Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Practical Spirituality

I have a spiritually incorrect question to ask you. Not politically incorrect, but spiritually.

But before I ask it, let me give you a little background. I have been trying to write this blog post for some time now, because the question I have been pondering in my heart is taboo by typical Christian standards. I did some field research by discreetly speaking with some fellow Christians, and what I learned is people in the church are thirsting for honesty and authenticity (let me clarify by "church" I mean the church in general, not necessarily the specific church I attend). People are looking for a place to ask these "spiritually incorrect" questions and not be judged as heretics. People are looking for answers in a confusing, discouraging world.

So I'll jump first and ask my question: why does Christianity seem so impractical sometimes?

I was blessed to grow up in the church. I went to church before I was even born (thanks mom!). So for 28 years, I have experienced the highs and lows of the Christian walk, even before I was saved myself. This past year, it has bothered me tremendously that Christians are often told to do things, but are not told how to do these things. Take for example the commonplace response of "trust God" in the midst of a trial. Well...sure, okay. I know I am supposed to trust God. But I find it difficult to trust Him when I don't know what He's doing and my emotions are plummeting me into discouragement. So since trusting God doesn't come easily for me, I must be a failure.

You see the cycle people are put in? There has been much debate over the past several years why young people are leaving the church. Of course we may never know the full reasons, but I am beginning to think one reason is how impossible the "perfect Christian walk" seems. Jesus warned His disciples, "watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" Matthew 26:41 (NIV). We are given victory over sin through Jesus Christ's sacrifice, but the daily struggle of the flesh is still very present in our lives. I think more battles would be won if people were given the tools of practical spirituality.

Think about it this way: God is a practical God. He is a planner. Before Eve even took a bite of the forbidden fruit, God had a plan for a Savior. The Bible says God has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). So it is hard to believe that God would expect us to follow His commands without giving instructions for application.

The concept of practical spirituality has emerged from my research and prayer into the question I posed earlier. So what is practical spirituality? Practical spirituality gives us the tools to apply broad Biblical teachings to our own lives. No matter how you feel, who you are or what circumstances you are in, practical spirituality helps you apply God's Word.

After the difficult year my family and I have endured, here are a few topics I think could use a dose of practical spirituality:
  1. Wrestling with God - should we feel shame for disagreeing with God's will?
  2. Trusting God - how to do it in the midst of confusion and disappointment.
  3. Failure - what is the appropriate response when we fail spiritually?
  4. Emotions - (this is a big one for me, because emotions are where I am weakest) how to obey God's Word when we feel like doing otherwise.
My personal study time has been devoted to talking to God, reading the Bible and addressing these topics in my own life. Now that I have laid it all out there, I am curious what you think. What questions do you think could use some practical spirituality? 

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Have Loved You

Untitled

When I was a preteen, I wrote poetry all the time. Something about the fluid, rhythmic nature of poetry helped me express deep emotions in a way no other method could. Today, I share my first poem in years. It is called "I Have Loved You". 

I have loved you in the midst of the shriveling ache,
 the negative signs my sorrow make.
I have loved you though we have never met,
my hope for you a worthless net.
I have loved you enough to recognize the pit,
nothing, no matter how good, a perfect fit.
Your absence is a grief, strangling and deep.
I hide it and give it away, but the peace never keeps.
Please God, tell me how to cope
With grief that smothers every faith and hope.
Time doesn't help, the desolation only deepens,
The path to the one I have loved only steepens.
God, You tell me to trust You, to arise and go
But maybe I want to give up, I hate that only You know.
I have loved you as I watch others live my dream,
I sink beneath the waters as they flourish in the cream.
I have loved you as I watch the light dim in my beloved's eyes.
We miss you together, him and I.
Though you may exist only in my heart, your future with me unclear,
I have loved you, will always love you, through the unending years.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Creating an Environment of Healing for Surgical Incisions

PicMonkey Photo

I have always been a slow healer. It seems like I am always waiting for my body's normal functions to respond.

My recovery time is always at least twice as long as a normal person. When I had my tonsils taken out at around five years old, I started losing weight because the pain made me lose interest in eating. When I had my wisdom teeth taken out, I was out from school for a week in pain. My brother, who had the exact same surgery, felt better the next day. When I had my appendectomy, the surgical incision through my belly button got infected, prolonging my recovery (in hindsight, that may have had something to do with the dermabond!).

So I suppose it should not come as a surprise to me that I am STILL recovering from my recent surgery. Yes, two months later I still have an open incision on my body. Boy, that dermabond really did a number on me. I have tried everything from leaving it alone to steri strips (little white bandages that are designed to hold the two sides of a wound together). Nothing has worked. My doctor, who has been so supportive through this whole process, told me because of my allergic reaction to the dermabond, I missed the window for my body to heal outside, in. I now must heal inside, out, which can only be done by my body itself.

After seeing no improvement for two weeks, I was determined to find another solution. I had lost patience with the constant drainage. I searched the Internet (I know, usually a bad idea) to get some inspiration on what I could do. I realized there are many people who struggle with wound care and there are not many answers out there. So I thought I would share the answers I finally discovered in hopes it will encourage someone else.
Before I continue, let me insert a disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional and my experience is not a substitute for sound clinical advice. Everything you read here is based on my own experience and my own research. 
My incision is strictly a skin wound with normal drainage. There has been no infection (thank God!) or special care instructions I needed to follow once I left my physician's care. I did this to encourage my body's own healing ability. If you are in a similar situation, read on!
My desperation led me to prayer. I asked God to heal my incision and help me find the solution. On the way home from Texas recently, I saw an ad in Southwest Magazine for the Vaseline Skin Healing Project. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post). As I did more research into the project, I had no idea Vaseline had such skin-healing properties. It dawned on me perhaps Vaseline could be the answer to my problem. When I got home, I researched using Vaseline on a surgical incision. There wasn't much information about it, but some surgical centers did recommend patients put Vaseline on the incision site in order to keep the wound moist.

Why Vaseline?


PicMonkey Photo
How I feel about Vaseline right now. Via
Conventional wisdom states wounds should be kept dry in order to heal. Normally, that is not too much of a problem. But for wounds that need major healing, the site needs to be kept moist. This encourages the natural skin-healing process. If you think about it, all of your internal healing occurs in a moist environment. Why not external healing as well?

I realized perhaps the reason why my incision kept draining is because it was trying to stay moist!!! Rather than heal, my body was wasting energy as it tried to create the optimum environment for healing.

I had nothing to lose, so I decided to try Vaseline. It was a miracle, praise God! My incision has healed more in five days then it has in two months. I see beautiful, glorious new skin growing within the incision where there used to be a black hole. The incision itself is almost closed completely, and I expect it will close in a few more days. There is no more drainage either!

How to Apply

To get these results, I followed what instructions I could find for application and my own observations of the healing process. Here's what you need to know:
  1. Apply as needed to the incision site with clean hands, Q-tip, etc. (Please read, CLEAN!).
    Initially, the Vaseline should be thick like cake icing to start creating that environment of healing. We want our bodies to realize they can start doing internal work rather than focusing on closing the outside. As my incision has healed and is trying to close, I have reduced the amount of Vaseline and apply it only to the edges.
  2. The key is MOIST, not WET.
    Applying too much or keeping the incision plus Vaseline under a bandage all the time can degrade the healthy skin around the incision. As much as possible, keep the Vaseline confined to the incision site and keep it uncovered. I've been a bit of a homebody since I started this regimen, but I don't care because IT'S WORKING! I apply a bandage if a need to go out, but I take it right off when I get home. Plus my skin is extremely sensitive to adhesive (yay, me), so bandages only irritate the area worse.

Other Information for the Environment of Healing

As I have stumbled through this recovery, here are a few more things I have learned:
  1. DO NOT use hydrogen peroxide after the initial cleaning.
    For a week or so, I used hydrogen peroxide whenever I felt my incision needed a cleaning. Something about seeing those little white bubbles is satisfying! Then I started to wonder why my incision wasn't healing. Turns out, hydrogen peroxide is actually a little too effective at its job. Your body needs some bacteria as a stimulus to heal. If you keep applying hydrogen peroxide, your body will never be prompted to heal. Obviously, follow your physician's instructions if they have prescribed hydrogen peroxide as part of your wound care routine.
  2. Use antibacterial gels or creams sparingly.
    Again, your body needs some bacteria as a stimulus to heal. You obviously do not want infection, so again follow your physician's instructions. But my incision never seemed in danger of infection, it just stayed open! Antibacterial gels or creams carry the same negative effect as hydrogen peroxide, just to a lesser degree.
  3. You might need steri strips to finish healing.
    Once the Vaseline helped my body fill in the skin internally, I hit a healing plateau. The Vaseline didn't encourage such miraculous progress anymore. It's like my body didn't know how to fill in the external portion of my incision. So, based on my doctor's recommendation, I used steri strips. Steri strips are thin white bandages you can purchase at the drugstore. These bandages are designed to hold the two sides of a wound together so they can heal. Wear the steri strips around the clock to encourage the external portion of your incision to heal! Once I did this, I finally started seeing external healing.
I know some people do not believe in prayer, but I do not think it was a coincidence I saw the Vaseline ad in a random magazine I happened to pick up. If you are struggling to heal a surgical incision, I hope this post gives you a place to start creating that environment of healing!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Eulogy of a Simple Man

Image 5-26-16 at 8.40 PM
One of my favorite family photos
Today we laid Richard Walker to rest.

For the funeral, Jared and his sister Tristin wrote the most beautiful eulogies for their father. As I remembered the life of this man who I love, I thought I would write my own in his honor.

I first met Richard in 2007 when Jared and I started dating. It was Family Weekend at Texas Tech University. The co-ed service fraternity Jared and I were both a part of hosted a luncheon for all the parents, and I was seated next to Richard. Once Jared introduced me to his father, Richard spent the rest of the luncheon telling me about Jared's many accomplishments. How successful he had been in soccer, bassoon and school. How Jared had plans for the future, and if I wasn't going to support those plans, I needed to step down.

I was stunned. My parents had given several boys who wanted to date me the "treasure speech", saying I was their treasure and they expected me to be treated as such. But I had never been the recipient! What Richard didn't know at the time was how much I loved his son, specifically for his ambition to become a doctor. For the hopes and dreams he had for his life. I had never met anyone who shared my motivation to live life to the fullest before Jared.

Fast forward a year. Jared took me to his hometown of Brownwood, Texas, to have dinner with his grandparents. Cindy and Richard came as well. At the end of dinner, after Richard had paid for everyone, we all walked outside and I said, "thank you for dinner, Mr. Walker".

Richard said, "Megan, you're family! You don't need to call me Mr. Walker. Richard is just fine". Even then, I knew I had been welcomed into a very sacred circle: the Walker family. Richard loved his family more than anything. To be included in that love means more than I can ever write.

Cancer is one of the greatest evils of our time. Over a period of six months, Richard battled a brain tumor and succumbed. I have really struggled with God's timing. Why now? Where was He during Richard's battle? During the funeral service, the minister read passages Richard had marked in his Bible for the funeral. Richard stunned me again. What kind of man, enduring such suffering, would have the presence of mind to write about his ending?

Later, I got the opportunity to look at Richard's Bible more closely. In the front, he had taped pictures of Jared and Tristin. In the back, he had written what he considered to be the most important dates of Jared and Tristin's lives: when they accepted Jesus as their Savior, when they were baptized, and when they were married and began their own families. Finally, on the last few pages, he wrote a section titled "The End". There, he detailed the Bible passages and hymns he wanted used at his funeral.

Immediately, I knew where God had been the past six months: at Richard's side, giving him peace. And because I knew Richard had peace, I have peace. I know where Richard is tonight. And it is not in a cemetery. 

Richard was a simple man. He loved simple things: family, friends and living life to the fullest. But his beliefs were not simple. Imagine the faith and trust in God it took to write those words in his Bible. Perhaps God even gave Richard a glimpse of his future home. I do not know, but one day I will when I see my beloved father-in-law again. I hope we enjoy a cup of coffee on the front porch of Heaven.

IMG_1751
The view from where we laid Richard to rest