Family on a mission

For the record, I’m a homebody. Which is weird because I’m an extrovert so people expect me to enjoy road trips and party with the stars. But the truth of the matter is road trips stress me out and I don’t know any celebrities. So it stands to reason that the Lord would bring the perfect match of a man into my life almost 24 years ago and this man would be a world traveler. Mark was born and raised in Argentina, attended high school in Paraguay and spent time in Africa performing mission work. The icing on the cake is that he’s an expert packer of suitcases and mini-vans. Me? I like to throw things in Target bags and hope for the best. I’m a homebody, but I’m an optimistic packer. The nice TSA people know this.

Several months ago, we were invited to go to Jamaica (Yes! This beautiful tropical island has medical needs!) to help in a clinic where Mark had previously worked. Because our children are older we decided to take the whole family and I will say that any trepidation I had before the trip was completely unnecessary and unfounded. In case you are interested, here are some pictures and highlights of our trip. Please feel free to ask questions and/or comment if you feel led.

The MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center was located in St. Elizabeth parish Jamaica near Santa Cruz. imageWe stayed with an American nurse who has poured her heart into building and maintaining this clinic for the people who live on the mountain. There is healthcare, good medicine and people being the hands and feet of Jesus because this clinic is there.

A Family Practice physician from our home area compiled a list of medications that would be needed at the clinic. We took a large check-in bag filled with all the medicines to stock the tiny pharmacy. The really, really tiny, adorable pharmacy. Nurse Karen is quite proud of her tiny pharmacy! image

The beauty of this trip was that our whole family got involved. On other trips only Mark traveled because there was nothing for the rest of us to do, or our little ones were just too little. But this time we all jumped in and helped. Our oldest son is 18 and is headed off to college soon and thinking about studying medicine. In Jamaica he was able to work alongside his dad performing patient assessments. Nathan took blood pressures, tested blood sugars and wrote down chief complaints. And all his training was done on-site by a professional.image

Unlike here in the States there is no EMR in Jamaica (can I get a hallelujah?!) Mark was able to keep paper records, spend as much time as he wanted with each patient (and no one complained if they had to wait!) and he still saw 30 patients a day. And he was done by 2:30. Seriously.

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There were 2 days of clinic work where the patients either came by taxi or walked for many, many miles up the mountain. Once a patient was seen by the physician they were given the opportunity to have someone (me) pray with them if they desired. Or, they could have their prescription filled at the clinic pharmacy. Then the patients just waited outside on metal folding chairs until they could get a taxi back to town or until they decided to just mosey back home. There was sweet sense of comminuty as I watched children play and patients wait to either be seen by Dr. Mark or get their prescription filled. Sometimes there was laughter and singing and just a precious feeling that there was no rush to get anywhere, to do anything or to accomplish a task. Being with those around you and loving on the sick was more important than anything. I saw it. Our children saw it and it changed us for the better.

Our last full day at MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center brought a full day for our whole family. Even our younger 2 children, who may not have been able to work at the clinic in a medical capacity, were able to plug in on Saturday as Nurse Karen hosted almost 40 community children for a day of activities, Bible study, lunch and treats.  We found out that we should’ve brought more bubbles. Many, many more bubbles. And maybe more chalk, but we had so much fun just playing and loving and hugging on those sweet precious children, many of whom come from very unpleasant home environments.

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But there was fun and laughter and love that day. We tried to show them love like Jesus would. But, we used bubbles and ice cream. Sticky, sticky love.

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And there was soccer (they call it football in Jamaica). Lots and lots of football. Because we were on the side of a mountain the best place to play football was, obviously, on the roof of the clinic. So that’s what our boys did with the Jamaican boys. For hours and hours they played. You would’ve thought these boys had know each other for years instead of just having met, but athletics can cross barriers of language and culture if we let it. Watching those kiddos kick that ball and play and laugh just blessed us. They were a huge mess of sweaty, laughing, stinky, hungry teen-aged boys and it was so fun to watch it all unfold.

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Our family wants to go back and serve in Jamaica and I’m not just saying that because I’m looking at 6″ of snow on the ground today. Lives were changed and not just ours. We saw healing take place, hearts changed and souls fed. The Jamaican people are thankful for what they have even if it’s very little so it’s hard not to come away changed and blessed. Funny, we went to bless and we were the ones blessed. Didn’t see that coming.

Do you think about serving? Do you serve? How do you incorporate a family in service? Is medical missions something your family wants to do, but you aren’t sure how it will look with a family?  It’s not impossible! We are bonded as a family when we serve together.

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If you stopped by here today because of the devotion on Encouragement Cafè, then I thank you! If you landed here completely by accident or some other way, then I thank you just as much! Either way, I’m glad you are here and I hope you have a blessed day!

What a pain!

I have not been writing lately. Or doing much of anything. The house has been hovering at an unacceptable cleanliness level (according to my standards) for about 7 months. It would be fun to say that I’ve been busy planning an amazing vacation to Aruba, or painting the bedroom that has been on my “to do” list for 3 years. But that’s not true.

I’ve been in chronic pain.

In the past I’ve dealt with migraines and managed to settle on a system where I could still be a mom and finagle the pain. But, the pain I’ve had these last months is something from a different level. Somehow I managed to get bursitis and frozen shoulder at the same time. I’ve given people the cold shoulder, but this is different. There is little range of motion and excrutiaing pain when I move my arm too high.

I can spare you the details because part of when someone is in pain, at least for me, is that we don’t want to burden others with something they can do nothing about. There is a helpless feeling already when one’s body is not cooperating so when it comes to explaining a pained expression or to bow out of an athletic activity, sometimes it’s just easier to smile and nod.

But is this really ok?

No.

Shouldn’t we bear one another’s burden’s and help each other out? So often I have wanted to cry out to someone and tell them how badly I hurt. How I can’t lift my arm to wash the top of my head, blow dry my hair, drive for long distances (not good for a soccer mom), or pull up my pants. I wish I could tell people how I am woken up in the night with pain shooting down my arm and piercing my shoulder so I stay awake for hours. Then I get out of bed in the morning (after not sleeping), start my day and try to look like I’m not in pain. Lots of coffee and mascara help.

What is the right response when you don’t want to be a complainer, but you need help?

Many people suffer in silence when in pain. Whether physical, emotional, financial, spiritual….no one wants to be a burden or “that” person who is whiny. But, how can we learn compassion and how to help others if we don’t sometimes share our weakness and let down our guard. By being vulnerable we can build a bridge to another and show them that it’s ok to ask for help, to hurt, to cry and to take time to heal.

Just the other day the Lord gently reminded me that pain is one of His specialties. He felt it, experienced it and He can definitely handle mine. He can handle yours too.

Encouragement Cafe readers!

If you found me through Encouragement Cafe then I am so glad to have you here! I’m just sorry the coffee is only the virtual kind and we aren’t able to talk face to face. I hope you are able to take some time to scroll through my blog and read for a bit. May your day be blessed and I hope you are able to find something to smile about today and be encouraged!

I understand, Mrs. Dr.

It’s an interesting dynamic when your husband is a physician and you are, well, not. I vacillate between feeling like a minor celebrity (we live in a small town) especially when I pay with my credit card and the cashier says, “Ohhhhhh Mast!! Are you related to doctor Mast?!” Or I can feel completely invisible in the same scenario because he’s the amazing doctor and I’m….nobody.
Yes, I understand. For those of you who are doing all the behind the scenes work (all 8000 things everyday that no one sees) I understand. I’ve made a list for you ladies who need to know that someone else is where you are:
1) I get it! When he comes home and doesn’t talk and can’t talk because everything must be HIPAA compliant. He truly can’t share what’s on his heart because he’s sworn to secrecy. It’s like being married to a doctor who’s also a spy. Then in the dark. Late at night after y’all have said your prayers you hear him whisper, “I’m so afraid I missed something today.” And he can’t even tell you about it.

2) I understand how it makes you twitch when people make rude comments about money. There’s a strange stereotype that we are just rolling in it over here. It’s maddening really! I would never, ever comment to a (fill in the occupation of your choice) about how little income he/she were making. It’s just rude. Yet, people find it perfectly OK to say things like, “Well, you’re a doctor! You have lots of money!” Or, “Ask the doctor for some money!” I’m truly baffled by this. And hurt. Because sometimes I think people see us as dollar signs and not as people. OK we have money, but we also have money problems. We are normal and we argue about money just like the people who are counting every nickel that comes in. It cost a healthy 6 figures for my husband to go to school and (15 years later) we are still paying that off. I could go on and on, but just know that I understand the sensitivity that money issues bring to the table and it can be painful.

3) I understand the loneliness. I’m an extrovert. I have parties for the most mundane reasons. When the kids learned to walk, lost their teeth (sometimes the two events were related) or learned a new skill, I was ready to make pizza and call it a party. Mark, is done with people by the end of the day. He becomes an introvert with a case of introvertitis and I, on the other hand, want to be surrounded by people who are more than 4 feet tall and speak in complete sentences.
We need to find balance and it’s not easy. It requires trust in the Lord that He will mesh our personalities, blend, refine and complement our strengths so we can serve Him together. When that happens, of course I have a party!

4) I understand that you sometimes feel second best. Maybe this only happens to me and I need to work on my self-esteem. I do sometimes feel that my husband is touted in our community as somewhat of a celebrity and the kids and I are forgotten. Certainly we don’t need to be in the limelight, nor do we want to be, but it can be a sore spot when I often hear how wonderful “he” is and what an “amazing doctor he is” and I just feel like….the housewife. Sigh.

On my worst days I’ll berate myself about how I can only put on a band-aid, but ‘”he” can make people well!! (It’s the Lord who heals. Doctors are vessels. Just clarifying.) Then I might get angry about how people are often praising him, but they don’t realize that he’s human. People glamorize their physicians, but do they stop to think that they leave their dirty socks lying around the house, burp at the table, curse when they run into the dishwasher, yell at the TV when their sports team is losing and, believe it or not, they get sick and they are not always the ideal patient. (*Disclaimer: These descriptions are NOT all my husband! They are characteristics I compiled from the reality of our home and the homes of others.)

5) I get how exhausted you are. Do you essentially do it all? My husband works about 12 hours a day. He spends 2-3 hours in the evenings working on paperwork. There’s really not time for him to take care of car repairs/oil changes/state inspections, taking the dog to the vet, laundry, food shopping/preparation/clean-up, anything dealing with the children or schoolwork (we/I home school so factor that into the equation), house repairs/painting/maintenance, household budgeting, banking and bill paying and you. Where do you and your marriage fit in? You are both exhausted and in most cases you are carrying the burden of the household. I have no answers because the above list (and more) is currently on my shoulders. Just know that I understand and I can pray for you and for myself that somehow all of this works out as we work for Him.

6) I understand that your life may have been put on hold for him. I’m older than my husband so it stood to reason that I was going to want a baby soon after we married. Like, 9 months after our honeymoon. Instead, medical school happened and five years after our “I do’s”, and as I frantically approached 30, we had a baby! Then another. (Then, sadly, a miscarriage.) And another baby. And another! I had to make up for lost time, right? I am so thankful for our four children and even more thankful that we are out of the stage where we had 4 under the age of 7! But things were a whirlwind and I didn’t get to finish grad school, write a book or go to Spain. I did do the really important #1 item on my dream list and that was to become a wife and mother. The rest can wait. I can go to Spain when I’m 70. Pregnancy at 70 is much, much harder. Still, I understand how many of us have had to push the “pause” button on life for the sake of our husbands’ careers. What do we do with those feelings?

7) Finally, I understand how unbelievable proud you are of him. It was a long haul. Undergrad. Medical School. Residency. Finding a job. Daily doing that job. No matter how George Clooney makes it look on ER, being a doctor is not glamorous. There are days it’s stinky, bloody and other-body-fluid messy. It’s taking off putrid toenails, looking at moles, cutting off growths and looking people in the eye and telling them they don’t have long to live. Medicine is messy. But it’s also miraculous. It’s seeing babies born and watching those who have struggled with depression finally smile. Only because these people have answered the call to be healers at the extended hand of the Healer is this job possible.

You. At home with the children. The dog. The laundry that will never end. The laundry that he will wear home with someone else’s blood on it. Yes, you. He can do this job because of you. He knows you are waiting on the other side of that door with love, a hug (after he changes his clothes!) and a hopeful heart. You will fill him with what he needs to go back and do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. His patients may never thank you. People will still see you as “the doctor’s wife”. You may still be seen as unseen. But, the Lord sees you and He knows you are caring for a brother by loving him when he comes home from a day healing in His name.
Well done lady. I understand.