Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I realize the whole idea of a blog is to keep people in the loop… I struggled enough starting one and evidently have just as much trouble updating. But today reminded me of why I try.

This go around I am stationed in a community I’ve only but driven through once before. Seeing as I’m still working under the guidance of another nurse the motto of my time here has been “see as much as you can see and do as much as you can do to get the best experience while there’s some nearby to learn from.” Let me just say… I’ve been given a nickname (colorful language omitted for this post) summarizing how the number of patients and workload seem to pick up whenever I’m on call. Bring on the experience…

I, for the first time in my life, made a pot of coffee for myself. Well, to be truthful it was actually only a cups worth that I made (so the small supply would last as many days as possible).  And of course I had to verify quantities and instructions off the Internet on how to make it (yes I know it just involves a filter, coffee, some water, the “on” button and is quite straightforward). I had no intentions on making or drinking the stuff while up here, but one day in I realized I needed something to help me power through the day… peppermint tea just lacked that pick me up I needed. I scoured the cupboards of where I’m staying and stuck gold. Someone had left a bag (which I learned makes 10 cups if I’m careful) of Starbucks BOLD coffee. "Bold" obviously insinuates big energy boost. A good tablespoon or two (or three) of flavored creamer mind you, must accompany the coffee at least at this stage of my coffee drinking (also a valuable commodity some dear person left from a previous visit). 

All coffee-talk aside, it’s been a good working experience up here so far. But tonight I saw a glimpse of things “beyond” and “past” the general run-of-the-mill work at the clinic. It reminded me of the reality of things, of the warfare going on and of the spiritual forces of evil present and heavy. After an event took place, opening the door to conversation, an Aboriginal coworker shared a bit of what she had learned of the community. “This town is referred to as ground zero.” A place where trouble has brewed and “all the stuff has happened.” Almost as if to forewarn me, she stated that if I could be affected by something as little as the event that took place earlier in the day, "you ain’t seen nothing yet” and to “buckle down and pull my socks up.” The things people are involved in and have experienced, “it just doesn’t…it shouldn’t happen” she said. And for one who has seen and experienced much within the Aboriginal culture, her words are not said lightly.

I have just felt burdened over the last couple days… first to be praying for spiritual protection and also to be praying that the Light of the world may be evident in my life, my nursing, my heart and my actions. Pray that my mind may be guarded from fears and lies. Pray that I may have energy to do my job and to “be on guard” regardless of physical or emotional “tiredness.” Pray that I may have further opportunity with my coworker, to share about my God, who allows my heart to be broken for those who have been hurt and experienced pain and suffering far beyond what I will ever know. But who is also the sole reason I can stand in the face of what I see, knowing that my God is bigger than all of it… to share how Christ alone gives the strength we need to be strong and stand firm in the presence of evil, how He has conquered death and gives victory over darkness. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Last night: -48 with wind chill
Today: high of -39... low tonight.. -48 again with wind chill
Helloo winter

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The first week’s been pretty good. There are three of us new nurses with two seasoned staff who are currently stationed here and everybody has been so great. It hasn’t been the most ideal orientation by any means but we’re learning quick to work with what we’ve got. And man is there ever lots to learn and know. After the days of administrational stuff, first thing learned was basic suturing (on chicken legs mind you... although we were willing to take a cut or two so we could practice on each other). Note- always looking for willing candidates to practice this skill on so let me know if you’re interested. It was stated before coming out usually a doctor comes through every two weeks… in short time we learned it's been more like months. But they're always "just a phone call away."  The learning curve has included then, how to be a lab technician, pharmacist, and to a certain extent, doctor. Famous words of advice from the age-old film “Finding Nemo” come to mind. “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming.” Suffice to say, most evenings have included “study period.” Learning is life long, right?
the road out... looks like this for hours)
Right from the get go and continuing through the entire week, God has continued to bless my heart with little unexpected surprises, conversations, words, or moments of encouragement. To start, the verse I heard in a sermon the sunday before I left. Deut. 31:8 "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." That promise... his very PRESENCE walking with us through the day... how can that knowledge not result in peace… and confidence that I can do all things through him who strengthens me? In the thick of things I have sometimes been quick to forget the weighty “awesome-ness” of all that implies. Anxiety and trust... I don't think they can co-exist. Remembering, surrendering, walking in faith.

There have been so many other little moments in the last couple days where God has gone above and beyond- using people and moments to speak, challenging my narrowing perspective, reminding me of Truth. An encouraging phone call from a new co-worker. Breath-taking beauty all around. Words given for a perspective and reality check. A sobering situation of hopelessness and hurt. Unexpected friendship. Over and over a timely word read. An unexpected text of encouragement (in a remote area with no cell reception). Laughter. Lots of laughter. These examples and so many more… all testifying about this God I know. How he cares about each of us and the details of our lives, more than we could ever fathom. Even for those who don’t know him or have “forgotten” about him. This God…speaking, loving, taking broken hopeless people and broken people who don't know they're hopeless... In him we find it; meaning, purpose, life, strength, joy, love, peace.

Many people here are very spiritual... a coworker and newfound friend who is aboriginal was sharing about her beliefs and one comment really stuck out. People spend so much time taking care of their physical self and no time taking care of their spiritual self… so much so that they forget how to or that they even need to. And in the end, may or may not ever realize… they’ve lost who they are. Even though her and I have different beliefs there’s such truth shared in that thought.

I can't say it enough. Thanks for praying. And please, write or email how things are going in your neck of the woods and whether I can be praying for you about anything in particular. Love hearing from people (we’ve been warned lots about the signs of “cabin fever” as a result of the isolation) so if you start to notice any NEW and unusual quirks with me… 
Thinking this one's not being used in -30...
saw three buffalo yesterday

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

couple minutes out from GR
our airport and runway

It's beautiful up here. The community is surrounded by forest, with a creek and a great big river running right beside the community. I think the trees are some kind of aspen...? and with the load of snow we just got, the forests around us look winter wonderland-ish.

There are closer to 700 people living in the community with a rough estimate of maybe 75 of either houses, trailers, or little wood cabins (gives a bit of an idea how crowded living conditions are). I live in a pretty decent triplex.. very 70's-ish, with the clinic a quick 3 minute drive away. There's quite a few dogs around, providing an intermittent chorus of barking to serenade throughout the day/night.    


The clinic itself is quite a bit larger than I expected. It has only two actual exam rooms but a fair size emergency, several offices, a pharmacy, lab, and quite a few other random rooms. Things are pretty laid back at the clinic. A large majority of the community only starts waking up in the afternoon (they seem to have days and nights reversed) which makes afternoons more steady as far as seeing patients goes. We see any and whatever medical "concern" that comes in. We do what we can to treat.. and for the (many) things we can't do much for we stabilize and send the patient out either by taxi or plane.  

the nursing post

the "emergency bay"

the emergency department
We work from 8:30 to 5:00 and everybody takes turns going on first or second call from 5:00pm to 8:30 am (us new nurses have been cut a bit of slack and have yet to be given "call"... next week though...). I think a large portion of the people here speak English but Cree is the main language and it's not uncommon to need a translator at times. Seat-belts, carseats, speed limits and helmets among other things all seem to be quite optional here, especially with the nearest law enforcement being two hours away. From what's been said about the other reserves we will be going to, this is a good one to start in. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Change is good. Complacency gets challenged. New year (wrote the big 12 for the first time today)... new home (up north)... new job (further north north)... new church (yet to be determined)... new friends (all but a few yet to be met)... Isn't it great we have a sovereign God who not only leads but walks with? Isn't it great there are plans bigger than our own that we are invited, called, commanded to be a part of?

Took a job with First Nations and Inuit Health as a community health nurse to work on reserves in northern Alberta. Translation: working either at the nursing station or in the community (public health-ish type work) two weeks on, two weeks off. There are four reserves I can be stationed in. My first trip up is this Monday. One commercial and one charter flight later... Population approx. 700, one of the more remote of the four locations. Couple days ago spoke with yet another doctor who's worked in all of these reserves. When asked what it was like, his response was almost ironic in similarity to what others have shared about their experiences on these reserves. Over and over.. the same descriptions: isolated, lonely, a self-imploding repetitive cycle, spiritually dark...

I don't know much about these places. But I do know God has given me a peace about going. This peace has guarded my heart and mind, and daily battles the uncertainties and anxieties that are there to arise at a moments notice when my gaze turns off the Father. As long as He is leading in this direction it's my heart's desire to be obedient and follow... and He has started stirring an excitement in my heart as I do so.

I greatly appreciate and value your prayers. I think the request at the top of the list... that I will see those I'll be with and serving as Christ sees them. I know this sounds cliche.. but if I can genuinely love these people... or even begin in learning what that looks like.. I know that's where I need to start. From the reports of others: spiritual warfare and loneliness seem to be some other big ones. Pray that God will be glorified in each day. It's my prayer, my hope, that I will in no way be ashamed, be fearful... but will have sufficient courage so that now and always, Christ may be exalted and glorified in my life.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

goodbye southern alberta prairies.. hello north country...