Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So last Friday I was reminded of something I learned back in High School. It was in a psychology class, and although I'll totally screw up exactly what it was that my teacher said, I think you'll get the picture. We were learning about human emotion and how a smile has the power within your body to release endorphins (happy chemicals), lower blood pressure, and other good stuff. He had us try to smile with just our eyes and feel that even that can make you feel good and change your mood a bit for the better. I thought of this Friday because I just could not stop smiling at work. Even outside there was a cute kid at every corner with a huge beaming smile, which in turn made me smile of course. Today I thought of it again, but for a much different reason. I was leaving Dunkin Donuts and followed behind some guy who I assumed would hold the door as I held two coffees in my hands. After a near face plant into the door I realized I was quite wrong, but surely he would hold the second door after seeming to notice me throwing my foot out to avoid a broken nose with the first. Nope, a second brush with a possible head trauma made me realize that in everyday situations we can react in many different ways. Even on a normal day this run in with a seemingly inconsiderate guy wouldn't necessarily bother me. I don't get frustrated easily, I can even sit in traffic for hours on end and not complain. Today I realized I could do more than that though. My opinion is that there are more things that present themselves in a day that we react to with indifference or frustration (even cynicism) than we do with a smile. What if instead of just going through the day indifferent or frustrated to the world around us we smile instead? So thats what I did. I smiled and laughed a little when the second door almost threatened a concussion (and thought to myself "wow these doors swing back fast!")
When I got to the garage at work I faced a major traffic jam where people just seemed to have forgotten how to drive or something because it was one of the worst I have seen in a while. I watched people in their cars frustrated and decided that instead of just sitting there patiently in addition I would smile while waiting. It was beautiful outside, I had the window down, and a good song was on, so I smiled at the extra couple of minutes I would gain enjoying it from traffic that wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

In these instances I found myself relax a bit. Maybe it was the endorphines. All I know is that it made me feel good inside to smile at the things that could potentially annoy. I remember the teacher also saying that you don't even have to emotionally feel like smiling (or be truly happy) to feel the effects. Right now just smile, for no reason. Feel it? Next time you're annoyed or frustrated try just smiling, even if its the last thing you feel like doing.

And now for what prompted me to write this kinda silly post. I opened my friends blog today to find a very special post that made me smile big. She is so special to me and has a great big place in my heart. She has supported me so much in my preperations for next year and has been a part of every step including my excitement, concerns, joy, questioning, seeking, and finding. Shyla, you make me feel awfully special and you make me smile! love you my sweet friend.

It makes me sad to think that people go through all of the trouble to hide or get rid of wrinkles around their eyes. I hope that people can someday clearly see my smile wrinkles and know that I am filled with something worth smiling for. Inside of me is a peace and happiness that only comes through knowing who created me and who loves me with this crazy, incredible, undeniable, undefinable love.

My God is an awesome God, and I will never cease to smile at that truth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Part 2- Decision Made!

I write today with a heart full of excitement and peace, whew!! Its been quite a process to get here but I am happy to be where I am and thank God for His faithfulness. The email I received last week was from the coordinator for my placement through Mercy Ships asking me to consider working as a palliative care nurse rather than a post-operative nurse while on the ship. Basically this means I would be giving hospice (end of life) care to people suffering from fatal diseases (i.e. HIV/AIDS). This includes education for families and communities, and also means my work will be off the ship rather than as a surgical nurse on the ship. I will still be living on the ship but working primarily with people and families in the surrounding areas.
As I mentioned in Part 1, every single expectation I had up until that email was gone, wiped away. In talking with my best friend (who was also a bit speechless) she put it well. I was confused at what I was feeling, unable to form words or sentences and she said "Basically you just left the expectation of bringing life to people for a year to finding yourself helping people die for a year". The thoughts following that were incredible and pivotal in this process. Mercy Ships brings "Hope and Healing to the forgotten poor". My picture of healing were the examples of people with major tumors, cleft palates, fistulas, and club feet walking out after being "healed" of their deformities. Here is where God stepped in (well, He was always there of course, but this is the point where I heard Him softly remind me of something). At some point I took off my "nurse" hat and cried when I realized this: People facing imminent death are in dire need of hope and healing, especially so if they don't know Jesus as their savior. I saw Beth Moore speak last week (Gods timing is ridiculous, seriously) and she spoke about how there is life in death. More so, when we die to ourselves, Christ is able to live through us. I prayed over and over to help me die to anything I still held onto, things I wasn't even sure I was still holding on to, and then I got that email 3 days later.
In thinking about giving care at the end of someones life, what better example then being able to share with them that they can LIVE a new life, one without disease, poverty, or sorrow, all after they die. By dying to my expectations and selfish desires to be comfortable on the ship as a post-op nurse, God can use me bring the hope and healing to these people who need it so much.
:side note: as someone who doesn't cry very easily this process is a serious emotional roller coaster, in a good way!! :)
Following my spiritual "inventory" on Saturday morning I was mentally exhausted. This exhaustion was mostly from trying to even fathom how incredible God's work in my life has, is, and will continue to be. The scripture about how His love defies our knowledge is so true and I am humbled by it every time I try to even come close to understanding. I decided to give up on being productive and succumb to an afternoon of reading. I have been reading about the history of Mercy Ships and again found myself crying over some of the pictures in the book, and was especially struck by one of them that shows a line of somewhere around 5,000 people waiting to be seen on a screening day. These people come out and wait (and wait, and wait) to be seen with hopes of receiving free surgery and to be healed. Unfortunately, many of these people have to be turned away and sometimes it is because they are too sick to even survive surgery. Guess what? That's why they decided to create a Hospice team! I seriously should not be so shocked every time these things happen. During Saturday alone I was shown lessons in faith, one, after the other, after the other. This my friends, is why I started this post with how I am thankful for Gods faithfulness, it does not fail...ever.
So I emailed my contact and said yes, I would be honored to be considered for the position of palliative care nurse, quite excited really.
I must mention this in closing. One of my favorite things about God (if you can have favorite "things" regarding the creator of the universe?!) is I believe He is a creative God and maybe even has a sense of humor. I have been telling people that I thought it was really cool that Mercy Ships has big white Land Rovers with their logo on the side. I was finding myself LOVING the idea of driving one of them, even thinking about finding someone with a manual car so I could brush up on my stick-shift skills, just in case I ever had the opportunity to drive one while there. I was going through my new job description list mentally checking off things that applied to me. At the end of the list I laughed out loud when I read this:

-Ability and Willingness to drive in West Africa

Its as if God winked at me and said "See Suzanne, I KNOW you"

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Part one-Contemplation

This is the first of a two part post. I am realizing more and more that all of my thoughts and prayers surrounding the latest issue in my life will be too much for me to try and write about in one sitting. I won't mention exactly what the issue has been as I haven't made a final decision regarding it, but I do want to show how God is working in my life, especially so over the last two days. Yesterday I received an email concerning the work I will be doing in Africa next year. More or less every single expectation I have had up until this point was washed away and I was left feeling this strange sensation of loss. This is weird and hard to explain because the feeling is like nothing I have ever experienced, especially because it was a loss of something I haven't even experienced yet...if that makes any sense. My automatic reaction was tears, mixed with a flood of thoughts and very quickly after that prayer. Unfortunately I opened the email right before I had to go to work so instead of processing it on my own, secluded from the everything else, I was forced to do my praying in the car driving down 93. At one point I turned on a mix of Christian music I made and just let the words of the songs be my prayer. As the songs played I felt like I was so still I was hardly breathing. My mind was a blank slate, I didn't know where to begin with my own thoughts.
I'm realizing now that this is really vague, it will make more sense when Part 2 is written. How do you put into words how powerful Gods work is in your life?
So back to the car. I finally got to the garage and started writing down the different verses from the songs that spoke to me and became my prayer. Here they are:

"My heart and my soul, I give you control. Consume me from the inside out
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fails. Never ending Your Glory goes beyond all things. The cry of my heart is to bring You praise. From the inside out Lord my soul cries out."

"Your will above all else my purpose remains. The art of losing myself and bringing you praise."

"When you call I won't refuse."

This morning I woke up to do my bible study and smiled at the days topic. In the very fist paragraph I read lines that more or less summed up my prayers over the last weeks, but more so in the last 24 hours. The author was talking about decision making in our life and what the best way to pray looks like.
"Lord, whatever I know to be your will, I will do it. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment, I commit myself ahead of time to follow your will. Lord, no matter what this looks like, I will do it."

The author then asked at the end of the topic for the reader to make out a list of spiritual markers in their life, a spiritual inventory. The basis behind this exercise is this:
"When God gets ready for you to take a new step or direction in His activity, it will always be in sequence with what He has already been doing in your life."

I found it interesting that I was finding myself doing a spiritual "inventory" within less than a day of needing to make a big decision, hmmm....
The more and more I contemplate this decision I realize the reasons for NOT doing it seem to all be selfish so far. I think I know what I will say, I think I've actually known since I got the email. I needed to go through this time of reflection and time with God to be sure. I will update tomorrow!

Monday, October 13, 2008


I have had some weird things on my mind lately, some completely out of the blue. I have wanted to get a necklace, something simple that I would wear all the time. More recently I wanted to get something that would remind me of home while away next year, something sentimental you could say. It seems silly but there is a starfish necklace I have really liked for a while and the thing that surprises me is it is from Tiffany's. I have seriously never even been inside a Tiffany's store so I'm not sure why I'm so attracted to it, but I just love it. My thinking was starfish=beach (my favorite place to be) why not?? I would never post this as it seems ridiculous...until today. I was reading some blogs from the people serving on the ship on came across the starfish story. The author is unknown (even after a google search) but it spoke to me in an unbelievable way. A year ago I looked at the prospect of one person changing the world as unlikely at best. What can one really person accomplish? Needless to say my opinion has completly changed after seeing just how much one person can do, and what it looks like when one person starts to act rather than sit back and think hopelessly about our world and all of the chaos and confusion that consumes it. The numbers for people living in poverty are disgusting, they literally make my stomach turn. What if instead of looking at the numbers in need we start to look at the numbers of people who have been helped by the actions of others? If just one life is saved, just ONE, isn't it worth it to go out and act? Shouldn't that be enough motivation to go out and serve? Here's the story...

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young girl, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young girl paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young girl replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young girl, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young girl listened politely. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

The necklace does not have to be from Tiffany's (I would like to keep my record of staying out of that store going strong actually) but I think my idea for a starfish necklace will actually hold more meaning to me now. I never want to look at being a missionary as a hopeless task, rather as a way to make a difference to every individual I come in contact with. Afterall, it makes a difference to them.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I can't even come up with a title for this post, which I guess only goes to show the state of mind I have found myself in the last few days. I can't put my finger on when exactly it happened but I suppose recent feelings have been welling up for a while. The last couple of weeks have had scattered moments of sheer happiness and excitement, but very fleeting. I have found myself deeply pondering everything around me and looking critically at my life at times. I fell out of my habit of my daily bible study (fixed that tonight), however I have been diligent with keeping my prayer journal and not turning the TV on at night. I think I have come to a place where I am really looking at myself and what makes me "me". For so long my identity was wrapped up in other people and my self inflicted torture of what I thought other people wanted me to be. I have my identity in God which I am ever-grateful for, but what exactly does that look like on a day to day basis? Am I an example to everyone around me of a heart after Christ? Am I strong enough to even bear that title? Am I witnessing in a bold way, unafraid of what people may think of me? I feel the need every night to just surrender my life to God, every thought, every action. How long until my every mind and heart are completely in tune with His will and purpose? Will I know when that day comes? Will that day come? I have no idea why but my excitement over these same exact questions has turned into, I don't even have a word...burden, maybe. These thoughts all rushed through my head until last night. I literally just said to God "Why am I so weary? Am I not leaning on you? is it fear? mistrust? I give it all to you, I am too tired to try and figure it out on my own. Let me be guided by you" I wrote those very words down and thought about just calling it a night but then I felt the urge to just open the bible at random, something I haven't done in a long time. I read Psalm 43 and as I got to the end I felt a smile start creeping up at the edges of my mouth.
Psalm 43: "Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put you Hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
My spirit was renewed, I felt good and truly at peace for the first time in days. I rested easy knowing that by surrendering my life and letting go of any personal desires or wants I could put my Hope in God to take care of the rest. I don't know what the catalyst for this "funk" was, sometimes I wonder if it is something that creeps into my sub-conscious and takes hold without me realizing it for a while. I'm sure there are anxieties or fears or thoughts of "what if" concerning leaving home for a year that are laying right under the surface. If I even remotely try to conquer these feelings myself I'll be totally at a loss. So for now I will continue to surrender myself every night, and will resume my optimistic outlook on life and my faith. There is joy to be found in every day, I am certain of that. Some days I suppose you just have to look a little harder (and the bible is the best place to start looking).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Throwing out and storing up

Over the last weeks and months I have felt pretty convicted of giving away (or throwing away) a lot of material possessions I have. I have also been convicted to stop spending money on things that are considered "extras". I suppose its easy for me to adopt this new line of thinking while facing a year of living out of one 50lb bag, yup, ONE bag...ONE year. It has truly been a change of heart. My car which I really loved so much a year ago now is just a bunch of metal sitting on rubber. Clothes and shopping were easy to give up...never meant that much anyways. My goal is to give away 2/3 of the clothes I currently own. I would say I made piles of 1/3 without flinching, I haven't seen most of them in years. Any purchased items first have to pass the test of "Will I absolutely need to bring this with me next year??" and most of the time the answer is no. Instead of spending $150 on my hair every 6 weeks at the hairdresser and insanely expensive shampoo and conditioner, I bought a $10 bottle of hair dye (ended up being on sale for $7) and did it myself. So far I haven't heard any gasps of horror or people scoffing and whispering under their breath about the girl with the $7 dye job, so far so good. My shampoo and conditioner were cheap too, seem to be working just fine really, no visible dirt at all.

This is all great and everything but what might you ask have I been throwing out internally? I have been falling asleep to the t.v. going every night for years. A few months ago I started making time for a 5-10 minute prayer and then right to an episode of scrubs. I think I looked forward more to the show then the prayer, twisted, I know. This week I stopped turning on the t.v. at night. I started a prayer journal where I am finding I spend 30min just writing out everything on my mind and heart...and addressing it all to God. I go back and really meditate on the written prayers. I've never felt closer to God then during these times, and now I can't wait for that time each night. When I lay down my thoughts are on God, not on J.D. and Turks antics and humorous dialog. I was feeling far away from God, not disconnected in any way, just that He was way off out there somewhere and I was here just trying desperately to hear Him. Now I feel closer than ever, hmmm...just keeping the t.v. off brought me closer to God, wow. In seeing this I am asking through prayer for God to reveal to me other things that may be keeping me from getting closer to Him, we'll see whats next!

At the end of the day I could care less about material things. Sure, I have my comforts that, well, make life more
comfortable but I think I could even give those up without much of a fight. I am seeing life as more of a journey towards a kingdom where I will meet my maker. I'm pretty sure He won't say "Of look, its Suzanne, the girl with the salon perfect highlights and sweet trailblazer." Instead I hope He looks at me and sees his Son's heart, that of a humble servant to His kingdom.
Matthew 6:19-20
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."