Your life is about change. Change is sometimes obvious. Change is sometimes subtle.
In both kinds of change, it is important to know your Compass. Some would say it in other ways: Know your NorthStar. Know your Lighthouse. Know where the sun rises/sets.
A ship adrift in an ocean is an unusual sight. It happens when all power is lost.
The subtle changes are small, but persistent, and the ship gradually drifts off course. The obvious changes come later in the form of being completely lost at sea or crashing into dangerously shallow sea banks.
The powerless ship's Captain does not look for a landmark to help him get back on course. Instead, he looks at his compass which reliably tells him how off-course his ship has drifted.
You must decide what your Compass is.
Our life Compass has been described in many various ways:
I always go with my gut.
I always ask myself what I would do if my children were watching.
I like to ask my Mom.
Whatever your compass is, choose to keep it close.
My compass has always been my Lord Jesus's super-reliable commandments and teachings found in the Bible. Growing up, I was taken to amazing fun church activities and church camps. I remember a sign in the woods at the YMCA camp that I attended when I was 8 years old: "Love God 1st, Others 2nd, and myself last".
Later on, in my 6 years in medical school at the University of Missouri School of Medicine's 6 -year BA-MD program, I voraciously listened to James Dobson, Ph.D. on Focus on the Family radio, my favorite radio program, anytime I was in the car. The following was one of the best principles I saw in one of their Focus on the Family magazines: "God, Family, Medicine, Grades. In that order." In fact, I loved this phrase so much that I cut it out of that magazine article and put it in a magnetic clear plastic frame where it graced every refrigerator I owned from medical school and on through residency training, so that it would continue to be an awesome reminder to me.
This simple phrase has continued to help me DAILY since then.
God--He is my #1.
Family next. Definitely. This "Family next" stuff is why I didn't miss the moment that my Grandma Lee(who reared me) passed on. I was finishing up my "shift" of being at home with her that Monday morning. Patients had already started arriving at our office at 1pm and it was already 1:10pm. As I was ready to zip out the door to go see my patients, my Mom asked me to help turn my bedridden Grandma so as to help prevent her from developing bedsores. I was tense and told her curtly and with a whine, "Mom!! The patients are already waiting." She said understandingly, "Oh that's ok, go ahead and go." With that permission, I irritatingly but hesitantly closed the door and slipped on one of my shoes. Then my Compass came to mind: God, Family, Medicine, Grades, in that order". I clearly remember this to this day.
So grouchily and with resignation that I would be late (once again) seeing our patients at the office, I kicked off my shoe and reopened the door. The moment that Mom and I started to turn Grandma, I noticed that one of her legs had turned an ominous dark dusky color. I knew. So I proceeded to gently warn my Mom that Grandma was probably going to pass away soon and to prepare herself. And indeed, my Grandma passed away about 30 minutes later surrounded by all of us: my parents..and, thank goodness, ..Me. I was so grateful that I listened to that Compass so I didn't miss my Grandma's final moments with us.
God--He is my #1.
Medicine--what does that mean? It means taking care of our patients needs. Their NEEDS. Their needs do not involve the cleaning off of my desk at work. Their needs do not involve me finishing up their visit notes in our electronic medical record... On the contrary, their needs are the "Medicine" that attracted us to want to become physicians in the first place. It is the stopping and the listening to a patient even though we are running far behind in the schedule knowing that our waiting room is full. It is taking over the bottle to feed a patient's newborn baby so that she can go clean up her toddler's vomit in her car since no one else can help. It means going to the waiting room to congratulate the patient's family instead of zipping off quickly in our cars after we deliver their newest grandbaby. It is this type of MEDICINE in being a physician, that has given me the JOY I have and continue to experience daily in taking care of our sweet patients for the past 20 years.
God--He is my #1.
Grades--come last. In medical school, it was a tempting choice to skimp on time spent in Bible study, prayer, as well as church when I knew that I only had a few precious hours to cram for the next test. Yet, because I did "God 1st" I quickly discovered what Sarah Young wrote in her devotional book Jesus Calling: "God is able to create more time".
I love being His child. For my God is All-Powerful (Omnipotent), All-knowing (Omniscient), & All-present (Omnipresent). There is no other God equal to Him. He has no rival. He has no equal. So, I am super-happy about being on this ship of His. I have the best Captain of all.
God, Family, Medicine, Grades, In that Order.
So, thank you Lord. And thank you Lord for Dr. James Dobson, Ph.D. and his ministry called "Focus on the Family" who printed that magazine 30 years ago, that impacted this then- 18 year-old young woman who has never let that Compass go.
So, just like when you find a good woman, don't let her go....it's even more important to find a good Compass and not let it go.
As always, Look with Intention