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.


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.


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. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Girl I Once Was

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and barely recognize the person you've become? I feel that way lately.  I am finally on the other side of grad school and half expected to just return to my "old self" after grabbing my diploma, passing boards, and securing a job.  I look back at photos of myself from a few years ago, and I remember how happy and optimistic I felt.  I was excited for the future, for growing up, owning a house, starting a career. 

I looked at a girl in the mirror today who was 40 pounds heavier than the girl I once knew.  And not that my weight defines me, but it certainly says a lot about how I've coped with stress over the past few years.  I miss choosing things that are healthy and good for me. I miss running and training for half marathons.  I miss feeling strong and capable, like I could conquer many things, physically and mentally.  I miss cooking healthy meals.  I have spent a lot of energy worrying over the past few years, and when I worry, I get awfully hungry. 

Aside from physical health, my mental state is not what it was once either.  The happy-go-lucky girl who felt carefree and excited to face each day has been traded in for a glass half-empty, "realistic," downtrodden girl who complains often and fights negative thoughts by the minute. 

What does it take to return to who you once were?  I think for me a lot of it lies in turning back to Jesus and finding identity in Him.  Which, for me, is easier said than done.  I've come to the cross few times in the past year; I still love God and believe in who He is and what He has done for me.  I still revere Him and am in awe of His goodness.  But somewhere along the way, I started focusing on me more and started seeing less of God.  There isn't room for two masters in your life, and I pushed God out as master of mine.  Now, coming back feels like all I can offer are filthy rags, nothing fit for a King. 

Thankfully, that's all that he asks of me.  That I come back and surrender my dirty rags and surrender the self-seeking life I have acquired.  I don't deserve to be welcomed back; none of us do.  But like the father welcomes the prodigal son, the Father welcomes us back with open hands and an open heart.  I do not understand these things, but I know them to be true.  Do you ever wander so far from God that you wonder if even he will recognize you? This is how I feel as of late.  My life is consumed with me, and my heart feels so far from the One who calls me His. 

I suppose this is a rather bleak post to write as my "welcome back" to the world of writing.  But these things are heavy on my heart, and I don't know where to go with them.  I need to sit and faithfully read the words of Truth in my Bible.  And I need to listen to what the Lord asks of me and where He calls.  And I need to pray for a renewed heart, a spirit of repentance, and a way out of this rut that I feel stuck in. 

I pray that if you are in this place, that perhaps we can hook arms and start walking up the path again, closer to light and love.  It has been so very dreary these past many years.  I am hopeful that the bright places are coming into focus once again, and that Jesus will reign once again as Savior and Victor. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Art of Self-Care

I've been on a mission to take better care of myself-- my word for this year was bloom, and I've done my best to make sure that I am blooming this year.  There's so many elements of self-care that are specific to each individual, but it's so important to figure out what serves you well in caring for yourself.  I used to think self-care was for people who weren't as busy (LOL) as me, or people who couldn't handle their lives and needed time outs.  Well, it turns out that self-care is important to everyone.  It's essential for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  All of us need time outs in the midst of busy lives.  Here's some ways that I've channeled the art of self-care and relaxation in the midst of busy-ness.

1. Drinking more water.  Maybe you're rolling your eyes at this one because you already drink so much water-- but I am not someone who has always selected water as my beverage of choice.  I read recently that instead of just aiming for 64 ounces of water per day, you should really aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  I'm heavier than I once way and require more than 64 ounces a day to stay well-hydrated.  My hack to drinking more water was choosing a water bottle that I loved and carrying it everywhere with me.  I also write down my water goal at the beginning of each day and mark my progress in a journal that I keep.  Here's the water bottle I love the most.

2. Taking bubble baths.  I have mastered the art of the bubble bath pretty well, and have a myriad of bubble bath supplies that are necessary for a great bubble bath.  From true bubbles to bath salts or bath bombs, I know all the good stuff to use.  It reminds me of an episode of Friends when Chandler walks in on Monica taking a bubble bath and suddenly starts taking them himself-- learning to set the mood, light candles, use the right temperature/bubble combination.  My favorite bath bomb was gifted to me from a friend for my birthday this year but can also be found at Target (see below).  I don't take bubble baths every day but try to take one on my first day off after working a string of long hospital days.  I always do it when my husband isn't home because it's just so much more relaxing when the house is quiet.

Source: Target
The reason I love this so much is because it smells like 
home and the ocean and makes the water turn blue!

3. Journaling.  I wouldn't say I journal like I used to, but I have started a form of bullet journaling that I am really coming to enjoy.  I was inspired by my friend Angela who uses the Panda journal, but there are the essential elements to my journal each day. 
  • A quote for the day (this is the most fun part to me!)
  • Gratitude (expressing gratitude about my life)
  • A sentence about how much water I am going to drink that day
  • A sentence about the exercise I will do that day
  • Three to four items that I MUST accomplish
  • Progress regarding a habit I am working on
  • A list of optional items to do if I get through my MUST list.  
I also try to practice my hand lettering as I write out each thing so that I can work towards being a better calligrapher or handletterer (?).

4. Washing my face.  I try to make it a point to wash my face every day, but I do an even deeper clean of my face using a face mask whenever I take my bubble baths.  My favorite face mask so far is from Lush and stays on for about 15 minutes while I'm soaking and reading a good book.  

Source: Lush

5. Spending time outside.   There's tons of research about how spending time in nature recharges and re-energizes you.  I was never one who loved the outdoors very much, unless you considered lying on the beach to be an outdoor activity.  However, when I started dating my husband, I took an interest in doing the outdoor activities he loves.  I now find comfort and joy in spending time outside and try to go hiking with my husband and dog at least 2-3 times per week.  We have a nearby park with trails that are so beautiful and allow for my anxious dog to run fast and far, and I find that it's soothing for both of us.  

There's so many other things I'm doing for self-care, like writing, reading, disconnecting from social media, decluttering,  waking up earlier, going to bed earlier, eating more vegetables, gardening.  It's so important to take good good care of your mind and body, and I'm learning that it's worth the "time out" from other events on your calendar to do so.  

Hope you're having a good week and finding ways to take care of yourself!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Morning Pages

One of the authors I love produced a small e-book a few years ago that discussed Julia Cameron's idea of morning pages.  I don't hold true to the real practice of morning pages, but I do enjoy my own little practice of them.  Morning pages is the idea that you wake up early every morning and write, in a stream-of-conscious way, the first 2-3 pages of thoughts you have.  I've been up since 6AM today (praise Jesus-- the past few days I've woken up at 3-4AM--see below on this), so these aren't my first thoughts.  But as I sat down to do homework I felt incredibly antsy and like I needed to write first, so here are my little quips of life lately.

Today is the first day since my wisdom teeth extraction last week when I feel 98% normal.  I thought I was doing pretty well over the weekend but couldn't really eat much.  The past three days I had been having terrible pain that radiated to my ear and head, and I feared that I was developing dry socket.  I tried to "tough it out" but gave in and went to Scott's office yesterday to be seen.  Turns out I was brewing an infection in one of my sockets.  As soon as he cleaned it out, I felt immense relief from the pain.  I'm now irrigating the site with a medicated solution and taking antibiotics for the next few days.  I had been waking up at 3-4AM from pain but was able to "sleep in" until 6 today! Hooray!
I have approximately 1 week left of class for the summer and am looking forward to a two week break from school before things get really crazy for the fall.  Looking at my fall schedule gives me palpitations, and I won't even start stressing about spring yet, but I've heard spring is worse.  But at the end of it all, we will be Greece-bound to de-stress and check out a new part of the world we haven't seen. Can not wait.
Doc is being super anxious today because he was by himself a lot yesterday and hasn't been on a hike in a while (due to previously discussed dental pain).  I'm planning on walking or hiking with him at some point today but in meantime and playing this video for him, which keeps him entertained.
I rode into work with Scott yesterday (~45 minutes from our house) and spent the day at his office after I got evaluated.  I just love his practice and the people there, and I super love the other dentist's wife/office manager.  It is just such a wonderful blessing that he found a great place to work as a dentist. It's also the most fun thing to see the man I've loved since I was 16 doing something he LOVES.  I remember when we met, he actually didn't want a girlfriend because he wanted to focus on getting into dental school.  Fast forward 11 years and he's a real-live dentist and thankfully decided to take me along for the ride.  What a joy it is to see him doing so well and chasing those dreams.
I've been working to lay aside some feelings I have about some missed opportunities for the coming year and am instead trying to focus my efforts on other opportunities ahead. It's tough though, and I'm all kinds of jealous and ugly about certain situations.  I'm working to surrender this, but that's easier said than done sometimes.  Hence, my social media fast.  I wasn't handling anything well while I was pressed against the computer screen looking at what everyone else had going on in their lives.
I miss reading.  I fear that for the next year, my reading will mostly be academic.  I'm so determined to do my best this year and don't think I will have much down time for reading unless it's over holiday breaks, but send your best reading suggestions this way for when I finally find time to read again.
I am anxiously awaiting my favorite season but fear that it will be busier than usual this year.  My one fall joy that I'm looking forward to completely enjoying sans schoolwork is the Kendallville Apple Festival that we attend every year in northern Indiana.  I was scheduled to work that weekend and thankfully found someone to trade weekends with me, so it's something I am SUPER looking forward to.  We also committed a while ago to spending two weekend down in Columbus where Scott works to do some things down there/get to know the town better, so I'm looking forward to that as well.  Columbus is very close to Brown County, and Brown County is my FAVE state park in the fall.  So gorgeous.  It's the essence of fall.

That's all for now, friends.  Thanks for letting me get my antsy writer's energy out in these pseudo-morning pages.  Doc is crying and I must go turn on the "bird videos for cats" for him so I can get some schoolwork done.

Hope you have a great rest of your week!