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welcoming back words

For years, I had buried words deeply into the earth

and I feared they were beyond hope of emerging.

If you picture an avalanche, the initial sliding snow

is relatively small, like frozen skidding pebbles, seemingly innocent.

As the speed increases, more snow becomes entangled with force

and anything in the path of an avalanche is obliterated.

I felt an unparalleled ambush of words, illustrations and images.

Notebooks were scattered all over the house for

quick retrieval to scribble down ideas.

I am sure I possessed a glazed expression as I

tried to upload the words coursing through my mind.

I am also sure it wasn’t always a joy to live with me.

After taking a few writing courses,

I started to gather scraps of courage

to share my writing beyond my journals.

What was I to do about physical therapy?

How does one who entered the field to help people

announce the need to exit?

It felt so counter and harsh to admit this reality.

However I could barely care for my family

much less physically shoulder the needs of patients.

I feared I would disappoint the people in my life by saying

I was abandoning the profession.

Undoubtedly I had put a lot of effort into becoming a P.T. but

others had been a tremendous help and support.

Was I going to let them down in the process of following my heart?

I recently heard author Sue Monk Kidd  explain her decision to no longer

be a nurse. She knew nursing was one of the noblest of professions

and she had chosen it because it was traditional and safe.

She recalls that she was a pretty good nurse, she cared,

did her best but she never felt as if it were her true

place of belonging.

She felt homesick for home.

When she began to write, it was a homecoming.

She believes it takes courage to find out what lies

at the bottom of our hearts.

I could have expressed the same sentiments.

I was a pretty good physical therapist.

I worked hard, I cared deeply about my patients but I

never felt exhilaration in the way I did holding a pen.

I did not work outside the home in any capacity until Caleb was 8 years old.

I decided to give physical therapy another try.

Perhaps after this long absence, the old feelings wouldn’t resurface.

My first day of holding a list of patients to treat, I felt nervous and rusty.

As I was working with my second patient, her two sons anxiously hovered

as I positioned a walker before her wheelchair.

She had emphatically told me she was not going to walk today.

Perhaps this is why I loved working with children, it doesn’t

occur to them to answer no to your requests.

I gently told this sweet lady, I was there to help and

all she needed to do was make an attempt.

She amazed herself and her sons by raising to stand and taking

some slow shuffled steps.

I placed just the right amount of contact on her back to keep her

moving forward, out of the corner of my eye,

I saw one of the sons writing something and putting a piece of

paper on my clipboard.

At the end of the session, I gave my final instructions and issued

a good-bye to this precious family.

As I walked back to the office to tackle the computer

charting system, I glanced down at my clipboard and

saw this note:

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I set my clipboard down and I touched the words written by one of the

equally concerned sons.

I had extended simple kindness and expertise and considered it the natural

course of my work day.

To this dear son, it was everything.

I worked another 6 months and it became apparent

a shift in my heart had not occurred as well as aspects

of the practice had flown past me in my absence.

I also needed physical therapy myself for a neck injury.

At this juncture, I don’t know if I will work again in this field.

On the first day back in the trenches, what others

saw in me, despite feeling awkward and out of

practice was Christ in me, the hope of glory.

This was the visible reality of what others had

always seen leaning against each hospital bedside and kneeling

before wheelchairs.

There is no other way I can describe how

God worked through me repeatedly in spite of my weakness.

Two letters following my name allowed me to present an offering

to each patient on the hallowed ground of need.

Physical therapy had been a vehicle for His glory.

Writing was just a different make and model purchased

by the same God.

**********

To be continued…

The last post (I promise) tomorrow.
This post is from a series called A Work of Heart History.
Feel free to read the other posts here, here and here.

 

 

knocking on the door of a work of heart

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The final day of April dumped 12 inches of snow leading up to

graduation from physical therapy school.

The end of July found us scurrying for cover against golf ball-sized

hailstones.

Carl and I were not sad to leave behind the rigors of graduate school

or extreme weather seasons, but we dreaded saying goodbye

to two of my classmates who had met and married during our 2 years

in Rochester.

Brennan and Ellen, had become “our” couple and it seemed

implausible that we would ever find this type of connection again.

Carl gently pressed the accelerator and I found it impossible to

end my backward gaze and face the road before us.

Shards of my heart would always inhabit the land of 10,000 Lakes.

We inked a star on our paper map and headed to Portland, Oregon

as neither of us could find work in our original destination of Seattle.

I began work at a center for medically fragile children and Carl searched

for a job in medical technology.

Pediatrics comprised the first 5 years of my practice

and was my sweet spot.

Over the next 15 years, two daughters were born and hundreds

of patients were treated.

As varied as the settings and schedule I worked, my caseload

was just as diverse.

I worked in orthopedics, oncology, burn units, spinal cord

and brain injury rehabilitation.

I felt the fragility and intensity of life working Level 1 trauma

and the pulsing joy of cardiac patients with patched up tickers.

Sometime around year 10, I began to struggle getting patients out of bed,

not physically but emotionally.

I couldn’t bear being the one who would make them hurt to hasten their healing.

I wanted to lean in close and chat with the bed ridden.

I wanted to comfort the families and perhaps drop off a casserole.

I never possessed the hard-core personality of most physical therapists

and I couldn’t fake it any longer.

Even though I wanted to hand in my gait belt,

I knew there was a reason I became a physical therapist.

God had given me the necessary aptitude, it wasn’t a fluke.

During bouts of discouragement, I would reflect on the

days prior to graduate school.

I witnessed unimaginable mercy and favor

by the hands of the Mayo board.

I had failed the second term of college physics

(a graduate school requirement), hoped to

never let Mayo be the wiser by

attempting to “fix-it” during the

summer but I belly-flopped again.

I thought about how often God whispered the same sentiment

as the generous people at Mayo said,

“We know who we picked.
We picked you and we still want you.”

Weighty words of grace reached into the depths of my failure

and chose me.

2003 opened with the revelation of adding another child to our family.

Oh he was a feisty one and it was a challenging pregnancy.

Barely through the first trimester, I developed painful sciatica and could not

lift more than ten pounds.

The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and runs the

full extent of the leg.

When it is irritated or compressed, it becomes angry.

The nerve fires back by signalling pain, numbness and even

disruption of movement.

Sciatica is the painful loss of control.

My manager was polar opposite to those before her or my Mayo

angels, she informed me over the phone that I “was of no use to her

if I couldn’t lift patients.”

The response stung in the moment  but faded to relief.

I allowed my wee boy full range of my body until he arrived

with great joy in late September.

The next 5-6 years were a compressed period of losses and heartache.

This would be the second stripping away period in my life related less to my

identity but exposed the  faulty substance of my faith.

I had sciatica of the heart.

I felt mismatched in my career and had no tangible

control over the unending and crushing

circumstances of my life.

I frequently tidy our home when I am stressed.

If I can’t order my world, I can at least bring peace

to my surroundings.

On such a day, I uncovered old work files and casually

shuffled  through a decade worth of performance evaluations.

Without exception whether comments from colleagues or bosses,

the highest marks were not in my abilities as a clinician but

as a writer.

I could no longer ignore the words.

It was time to pay attention.

I had dropped my bookmark  and perhaps it had landed

safe and securely anchored in a life boat of words.

**********

To be continued…

This is the third post in a series titled A Work of Heart History.

You can read the other posts here and here.