Friday, July 17, 2015

The Growing & the Stretching: Part II

I wrote a post last October called Growing & Stretching & Moving the Cheese, mostly about growing in my professional life and stretching myself in the workplace.  Almost a year later, I'm growing and stretching in many other ways outside of my professional life, and I'm remembering how unglamorous it is to grow and stretch yourself, but how completely necessary it is to moving forward, to growing older.

I chose one of my favorite pictures from our wedding to share with this post, the photo that was taken right after James presented us for the first time as husband and wife.  I remember feeling complete, genuine joy in this photo, and thinking "finally!" after 8 years of dating and loving this man.  My marriage is in no trouble at all, but I chose this photo because it is my marriage that has been growing and stretching and making me better.

I think Scott and I somehow missed that fun "honeymoon" phase of marriage (I keep hoping we'll get lucky and have one years into our marriage after dental school and nurse practitioner school are over!).  Not because we were arguing or fighting or had our expectations of marriage set too high, but because of circumstances surrounding our lives.  Day 3 of our marriage looked like this: I was crying and holding Scott's hands in the bathroom praying out loud over Scott and myself for guidance in the murky waters ahead.  We'd received a piece of bad news that we hadn't been anticipating, and as brand new newlyweds who hadn't even unpacked their bags from the wedding yet, we didn't know what to do.  One of our best friends was sitting in our living room, and thinking back now, it's such a testament to the community around us in Indy who have been there for us all along through difficult circumstances.  Sometimes the people we needed in our lives were a 13 hour drive away, but mostly they were on the other side of the bathroom door when we needed them.

Two months later, moving past that news, my grandmother passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer.  I remember trying not to cry; my mom had just called to share the news and Scott was still asleep in our bed.  I didn't want him to wake up to me crying, so I started packing my bag for Florida while letting silent tears slip through.  When he woke up, he sat with me for a while and let me cry, and then he gave me space so I could figure out travel details, and he didn't complain when I listened to Sara Groves "He's Always Been Faithful" on repeat for the rest of the day.

It seems that each week of our marriage brings something new.  Sometimes it's something really good, and we celebrate and laugh and thank God for his goodness. And sometimes it's so horrible that we feel like our lives have been flipped upside down, and we cry and we worry and we thank God for his goodness.

Lately our life is a mixed bag.  We've gotten really good news and really bad news, and sometimes it all comes in the same day.  I think that's part of weaving two lives together in marriage, and it makes the news you receive that much sweeter or that much more difficult to swallow.  Maybe one of you learns about a promotion as the other learns that they're being laid off, or one of you has great success in losing weight and getting in shape while the other receives an upsetting diagnosis from their doctor.  I know that I feel things more on another person's behalf than I ever imagined possible; I feel really angry for Scott when someone wrongs him and I cry for him when I feel overwhelmed on his behalf.  Marriage has brought a whole new meaning to the word empathy for me, and I find that I do feel things on his behalf that I never imagined I could feel for someone.  I thought I was too wrapped up in myself to ever really want to cry or feel joy for someone else, but I've learned that marriage brings that sense of being able to feel those things for another person, and maybe that stretches you just enough so you can feel it for friends and family and people on the street as well.  Obviously other people who aren't as selfish as myself find ways to empathize for others without having to learn it through marriage, and those people are more lovelier than me.  It took binding myself to another person for the rest of our lives for me to have that experience and to really understand feeling some emotion on someone else's behalf, to feel it wholly for them, not because of anything related to myself.

I wish, in the true spirit of being transparent, that I could share all of our good and bad news in this space, but part of my growing and stretching in our marriage is learning to respect Scott's wishes and his style of living, and he's a much more private person than I am.  I still wear my heart on my sleeve, but I keep some of its secrets buried deep within its inner chambers so that they're more difficult to find.

Can you relate at all to the growing and the stretching? Or is this concept something hard to imagine for you? As unglamorous and challenging as it is, I hope there's parts of your life that are growing you and stretching you and making you better for it.  Whether it's school or work or your faith life or your relationships, I hope there's someone or something pushing you to your limits and helping you stretch them.

I'll leave you with one of the same verses I did in my last Growing & Stretching post, one that I'm still carrying around in my pocket or my purse anywhere I go, and certainly burying in my heart.

"And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong.  And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." -Isaiah 58:11


Saturday, July 4, 2015

For the Soul

One of my friends told me before I left for California that it was good for the soul; she was exactly right.  I'm not sure if it was the combination of being worn out from school and work lately or if was that neither Scott nor myself had seen much sunlight in the past few months, but something about all of that mixed in with the California sun came together to heal me over the past week.  Somewhere between gazing at the seals in La Jolla Cove and walking six miles to the Golden Gate Bridge on a fall-like day in San Francisco, I started feeling myself get pieced back together into the nice, whole person that I used to be before too many night shifts and too little sleep from schoolwork ruined me.

I flew back into Indy tonight feeling like a different me.  I watched fireworks over the city as we landed and I was happy to be back in my home.  It's weird that I call Indy home, but it sparks all of those prickly warm feelings that home always brings, and when I stepped into my apartment tonight, it looked and smelled and felt just like home always does.  I'm ready for the changes that are coming over the next few weeks and months.  Wedding season began with the wedding we just went to in LA, so we'll be doing quite a bit of traveling in the coming months to North Carolina and Alabama and even some new places in Indiana to celebrate with people we love.  I'm two weeks (and six night shifts!) away from switching to day shift, and one month away from starting my master's program to become a nurse practitioner.  I survived (and thrived in?) my summer school class and managed to squeeze out an A between long days in the library and long nights taking care of patients.

And I'm just feeling oh so very thankful.  It's really amazing how a few days away from the status quo, from the mundane activities of the day-to-day, can completely change your perspective and give you new energy to pursue your passions and live the life in front of you.  It's nice to step away from your life for just a little while and then to step back into it to see how beautiful it actually is.  And I realize that it's not possible for everyone to take weeks off of work for retreats like this, and I realize that it's really rude for me to not acknowledge that, so what I say to you is this: make time for sunrises and sunsets, and for candles and hot tea and good books.  Take nights to grill out with your family or run with your significant other or get coffee with a good friend.  Take a nap or go to bed early or go on a bike ride near your home.  Do something for you, something that heals and transforms you, something for your soul.  Something that makes you smile or laugh or cry, something that challenges you and makes you happy to be alive.  Those are the best things.  I need more of those things, and I don't doubt that you do, too.

On that note, I'm going to try to go force sleep on myself.  I'm still on Cali time and therefore my body is really confused about making it try to sleep at 9:30 (read: 12:30 EST).

Lots of love,