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!
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Forgiveness Includes Forgiving Yourself

It can be so hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake that hurts others, particularly those you love. This week was a lesson for me in the art of forgiving myself for not being the perfect mother I envisioned. Of course, I know deep down I cannot be the perfect ‘anything’. But given the weight of responsibility of being a mother, I figured I had better get this right. Two other little humans are depending on me for direction and to be the best example I can be.

Motherhood has been one of the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and tear-inducing experiences I have been through…and yet one of the most wonderful, joyful and rewarding. My children simultaneously bring out the best and the worst in me. Through seeing my own weaknesses daily, I am finding it easier to be more gracious towards others, because I know I sorely need grace myself.

Back to this week’s motherhood challenge. My son went through a difficult ‘terrible twos’ phase two years ago. This was to be expected at this age and with consistent discipline in the form of time-outs, his behavior improved significantly by age 3. I was then very surprised when at the age of 4, he seemed to embark on a ‘terrible fours’ phase (does such a thing exist?)

None of the usual discipline was working. Time-outs were ineffective and seemed to make my son very angry and upset. He seemed like a completely different child and I felt ineffective and helpless. This week we reached the zenith of the difficult behavior. Coupled with the stress of unexpected repairs to our house, I was hardly the in-control mother I hoped to be. I lost my temper, became very angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I felt like a different person.

I talked things over with my husband and we decided we needed to adapt our discipline methods. What had worked before was not very effective now. We decided to implement an approach of positive reinforcement. Specifically the behaviors we focused on were:

  • Obedience
  • No whining
  • No rudeness
  • No melt-downs

For each of these 4 behaviors that my son managed to achieve throughout the course of the day (one warning was allowed), he would get a star on his reward chart and a sticker of his choice at the end of the day. We would review how the day went and ask him how he felt it went. The idea is not to suppress his feelings but to teach him how to control them better.

Today was Day 1 of the new approach and it went fantastically! He would still get angry or upset sometimes (which is normal) but he handled it much better. My son likes stickers and reward charts (it worked really well for potty training) so I think this new approach will go well. I don’t expect every day to be perfect but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Parenting can be so difficult sometimes, but I’m reminding myself that I am helping to shape a human being who can then go out and have a positive impact on this world. All the disciplining, the tears, the heartache… will be worth it for the person who will emerge with character.

Today, I forgive myself for making many mistakes as a mother. Tomorrow is a new day with my beautiful family, with my wonderful children who I adore, a new opportunity to treat them with love and respect…no perfection necessary.

Caleb and mummy 2012
My son (when he was  around 9 months old) and I going for a stroll along the boardwalk in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. Beautiful memories.

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