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Anxiety

Her pupils dilate. She whips her head side to side, searching for the impending danger.

Her chest heaves with each shallow, rapid breath.

Her heart suddenly feels too heavy for her body.

“I need more air. I can’t breathe.” She told herself.

She pushes her chair back, looks around at all of the blurred faces, clutches her chest, and jogs out of the conference room.

As her heart pounds, she begins to wheeze.

“Almost there. Just keep moving.”

She reaches for the handle of the exit door, slams her body weight against it, and almost falls to the ground.

She catches herself as she falls to her knees then sits on the warm grass.

She takes a few deep breaths.

She slowly leans over and lays on her side, feeling the warmth of the sun tickle her skin, and the tension in her muscles release.

“It’s over. Nothing is happening. Everything is ok.” She comforts herself.

She rubs her hand against the blades of grass and inhales the scent of the nearby dogwood trees.

“It’s ok. I’m ok.”

Embarrassed, she quickly rises, runs her fingers through her hair, and marches back in the building to finish her meeting.

Imagine if this episode happened once every few months.

Imagine if it happened once a month. Once a week.

How about every day?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, defines anxiety with panic attacks as follows:

Wow. Anxiety can make you feel like you’re dying.

People underestimate anxiety.

But it’s real. It’s scary. And it interferes with life.

Here’s another fact about anxiety: It doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Let me say that again. Just because you’re suffering from anxiety, doesn’t mean you’re weak.

And just because you suffer from anxiety, doesn’t mean you’re less of a Christian.

Anxiety is not a reflection of you as a person. It’s not a reflection of your strength as a parent. And it’s not a reflection on your faith as a Christian.

It is a medical condition that needs to be properly treated with counseling, proper nutrition, exercise, and/or with medication.

Instead of running out of conference rooms and waiting for the panic to subside, seek help.

God made you in His image. Perfect in his eyes.

So if you have anxiety, seek help and know that God doesn’t see you any different than the moment he created you.

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Who Am I?

My bones ache. I sweat at night. I’m steadily losing weight. Who am I?

A breast cancer patient.

Pins and needles stab my feet. I can’t quench my thirst. I gain weight for no reason. Who am I?

A diabetes patient.

Electric shock travels down my leg. I can’t sit. I can’t stand. I can’t move. Who am I?

A chronic lumbar spine pain patient.

Lights attack me. Sounds destroy me. My throat fills with nausea. Who am I?

A migraine patient.

I type while you speak. I nod my head and listen. I examine. I decide. I prescribe. Who am I?

Your medical provider.

I walk with you.

I teach you.

I defend you.

Then I wore a crown for you.

I bled for you.

I took my last breath for you.

I took it all for you.

Then, I returned.

I still walk with you, teach you, and defend you.

Who am I?

Jesus Christ, the son of God.

The patients above are very basic examples of how we are taught in medical school. Once we grasp a lot of stereotypical patients and diagnoses, then we’re told to individualize medicine for each patient. Then we’re told to understand the patient and to meet the patient where they are physically, emotionally, culturally, and spiritually.

When I look at my schedule each day, I always glance at the “the reason for visit”. Are they here for a regular check up? For headaches? For a possible pregnancy? For leg pain?

And with that quick glance, a review of the patient’s chart, and a 10 minute encounter with the patient, I have to come up with possible diagnoses and treatment plans to make them feel better.

But what most people don’t realize is that these patients come in emotionally distraught over their medical conditions.

They cry from the pain.

They yell because “none of these doctors are helping me”.

And sometimes they give up because “I’m just going to have to deal with it.”

I have to remind these patients that their diabetes, their migraines, their hypothyroidism, their PCOS, their venous stasis dermatitis, their need for a new prosthetic are things that may DESCRIBE what they’re experiencing but they’re not things that DEFINE them.

So who is that migraine sufferer? She’s a mother of 3 that needs help with her migraines so she can attend her daughter’s dance recitals.

Who is that low back pain patient? He’s a construction worker that is having trouble working and paying the bills because the pain down his leg inhibits him from using the jack hammer too often.

Who is that cancer patient that is exhausted and barely eats? She’s a grandmother who is fighting to see her granddaughter’s high school graduation.

When my patients feel overwhelmed and completely engrossed in their medical conditions, I find a solution to help regain their quality of life.

hen Jesus absorbed each lash of the whip on his back, he thought of the mother of 3.

When Jesus wore the crown on his head, he thought of the man building houses for his community.

When Jesus took his last breath, he thought of all the difficulties each person faces.

And when Jesus rose from grave and conquered death, he thought of you. Not your sin. Not your troubles. Not your conditions. He thought of you.

Don’t let your medical condition define you.

Let Jesus define you.

You are chosen.

You are forgiven.

You are loved.

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The Voice Inside

I order and review a lot of labs.

A lot.

Every day.

Basic labs include a blood count, kidney function, liver function, electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc), cholesterol, and an A1C (if you’re diabetic).

These labs will typically help us monitor how meds may be affecting patients, how controlled or uncontrolled their medical conditions, and if any new conditions may be arising (anemia, infection, etc).

I remember one particular lab result. Let’s call the patient Lydia.

Her routine blood work showed decreased kidney function, something along the lines of Chronic Kidney Disease, Stage 3. However, she had no history of kidney issues. She wasn’t on any medications that would cause kidney issues either.

So, I decided to repeat this result within the next two weeks, at the patient’s convenience.

Then, a sudden drop in kidney function again. Along the lines of Stage 5, maybe headed towards dialysis.

I called the patient and ask her how she was feeling.

“Fine. No problems at all.”

And in that moment, I had to make a big decision. Refer her to Nephrology STAT? Send her to the Emergency Department?

Part of the problem when practicing Family Medicine is that I sometimes receive a lot of negative feedback and even ridicule from specialists and the emergency department.

I’ve had my fair share of ugly phone calls, defending my decisions on why I sent my patients to them and why I think the referral is needed.

So, here I was, making a big decision for this patient, in just a few seconds over the phone.

I sighed and caved in to the small voice that was nudging me to send her to the Emergency Department.

“Just tell her to go to the Emergency Department.” The voice said.

“Why the hospital? You can’t even say what’s going on. You know they’re going to call again, ask you a million questions that you don’t have answers to, tell you what to do instead, and then send the pateint right back to you.” The other voice said. The voice of doubt.

“No. Send her to the hospital.” The voice was much more certain. Louder. Firm. Confident.

“Lydia? I hate to tell you this but I think you need to go to the Emergency Department.” I sighed over the phone.

“Why? I really feel fine. Should I just drink more water?”

“Well, your kidney function is dropping too fast and this could be life-threatening. And if it is simply due to dehydration, which I don’t think it is, they’ll give you IV fluids, re-check your levels, and get you all better.”

“Well, OK I guess. I trust you so I’ll go.”

“And I appreciate that. Just stop by here and pick up your lab results so you can take it with you.”

And she did. She listened to my voice, picked up her labs, and went to the hospital, with nothing more than a phone call from her family medicine practitioner and two sheets of papers with labs on it.

All because a little voice deep inside told me she needed to go.

Turns out, she had a cancerous kidney mass. And it was perfectly encapsulated in such a way that they removed it on that very day. All of it. And her kidney function went back to 100%. On that very day.

All because I listened to the voice inside of me.

And that voice is the holy spirit of Jesus Christ. The spirit that Jesus left with us when he left Earth. We all have it. We just have to take the time to listen.

“…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever–the Spirit of truth…” John 14:16 NIV

If it’s doubt, it’s not the holy spirit.

If it’s negative, it’s not the holy spirit.

If it produces more confusion, it’s not the holy spirit.

Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. Therefore, the voice that he has left within all of us is also of truth.

When things are difficult and you don’t know what to do, find a quiet room and just sit, wait, and listen.

God will lead you.

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The Missing Piece

When I say that I practice Family Medicine, what do you think of?

Most people say, “Diabetes, high blood pressure, runny noses, and families.”

Yep, all of that is true haha!

But I think of Family Medicine as “finding the missing piece”.

When you go to the hospital, what do they tell you when you leave?

“Make sure you follow up with your regular doc.”

That’s partly because your general practitioner manages your overall health and you should keep them informed.

But it’s also because when they can’t figure out what’s going on, they rely on the family medicine practitioner to figure it out.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a new patient establish care at my office for a hospital follow up for “syncope” (they passed out) and the hospital couldn’t figure out why.

All of their bloodwork (blood count, kidney function, liver function, pregnancy test, drug screen, STD screening, coagulation studies, etc), cardiac workup (chest x-ray, heart enzymes, ultrasound of their heart, stress test, etc), and neurology workup (electroencephalogram to check for seizures) all came back NORMAL.

They’re told “Everything seems to be OK but follow up with your regular doc”.

But because they’re in their early 20’s, they don’t have a regular doc. They don’t take medications. They’ve never had this happen before. But they’re worried about what’s going on in their otherwise healthy body.

So, they end up at my office.

I’ve walked into the exam room of each one of these patients and listened to their story. Every. Single. Word.

I review their hospital records.

Then, I do an exam head to toe.

Then, I tell them, “I hate to have to do this but we need more bloodwork.”

Some of them groan because they’re still bruised up and healing from their previous blood draws. Others have simply nodded.

I order a thyroid panel. This is typically the ONE lab that wasn’t ordered by the hospital.

And then BAM! I find the answer. These patients have a VERY overactive thyroid. Dangerously overactive.

I put them on medication, order blood work regularly, titrate their medications based on the lab results, and I follow up with them 3 months later.

They’re responses after 3 months are all the same.

“I feel great. I haven’t passed out since the hospital.”

The missing piece of the puzzle has been found. The picture of their health is now complete and they can be treated accordingly. They can be confident about their health and how to manage it.

I have found numerous missing pieces. As a matter of fact, when I’m presented with a problem, I ENJOY finding the missing piece.

And that’s Family Medicine: Putting the pieces together.

But I am also a Christian. And there’s one more piece to each patient’s puzzle: Jesus Christ.

When their health is in balance, I thank God for being able to help.

When their health is out of whack, I pray for them and pray for the ability to help.

When they’re grieving from the death of a loved one, I comfort them with prayer.

When a patient doesn’t know what to do, I tell them to pray about it.

I can put the pieces of their puzzle together and help them keep it together. But unless they glue it to a poster board or have some other type of solid foundation, their pieces, at any time of their lives, can come apart.

So, as their medical provider, I may help find the missing pieces and help fill the picture of the patient but the patients themselves need to have a firm foundation for those pieces.

And that foundation is none other than Jesus Christ. The son of God. The one who died, resurrected, overcame the world, conquered death, and is with us, for us, and among us.

Go to your doc appointments and get all the pieces of your health together.

Then, look up to the heavens for the One who will keep it all together for you.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalms 18:2 NIV

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The Sad Man

“Sir, do you mind if I mention something that I’ve noticed about you?”

He simply nodded.

“You don’t say much when you come in. Your diabetes is uncontrolled. Your blood pressure is always elevated. You don’t take your medicines. You only nod whenever I make suggestions. You’re very quiet and you don’t seem interested in anything. You walk around with a weight on your shoulders.”

He quickly broke eye contact.

I cleared my throat, concerned and anxious about what I was going to say next.

“Are you OK? I mean…like really OK? Is there something bothering you? Are you angry, upset…”

And then it came.

Streams of tears rolled down both cheeks. He sniffled. He wiped his tears on the edge of his sleeve. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the chair.

“Things are hard right now.” He paused and continue to stare into the corner of the room.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Unless you can somehow get my more money and fix all my problems, no.”

“Well, I can’t do that but I do hope things get better.” I patted his hand before escorting him out of the room.

He nodded.

Over time, the patient began coming in smiling and lifting his head up higher with each visit. Things did get better for him and he updated me at each time we met.

Likewise, his blood pressure and diabetes improved as well.

I didn’t do much for him. I just listened. The best thing I could do for him was pray for him. I didn’t tell him I was praying for him. I simply did.

A lot of people think Christianity and science are separate but I disagree.

I pray for my patients often and this particular patient was no different.

When you have difficulties in life, don’t hesitate to confide in someone to pray for you. We’re not made to be alone or to face these difficulties on our own.

If you’re struggling with your health, ask someone to pray for you or with you. Maybe even consider asking your medical provider.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “When two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

When you are weak, ask someone to pray for your strength. When you are sad, ask someone to pray for peace.

If you need prayers, I can be your prayer warrior. Just send me a prayer request.

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The Callous Workplace

“I’m suprised at how much you don’t know.”

“Clearly, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“How old are you anyway? Like 19?”

“Well, I read an article about it and you’re wrong.”

“There is a culture here and you need to get with the program and understand that.”

“Perspective is reality. Accept it.”

“You’re not working hard enough.”

“You need to see more patients.”

“You need to chart faster, work from home, and work during lunch. You can’t afford to take a break.”

These were the constant comments I heard in a previous job as a PA.

It was full of negative, demeaning, angry, resentful feedback…from my co-workers, supervising doc, and management.

I spent my entire time there thinking that I was going crazy. But I hung in there.

I didn’t jump ship and run because my patients were wonderful and I knew that when I applied for another job, this experience and employment history would pay off in the long run.

But also because it was God’s plan.

I focused on doing good work for my patients and counting down the days until I could quit.

And I prayed. Every day, I prayed for peace, strength, and a way out.

Then the day finally came when I could quit. I was required to put in a 90 day notice (pretty standard in medicine) and I was r-e-a-d-y!

After I sent my email to resign, things became more hostile and the hostility was now present during company meetings and in front of front desk and nursing staff. It was humiliating.

And I finally had enough. I wasn’t going to make it 90 days. I sent yet another email, resigning immediately, effectively ending my contract 60 days early.

I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I wondered if I made the right decision…about everything. Should I have become a PA? Should I have gone into family medicine, my favorite field of medicine? Would I suffer at my next job? Would I be good enough for my next job?

Then, on this very day of confusion, hurt, and anxiety, God’s grace showered me.

I remember walking back to my desk and finding a small envelope on my desk. It was a thank you card. This particular patient was thanking me for saving their life during an emergency.

I sat at my desk and read it over a few times. I smiled and felt my anxiety simmer.

Later on during the day, I came back to my desk and found another small piece of paper, neatly folded, sitting on top of my keyboard. It was a hand written note from a patient.

She wanted to personally thank me for finding her cervical cancer when no one else would listen to her about her symptoms.

I sat at my desk, read it over a few times, smiled, and placed it in my bag juxtaposed to the thank you card.

I felt my broken heart start to mend.

And at the end of the day, as I packed up my things, ready to sprint out of the building, one of my co-workers brought me another small envelope.

It was a $25 donation to a local hospital. They made this donation in my name because they admired, loved, and respected me as their primary care provider.

And this particular patient struggled financially. But they decided to make this donation, with the very little bit that they had, in my name, as a thank you and as recognition for my love and passion for family medicine.

And at that moment, I felt butterflies in my soul. My confusion transitioned to clarity.

These patients didn’t know I was leaving. They had no idea I put a notice in to not only end my contract, but end it immediately.

And it was no coincidence that I received these three thank you notes on this particular day.

It was God’s grace.

God was telling me that He loves me. God was telling me that my patients loved me. And He was telling me that He would bless me, not only in my future employment, but in the many more years I planned on spending as a PA in family medicine.

God was telling me that my hard road had come to an end. He knew I struggled but he was preparing me for what was to come. And at that time, little did I know, it would be for a new set of patients in family medicine, during a pandemic.

Do you feel stuck where you are? God has a plan. God has a purpose. And God is preparing you for it.

Are you suffocating in your current work environment? Look up. Seek God. He will fill you with his grace.

I chose this profession to help others. And the devil still tries to oppose me.

But God’s grace is sufficient and God’s power is unmatchable.

So here I am, continuing my work as a PA in family medicine, to help my community and to do the work of God’s kingdom.

So to all of my patients, thank you.

And thanks be to God.

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The Angry Man

Angry patients can be difficult.

They’re angry because they have financial difficulties, because their diabetes is very uncontrolled and they feel miserable, because they suffer from depression (a lot of men hide their depression with anger), or for a number of other reasons.

But angry patients don’t really bother me because it’s hardly ever directed towards me.

I view angry patients as an opportunity for me to help.

I’ve watched very uncontrolled diabetic patients (with sugars in the 400’s, frequent urination, abdominal pain, headaches, and vision changes) transform into someone else within a few office visits. Their attitude switches from “No one can fix my diabetes” to “Thank you for the new medicine. I feel so much better.”

I usually respond with a quick, “No problem. Glad I could help.”

But when the patient thanks me with detail and with abundance, I respond with, “Thank you for your kind words. I will pass the credit and glory to God.”

There is one particular patient that I will never forget. Let’s call him Chase.

I dreaded it when I saw Chase on the schedule for the day. And I dreaded all future follow-up appointments. He was always very angry, rude, and interruptive. He simply wanted a refill on his meds and did not need my advice on how to improve his health. He was always too busy for his appointments, frequently on his tablet or cell phone, and he always wore headphones.

My tactic was always the same. Prepare his refills, offer what I offer my other patients, answer his questions, make a follow-up, and move on with my day. In and out as fast as possible.

Then one day, our visit took a turn.

He told me that he valued my opinion and respected my intellect (suprise to me!). Then, he had only one question for me: “Do you believe in God and Jesus Christ?”

I said, “Yes, absolutely. I love the Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind.”

His eyes opened wide and he explained to me that he was expecting a much different answer from me. He was expecting that I would be an atheist like him because we were both of high intellect.

So I had only one question for him in return, “What is keeping you from believing? Because if you’re asking me if I believe, then you must be struggling with whether or not it’s something real.”

He said, “There’s no evidence that it’s real.”

“I disagree. Can I share my evidence and knowledge with you?”

Suprisingly, he agreed. He still wore a demeanor of anger and he still carried a chip on his shoulder. He crossed his arms and he didn’t smile but I could almost see the wheels turning in his head.

“If you want something you can touch and hold, then I recommend researching the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is tangible archaeological evidence that you can see and hold in your hands. It is the founding pages of our Bible.”

He nodded and squinted his eyes but didn’t said a word.

“And in those Dead Sea Scrolls, you’ll find that all the prophecies listed in the Bible about Jesus came true. And these were written BEFORE Jesus was born.”

He broke eye contact and looked away pensively.

“And if you want to know if Jesus was real, then pick up any history book. His birth is acknowledged in history.”

“And if you want to know if his resurrection is real, then you have to read the bible, where it states that 500 people witnessed him alive after his death and resurrection.”

I paused, worried that he was going to yell and call me an idiot.

“Hmm. And you said they’re called the Dead Sea Scrolls?”

“Yep.”

“I’ll have to look into that.”

“Please do. And if it’s OK with you, may I pray for you? I’d like to pray that you find what you’re looking for so that you come a step closer to Christianity.”

And then there it was.

A smile. He chuckled, but not in a mocking way. He chuckled because I think he was surprised by my bravery (even though I was shaking in my boots!) and because maybe…just maybe…God used me to get through to him.

And time went on. I didn’t see him for quite a while. Over a year or so, as a matter of fact.

Then, the funniest thing happened.

I was working a medical event in a neighboring community and I saw him.

He smiled. He laughed. He remembered me. And if it wasn’t for the pandemic, he was going to hug me.

And sparkling in the sunshine, draped around his neck, was a gold chain necklace, with a cross in the center.

And the event I was working on that particular day was for a church.

He not only found the medical care he needed, but he found the spiritual care he had been longing for all this time.

And I don’t take the credit. I don’t take the glory. I give it all to God. Because without God’s word (the bible) and for his church (I took an apologetics course 2 years ago), I would not have been able to share God and Jesus with this man and bring him the peace and happiness that we all need.

Sometimes my patients are angry.

Sometimes I can use my faith in medicine to provide what they’re looking for.

God is real. Jesus is real. The evidence is there. You just have to open your eyes to see it.

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COVID Vaccine Part 2

I’ve been asked a few times why I’ve gotten the COVID vaccine.

I can give you the proper answers about efficacy and how we’re in a pandemic and we’re all trying to survive.

But…those aren’t my real answers. Those are just my professional answers.

First and foremost, I decided to get vaccinated because I’m exposed to it every single day. Multiple times per day. And I just don’t want to be responsible for giving COVID to my family and especially to my daughter with asthma.

Secondly, I decided to get vaccinated because I don’t want COVID. Yep, it’s that simple. I had asthma as a kid and I don’t know how I’d do with the virus. I’d like to guess I’d be fine. But I don’t really know. And my life isn’t worth the gamble.

Lastly, I decided to get vaccinated because of all of my patients who have died from COVID. I decided to get vaccinated because of all of my patients who survived COVID but had a stroke as a result. I decided to get vaccinated because of all of my patients who survived COVID but the had to watch their family members die. I decided to get vaccinated because, quite frankly, I’m tired of COVID. I’m tired of death.

I remember the day I dealt with my first case of COVID as an outpatient family medicine provider.

I remember being thankful for PPE and thankful that we had testing to determine if this person had COVID or not.

But the tricky part was that the result of this test, the very first one we had, could take up to 2 weeks to come back.

I remember sweating under all of my PPE while I did the exam.

I remember sweating a bit extra because I was anxious.

I remember…my patient…young…overall healthy…smiling, despite the fever, muscle aches, cough, and runny nose.

I remember getting the result. But it was too late. The patient had already died.

I remember getting tested. And waiting.

I remember receiving a negative result.

I remember my relief.

I remember.

The real reason I’m getting vaccinated is because I remember the ones who never had a chance to get vaccinated.

I’m getting vaccinated because it’s my way of paying tribute to all of my COVID patients.

I remember. And I’ll never forget.

Please, consider getting vaccinated and pray for those who are currently fighting COVID.

We’re in this together.

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The Good Listener

“It’s back.” Tears rolled down her cheeks and she sobbed.

“Oh, no.” I grabbed her hand and held it tight.

She could only feel the rubbery material of my gloves and she could only see my eyes above my mask but despite the physical barriers, she knew my comfort was there.

“You’ve gotten through it once before, you’ll do it again.”

“Yea, I know.”

“Let me re-phrase. God got you through it once before. He will bring you through it once more.”

She sobbed a little louder, cried a little longer, and squeezed my hand a little harder.

“My cancer doc said it’s just a tiny spot and it’s not anywhere important so he can get rid of it quickly.”

“Then we will hold on to that hope.”

“I’ve been praying doc. I’ve been praying but I’ve been worried and anxious and crying and I just can’t keep it together.”

I still grasped her hand. She hadn’t let go and I wasn’t planning on letting go until she was ready.

“Now you can’t worry and pray at the same time. You either worry OR you pray. But if you’re going to pray that God takes care of this, then you GIVE it to Him and LEAVE it to Him. Because if you’re worrying, you’re not giving it to God.”

She nodded her head and finally, let go of my hand.

Then, she smiled.

“I’m gonna be praying for you.”

“I know you will doc. And thank you.”

I’ve had this conversation with numerous patients over the years and I recently had this conversation again.

Do you notice anything interesting about this conversation?

There is not one single piece of medical advice from me. Not one. I didn’t ask for the PET scan. I didn’t ask for the Oncology report. I didn’t ask about change in medications. I didn’t ask one single question.

Because my patient wasn’t there for medical advice. She was there for comfort. All of them were. Every time I have had this conversation, it wasn’t because she/he needed medical advice or a second opinion. It was because they were lost. Lonely. Defeated.

And I’m a good listener.

The reason I’m so “successful” as a family medicine PA is because I listen. I rarely get compliments from my patients but when I do, they all say the same thing.

“You always listen doc.”

Sometimes I don’t even make changes to their meds or offer anything. Sometimes my patients come in to update me on their health and end their speech with “thanks for listening.”

And this particular recent experience with a cancer patient was no different.

In medicine, it’s amazing how much you can do for a patient, simply by listening. I have found very uncontrolled thyroid disorders, odd vertebral fractures, a kidney tumor, uncontrolled diabetes, a spine tumor, a torn rotator cuff that was missed numerous times, and even cancer. Simply because I listened to the patient.

And the reason I’m a good listener is because, oddly enough, I’m a talker. Not much in public. Or at social events. I’m actually an introvert.

But I talk to God. Every. Single. Day.

Multiple. Times. Per. Day.

All. Day.

My daughter and I pray on the way to school and I add extra prayers on most days.

I pray before I blog/write. I pray about my work, my health, my family, my drive, my patients, etc. I simply pray all day, everyday, multiple times per day.

And God NEVER gets tired of listening.

So whatever you’re facing in 2021, talk to God. He’s the best listener.

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The COVID vaccine

I got my first dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine 12/30/2020.

I like to say that I ended 2020 on a high note and entered 2021 with the hope that this vaccine will keep me and my family safe during the pandemic.

I’ve been asked a few questions about the vaccine so I thought I’d share my answers here.

1. Why did I get the vaccine?

I got it because the benefit outweighs the risks. The science shows it’s effective and I want to be sure that I do all that I can to keep my family safe. The benefit of reducing my risk of infection and death from COVID outweighed the fear of possible side effects.

2. Did I have any side effects?

Yep. My arm was sore for a week (I’d say it was a little bit more painful than a tetanus shot), I had a headache that day, and I had a couple of dizzy spells.

But if I can reduce the risk of giving COVID to my daughter with asthma, then experiencing those side effects meant little to nothing to me.

3. When do I get my second dose?

January 28, 2021. Because I received Moderna, the 2nd dose is 28 days later. The Pfizer vaccine only requires a 21 day interim.

4. Is it worth getting the vaccine when there’s a new strain out?

Yes. It will still provide some coverage. I get the flu shot every year because I trust the efficacy and I believe that the flu shot saved my daughter from serious complications and a hospitalization last year. I even wrote a blog about it haha. Likewise, I trust science and I trust this vaccine.

5. Do you prefer the Modena or the Pfizer vaccine?

I don’t have a preference. I got the Moderna because that’s what was available to me at the time. I’ve known numerous people who got Pfizer and they’re doing well too.

As soon as your able, please go and get your vaccine! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ve had a few phone calls regarding the vaccine and I’m happy to answer all of your questions!

Lastly, I want to thank God and give praise for this vaccine and the opportunity to get the vaccine.

Remember that all good and wonderful things come from God above. James 1:17

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New Year, New You!

I asked my daughter a question the other day, anticipating a somewhat vague, generic answer.

I asked her, “Can people change?”

And she said, “Do you mean mentally, physically, or spiritually?”

I found myself surprised and impressed with her response.

I said, “Let’s start with mentally and spiritually.”

Then she answered, “Yes. But they have to choose to change. They have to want to change. If not, they won’t change.”

Mind. Blown.

My daughter is 10 and she shocked me to my core.

2020 was a year of change for us all. As we all cautiously entered 2021, I wondered to myself if I desired any more change. Of course, I want this pandemic to be over but besides that, do I desire change? Or am I so fearful of what may come in 2021 that I’d rather be complacent with our current world?

Sad, right? But I know that people are feeling the same way. I hear patients express this all the time.

“Yea, my thyroid has been giving me problems but at least I don’t have COVID!”

“Yea, my blood pressure has been high but at least I don’t have COVID!”

2020 hit us upside the head and left us in a world fearful of the future and complacent with our current frustrating situations.

Then my daughter woke me up.

I want change. I choose to change.

I took my daughter’s categories of medical, physical, and spiritual and came up with a plan on how to do this.

Medically, I am choosing to be “safe”. Meaning, I’m changing my perception of “danger” around me into a perception of “safety”. I’ve received my first COVID vaccine and am eagerly anticipating the 2nd shot. I am relying on masks, gloves, hats, jackets, and plastic face shields to keep me out of harms way. And I’m focusing on my faith to know that God is keeping me safe in his arms.

Physically, this is an easy one. For my health, I simply need to eat better (don’t we all?). But I’ve decided to change my view on exercise. I tried Yoga for the first time in my life (and it felt great). I tried tennis for the first time in my life (and it wasn’t for me). And I plan on trying golf (unsure about this one too haha). I’m incorporating new activities into my regular routine of dog walks and Peloton cycling (which I love!).

I’m choosing to change my routine.

And spiritually, I’m choosing to focus more. Deeper. Differently. I bought an illustrated Bible made by Alabaster (the pictures are beautiful) to give me a more visual intimacy with the book of Genesis. I’ve been working on my book a lot more. And I’m focusing on my daughter’s spiritual growth a whole lot more in depth as well.

So, I write this blog today to tell you to choose change. I want you to have the courage to reach for something new in a world that seems newer than it’s ever been. I want you to be focused on how to make these changes. And I want you to have faith to know that God is with you every step of the way.

If you want to quit smoking, do it. Don’t let this pandemic be an excuse.

If you want to take up running, do it. We all have to social distance so head to your nearest park.

If you want to learn how to make homemade chocolate cake, do it and cut me a slice!

Because you can do all things in Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13) and in Christ, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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The Christmas Tree

My husband practices Dermatology, a field that most medical professionals are weak in and are weary of.

Why? Because it’s hard! So many rashes look alike.

But my favorite rash of all time presents mostly in young women, on their back, and in a Christmas tree pattern. Yep, you heard me. This rash is spread out in the shape of a Christmas tree!

Most of the time, it doesn’t cause any problems. It doesn’t even itch in most people. But because it spreads all over their back, people get concerned.

It’s called Pityriasis Rosea.

Why do I love it so much? Because it’s shaped like a Christmas tree. Easy to spot, easy to treat, and it’s not harmful to most patients.

Easy and fun. That doesn’t happen to much in medicine.

There’s a lot of criticism surrounding Christians about how we celebrate Christmas, starting with the tree. But if you look closely, everything…everything is a symbol of our Christian faith.

1. Christmas Tree: A symbol of the tree of good and evil, starting the need for Jesus.

2. Presents: Even the three wise men brought gifts to Jesus at his birth. And…we are celebrating his birthday.

3. Santa Claus: A remembrance of Bishop Nicholas, a martyr for the Christian faith.

4. Star on the tree: The star of Bethlehem that led the wise men to Jesus.

There are numerous examples. I just named a few. And there aren’t too many opportunities where a medical condition is a reminder of Christmas.

My prayer for you this Christmas is to slow down and absorb your surroundings. Inhale the smells, listen to the sounds, and look at all of the symbolism pointing you back to the birth of a baby boy. The birth of a savior. The birth of Jesus Christ. And with that reminder, may you find peace and joy this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas!

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Birthmark

As a child, I was fascinated with birthmarks.

People would have large brown ones, small brown ones, an oddly shaped scar, or multiple spots here and there that they’d be proud to show.

Now that I’m a medical provider, I still find skin marks interesting but now I know what a few of them are haha.

Here’s a few examples of benign (non-cancerous) marks.

Nevus: Just a simple mole. If it is not Asymmetrical, has well-defined Borders, the same Color throughout, has a small Diameter, and hasn’t changed (no Evolution) in years (we call this the ABCDE method), it’s safe to say that this nevus is just fine.

Cafe Au Lait: A little brown spot. As long as there are only a few, there’s no concern. If these flat spots become more visible or start to “bubble” outward, get them checked ASAP!

Mongolian Spots: Careful! These could easily be mistaken for bruises on a child but alas, it’s just a birthmark. And they typically go away on their own. I think the blue color is quite amazing!

Freckles. Enough said. They’re cute. Love them.

Did you know that Christians are marked as well?

 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV

You certainly can’t visibly see a tattoo or anything on the outward appearance that separates Christians from non-Christians.

But as a believer, we are “marked” with the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

We are “marked” with a purpose. God sees your capability and opportunity to change the world around you.

He “marked” you as special. You have a special appearance, personality, talent, gift, career, speech, sense of taste, sense of smell, demeanor, etc.

He “marked” you as one of His children that he loves dearly.

He “marked” you as one of His children with a purpose so intimate, so powerful, so profound, so unique, that NO ONE else can fulfill that purpose.

No one can write that song, write that book, perform that play, create that movie, open that cafe, create that vaccine, build that car, paint that mural, work Wall Street, or do anything exactly how God intended it to be done by you.

If you have a physical birthmark, show it off!

If you are a Christian, remember that you are invisibly marked. But now that mark needs to shine. Accept it, wear it, and do what God has called you to do!

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Circumcision-God’s Covenant

I remember the first time that I witnessed a circumcision. I was an undergraduate student, shadowing various Pediatricians.

I watched as the baby was strapped down on a warm, comfortable examination table.

I watched as the baby was undressed and his body part numbed.

With one quick, swift, horizontal swipe from left to right, the excess skin was sliced off. As quick as the snapping of your fingers. Done. Excess skin gone.

The pediatrician stopped the bleeding, inspected the surgical site, cleaned, and bandaged the area.

And that’s it. A section of skin that the baby was born with is now gone. Forever.

I remember standing there, considering the process. Some babies scream bloody murder. Others, believe it or not, continued to drink their bottle and peacefully waited until the end.

I stood in the corner of that exam room and considered Abraham in the book of Genesis. God told Abraham to circumcise himself and to tell his people to get circumcised as well. God didn’t say to do this for any specific medical reason. He simply says to do it as a covenant between God and His people.

A covenant. A promise. An intimate, unbreakable bond, between man and God.

Imagine, being an adult male and being told to cut off your excess skin in a very sensitive area. If you’re a woman, imagine being asked to cut off your pinky finger. Ouch!

So, why? Why did Abraham and his people do it?

Because they loved God. Because they believed the goodness and the promises of God. Because they had faith that their one small act would provide them with an eternity of blessings for themselves and their future generations. One moment of immense pain would provide an ETERNITY of blessings.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. Genesis 17:9-11 NIV

One moment of immense pain during labor and the blessing of a child is born.

One moment of immense pain from an injection and someone’s chronic back pain is relieved forever.

One moment led to one covenant, which led to an eternity of blessings.

God is a God of promises. He is a God of covenants.

Now, let’s be clear. God is not a “this for that” kind of God. He does not require anything from us in order to give us a blessing. Surely, without the circumcision of Abraham and his people, God would have blessed and love them still. But because they chose to follow God and give God their all, God blessed them beyond their imagination. He blessed Abraham and made him the father of all nations.

As I read this passage in the bible over the weekend, I remembered all of the circumcisions that I witnessed during my training as a student. And then I remembered all of the men under Abraham that were circumcised as well. And then I remembered God’s covenant with his people.

A covenant of blessings. Forever.

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  Genesis 17:4-8 NIV

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Day 7-A Restful Meditation

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2: 2-3 NIV

On the 7th day, after God created the universe and all of its living creatures, God rested. He rested and declared the 7th day to be holy.

Our days are busy.

Stay at home moms are busier than ever this year with homeschooling during a pandemic.

Healthcare workers are busier than ever due to the pandemic.

Teachers are busier than ever creating virtual lesson plans and preparing for the transition back into the classroom.

2020 is a year of crisis, a year of challenges, a year that feels busier than ever before.

But even God rested on the 7th day. He didn’t even have to. He doesn’t need to rest and doesn’t require sleep but he chose to rest so that he could admire everything he created.

Today’s blog is a prayerful meditation. I want you to focus on this meditation and give your body and mind some rest, even if only for a few moments. I want you to focus on this meditation as a calling from God to find rest from your busy day, away from your busy mind.

Lord heavenly father, there are so many distractions in this world and we come today asking for rest. Asking for peace. Asking for a free moment. We come to you today asking you to pause time. Allow us to breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly, and remind ourselves that time is in your hands. Remind us that when people attack us, you are our shield. When our diseases attack us, you are our healer. And when we run out of time to get things done by the end of the day, you are the one in control. Remind us that you rested on day 7 to reflect on your creation and thus, we should take time everyday to rest, meditate, pray, and reflect back on what you’ve given us. Lord, no matter what we may be going through today, give us rest. It is in your holy name I pray, Amen.

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Day 6-Humans

Tall. Average. Petite.

Obese. Average. Underweight. Anorexic.

Black. Brown. Green. Blue. Hazel. Eyes.

Black. Brown. Blonde. Dirty blonde. Grey. White. Hair.

The possible combinations of skin, hair, eyes, height, weight, muscle build, fatty tissue, nail thickness, personality, etc. are in the millions.

Yes, God made them all.

Vitiligo. Neurofibromatosis. Psoriasis. Acne. Acanthosis Nigracans. Rosacea. All various skin conditions that change the color and texture of the skin itself and can cause pain as well.

Yes, God made these people too and knew they’d battle these diseases.

Cerebral Palsy. Multiple Sclerosis. Myasthenia Gravis. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Some well known neuromuscular diseases that are life-long and debilitating.

Yet, God made these people too.

The bible tells us that God created us in our mother’s womb. Read these words:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalms 139: 13-14 NIV.

King David tells us that God created us in our mother’s womb…knit…KNIT…that hints at a delicate, intimate, time-consuming process. AND that what God created is wonderful. WONDERFUL!

You. Are. Wonderfully. Created.

Despite the obesity. Despite the acne that covers your face and causes scarring. Despite the neurofibromatosis that causes bumps all over your body. Despite your curly hair (that you wish was straight). Despite going bald when you used to run your fingers through a thick jungle. Despite your right leg amputation from a car accident.

Despite all of your imperfections, YOU were KNIT TOGETHER in your mother’s womb and YOU are WONDERFUL!

Despite it all, you were created and you are loved by a perfect God.

Remember that on the sixth day of creation, God made man. He created a universe and an Earth to sustain us, then brought us into this Earth on Day 6.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…” Genesis 1: 26-27 NIV

Remember that you are NOT a mistake. No matter the medical battle you are facing. Cancer. Skin conditions. Pain. Diabetes. Neuropathy. ADHD. Depression. Bipolar Disorder. Arthritis. Lupus. God created YOU and KNIT you in your mother’s womb.

God created you because you have purpose on this Earth. God created you because he loves you.

Take your mental, physical, and/or spiritual battle and give it to God. He will lighten your burden and remind you of how beautiful and perfect you are.

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Day 5: The Influenza Vaccine

“Let the water teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” -Genesis 1:20 NIV

As expected, since I’m a healthcare provider, I’m a huge proponent of the influenza vaccine (also known as the “flu shot”).

Wait! Before you stop reading, hear me out!

Let’s go over the benefits of the flu shot:

  1. It helps reduce your risk of catching the flu
  2. If you do catch the flu (and yes, you can still get the flu after getting the flu shot), it reduces the severity of your symptoms and the length of time you are sick.

And to be fair, let’s go over the possible side effects:

  1. Yes, you may feel tired with a runny nose and sneezes.
  2. Yes, your arm will feel a little sore

And, of course, let’s go over the contraindications:

  1. If you’ve had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past
  2. If you have an allergy to eggs or chicken feathers
  3. If you have some type of immunocompromised medical condition or are on medication that suppresses your immune system, please discuss getting the flu vaccine with your specialist
  4. If you are a cancer patient, please discuss getting the flu vaccine with your Oncologist

In February of 2020, my daughter began running a fever between 101-103. And that’s with tylenol/motrin. She described that her whole body was sore and she had trouble sitting and standing, let alone walking. She had a headache, runny nose, was sneezing, and her stomach was upset. She could drink water and Gatorade OK but she couldn’t hold anything else down. And all of this hit her suddenly, as soon as she woke up in the morning.

I did a quick exam at home and couldn’t find anything. While waiting for her appointment with her pediatrician later that day, I spent every 20-30 minutes keeping a cold towel on her forehead, alternating tylenol/motrin, alternating water and gatorade bottles, checking her temperature, and letting her sleep.

At her pediatrician’s office, she had tenderness over her kidneys (that she didn’t have when I examined her), tenderness all over her belly (that she didn’t have earlier that day), and she could barely stay awake on the exam table.

Strep test: Negative.

Flu test: Positive.

Urine sample: Abnormal. Her kidneys were strained, despite her hydration.

I remember sitting there listening to the pediatrician tell me that if she got ANY worse…in ANY way…to take her to the emergency department because of her kidneys and having the flu.

I felt like I did everything right for my child. I gave her the flu shot as soon as it was available. And when she got the flu, I gave her medicine, kept her hydrated, and called her pediatrician ASAP.

And yet, here I was, engulfed in a sensation of helplessness. A whirlwind of “what if things get worse” in my mind.

She’s my only child. The first grandchild on both sides of the family.

Then, as quickly as the flu came, it went. She was better by that evening and was fever-free by the next morning. Her back and stomach stopped hurting. And she was starving. I’m pretty sure she ate everything in the fridge and freezer by lunchtime.

And I gave all the glory, honor, and praise to God.

Because during flu season, everyone is susceptible.

I truly believe that my child would have suffered worse and would’ve made it in the hospital if I didn’t give her the flu shot as soon as it was available.

I am a proponent of the flu shot because, although it’s not perfect, it works.

And where does the flu shot come from? Eggs. And those eggs came from birds.

Thank you, God, for creating birds, which gives us eggs, which eventually gave us the influenza vaccine.

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Day 4: Circadian Rhythm

“I’m having trouble sleeping.”

“Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both?”

“Both. It takes me a long time to fall asleep and when I do, I’m up at about 2 or 3 a.m. So I probably only sleep 3 or 4 hours every night.”

This is a typical conversation that I have with my patients who suffer from sleep issues.

A circadian rhythm is basically a natural cycle of daytime, nighttime, sleep, and wakefulness. It’s like a built-in internal clock inside of all of us.

And when that rhythm is altered, whether it be due to stress, change in work schedule, excess caffeine, etc, we find ourselves in dire need of a restful night’s sleep.

If you have you trouble with sleep, I suggest cutting off all technology at least 2 hours before bedtime. Yep, no phones, television, iPads, laptops, etc.

Then, I suggest adding exercise early in the morning, which provides energy throughout the day but then provides a restful night’s sleep.

Additionally, reduce stress, try and maintain a regular work schedule, and eliminate all caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime.

Whew. That was a lot. But, there’s lots of research to show that those suggestions work.

If a patient fails on all of the above, then we add medication. Melatonin is a natural supplement that can be found over the counter and it is dosed from 1mg to 10mg at bedtime.

If that doesn’t work, then we move to prescription medication, which includes Temazepam or Ambien.

Then viola! Once we find the secret weapon for the patient, he/she returns feeling well rested and much better!

On day 4 of creation (please see my previous blogs on days 1-3), God created the sun, the moon, and the stars, signifying our days.

“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” Genesis 1:14-15 NIV.

He created time.

He created a Circadian Rhythm for us. So that we may have periods of wakefulness and periods of rest. So that when we wake in the morning, we have a fresh start.

My prayer for my patients with an interrupted Circadian Rhythm is that all the things of this world are removed. I pray that their focus goes back to the One who created time itself. I pray for restored physical health, mental health, and spiritual health.

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Day 3: Herbal Medicine

Mood swings, hot flashes, hair loss, and amenorrhea (no menstrual cycle) for more than a year.

Most people are aware of what women experience when they undergo menopause.

But the most agitating symptom that my patients complain about during menopause is hot flashes.

They describe sleepless nights of wrestling with covers, sheets, the fan, and the AC.

They come to me desperate for a treatment because it’s interfering with their daily lives and most often times, interfering with their marriages too.

My first offer is a natural remedy from the plant Actaea racemosa, also known as Black Cohosh. It comes in a pill form and can be found over the counter.

Once my patients start using this herbal remedy, they typically return thankful and well rested.

And for those who aren’t better on black cohosh, prescription medications are the next step.

So where does this leave us in modern medicine? In need. We need to do more research on plants. We need to do more research with bees and honey. We need more natural/herbal options.

Don’t get me wrong. I write a lot of prescriptions. All day, everyday. But I am also a believer in researching and using natural remedies.

In my previous two blogs, we discussed day 1 and day 2 of creation.

On day 3, God created land and vegetation.

He described how he separated land and sea and on the land, he allowed vegetation to sprout trees and plants.

“The land produced vegetation-all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruits.” -Genesis 1:12 NLT

And I believe that with God’s creation of vegetation, we have found some amazing contributions to medicine. And I believe that we can continue to find more amazing options.

God created the Earth and everything in it for us, his children, because he loves us.

He provided an Earth to sustain us.

If you or someone you know is going through menopausal hot flashes, consider black cohosh after speaking with your provider. God may have created the perfect plant for you.

Thank you, God, for the creation of land and vegetation.

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Day 2

My last blog discussed the creation of Day 1 in the book of Genesis.

Let’s take a look at Day 2:

Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. God called the space “sky”. An evening passed and morning came, marking the second day. -Genesis 1:6-8 NLT

That means that the earth was covered in water. From to to bottom, inside and out, left to right, it was covered in water. But because He had us in mind, He knew we’d need air to breathe. He planned ahead what his children would like like and what they’d need to survive.

Sometimes we think that God created the Earth and then decided to create humans. But maybe we should consider it differently. Maybe he created the Earth for us. He didn’t just add us as an afterthought. He actually put together an Earth, a universe, specifically to sustain us.

And that idea reinforces his love for us.

If you haven’t read my previous blog on the creation of Day 1, I encourage you to do so. Day 1 is the start of it all. It’s a new day. I discussed how Mondays can be difficult but that we should view Mondays differently now. We should view it with the creation of Day 1 in the book of Genesis in mind.

Let’s take Day 2, Tuesday if you will, as a day of remembering. Remembering that the air you breath was created on Day 2. The sky, the air, all created for your purpose. It was made for God’s plan for your life. So take a deep breath and hold it in for a few seconds. And praise God for today. Because He created it with you in mind.

He loves you.

Amen.

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Day 1

Monday.

Some of you may have squirmed at the sight of that. Some may have sighed. Others may have rolled their eyes.

Monday is typically denoted as the start of a new week. We typically think of it as the busiest day, the most stressful day, and the longest day of the week.

For me, Mondays can be filled with complex cases, angry patients, and a long night of closing charts and sending prescriptions.

Sometimes, a Monday may be filled with happy patients who want to discuss their fun weekend.

And if you’re like me, you may have a mental countdown until the end of your shift and wishing Friday would arrive faster.

At some point recently, I started reflecting on my frustrated Monday mornings and decided that I needed to change. I don’t have them too often but I felt like I was having them more often than usual.

Then, I started re-reading the Bible from the beginning. I opened it up to Genesis, Chapter 1 and reflected on this scripture:

I considered the creation of the first day and sat in awe.

Let’s pass the physical power it took to create day 1 and look at the deeper meaning.

God created light and then separated light and darkness. And I thought to myself, “Wow. He not only created light but he separated light and darkness. Thus, the creation of a day. I wonder how I could separate a patient’s light from dark. I wonder, if on a Monday, I could pull a patient from the depths of their diagnosis and show them the light of God. I wonder, God, if I could somehow be a reflection of your creation by reminding myself of the goodness you created on Day 1.”

And with that new mindset, of separating light and dark for patients, came a new attitude. A new level of energy. A whole new Monday. A new day 1.

2020 has felt like a year of Mondays.

2020 has been full of disappointment, hardships, frustration, and stress.

But I was reminded in the book of Genesis that God separated light and dark for a reason. Not just to give us days. But to give us a new day, everyday, where we can wake up and choose how we live, think, and act.

God gave us the opportunity to be a new person as each day passes. He gives us an opportunity to separate the light and dark inside of us.

I am often made fun of at work (with all the love in the world) for my optimism because I insist on good days, good afternoons, and a good next day.

But my optimism really stems from Genesis. It stems from our creator. It stems from the promise of God that He is in control and what He creates is good and good for us.

My challenge for you is to reflect on your most recent Mondays and decide on how you’d like them to be different, keeping Genesis in mind. If you could create a new day 1, a new Monday, what would it look like? How would you feel? How would you interact with those around you?

Let’s all reflect on our most recent Monday in prayer together:

“God, thank you for Day 1. Yes, thank you for each and every Monday. Remind us God that your creation of Day 1 was good and perfect. Remind us that, through you, we can be a new person as each new day passes and that we can turn to you for strength in order to do so. Let every day be day 1 for us and for those around us. Amen.”

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My Prayer For You

Hello everyone! I’ve slacked a little this past week on blogs but I’m back to it now, haha!

Over the past month, I have been reading a book called “Fervent” by Priscilla Shirer. It’s a book about fervent, passionate, heartfelt, powerful prayers. It’s a book about how the enemy, the devil, comes after you, your family, your career, your health, etc. And when he attacks, all you have to do is pray.

Since reading this book, I’ve been praying more. And my life has changed. Prior to this book, I already prayed daily. But now, I Pray. All. The. Time. Yes, all the time.

In traffic, I pray for safety.

At work, I pray for protection from COVID.

When talking with friends, I pray for their marriages. I pray for their kids. I pray…and they don’t even know it.

I’ve been praying for my daughter. My mom. My dad. My brother. My sister. My husband. His mother. His sister. His niece. Etc.

When I see a Facebook friend post a prayer request, I stop scrolling and lift them up in prayer.

About 2 years ago, my daughter asked me, “How do you pray?”

I told her, “You just find a quiet place and talk to God. You tell him what’s heavy on your heart. You thank Him for what he’s done so far. And you ask Him to help you. Did you know that you can’t pray incorrectly? Did you know that even if you use the wrong vocabulary word, you can’t pray incorrectly? As long as you speak from your heart, God is happy to hear from you. He wants to hear from you. About everything. About school. Your dinner. Trouble with homework. Help with piano lessons. He just wants you.”

As I looked at her, I saw her eyes widen and a smile spread across her face. Then it occurred to me that sometimes people don’t pray because they feel like they don’t know how. Or sometimes they ask people to pray for them because their situation is so challenging that they don’t feel strong enough to pray. Or sometimes their problem is so big that they need all the prayers they can get in order to access the unstoppable power from God.

I’m here to tell you, my friends, that I will pray for you.

And I encourage you to find other people to pray with you and/or for you as well. Because nothing…nothing…is more powerful than God. And when we pray to Him, we are accessing an unstoppable power.

So, right here, right now, let’s pray together. Let my words flow through you and with you. Let all of your unspoken requests come to life. Let your praise and thanksgiving reach the heavens and join with the angels. Let us pray.

God, you are mighty. You are powerful. You are all-knowing. God, we are praying for so many things in this world right now but let me start with thanking you for all that you have done for us. Thank you for this very moment. Thank you for the breath of life when so many have died this year from COVID, racial injustice, cancer, poor health, or accidentally. God, sometimes we don’t know how or what to pray. We just simply know that we need you. And when we can’t find the words, please place people in our lives to help us find the words or pray for us. God, we lift our hands right now, right here because we need you to reach down and give us the miracle of healing, peace, happiness, and justice. Amen.

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” -Proverbs 15:29

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” -Mark 11:24

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Prayer Works, Part 4

When patient’s are diagnosed with cancer, I often hear:

“I’m OK with it.”

“I’ve accepted it.”

“I’m going to fight this.”

“God will pull me through.”

In the middle of the fight, no matter if it’s going well or not, I often hear the following phrases:

“I’m tired but I’ll be ok.”

“The pain meds are working pretty well.”

“I’m eating pretty good.”

At the end of the cancer fight, when patients accept their inevitable death, I often hear:

“I’m here to say goodbye to you.”

“I’m tired of fighting and want to rest.”

“Thank you.”

If you read my last few blogs on prayers in medicine, I discussed survival and cancer recovery. Today, however, I’m going to address patients who die from cancer.

I can’t tell you why God allow some to live and some to die.

I can’t tell you why certain people get certain cancers. I can tell you risk factors for certain cancers but I can’t tell you why some people get cancers and others don’t.

But I can tell you that they are prayers during their cancer battle are answered.

When a patient has nausea and vomiting to the point where they can’t enjoy any meals, they pray for peace. And they are given it.

When a patient has severe pain that is difficult to manage, they pray for peace. And they are given it.

When a patient faces the possibility of death every single day, they pray for peace. And they are given it.

There is a supernatural level of peace that is given to people in their most desperate times of need. And I see it in all of my cancer patients.

It is a peace beyond my understanding. Beyond my comprehension. Beyond my own peace in life.

And it is a peace that can only come from Jesus.

These patients face life and death with an aura of confidence that there is more after their death. They face life and death with a living hope of a new body, a healed body, in the afterlife.

These patients, despite their internal physical war, have peace.

God answers prayers. He may not answer “yes” when you play the lottery but he’ll provide you with financial stability.

He may not answer “yes” right away when you pray for a spouse, but he’ll provide you with love and peace while you wait for that spouse.

And He may not answer “yes” when you want to survive cancer, but he’ll promise you peace during your fight, comfort during your depression, and eternal life in heaven after death.

God answers prayers. Even in medicine.

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Prayer Works, Part 2

The taste of liquid metal. Such an odd taste. Distinct. Strong. Almost tangy.

A fizzle in her nose. A small gush of water escaped her right nostril. Then came the tangy metallic taste in her mouth.

She hunched forward and cusped her hands below her nose to catch the waterfall of blood.

“No, it can’t be.” She pleaded aloud.

She jogged to the sink and saw the blood fall from her hands and into the bowl. Just a small red splatter. No much. But just enough to incite a level of fear that reached into her chest and slithered its way into her gut.

“No, no, no.”

The cold water from the sink was soothing against her face. Watching the blood fall into the drain was soothing. But her fear of cancer was not.

“God, please.” She pleaded at her reflection in the mirror.

“You know you have it. You read the demographics. A young, Asian female, with two lymph nodes on her neck presents with nosebleeds. What does she have? Oropharyngeal cancer.” She thought.

She massaged the two small lymph nodes, trying to squeeze them away.

“God, please. I don’t want to have cancer. I don’t care what the CT of my neck said. I need you to clear me. I need to go to this ENT appointment and be cleared. My family needs me.” She was on her knees.

Salt this time. She tasted the saltiness of her tears as she leaned her head against the cabinet and listened to the water run.

She spent two months on her knees.

She spent two months catching and cleaning nosebleeds.

She spent two months re-reading her CT scan results, warning her of a possible cancerous mass in her throat.

She spent two months in fear.

But she also spent two months in prayer.

When she had a nosebleed, she prayed.

When she felt another lymph node pop up, she prayed.

When she awake at 2am with nightmares of her wasting away from chemotherapy and radiation, she prayed.

When fear told her death was coming, she prayed.

Because it was all she had. Prayer.

And on the day of her ENT appointment, she prayed every second of every minute that she waited in the lobby.

When she was told to hold still while the camera entered her nose and traveled down her throat, she prayed.

And when the doc said, “You’re fine. There’s no mass or sign of anything cancerous”, she finally breathed.

Because her prayers were answered.

Then, the lymph nodes disappeared, the nosebleeds stopped, and she finally breathed.

And what did she do next? She prayed.

I am a Physician Assistant. I am a devout Christian.

This was my story of how strong, focused, and fervent prayers overcame my fear and the devil’s attack on my health.

Because even in medicine, prayer works.

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Prayer Works

“ Your diabetes is very uncontrolled.” I looked at this sweet elderly patient of mine.

“ I’m not worried about it. God‘s got me.” The patient smiled and looked me squarely in the eyes.

“ I agree that God has you but maybe He put me in your life to help with your medical needs.”

“And maybe He put me in your life to tell you that I will pray about this and in three months, my A1C will drop. I have faith.”

Yes, I am a devout Christian. Yes, I am a Physician Assistant.

And I doubted. I doubted because I know the typical diet of most North Carolinians and it’s not diabetic-friendly. I doubted because this particular A1C level put this patient’s life in danger. I doubted because I wanted to helpful by prescribing medication.

I simply doubted.

“OK, it’s been three months and you are due for bloodwork. Let’s get your A1C and see if your diabetes has gotten any better.” I shrugged my shoulders.

And for the first time in my career, this patient lifted their hands in the air, closed their eyes, and said, “God, you are the God who cures. I will not claim diabetes. I claim a cure instead.”

I froze. Sitting on my little cream colored stool, I simply froze. Astonished. Curious. Delighted.

One simple action. One simple reach towards the ceiling. A few simple words. And they knew the uncontrolled diabetes was no longer there.

One prayer. In my exam room. Without hesitation. Without boundaries. Without embarrassment. Simple, effective, devout faith.

And when I got their lab result the next day, there it was.

A controlled A1C.

Prayer works. I’ve seen it. This is only one small example. I have many others. And I’d like to spend the next few blogs proving it to you.

What do you need to pray about?

Who do you need to pray for?

Right here, right now, without hesitation, without boundaries, and without embarrassment. Lift your hands, close your eyes, and pray.

Because it works.

Let me pray for you today.

“ God, we have so many needs in this world today. We have people who are fighting for their lives. We have people who are fighting for their mental health. We have people who are fighting for their emotional lives and their relationships with other people. God, we have needs. But we are reminded that you are a God who supplies every need before we even knew that we needed them. And we are here today, to close our eyes, to lift our hands, and to reach to the heavens. Because we know, that you will reach down and meet us. God, we pray to thank you, we pray to ask things of you, and we pray so that the floodgates of blessings will rain down upon us. May every person who reads this blog be healed in anyway that is needed. Amen.”

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The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of COVID-19 testing.

When COVID-19 was claimed a pandemic in March of 2020, we were pretty strict about testing patients. Patients had to have specific symptoms and fit specific other criteria for us to even consider using a test.

Part of that is because we knew very little about the virus and its symptoms.

It was also because we were in very short supply of the actual test itself. I specifically remember receiving about 5 tests in March and were told to use them appropriately because we didn’t know when we were getting more.

5 tests! Could you imagine?!

Back in March, the patient had to have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, a cough, AND a sore throat before we would even consider a test. Then, we were only testing patients who were either older (greater than 60 years of age) or patients who had severe chronic conditions (COPD on oxygen, Heart Failure, etc). If you didn’t fit the age/chronic condition category, you didn’t get a test!

Side note: Don’t forget that I practice Family Medicine so my criteria for testing will always be different than someone in the hospital.

And here we are, 5 months later, with a much different picture.

Thankfully, the supply of covid tests appear infinite and for the last 3 months, we’ve been about to test whoever wants to be tested, no matter their age, symptoms, or past medical history.

And now, within the last 2 weeks, we have rapid testing, which means you get your result in 15 minutes instead of 3-10 business days! Wow!

So now, no matter your demographics, your symptoms, your past medical history, or your insurance, you can get a rapid covid test anytime that you want!

Think you’ve been exposed? Get a test!

Curious? Get a test!

Don’t feel well? Get a test!

Bored and need something to do? Get a test! Haha!

Who can get a test? Anyone!

What kind of test can you get? Either a send out test (that detects dead or live coronavirus) that takes 3-10 business days or a rapid test (that detects only live virus) that takes only 15 minutes to get a result.

When can you get the test? Anytime!

Where can you get the test? Anywhere!

Here in Fayetteville, NC my company (Goshen Medical, which has over 40 locations in the state of NC) offers both send out and rapid testing. There’s also an urgent care called NextCare (a large chain with multiple locations) also has rapid testing.

Our company will also coordinate with local churches in NC for covid-19 testing so check with your local church too!

Why should you get the test? For any reason that you can think of. Take care of an elderly family member? You should get tested. Think you had an exposure? Get tested. Feel sick? Get tested. Going back to school/work? Get tested.

You don’t have to take the covid-19 test. I’m just letting you know that you can!

As a family medicine PA, I will tell you that covid-19 test results always surprise me.

I’ve seen some people with ZERO symptoms come up positive. I’ve seen people with ALL of the symptoms come up negative. And I’ve seen people who are in between. Maybe they have some symptoms but it turns out they have strep throat. I’ve seen others with some symptoms and they end up with a “common cold” diagnosis when they leave my office. Some have nothing more than an ear ache and they end up positive.

In 5 months, we went from testing almost no one to testing everyone. Imagine where we’ll be in another 5 months? Maybe we’ll be administering the vaccine!

Keep the hope, not the fear.

Keep the positivity, not the fear.

And keep believing that Jesus is doing miraculous things behind the scenes.

Stay safe everyone and if you haven’t already, go get tested!

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“I’m so embarrassed!”

From head to toe, we’re going to discuss a few topics that my patients have felt are “embarrassing” to talk about.

Black Eye: A lot of people are embarrassed by this more so because of how they received the black eye and not actually because of the black eye itself. Sure, I’m going to ask what happened and as long as it didn’t occur from an abusive relationship, then I don’t really care how it happened.

Bar fight? OK. Took a hockey puck to the eye? Ha! OK. Your 2 year old slammed her head into your face while sitting on your lap? Been there, done that!

What’s most important about having a black eye is that you are evaluated ASAP! We need to check your visual acuity, check for signs of bleeding in your brain, check for changes in mental status, and follow-up closely during the healing process.

Bad Breath: Also known as halitosis, this can be quite embarrassing for a lot of people. And yes, please go to your dentist. But if your dentist says there’s nothing wrong, then come to me! You won’t believe this but your bad breath can be an indication of something called Helicobacter Pylori, a bacterial infection in your gut. It can also be a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Maybe you just need some antibiotics and/or a mouth wash? Who knows? But you won’t know for sure until you see your primary care provider!

Breasts: We typically don’t consider men having breasts but they can! And if you do, please see your primary care provider because you need some blood work drawn. You may even need a mammogram, chest x-ray, or breast ultrasound. Yep, you may need this workup as well like some women do because guess what? Men can get breast cancer!

Please, please, please, don’t be embarrassed! This is important! Let’s make sure you don’t have a brain tumor or breast cancer!

Belching and farting: I would say that the average number of burps per day is about 5-10 and the average number of farts is 10-20 per day. I had a surgical professor once tell us that men fart up to 30 times per day and women fart up to 15 times per day? Why the discrepancy? Because women didn’t want to report their full number of farts during the research project haha!

Here’s my deal on belching/farting: You should be doing it. If not, you need to be seen. If you are doing it but you’re worried about it being excessive, come see me. You may have an infection and/or you may need a colonoscopy. I’ve had patients belch and fart in exam rooms before and all I’ve done is chuckle and reassure them that it’s OK. Because it is. Everyone farts. Everyone belches. And everyone gets embarrassed about it.

Erectile Dysfunction: I’m proud of the men that discuss this with me. Why? Because it’s hard to talk about! But also because this requires fasting blood work and I find a lot of men with low testosterone, a male hormone, that can cause fatigue, depression, and erectile dysfunction when this hormone is too low. And when we replace their testosterone levels, they feel amazingly better! No more erectile dysfunction! They have more energy! They’re happier! Yes, this happens to men when they get older but it doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We have to investigate and treat it.

So, men, put your shame to the side and come in and see me about this.

Ugly toenails: Most women love pedicures! Nothing beats getting a good foot massage while sitting in a massage chair, drinking a coke, and leaving the building with some brightly colored toenails! So relaxing!

But if your toenails are too thick to cut with nail clippers, you need to come see me. If there’s been a change in color, you need to come see me. What if you’re diabetic? What if it’s a fungal infection? We should get these toes treated, especially in time to wear flip flops!

Really in truly, embarrassing topics in medicine are infinite but these were the first to pop into my head and they’re pretty common in family medicine.

When it comes to your health, don’t be embarrassed. Please seek proper care before things get worse.

When it comes to your mental health, don’t be embarrassed. We all struggle in life and we all could use some help once in a while.

And when it comes to your spiritual life, don’t be embarrassed to ask God for help. He already knows what you need before you ask for it. You just simply have to ask in order to receive.

My prayer for you today is that your feelings of embarrassment are replaced by feelings of comfort.

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A Symphony During A Pandemic

“Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. All these thoughts are shoutin’ me. Try to bring me to my knees. And it’s overwhelming. Darkness echoes all around. Feels like everything is crashing down.”

When I discovered a child abuse case a few years back, I found it hard to breathe. The x-ray was shouting at me. The sadness tried to bring me to my knees. It was overwhelming. The darkness of this evil act made me wonder if this child’s life was crashing down before him.

When I learned patients’ deaths due to COVID19, I found it hard to breathe. The thoughts of “what if” were screaming at me. I paused and considered their lives, almost bringing me to my knees. COVID19 has been overwhelming for all of us. It makes us feel surrounded by darkness, despite the hot, sunny, summer weather. And it can make us feel like the world is crashing down on us.

When horrendous acts of racism flood people’s minds, our streets, and our social media, George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.” Thoughts of hate were shouting at him. They brought him to his knees, then to his death. It was overwhelming for our black community and it was overwhelming to those in support of our neighbors of all colors. Peaceful protests turned into riots. Darkness echoed all around. The world seemed to be crashing down.

2020 has been an uphill battle that no one feels like their winning.

More and more patients are expressing their depression now than they ever have before. Patients who were already diagnosed with depression are now stating that their anti-depressants don’t work anymore. Patients who bottled up their emotions are now finding that their sadness is overflowing, overwhelming, and uncontrollable.

2020 has been a storm cloud that refuses to clear and move on to a new area.

“Still I know when my hope is found. And it’s only you. You say you’re working everyhing for my good and I believe every word. ‘Cause even in the madness, there is peace drownin’ out the voices all around me. Through all of this chaos you were writing a symphony.”

In medicine, there is hope that I can adjust their anti-depressants to help balance their chemical imbalance. There is hope that my patients will finally agree to counseling and they’ll express their emotions in a stable and productive environment. In medicine, there is hope for a vaccine for COVID-19. There is hope for a cure.

When I feel short of breath, I take a deep breath. When thoughts of COVID fill my mind, I choose to fall to my knees…and pray. When work is overwhelming, when racism fills our streets, when darkness echoes everywhere, I choose to fall to my knees…and pray.

Because as a Physician Assistant, there is hope in medicine and in God. So, despite the struggle, I look forward to a glimmer of hope that the vaccine will come. I look forward to a glimmer of hope that the worst of this virus is over. I have hope.

Because as a Christian, the madness that has flooded our lives is drowned out by God’s peace. There is the knowledge that God is writing a symphony during this chaos. There is knowledge that God is working everything out for our good.

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

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NIV

As we journey into the second half of 2020, I pray for peace.

I pray that the children who live in abusive households are rescued and given peace after their world came crashing down during quarantine and they were stuck at home. I pray for peace for the children who have struggled with hunger after their world came crashing down during quarantine and their free breakfast and lunches were halted. I pray for peace between warring spouses. I pray for peace for those suffering from mental illness, as their thoughts become more frantic, disorganized, and illogical as a result of this pandemic. I pray for those in sadness, as they remain in feelings of isolation.

I pray for you reading this blog. That you may realize that in your world of chaos, God is writing your symphony. Trust Him to write it and finish it.

As your Physician Assistant, I pray that you show your vulnerability and seek help for your medical conditions. That you are open and honest about the darkness surrounding you, whether mental or physical. That you seek help when things are crashing down.

As we journey into the second half of 2020, let us be reminded who is in control and who is writing a symphony during this chaos.

The words that I quote above are from a song called “Symphony”. Listen to the song below and let it soak into your heart and mind, bringing you closer to God, and away from the madness of 2020.

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The Promises of Medicine

Part of practicing family medicine is providing patient education. I have to be able to explain diagnoses and treatments and answer patient questions.

A great example is when I diagnose overactive or under-active thyroid disorders (hyper or hypothyroidism).

“Will I have to take this medication forever?” I’m often asked.

“Yes.”

“Will the medication work?” Is a common question for all treatments, especially thyroid.

“It should. But I’ll need you to come back in about a month to repeat your blood work so I can make sure it’s working. If not, I’ll have to adjust the dose. Then, you’ll come back in another month for more blood work. Sometimes, it works perfectly fine from the start. Sometimes, I have to adjust the dose a few times before it works for the patient.”

This usually gives the patient hope that they’ll start feeling better, with a slight uncertainty as to when this may start.

The same goes for finding a diagnosis.

When patients present with chest pain, I have to order a chest x-ray (among other things) to figure out what’s going on.

I can promise that I’ll try and find the answer but I can’t promise what the answer will be.

And what do I do for a bad diagnosis?

How do I look the patient in the eye and tell them they have a lung mass that is cancerous?

I tell them the diagnosis and tell them that I’m referring them to Pulmonology and Oncology.

“And what are they going to do?” Sometimes this is asked while holding back tears. Sometimes with anger.

“They’re going to stage the cancer and come up with a plan to fight the cancer.”

And that usually brings silence.

Because I can promise to come up with a plan and send them to the right people but I can’t promise them a good outcome.

As medical providers, we are trusted by our patients to figure out what’s going on, treat the problem, and make them feel better. There’s an unwritten expectation of these things from our patients and from society.

And sometimes we don’t meet those expectations.

Sometimes medicine throws us a curveball and we strike out. Instead of hitting a home run, I have to go back to the dugout without anything to show for it.

Then, my patients are left with uncertainty. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Sadness.

Then, I throw a curveball back at my patients.

“Can I pray for you?”

Some a very appreciate of this.

Some with nod their heads.

And some are angry at the notion of this idea.

I pray for them anyway. Why? Because God is a God of promises.

Despite the lung cancer, God is a God of promises.

I can’t promise the outcome of your cancer but God can promise to be present during the battle.

I can’t promise how your body will feel on chemo and radiation, but God can promise a peace beyond understanding.

I can’t promise…anything. But God can.

He promised it in Deuteronomy 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.”

He promised it in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He promised it in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

He promised Abraham a son after his wife was already passed the age of fertility. And he further promised Abraham to be father of all nations.

From the beginning to the end of the bible, God makes promises for His people. And he never went back on these promises.

Noah was told to build an ark. And he was told there would be a great flood coming. And when the flood came, the bible says in Genesis 8:1:

“God didn’t forget about Noah and all the animals in the boat!”

He made a promise and He didn’t forget.

Because God is a God of promises.

In my profession, I make some promises. But most of the time, I can’t. I promise not to do any harm. But I can’t promise that your health won’t take a turn for the worst.

But in my faith, I can make all the promises of God.

I can promise God is real. He is with us. He loves you. He’s here for you. And he’ll never forsake you.

So the next time your family doc can’t make promises, simply turn to the one who can. And he’ll come through with his promises for your life, your future, and for your generations to come.

Don’t rely on the promises of medicine. Rely on the promises of the God of the universe.

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Why Family Medicine

I’m Kristina Polley, a Physician Assistant that practices Family Medicine.

I’m referred by most of my patients as their “family doc”.

Typically, that means that I take care of their high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, weight issues, high cholesterol, anxiety, depression, and a few other chronic conditions.

I’m the one they see for their sinus infections, twisted ankle, strep throat, or other quick and easy issues that may arise.

I may never come up with a new cure, perform a life-saving surgery, or view a skin cancer under a microscope.

But I will be the one that remembers all of your children.

I will be the one that prays for you when you have an upcoming job interview.

I will be the one that finds your breast cancer, refers you to the specialist for treatment, and then follows you monthly, asking about your appetite, checking your weight, celebrating your victory after each radiation treatment, and holding your hand when you cry from exhaustion, frustration, and fear.

I’m your “family doc” because my patients feel like family.

My heart hurts when their spouse dies.

My heart rejoices when you diabetes is under good control and you’re able to continue your job as a truck driver again.

My heart is with each of my patients in the exam room.

I chose Family Medicine because I want to be there for my “family” during their ups and downs.

I chose Family Medicine because I want to be their backbone when their health is in chaos.

I chose Family Medicine because it first chose me when I was a PA student. The stories of my patients, their passions, their opinions, questions, concerns, and joys grasped at my heart and soul and never let go.

I chose Family Medicine because it chose me.

I’m an introverted person, which means I don’t care for the spot light. As a Christian, my entire goal in life is to turn the spot light on Christ and to turn people towards this spot light as well.

When I grieve with my patients, it’s because I want them to know I’m there for them. But most importantly, I want them to know that God is there for them.

I want them to know that when I pray for answers for my patients, the answers are found because God is there for them. I’m merely the instrument.

I want them to know that when they hit their head and possibly break their wrist, I ask about what happened and who was involved because I want them to know that their trauma is unacceptable and that our God loves them and will answer their prayers to help them through this difficult time.

I work in Family Medicine in service of others.

I don’t want to be famous. I want God and his son Jesus to be famous.

Jesus is famous for bringing people back to life, walking on water, healing the sick, forgiving an adulteress, and ultimately dying on a cross to save us all.

I don’t want the spot light because I don’t deserve it. All of my training, my experience, and my work as a PA is only possibly through the mercy and grace of God when he answers my prayers for patients.

There is a song by Tauren Wells that’s called “Famous For (I believe)”. The words to this song are utterly amazing. He is asking for the power, strength, and love of God to come to us.

Because that’s what He is famous for.

Here are the lyrics to my favorite part of the song:

“Make way through the waters. Walk me through the fire. Do what you are famous for. What you are famous for. Shut the mouths of lions. Bring dry bones to life and do what you are famous for. What you are famous for. I believe in you. God, I believe in you.”

I chose family medicine to avoid the spotlight and give it to the one who deserves it.

What do you need our famous God to do for you today?

Say it out loud. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. Just say it out loud and pray for God to resolve it for you.

Do you have a sick family member?

Do you struggle with addiction?

Are your children acting out against you?

Is your marriage falling apart?

Are you in desperate need of a pay raise?

Close your eyes. Lift your hands up to the heavens. And ask God to do what he is famous for.

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The Armor of God

Right when we thought we could open up movie theaters and gyms, we took a few steps backwards and ended up stuck in Phase 2 in North Carolina, with a mandate to wear masks in public.

At work, I’m still seeing patients outdoors, either in their cars or on our front porch.

I drape the white gown over me, tying it at my neck and my waist.

I squeeze on gloves, which overlap the gown at my wrists.

I snugly fit the N95 mask over my face.

I lower the plastic shield onto my forehead, with just enough distance to cover my face over the N95.

Then comes the hair net and shoe covers.

I check my equipment.

Stethoscope. Check.

Otoscope with ear piece. Check.

Notepad and pen for my nurse. Check.

Thermometer. Check.

Blood pressure cuff. Check.

Coronavirus test and swab. Double check.

I’m ready. I have my armor, my shield, and my weapon (the covid test).

I take a deep breath in and out, then walk outside in 95 degree summer weather towards the car with the sick patient.

I ignore my sweat mustache, the sweat burning my eyes, the heat around my body, the irritation of the elastic bands and ties around my body, and focus on the patient.

I take an in-depth history of what’s going on with them, perform a physical exam, perform the covid test, come up with a plan with the patient, then carry all of my equipment back inside.

Once inside, I place the test in the freezer and very carefully de-gown and place all of my armor in the biohazard container. Then I wash my hands up to my elbows and I wash my face too.

And sometimes, this occurs a dozen times a day.

When I become tired and frustrated from this process, I remind myself that my patient must feel more uncomfortable then me at this point and time. Then, I’m thankful that I’m the one testing instead of the one being tested.

I remind myself that I’m putting on full armor to protect myself from our current war with COVID19 and that I am at the front lines of this war for my patients.

These reminders then raise an internal strength and compassion within me, continuing forward for the good of my patients.

My pastor reminded me that we put on armor everyday. COVID19 isn’t the only war we’re facing right now.

My patients and I may be facing the COVID19 war but maybe our families are fighting a war on anxiety about our safety from day to day.

Maybe someone is fighting a financial war because they haven’t been to work since the pandemic started.

Maybe someone is fighting a marital war because of unmet expectations during quarantine.

Maybe someone is fighting a war on infertility, addiction, parenting, isolation, and/or depression.

We can wear physical armor to protect us but what about the internal wars that we can’t see, only feel?

The book of Ephesians answers this for us.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-16 NIV

Put on truth, readiness, faith, salvation, and the holy spirit.

In other words, take God’s word, strength, power, grace, and love and wear it like armor so that when your external and internal wars begin, you are covered from head to toe.

When I put on my gear, I’m putting on the truth of medicine, the readiness to help my patients, the faith that God will protect me and help me, the salvation of God that will save me from all infection, and the holy spirit to guide me with my decision making.

From head to toe, I am covered.

No matter how you feel at this very moment of reading this blog, I want you to literally stand up and imagine putting on armor, piece by piece. I want you to imagine that you’re facing your current war head on. But this time, your armor is anointed with God’s power. This time, your war will be won because the One who is with you already claimed the victory.

Right now, as a medical provider, my war is COVID19 and everyday, I pray for protection and for the ability to help my patients.

Right now, as a Christian, my war is the internal anxiety, stress, and exhaustion due to the pandemic. Everyday, I pray for rest at night so that I can be ready for tomorrow.

Put on your armor. Face your war. Hold the sword of the spirit in hand and in your heart. And let God give you victory.

Friends, I pray that you feel God’s power after reading this blog. I pray that you find confidence in knowing that God will fight your battles for you. And I pray that you feel strengthened and renewed when wearing the armor of God. Because, my friends, you are covered from head to toe by something mightier and holier than anything in this universe. You are covered by God, the almighty.

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Forgiveness

“That was a great mock interview!”

I smiled and held back a childish squeal of excitement.

“But you’ll never make it to medical school.”

“What?” My smile slowly curled downwards.

“You’ll never make it. You’re not good enough. You’re only a B student and there’s nothing on your current college transcript that says you should be a doctor. I think it’s a waste of your time and effort to even apply to these schools. Honestly, you should apply for research jobs, sit in the corner of a laboratory, do some research on bugs or whatever, and not expect to ever make it. Go ahead and give up now and forget your dream of becoming a doctor.”

At the ripe age of 21, it crippled me. I remember running out of that conference room and somehow making it back to my on-campus apartment.

Dr. King, the pre-medical department head of Stetson University, told me that I wasn’t good enough.

I forgive you, Dr. King.

When a patient hand wrote a thank you card stating that I found her breast cancer when no one else did, I forgave you.

When a patient in a financial hardship made a $25 donation to our local hospital as a thank you to me for all of my hard work in our community, I forgave you.

When a patient thanked me for preventing the amputation of his toe, I forgave you.

For. every. single. patient. I. helped. I. forgave. you.

For every single person in my life who has supported me from the start of my medical journey, I can not thank you enough. I’d like to make a list of all of these wonderful people but the list is too long and each person would deserve a blog of their own (Wow! Maybe that’ll be my next blog series? Thank you letters!).

For every single person that doubted, disagreed, dismissed, disliked, hesitated, despised, or disbelieved, I thank you too. But most importantly, I forgive you.

Forgiveness is good for the soul and important in moving forward in life. It provides a peace and an understanding to the person forgiving others.

But most importantly, it is biblical teaching.

A disciple asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone and the answer is brilliant.

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18: 21-22 KJV

Forgive over and over again. Forgive so that you can let go and move on. Forgive so that you can focus on the plans Jesus has for you.

Jesus also told a parable of a man who was forgiven a large debt but then refused to forgive someone else who owed him a small amount of money. See the rest of Matthew 18.

Forgive over and over again. Because you’ve also been forgiven in the past too. Forgive others as you’ve been forgiven.

Christians accept that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead 3 days later to overcome death and provide an eternal life in heaven for us.

But let’s change the wording a bit.

Jesus died on the cross because he forgave us. He forgave us for all of the things we’ve done in the past and will forgive us for all of the things we may do in the future.

He prepares a room for us in heaven because we are already forgiven for every mistake in this world.

Jesus forgave Judas, who betrayed him.

Jesus forgave the ones who slashed his back with a whip.

Jesus forgave the ones who placed a crown of thorns on his head.

Jesus forgave the ones who impaled nails into his hands and feet.

Jesus forgave the one who stabbed him in the ribs while he bled out on the cross.

Jesus forgave and forgives.

Forgive others. Don’t forget. Just simply forgive.

Let me pray for you. God, please help us to forgive. Help us to remember that Jesus forgives all and we should forgive others as well. But also God, remind us that forgiveness allows us to move forward and to let go of the anger, frustration, resentment, and depression that the hurt may have caused us. Remind us that when we forgive and let go, we move closer to you and your plan for us. Please forgive us as well. Forgive us of every bad word, thought, and action that was not Christ-like in the past and anything that we may do in the future. Thank you for being a God that promises forgiveness, no matter what. It is in your name we pray, Amen.

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Algorithms

I LOVE algorithms!

When presented with a symptom from a patient, I will always use an algorithm to figure out what’s going on in order to properly treat the symptom.

For example, I get a lot of complaints from patients about chronic headaches. So, I use a series of questions in order to go down my mental algorithm to figure out what type of headache their having, how severe the headache is, and how to properly treat their headache.

Is it unilateral or bilateral? Does the patient have sensitivity to light and sound? Does it throb or feel like a band around their head? How long does it last? Has there been any trauma in the past? Any sinus congestion, runny nose, eye pain, or nausea and vomiting?

In general, this table demonstrates types of headaches based on the questions above:

Once the type of headache has been diagnosed, then we use another algorithm to treat that specific type of headache and it’s severity.

And you can use algorithms for just about any medical topic. I often use it to start blood pressure treatments and diabetic treatments.

Fun, right? Or is it just me? Haha!

But there’s one algorithm that is the most important to discuss, the simplest to answer, but the most difficult for some people to follow.

I’m often asked, “How do I get into heaven?”

And I very simply answer, “You have to believe in God and that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to come to Earth, be crucified and die for us, and rise from the dead 3 days later.”

Sometimes, I get “Oh.” as a response.

Sometimes, I get more questions.

“But what if I’m a good person and do good things for people? What if I believe in God but I don’t believe in Jesus? What if I believe in God and Jesus but I have trouble with his death and resurrection?”

Then, I go back to the very simply algorithm of how to get into heaven.

If you believe in God, Jesus, and what Jesus did for us over 2000 years ago, then you get into heaven.

If you don’t believe these things, then the alternative is hell.

Let me be clear: I AM NOT CONDEMNING ANYONE and I WILL NEVER CONDEMN anyone. That is not my place.

But believe it or not, I am asked this question a lot and believe it or not, I use this very simple mental algorithm to answer it.

It’s a simple answer that requires a deep understanding and a very deep level of faith.

How, as a medical provider, can I answer this question with such certainty, such confidence, and with such love towards my friends/family/acquaintances/co-workers/patients/etc?

Because the bible answers that question for me and all I do is answer it using an algorithm.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 4:16 NIV

I answer because I LOVE those around me and I want them to know Jesus. I want them to know they’re loved deeper and more faithfully by a savior whose love is so pure and forgiving, that He came to Earth to be a sacrifice for us all. Once he made that ultimate sacrifice, he rose from the dead to show that death is not the end for those who believe in Him. That through Him, we are given an eternal life in heaven.

In medicine, we take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”.

As a Christian, if I don’t share the love and sacrifice of Christ, I am doing harm to those around me. If I don’t answer that question in accordance with biblical scripture, I am doing harm.

My goal for today’s blog is this: Know what the bible says about Jesus Christ and what He did for us. Then, believe it in your heart that there’s more to this life than simple medical algorithms that maintain your physical body here on earth. Believe that there’s a spiritual algorithm, a path if you will, to an eternal life in heaven.

Let me pray with you about this topic.

God, let my words show my love for you. Let my words shine Christ’s love for us and let my words demonstrate love, not condemnation. Let my words show hope of eternal life after our death on this Earth. Let my decisions as a medical provider follow the right algorithm. And let my decisions as a Christian show the right algorithm to those who may not know you. I pray that whoever reads this blog takes it to heart, that their faith may be deepened and brought closer to you. I pray that any uncertainty about you in the past finds a firm foundation in you and that they seek you more now than ever before. Amen.

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Time is Elusive

As a Physician Assistant, I find myself reminding patients that healing take time. And I also find myself asking patients to give me time to figure things out.

A sprained ankle or wrist can take 6-8 weeks before it feels back to 100%. Sometimes longer. Sometimes shorter.

I remind patients that neck pain from whiplash during a car accident takes time as well.

I prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and specific exercises/stretches for the patient to complete at home. Sometimes, I have to refer them to Physical Therapy depending on the amount of trauma.

And when I’m trying to find a new diagnosis, such as Helicobacter Pylori infection, Hyperthyroidism, Celiac Disease, or even Diabetes, I simply need time. I need to time to order labs, the patient has to come in fasting (sometimes) to have labs drawn, and then I have to wait for the results. Once the results come in, not only do I have to come up with a diagnosis but I have to come up with a treatment plan as well.

In medicine, we simply need time.

But time is elusive.

Patients report having a colonoscopy about 2 years ago when it was actually 5.

Patients report being out of prescriptions for 2 months when it’s only been 3 weeks.

Time is elusive.

I often think about God’s timeline for us.

I’m a very Point A to Point B type of person. I expect that when “A” is finished, “B” will follow. I follow algorithms in medicine to come up with diagnoses and treatment plans, because algorithms give me a path to follow and sometimes a timeline as well.

But what happens when we’re on path A and path B is nowhere to be found?

What happens when you were headed towards path A but landed on path C, and now you’re trying to work your way back to your starting point?

As a medical provider, I have learned over the years that a lot of things are out of my control. I wait patiently for thyroid biopsies to see if their nodule is actually cancer. I wait for a patient’s follow-up appointment with me so I can be updated about their successful, and sometimes not successful, chemotherapy sessions.

I wait. A lot.

As a Christian, I have learned to wait. I just wait a little differently. My wait time is accompanied with prayer.

When waiting for something important, we tend to become anxious, worried, or even depressed. We want our medical results now. We want to feel better now.

And I’ve learned that we want things now because we don’t know how to cope with the period in between.

So, what do you do when you’re on path A and path B is nowhere in sight?

Pray.

What do you do when you’re on path A but end up on path C and are trying to work backwards to path A?

Pray.

While you wait, pray. And when the wait gets longer, pray some more.

Yes, I know it’s easier said then done.

But if we, as Christians, believe that Jesus provides peace beyond understanding, then in times of uncertainty and waiting, wouldn’t we ask Jesus for peace and serenity?

But if we, as Christians, believe that Jesus spent 33 years on Earth before being crucified and resurrected, can’t we understand that sometimes God’s timeline may be longer (or even shorter) than we anticipated?

And if we, as Christians, believe that God was here at the beginning of creation, is here with us now, and will be here when our world comes to an end, then wouldn’t we trust that our prayerful waiting is all part of His plan?

Sometimes, when we’re forced to wait, we’re forced to remember these things. Because time is elusive and escapes our grasps easily. Sometimes we forget to stop and smell the roses. Sometimes we forget to slow down in life and absorb everything that’s around us.

Sometimes we forget about our God, who has perfect timing.

The next time you have to wait on a cancer biopsy, a diabetes diagnosis, a healing wound, or anything else, remember our God who is perfect in his power, love, and timing.

Together, let’s wait and pray: God heavenly father, sometimes we want to rush things. We can be impatient, anxious, and depressed, especially when it comes to our health. But God, today we are reminded that Jesus spent 33 years on Earth before being crucified and we know that you chose 33 years for a reason. We are also reminded that Lazarus was resurrected from death instead of healed before death. That was your timeline. Everything that happens, no matter how long or how short, is in accordance with your timeline. And today, we are reminded that your timeline is perfect. Please give us peace during this pandemic as we wait for the end and please give us peace when we’re waiting for answers. Amen.

As your neighborhood friendly PA, remember that medicine takes time.

As your neighborhood friendly online Christian blogger, remember that medicine takes time. Pray while you wait and know that God is in control.

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Chronic Pain and Healing

Pain. It’s a very common complaint that I hear from patients multiple times per day.

Sometimes it’s very specific pain, such as lower back pain, right shoulder pain, knee pain, etc. This type of pain usually directly correlates to arthritis or a fracture.

But sometimes, it’s pain “everywhere”. They feel it in all of their joints and throughout their whole body. As a medical provider, where do I begin?

Bloodwork. My favorite thing to order. Why? Because it’s definitive. It’s tangible. It gives answers. And if it doesn’t give a direct answer, it narrows down the possibilities.

I’ve had patients crying in exam rooms from their pain that no one seems to figure out. They’re prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, nerve pain medications, and even hydrocodone at various doctor’s offices but nothing has seemed to work thus far.

As my patients cry in the exam room, I patiently listen to their stories. They feel so defeated. Helpless. Sometimes they feel like they’re going crazy.

So I order bloodwork.

CBC w/differential (looking for infection)

TSH, T4, T3 (thyroid studies)

Lupus Panel, ANA

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sedimentation Rate, C-Reactive Protein (looking for an autoimmune arthritis vs possible osteoarthritis)

Uric Acid (looking for gout)

Vitamin D

I have found Rheumatoid Arthritis in older patients who have spent their whole lives simply dealing with their pain, which would then later become debilitating.

I have found gout in many patients and once they started medication and stopped their intake of red meat and alcohol, they feel much better.

I have also found Vitamin D deficiency. Yep. Vitamin D deficiency. A low Vitamin D can cause very deep, aching pain in all the joints of the body. It can also cause severe fatigue and depression. And low levels in women can put them at risk for Osteoporosis in life because Vitamin D is directly correlated with Calcium, which is important for bone strength.

Once these patients are given an answer to their life-long pain, they are filled with so much joy and hope! So much joy that sometimes they cry, shout, and/or thank me numerous times.

They begin to feel like they’re getting their lives back when the prescribed medications start to help. They can walk in the park again, play with their kids outside, or even get back into their old exercise hobbies.

And improving their quality of life is why I went into medicine. Medical providers understand that we can’t cheat death. We just simply want to provide a healthy, high quality of life for our patients.

Jesus is a healer.

A woman who bled for 12 years came up behind Jesus just to touch the edge of his cloak. Why? Because she knew that he was a healer and that touching a very small piece of his cloak held enough power to heal her whole body. See Matthew 9:20-22

A centurion believed that his servant would be healed simply by Jesus speaking about his healing. This man’s faith in Jesus as a healer was so great that he told Jesus that going to the servant, seeing the servant, and touching the servant was not necessary. That if Jesus would simply speak about his healing, then he would be healed. See Matthew 8:5-13

Wow. Just wow.

As your neighborhood friendly online PA, I’m telling you to go to the doctor for your pain. Don’t deal with it. You deserve better. You deserve a good quality of life that allows you to spend time with your family and enjoy the things around you.

As your neighborhood friendly online Christian blogger, pray to Jesus for the healing of your physical pain. Close your eyes and imagine reaching for the edge of his cloak…for a simply grasp of linen in between your fingertips. Then imagine Jesus claiming healing over your body.

Jesus told the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”

Believe that there is a medical answer to your pain. And believe that there is a healer who can overcome it for you.

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Skin Deep

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion.

“I’ve gained so much weight and I haven’t been taking my medicine these past three months.” My patient said.

“Ma’am. You NEVER have to apologize to me for your health.”

It was her turn to scrunch her eyebrows.

“You just lost your daughter to cancer. The fact that you woke up, got dressed, and came to this appointment today is a victory. I could care less about the weight gain and if you’re taking your medicine. I’m just happy that you’re here.”

She didn’t make eye contact but she nodded her head.

I reached for her hand and gave it a quick squeeze. We sat in silence for a few minutes before deciding to end the office visit and follow-up in one month.

There’s a thing called “The People of Walmart” and you typically see very funny photos of people at Wal-Mart in some…awkward…situations…like seeing a bright orange thong through white shorts. And yes, I’m guilty for seeing those photos and laughing as well.

But what if that morbidly obese person you’re judging for eating some french fries struggles with hypothyroidism? A disease that causes fatigue, constipation, weight gain, and joint pain?

What if that super skinny woman you’re judging for drinking a diet soda is unable to eat due to breast cancer?

I’ve had a lot of patients apologize to me for their health. Yep, apologize.

They apologize that they can’t quit smoking but then are relieved that I’m willing to prescribe them Chantix.

Some apologize for their uncontrolled diabetes because they decided to travel back home and eat at numerous family BBQs because they didn’t know if their mother would make it to see Christmas.

And some even apologize because they could only afford to pay $1 for their visit today when they normally pay their $35 copay.

And I always say the same thing.

“It’s OK. I understand. Don’t worry about it. Let’s get back on track with reducing sodas, sweet tea, and eating out.”

Or, “It’s OK. I understand. The coronavirus has caused a lot of people to lose their jobs. I appreciate that you’re here and that you paid a dollar.”

Why?

Because even though I own a white coat, I haven’t always owned one.

Even though I drive a nice SUV, doesn’t mean I’ve always owned a car. I’m thankful that I was able to drive my brother’s car in PA school.

Patients want a medical provider that is sympathetic. But I really think that what they want is a medical provider who is non-judgemental. I find that most of my patients don’t expect me to sympathize with their feelings. But they do expect me to listen and not judge their feelings about their health.

So when I see an obese patient with back pain, I don’t shun them away and tell them to simply lose weight. I give them other options. How about an x-ray? You’d be surprised that the patient is suffering from osteoporosis. How about physical therapy? You’d be surprised that patients want to move better, they just need to be shown how to do it safely and properly. Or how about a free gym membership based on your medical need? Most of my patients want to exercise but can’t afford the gym.

One of my favorite scriptures in the bible is from Matthew 7:3-5.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye’, when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” NLT

It’s easy to point fingers at people but you have to remember to look at yourself as well.

Let’s look at some of the disciples of Jesus. They were judged as well.

Matthew, who I quoted from just now, was a terrible tax collector.

Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, was a disciple.

Paul killed Christians before becoming a disciple.

And Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ until he saw it with his own eyes.

But Jesus SAW beneath the surface of his disciples. He saw their worth.

Jesus stopped a woman from being stoned due to adultery. He knew she was guilty. But he stopped the stoning by choosing some very specific words:

“‘Teacher’, they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ […] Jesus stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!'” NLT

And the crowd dropped their stones and walked away.

Jesus, who knew NO SIN, never even picked up a stone. Jesus, the one allowed to cast the final judgement at the end of the world, NEVER PICKED UP a stone.

He basically told them that they can’t point out the speck in her eye when they have logs in their own eyes!

He commands us to love one another. And by that love, we are commanded not to judge one another either.

With all of the chaos going on in the world right now, let’s stop finding specks in people’s eyes. Instead, let’s embrace each other for who we are: Imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, making imperfect decisions, but loved and forgiven by a perfect God.

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Up In Flames

Too often, my patients say, “I feel like everything is falling apart.”

It usually starts with a discussion on their health.

Diabetes can cause fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain, and just an overall description of “not myself”.

Thyroid disorders can cause weight fluctuations, constipation/diarrhea, depression/anxiety, heart racing, fatigue, and another overall description of “not myself”.

Chronic pain falls into the same category as well. Patients don’t feel like their normal selves.

And when your body feels unwell, your mental health is affected as well.

In 2019, I felt like everything was falling apart.

It started with a change in my right breast. A very subtle change that lead to a mammogram.

That abnormal mammogram led to a breast ultrasound.

And the result was described as a suspicious but probably benign lesion at the 2 o’clock position of my right breast.

That meant that I had to wait 6 months to see what would happen.

In the medical field, that pretty much meant two things: It would either stay the same and I’d repeat imaging about every year. Or, it would grow in size and I would need a breast biopsy to rule out cancer.

I had 6 months to wait and see what would happen with my health.

I felt anxious. Worried. Angry.

But after the initial concern began to plateau, I remembered that God was in control. I prayed and handed it all over to God. Then, peace came. For a short while at least.

Then, a lymph node showed up on the right side of my neck.

Followed by a CT scan of my head/neck.

Followed by another lymph node sitting right next to the other one.

The CT scan basically said there was a possible mass in my nasopharynx and a specialist consult was needed to rule out cancer.

In the span of 3 months, I had 3 radiographic images that basically said I could have two types of cancer.

I prayed, prayed, and prayed. I told God that my daughter was only 9 years old and she needed me. I told God that my husband wasn’t ready for me to have cancer. I told God everything that was weighing on my chest.

Then, I found peace. At least for a short while.

I spent many nights crying, praying, wondering how much time I had left on Earth. My breast hurt. Nosebleeds started. I was tired beyond belief. I spent most of my restless nights reading scripture, holding all of God’s promises close to my heart.

And then I simply had to wait. I had to wait for my repeat mammogram and ultrasound. And I had to wait for my appointment with the ENT specialist for a scope down my nasopharynx.

I spent everyday praying. Multiple times per day even. Through every nosebleed, every sleepless night, and every episode of breast pain, I prayed.

I felt like everything was falling apart. I didn’t feel quite like myself.

And when my world was in flames, I remembered Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. Three Jewish men who refused to worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.

They were tied up and thrown into a fire. This fire was so hot that the guards who threw the three of them inside actually burned up themselves because they got too close to it.

But there was someone else in that fire.

That someone kept them safe and prevented the flames from touching the three men.

Through their faith, the flames could not touch them. Through their faith, they survived the burning world around them.

During this time, I reminded myself of a God who was in the fire with Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego.

I prayed over and over again that I knew his power could heal me. I prayed over and over again that I knew his grace would spare me. And I prayed over and over again that his plans for me were plans of a hope and a future, not to harm me in anyway.

Then peace came. This time permanently.

I sank into the seat behind me when the radiologist looked and me and said, “It’s gone. I don’t know how but this never happens. The mass in your breast. It’s gone. It’s like it was never there in the first place.”

But I knew how. It was the one who was in the fire with me.

Then I sighed a big sigh of relief when the ENT put a scope down my nose and into the back of my throat and said, “There’s nothing there. The CT is wrong. I looked everywhere and there’s nothing there.”

Then, the nosebleeds stopped and the lymp nodes disappeared within a week later.

Just.Like.That.

2019 was when I was surrounded in flames.

Like the three men sentenced to a burning death by King Nebuchadnezzar, they were not alone in the fire. And neither was I.

When your health is up in flames, you’re not alone. When your marriage is on fire, you’re not alone. When everything around you is in smoke, remember that you are not alone.

There is someone else in the fire with you.

Take the time to listen to this song. Let it flow through you. Open you heart and mind to the knowledge that God is with you, holding back the flames.

Then, after the song, open up your bible and read Chapter 3 in the book of Daniel.

If you’re in need of free counseling services while your world is in flames, please visit https://www.donscounselingservices.com/

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More than Pain

If you ask medical providers their least favorite topic, I would hypothesize that it’s probably pain. It’s not because we don’t want to take the time to do a thorough physical exam, order x-rays, order bloodwork, or prescribe medication. It’s because we’re a bit frustrated with the opioid pandemic.

In actuality, we enjoy trying to figure out where the pain is coming from. We just don’t like being asked for controlled substances, like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Morphine, etc.

When a patient complains of “all over pain”, I enjoy trying to figure it out. I typically discover that patients go a long time without knowing that they have gout (a buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream that affects joints, mostly the big toes), Rheumatoid Arthritis (different than “old age arthritis”), or even low Vitamin D (yep, that can cause joint pain). And once I diagnose them and start treatment, they feel so much better!

Thank God for modern medicine!

And sometimes, I catch something unexpected, like a fracture in the spine! Wow! Yes, I’m a bit of a geek but that’s what makes me a good PA haha!

And sometimes, it’s not physical. Sometimes it’s more than just pain.

I truly enjoy the book of Ruth in the bible. Naomi lost her husband and her sons suddenly and unexpectedly. During that time period, she was basically left with nothing.

She was so distraught that she even changed her name to Mara, which means “Bitter”.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Ruth 1:20 NIV

She was depressed.

Jesus even wept. He, being God in the flesh, wept. He felt the same emotions that we feel as human beings.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 NIV in regards to the death of Lazarus.

Jesus was also distraught in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he was betrayed. He tells his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Mark 14: 34 NIV.

Wow.

Jesus. The son of God. Our Savior. Full of sorrow. To the point of death.

Sometimes with my patients, pain is not just pain. When the bloodwork returns normal. When the x-rays are normal. And when the prescribed medications don’t help, I start to investigate a little further.

That’s when I find people who are hurting…from the inside out.

I find people who are still grieving over their husband’s death 8 years ago and they can feel it in their joints.

I find people who lost a child to breast cancer and their body feels too heavy to pick up and continue day to day.

I find people who start crying in the exam room and apologize to me for crying.

I find people…hurting…from the inside out.

And when sorrow fills your heart, your body will feel it too.

When Naomi was left with nothing, I’m sure she felt physical pain.

When Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, he probably felt physical pain.

And when Jesus describes his sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane to the “point of death”, I know he had to have felt physical pain.

And if Jesus felt grief, sorrow, and physical pain, it’s OK for you to feel that too.

And you should know that Jesus understands.

As a PA, please go see someone about your pain. It could be physical pain that needs to be treated. Or it could be something deeper and you should talk to someone to help you get through the pain that you’re feeling from the inside out.

As a Christian, please go see someone about your pain. But also know that Jesus felt both emotional and physical pain. He didn’t have to. But he did.

He did it because he loves you.

If you’re hurting, turn to the one who overcame all pain, the one who died to save you, the one who loves you even when you don’t love yourself: Jesus Christ.

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Genealogy

If you’re 50 years or older, you’re due for a colonoscopy.

Unless you have an immediate family member with colon cancer, then you might need a colonoscopy sooner.

If you’re a 50 year old female, you’re due for a mammogram. You can get one starting at the age of 40 but the USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) recommends biennial mammograms starting at the age of 50.

Unless you have an immediate family member with breast cancer, then you might need one sooner.

If you’re a 55 year old male, the USPSTF discuss possibly getting your prostate level checked.

Unless you have a family history of prostate cancer, then maybe you should get screened sooner.

Even when trying to diagnose high blood pressure, diabetes, or a thyroid disorder, I often ask my patients about family history.

Because genetics and your family line is important.

I use to find it boring to read through the genealogy listed in the bible. It’s a long list of names, most of which I can’t pronounce, that eventually leads to Jesus.

But a few years back, when studying the book of Ruth, I realized that genealogy is so important when it comes to Jesus.

Had Ruth not gone back to the homeland of her mother-in-law, Naomi, she never would’ve met Boaz. If she didn’t meet Boaz, she wouldn’t have had a son named Obed. If she never gave birth Obed, then David wouldn’t have been born. Thus, the ancestry line of Jesus wouldn’t have existed either.

God has placed you in your family line for a very specific reason and for a very specific purpose.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Unfortunately, some genetics lead to higher risk of cancers and chronic medical conditions.

Fortunately, some genetics lead to people never having to worry about high cholesterol.

I’ve seen quite a few people who are positive for COVID19 who have zero symptoms and feel perfectly fine. I have a suspicion their genetics have a play in that.

God has taken the time to make the perfect genealogy from Adam and Eve to Jesus.

Don’t you think that he’s taken the time to make the perfect genealogy for you too?

No family is perfect. Lots of families are broken. Some are unaware of their biological families. But God knows your genealogy. He sees you from a historical perspective, a current birds eye view, and your future generations.

You are perfect. Inside and out. Because you were made from our perfect God.

The next time anything negative comes to mind about your family and lineage, remember that God used an exact combination of these genetics for a bigger purpose for you. The next time that you have positive thoughts about your family and lineage, remember that God is responsible for it.

You are no accident. Because God doesn’t make accidents.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” -Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

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Significance of a Name

Hashimoto’s Disease. Takotsubo’s Cardiomyopathy. Wernicke’s Encephalopathy. These are some famous names in medicine.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, disovered by a Japanese physician named Hakaru Hashimoto, is an autoimmune thyroid disorder where the thyroid gland doesn’t function as well as it should, which can cause weight gain, depression, joint pain, constipation, dry skin, etc. This can be life-threatening.

Takotsubo’s Cardiomyopathy, discovered by a Japanese physician and named after a octopus trap used by Japanese fishermen, is also known as “broken heart syndrome”. I have seen patients with this after they’ve experienced something as heart-wrenching as a death of their child. Patients end up having a heart attack, not caused by any other underlying heart disease or cause.

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy, discovered by a German Neurologist, is an acute neurological disorder in which patients can experience an altered mental status (confusion). It is commonly found in alcoholics who end up losing a significant amount of Thiamine as a result of the alcohol.

Names. Names. Names.

I named my daughter Kristianna Maganda Polley. Kristianna because it’s origin is “Christian” and because it’s close to my name. Maganda because our family is from the Philippines and in our native language, Tagalog, it means “beautiful”. And she carries her father’s last name Polley, of course. So, in my mind, she is a beautiful Christian with a close relationship with her fathers…both physical and spiritual fathers.

Names. Names. Names.

Moses was so named because he was drawn out of water.

“When the child grew older, she took him to Pharoah’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying ‘I drew him out of the water’.” Exodus 2:10 NIV

If you think of Moses being drawn out of the water, you wouldn’t necessarily think of how “cool” or how “stoic” that name is. However, Moses was drawn out of harm’s way, then drawn out of the water into Pharoah’s empire. Then, he drew his people out of slavery, out of the desert, and into the promise land. He was named “drawn out” for a specific purpose, whether the Pharoah’s daughter knew it or not. But God knew.

Abram became Abraham.

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” Genesis 17: 4-5 NIV.

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because he entered into a covenant with God. God promised him that he’d be the father of many nations. God called him. Then God gave him a new name. God saw Abram and watched him become Abraham, a “father of many”.

There is power in a name.

If I give a patient a name of a medical condition that explains their symptoms, it gives them power. Power to know what’s going on, power to understand it, and power to overcome it.

What is your name? I want you to pause right here and do a quick google search for the origin of your name.

Ponder what your name means. Ponder why you were give your name. And ponder how your name has significance. There is no mistake with your name.

Now think of the name Jesus. His name was chosen to be our savior. Mary was told by the angel Gabriel what her baby should be named and why he would be given this name.

What a powerful name. Jesus. Savior.

People underestimate actually saying his name out loud. Even Christians. We’re quick to pray to God, pray to Jesus, read scripture, and tell of the resurrection of Jesus.

But sometimes we forget to just say his name. Jesus.

When you have nothing else to say because you’re overwhelmed with stress, fatigue, or pain, sometimes all you have to do is just say, “Jesus.”

When you’re facing a fork in the road and you can’t decide which way to go, sometimes all you have to do is say, “Jesus.”

His name has meaning and purpose. His name has power.

Right now, right here. I simply want you to close your eyes, lift your hands in the air, and just say, “Jesus.” Take a deep breath in and out and say it again. Don’t fill your thoughts with everything that’s going on and don’t let your heart fill with heaviness. Just call His name and let him enter your spirit. Let him take over and clear your heart and mind of all the things you’ve been holding on to. Give all your troubles to him because he is our savior. He is power.

Play this song and feel the power of His name.

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Racism

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

I blog your names so the world will recognize, remember, and honor you.

Lord heavenly father, I pray for their families, I pray for peace, and I pray for justice. God, you made this universe and the people on Earth. You SEE color much deeper and more heartfelt than we ever could. When you formed us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalms 139:13), you painted on our skin color, you filled our eyes with color, and you breathed life into us. You SEE color on an intimate level. And God, I pray that we begin looking at each other with your eyes. Come into our hearts Lord so that we may stand up against racism hand in hand. The devil is dividing us so I pray for your strength as a nation to rise above this hatred and conquer it. It is in your name I pray, Amen.

One of my favorite songs is by a contemporary christian artist named Mandisa and it’s called “Bleed the Same”. I’ve placed some of the lyrics below.

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

“When we bleed, we all bleed the same.” When you were killed, Ahmaud, Breonna, and George, we all bled.

“If we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for each other.” I am writing this blog to stand up against racism and to fight for what is right.

“If we’re gonna shout, let love be the cry.” I shout for your justice because we are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Any division of people for any reason is NOT of Christ.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you can NOT be accepting of any racial division. In Galatians 3:26-28, Paul addressed this.

“For you are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

As Christians, we are ONE body of Christ. ONE. We can’t be divided, otherwise we fail. We can’t function as a people.

Moses stood up against the Egyptians when his people were enslaved.

Esther stood up against her own husband (the king) in order to save her people.

The Bible is riddled with division but it is also riddled with unity. When Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice, He came for ALL of us. He came to STOP division, to show us LOVE, and to show FORGIVENESS.

As a Physician Assistant, I heal people of all color.

As a Christian, I LOVE people of all color. I do this because God loved me first and my love is modeled after his love.

So, today, online for the world to see, I am STANDING UP against racism! And I call everyone else to do the same!

We all bleed the same. Now is the time to stop the bloodshed.

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Identity

I am a full-time Physician Assistant (PA). For patients who aren’t familiar with me, they often ask, “Who are you?”

I then go into my monotonous mini-speech on how PAs can diagnose, manage, and provide continuity of care for all medical conditions. I then continue on about how we can order labs, prescribe medication, interpret x-rays, and even complete important legal documents, like death certificates.

Once the introductions have passed, my patients then begin telling me about themselves.

In between the diagnoses and treatment plans, I get to know who my patients are. I know them as parents, siblings, grandparents, lawyers, judges, security officers, custodians, etc. I become familiar with their stubbornness, playfulness, do’s and don’ts of medicine, and how they’re feeling on most days.

I become acquainted with who they really are. We build trust…sometimes almost a friendship.

As a PA, most patients make certain assumptions about me (really about medical providers in general). They think of a plethora of money, a brilliant mind that houses an infinite amount of knowledge, an immaculate and impenetrable bill of health, and complete dependence and faith on medicine alone.

If time and setting allowed, I wish I could answer my patients’ question, “Who are you?” differently.

Let’s pause…

Answer that question in your mind.

Who are you?

For me, I would very quickly and easily answer, “I am a daughter and disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Because, to me, every other title falls beneath this answer.

I am a PA but Jesus was and is the ultimate healer. I only wish someone could touch the hem of my white coat and cure them of all of their diseases.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. Matthew 9:20-22 NIV

I am also a mother, daughter, sister, writer, cyclist, dog lover, tree hugger, beach lover, reader, and the list goes on.

Even Jesus is misidentified in the bible. People thought he was John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Elijah, or one of the other prophets. But Jesus makes it clear in various places of the bible, who He is.

He is the truth. He is love. He is the way. He is the son of God. He is the sacrificial lamb. He is Jesus.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV.

Again, I ask you, Who are you? Where do you gain your identity? Is it from your job title? Your role as a parent? Your financial status? “Celebrity” status on social media?

Consider a deity that created the universe. Consider a deity that counts the stars. Consider a deity that created you. That sees you inside and out. He can count every molecule in your body, arrange it in such a way to make you unique, and then make those molecules function in a specific way, for a specific purpose.

So, who are you?

As a medical provider, my patients will never be identified by their cancer, their illness, or their medical condition(s).

As a human, no one will be classified by their skin color, their hairstyle, height, weight, gender, etc. by me.

I accept that God is the creator of the universe and his only Son, Jesus, is the one who sacrificed his life in order to save our souls. That is my only criteria for who a person is.

My prayer is that everyone learns of their creator, their savior, and thus, their own identity in Christ. There is power in this identity. It is an identity that can never be taken away from you.

If you struggle with who you are and if you’re loved, please contact me. I’ll tell you about a God who is love and thus, loves you.

I am a full-time PA. But really, I’m a daughter and disciple of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to answer. Who are you?

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A Healthy Heart

There are a few tips that I give to my patients with hypertension, coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and/or other heart conditions.

  1. Reduce your salt intake. Nowadays, most people are good with the salt shaker. But now, we have “hidden salt”. It’s the salt that sneaks up on my patients. It’s the one found in canned goods and frozen foods, without you even realizing it. What’s helpful is knowing how to read a food label. Here’s a link that may be helpful: https://www.cardiosmart.org/~/media/Documents/Fact%20Sheets/en/zp3768.ashx

2. Reduce your pork intake. This is the hardest conversation that I have with patients since I live in NC, where delicious pork BBQ thrives haha! I usually get laughed at when I tell my patients to cut back on pork ribs, pork chops, bacon, and pulled pork. But nonetheless, leaner meats are better. Chicken, turkey, and salmon are always a better option.

3. Stop smoking! I probably should’ve put this as number one but I love food…so…here we are at number three haha! If you need some nicoderm patches or gum, please see the following link: https://www.quit.com/maintain/quit-smoking-hotlines.html

Simply put, smoking causes buildup in your arteries, which then leads to a heart attack, stroke, and/or death.

4. And stop with the sugary drinks! There is a lot of research out there that shows that having one sugary drink per day increases your risk of heart disease and stroke significantly! I also find this to be a hard one for my patients. It’s hard to stop all sugary drinks all of a sudden. To my patients who drink both juices and sodas, I tell them to cut out one to start with. If you buy sodas at the grocery store, don’t buy juices, and vice versa.

See an article about this, written by the American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/05/13/even-1-sugary-drink-a-day-could-boost-heart-disease-stroke-risk-in-women

5. Exercise! Exercise 20-30 minutes per day. That includes anything from walking, running, riding a bike, swimming, Zumba, Tae Bo, or even jump roping.

Lastly, where is your heart kept?

When you wake up each day, where does your heart lead you? Some people have children that steal their hearts with every smile, laugh, and drawing given to them. Some people have a spouse that surprises them with an Edible Arrangement (yum!). Others FaceTime with friends, read a good book, or enjoy a hike outdoors.

Although I agree that all of the above would make my heart flutter, my heart belongs to God.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 NLT

When my daughter frustrates me, when my husband forgets to pay a bill, or when a friendship ends, I remind myself where my heart belongs. It belongs with the One who loved me first.

My heart with God helps me choose my words wisely in anger, helps me approach the unpaid bill with forgiveness, and allows me to let go of friendships that weren’t meant to last forever.

By loving God with all my heart, I am entering into an endless, infinite relationship that then strengthens my earthly relationships because it is modeled after God, who IS perfect love.

When I focus on my love for God in my heart, I can’t help but show that love outwards.

Have you ever had such wonderful, exciting news that you felt like you were going to burst unless you shared that news with someone?

THAT is what it feels like leaving your heart with God. You’re placing your heart in safe-keeping in the good times, the bad times, and the trying times. In return, he provides peace and love. He provides a healthy heart.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. -Psalm 37:4 NLT

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Financial Worship

With a current pandemic, people are living off of unemployment and food stamps and there are concerns for future economic stability. So the last thing most people want to read about is tithing. But hear me out.

Many years ago, I was staring at my bank account and questioned whether or not I’d be able to tithe that month. I sat at the kitchen table, stared at my bank account, read scripture on tithing, prayed about it, and submitted my tithe online.

I recall thinking to myself, “This is where faith comes in. If my bank account goes into the negative towards the end of the month, it’ll be OK. But, I know, according to scripture, that when I tithe, God opens the floodgates of blessings. So, here we go. I’m all in God.”

And the result? During that month, I received a few checks in the mail that were refunds to me from previous bills that were apparently overpaid. My account did not go into the negative. And the final result? I’m a PA now and I have steady income.

In 2011, when applying to PA school, I saw that they offered a scholarship that would cover approximately 75% of tuition/fees. The catch was that you had to be accepted and enrolled into the program before applying for the scholarship.

Just to emphasize, you had to be locked into the program and have a way to pay for the program, before even applying for this scholarship.

Because I knew that God wanted me to become a PA, I applied for the program, got accepted, took out student loans, and applied for the scholarship during my first semester of the program.

And the result? I DIDN’T get the scholarship!

And my response? I prayed. And I remember this prayer. “God, you are faithful. If I didn’t get that scholarship, it’s because someone else in this program needed it more than I did. As you’ve done before, I’ll get through this debt with your grace and mercy once I graduate.”

And the result? During our second semester, a classmate was awarded another huge scholarship that covered all of her expenses for school. She then returned the initial scholarship back to the school and told them to forward it to the next student in line.

Guess who that was? ME!

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do”, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10 NLT

As it says in the book of Malachi, put God to the test with your finances. Because in a time of financial crisis, now is the time to put God to the test.

When you submit your tithe to God’s house, you’re telling Him that you trust Him. You’re telling God that while you’re standing in the valley of an empty bank account, you’re looking upwards to the heavens, waiting for his blessings to come pouring back down to you.

When you submit a tithe despite the financial worry in your heart, you’re telling God that you know His love for you is greater than all the money in the world. You’re telling God that you’re living by faith and not by sight. You’re telling God, “I know you don’t need this money God but I need you. I’m giving you what I have as your faithful child because you are the God that moves mountains. So, take what little that I have and move this mountain of financial crisis.”

God doesn’t need your money. He needs you. All of you. Your thoughts, your heart, your worries, your fears, your laughter, your physical needs, and your tithes.

When my husband and I got married, we knew we had to merge bank accounts. We keep an “open book” policy about everything in our relationship, especially the finances. All of the finances. Every expenditure, deposit, credit card, and subscription.

I am trusting my husband to work with me on finances and he expects the same.

Now, imagine a God that doesn’t even need the money. A God that simply wants to look at your checkbook in order to see your financial heart during a pandemic. Why? So He can BLESS you!

Put him to the test.

Reach into your heart, your soul, and your bank account, and tithe. Put Him to the test and see the results.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” -2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NLT

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Called During Chaos

“Mommy, do you have to go to work?”

“Yes. I do.”

Her eyes filled with tears and she crossed her arms in anger, trying to contain her emotions.

“It’s not fair. This whole Coronavirus thing is going on and I don’t get to see you that much because you’re always testing people and having to quarantine and it’s just not fair! Can’t you just take some time off?” She wiped her tears on the sleeve of her shirt.

I pondered this request as I felt pieces of my heart break and crumble.

“Sweetheart, I can’t. God chose me to do this. I could run away and take a few months off but I’d also be running away from what God called me to do. If I stay home, my clinic closes. What happens to all of the patients? Who would take care of God’s people? So, as hard as it is, we are going to be strong and we are going to do what God has called us to do.”

I could see that she understood what I said, although she didn’t like it. Since that time, she has matured in her understanding of what it means to live during a pandemic and what it means to work in healthcare during a pandemic as well.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

A man named Jonah ran away from God’s calling. He was instructed to go to Nineveh and speak God’s word but Jonah decided to go in the opposite direction. He found himself on a stormy sea and then overboard in a whale’s mouth for 3 days and 3 nights until he was spit back out.

When he finally faced his calling and went to Nineveh, he spoke God’s word and saved the people from destruction. And in the process, Jonah learned of God’s love and mercy for His people.

You don’t have to be a healthcare worker to be a “hero” during the pandemic.

My parents and sister-in-law are heroes for watching my daughter during quarantine, cleaning my house while I’m spending my days outdoors with patients, and cooking dinners a few times a week when I’m too sweaty and tired to even sit through a drive-thru.

The cashier at Publix was my hero today simply because she was at work and I desperately needed items for my upcoming work week.

My daughter is a hero for simply letting go of her own needs and putting God’s people first.

God told Jeremiah, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” -Jeremiah 1:5 NLT

God knew us before we were in our mother’s womb. He knows us in present day. And he will know what we will be called to do.

We are called for God’s purpose and right now, we are called during chaos.

To all of you who are reading this, YOU are called.

If you are stuck at home with the kids, remember that you are called to be home with them. If you’re stuck at work, remember that you have been called to help God’s people.

No matter what your profession, your gift, your talent, or your circumstance, God has called you and chosen you for this exact time and place during chaos because no one else on Earth can take your anointing from God. No one else can be substituted for your purpose.

Lift your eyes to the hills. Lift your hands to the heavens. And accept your calling.

My prayer for you today is that when you get lost in chaos, you regain focus and clarity through your calling from God. I pray that when you become frustrated in your daily tasks, you regain peace through God’s promise in your life. And I pray that during this chaos, you hear your calling and run towards it with an eager heart, a ready mind, and outstretched hands. Heavenly father, open our hearts and our minds to accept your calling during chaos. Amen.

Below is a great sermon by a young man named Zachary Barnes of Triad Fellowship, here in NC, that planted a seed in my heart for this blog today. Enjoy!

https://www.triadfellowship.org/
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Togetherness

The doors are opening. Slowly but surely, the doors are opening. Restaurants will soon host family dinners, gyms will provide a time of group Zumba lessons, and our previous sense of a normal world will soon return. Hallelujah, amen! I should just stop my blog right there haha!

A lot of thoughts are running through my patients’ minds. They’re excited to return to their quarterly vacations, visiting friends and family, taking their spouse out to dinner, and returning to church.

At the same time, they have a lot of questions.

“But doc, can I go to a restaurant? Is it safe for me to return to work or to church? They’re asking me because medicine, despite it’s numerous guidelines and algorithms, is variable yet personalized to each patient. What works for one, may not work for the other.

So, how do you know if you should jump outside and greet all of your neighbors or remain quarantined?

You have to go and see your primary care provider. In general, if you have any underlying medical conditions, such as COPD, asthma, heart failure, uncontrolled diabetes, sarcoidosis, etc, you really should be cautious as to where you go and who you interact with until there is a successful treatment and/or a vaccine for this virus.

What we are now learning about COVID-19, is that this virus is no longer simply a target for the respiratory tract. We are now seeing neurological involvement (it’s causing strokes), hematological changes (clots in lower extremities), and GI distress (diarrhea). Basically, this virus is attacking people from head to toe.

So if you want to know if you should be quarantined, semi-quarantined, or freely out in public, please, please, please discuss your overall health with your primary care provider and review your medical conditions and risk factors.

And be sure you know what to do if you think you have COVID-19.

Oh, and ibuprofen does not make COVID-19 worse. I’ve been asked that a lot so here’s your answer.

There once was a woman named Naomi who lost her husband and both of her sons suddenly. She was left alone with her two daughter-in-laws. During this time, an older woman like Naomi would’ve been left to die because she would’ve been too old to marry again and have more children and she wouldn’t have been allowed to work and make ends meet for herself.

She fell into a deep depression, so much so that she no longer wanted to be called Naomi. She wanted to be called “Mara” instead, which means “bitter”. She was depressed and felt that God turned her back on her.

She told her daughter-in-laws to leave her behind and find new husbands so that they could survive and thrive in life, without having to be burdened by her.

But one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, remained faithful to Naomi. She told Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16 NIV

They were together, during a time of uncertainty.

This story has a happy ending. Ruth ends up marrying an honorable man and they have a son, who is an ancestor of David, which is the ancestry line of Jesus.

We long for physical togetherness now, especially during a time of a pandemic, but we should also long for a spiritual togetherness. When we can’t hug our families, we should pray for our families. This sense of togetherness is what makes us human. It’s how God created us.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the Earth and govern it.” Genesis 1:27-28 NLT.

When God created Adam, He knew He had to create Eve. And this was the start of our desire for togetherness.

God created us to have relationships with each other. And God created us to have a relationship with Him.

He gives us a choice on who we love and who we spend our time with.

Ruth chose to love and be faithful to her mother-in-law. She chose to worship God, which was Naomi’s God, not Ruth’s God (at first). She chose togetherness over everything else.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on isolation, quarantine, physical togetherness, and spiritual togetherness during this pandemic. I am a fairly introverted person and I enjoy my isolation, shoving my nose in a book, and falling asleep on the beach. But even I long for a deep relationship, especially with God. I want that connection. I want to feel at peace, loved, and happy.

Do you have this relationship? Do you feel God’s presence when you trip over something and laugh at yourself? Do you feel God’s comfort when you get into a screaming match with your teenager? Do you feel God’s love when you’re quarantined away from your family?

Whether or not you’re able to roam freely when the doors to the outside are open again, do you have spiritual togetherness? Does God fill your heart and soul indoors and outdoors?

My friend, I pray that your house will soon be filled with the ones you love. But I also pray that you welcome the one who created relationships and togetherness into your home as well. If you’re isolated, I hope that you can pick up the phone and call someone to pray with you so that you are spiritually comforted and connected.

You are loved by God. Know that. Seek that. And there, you will find your spiritual togetherness.

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Faithful, Courageous Love

The story of Moses is one of my favorites.

I love how his story begins.

When Moses was an infant, there was a decree that all non-Egyptian babies were to be put to death. His mother hid him for three months and then realized that she couldn’t hide him any longer.

Then, she placed him in a waterproof basket and placed him in the Nile River to survive.

Moses being sent down the Nile River was his best chance of survival.
Exodus 2:1-3

Let’s analyze this. She weighed out her options. She decided that he had a better chance of survival in a basket, floating down the Nile River instead of continuing to hide him in her house.

Did she worry? Did she wonder if the basket would hold? Did she wonder where he’d end up? Did she consider that whoever found him would kill him immediately?

No.

There wasn’t any mention of her doubts or concerns.

Why?

Because her love was bigger than her fear.

Because her faith was bigger than her fear.

Because she knew that her God was bigger than the Egyptian death sentence.

Moms make decisions everyday. Actually, we make decisions for our children numerous times per day, every second of everyday.

If you were to tell me that you placed your child in a basket to float down the Nile River in order to survive, I’d probably be prepared to swim down the Nile River, thinking that I’d need to save your child.

But Moses survived and was placed in a position of power in order to save God’s people and lead them to the promise land.

He survived because his mother knew that his only chance of survival was through a courageous, faithful, daring act that led her to the Nile River.

Mothers are special. There is strength, intuition, love, mercy, grace, and beauty in every single one of us.

And God designed us this way. The minute we give birth and the child is in our arms, we become a mom like the one Moses had.

We find strength in times of trouble.

We have the intuition to know when something is wrong.

We have enough love to fill a child’s heart every single second of everyday.

We have the mercy and grace to forgive and move forward.

And when you add all of that together, you have beauty.

We’re not perfect by any means. But that’s also what gives us beauty. We make mistakes, fall, get back up, and move forward, all while making sure there’s a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

Celebrate a little extra this Mother’s Day! Smile extra big on FaceTime or in person! She’s a woman of God. A woman of might. A woman who made every single decision in life based on your survival. Not just your happiness. But also on your survival.

A mother is a gift from God, no matter the circumstance, the legal paperwork, the age, the distance, or even possibly despite any hurt in the past. She is a gift from God. God chose HER to be your mom.

God chose Jochebed to be Moses’s mother because he knew that she would be the only one strong enough to send him down the Nile River to his destiny.

God, hear my prayer. We thank you for each and every mother on this Earth. We thank you for designing us specifically for the child you had in mind for us. We ask for forgiveness for our mistakes and we pray for continued strength as we make decisions for our children. We also thank you for Jochebed, a leading example of the strength found inside each and every one of us when it counts the most and a leading example of her faithfulness in your protection of her child. May we be more like Jochebed. God, let us celebrate all mothers with joy, peace, and thanksgiving. Amen.

This is one of my absolute FAVORITE videos about mothers. It’s posted as a job interview and people don’t realize what it’s really about until the end. Enjoy!

“Director of Operations” should be our new title as moms. Can I add that to my resume?

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:” Proverbs 31:25-28.

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COVID-19 Update

Hello everyone! I pray that everyone is staying safe during the pandemic! I have a few updates and this is, of course, from the perspective of a family medicine provider, your neighborhood friendly PA.

Symptoms of COVID-19 have expanded a bit. Fever, sore throat, cough, muscle pain, and shortness of breath are still the staples of COVID. However, I have seen positive results without a fever. I have seen patients with only one symptom and I’ve seen patients with all of those symptoms. The cough can be either dry or wet and the shortness of breath can be non-existent, minimal, or hospital admission worthy.

The CDC has added a new symptom: Change/Loss of taste in food. And I’ve actually seen this! I don’t have much of an explanation but wow! What a symptom!

I’ve also seen a new possible symptom here recently. Diarrhea. New onset, unexplained, diarrhea. I haven’t seen it enough to give much information but it’s quite interesting. And I don’t think it’s common enough to add it to the official list of symptoms BUT it’s enough to catch my eye and tingle my sixth sense.

Of course, the bottom line of it all is that you have to go and see your primary care provider when you feel ill, whether your symptoms fall in line with what I’ve listed or if they’re completely different. If you don’t feel well, seek professional medical care.

Results of testing has been quite interesting as well. We were first given nasopharyngeal testing only but now we have both nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal. Basically, we can swab for boogers and/or spit now haha! At the start of all of this, we sometimes waited anywhere from 5-10 days. Now, we’re given a window of 2-4 days, with most of them returning within 48 hours. The fastest I’ve seen at our clinic has been slightly less than 24 hours. The hospital gets them back within the same day, and one person reported that their family member received their results in less than 4 hours! I’m impressed. I believe that part of this is the prioritization of the lab companies to process these tests first. Another factor is a local orthopedic here in Fayetteville, NC is using his own private plane to fly COVID19 tests so that they return ASAP. He’s been doing this for almost a month now. Let’s give him a big round of applause! See the link below for the video.

https://wlos.com/news/local/transporting-covid-19-test-samples?jwsource=cl

On a positive note, we’re continuing follow-up with patients who have survived COVID and we’ve shared in their joy. We smile behind our masks and there’s a sparkle in our eyes as we look at them. It is a joyous triumphant visit that makes what we do worthwhile.

I praise God for the triumph and I praise God for the providers who helped these patients recover in the hospital.

I’m reminded so much of Moses during this time. As you may have read in my previous blogs, his story is one of my absolute favorites. God’s chosen people were slaves to the Egyptians. Moses rescued them from slavery, traveled the desert for 40 days, reached the Red Sea, split the sea with the striking of his staff (with God’s help), and escaped from the Egyptians who chased after them and drowned in the river that fell on top of them.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Exodus 14:21-22 NIV.

When COVID reached NC, I felt like I spent most of my days asking God to “let my people go” from this horrid disease. I felt like we were slaves to it. Slaves to the disease itself and the fear of the disease. As we look to our leaders, our medical providers, to get through the desert, we feel stuck on this long journey. Now, we’ve reached the Red Sea with the disease still chasing us.

What do you see?

Do you see a powerful river that you can’t cross with a disease following close behind?

Or do you see that the river is already split, waiting for you to step onto the dry ocean ground, keeping your eyes forward to victory?

When Jesus walked on water, Peter walked out towards him. But when he became afraid, he started to sink. Jesus reminded Peter to keep his eyes on him, not on his surroundings.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?'” Matthew 14:29-31 NIV

So, what do you see?

Do you see a powerful river with a disease chasing behind you?

Or do you see the splitting of the sea? The dry ground? Your road to victory?

In NC, our numbers are still rising but my focus has already shifted. I quit looking at the numbers. I reminded myself to look at Jesus. Because if I keep looking at the numbers, I’ll sink like Peter. Because if I shift my gaze to anything but Jesus, I’ll get distracted. But if I fix my gaze on Jesus, then the Red Sea will split and I’ll see the victory. I’ll see God’s faithful promise for His people.

Now, instead of what do you see during this pandemic, I’ll ask you who you see during this pandemic?

Because I see Jesus.

Please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for any further information on COVID-19.

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The Faith of a Child

Have you ever tried to drive in a downpour of rain?

There was a day when my parents were driving and I was in the backseat of their truck. I don’t recall where we were going and what we did that day, but I remember the rain. I remember the thudding sound of the high speed windshield wipers. I remember our silence as my father tried to focus on the road. I remember driving slowly, just enough to move forward but not enough to make it feel like progress. I remember the rising anxiety of our situation.

I remember my dad saying, “I can’t see. This is a lot of rain. I can’t see what’s in front of me.”

And I remember my daughter’s response.

“Don’t worry Papa. It’s OK. You don’t need to see. God will see for you.”

My daughter’s 3rd grade year wasn’t the best. A year full of bullying affected her grades, standardized testing, and her relationship with her father and I. Our definition of success that year was getting her to school.

We felt defeated.

She wondered why these kids hated her so much. She wondered why they shot down all of her attempts at friendship. And she wondered when it would come to an end.

Then, one day, she had an especially terrible day. My mother picked her up from school and told me that she went straight to the bedroom, slammed the door, and cried on her bed.

I asked my daughter what happened. And she didn’t tell me what happened at school. Instead, she told me what happened when she cried on her bed.

“Mommy, I was crying and angry and I said I hated everything. Then, all of a sudden, like the sound of thunder, God told me that I needed to stop crying. He told me that I was loved and that this would end. So, I stopped crying.”

And just like that, her downpour of tears and bullying stopped. The administration put a heavy foot down and my daughter spent the remaining month of her school year smiling.

I learned two things from my daughter that year.

  1. When she saw a situation that was out of our control, she remembered that God was still in control. Not only did she remember, but she was brave enough to remind the adults of this very fact.
  2. When she faced a seemingly difficult battle, she not only listened to God’s voice but kept it in her heart. She held on to His truth and His promise. She is faithful.

As a adults, we face a lot of downpours from a lot of different directions. But sometimes, we need to just remember the bravery and faithfulness of our children. They don’t worry about finances, because we pay the bills. They don’t have to worry about food, because we buy the groceries. They don’t have to worry because we meet their every need. They have faith in us as parents.

Who/What do you put your faith in?

If you can’t say, with 100% certainty, that you put your faith in God, then it’s time to reconsider. Everything on this earth will fade, can be destroyed, or can even be stolen from you. I would consider placing your faith in something outside of this world. I would consider placing your faith in someone who died and then rose from the dead, defying all earthly concepts of life and death.

Consider God. Consider Jesus Christ.

When you stand under a downpour of rain, allow God to give you an umbrella and a dry path to walk on.

Have the faith and the bravery of a child.

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'” Matthew 18:2-5 NIV

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Heroism

Essential workers are called heroes.

We are on the frontlines of COVID-19, attempting to detect and treat patients who are infected, risking exposure to the virus.

But there are many times when we don’t feel like heroes. When a patient dies, we feel that we’ve failed them. And when a patient survives but had to suffer for 2-3 weeks in the hospital, we over-analyze our decisions and figure out how we could’ve done better. We want to perform acts of heroism but often feel that we fall short of this high expectation.

We stress over the number of cases in our county. We stress over the rising death toll. We stress over the supplies. And this stress inhibits feelings of heroism.

I wonder if David felt like a hero when he decided to pick up some rocks and a sling to fight Goliath?

I wonder if Moses felt like a hero when he was stuck in the desert for 40 years?

Did Jesus feel like a hero when he suffered and died on the cross?

Sometimes, in the midst of our deepest, darkest, distraught moments, acts of heroism arise. Sometimes, in the midst of our deepest fears and insecurities, a hero is born.

How?

When David placed a rock in his sling, he knew it would take a supernatural power to take down the giant.

When Moses looked at the Red Sea, he knew it would take a supernatural power to escape from the Egyptians.

As an essential worker, I know it will take a supernatural power to get rid of this pandemic.

That knowledge and power comes from faith in God.

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9 NLT

David would not have faced the giant if he didn’t have the faith that the rock from his sling would strike the giant with such precision that it would cause an instant death.

Moses would not have stared at the Red Sea if he didn’t have faith that God would split the seas and create a path for escape.

I would not face each and everyday with courage against COVID-19 if I didn’t know that God stands with me, behind me, and in front of me.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” Psalms 27:1-3 NLT

No matter what your current situation is, know that you can become a hero. When you are trying to find a way to escape from your abusive husband, know that God is with you. When you crave another pint of liquor, know that David’s sling took down a seven foot giant. Know that when darkness falls, it doesn’t prevail because Jesus said that He is the light of the world.

Know that as you stand in the valley of your desperate situation, the power of God will allow you to do something supernatural.

You can become a hero. Tap into the infinite source within you. Access the supernatural. Know God and His power.

God, hear my prayer. We are in the middle of a battlefield. And each and everyone one of us is facing both the common enemy of COVID-19 but also our own individual battles. I’m here to pray for power. I’m here to pray for courage. I’m here to pray that we reach for you, where our supernatural strength comes from. Because without you, we are only human. I raise my hand towards the heavens, with the knowledge that when I strike down, it’s your hand that is striking down for me. I raise my voice to praise you with the knowledge that when I speak your holy name, the wind will pick up my voice and blow my enemies away. Because I know that “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.” Psalms 46:11 NLT.