Monday, December 30, 2013

The rush

I've mentioned a time or two before the fact that I'm a product of the "microwave" generation; I'm used to getting what I need pretty quickly, whether it's information, food, something from the store.  And I think it's how our culture is in general now.  We're always in a rush.  We live in overly caffeinated states, drinking Starbucks' venti coffees with five shots of espresso, so that we can be more efficient with our time and so that we can be these superhumans who get more done in a given period of time than anyone before us ever has.

But what about those of us who don't want to rush?  I still want things pretty instantly, don't get me wrong.  I love being able to see the faces of my family members and my dog on the other side of the country via Facetime after punching in a few buttons on my phone;  I love the ease with which I can download movies and music from the Internet, in enough time to update my playlists on my phone before running off to the gym.  I love being able to Google information and find hundreds of links within seconds of typing in my request in the search engine.

But I am also a little old-fashioned in other ways.  I want to read books instead of synopses and Buzzfeed articles; I want to hear the shrill whistle of my tea kettle as I patiently wait for the water to boil before my nightly cup of Earl Grey.  I want to bake my own bread, sitting it out the night before so the dough has time to rise overnight, instead of running to the store to grab whichever loaf is on sale that week.  I want to go on a long, slow, run outside instead of just squeezing in a quick workout on the elliptical between work and dinner.  I want to use all of the vacation time I'm allowed to use at work, and I want to spend my vacation time with family and friends and the people that are dear to me so that I don't miss out on those big important moments of laughter and love.  I want to labor in a yard that is my own over plants and vegetables that come from tiny seeds instead of making numerous "quick trips" to the grocery store each way for produce.  I want to sit by my window each morning sipping on coffee while reading my Bible or a good book instead of gulping down my coffee as quickly as I can in my ten minute drive to work.

I don't want to miss things because of the rush.  I don't want to miss the small pieces of joy that God infuses in each day because I was too busy trying to get somewhere quickly or finding a shortcut to get something done.  I want the long, slow processes and the old-fashioned ways of life.  I want to appreciate each moment for what it's worth, to let each moment have its glory without being eaten up by the next one.

A big part of grasping this is being present in each moment.  And the other part is being still.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Majesty

I sat in church this morning, a church that's still somewhat new to me, and started thinking about and feeling how beautiful and glorious God is and how I've made him out to be this everyday, average Joe kind of guy who I occasionally ignore for weeks at a time, who I've filed away as someone to catch up with every so often when I find time in my schedule for him.

Church was half-empty this morning (or half-full.  I seemed to be more focused on the empty spaces than the full ones today), which I was oddly thankful for.  I shouldn't be; I should desire for every seat in that church to be filled to the point that the church is overflowing with God's praises at every service.  But since I'm a former Saturday night church-goer and am used to a smaller congregation because of that, I like the smallness and community I feel when the church services aren't filled with hundreds of people at a time.  Maybe that means I'm cut out for a smaller church, but I seem to be digressing.  College Park and I are still in the very beginning phase of our relationship; we haven't had our DTR conversation yet ("define the relationship").  It feels like home on some days, and on others it feels like a stranger with different customs and traditions than I'm used to, speaking in the same language as me, but with a different dialect than I'm used to.  I was thankful for a friend there this morning-- one of Scott's good friends, Dane, who I guess I should stop calling Scott's friend as he has very much become one of my own since I've moved up here.  Scott's friends are all becoming my friends, which is something I appreciate and value very much. But I digress again.

We were singing worship songs at the beginning of the service when I started feeling shaky.  Almost like that feeling when you've not eaten anything for hours and maybe have too much caffeine in your body, but it wasn't that.  The empty seats around me gave me permission to close my eyes and slip away in worship; I started focusing on the words I was singing and the God I was praising with them, and I was overwhelmed with His majesty.

I opened my eyes, and they started flashing pictures of God's creation-- oceans, lakes, mountains, breathtaking sunsets-- I was mesmerized.  I think that when we grow up hearing "God talk" in church, we can become numb to what the words mean.  I don't mean "God talk" as in hearing from God, but the church lingo that we hear every Sunday, maybe in small group or Sunday school class, in books we read or televangelists on TV.  And sometimes, I'm guilty of becoming numb to God's majesty.  Today was a day of reclaiming it and focusing on how lovely He really is.

It fits well with my hope for the new year to come-- with present as my word for the year (see this post if you're confused by that), what better time than now to take a time-out from all of the church mumbo jumbo talk that I've become numb to in order to really focus on the majesty and divinity of the Lord?  Sometimes it's taking a step away from religiosity that provides the most clarity about who Jesus really is.  Just to be clear-- I am not saying that "church talk" is a bad thing.  I'm saying that for myself, I get caught up in the language sometimes (it's the English-loving nut in me) and forget to look past verbage (Google says this isn't a word.  I'm making it one) and punctuation to feel what the words really mean.  And what they mean is that God is the beginning and the end, ruler over all of the heavens and all of the Earth, lover and redeemer of our souls, the infinite being who spoke everything into existence.  What the words mean is that, if I believe those things, the things the words are saying, my life will look radically different this year; I will dwell in the presence of the King, and be present as I praise Him for His majesty and glory.

I hope your last few days of December and 2013 are lovely ones, and that you find time to reflect on the past year with space in your heart for what you want to be different in the coming one.

Lots of love, grace, & peace,
C.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O, Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty." -Psalm 104:1

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Airporting

I’m writing to you from what I consider to be the bowels of the Atlanta airport (non-nursing friends: sorry for this reference).  I call it that because while I flew into a quite happening concourse of ATL, I now sit at gate A17 with only a few newsstands and a McDonalds in sight for my entertainment and culinary delight.  I also consider it such because you apparently have to pay $4.95 per day for internet here, which I refuse to do.  So I am stubbornly tapping out this post in a Word document that I will later copy and paste into the blog for your viewing pleasure. 

Spending Christmas Day in an airport has been interesting.  It hasn’t been bad, but I find myself looking around and wondering what everyone’s story is.  Is the mom with two small children coming back from a trip to visit her parents, or are they just setting out in hopes of making it to their destination for Christmas dinner?  Is the guy in a snazzy business suit actually on a business trip on Christmas Day, or is he dressed that way because he went to church this morning and now has to head off for a new adventure?  Is the couple with “Sandals” tags on their backpacks on their way back from a honeymoon on Christmas Day, or have they been married for years and just wanted a little vacation around Christmastime?  Or maybe none of the above? Could they be old tags from a trip years ago?  Is the little boy in a red jacket traveling alone because he comes from a divorced family and is trying to split the holidays between Mom and Dad?  These are the things I wonder.

The only reason that I find myself in the mix of individuals traveling on the holiday is because my job requires it.  I was lucky enough to have off for Christmas this year and was thus able to visit my grandparents in Florida for what may be my grandmother’s last Christmas.  But in turn, I have to report to work at 7 tomorrow morning, and so I find myself airport hopping this Christmas instead of eating ham in Florida with my family.  It makes me wonder who else is traveling for work purposes.

I was thankful to find that Starbucks was open in the Tampa airport this afternoon and allowed myself to indulge in a skinny peppermint mocha before setting out for my flight.  The Tampa airport was pretty empty, which was nice for reading (Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist.  I’m obsessed.  I hope to finish it on my next flight).  Atlanta, however, is packed to the brim (even at gate A17). 

The handle of my bag is hanging on by a thread, causing me to have to awkwardly hold my bag from the bottom while trying to plane and de-plane.  I'm making a mental note to purchase new purse straps when I get home, since I borrowed this bag from my grandma anyways so that I'd have an appropriate bag to stuff under the seat in front of me for carry-on.  I know that these are things that you care immensely about and are dying to know on these Christmas night.

I had an epiphany on my last flight, regarding writing.  I used to think I wrote to share my life with other people.  Why I would think that is silly, actually.  There is nothing particularly extraordinary about my life that would make it worth your while to read about.  I’m just a girl with mousey brown hair, a big heart, even bigger dreams, and a love for the written word.  So I write for me, not for anyone else.  I allow others to see glimpses of myself through writing, but mostly, it’s for me.  And that may sound selfish, but it’s as honest as I can be, because I find that the truest version of myself is in my writing.  I don’t adequately express myself when I’m talking in real life with people, using the spoken word; yet, I say everything exactly as I desire to when I write.  I learn things about myself that I barely knew before sitting down to my computer or picking up my pen to journal. 

 I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend with family this year for Christmas and am hopeful that next year will allow for plenty of time at the holidays with my two families—Scott’s and mine.  I’d much rather be decorating Christmas cookies or listening to Christmas music by a fireplace, watching those I love open presents, but I’ll settle for people watching in airports and anxiously awaiting my arrival in Indy so I can sleep in my warm bed tonight, only to leave it early in the morning to take care of patients at the hospital down the street.  I wish you all the Merriest of Christmases and hope that you are cuddled up in new Christmas pajamas drinking hot cocoa, reflecting on the Savior’s birth and the joy that comes with that. 

Lots of love and enjoy what’s left of 2013.  I’m thankful for all of you and your support of my writing, adventures, and big dreams. 

Grace & peace
C

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflections on a year in passing & looking ahead

As Christmas approaches (can you believe it's Christmas Eve already?) and 2013 comes to a close, I'm thinking back about all that has happened this year and reflecting on how much has changed.  2013 has been full of lots of big things.  Life-changing, big things.  I attended nine beautiful weddings in 2013, got engaged to a man I love immensely, starting planning a budget-savvy country wedding, watched my brother graduate high school and begin college.  2013 was the year my grandmother made the weighty decision to not pursue treatment for her 3rd recurrence of breast cancer, which has now metastasized and become widespread throughout her body.  It was the year that I decided to leave my job at UNC, my friends and family nearby, and all of the comforts of the South to be closer to Scott.  After 7.5 years of dating, we were ready to experience life together in the same city.  I've adjusted to life in the Midwest better than could be expected, found a job (maybe not my "forever" job, but a place where I can practice my profession and can make some money to put towards the final pieces of our wedding), and am ready to begin pre-marital counseling come January with Scott.

2013 was for growing and stretching.  My 2013 self looks so different from the Cristina I grew up being.  I had to go outside of my comfort zone and learn to be ok with being the new girl again in a new place; I had to be ok with not knowing all the back roads to get places (or even the main roads, to be honest).  I had to be ok with not having a job for a period of time, and I had to trust that one would be provided.  But I learned a lot about myself, my relationship with Scott, and the Lord as I pushed through the walls of comfort into the unknown.  I'm so glad I did.

Being home has made me realize just how much I love and miss North Carolina.  Scott and I hope to end up back here eventually, and I can't wait for that day.  In the meantime, I'm going to learn what it is for him to be my family for a while.  In just over 3 months, I'm going to share a last name, a home, and a life with Scott, and I'm ready to learn what it is for him to be my family.  In the book Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist (just started reading and could barely put it down to write this post), she has a chapter called "Becoming Family."  Here's an excerpt from it that I feel I can really identify with, and perhaps you will, too, for those who live away from family

On that hot shimmering night, one of the things I said to Aaron in our wedding vows was, "When I am with you, wherever we are, I am home."  It was, I thought, a beautiful and romantic thing to say, and I really felt it.  Aaron has a way of settling me down and making peace in me when everything feels crazy and alien.  The more time I spent with him when we first met, the stronger and more peaceful I felt, like I had eaten a delicious and nutritious breakfast.  
 I didn't actually think, though, that I would have to put our vows into practice quite so quickly.  We met and dated in the town both of our families lived in, and when we got married, we lived in that same town, near old friends and cousins and siblings.  And then just a few months after our first anniversary, a friend of ours asked us to think about moving to be a part of his church, three hours away, for Aaron to be a worship leader there.  It was in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  
...When I said to him on our wedding day that when I was with him, I was home, I did not mean, "Let's move to Michigan and see if I'm right, okay?"  I meant, "I love you so much, and let's stay in Chicago where my parents and my friends are, how about that?"
Oh, I feel this.  I know what it is to feel like someone is home to you.  And I now also know what it is to miss the place you've always called home while trying to love the person you now call home.

The growing and stretching doesn't end in 2013.  I think it's a process that will last for my whole life.  I think it's what Jesus calls us to, this moving forward and pushing past what's comfy and warm and fuzzy.  Our trust and faith in Him grows so much when we leave everything we know in, what seems to outsiders, like reckless abandonment of our former selves.  It's reckless if you do it on your own, but it's called faith when you do it with Jesus.  I'm not encouraging you to pack up and move across the country; but rather, encouraging you to do something in 2014 that maybe isn't something you'd ever considered yourself doing.  Maybe it means a major career or job change, a new volunteer or service opportunity, going back to school.  It could mean stepping away from a toxic relationship, or starting a new friendship with someone not in your circle of friends.  Whatever it is, I hope you find yourself ever-stretching in 2014.  I'm quite certain my stretching is not yet over.

In my reflections on the year, I can't forget to look back on my one word for the year.  Each year, my home church promotes picking one word for the year to focus on instead of making a long list of resolutions.  My word in 2013 was serve (post here: My One Word: Serve).  I'll tell you what, my word did not play out quite in the way I had imagined.  I served this year, but not in the ways that I had dreamed up in my head.  My vision with serve was that I would be one of the greeters on Sundays at church, or maybe that I would volunteer feeding the homeless downtown.  I didn't serve in the traditional church serving type way in 2013.  Much of my service was through loving friends through tough times, through standing beside them as they got married, and through doing the everyday mundane kind of loving.  When I moved to Indy, I served Scott through cooking meals for him as he studied for exams and boards, and I tried to do things to encourage him as he made his way through long days in clinic and long nights in the books.  I love how God transforms the plans that we have for ourselves and does so much more than we anticipated with them.

This year, my word is present.  I'm  guilty of always planning ahead, dwelling on the past, and wanting more than what I have right now.  I'm rarely content with where I am in life or with what I have.  This goes for relationships, belongings,  where I live, my marital status, my car, my job, etc.  I'm always looking ahead to a better version of my self, a better version of my home, relationship... you get the point.  This year, I'm going to focus on being present and being content with where I am.  I'm going to slow down and enjoy where I am.  I'm going to take in every detail around me and not just zip through the days in anticipation of the next one.  I'm going to thank God for each day, each blessing, each trial.  And I'm going to learn as much as I can no matter where I am.  I'm going to work earnestly at my job and not wish it away, I'm going to enjoy every moment of planning our wedding and not hope for the day when it's all over, and I'm going to take time to appreciate the small moments that are actually the big, massive, important moments.  I've learned a little bit about this in 2013, and I've taken time in the midst of all of the crazy to appreciate smaller, quieter moments.  But I've still got a long way to go.  Scott would tell you about how anxious I was in 2013 and how worried I constantly was about how things would turn out; he'd also tell you about how I look back now and laugh at all of the stress that I felt, especially now that I see how beautifully God provided.

Pray with me on this word and hold me accountable, sweet friends.  I have one friend who I'm going to call out who did an awesome job at checking in on my word-- Josh Bennet.  Thank you, friend, for doing an incredible job at holding me accountable with serve.  Even though it didn't turn out in the way I anticipated, it was still a year of learning to serve.  Here's to hoping 2014 will be full of being present and learning to be happy where I am.  I hope for lots of moments of eating sweet strawberries, laughing over cups of coffee, being present in the lives of friends and family far away through phone calls and letters, pushing through discomfort and awkwardness to meet new friends and be present in their lives, and in being content with where I am with God-- in listening to His instructions for my life.  I know His book is full of truth and wisdom.  I pray for my presence in that book this year, and in reaching out to spread His word to those who don't yet know His beauty.  I'm guilty of thinking I need to be some super Christian before God can use me for His kingdom; truth is, God used a whole bunch of wretched sinners in the Bible to save people and spread His glory.  Why in the world would I be any different?

Thanks for your prayer and support, and let me know how I can pray for and encourage you in 2014. Lots of love to you all-- enjoy this Christmas season and reflect on how blessed we are that Jesus came in the flesh for the purpose of loving us, dying for us, and redeeming us.

Grace & peace,
Cristina

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Monthaversary

This word makes me giggle just a little bit.  Back when Scott and I first started dating, we would celebrate each month of being together.  Almost 8 years later, it's a little hard to keep up that tradition, though I find myself celebrating little moments like that in other areas of my life, too.  Today marks a one monthaversary in Indianapolis.  I can hardly believe that I have been here for a month already.  In some ways, I feel like we just pulled up to the back of my building in a moving truck yesterday, yet in others, I feel like I've been here for a lifetime.

Indianapolis has been good to me so far.  I've learned to drive in snow/ice already, was blessed with a job, can get to all the malls and at least two groceries stores without a GPS, and have found a place to be in fellowship with other believers.  I still mourn things about leaving NC; I miss having friends to call up at a moment's notice for a girls' night or for a quick coffee date.  I miss running (my area isn't the safest to run in, plus the sidewalks are currently covered in ice around here), Bski's, having a puppy in the house, living a quick day trip from my family.  But I'm learning what it is to find ways to love those things from afar, and I'm trying hard to not focus on those things so much that I miss out on new opportunities and friendships here.

The sweetest thing about my month here has been the end of an era in the dating world- our long distance plight.  For years, the end of the long distance aspect of our relationship was hypothetical... a "maybe someday" kind of thing.  Once engaged, it became a more definite thing, and we counted down the months.  I remember getting a text from Scott once that said "three months until I can hang out in coffee shops with you on weekends."  Today, for the first time since I moved here, we actually hung out in a coffee shop together.  Maybe it wasn't the "ideal" coffee date-- he was buried in powerpoints for finals and I was racing through my book for book club (FINALLY finished The Light Between Oceans-- more to come on this later), but it was something that we wouldn't have been able to do a few months ago on a regular basis.  Seeing Scott used to be a special occasion, something I would count down to, dress up for, paint my nails for, etc.  Now it's a normal part of my life.

So, on my monthaversary, I'm thankful for all of the good things that have come with this transition.  I'm missing North Carolina, my friends, family, and church very much, but I'm learning how to love from a distance.  Just like I learned how to love Scott with 650 miles of pavement between us, I'm now reversing these roles a bit and learning to love him from right down the street and all aspects of my NC life from a distance.

Tomorrow I'll start my new job, and I am very excited and nervous about it.  I'm excited that it's 10 minutes from my apartment and does not require a 15-20 minute bus ride to and from work each day;  I'm excited that it's a smaller facility with great opportunity for learning.  I am nervous because the people that will work beside me each day aren't the faces I've known and loved for so long on 3 West; yet, I'm hopeful that they'll be just as friendly and just as professional.

So Indy, happy one monthaversary to us today.  Sorry that I didn't arrange a fancy dinner or date night to celebrate with you, but know that I am loving you and am appreciative of your kindness to me so far.  And I'm excited for what adventures lie ahead with you and my soon-to-be husband.  Be good to us as we start our life together here.


And to celebrate the 1 month anniversary here--
A giant air mattress for all of my friends and family to
stay on when they visit :) 

Grace & peace, sweet friends. 
Cristina 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Funemployment

I never know how to start out my blog posts.  Let's start there.  I want to write to you like I'm writing a letter, but who do I address it to?  I consider those who read my posts to be dear friends of mine, even if we've never met before.  I want to write to you like I would a pen pal, to speak to you as if we were sitting across from one another in a coffee shop, sharing life's most intimate happenings.  And that's how I'm going to start out this particular post, it seems.  Sharing my uncertainties about how to speak with you, sweet friends.

"Funemployment" has been a bit of a roller coaster for me.  My last official day working at UNC was exactly one month ago.  It was a Tuesday when I left 3 West for the last time, and I was three days away from moving to Indianapolis as I clocked out that night.  A couple of friends who had helped me pack that weekend before the move convinced me to refer to my period of unemployment as funemployment, which I thought was.. fun, to say the least.  It put a new spin on how I was looking at that period of uncertainty and gave me a more positive perspective from which to look at it from.  I didn't have to mope about being unemployed, complain about the lack of new job postings in Indy, show my worry over the lack of health insurance benefits that I would face come the end of November.  It made me feel more confident about not having a job when I moved to Indianapolis.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the long process of getting my nursing license in Indiana, applying for jobs, waiting, interviewing, waiting, interviewing, waiting, with no bites.  When I planned my move, the hope was to have maybe a couple of weeks off to unpack and get organized, but then to start working shortly after.  Thing was, I really wanted to have a job secured already when I made the move so that I could really ENJOY putting my apartment together and learning my way around.  I didn't want to be rushing off to interviews while in the middle of unpacking boxes or to be wondering if I'd be unemployed for months on end with the wedding quickly approaching and expenses constantly flowing.  

Things rarely work out the way we plan for them to.  I moved up here without the promise of a job, but with the hope of one to come.  I read Matthew 6 over and over again, reminding myself that worrying was sinful and that I needed to trust that God knew what was best for me, that I didn't need to lie in bed at night wondering how long these days without working would go on for.  Truth is, I met a lot of resistance from family and a few friends when I decided to make the move with no job in sight. I responded to their concerns with bold faith, telling them that I was not worried about finding a job and that I had saved meticulously over the past year of working in preparation for something like this.  I had calculated in moving expenses, security deposits, grocery bills, health insurance, travel expenses, etc., and was prepared for a few months of living up here without income.  And mostly, when I told people that I wasn't worried, it was true.  Though I did have these little monsters in my brain trying to tell me it wasn't logical to move like this, my heart felt still.  I felt a deeper peace in the midst of all of the worry.  Though I did wonder how I would provide for myself if unemployment extended for a long period of time, I didn't let it consume me.  The thoughts and worries were there, but they were more like a little itch than a disease taking over my whole body and being.  I really did believe that things would work out.

My month up here in Indianapolis has been a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness and His provision.  Things worked out a little differently from how I imagined.  I did have to rush off to interviews in the midst of unpacking boxes and arranging things in the apartment.  I had to dig out interview clothes minutes before an interview, run an iron over them, and race out the door to make my interviews on time.  I had to learn my way around this giant, unfamiliar place to get to these interviews.  I had to admit in each interview that I had just moved here within the past month and was still trying to get familiar with the area-- to offer apologies for not laughing when they joked about something only a real Hoosier would understand.  I viewed each interview as an opportunity; even if the job didn't work out, it was more experience for me in learning how to answer those types of questions, another chance for me to think critically and meet a challenge in responding.  

I'll be starting my new job on December 9th, exactly one month and one day after I moved to Indianapolis.  If I could have picked how this would all work out, I would have asked to have a job secured but perhaps not start until January so I could go home for the holidays.  There's still no word on if and when I'll be able to get home, but I'm hopeful that I will.  I'm finding that things work out the way that they should.  I can't always see that when I'm right in the middle of something, but when I look back, I can see how things were orchestrated in such a way that was for ultimate good.  

I'm thankful for my month of funemployment.  I'm thankful for days of reading books, spending time with the Lord, cooking, baking, organizing, cleaning, eating meals with Scott, wandering around aimlessly in my new city, meeting with friends up here, taking it easy for once in my life.  But this busy body is also thankful that funemployment is drawing to an end and that a new routine will be starting soon.  I'm a little scared of my new job, and I think that's a good thing.  It's very unfamiliar to me.  I'll be taking care of 5-6 patients (more than my previous 4-5), some on ventilators (VERY new to me.  I've been reading about them online to give myself a little intro!), in a much smaller facility where everyone knows each other, in a new city in which I still need my GPS to get just about everywhere.

But it's good fear.  It's a challenge.  Funemployment has been challenging in its own way, teaching me to be ok with not having to-do lists every day and places to run off to all the time.  It's taught me to be ok with being still.  Now I feel ready for a new challenge, new people, a new place.  I ask for prayer as I face the next part of the adventure.  You've all been so good to me and so encouraging during my time here and in my time preparing to come.  Thanks for all of your texts, e-mails, phone calls, letters.  I truly have the best of family and friends.  

Grace & peace, dear friends. 
C

Monday, December 2, 2013

On My Nightstand

I used to do posts like this every so often on my old blog, and as I was looking back through old posts on that page this morning, I realized I am long overdue for sharing about good reads.  I also realize that I write a lot of posts in list or bullet-point style; I don't know if this bothers readers or not, but I try to switch it up to give paragraph style posts as well.  Some of my favorite blogs that I follow do a mixture of writing styles and I know that I always appreciate the list-style ones for days when I need a quick read.  Conversely, sometimes I need deep material and good writing, so longer, paragraph-style posts fulfill that desire as well.  In any case, here's what I'm working on in the literature department lately.

On the nightstand

1. The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Steadman.  This is our book club read for the month, and I actually had started this book on my Kindle months ago but never got around to finishing it.  I'm a little over halfway through this one now and have gotten to that point where I don't want to put it down.  Last night I had told myself I would finish reading a certain chapter and then clean some dishes.  Naturally, at the end of the chapter there was a plot twist that had me glued to the pages for another hour!  This is an excellent book though; for a brief plot summary, it's about a couple that live on a secluded island to operate a lighthouse, who find that they are unable to have children.  One day, a boat washes up on shore with two bodies, one is that of a dead man, and the other of a small baby, still very much alive.  The story is about the moral dilemma of the decisions the couple makes about this baby's life.  I'd highly recommend it, and though I'm not finished with it yet, I think it's going to be one of those that I love.

 2. Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas.  I've read this one before, but I'm reading it again in preparation for my marriage with Scott.  I feel like this is one of those books you can read over and over again, and it just never gets old.

3. The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller.  In an older blog post that I had written with books on my nightstand, this one was on there.  I had written that I bought this book three times, but always found myself giving it away to other people who needed it before I did.  Before getting engaged, I used to love reading books about Christian marriage just to be well-versed on the matter.  So before we got engaged, I would give this book to friends who were about to get married; once we got engaged, I got a little selfish and kept the book for myself.  Can't wait to dig into this one, finally!

4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  This is another one that I've been meaning to get to for a while, but just haven't!  As I write all of this, it makes me realize that I need to make reading a priority again.  As a little girl, I loved it to the point that I would read in my closet with the light on and door closed way after my bedtime.  I remember reading many of the Harry Potter books this way, actually.  Speaking of...

5. Harry Potter (all of them), by J.K. Rowling.  Last year my dad gave me the collector's editions of these books in a little parcel that's supposed to look like an old-fashioned trunk.  I've been meaning to read these ever since.  I usually like to read Harry Potter around the holidays, for some odd reason!

6. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.  These were also on my nightstand last year around this time, but things got busy with working night shift and doing Christmas shopping, so I never finished them! I completed The Magician's Nephew, the first of this series, but never made it any further.  I've got collector's editions of these, as well, sitting on my bookshelf, and am hopeful to finish these soon! They are quick reads, or quicker than most books I read now.

7. The Lone Rider, by Nicholas Sparks.  This is his newest book that I really didn't even know about until I bought it as a Christmas present for one of my family members.  It was on sale for $3.29 on the Kindle so I went ahead and purchased it and have it saved in my queue for books to read.  I'm a sappy, Nicholas Sparks-loving girl.  A lot of seasoned readers think his writing is silly, but I consider his books to be guilty pleasures.  We'll see how this one turns out.. he has yet to disappoint!

8. Holy Bible, by various authors? I'm working through letters in the New Testament as of late, while also sprinkling in some Psalms (Psalm 61 has been the go-to for the past few weeks/months.  I believe I almost have it memorized now).

9. Mosby's Nursing Drug Reference, published by Elsevier.  During funemployment, I found myself so bored that I have been brushing up on nursing knowledge and medications.  It's been kind of fun, actually, and it gives me a renewed sense of purpose in my career.

Recently finished

1. The Best of Me, by Nicholas Sparks.  I borrowed this book from sweet Jordan about a year and a half ago and have FINALLY finished it.  It's super good. Super super good.  He definitely threw in some plot twists at the end, but I started guessing what was going to happen and seemed to be figuring out his clever twists towards the end.  I love how sentimental his books are and how focused they are on bold love.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Small Joys: volume 10

Happy belated Thanksgiving, sweet friends! I hope that you are all full of turkey and joy from spending time with your family and friends for this Thanksgiving.  I was sad to be far from my family this year, but we were lucky to be included in another family's Thanksgiving up here in Indiana. There have been lots of changes in the past week since I last posted updates.  It's funny to me to go back and read through my posts that I've written since I moved here just in light of all that happened this week.  Also, I'm late in posting these (I was trying to post Small Joys on Fridays... but alas, here we are on Sunday afternoon and they are just now appearing).   Without further delay, here they are.

No. 1: Accepting a job offer (!!).  I can't exactly call this a "small joy."  If you read my post from Monday of this past week (Be Still & Know), you'll know that I was really struggling with being patient and waiting for the Lord to open up job opportunities for me.  Oddly enough, this is the job that I did not feel very confident about after my interview.  Two days after I wrote that post, on Wednesday morning, as Scott was studying in my living room and I was cleaning my apartment, I saw the familiar number appear on my phone.  I knew it was Kevin from Kindred Hospital, and I was sure he was calling to tell me I didn't get the job.  I stared at the number for a while and continued to let it ring, not wanting to pick up the phone and hear the rejection in his voice.  For whatever reason, though, I picked it up.  It was on one of the last rings before it would have gone to my voicemail.  "Hey Cristina! It's Kevin from Kindred.  So how do you think your interviews went?"  I hesitated. "Well, I think they went pretty well."  He cheerily responded, "Well, they must have because they want to offer you a position! You discussed day shift, right? Looks like they are offering you a day shift position."  To say I was shocked would be an understatement.  Not only were they offering me a position, but they were offering me a day shift position.  Meaning no more feeling sick after working a night shift, no more blackout curtains or avoiding coffee in the morning so I could sleep all day.  I am feeling blessed beyond measure, and ever so thankful.  It was incredible that this news came so close to Thanksgiving and so close to when I was feeling in such despair about the job hunt.  Lord, You are forever faithful.

No. 2: Handwritten notes.  I was thrilled to check my mailbox this weekend, as I have been anxiously awaiting replies from friends that I have committed to being pen pals with.  I received one such letter that was addressed in unfamiliar handwriting.  I was trying to think of who it could be from, with no return address listed on the envelope.  I tore it open once back in my apartment and was so excited to see that it was a congratulatory note from the Chief Clinical Officer at my new job.  She had been one of the interviewers for my first interview and just seems sweet as can be.  I'm so happy to be working somewhere that cares enough about a new employee to send a personalized, handwritten note in the mail.  I'm a sucker for handwritten notes, anyone who knows me probably knows I'm old-fashioned in this way :)



No. 3: New hiking boots.  I shouldn't say "new," as in, "Oh, I'm just trading in my old ones for new ones."  No, to be truthful, I have never in my life owned a pair of hiking boots.  I've thought about it maybe once or twice, but after a particularly cold day up here in Indy, with Scott's encouragement, I purchased my first pair of hiking boots.  And I'm so glad I did.  They are super warm, have great traction in the snow (or any terrain, really), and are INCREDIBLY comfortable.  I was discouraged during our search for them; two stores (Dick's and REI) produced very little that I could afford or was interested in buying (some of them are just plain ugly. And don't look durable).  After throwing a pseudo-hissy fit on the phone with Scott over how I would never find hiking boots, I visited a local store down the road from my house called Rusted Moon and found the perfect pair.  I'm excited for years of adventuring in these boots alongside my husband-to-be :)



No. 4: Sunshine.  After a gloomy couple of weeks up here filled with snow flurries and overcast days, I've enjoyed sitting near the windows in my apartment as the sun comes in throughout the day .  I try to find things to do that involve me being able to sit in the sunny places of the apartment-- reading my Bible, journaling, blogging, looking up things on Pinterest, reading books, reading blogs, folding laundry, drinking coffee, talking on the phone, any excuse to sit in the sunshine, really!

No. 5: Christmas music.  I've actually been listening to Christmas music since Halloween (no, not the day after Halloween... actual Halloween.  I had to stop playing the music each time the doorbell rang with trick-or-treaters so that they wouldn't judge too harshly), but I'm happy to finally be able to openly listen now without any Grinches judging me for it.  It's inevitable every year that people post stuff online about how you shouldn't celebrate/decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  As thankful as I am for holidays like Thanksgiving and as much as I appreciate celebrating it, I see nothing wrong with listening to Christmas music during November.  I don't see it as neglecting Thanksgiving or anything of that sort; I just think the two go hand in hand.  A season of thankfulness and a season of celebrating the birth of Jesus.  So I celebrate Christmas for two whole months, and I hope that that's ok with the world around me :) My favorite Christmas songs are actually the jazzy, old-timey ones.  Think Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James.



No. 6: Thanksgiving in Indiana.  I spent my second ever Thanksgiving in Indiana this year, though last year I was not a resident when I celebrated here.  This year, Scott's good friend, Ian, invited us to celebrate in northern Indiana with his family.  We drove up there on Thursday, served with his family at a local church to put on a Thanksgiving for those unable to have their own Thanksgiving, and then hiked through cornfields and the woods behind Ian's house before heading to dinner with their extended family.  Everyone was so welcoming and kind to us, and I appreciated this ever so much.  Like I said earlier, it was really hard to be away from family for this Thanksgiving, so it was a huge blessing to be able to spend it with people who were so generous.



No. 7: Online shopping.  Ok, this is where I can be a little bit of a Grinch at Christmastime.  I am a super duper introvert and don't really like large crowds of people.  The craze of Christmas shopping is not my thing.  I'm actually typically finished with all of my Christmas shopping by now, and normally I'd just be working on wrapping things in a creative way.  This year, the move threw me off.  As did the lack of job.  Without a job lined up, I was a little scared to start Christmas shopping since I was pulling money from my savings, which I really needed both to live up here and to pay for the wedding in April.  I plan on going Christmas shopping during the week this coming week so as to avoid the thundering herds (this is the term coined by my grandfather :)), but I'm also thankful for free shipping and the ability to shop online.  It's nice, too, because I know I won't be able to see certain people for Christmas, and I can just have their gift shipped directly to their home.

No. 8: Good books.  I've finally given in to my free time and have started reading books for fun again.  While on the job hunt, I was spending a lot of time looking up jobs, filling out applications, and interviewing (or traveling for interviews!).  It's been so refreshing to just enjoy my free time now and to pick up reading again.  My friend Jordan will be happy to know that I have finally finished reading a book that I borrowed from her about a year and a half ago.  It's a Nicholas Sparks book, and it wasn't hard to get through at all.  I just didn't make it a priority.  No worries Jordan, this book will be back in  your hands the next time I come to NC :) I'm now working on The Light Between Oceans as our book club read for the month.  I'm about halfway through and just love it.  It's got romance, mystery, and moral dilemma all in one great book!

No. 9: The writings of Paul.  I'm loving reading through Paul's letters in the New Testament and seeing what wisdom He has for different groups of people living during the time of Jesus (or shortly after His death) trying to live out the gospel and the life Christians are called to.  The church I have been attending up here is also doing a series with many readings from these letters, and I'm just eating up every word.

No. 10: The hope of a visit home.  My new job is supposed to start on December 9th, and I'm wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that I'll be left with just a few days around Christmas to travel home to see family.  I'll be training and working someone else's schedule during this time, so it's hard to say if I'll actually get to go home, but I'm praying for it.  I would love to see my family, friends, and ever-crazy Gracie Lou.

Lots of love, friends.  Happy December and may you find time to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and what joy there is in Christ.  If you don't understand this season or don't really get why we celebrate Jesus, I'd love to chat with you about it.  I'm always down for in-person coffee dates or virtual Skype/Facetime coffee dates.

Grace & peace.
C