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:
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.
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.
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.
I am on to reading my next book and I have to say this book has surprised me and challenged me in ways I never expected. I picked it up at church one day from a stack of books that were being given away to the public. It was published in the 70s and its pages were yellowing and the binding had come undone such that some pages fell out and floated to the ground when I opened it. The cover had an old fashioned image of a shepherd with cute, cuddly sheep running around him. I was about to put the book back when a person behind me cleared their throat and said, “That’s a great book. You should read it”. So I decided to take it home with me…where it landed a spot on my bedside table for the next 3 months.
Whenever I need a new book to read, I usually sift through books we already have at home since my husband and I are both avid readers and we literally have hundreds of books stacked throughout the house. I often manage to find something to read before having to spend money to buy one! So lo and behold, I came across this beat-up book with the shepherd on the cover lurking on my bedside table. I decided to start reading it.
The book is about an actual shepherd’s perspective on God as the good shepherd taking care of his sheep. It’s simply called “A Shepherd Looks at the The Good Shepherd and His Sheep”. There is nothing like an experienced shepherd to actually tell you about sheep! Jesus liked to speak using parables in the Bible and it sometimes leaves readers perplexed. What does he mean referring to me as a sheep? Well, I love how the author of this book (Phillip Keller) explains in great detail how a shepherd actually takes care of his sheep. You would think this would be boring to read but no, there is a purpose for every task he does. His sheep mean everything to him and he works very hard to give them everything they need to thrive.
One of the analogies I loved from this book is how the shepherd unlatches the gate early every morning to allow the sheep to go out of the sheepfold, corral or boma to find fresh pastures. The sheep cannot stay in the fold all day for it is covered in dust, dung and other unsavory things. Every morning is a fresh beginning for these sheep and an opportunity to be revitalized and strengthened by the dew on the foliage they eat.
The shepherd wants what is best for his sheep. The shepherd knows what ground is best to feed on, which areas are safe to walk on. He will not lead the sheep off a cliff or where there are dangerous crevices. The sheep learn to recognize the shepherd’s voice, run to it and have complete trust in it. Without this implicit trust, the sheep cannot benefit from the shepherd’s direction.The sheep live a seemingly uncomplicated life, they have surrendered and trust their shepherd for their best interests.
I am half-way through the book and it has inspired me to think about what gives me direction, what my priorities are and how I can live a fruitful and contented life:
Seeking daily refreshment: Life gets so busy at times but I am learning the importance of setting time aside daily to refresh my mind and body. My new goal is to have my devotional times first thing in the morning before the family wakes up. I realized that even with all good intentions, if I don’t schedule an actual time, there are days when things are busier than expected and then God gets last place on my agenda. I tried waking up early today today and although I was a little groggy, it was great to have the house quiet and to just focus on my thoughts, sing, pray and read. I contemplated my previous day that had been a challenge with the kids, acknowledged it had been tough and then cleared it away from my mind, focusing on how to make today better. Clearing our thoughts in this manner is like a virtual exit from the dusty sheepfold of our minds, seeking new, positive thoughts to refresh us for the new day.
Having an outward focus: Although it’s important for me to have goals and a vision for my future, I cannot let that trample on the time or relationships I have with family and my outer social circle. I am challenging myself to think of and uplift more people in the course of my week be it through a phone call, visit, email, note, or text. It’s time to get out of the sheepfold and into the outer world where I can have a positive impact!
Letting go of the worries: This is easier said than done but I have found myself to be much more contented when I let go of yesterday and embrace today. I cannot change yesterday, I can only affect what happens today and this largely depends on my attitude. I can plan for tomorrow but I cannot worry so much about it, that I miss out on today. I don’t know how many tomorrows I will have, I only have today at my immediate disposal. My shepherd leads me into green pastures and even if a storm comes, he knows how to get me out.
Even though there are so many uncertainties and potential worries, I am finding that by refreshing myself daily, focusing on others and not getting caught up in the daily worries, I am happier and more productive.