Friday, March 16, 2018

Taking a Look Back

I don’t know how other authors do it, those who have ten, twenty published books. I’ve been so busy promoting my most recently published book, my first novel, “Where the Sky Meets the Sand”, that I forget about the first three. (And sometimes I even forget about that book, as I am busy editing the second novel and beginning to write the third one!)

This week, however, my first publisher, Aneko Press, is offering those three nonfiction books for free as e-books. I thought, then, that it would be fitting to share an excerpt from my very first book, my first baby, the memoir, “A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven.

By late morning, it was finally time to do something, so our team boarded the bus for the first of many drives. The ride to Brydges Orphanage in the village of Ngong, west of Nairobi, was tenuous at best. The streets were busy and filled with potholes large enough to swallow compact cars, yet the drivers wove in and out of traffic at harrowing speeds. The road into the orphanage was unbelievably narrow, and no one had any idea how our twenty-passenger vehicle reached its destination, much less turned around. If we put our hands out of the windows, we could have touched some of the buildings we passed. Not that we wanted to.

Most of the buildings were dreary, decayed, and appeared deserted. Then we would see children playing in front of one of these sheds or clothes hanging on a line. People actually live like this? It would be a question in my mind many more times throughout the trip.

When we arrived, some of the boys and girls came out into the yard and waved shyly at us, their dark faces filled with toothy smiles, their hair shorn close to their scalps. Their clothes were dirty and worn, hanging from their thin frames.

Most of the orphans were in school that afternoon, but the handful of children who remained behind showed us around. Each small bedroom had at least three bunk beds and not enough space for anything else. But each child still showed off their space, some explaining that they shared their bed with one or two others.

Besides the bedrooms, the main building held a large room used as a dining room and all-purpose room, a small kitchen area, and a small room that was set up as a store. In the store, the children sold the various crafts which they had made by hand. There were beautiful necklaces and beaded bracelets, carved figures of elephants, hippos and birds, braided potholders, and crocheted baskets.

There were several outer buildings, one housing a small library. A few of the children grabbed books and insisted they would read to us.

All of the other rooms were bare, with only the most basic of necessities. How did they live in those kinds of conditions and remain so joyful? We would find out before our journey back to America.

This peek into my first trip to Kenya in 2006 also explains why I continue to go back. I don’t know yet when that will be, but I am anxious to start planning. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Coming to the Clinic - part 4

A couple weeks ago, I started posting what I call “Chris’s Crash Course on Coming to the Clinic: how to be the perfect patient.” Over the weekend, a co-worker of mine posted the following on Facebook. It tells what many of us working in the medical field go through on a daily basis.

 I was given the opportunity to sit with people who need someone in their room at all times for various reasons. My first thought: easy extra hours. Honestly? It tested me more than anything. I have ADHD and this is why my words don’t always come out like I want them to because my mind is going 100 times faster than my mouth can and I worry about what people will think. I get nervous talking to new people who don’t know this, because I feel like they’re going to judge me for whatever reason. So, it’s hard for me to start the conversation. It’s also kind of hard having to tell a patient “you can’t do that” etc. because that’s not who I am.

 I do believe there is a plan for everyone and everything happens for a reason. I sat with two individuals tonight. The first one looked at me while crying and asked how I ended up in their room, as I was one of the nicest ones yet and one who treated them as a person. That right there almost made me cry. All I did was sit with them and talk about who they were. Given the chance, most people will talk about themselves. I can honestly say that I can tell you where 90% of my patients live, work, how many kids they have, etc., for this reason. Getting to know them is a wonderful thing and if you are going to be a part of their health care you need to create a trust or bond. The things that I’m able to refer to when I see those people again makes them know I listen, and I care.

With the second individual, I knew right off the bat that they were going to test me. They would not do anything I asked them to do. I sat down on their bed and after a long discussion of both of our lives, I made this individual promise me they were going to reschedule their interview, continue school, and pursue possible gastric surgery that they had previously started the process for. Whether or not this really happens, I will never know.

To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. Be the person who believes in others, be the person who teaches others instead belittles them, just be there for persons most in need. And LISTEN. Hopefully I changed their lives, but without them knowing, they changed mine and reminded me why I do what I do.

Nothing more I can add to that. Thanks, Becca, for sharing these beautiful words and for giving me permission to print them here. And thank you for being who you are. 
I can't, of course, post any pictures of any of our patients, but thought I could share one when I had some testing done four years ago. Sometimes when we forget what it's like to be a patient, it helps to be on the other end. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Why? Because He Lives

Since the first Sunday in Lent, I have been sharing various songs and hymns which celebrate Lent and the first Easter. Because of the first Easter and Jesus’ death on the cross followed by his resurrection, I have eternal life to look forward to when I leave this Earth. I will never understand how people who aren’t believers can wake up each morning totally uncertain of their future.

This song, written by Bill and Gloria Gaither in 1971, reminds me of why I have no need to fear what's coming next. 

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
This cross marks a grave at the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois. Taken in April of 2016. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Introducing Nehemiah

It’s been a month since I last shared an excerpt from my novel “Where the Sky Meets the Sand”. Most of the passages I’ve posted here so far have been from the perspective of the woman Jenny or the boy she saves. Her husband as well as two missionaries to Africa tell their stories within the pages of the book as well.

Today I thought I would introduce Nehemiah. He is a native of Kenya and has a deep love for his country and her people. He is also devoted to the work he and his partner do in spreading the word of Jesus Christ. In addition, when this tall black man has the scene, you will find something to smile about. Besides having a wonderful sense of humor, he never turns down food.

“So how are our travel plans coming along?” John asked his Kenyan friend.                       
Nehemiah put down his spoon. He had forgotten how good the soup was at this particular restaurant. He was glad John had picked this place to meet up to discuss their upcoming mission work. “I have our airline reservations to Nairobi. We leave Indianapolis on the seventeenth. Have you finished your work here?”
“I did the best I could.” John was the speaker of the two. He had spent most of the winter months driving across the country seeking sponsors for their work. The slide presentation he gave at dozens of churches documented their ongoing work throughout Eastern Africa. “We have enough funds to at least get there. God will furnish the rest.”
“That’s what you always say.” Nehemiah picked up his bowl and slurped up the rest of his soup. It was too good to miss a drop. “Have you talked to that woman from Chicago again?”
“No, but I am giving my presentation at her church next week.”
“Really? So, you’ll meet her then?”
“I hope so. Like I said, I haven’t talked to her except the one time.” Their waitress removed their soup bowls and poured more ice water into their glasses.
“Then how?” Nehemiah was confused. He had thought that this woman would have been the first person John had solicited for donations.
“The first time I talked to her, she told me what church she attends. I am just hoping that she sees the flyers and shows up. I wouldn’t think she would miss a slide show of Africa, would she?”
Nehemiah shrugged.
“You’ll have to join me. You’ll want to meet her too, I’m sure.”
Nehemiah craned his neck towards the kitchen, only half listening. If the main course was half as good as the soup, he didn’t want to wait for it much longer. “I’d love to. I just hope you are not disappointed if she is not there. And I hope I am not disappointed with my steak.”
From our first trip to Kenya. Val is doing a teaching on the importance of hand-washing. 
The man in the red jacket is interpreting for her. He was the inspiration for Nehemiah. I regret that I don't remember his name. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Coming to the Clinic - part 3

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been sharing ways you can get the most out of your appointment with your medical provider. Last week, I gave you some hints on making that appointment. Today I’ll tell you how best to check-in for it.

     1)     When you were making your appointment, if you were told to come early (anywhere from ten to twenty minutes), you should abide by that recommendation. If your appointment is 10:00 and you are walking in the door of the building at that time, you may end up waiting in line for five minutes before you can even check in. Then the PSR (you were told before who that person is, click this link if you forgot) needs to update your insurance information in the computer. You didn’t bring your insurance card? Really? Coz then I think you should be sent home to try again another day. You might also be asked to make your co-payment. I know this is a pain and sometimes even painful. Just remember, the PSR who is asking for your hard-earned money is only doing her job. You wouldn’t expect McDonald’s to give you your Big Mac without paying for it, would you?
     2)     After you check in, please have a seat in whatever waiting room the PSR has directed you to. Do not, I mean do NOT go to the bathroom. I am sooo sorry, but didn’t your mom ever teach you to go to the bathroom before you leave the house? If the staff comes out to the waiting room to get you and you are not there, you might lose your turn and end up waiting longer to be seen. Also, another well-meaning patient might announce to God and the rest of the room that you had to empty your bladder. Do you really want to be embarrassed like that?
     3)     Speaking of going to the bathroom, there is one time when you shouldn’t go before you leave your house. If you are having any kind of bladder or kidney issues, we are going to need to get a urine sample from you. After you check in, if the PSR hasn’t already mentioned to you about giving us a sample, ask her if you can pee in a cup. We can always dump it if, for some reason, your provider is not so interested in your urine. But better safe than sorry.

     4)     Oh, and before you take a seat in the waiting room, you can hang up your coat. And it’s okay to leave it there. You do not need to bring your coat back with you. I know it is cold in the exam room, but why do you want to drag that heavy thing around with you? (You’ll find out why I mention this next week.)
     5)     If you are hard of hearing, it would be to your benefit to sit closer to the door where you are going to be called from, if you know which one that is. Or at least be facing the door and trying to watch for the staff. I know you haven’t seen your old high school buddy in many years and you are thrilled you ran into them in the waiting room, and we hate to interrupt your conversation, but maybe, just maybe you can meet for coffee later.

I’m sure there’s a lot more that I forgot (such as to remind you again to bring all of your medication in their original containers and that it’s okay to bring a well-meaning friend or family member along, especially if things may get complicated and you may forget everything we tell you).

I’d love to hear what other thoughts you have, whether you are a patient or a health-care worker. You can post a comment below. 
The waiting room at the clinic in Saikeri, Kenya, where I volunteered for a couple days in 2013. If I was a patient in this waiting room outside, I probably wouldn't pay attention to anything but the beauty of Africa. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Where were you?

During the Sundays in Lent this year, I’ve been sharing various songs and hymns which tell about the events of Jesus’ final days. Not a lot of happiness to share here, but still some beautiful words.

Though one version of this song claims Johnny Cash as its lyricist, the song was originally written by African-American slaves in the 1800s. It was first published in 1899 in William Eleazar Barton's “Old Plantation Hymns”.

It looks like a long song, but that’s because of its arrangement, repeating three lines in each stanza. It is beautiful, though. If you’ve heard it before, the tune will surely come right back to you as you read.

1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3. Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

4. Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

5. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

6. Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Sometimes I feel like shouting 'Glory, glory, glory!'
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?

My favorite line is “when the sun refused to shine”. The Bible tells us that on the first Good Friday, the sky went dark as Jesus hung on the cross. But the way this line is written makes me think that even the sun was showing respect for our Lord and Savior.
This cross is at the Pilgrim Center in Ripon, Wisconsin, overlooking Green Lake, taken in October 2016. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Birthday Wish

     Last Friday, I shared some old pictures from birthday parties from my childhood. Today, I’m sharing the birthday of an icon from everyone’s childhood.
     On March 2, 1904, Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Henrietta and Theodor Robert Geisel. The senior Geisel ran the family brewery, but after the brewery closed because of Prohibition, the Springfield mayor appointed him to supervise the public park system. The boy was raised on Fairfield Street which was less than a mile from another street which he would one day make famous.

     He graduated from Springfield Central High School in 1921 and went on to attend Dartmouth College. While in college, he worked his way up to become editor-in-chief of the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. However, one night he and nine friends were caught in his room drinking gin. Due to Prohibition, it was illegal to possess or consume alcohol. As punishment, the young Theodor was told he had to give up all extracurricular activities, including the college humor magazine. So that he could continue working on the Jack-O-Lantern publication, he began signing his work with a pen name, using his middle name which was also his mother’s maiden name.
     He graduated from Dartmouth in 1925 and went on to graduate school at Oxford University, hoping to earn a PhD in English literature. While there he met Helen Palmer, the first person to really encourage him to become an illustrator. After two years, he dropped out and returned home, where he created cartoons and illustrations for several magazines and advertising firms. It was lucrative work, enough so that he and his wife Helen were able to live comfortably and travel extensively.  In 1936, returning home from one such trip, the rhythm of the ship they traveled on inspired Theodor to write a poem. He borrowed the title from that street in his childhood neighborhood and after being rejected by over 20 publishers, it would become his first published book.
     He would eventually write 48 books, mostly for children. Over 200 million copies of these books would be sold and they would be translated into many languages. A few books he published under the pen name Theo LeSieg, his last name spelled backwards. But most people probably recognize him by the pen name he first adopted during college.
     Happy Birthday, Mr. Geisel. Thanks for giving us and our kids all those wonderful words.  

(Hunting for a picture that’s right, to give this subject light. 
But if I posted it here, the man’s name would be too clear.)