Gratitude: Appreciating the Big and the Little Things

One of the things that I wanted to improve on from my last year in medical school was learning to slow down and appreciate the little things around me. I loathed the fact that mornings were rushed and it seemed like we were always ordering the kids around and rushing them out the door. With better time management and changes to our parenting approach, the mornings during the past week have been beautiful. I know that not every morning will go smoothly but I am simply grateful for those that do. This morning I felt grateful for 4 things:

  1. Brushing my little girl’s hair: I had dreamed of doing this ever since I was a teenager. After my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage, it sometimes seems like a dream that both she and my son are actually here in my life.
  2. Getting hugs from my dear son: As I was getting things ready this morning, my son suddenly stopped me and said, “Mummy, I want to do something”…he then enveloped me in a deep, long hug. Moments like these make the challenges of motherhood seem more than worth it!
  3. Being in medical school: As I looked over the voluminous material I need to learn over the next few weeks, I simply sat back and drank in the fact that although it’s a challenge, I am doing what I have been wanting to do for so long…and I love it!
  4. My Heavenly Father: I love the scripture in Psalms that describes God as a “Father to the fatherless” and a “Defender“. Having lost my father unexpectedly when I was 5 years old, I truly have seen God be a Father to me through the years. Despite the ups and downs, He has always been there for me. He is my hope and everlasting peace!

Take a moment to stop and reflect. What are you grateful for today?

Featured image courtesy of versiondaily.com

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When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!

Each Day is a Gift

One week left to medical school! I cannot believe how fast the summer has gone by! I have really enjoyed spending time with my family and watching the kids grow. Some of the things that I was reminded of this summer was how important it is to appreciate each day and to let those you love know how much you care about them. Each day is truly a gift!

I have found that taking stock of each day and meditating on what I have to be grateful for helps to temper the worries and frustrations of day-to-day life. Three things I read or heard this past week also gave me pause for thought:

  1. Let those you come into contact with feel that they are important and worth something: In the book God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, a California-based physician tells her story of practicing medicine. One of the hospitalized patients was a woman who was on her death-bed. When Dr. Sweet asked what else could be done for her, the patient simply asked for something different to eat at her mealtimes and to have new eyeglasses since her current ones were broken. I can imagine that the physician was taken aback by this simple request that meant so much. Sometimes we may feel that we cannot make a difference but there is always an opportunity to show appreciation even if it means asking a simple question or demonstrating a caring gesture.
  2. Forgive from the heart: In Matthew 18 of the Bible, Jesus depicts a vivid parable of a servant who owes a large debt to his master and another servant who owes a smaller debt to his fellow servant. The  master forgives the debt but the servant shows no mercy towards his fellow servant. Jesus explains the consequences of an unforgiving attitude and implores his listeners to forgive from the heart. Jesus’ choice of words touched me because ‘forgiveness from the heart’ to me implies a deep, complete and unshakable forgiveness.
  3. Prioritize your life: I had an inspiring chat with my oldest brother who is a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon based in Kenya. As I spoke with him about how he manages balancing his career with family, his words of wisdom rang true: prioritize your life. For him that meant 1) God 2) Spouse 3) Children 4) Career. Of course there are plenty of other things that make up our lives such as our social life and hobbies but often our family life and work are the most difficult to balance. Priorities mean different things to different people but having an idea of what comes first and what we are not willing to compromise on can guide us when trying to navigate the busy waters of life.
Family picture August 2016
 So grateful for my precious family! Each day is a gift!

Crossing the Bridge of Forgiveness

Today marked the fourth week of our study on the “40 Days of Love“. This week’s topic tackled the challenging issue of demonstrating love through forgiveness. We have all experienced hurt in our lives in some shape or form and it can be so difficult to get past it, to forgive and move on. What does forgiveness entail?

As difficult as this can be to do, especially when we are going through hurt and disappointment, forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even, responding with kindness and not keeping a record of that wrong. The hardest part about forgiveness is that we are called to keep on forgiving even when the offense is repeated!

Forgiving is NOT minimizing the seriousness of an offense. In choosing to forgive someone of a wrong, we are not saying that what they did was of no consequence or was justified. The pain is real and it’s important that this is acknowledged. Once we have forgiven a person, what’s next? Candid communication, willingness to change negative behaviors and time are needed to rebuild and regain the trust of the person who has been hurt.

I am learning that forgiveness is a decision. We decide to move past the hurt and avoid falling into the trap of resentment and bitterness. In looking through the lens of forgiveness, we actually begin to see the hurt that the other person is going through. When people lash out or hurt us, they are often going through something difficult themselves, which gets taken out on others. Part of the healing between both parties is acknowledging the hurt on both sides, letting it go and moving towards reconciliation. This can be very difficult to do in some situations, but vital to the healing process.

Why forgive? Aside from the release and freedom it gives our souls, it shows a humility that we too are imperfect and need forgiveness.

Week 4 Challenge: Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Try to work towards letting go of any resentment or bitterness towards that person.

“Love…keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13: 5

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another…” Col. 3:13

 

 

Loving People Enough to Tell Them the Truth

Today began the third week of our study on ‘40 Days of Love‘. Today’s topic was one of the most challenging topics so far! How to have a loving confrontation…to speak the truth in love. I am personally not a confrontational person. I prefer to keep the peace and not rock the boat.  But I have been reminded that love is not just about warm feelings or happy smiles. It is also about facing hard truths and being able to impart that to someone else in a respectful but honest fashion.

How does one approach someone in order to tell them a difficult truth? It is certainly a scary proposition. We may worry how our message will be received, what the other person will think, whether we will be rejected or whether the relationship will end. But the reality is that in looking out for the other person, and in genuinely loving them, it may be a risk we have to take. Yes, the friendship may end…but it may also be a turning point for that person by showing them something in their lives that is negative or destructive. Or it may bring the relationship to a deeper level knowing they can trust you to tell them what’s on your mind.

Speaking the truth in love is one of the hardest things to do because we have no control over the outcome. But we can find ways to direct the conversation in a loving and respectful way through our tone of voice, body language, by recognizing our own inherent weaknesses, and by affirming how much you care for that person regardless of the current situation.

Week 3 Challenge: It can be a challenge to confront someone with a difficult conversation. But it could also be a positive turning point for the relationship if done in a respectful manner without being judgmental. Is there someone you need to speak to about your frustration or about their behavior?

Love…rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:6

Love in Action…How to Become a Kinder Person

Today started off the second week on the series ‘40 Days of Love‘ and it challenged us even more to live a life of love towards other people. Sometimes fear limits our ability to extend love and kindness. How will my actions be perceived by the other person? What if I get hurt? What if this affects my reputation? What if this delays my personal goals? What if this interrupts my plans?

These are valid fears and I have struggled with these at different points in my life. My hope is that we can get to a point where it becomes less about us and our comfort but more about other people. Difficult but achievable!

The lesson gave us 3 take home points to try and put into practice:

  • Sensitivity: How sensitive are we to the needs of those around us? Do we open our eyes and really observe what is going on with people around us? How is your neighbor, colleague, spouse, child, parent, classmate doing?
  • Sympathy: Once we have identified a need, how willing are we to engage the person to find out more? How ready are we to listen wholeheartedly without being distracted?
  • Spontaneity: Once we know the whole story, how willing are we to get into action and do something about it? Are we ready to drop what we are doing? Are we willing to sacrifice and go through some inconvenience to help the other person?
Image courtesy of indiabright.com
Image courtesy of indiabright.com

The lesson also drew from the example of the Good Samaritan. It was really eye-opening to break down the story in detail:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10.

What can we learn from this story?

  • The Samaritan saw the need, he sympathized, and he acted spontaneously. There was no procrastination.
  • He sacrificed of his time, money and even his own safety to take care of a stranger
  • He used whatever he had with him (wine and oil, possibly his own clothing as bandages) to attend to the wounds of the stranger. Sometimes we don’t think we have what it takes to help someone else but there is always something we can do, no matter how small.
  • He promised to follow up on the stranger at a later date. Follow-up is important as sometimes a person’s need is continuous and does not disappear in a day.

Week 2 Challenge: Identify a need that you can assist with in your community, work place or school. Again, the focus is not to expect something in return.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 4:18