Monday, September 30, 2019

Season


"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." 
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

I started with the prompt of "season" last week and wrote an entire post about fall.  And then I saw that there was a different prompt for the Hope Writer's challenge coming up that was titled Fall.  So I had to approach season with new eyes; I filed away my "fall" post for this week and started thinking about season.  And today it just all started rushing around in my head, the thoughts about various seasons of our lives and our part in each of them.

I love the verse above because it gives credit to the fact that there is a season for everything. I only included the first verse of Ecclesiastes 3, but listen to the rest of it:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embrace;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

I can think back on a lot of different seasons in my life and how, at the time, I felt stuck or like I wanted to get out of that season.  Or maybe how I wanted to dive into that season, despite God telling me it wasn't my time for that season.  The one I remember most clearly was the season of weddings! 2013 was the year I still refer to as the year of nine weddings; it felt like EVERYONE was getting engaged and married right after college.  Living in the Bible belt in the south, this was rather common.  My Facebook feed was filled with shiny rings and beautiful engagement photos.  Scott and I had been dating for 7 years at that point, and I just wanted so badly to be in that season.  I wanted the sparkly ring and to be planning a wedding, to be planning our future life together.  

I dared to hope for it, but God kept asking me to wait. I was in a really low place in March of 2013 while at the bachelorette weekend of one of my good friends.  I was trying to distract myself by keeping busy-- I was training for a half marathon and went for a 7 mile beach run that Saturday morning.  I prayed for God to give me a peace about the season that I was in, to give me a heart to wait for the wedding season, the marriage season.  The next day, I left the beach and went back home.  Scott was coming home from Indiana and had a sunset date planned-- something we did often in our beach town.  That night, Scott asked me to be his wife.  God invited us into the season I'd been standing on the edge of for so long.  He invited us into the season of preparing for a gospel-centered wedding and a God-fearing marriage.  

I'm not saying that when you want something badly enough God will give it to you the next day if you pray about it.  But I have learned that there really is a season for everything.  The season before our wedding and marriage season was a really challenging several years of dating long distance between Indiana and North Carolina.  In many ways, it prepared my heart for the patience and endurance that I would need in my marriage season.  

These days, it seems like Scott and I are on the outside of the baby season.  It sure seems like everyone around me is having babies and starting families; one day not too long ago, I just broke down crying and asked Scott if we were ever going to have babies.  We've been in a different season, ourselves, of course.  And it's not necessarily a bad season, just a different one.  One of home renovations, paying off massive student loan debts, and trying to become established in our careers.  We're in a season of growing in community and meeting friends, of living far from home and trying to find our place and set roots where we are.  It reminds me of the season though, when I so longed to be where everyone else was, when I wondered if I was being left behind.  

Ecclesiastes reminds me that I'm not.  God's Word reminds me that there is a time and a season for everything, and that those seasons can't all happen at the same time.  Can you imagine having a baby crawling around when there are chop saws and drills all around the house? I laugh thinking about it because it's ludicrous.  I hope there will be the baby season for us one day, but for now, I feel God walking with me through the waiting. There is another in the fire.

XO,
C

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Angle


I took a yoga class last year around the first day of fall that was taught by one of my dear friends.  The yoga studio that we were at had beautiful tall windows and giant ceilings, and she had us use the wall for part of the class.  We did all kinds of stretches that involved the wall, looking up at the beautiful ceiling all the while.  My friend invited us to take a look at things from a new perspective as we entered fall, to hold things up and examine them from a different angle.  

I think I'll have that memory stamped in my brain forever; there's some moments in your life that seem mundane and ordinary at the time but turn out to be profound and transformational when you look back on them later.  I found that to be the case with this-- what started out as just a Thursday going to yoga class taught by a friend became such a profound lesson and example to me, and something I am thinking of now as we head into the new season.

The photo above is a photo from my living room in the morning.  I've learned that my house is something that I really enjoy examining from a new perspective, and that perspective is early mornings.  At the end of a long day, my house looks a little messy; it looks like a long to-do list of projects and chores, things that I need to tidy.  But in the early morning after I've put on a pot of coffee, home is my quiet oasis that I sit amidst before beginning my day out in the world.  It's a place where I feel that I belong, a place that is cozy and warm and inviting.  I often straighten things up at night before I go to bed, so I awaken to a fresh house where things are in their place.  I sometimes just sit and drink coffee, but mostly I pray and read Scripture.  I sometimes write.  I do all of this looking at the same home I sat in the night before, but I see it all through a new lens: the morning lens.  The lens that helps me to see hope and comfort instead of stress and things to do.

This is a short essay today-- I'm at the end of one of those long days with work piling up in ways that I feel overwhelmed by. Even reading a book for enjoyment tonight seems beyond me.  But I know in the morning, I will awaken and see things from a different angle-- a new perspective.  A perspective I hope to carry with me throughout my day.  

Love,
C

Monday, September 23, 2019

Start


"Life starts all over again when it's crisp in the fall." -F. Scott Fitzgerald 

It's been a little while again-- that happens when I make resolutions, sometimes.  I hit a busy season or a season where I can't peel myself away from working and cleaning and keeping up my house.  Scott and I have been watching Tiny House Nation lately, and I can't even tell you how much we talk about moving into a tiny house to simplify so I don't have to spend so much of my time off cleaning. Isn't it crazy how much time we spend cleaning our houses?  We live in a home that is much larger than we need, but we did that whole "buy the cheapest house on the block" thing and are putting a lot of sweat equity into it.  That being said, I really only clean the main level of our house regularly since that's the part we live in from day to day, and I feel like I just have to start on one end of the house and make my way to the other week by week.  There's never enough time, and I am too cheap to pay someone to help me clean it, so there's always a mess somewhere (sometimes everywhere). 

Lately, I am overwhelmed by all of the things.  Everything I mentioned above-- cleaning, working, keeping up the house, house projects, cooking, running.  How do women do everything that they do? I am not saying men don't do a lot, but if the sheets don't get changed or the sink is full of dishes, Scott doesn't seem to sweat it too much.  I feel the burden of providing meals for our family and cooking/cleaning, as though I feel a physical weight if I don't accomplish all of the things I need to do (get the meal on the table, switch the laundry, fold the laundry, change the sheets, clean the toilet).  Do other women feel this way? Or other people-- not namely women, I suppose? 

And so this all leads me into why I love fall.  It's not that toilets don't need to be cleaned in the fall, but it's that I can prop open the windows and let a cool breeze in while I do it.  I can light the pumpkin candles all over the house and clean while I smell the very best cozy fall scents-- apple cider, pumpkin spice, apple bourbon.  I bake a lot and bring treats to friends.  I feel a lifting of all of those burdens, those weights.  I don't mind doing the mundane things when it's fall-- I want a clean house because I want to invite people in.  I realized several years ago that fall feels like New Year's to me.  I sit on the edge of fall peering through at all that I hope for ahead.  It feels like a fresh start in so many ways. 

And so that brings me to start.  One of the writing groups I am in has a challenge going this week for daily prompts, and I am jumping back into writing and hoping to keep up with the daily prompts.  Today's prompt? Start.  So here I am.  I am starting again.  On the first day of my very favorite season, I am starting back with something I love.  I am going to start my day with writing (or today ending my day with it), with thoughts about the prompt I'm given while I sip coffee and prepare for the day ahead.  I feel like sometimes I just start and stop and start and stop.  This time, I hope there's just start.  As I settle into my favorite season, I pray for desire and commitment to start again

I'm also starting something else.  In fact, something I have already started.  I am starting to invite people in again.  My word for 2019, IN, is stamped on a necklace made for me by a friend-- a necklace I wear every day.  A lot of people think it stands for Indiana-- that's maybe part of it.  But the bigger part of IN this year that the Lord is asking me is for me to remain in His word and to invite people in.  I have been on a journey through the Old Testament that is taking me an embarrassingly long time-- I started in January and am currently in Leviticus! Yikes.  Nevertheless, I am creating new rhythms and routines with my morning quiet time this year that I hope last a lifetime for me through all of the difficult and challenging seasons ahead--in marriage, work, and (hopefully) motherhood.  

The other part of IN is inviting people in, and that means into my mess of a heart and into my mess of a home.  My messy, half renovated home feels a lot like my heart sometimes; there's clutter everywhere and half finished walls.  There's painter's tape all over our dining room and an exposed wall in our kitchen.  I kept people out for a long time; neighbors would come to the door and we would quickly slip out onto the porch to talk, closing the door so they couldn't see the half finished floors and cans of paint everywhere.  My heart for hospitality felt crushed by this-- I longed to invite people in.  

So I have started.  I give friends the disclaimer that OUR HOUSE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION, and then I invite them in for tea and a muffin, warning them to be cautious as they step over tools and sit in the midst of our half-painted dining room. And you know what? I think initially, people are shocked-- but after a while, conversation becomes easy and the mood lightens.  They sink into the sectional as they relax and sip their tea.  And it feels very much like it's almost normal in here when that happens, like we're in a nicely decorated and finished home having an evening connecting. 

Hope you have something that you've started this year, or maybe something you want to start in the season or year to come.

Love,
C

Friday, August 16, 2019

Thin Places

Photo credit: The 25th Hour Studios

There are certain places in this world that feel... other worldly to me.  Places where I feel God's presence more than others, places where I feel deeply connected to something greater than myself.  It turns out that the Irish have long ago named this phenomenon, calling these places thin places.  

Thin places are places where the distance between heaven and earth is shorter or thinner, places where heaven and earth almost seem to touch.  They are places where mere mortals catch glimpses of the divine.  

There is an ancient Celtic saying about thin places that states, "heaven and Earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter." 

That thought just makes me exhale.  Knowing that such places exist is just so very lovely-- places where the presence of God is more deeply experienced.  After I heard about thin places, suddenly I was very aware of them all around me.  I think bodies of water are thin places for me-- places where I feel God so very deeply moving in ways that I cannot always understand.  The ocean does this for me moreso than lakes-- I think because of the depth and vastness of oceans. It's like Ephesians 3 where Paul talks about his prayer "that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth..." That's how I feel about the ocean, one of my very favorite thin places.

Mama C's house is another thin place for me.  Standing under the oak trees I feel the presence of the divine washing over me in waves, reminding me that He created all of this and breathed it into existence.  We were there this past weekend for her funeral, and I think even more than on our wedding day there, I felt the peace of the Holy Spirit whispering to me in this thin place.  

All of this is not to say that you can't experience God elsewhere. I experience Him in church on Sundays and in my living room each morning when I read Scripture.  The Bible says "for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20).  But I feel more connected to who He is when I am in His creation-- in thin places.  

I hope you have thin places where you feel the presence of the divine washing over you in deep ways--mystical places where the veil between the heavens and earth is very thin.  And I hope you find yourself traveling to those this places often.  

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.

Love,
C

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.

Love,
C

Sunday, September 16, 2018

On Dreams.


It feels weird to be back in this space writing again; it feels weird to write, if I'm being honest.  I have largely avoided it during the latter half of school, maybe in part due to a perceived lack of time and in part due to a lack of what to say and how to say it.  It's been a lot of avoidance on my part, a lack of desire to confront my feelings and who I've become in recent years. 

I am finally on the other side of graduate school and am at the culmination of all that I have desired.  My career as a nurse practitioner has just begun, and I am lucky to be working with some of the most wonderful geriatricians and geriatric NPs that I could ask for.  It's funny about dreams though.  Dream jobs, specifically.  They have a way of looking really shiny and bright when they are the object of your desire, but then once you're closer up, they're fuzzy, difficult to grasp hold of, blurred.  At first, I thought that maybe dream jobs were just of dreams, not something we were meant to grasp on this side of eternity.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that just because they are shiny and bright and exactly what you want to be doing, they still require hard work and refinement and a bit of elbow grease.

These days, I spend two hours in my car every day driving to and from my dream job.  Sometimes more than that, if I don't get to leave Indianapolis by a decent time and get caught in terrible traffic.  I always told myself that I would travel two hours every day for a job I loved, but that I would never do it for a job I just felt mediocre about.  I still think I love the job I am doing, but Lord knows it's more difficult than I imagined.

The hardest thing for me is finding my sense of optimism again.  It is disheartening and discouraging every time someone says, "You drive HOW far?" or comments on my drive somehow.  Believe me, it took me a long enough time to convince myself that this drive would be normal; trying to convince others that it's fine takes all of my energy.  When I think about it really, though, the drive isn't half bad.  I actually am growing to love my morning commute-- I sip coffee, listen to an audiobook or podcast, and take the time I need in the morning to prepare for my day.  The evenings are another story-- sometimes I am angry and tired and ready to be home.  But if I can learn to love my morning commute enough, I think I can make it.

But as for my dreams, they live on.  I think I thought of my dreams as a final destination, a landing place for me once I escaped school.  Now, I realize that dreams aren't necessarily a landing spot, but a dynamic journey where you passions are ever-growing and evolving.