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The Second Monday

The mid-point of a medical mission project is a very significant day, for both the team members and the patients.

Most commonly, reports of compassionate care received and successful surgery results have spread like wildfire through the communities being served, resulting in long lines, with hundreds of people hoping to be seen at the beginning of the second week.

Today was no exception.

The patients’ feelings of hope, mixed with more than a little desperation, was palpable.

I often think about how that must feel, especially for those who have been living with little or no vision for so long – or the teasing endured by those who have “crazy eyes” (crossed eyes from strabismus). And it is astonishing to see the number of people who are in need of a prostheses due to an eye injury or an illness. Many have lived with an empty socket because there was no affordable alternative.

It is no wonder patients are concerned that the endless lines will prevent their entry as the week goes on.

Worry and fear are clearly the overriding sentiments – but those are coupled with hope, and an enormous amount of patience as the hours of waiting in line increase.

For the team members, the feelings experienced are gratefulness (we are seeing the large crowds of people we hoped for), determination (we will continue to provide love and good eye care to each and every patient), and faith and trust (God will bring the very people He wants us to help.) We also hope that we have the stamina to power through the long and exhausting days ahead.

I never thought about it before – but I do believe that we all have “Second Monday” experiences throughout our lives.

What do your Second Mondays look like?

…Do they come when are you afraid of what might happen in the days or weeks ahead?

…Are there times when feelings of desperation or hopelessness overcome you?

Where do you turn when life circumstances begin to crush your spirit, stealing any remnant of joy you might have had?

I am envisioning each and every one of us in line, waiting in hope to encounter our God of boundless love and compassion, who will minister to our every need.

The beauty of His Presence is that He stands beside us in the waiting – and joins us in each step forward along the way.

He waits…for us to see.

And sometimes the only visual adjustments we need are within the lenses of our own outlooks.

If we can focus on God, we can find the pockets of peace in the midst of our Second Mondays.

And, that being attained, we can celebrate the most clear vision we have ever enjoyed.

His Mission….accomplished.

For I am the Lord your God Who holds your right hand, and Who says to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I will help you.’ ~Isaiah 41:13 (NLV)

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This was written on the Second Monday of the MMI eye project in Yapacaní, Bolivia.

Deep Destinations

Do you ever feel like you are always living in next week….or next month?

Lately I have been noticing how much of my day is spent thinking, planning, and making arrangements for future occasions.

Nothing wrong with that – unless it interferes with being present to the moments at hand.

Continually getting ahead of myself definitely diverts me from the now.

My determined efforts to be, rather than to do, still prove to be a continual challenge.

How funny that just “being” takes a modicum of effort – and yet my mind can spin for hours on planning, and decisions?

We’ve all head about staycations, where time is spent at home, or doing things locally. Diverting from our usual routines can be restorative, and helpful in increasing our appreciation for each other, and where we live.

What would a praycation look like?

Doesn’t take much effort to plan one.

The thought of setting aside a day, an hour – or even minutes –  where my resting-place is with God, feels like a warm rain washing over me.

And just think…no need to vacillate about what clothes to pack, what route to take, or where to stay. Or how much the cost will be!

Going deep, in terms of water, is not one of my most favorite things.

My one scuba diving adventure did not bode well, as I inadvertently doubled up an antihistamine and sucked most of the air out of my tank early on, resulting in panic.

But…diving in to God’s living waters is oh so inviting.

Wonder what a promotional piece for a praycation would look like?

Images of the underwater world are spectacular – a riot of colors and an incredible array of sea life.

What visual image can convey stillness of mind and peacefulness of heart?

The calm mental waters that result from intentional prayer time remain deep within, and build serenity and strength with each encounter with God – who so desires us to choose life with Him as a destination.

I’m taking the plunge.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.~Colossians 4:2 NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perpetua(l) Beauty

To hike or not to hike?

That has been the question many a day during our time on the Oregon Coast.

We decided to visit Cape Perpetua, so named by Captain Cook when he sighted it from his ship in 1778.

After mulling over our trail options at the Visitor Center, we decided on the St. Perpetua trail, described as

“difficult, but worth it”.

My question to my dear husband (whom I affectionately refer to as Nanook of the North during our adventures):

Should we bring our hiking poles? There is a significant elevation gain.

His answer: No, we’ll be fine.

This reply made perfect sense – as at that moment we were surrounded by an assortment of tourists who also came to see the beauty of this area, none of whom were carrying poles.

And so, off we went on our merry way.

Our initial meandering through lovely forest progressed to some significant climbing.

As I trudged along, my not-so-great memory flashed to reading of a hike described as having 11 switchbacks.

Could this be it?

Further along, huffing and puffing, I began to fantasize that I was using my poles as I climbed.

After about the 7th switchback, my thoughts weren’t quite so pleasant.

What the h**** are we doing?

All the while, we saw only one other couple on the trail.

When we finally got to the summit, we were astonished to find many people there, all looking fresh as daisies, gazing at the vista.

And then Nanook asked someone the big question of the day:

Can you drive up here???

We had a good laugh at the answer – and then lunched happily on a bench, taking in the splendor of (what we now know!) is the highest point on the Oregon coast.

And we were grateful that we had the opportunity to appreciate God’s amazing handiwork once again.

To me, this hike is analogous to our life journeys…

Can you think of an experience that has been difficult, but worth it?

One where you thought that your own fortitude wasn’t enough to get you through?

When life brings seemingly insurmountable hurdles, we need to remember that God’s hiking poles – Faith and Hope – are readily available for our use.

Free of charge.

When we think we are managing on our strength alone, God has a way of making us aware of His perpetual help.

And I’m so thankful for this reminder.

The trip back down wasn’t so bad, though for a fleeting moment we entertained the thought of hitching a ride.

Best of all was having more time to reflect on God’s Presence, everywhere, always.

I hope that you can feel Him walking with you today, wherever your journey takes you.

Having God by your side is always worth it.

Day by day, morning by morning, begin your walk with Him in the calm trust that God is at work in everything….It is your personal business, as a discipline of your heart, to learn to be peaceful and safe in God in every situation….Remember, friend, where your real living is going on. In your thinking, in your reacting, in your heart of hearts – here is where your walk with God begins and continues. So when you start to move into trusting Him, stay there. Don’t wander out again into worry and doubt!  ~ Anne Ortlund

 

 

Heavy Lifting

How gratified we feel when we can walk further, run faster, increase to a heavier weight – or rise to any other physical challenge we aspire to.

To accomplish such goals, we muster up everything in our power to achieve our desired results.

And we have a great sense of satisfaction when the end result is so pleasing.

Relying on our own strength works well in many instances.

But how do we manage when the challenges we are facing are emotional or spiritual in nature – having to do with relationships, health, work, or family?

I can think of painful circumstances affecting people I know at this very moment….

~a sudden diagnosis of stage 4 cancer

~ sudden rejection by a family member

~a skiing accident resulting in surgery for a broken leg

I’m sure you know friends or family who are dealing with difficulties as well.

How do we search our depths for the wherewithal to face disappointments, worries….and heartaches?

And what recourse do we have when our troubles just seem impossible to bear?

When we can no longer rely on our own fortitude, we can ask God to do the heavy lifting.

He alone can bolster our strength, bring us hope, wrap us in His warm and enduring comfort.

Author Sarah Young continues to inspire me with her words.

In Jesus Always, March 16,  she writes, in God’s voice:

 Close your right hand, as if you are grasping onto My hand. This symbolic gesture helps you feel connected to Me – to My living Presence.

I have tried this, multiple times.

And amazingly, this simple gesture makes God feel very near.

How encouraging it is to know that we have immediate, constant access to God, at any moment.

He never makes us wait on hold, or tell us that we need to do just one more little (or big) thing to access His grace and mercy.

Next time you find yourself wondering where to turn, think of His right hand, extended to you.

Just waiting for your grasp.

Give Him all that encumbers you.

God – and only God – can handle the heaviest weights of all.

For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’  ~Isaiah 41:13

Enlarged Hearts

img_3078-1In the medical world, cardiomegaly isn’t a disease; it is a sign of another condition caused by stress on the body or weakening of the heart, among other things.

In the world of eye missions, heart enlargement is a natural result of assisting those who would otherwise not have access to vision care.

After helping the people in Riohacha, Colombia, our hearts are expanded, filled up with the joy of serving and sharing God’s love with those in need.

My tears arrived on the first day of the project, when Sheiber, pictured above, arrived. He came to the clinic last year as a three month old with a retinoblastoma in his left eye. By the grace of God (and the expert diagnosis of our doctors), he had the tumor removed and the cancer had not spread.

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His prosthesis was barely apparent. And this year his other eye was examined under anesthesia, and found to be healthy.

The gratitude and joy that his parents expressed permeated all of our hearts.

And this was but one life that our team impacted among the thousands of patients we saw.

Our team members were already equipped with expandable hearts before our arrival. Their desire to serve the poor prompted them to join our Medical Ministry International team in the first place.

And I believe that we all left Colombia with our hearts widened to the fullest.

The stories are endless…

  • A patient gave up her place in the line when she heard that a man who needed cataract surgery couldn’t have the procedure unless he had a companion to accompany him to the hospital. And she did this for a total stranger. (We did make sure that she was seen the next day, without having to wait hours in line.)
  • A young boy with very poor vision received his first pair of glasses, and began to read everything in his line of sight. When our team member wanted to clean his glasses before he took them home, he didn’t want to take them off!
  • Many people who had lost an eye due to disease or accident received a protheses. Young women who previously couldn’t obtain a job or were deemed unattractive had a new lease on life.

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The mother of  5 year old Elizabeth arrived on our last day with a letter to our whole team, thanking us for correcting her daughter’s strabismus (crossed eye). The beautiful, touching letter that she  and her daughter wrote was read to our team at our final dinner. She expressed her regret that the letter was all that she could give to us to express her gratitude.

But we assured her, amidst our tears, that her words were the best gift of all.

We were blessed by the tireless efforts of the many volunteers without whose help we couldn’t have accomplished our work.

No job was insignificant. And each person took pride in what they did  –  from the translators, to those who helped with patient flow, to the lovely ladies that kept the restrooms tidy. Everyone served with a smile.

And I can’t help but think that during this project their hearts expanded a bit, too.

The memory of the beautiful people in Riohacha will linger forever.

And we hope and pray that our work, representing God’s infinite love and mercy, will take root and blossom in their hearts.

But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. ~ James 3:17 (GNT)

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