Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Seeking Joy

Wrightsville Beach, NC 

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." -Psalm 16:11

One of my friends from work recently asked me, "so what's the deal with small joys? Are there big joys?" Small joys are something I started looking for almost a decade ago when I first graduated from nursing school.  One of my preceptors was talking about her favorite scrubs (Grey's Anatomy, obviously) as we were walking down the hallway, and she was talking about how much she loved buying a new pair of them.  When she was done talking about them, she said "Yep.  Small joys."  I wonder if she would even remember the conversation today.  I certainly do, and her comment about buying new scrubs as a small joy stuck with me.  I was in a season where I was anxious all the time.  I was a new nurse and was so terrified every shift that I wouldn't pick up on something that was monumental for saving my patient.  The night before my first shift on my own as a new nurse, I couldn't sleep at all and actually had CHEST PAIN! At 22 years old.  I was freaking out and ended up going to the emergency room after texting my roommate (everything was fine-- it was determined to be anxiety vs. indigestion, as is most chest pain for a healthy 20-something); all this to say, the anxiety was real and I needed something to help me get through each shift.

I prayed a lot before I went into work and asked God to bless my hands as I worked with patients, and I prayed for the safety of the patients in my care.  I'd sit in my car in the parking garage with my faded pink Bible and read psalms over and over again before going in. But throughout my shift, I used this small joys notion to seek joy in the midst of the very ordinary (or, to me, the very scary).  Small joys were the little things that you might ordinarily miss if you weren't looking for them, the little reminders that God was ever present.  Sometimes it was just a hot cup of coffee at 3AM when my shift was SO CLOSE but so far from being over.  Sometimes it was a kind word from a patient or their family that encouraged me and got me through another crazy day.  At times, it was just an easy patient load.  One day, it really was just my comfortable scrubs.  It was catching the bus on time and getting home earlier than I normally did.  A day when all my charting was done by the end of my shift and I didn't have to stay over.  Sometimes it was a sunrise on my way into work, or a sunset when I was leaving.  Some days I made a little list of the joys for that day that I carried around in my pocket-- something I could reflect on later when I got home and changed into my PJs.

These days, I am in another season where I am seeking joy.  This morning, it was waking up to coffee already brewed in my coffeemaker that I programmed last night to brew at 5AM. It was lighting a mulled cider candle to burn while I did my quiet time with the Lord.  It's the plant sitting next to my computer as I write to make me feel more grounded and connected to nature, even in the midst of my kitchen.  To answer my friend's question-- I don't really look for big joys.  Those are really obvious to most people and they're the things that smack you in the face and, sometimes, change your life.  Small joys are the little blessings in each day that you would miss if you weren't looking for them.  A big joy would be the birth of my niece recently; the small joy would be getting to hold her and snuggle her, rocking her to sleep, and squeezing her chunky baby thighs.  Those are the little things I look for, the little things I love finding God's promises in.

Another translation (NIV) of the verse from Psalms that I wrote above says, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  I wouldn't dare to say that my cup of coffee on night shift at 3AM is an eternal pleasure, but these things are reminders to me of a loving God who has promised eternal pleasures to those who seek Him and call Him Lord.

I am praying and hoping that you find these moments of joy in your day, that they help you remember that there is a God who loves and cares for the details of your life.  And that in those moments, you would seek Him and be grateful for those tiny moments of joy in the midst of the very ordinary.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Coming Back

It's been a while since I've written anything.  I'm not really sure why, but writing has been hard lately.  I've sat down to write this post many times and then stopped-- I've deleted words and retyped them, erased the whole thing and started from scratch.

Before I was ever a nurse, I sat in a classroom at Cape Fear Community College in a course for nursing assistants that I was taking for the summer to jump start my nursing career.  Our instructor, a woman known as "Hosk," had all of us go around the room to introduce ourselves and state one or two things that we love to do in our free time.  After everyone had shared their various passions and interests, Hosk said, "now I want you to remember this day.  Remember the things that you just shared that you love to do.  If you find that you're going more than a few days at a time without doing those things, you need to change something about what you're doing and re-evaluate.  Make sure you take care of yourself as you enter the healthcare profession."  I was 18 years old and so naive.  Of course I would always make time for things I love-- who wouldn't? I couldn't imagine what that life would look like.

Fast forward 11 years.  I know exactly what it looks like now to live without doing the things you love every day. I am now almost as burnt out as they come as a healthcare professional, at the ripe age of 29.  I don't recognize myself anymore physically or mentally; I say things I don't mean and have an attitude that's just garbage most days when I am at work.  I get easily annoyed and roll my eyes at the smallest of things.  It has taken using other people as my mirror to make me realize this, when I see someone's response to something I have said or when a colleague doesn't understand why I am so annoyed about something.

Healthcare has certainly burned me out.  I brought everything I had to it as a young nurse; I worked the long hours and the night shifts.  I worked the holidays and the rotating weekends and missed so many celebrations and time with family.  I stayed late charting and came home to eat dinner at 9:30 some nights.  I skipped lunches at work, skipped bathroom breaks and worked so so hard to keep my patients safe.

In my role as a provider now, I thought maybe things would be different.  And in some ways, they are.  I take regular bathroom breaks now, sometimes even extra ones just to get a quiet moment away from the questions and pages and phone calls and e-mails.  I eat lunch most days, though sometimes it's at my desk while pouring over labs and trying to figure out what treatments to pursue.  I work longer hours than I did as a nurse-- maybe not in a given day, but in a given week, I work more than full-time hours.  My days are long and made longer by living over an hour from where I work.  I try to set boundaries at work but fail most days.  It seems that as a provider, you're expected to just work constantly all in the name of patient care.  Wouldn't it just be patient abandonment if you didn't?

But my brain is tired.  My body is tired.  My emotions are wrung out.  I feel like a shell of who I was when I went into healthcare.  And when I think back to that day when I started this journey into healthcare, when I named the things I loved to do and promised to make time for them-- I'm sad because I realize I've neglected all of the things that build me up and settle my soul.

I've started reclaiming some of them over the past few months.  I started making it a priority to spend time with the Lord everyday, to get involved with church community again and be in the presence of other believes who are trying to figure all of the mess out.  And I started running again--bought the new running shoes and signed up for the race and built the race plan.  I started reading a few pages from a book each night, even if I can't finish a book in a day like I once could; it helps me to read of far off places or books about bettering oneself for those around you.  And my final claim back on my life is reclaiming my blog and my writing.  Writing is life-giving to me; I still hope to someday write something that I can publish and that people will display on their coffee tables or in their beach bag for their weekend trip.

So, here I am, coming back.  I don't know how much I'll be able to write in this space or what it will look like to be here.  It'll take some time to find my voice again-- who knows if I even write the same anymore, or sound the same? I'm excited for the journey and to step back into something that I love and that the Lord has given me such a passion for.