Remember Me

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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As my eyes cross the little smiles, captured for the last time on a frame, immortal smiles, never to be touched again by aging or creases, my heart melts. Everyone of them gone in a flash and the one thing I am sure they would have asked now, if they could is: please, remember me. Please, don't let time fade it all away, trick your brain into softening up emotions, covering up scars, please, always remember me.

Don't turn me into a number on a chart or into a statistic on a file, please, just please remember me. For all the joy that I once brought to your smile, for all the freshness of life packed into such a small being, for who I was and how I touched your heart, please, remember me.

And as the little symbolic voices in my head all sing together, "Please, remember me", and not just the 20 little voices shut down on a cold morning, but all the ones all over the world, shut down by diseases, disasters and poverty, as they sing, I recall having heard that petition from someone else in the past.

He also asked, please remember me. Take this bread, break as my body was broken, pour the wine as my blood was poured, do this in my memory, please, remember me.

Because our minds become cloudy, we forget. We forget that God gave his Son who died to pay the judgment that belonged to us.  We did not notice God pouring all His judgement upon Jesus while all His love was being poured upon us. We forget that his voice was also shut down, the voice that could open eyes, calm the seas and raise the dead, was shut down by tragedy, a tragedy caused by us.  The voice that created the World.

We forget, but He does not. How could Jesus ever forget? His memory is not subject to forgetfulness, nor the passage of time has any impact inside eternity. He remembers today as well as He remembered 2000 years ago. And He will remember for all eternity.

In all this tragedy, He is still saying, please, remember me. Remember that I went through tragedy for you, I conquered death for you, I left the tomb empty for you. For you! Because of my tragedy, death is not the end anymore. This is not the end of the story! And every little voice shut down on this earth can sing again because He lives.

Remember me.
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The day Luke turned 5 and I received my best gift

Monday, November 19, 2012

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It was on November 13th, five years ago, that Luke entered into this world, a miracle in itself. We celebrated his birthday with a Lego party on Saturday surrounded by family and new friends we have met in Nashville. But on Tuesday the 13th, his actual birthday, I was gifted again. As if receiving a son from non existence to existence was not enough to be gifted with, I once again on the 13th witness dust becoming life.

I should have known. The verse says that we are made of the dust. Dust that we need to survive, filled with minerals that completes the body puzzle. And yet so little attention is given to dust, that unpleasant substance that insist on pilling on my furniture.

How could anyone be lacking dust? Apparently I was. On the 13th of November without noticing, I changed my life. It took me three days to realize that something had changed. I started to feel at such peace that I could almost sit on a couch and stare at a wall for an hour smiling. A strange feeling, as if a burden that I did not know I had, was gone.

Like if the clock had started tickling slower, leaving enough time to just be. However, there was more to come. I noticed that my cravings for chocolate and sweets were gone! Chocolates and sweets are trustful companionship for most women, one bite here and there when you need a little lift, but still, gone! Like that! I could hold a favorite chocolate bar on my hands for five minutes and not have any desire to taste it!

So after 3 days of such bliss, I decided to investigate. I Googled: What makes you crave chocolate? To my surprise I found out that it was the lack of Magnesium. So then I remembered that on the 13th I had given my kids their Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D supplement and decided to try some myself.  Two small children's Vitamin Supplements had changed my life!

Dust, I needed more dust. Magnesium, the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust was lacking in my body. And it may be lacking in yours, as our food is not rich in it anymore. As I started to investigate about it, I found out that it is also related to other symptoms I have faced, like mitral valve prolapse, palpitations and change in my heart rhythm.

Magnesium Deficiency can affect the entire body resulting in migraines, post menopausal symptoms, diabetes, depression, menstrual pain, high blood pressure, fatigue, osteoporosis, heart disease and many more. Magnesium also protects the cells from aluminum, mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and nickel. But don't take my word for it, please research the subject, you will be surprise with what you find.

After my initial amazement, I started to wonder, wait a minute? I take a multivitamins pill almost every day, this lack should not be happening. Well, it just so happens that Magnesium does not fit in a small pill with the other vitamins and minerals, so most multivitamins don't have it, or have only a very little bit of it. And a little bit of it won't do as Magnesium is not easily absorbed by the body. I have read that a form of Magnesium oil applied to the skin may be better absorbed by the body but I have not tried it yet.

If you are still not convinced, you may also be shocked to know that Magnesium decreases the intensity of some drug-induced dependence as it acts in the brain's reward system. Dust that helps to cure addiction.

I have a long way to go to learn all about this mineral but the way I feel is enough for me to believe. To believe that our cure is still being found in the very beginning, where dust meets grace. Grace that still pours in everyday granted miracles. In a messed up world, there is still thankfulness and glory to God for the miracle of life happening outside and inside, life from dust, and dust becoming life.

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Free Halloween Candy Bag Topper Printable

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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The door bell will ring. Not once, not twice, but many times. And when little cheeks full of smiles ask you for candy, what do you do?

Halloween is scary, dark and filled with hidden meanings, and yet it is the suspense after the knocking, the smell of sweetness and the pleasures of sticky lips that bring them to my door.

As my son prayed the other night before bed: "Jesus, take away all the scary things from Halloween and leave only the candy".

The sinister signs, evil history and occult meaning packed together inside the holiday cannot be brightened under cute costumes, but despite it all, the giggling at my door tells me that they are on a quest, all of them, in search of the treat, even inside the dark night.

And so I decide to open the door, to feed their sweet tastes and yet to offer more. Do you want water? I have water that becomes a fountain springing up into everlasting life. Do you want wine? I have wine touched by a miracle. Do you want bread? I have bread that will make you live forever.

Their tongues will touch the candy, but their hearts will savor pure honey. Because out of the strong came forth sweetness. 

If you also want to share sweetness, you are welcome to download this PRINTABLE CANDY TOPPER and print for your use. You will need Adobe Reader to download and print. You can download Adobe here.

After printing, cut the two similar sides apart and fold each paper in the middle. Staple to a plastic bag filled with the candy.

This is the message inside:

Do you love candy treats?

Me too! Did you know that you were created to love treats? That you were created to want to be HAPPY? But treats last a very SHORT time, as soon as you swallow them, they are gone!

There are many treats people run after to feel HAPPY. For you it could be a nice bike, a great toy or a super video game; For adults it could be a beautiful house, a fun trip or a fancy outfit. And yet they don't make you happy for a long time and pretty SOON you want another treat!

But did you know that you were created to want to be happy because there is ONE source of infinite happiness!? Yes! Joy that multiplies and never gets old!!

Guess what, the source of joy and infinite happiness is the VERY SAME ONE that created you!! God created you to want to be happy because you CAN be happy in Him! Not in things that get old!!

And to show you how much He LOVES YOU He gave up what was most precious to His heart, His only son Jesus Christ, to bring you closer! Jesus Christ opened the path, all the way to God's joy, by dying on the cross.

Halloween costumes and decorations can be very scary, but do you know what is more scary? Not having Jesus in your heart, the only ONE that can give you true everlasting happiness.

Do you want a treat that lasts forever?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

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When the Leaves Fall

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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Why do I smile as I watch the leaves dying and covering the hills with their deadly red, orange and yellow hues of beauty? Why is the dry crispness of Fall warming to my heart?

Why the process of Nature emptying its fullness fills my emptiness? And the choreography of flocks against the grey skies, as they leave empty Winter days behind, brings back child like excitement to my being? For many, Autumn is the most beautiful of all, and yet it is when the leaves fall.

The wind hurries up, the Sun leaves earlier every night, but there is still place for beauty and for praise. Even in death. Because Winter is not the end, it is in fact the beginning of the most vibrant and alive Season. The seed needs indeed to die to bring forth fruit, for the old must give space to the new. 

The miracle of death bringing forth life. And why do I keep forgetting it? The message is everywhere, small pictures glimpsing from my window and reminding me of the most important truth: that to bring me life, My Savior, as the seed, had to die.

There is beauty even in death. Death that brings life, abundant life, "Because He poured out His soul unto death... and He bore the sin of many". (Isaiah 53:12)

A path of life, opened by the teared seed. "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy". (Psalms 16:11) An open path to God. Where else could I find joy? Fullness of joy?

I stand still staring at the open path. Open. Open all the way from my smallness insignificance to God's greatness glory. And yet why do I linger away? Why would I want to avoid fullness of joy?

And the psalmist reminds me "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations". (Psalm 100:4,5)

Slowly, thanksgiving, praises and blessings pour out of my soul, a river that flows out of my lips glorifying God. My heart empties itself... just to be filled again, with fullness of joy! A heart that dies to itself and yet receives abundant life. How could that be?

And yet, when I try to shine glory on myself, there is no fullness of joy, there is only an ugly heart growing harder by the hour. There is no river, no water, just dryness and thirst.

"We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely express but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation... Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him." C.S.Lewis

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For the Beauty of the Earth

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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We have moved to Nashville, we have heard Luke praying for a backyard and we have witness the childish faith as the seed moving a mountain, from start to finish, one week and a half. So as we settle down, we are grateful for so many blessings and beauty, and all the glory be His.

For the Beauty of the Earth
by Folliot S. Pierpoint

For the beauty of the earth

For the glory of the skies;

For the love which from our birth, 
Over and around us lies;

Lord of all to Thee we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour,

Of the day and of the night;

Hill and vale and tree and flow'r,

Sun and moon and stars of light;

Lord of all to Thee we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
Lord of all to Thee we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thyself, best gift Divine,
For the world so freely given,
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth and joy in heaven.
Lord of all to Thee we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise.
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A home after all

Monday, September 17, 2012

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Hanging on the wall, next to a picture of my other half and I, the text says, "Home is wherever I am with you." Love that binds, love that builds, love that abides: Home.

Romantic thoughts aside, the text carries some truth to it. A familiar one brings connection to a building, like if wood, bricks and nails were filled with more than just dead matter, and a house becomes a home.  The cold structure warmed with laughter, memories and aromas that captures me to its inside.

A verse comes to mind, "In My Father's house are many mansions..." (John 14:2) Mansions? Doesn't that sound attractive? However, am I solely running towards the mansions? Is that what keeps me going when pain sets in, when dispair arrives, when darkness swallows glimpses of glory? The structure, the glamour and the ultimate imaginary retirement paradise? Is that what Christianity is all about? Running towards the streets of gold?

Yet, I keep reading... "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:2,3) No, Jesus is not the way to the mansions, He is the way to the Father, I learn. The mansions are only the detail. And I remember the text hanging on the wall... It is not about the house, it is about who makes it home. "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3) Comes to the Father. Comes. "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30)

"At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (Jo 14:20) Doesn't that make you shout with joy? The separation teared apart leading to full communion as intended to be? How can a broken person like me enjoy such closeness to the Almighty God? At last a home for broken people! However I remember... Why to wait? Why not to rejoice full communion while here? Could I experience home while stepping on foreign ground?

"Abide in Me". As in reside in Me. "Make Me your home." Life may take me far, close, bless or curse, yet there is always home available, a place to Abide in, a person to Abide in, a familiar person to Abide in: Home. The ultimate love that binds, that builds, that abides in me. "Abide in Me, and I in you." (Jo 15:4)

Can you touch his garments? Can you step closer? Shout with joy that the Son of God crossed the valley of darkness to bring you home? Home!! A home after all!
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What it takes to succeed

Saturday, September 1, 2012

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In an empty world, sound does not matter, no ears to hear annules musical beauty, because if the waves of different heights and widths only hit the rock, how could they be measured by how much they soften hearts?

In an empty world, beauty does not matter, no eyebrows to raise, colors to gather light and run after retinas, art hanging on walls that don't move souls. How to appreciate what cannot be seen?

In an empty world, taste does not matter, no explosion of sweet, sour, spicy and bitter, lips far from opening, loneliness of ingredients sorrowing the lack of licking fingers. How to have fond memories of tastes never touched?

In an overcrowded world, I won't matter when I don't soften hearts and create found memories in other cores. It does not matter how much sound I can make, how much beauty I can fake or how much taste I can recreate. If such creations aimed my sole self, in an overcrowded world I am empty.

As empty as in an empty world. Because to succeed in life means to thrive, prosper and grow. But it won't matter if it happens in an empty world. If the sound waves, the light beams and the taste forces go untouched by others, if success only brings me forward, to an empty world, leaving the overcrowded one behind, is it to succeed?

How to succeed and yet not towards emptiness but towards fullness? How to achieve the kind of success that matters because of how much it touches and not by how much it withholds?

To succeed also means to follow or replace another, to come after and take the place of, to keep touching lives as much as the one before. Christ achieved the highest success in the history of the world because being the fullest He chose emptiness so that being empty we can choose fullness. To succeed means to follow. Why not follow the most successful one?

And yet contrary to following dead ones after they finish their legacy, to follow Christ means to follow the alive one. And yet contrary to following the talents, philosophies or work of the important one, to follow Christ means to let Him work through me His talents, His philosophies and His work.

It only happens when I let go of my talents, my philosophies and my work ready to be filled by His. It only happens when I stop focusing on talents, philosophies and work and focus solely on Him.

It only happens when my highest desire in life is to be so close to Him that I start hearing His music, seeing His beauty and tasting His love and grace. From being an empty world to Him, I become an overcrowded one where everything He says matters, everything He is matters and everything He does matters.

And one day without realizing, my success in life will have shifted from living for my empty individual world, to letting Him use me for an overcrowded one.

That is what it takes to succeed.
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What pictures to delight in

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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Wondering around recommended lists of books to order from the Library to bright up our couch story times,  I get stuck into one of the great educator Charlotte Mason's quote "that education is concerned to teach him what pictures to delight in."

While the statement is part of a wider education philosophy, I can't stop thinking about making it mine and applying it into my own angle of life. What pictures to delight in! Isn't that what is missing in society today? The pictures got all mixed up and from a pile of choices we don't know which one to grab. Much less teach our kids how a picture to delight in should look like.

And the world gets darker, our music gets darker, our books get darker, our movies get darker, our habits get darker, our teenagers move deeper into the dark and in the midst of it all we don't even notice anymore the absence of light. The darker the tunnel, the harder to face the sun outside. Why not just make it our home, forget that the sun even exists in the sky?

But no Sun, no life. No Sun, no sustenance. No Sun, no warmth. Isn't delight rooted in light? How to find it outside of its root? No root, no fruit. I want fruits. So I aim to learn alongside my boys what pictures to delight in. We start with the author of light. Who else to show the way?

And there, deep in our couch story time, we let His light transform our eyes. That we may truly see what pictures to delight in look like.
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The two sides of the mirror

Friday, August 3, 2012

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I stare at the mirror, in front of me, and there she is, looking straight into my eyes: my image. She is a copy of me and yet, she is gone as soon as I leave. She is the other half that stands always next to where I stand, the reflection that tells me the way I am.

However, not all mirrors are true to the image. Some elongate, some shorten the self, some make us look full of blurt beauty, others, full of bare truth. They are a good try, but not the reality. They shine a distorted picture of who I know to be. But do I know who I ought to be?

And the question pounds as the day goes... Is this image the one I am supposed to be or just a distorted version? Because in the beginning a clearer picture was created, the true one, from whom I am only the image, and as distant as I am from that sight, the more I long to be brought closer to it. To become the original copy, before all got blurred.

God looked around, after those first six days of creation and saw that it was good. Nature was good, seasons were good, the ocean with its bubbling life and the earth with moving creeping things all singing praises and reflecting the miracle of creation were good. Man steps in, and then the woman, completion. A place with fullness of good.

Isn't a place abundant with good and with God's glory, enough? A material world without the distortion, the cracked mirrors, rewarded with beauty's full sight, carrying God's touch in every touch? But there was more to see, yes, the hidden truth, the one God had kept out of creation, the chaos, the evil, rotting death. And who would want to see it, when it would stop the smile, the praising, the joy? But Eve wanted to see the other side of the mirror, the one God had kept out, for a good reason.

She peaked and in an instant was swelled by it. Sure she could know good and evil now, but the other side of the mirror, where evil, chaos and rotting death is, is Godless. It is dark, ugly and it hurts. Eve wanted to be like God, but how could the moon be like the sun when its purpose is only to reflect and not to produce light?

A distorted image looks at me. Because the true image is far gone, the one that stayed in the Garden, the one supposed to have lasted. And all we got is a resemblance of how good it once looked, a mirror covered in steam, rays of light escaping here and there but oh, so much pain. Painful to be stuck in the wrong side of the mirror.

As I read through my Bible I start to see the light, the way out of this sinking reality. God gifted us with a way to a real image, not the first one, but a heavenly one, even better. A new man! A new women! A new creation!! How can that be possible? "As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man". 1 Cor 15:49

A step outside the peeking in. A rescue from the ugly, dark, shadow cloud. Christ Jesus steps into this wrong side of the mirror, to free us out of it, even when it meant to pour Himself like water, to feel all the glass pieces tearing Him apart. And yet, He starts a new beginning, away from wrong sides and distorted images. A firstborn of the new creation, an open way to followers. "To be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among may brethren". Rom 8:29

There is still hope, even inside this present, the start of healing. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" 2 Cor 3:18. It beholds in letting it go of trying to be gods, burying ourselves in Jesus arms, grabbing unto His salvation with repentance, letting His grace soften the last bits of no's, allowing His glory to shine.

Can we see the whole picture? Can we soak in His love and trust? Peak at the other side and rest assured that this is only a distorted image awaiting for His full glory to make all things right? Can we live by faith?

"The Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself". Phi 3:21
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Judas, the son of a Religion

Thursday, July 12, 2012

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It is a huge privilege and also a big  responsibility to be the children of parents that love and follow Jesus. To be the children of parents that walk so close to God that His touch is visible and clear in so many ways. Children that got to watch from the front row God working in their parent's lives in amazing forms, children that have not just heard of God, but have seen Him through their parents.

Once upon a time, there was such a son. Nebuchadnezzar was king over Babylon and had invaded Jerusalem taking with him all their wealth, gold, silver and even their best people to serve at his palace. But his heart became so proud that God touched his life and made him like the beasts, looking like a fool, until he recognized his pride, and worshiped God that is above all. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down." Dan 4:37

Now you would think that Nebuchadnezzar's children, after watching him go through such a powerful experience, would have learned themselves a lesson. But his son, Belshazzar, the successor of the throne, once he became king, acted completely against God. Belshazzar decided to have a party and use the vessels and cups that were from the temple in Jerusalem to drink wine and praise the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. (Dan 5:4) However, God was watching, and He through the prophet Daniel warns him: "But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this (about what happened to his father). And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.... And the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified". Dan 5:22,23 And at that same night Belshazzar was killed by another king that took over his kingdom.

"Although you knew all this". What a powerful statement! The elders, chief priests and teachers of law that killed Jesus were all descendant of those who had watched the Red Sea open, who ate manna that fell from the skies and saw a strong wall around Jericho falling down by itself, among thousands of other miracles. And they had heard their parents tell them about these stories over and over again. They knew all this. And yet, they killed the Son of God. Why? Because they had become children of a Religion, and not children of God.

Judas, was also the son of a Religion. He was such a good follower of his religion that he did exactly what the top people of his religion wanted him to do: he delivered Jesus to them. And just like Belshazzar, he gave more praise to the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone, as he was more interested in money than in God Himself. "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? and they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver". Mat 26:15

Jesus had fed Judas, had opened the eyes of the blind, resurrected the dead, made the lame walk. Judas knew all this, he knew from hearing his parents tell him the stories from the past, he knew from watching with his own eyes the miracles Jesus was performing. But he chose to follow a religion instead.

Are you the son or daughter of a religion? Or are you the son or daughter of God? Are you just following your parents rituals, or are you following Jesus? Now, Jesus calls the sons of Religion, sons of the devil. "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God... you are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do". Jo 8:42-44

Who do you rather have as your father: the devil, a liar and a murderer; or God, the Truth and giver of eternal life? "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name". Jo 1:12 If you are not following Jesus, you are following something else, maybe you think that you are following the gods of gold and silver, like Judas, but Judas was really following a lie, he was following his father, the devil.

What else does Jesus has to do to catch your attention? He already gave Himself, His life, His body, His suffering and all His love to you. He wants God to be your Father. God wants to hear you call him Abba Father, He wants to free you from serving the other father, the devil. He wants to give you life, abundant life. He wants you to live so close to Him that His touch is visible and clear in so many occasions and let you watch Him working in your life in amazing ways, that you may truly see Him with your eyes as a child of God yourself.
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Free Book Online: A Fight for Life (Chapter Five - Part 2)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

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Dear Diary,

When the stretcher appeared at my unit corridor, I got a glimpse of the new patient being admitted, a girl mostly hidden under hospital sheets. Her face was also hiding behind a protection mask, from which only her half opened eyes could be seen. She was quickly brought to our special isolated room. Her fate for the next days was a heartbreaking picture.

I got dressed with all the available protection layers to enter the room and examine her. I felt obese wearing the extra pounds of clothing but there is no risk worthy being taken when so much information about this disease is still unknown. I would rather err wearing too much protection than too little. 

I got a detailed report from the professionals that brought her in and a pile of documents and copies of exam results. Our staff doctor was also present to receive the information and pass it on to the specialists when they arrive to examine the girl. The information we received was very vague with no conclusive diagnosis; it would be our job to develop from that on. But even without a specific diagnosis, the nursing team had more than enough work to get done to improve the conditions of our new patient. 

The next step was clear to me: to walk in the room and start the care. One step at a time towards whatever risk she posed to me, a practical act of faith in the protection barriers that were keeping me separated from the infecting agents that she carried. Hopefully it would be the beginning of her healing and not the end of my health!

Cautiously I opened the first door to her room, then the next, peeking inside as I moved closer. I wanted first   to make her feel accepted and loved, with a warming welcome talk before even starting to prescribe nursing care. I knew the best care is the one that sees the other as a person, and not as a group of organs. 

Her hair was spread on the pillow, many curls, dark as her eyes. Her skin, naturally tanned, was pale across her face, except around her eyes where dark circles made her appearance look sad. She kept coughing as I approached, bringing up the hard reality that her inside was probably looking very ugly. 

I started the talk bringing up casual facts to sound less like a medical interview and more like meeting a new friend. Her name was Melissa. 

"Hi Melissa, you have a very pretty name, you know?! I once heard that Melissa is the name of a beautiful plant with white flowers that calms people down, have you ever heard that"? I asked. 

"No, I have not" she whispered back. 

"That is what I heard... and I think you are also a beautiful girl as the flower and I am going to guess that you are also very calm." 

Melissa, a nine year old girl, coughed and smiled: "Do you think so"? she asked.

 "Of course, when I have some time I will try to get a picture of the plant Melissa with the beautiful flowers so you can see it for yourself, ok"? I added. She then kept talking between her coughing.

"My brother is not very calm, but I always listen to what my mom says."

I smiled back: "I am sure your mother is very proud of you"!

I kept the conversation on as I started to examine her, so that she would not feel too tense. I wanted to make sure she would not have any extra unnecessary anxiety to deal with. After I was done, I left her resting. I knew that soon the nurses on my team would start bringing in the medications and implementing direct care. We would do our best to treat her as a person and not as a scary disease.

I went back to my forms trying to describe all the aspects that I had just examined and come up with specific cares that would meet all her needs for the first 24 hours. As a side note I wrote down to remember to bring a picture of the plant Melissa for her to see. A little reminder that she was special and cared for and that we could start a little friendship that would go over all the scary protection gear. 

What I told Melissa about her likeness to the plant was not untrue or just a way to make her feel better. Despite the sick look, her face transmitted peace and calm, just like the plant. The paleness on her skin and the shortness of breath saddened her facial expressions, but her eyes were still sending a special look around.

I have always been intrigued by the look inside the eyes of some of the children that I attend. Like if they were transmitting a message without words, that I have been trying to understand better lately. It is not easy to decode the message, but it seems that when I look right inside their eyes I become more connected with them, and they trust me more in response.

Deep inside, deeper than the pupil, there are imprisoned feelings, tied, trying to escape to the real world. Some children, after years of suffering because of a chronic disease, display opaque looks, weakened and conformed to the little light their hearts still carry, with feeble beats. Others, still filled with hope, irradiate an energy that longs to be freed from the disease. However, I can never forget that small percentage of children that do not transmit any look with their eyes. They live inside darkness, blinded by different causes, with eyes shut to light. Yet, even then, as I have learned with my brother, they can irradiate light and energy with their beings. 

I wish I could share many more things with you, Dear Diary, but I am exhausted. I still have the energy, though, to thank you for your inspiration helping me to write my brother's story. The previous chapter was a proof of that, I could not stop typing!

Good night,
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Independence Day

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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Motherhood used to be all about independence. About pushing children to the independence track so that they could start working in the fields as soon as possible, help around the house as soon as they could talk,  take care of more responsibilities and require less care for themselves. And yet, it was about being independent to work, to produce and to help, but not to leave. 

And by "to leave", I mean to leave the community, to leave the relationship with the extended family, to leave the family ties. Most people used to be born and die within the same small geographic area, and they would usually live with their families until it was time to start a family of their own, while still keeping the family ties.

Today, it seems to me that things have flipped up. Children are not encouraged to that same previous level of independence to help around the house and to assume many responsibilities. The parents role has become to provide to their children a great childhood experience, with lots of fun activities and entertainment. And yet, children are also pushed by society to become independent from the family ties, from the community and to leave. 

And by "to leave", I mean to leave for college, to leave to live by themselves, to leave to experience other realities, achieve their own dreams. And while I am comparing both scenarios, I am not placing one in a better position than the other, as there are positive and negatives points to consider on both.

So what is the solution? From a Christian perspective I hope that my children will become as soon as possible very independent to help others, to start serving rather than being served all the time, to start practicing "He who is the greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves" Luke 22:26 But I would also like them to be encouraged to love God above family ties. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me". Matthew 10:37

I pray that their hearts may not be centered around their families or around themselves, but rather centered around Christ. And as a consequence they could serve both their families and their communities with gladness as serving Christ, while not being tied to the point of letting family and community keep them from serving Christ if He calls them to leave family.

That would be a true Independence Day for them: free to serve the only One worth of their service, of their lives, of their hearts. Near or far, wherever He leads them. Not seeking anyone's approval but His. 
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Beauty for Ashes

Sunday, June 24, 2012

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Ashes mean the end of hope, when there is absolutely nothing left, not even profitable to be burned off! Ashes are a picture of the lowest we can go. Ashes were used in the past to show how sad a person was, how down their hearts felt, they would cover their clothes and head with ashes as a public testimony of their sadness and despair

We all have periods of ashes in our lives, when hope reaches its end, when there is no beauty to look for, no perspective. There are also many people in this world living in ashes for most of their lives, people being slaved, people suffering persecution, pain and sorrows, living inside war zones. Everything around them are ashes, ashes and more ashes. As grey and as opaque as they get, nothing to reflect light and shine.

The response of many is to look up and ask: Why? Or maybe to point their fingers at God and blame Him for all the evil happening in the world, or even to go as far as to deny His own existence, because they don't agree with the way He is running things. But regardless if we decide not to believe that there is a God, or to accuse God for the evil happening in the world, we still have to deal with our own ashes. They won't go away by denying God or by blaming God, they are still covering our clothes and our hearts.

What is the solution, then? There was a man named Job that suffered the loss of all his belongings, his children and his health. He was left with nothing, just ashes. However, God wanted to transform those ashes and bring beauty out of them, so God works on Job's heart one step at a time to transform his very inside. God asks Job some tough questions in the process, that could be asked to many today: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!... Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it... Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God?" Job 38:4,5 40:2,8,9.

God was touching the very core of Job's heart to show that He is far beyond human understanding, becoming even ridiculous for us to point a finger at God: the very same finger He created! But remember that God was not trying to scare the life out of Job, He loved Job and wanted to move all the pride away to make place for something better, something more beautiful. Job reaches that state when he says "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. ... I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:2,5,6

Now my eye sees You!! There was so much that needed to be burned off and turned into ashes to open the way for Job to see God! To see His glory, His wisdom, His power, but also His love and grace. God, at the end of Job's trial, blesses him back with twice more than he had before. He has more 10 children and his daughters are the most beautiful women in all their land. It is indeed a happy ending.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to give beauty for ashes. The entire Bible is filled with stories of ashes transformed into beauty by God, but the most beautiful of these stories is when God transforms the murder of His son Jesus Christ, the worst ashes that this world could have ever produced, into the most beautiful beauty: the salvation of men. Jesus Christ was covered with ashes (Lam 3:16), He took upon Himself all of our ashes, all of our despair and ugliness and suffered for each one of them. And after His body had been dead, instead of returning to dust, He was resurrected, bringing hope to our own ashes.

God did not leave us alone to deal with our own ashes, and He is not allowing evil to happen because He does not care. He cares so much that Jesus Christ received upon His body every one of our ashes, and He did it because He loves you. There is no ash that cannot be transformed into beauty. If you truly believe that He died for you, that He brought a solution to all the evil in the world by suffering the judgement for it against His own heart, He can transform your own ashes into beauty.

Just be aware that if God came down here today to destroy all the evil in the world, He would have to destroy your heart and my heart because we are also part of the problem. But He didn't come as a Judge yet, He still offers a solution to the problem of evil in your heart.

Do you want to end evil in the world? Start with you own heart, let him change it, mold it to His shape of love. What about the ashes that may still come to our lives because we live in an evil world? Remember also that the end of our story is not when we die; eternity is awaiting with more than double, more than triple of blessings for those who accept His solution.

There are no ashes that can't be transformed into beauty, just hand them to Him.
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Free Book Online: A Fight for Life - Chapter Five (Part 1)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Not Afraid to Get Her Hands Dirty

Maria smiled. It was good to be back home, she thought, relieved that she would not have to face any more of these trips again. No one could possibly enjoy the uncomfortable bus seats that after a few hours felt like poking every bone and muscle of her back. Neither would she miss the hard wooden benches outside the doctor's offices, where hours felt like weeks. The only pleasant memory left behind was of her family of friends, as she was extremely thankful for having a place to stay while away, with money being so tight on her side to pay for hotel stays.

After being back for about a week, Maria's daily routine had already picked up back to the usual, life as she knew it: busy, crowed and happy. As she finished getting lunch ready, running around the kitchen, chopping, mixing and seasoning, she kept an eye on her younger son, now with his vision fully back, playing with his siblings. She was so glad for having him as her son and there was no question that he was just one of the reasons to keep going, keep pouring energy into these kids. She knew that to invest in human beings was worth all her time, as each one carried a potential, like a pearl, awaiting the right time to shine.

Her youngest was the proof of that. Once a frustrated child, living in a world of darkness, having trouble understanding the environment around him, now transformed into a happy little boy, with light back to his life. Maria cheered inside when she thought of his transformation and could not hide her excitement for his future, once uncertain, but now filled with hope. If she could, she would love to change the reality of all children afflicted with a difficult reality, but unfortunately there was not much she could do to stretch even more her time and energy among all the children.

Maria still had on the back of her mind the story of the boy in need of a new home. She knew that the case was well beyond her ability to handle, but something had to be done. The situation was unacceptable, and no excuse in the world was enough to spare her from the guilt of letting the boy suffer. If the child died, she would feel as responsible for it as the mother should, because she was now part of the problem. Therefore, she decided to act and get the address of the child with the employer at the general store, so she could go and pay a visit to the boy.

Next day, with the address on hand, Maria found the slum, and with some help asking around, she found the shack. Her heart was pounding fast as she approached it; she wasn't sure if she was ready to watch what was coming next. Maria had already been to other slums before, but this one was the worst for sure. Sewage running wild outside, attracting flies, rats and animals of the kind to its ugliness. The shacks were distributed in a disorganized way, adding to the feeling of chaos.

She stared at the shack where the child was supposed to be. Rotted wooden boards hammered together made up the structure of the shack, leaving many open gaps between the boards. She clapped her hands as there was no doorbell. A child came to the door, in worst conditions than the shack itself. Maria asked for his mother and he signed for her to follow him inside. The mother, still recovering from her last night of alcohol and who knows what else, sat on a corner, blowing cigarette smoke in the darkness. Maria froze inside. The stink reached her nose and she tried to hold her breakfast inside her stomach. The only light of the place was the one coming from the gaps in the wooden boards and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw the boy in the back of the shack, lying on a mattress on the floor.

His mattress was made of dried straw covered by a dirt piece of cloth. He looked like dead, with a rope tied to his leg, probably to keep him from leaving his bed. Maria felt like being inside a nightmare, and tried to find words to speak to the mother. She had never seen a child in such deplorable conditions before. During funerals, the dead looked better than this child.

The boy kept coughing, breaking the silence. Maria took a few steps towards him, but the mother started to scream, as she raised her body barely dressed from the corner. By her speech, it sounded as if she was still under the influence of alcohol, or something else. Maria tried to explain herself, but the women took something in her hand ready to throw and started to run after Maria. All that Maria could do was to get out of that shack and out of that slum, as fast as she could.

When feeling safe again, she could barely breathe as she recovered from the shock of what had just happened. During that night, Maria could not close her eyes either, as tears kept rolling down her cheeks just to think about the boy left behind in that shack. Her husband tried to comfort her but he had no idea how bad the whole experience had been to her, an open wound too deep to be closed in one night. And yet, behind the tears, Maria knew that crying was not the solution.

Next morning, still taken by emotions, Maria started to come up with a plan to rescue the boy. She called many people she knew, in one last hope. Maybe one family, somewhere, would give her some hope. Unfortunately, the response was the same everywhere she turned: very distant, vague, away from hope. The institutions she called were already overcrowded and had no place for a child with so many complications. There was nothing exciting about rescuing this boy; he was a picture of failure from top to bottom. So finally a question crossed her mind, "Why would anyone want a child that I am rejecting myself?" Hard as it was to act on it, she developed a strategy: if until the end of the week nobody had responded to her appeal, she would bring the boy to her own home.

And that was when the phone rang, dispersing her latest thoughts, and she wondered if it was her husband calling from the supermarket, with questions about the list of groceries that she had handled to him before. However, her husband was not the one on the other side of the telephone line. The call was, in fact, very different than most of the calls she had ever received, because this call changed so much, it changed a life, it changed my family, it changed who I am.

That call offered that boy a chance to live, and to my family, a chance to learn how to live.
Maria could not hold her excitement as my father told her that my family was interested in adopting the boy. She was speechless, extremely happy, but a little worried too. What if she had pushed the subject too much on them, and made them feel guilty? Forced them to adopt? It had never been her plan to push them to adopt anyone. She had just shared the story hoping that they would know someone interested in adopting a child. She did not want my parents to do it out of guilt.

However, once she heard my father share about the months my family spent praying for a child, she was filled with peace. She understood she had been just the messenger, and my family was more than ready to take on the challenge, as we had waited for this child and put a lot of thought into it; this boy was definitively supposed to join my family. Maria promised to help with all the paperwork necessary to fulfill the adoption. She had experience with the process and would not mind doing it for my parents.

My parents also knew they still had to be approved by the State to receive the child, as the adoption process had some restrictions to protect children from being given in adoption to people with the intent of abusing, slavering or even using them for organ trafficking.

Being aware of the many steps to be taken to accomplish an adoption, Maria started the process that same day. However, the judge, responsible for such cases, had his schedule already full with other hearings. There was no way she would be able to get a hearing in the next weeks. Because she personally knew the judge, she reached his secretary to explain that the life of a child was in jeopardy. But after many messages left, she still did not hear back from him, so she kept calling. Finally, the secretary was able to speak to the judge but he did not open any exceptions for the case and stated that she would have to wait at least a month for an available date.

A month would be an eternity for that boy! Under such deploring circumstances he would be lucky if he was still alive next week. His situation was very serious, undernourished, suffering of a chronic cough and without any responsible care. He could not wait for the judge's schedule and Maria was not going to sit around and just hope for the best.

Maria knew that there was only one more thing that she could do. So she went back to the slum. This time she would be in charge, she would not run away from the mother, she was going to rescue that child even if she had to fight the mother. No one would stop her from doing what was right.

As she arrived at the shack, she was surprised to find the mother sober, with a different attitude towards her.  The mother agreed that Maria could take the boy; in fact she was happy to give him away and would have given her other son as well, if possible. This time, Maria saw the mother under a different light, as a human being oppressed by her own history of poverty and abuse. A grown up child, lost inside the ugly world of alcohol and prostitution.

Maria carried the boy out of the shack in her arms, as far as possible from such reality. She made a promised to herself, that no matter what, even if the judge did not agree with what she had done, she would never bring the boy back to that shack. Even if she had to abduct him!

From the slum, she went straight to the judge's office with the boy in her arms. She ran through the corridors towards his office, her steps loudly pounding against the floor. Without asking for it, she opened the door to his office, looked into the judge's eyes and showing the boy, asked "Your Honor, this boy cannot wait for an entire month to be adopted, could he?" The judge stared petrified. The picture he witnessed that day is probably still imprinted in his mind, as in all of the ones that were inside that room.

The paperwork was simplified, the case was prioritized and taken care with urgency. On that same day Maria got a written permission to keep the boy until all the adoption documents were ready for my parents to sign. The paperwork, however, was not the problem now, but to pour some life back into the boy's body.

Maria decided first to take the boy to her own home, as his body smelled like overdue garbage. Once at home, she opened all the windows so that his smell would not make her throw up. She had never smelled something so repugnant coming out of a person, it seemed like his body was decomposing from inside out while still alive. Maria could not grasp how his mother could have gotten used to live under such non humane conditions to the point of not minding the smell at all.

After hydrating him with a homemade electrolyte drinkable solution, and feeding him some food, she bathed him with warm and clean water, scrubbing off with a gentle soap all his history of dirt. The water came out dark, soaked with dirt, and she kept washing him until his skin was truly clean. She had a hard time washing his curly hair with shampoo as there were so many knots tangled together that she decided to get a pair of scissors and just chop everything off, carefully. She was aware his head was probably covered with lice and she did not want to spread them around her home.

While washing him, he kept fighting against the water, resisting something that probably he was not familiar with. Maria had two of her older children helping to hold his body, as he screamed shouts of disapproval, producing scared looks in the faces of the kids. Maria could see that he was really terrified of the water; he would cover both of his ears with his hands, and splash water around as he kicked his legs. Even her soft voice and calming words could not calm him down, but she knew that he had to be cleaned first before she could even take him to see a doctor.

She then dried his skin slowly with a soft towel, trying to observe all his body. Maria noticed that he had some unusual repetitive movements, in a pattern. One of them was to rub one hand against the other under his chin, something that reminded her of autistic kids. She spread some lotion across his body, massaging his skin and trying to relax him. After that, she dressed him with a diaper and clean clothes she took from her kids' closet, as his old traps were already in the garbage.

Maria kept offering him more electrolyte solution and then some warm liquid soup. He looked very hungry and thirsty, but because he kept coughing so often, all the food had to be given slowly, one spoon at a time, to keep him from throwing up.

Deep inside, Maria knew that this experience was not only changing him, it was changing herself, and it was changing her own kids. There was not anything more fulfilling than to bring a child from the before to the after, while at the same time being an example to her own children about how to care for other people. Some of them had been adopted from traumatic conditions, but none from such terrible state. None of her speeches could have been more powerful to her children than the one they watched on that day.

After offering the boy a first care, Maria knew that this was how far she could go by herself as she was not a specialized health care professional. She knew that the next step would be to take him to the urgent care clinic as her city did not have a proper hospital, being a small town. If they thought that his case needed extra help, they could transfer him to a big hospital. As far as she could tell, the initial help he needed could probably be accomplished in the clinic, and any specialized treatments could be done once my parents received him.

At the urgent care clinic, she had to wait a few hours to be seen, as the public health care clinic was overwhelmed with more patients than enough professionals to attend them. When she finally made it to the doctor, he prescribed intravenous saline with some medicines and then an oral solution with vitamins and minerals to be given at home. He also encouraged Maria to keep feeding him every two hours, with soups, mashed fruits and cream of cereal, and lots of liquid. The only restriction was milk; she should wait a few days before offering milk to him, making sure his body would accept it, without upsetting his digestive tract.

Maria did not have that many days to extend the treatment, as the adoption paperwork became available and he was healthy enough to survive an airplane trip and be brought to my family. A long bus trip was out of question, as he deserved, once in his life, to be treated with dignity. The dignity every child in the world deserves.

Book: A fight for Life
CHAPTER 5 (Part 2)
CHAPTER 6 (Part 1) coming soon...
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Free Book Online: A Fight for Life - Chapter Four (Part 2)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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Dear Diary,

During my nostalgic crisis going through old pictures, I took aside a very special one and hung it on my wall to keep the memory alive. I have seen this picture many times before, but I had never noticed the details, the facial expressions and their meaning. The picture was taken one year after my brother's adoption.

I am staring again at the picture, and I can see myself there, cozy in my bed under a red flowery duvet, lying next to my two brothers, Pedro and Lucas. Pedro is very close to me and we both smile with contentment. Lucas shows signs of being sleepy, probably wishing for a good night of sleep. It looks like a winter night as we have warm pajamas on and enjoy the closeness. I just wish my hair was not so messy!

I was probably reaching seven years old at the time of the picture, having started first grade at a public school, three blocks away from our apartment. I was still getting used to the idea of attending such a big school away from home. My previous experience with schools had been going to a small kindergarten, across the street from our building, where there were probably not more than 10 kids in my class, and only one other girl besides me. So indeed, it was a big adjustment.

As I stare at the picture, I hear a thousand words, captured with a click. These were some good childhood times, with a safe distance from adulthood, away from many worries. My main responsibility was to do well at school and show good behavior.

Lately, as a professional, there are so many more decisions on my hands, some that I will probably regret of taking later on. I know that what I am going through now, the fact that I will have to admit in my unit a child with a disease that is still unknown, is a decision from which I can't hide or run away. But I have decided to take on the challenge and face what may follow. This morning, I could sense the weight on my team's thoughts as they were getting ready for the new patient. All of us have already received a quick training from the specialists and learned some information about the disease; we also have the special isolated room ready to go. But there are still many unanswered questions.

I called all of my team to a special meeting as we had to choose the main people that were going to oversee the case. I did not want to force anyone to start with the direct care, but felt like leaving to those that felt more comfortable taking on the challenge. Some had come to talk to me privately sharing their concern of risking their lives while they have families at home to support. However, one experienced person in our team told me that he would like to take on the case, so I will leave the case to him at first.

We are vulnerable but we also know that we have many protective barriers to be used. The isolated bedroom is specially built to keep the inside air from coming outside, paired with a system of filters to decrease contamination, besides all the individual masks and body surface covers.

It will surely not be the best humanized care, as the patient is being cared by people covered from head to toe, that look more like astronauts than real human beings. A barrier of gowns, glasses, masks, gloves will make it difficult for any emotional exchange during care. But there is no other way; it is our goal to stop the spreading of something that could take away many lives. On the bright side, the isolated bedroom contains many children's art painted on its walls creating a space of hope and beauty to overcome the sadness. I wish the ceiling was also covered with art, as most of the time the sick children have the ceiling as their only horizon.

Later on this morning, I got a call informing that the child will be on her way to our hospital tomorrow; a special ambulance will be responsible for the transfer and they will arrive early on my shift. The child is a little girl that has been under observation in her hometown hospital since she started to show some specific symptoms of this disease. However, they don't have the appropriate settings to prevent contamination, so it was decided that she needed to be transferred to our more equipped setting. Her case has not yet been confirmed with 100% surety to be the unknown disease, because a big part of the diagnosis depends on the symptoms, but we are going to take care of her with the precautions as if she was already a confirmed case.

The unit seems to be under regressive counting. We all know that if the case is confirmed we could be the first ones to treat such disease in our country and our team could even enter history as the heroes that gave their lives to save humanity. Maybe my name will be quoted next to Florence Nightingale or Ana NĂ©ri, as a nurse that made a difference. Or maybe, after having given our lives, we may just be forgotten. One way or another, I know that nursing is more than just a call; it is also a profession like many others where you have to study a lot and be qualified. Compassion, emotions and emphatic feelings are very important but it is not all about that, there is also professionalism and competence.

Once in a while, while in school, to break free from so much technical knowledge, I enjoyed reading poetry, and also writing some. I once read an article that stated that the unconscious is able to open up through poetry. The article got me thinking, so I tried to write poetry using only my unconscious side (or at least that is how I like to think), not bringing up any conscious thoughts, but just letting the mind run free and writing down whatever words came out, following a rhythm.

At first, I was not successful, but after some practice I was surprised by the results of such activity. Distant words gathered together and brought up beautiful meaning. After all, I guess the article was right, the unconscious really opens up when we allow it, and inside its content there is much more than I ever imagined. Or that or I am gifted with this unusual art and should find a way to turn it into profit!

After practicing with a few "unconscious" poems, I decided to find out what was inside my unconscious brain about nursing. I dedicated the poem "To the Florence Nightingales" and started to work on it. (If you are unfamiliar with Florence Nightingale, I suggest that you look up her name, as learning about her life will help you to understand better the content of the poem) The words first came out confusing, however, after finishing it and reading it, I realized that there was some meaning and beauty about the history of nursing inside my unconscious!

To the Florence Nightingales

Whitewashed figures around spaces,
Forming fractions of performance,
Interdict each burst of terror,
Fear, anguish and longing.

Handling injured aspects,
Confused with the fatal scenario,
Delivering trapped sweetness,
In chest captive smiles.

Feelings being spread, hungry,
For the desire of pure care,
Facilitated by the emphatic forms,
Fitted with a winged character.

The touch of high heels in motion,
Evoke powerful spells,
Capable of socializing weepings,
Constrained to the bed mourning.

The power is not limited to the contained,
In the powder, liquid or instrument,
But to the fine manners, to the respect,
For the other, being, subject.

Rewards, excluded of gains,
Summarized by the look, by the satisfaction,
From faces illuminated by the spirit,
Of the givers of contentment.

My poetry phase has already ended, but I learned that maybe I could use this same resource with my patients. To restore from their unconscious, treasures that could free them from the pain their conscious is feeling, opening their perception so they can hear what they are telling themselves.

Good night,
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