the best I could and the rest is up to God. It’s a good place to be. God heals memories.

Of Death and “Calm-fitting” Hugs

*Warning: this is a somewhat vivid post about my first code as a baby EMT. It happened on my first day as an EMT student on clinicals, over a year ago.*

Photo credit: Dansun Photography

Mechanically, I compress his chest. Up and down. Willing him to live. Willing the flat line on the monitor to show sign of electrical heart activity. I feel nothing in the minute. I am relying on my training to kick in, and I perform automatically. Doing compressions over and over. Counting them out loud so all around me can know where I am at in the cycle. Until a firefighter pushes me out of the way, and we swap places, so now I attempt to breathe for him.

I see the colour of his lips. I see the wires hooked up to him and trace them with my eyes back to the LifePak. The paramedics preparing to start an IO in his leg. The police officers standing nearby watching us work. The sun shining through the trees. The birds singing. The cars on the roadway nearby hurrying on their way, not knowing that we are fighting for someone whose life has already ended.

Eventually the lead paramedic calls it, and we all step back from what we’d been doing. We disconnect everything and gently cover him with a blanket. I and another firefighter even take the time to tuck in the blanket. Then we step away and pack up our gear. We get back on our rigs and continue our day. We don’t have time to decompress at the moment, and for now my defense mechanisms have kicked in and I still feel nothing.

It’s not the first time I’ve been around those who have died. I worked as a CNA for six years. I’ve assisted in post mortem care too many times since the age of sixteen. I have become somewhat used to it. But before this time, they’ve always been older people. You know? Those who were expected to die. I’ve had time to give them care and comfort in their last hours and minutes. But this…this was different.

He was so young. I looked at his face and thought how he was younger than me. He didn’t deserve to die, even if it was his choice to overdose on heroin. He was homeless. I could see the layers of his sleeves as they had been cut away for us to provide care. So many colours. As I did CPR, I wondered if anyone would miss him. Did he have a mom somewhere that was missing him? Was he a runaway? Would anyone care that he had died? No one on scene knew his name. He was a homeless junkie who overdosed in a public park.

Afterwards, the paramedics asked if I wanted to talk about it, but I couldn’t. I still felt nothing. I asked them generic questions about their treatment choice and some of the signs that I had noticed. But I went on with my day. I didn’t even think about it at the time. I didn’t realize just how those memories had seared themselves in my brain. Sounds. Smells. Colours. Sensations.

Then something triggered those memories. Another death. A suicide. And all these memories that I thought I had forgotten came rushing back. Once again I was reliving the scene. Reliving our actions. And even tho’ I knew we had done all we could, even though I knew there was no saving this young man (I could read the signs myself), I found myself becoming angry that he died. First I was angry at myself for not performing compressions or breathing well enough for him, even though the paramedics had told me I done the best job they had ever seen from a newbie EMT. Then I was angry at the young man for choosing to overdose that morning. Then I became angry at the paramedics for giving up so soon, even though I could see as well as anyone there was nothing short of a miracle that would bring this young man back. My brain could tell you all the logical reasons for why it wasn’t my fault or anyone’s fault in particular, but the feelings of anger were still there.

Support. Support from those who have experienced these things and know how it hits home sometimes. Support from friends even when they don’t understand what I’ve experienced or what I’m feeling about it. A hug from my supervisor that calmed me and healed the broken pieces just a little bit. Made me feel a little more whole again. Made my world a little more right side up again. Spent some time throwing questions and feelings at my Papa God, and found healing as He quietly held me and loved me.

Even though I know I will see more things like this in my career as an EMT, I know I can trust that with God I will always be able to pick myself back up and head back  out into the field, ready to face another day. Sometimes I may need to take a step back and reset my focus by stepping away from the EMS world for a little, but I know that as long as this is what I am called to do, I will be able to do it. And I love it.