When April Showers

I’ve been writing this post in my head for awhile. I wouldn’t even be writing this if I hadn’t gotten a stomach bug and called out of work. So as much as I dislike being sick, I’m grateful for a moment to write. Life’s been so busy that I can hardly believe it’s May. But I can’t let a month like April pass without comment.

Last month was the month I finally got the hang of things at work. I don’t always know how to perform a skill or know what to do. I still ask hundreds of questions and get behind on charting more than I’d like. That being said, I’m learning to roll with the punches and handle a wide variety of personalities. That whole fake-it-til-you-make-it thing has been my nursing motto and so far so good. I’ve found I get increasingly Southern at work, especially with my more cantankerous patients. A little Southern charm goes a long way.

Speaking of charm, in late March I fell head-over-heels for a boy. My mom loves him. So does my sister. See this look on my face? Clearly love at first sight.

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Luke arrived as the newest member to my home group. His parents were thrilled to welcome him into the world. They have fallen into this parenting thing with such grace and determination. This little guy, he’s so loved by his family, by our group, and even by his cat.

IMG_1021He could use your prayers so he can grow big and strong enough to have heart surgery to correct his AVSD.

IMG_2916Seriously, I cannot get over this face.

I’m writing this on a couch in the living room- the way I usually do. Only this time, it’s different because I’m writing it on my couch from my living room. My first apartment. I unpacked my last box last night.

My move happened fast and was not without hiccups. After too many hours with too little sleep, all the decisions and change caught up with me. I ended up crying over nothing for an hour. I couldn’t stop even though I knew I was crying over nothing. My poor mom and sister tried to help but there was nothing to do. Sometimes you just have to let it out.

But tears aside, I did get moved in box by box. My family and a couple friends got everything up my two flights of stairs- even the two recliner sofas. I live on the top floor which means no noise overhead while I try to sleep during the day. Being high up also means I get a fantastic view off my balcony.

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The other night I sat out there and watched the sun set. The moon came up, my favorite kind, a crescent moon. Despite being so near the city I could still see some stars. Starlight, star bright first star I see tonight . . . It may have been a planet I wished on but I threw my wishes heavenward. Wishes for the days to come, for what I hope this new chapter will hold. Wishes and thanks. When you move into your first place at twenty-seven, I think there’s a deep appreciation for what you have and how you got there. My parents were so gracious to allow me to stay at home while going through school, even though it took me longer than most to finish. And I love them so much for that and for being so happy for me as I’ve moved out.

There’s still plenty to do in my new place. There’s furniture to buy and right now there’s nothing on my walls. But I’ve made a start.

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I’m loving my little place. I have a fireplace and a guest room. My kitchen is just right. I mean it’s not a brand new apartment so it has it’s quirks but I’m a firm believer that your first place shouldn’t be an HGTV Dream Home. I have so many ideas about how to make this place more my own. I’d say to make it homier but the truth is no amount of pretty things will make it feel more like home.

No, it feels more like home every time I open my doors and invite the people I love inside. Last Saturday I had my family over for dinner. I’ve made dinner for them many times before but never at my place. Friends who are now my neighbors dropped by for brownies and I am so happy to know there’s some great people just around the corner. One of the things I am the most excited about is space to invite people over. I can’t wait to return some of the hospitality I’ve been shown.

I have this board where I string up prayer requests. I tack them up so I remember to pray for them, sure. But more so because once they’re answered I move them to another line. It’s a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness. And on April 25th, I got to move this one:

IMG_1102It may not quite feel like “home” just yet but I am reminded over and over of this verse:

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Psalm 90:1

And He has and will be and for that I am so very grateful.

Emotional Klutziness and Mixed Metaphors

“How did you get that bruise?”

“What did you spill on your shirt?”

These are two questions I have been asked on a frequent basis for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I know the answer. I ran into the coffee table/door/corner or it’s coffee/BBQ/ice cream etc. However, since I bruise easily (thanks, Mom!) and have what my friend refers to as the “spill gene”, more often than not, I don’t have a clue.

My mom posted this on my Facebook wall:

And while it wasn’t directed at me, I couldn’t help thinking how I can be such a klutz. When you’ve spent your whole life running into inanimate objects and tripping over thin air, it’s hard to think of yourself as graceful. Coordination has never been my strong suit. Whenever we played sports in P.E., there was almost always a fifty-fifty shot that I wouldn’t be able to get my limbs to move in the direction my brain intended. Take kickball for example. Occasionally, I’d kick the ball and it would sail to it’s intended destination. But more often than not, it wound up so far off my intended trajectory, I’m not even sure how it got there.

I think I will be ninety and still hear my mother cautioning me to “slow down” because I’m cutting corners too quickly. She was never scolding me as much and she knew from experience (her’s and mine) how scurrying leads to contusions. To be honest, I’m okay with being clumsy. I don’t know what it’s like to have the grace of a figure skater or the coordination of a snowboarder. I’m in awe of the how elite athletes have such command over their limbs. I’m amazed that they can to launch their bodies so high into the air, flip, and still stick a landing.I mean sometimes I have trouble getting mine to walk a straight line.

But sometimes even Shaun White goes home without a medal. I watched as he attempted to save face after crashing and burning when nailing the landing never mattered more. I know the reporter was just doing her job when she asked, “What happened?” but I just wanted her to leave the poor guy alone. I firmly believe there will be plenty of time for interviews when the disappointment’s not so fresh. I may not be an Olympian, but I know what it feels like to screw up something that is usually your forte. I’ve seen the face he made in front of the cameras staring back at me in the mirror every time I’m emotionally klutzy.

I may be physically clumsy but what I lack in coordination, I make up for in emotional balance. I have honed intuition and keen perception. (I have also been like this for as long as I can remember.) I can walk into a room and almost instantly pick up the vibe. I can quickly suss out how people are really doing. I don’t always know why they’re that way and sometimes I don’t care but I can usually just tell without having to ask. It’s so second nature that usually I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

My preceptor told me last week that I am really good at going with the flow and not easily flustered. I know she’s right but usually it’s because like a seasoned baseball player, time slows down enough for me to get a good read on the pitch and adjust my swing accordingly. On a typical day I can figure out if someone needs a hug or a good laugh. I can gauge whether they want to talk about something or avoid the topic completely.

And because I’m not an athlete, I’ve had years to become a verbal acrobat. I’ve taken gold in the “quick comeback” category. I have little fear of public speaking. I know how to motivate. I’ve been blessed with the gift of encouragement. I rarely have a problem with finding the right words.

Like anyone I have my off days. I can be tired or sick or sad or self-absorbed. Usually these emotions just make me quiet and reflective- and I’m okay with that. But every once in awhile when instead of feeling fine I feel F.I.N.E. (Freaked-out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.)* This is the curve ball I never see coming. These emotions throw me off balance and turn me into an emotional klutz. Only instead of running into walls, I start running into people. The quick comebacks come off as sharp instead of sassy. My tongue starts working too fast and though I’m pleading with it to “slow down” it’s usually too late. Instead of spilling hot coffee, I’m spilling unfiltered emotions. And sometimes I’m not the only one who winds up with bruises. Sometimes when I’m feeling F.I.N.E. my fear of inflicting internal injuries causes me to pull away. And if I catch my reflection, it carries all the self-disappointment you can see on the athlete’s face after they screw up their main event.

NBC recently aired a documentary about Shaun White’s preparation for Sochi. I watched him fall over and over again trying to land the YOLO flip. In the course of trying to stretch his repertoire, he suffered a couple of injuries. And I don’t know what he was thinking, because I cannot read minds, but I know when you attempt something and you fail, it makes you a little gun-shy. I think the next time you try, try again there’s a whisper of fear that history will in fact repeat itself. If that fear grows it can turn into something crippling, something that haunts you and keeps you from ever trying to throw that trick again. I’ve been there. I’ve withdrawn. I’ve “turtled.” I’ve let pride get the best of me.

But lately I can’t seem to get the Batman Begins quote out of my head:

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

Turtling is not the best solution. Never snowboarding again is not the answer. Avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away. It’s okay to be freaked-out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. It’s okay to let other people see you like that. Some days you’re the speed-skater and some days you’re the toddler just trying to stand upright on two feet. Sometimes you win the championship and sometimes you relearn a lesson you should already know by heart. But either way, there’s grace that abounds.

Sometimes I am the one who needs the hug and words of reassurance. Letting people love you when you feel unlovely is humbling but that vulnerability can be a very healing thing. Scrapped knees can be good reminders. Falling down is always an opportunity to pick yourself back up.

And sometimes the victory following the failure is so much sweeter. After all, who doesn’t love a good comeback story?

*acronym courtesy of The Italian Job

Wet Cement

It was raining as I made my way to my first day of work last Monday. There’s nothing quite like a rainy Monday, is there? I was excited, sure, but also nervous. Fortunately, some familiar faces of my former classmates greeted me in the conference room and helped calm my jumping nerves.

I’m not sure what I expected from an orientation day. Definitely to hear about policies and procedures and benefits. Definitely not to hear that I am there because God called me there. I wasn’t expecting to be commissioned or have someone bless me saying, “May you find growth and renewal.” Growth and renewal . . . I’m living and breathing that daily.

Yesterday, was my first day to take on two patients. Not on my own mind you, but all the same it was a little surreal. My patients were good to me and graciously overlooked my fumbling around with new equipment and trying to figure out where things were located. As a “newbie,” I’m more than a little unsure of everything so when I hear my patient on the phone talking about how well she’s being taken care of and how she has the “cutest little nurse,” I think maybe I can do this after all. A coworker laughingly told me with my sassy attitude I’ll fit right in and I hope that’s true. Little moments like this that make the long hours, tired feet, dehydration, and steep learning curve worth it. Because if I can do something with my small hands to help heal, reassure with a smile, while earning a paycheck, then I am definitely blessed. And I felt that blessing driving down West End last week watching the sun rise and kiss the tops of the beautiful old buildings and church steeples on my commute.

A couple Sundays ago at church, Darren was talking about January hopes and resolutions and newness. He used this phrase “wet cement” to describe it and I found myself thinking it was the perfect description of life right now. I’m in a season of wet cement. There’s a lot of change and possibility.

I’m falling in love with life all over again. Finding unexpected joy in so many moments. When I sit in home group with this assortment of people who would never come together under other circumstances yet somehow make this amazing kind of sense as a whole. It’s in the sheer excitement of getting to wear royal blue scrubs instead of the white ones I’ve endured the last couple of years. It’s going to bed exhausted from a well-spent day. It’s the quiet moments when I can catch my breath. Grabbing breakfast with a new gal-pal and talking until the lunch crowd appears. And it’s nights spent with this group of friends that grafted me in and finally realizing they’re not just being polite because I’m a friend-of-a-friend but that they actually like hanging out with me. It’s in finding myself in someone’s lyrics:

it took me 27 years to wrap my head around this-
to brush the ashes off of everything i love.
where courage was contagious, confidence was key.

right as rain, as soft as snow,
it grows and grows and grows,
our home sweet home.

we’ll try to document this light,
with cameras to our eyes.
in an effort to remember
what being mended feels like.

Isn’t it funny how you don’t realize just how broken you’ve been until you’re in the process of being mended?  Sometimes mending comes in the beauty of watching snowflakes drift in the wind and other times it’s being able to simply find the right quip at the right moment. It’s listening to the back-and-forth of a story from so far back no one recalls the same details. It’s being able to make someone who’s in pain laugh. It’s in the randomness and the trivial and the silly. I’m being stitched up by good hugs and long talks and the best company.

And I am more than a little grateful for the mending, for the wet-cementiness, for second chances, for a season to smooth off the rough edges. For time to lean into the scary and embrace the unknown. Just to live the growth and renewal and be thankful for this moment right now, for as long as it lasts.

A New Year’s Ramblings

I’ve started this post in my head so many times the last few weeks. I’ve typed phrases and have several drafts I discarded. Even now, I’m not sure how to start in an eloquent way, so I guess I’ll just wing it.

Life’s been rather full as of late. I almost want to say busy, but busy to me implies a certain level of unwanted tasks tying up your time. And it certainly hasn’t been that.

On December 13th, I commenced nursing school. I walked across a stage, received my pin, and stood with my classmates to recite Florence Nightingale’s Pledge. I can hardly believe it’s finished, but I’m so grateful. Nursing school had a way of draining my brain from it’s usual level of functioning and interacting. Some days I found myself with little room to cram any more info or remember anything new. So, I’m happy to leave that aspect of school behind me. I will, however, miss my fellow nursing students. Going through classes, clinicals, check-offs, and tests with them bonds us in the most unique way. I know I wouldn’t have made it through the past two years without this amazing group of individuals who will make wonderful nurses.

On the way out of pinning, I received an email to interview the following Monday morning for a nurse internship program. My excitement was quickly replaced with a bit of panic when I realized I had nothing to wear. So Saturday, my mom happily endured an endless amount of time outside dressing rooms until I found the perfect outfit. Funny, I was more nervous about finding the right clothes than about answering interview questions. By the grace of God, Monday afternoon I was offered an internship position. I’m thrilled and a little bit terrified to start next week.

Life’s funny sometimes. I feel like the first half of 2013 I was in a holding pattern. I felt stagnant and stuck. And then, things started changing and now sometimes I can’t get them to stand still even if I try.

Late last night I drove home in the freezing cold. The stoplights were blinking and the stars were bright and I found myself reflecting on this new year and this pocket of time I’ve had between the end of school and the start of my new job. I’ve gotten to spend it with some of the people I love most in this world. I’ve had a couple breakfasts with some gals that know me better than just about anyone else. There’s been dinners and game night and parties. There’s been teasing and laughter and theological debates. Talks about hopes and hangups and dreams for the new year. I’ve found that when I go to sleep with a full heart, I wake up with a clearer head. I know I’m better for the company I’ve been keeping.

We’re a week into this new year. I can’t help wondering what 2014 holds but I hope to receive it with open hands. That’s my One Word this year: receive. Sometimes I kind of suck at receiving. I’m awful at taking a compliment and quick to credit Target or just shrug it off. I’m not always good at asking for or accepting help- although nursing school as mostly eradicated this hang up. But my hope is that when 2015 rolls around I will be a little bit different. That I will receive what God’s giving me and where he’s placing me without trying to earn it or wish it was different. Accept the invitations I receive. Simply say thank you to compliments without deflecting. Just have a general openness and let people into my life more.

Life’s never easy and it holds more heartbreak than I dare imagine but I have to believe there’s still hope and sweetness to uncover. That there will be blessings and celebrations and adventures along the way. That the light will shine into the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. I’m daring to believe this will be a year filled with stories and people that change me for the better and I hope that I can in turn, return the favor.

The Beauty of the Church

“Now, I don’t know what kind of feelings are conjured up in you when you hear the word church. For me, the church has represented the best and the worst moments in my life. I have been more hurt, more judged, more left out, more ostracized by church people than any other group of people in the world. That has been my experience of church people . . . ” ~ Darren Whitehead

When, I heard those words a week ago, I was on edge. These words, I could have written them myself. I’ve lived them. And I know I’m not alone. This is true for some of them people I love the most. This is the heartbeat of social media and pop-culture’s thoughts on church.

Rachel Held Evans wrote a great article, “Why millennials are leaving the church” that resounded with so many people. I particularly loved this quote:

“You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”

I know this isn’t just a millennial phenomenon. This is true for the ages. I think it’s always been.

“[…] it feels like everywhere I turn, the Church (with a capital “c”) is hated, distrusted, over-trusted, mocked, angry, sad, naive, unforgiving, judgemental. Broken (with a capital “b”). It’s all of the sudden really cool to love Jesus but hate the church.” ~ Melanie Rainer, b is for broken and beautiful. c is for church.

I was blessed to grow up in a crazy-cool youth group that stretched and grew me beyond my wildest dreams. [Which you can read about here] I was exposed to teaching suited for any aged years. I made friends that became family. I had leaders that challenged and inspired me. I was allowed to step-up into leadership roles myself. I was a shy, awkward girl who desperately needed a place to belong. And I found it. It was far from perfect. There were disagreements, we broke each other’s hearts, and I’m still unlearning flawed theology I’m sure no one ever actually meant to teach us.

But I loved this group of people fiercely. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. So, when two of my former youth pastors planted Church of the City nearby I was equal parts excited and leery. Darren and Jake are people I respect and trust. They are part of my story. Their teaching and more importantly their love has greatly impacted my life. I knew that if they were involved, this would be something I could get behind. This was a place that I wholeheartedly wanted to check out and at the very same time run away from as fast as my legs would carry me. Because this church, though brand new held echoes of my past.
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What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started Nursing School

Today I helped host a meet and greet for new nursing students. It was a little surreal thinking that I’m entering my last semester in a few weeks. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was the new student wondering how on earth, I, a spill-prone klutzy gal would manage to keep my bright white scrubs clean.

I remember walking into orientation, surrounded by unfamiliar faces and being bombarded by too much information. Well-meaning students who had just completed their first semester tried to give us advice. My take away was that was nursing school was impossibly hard, I could kiss my social life goodbye, my life should now henceforth be devoted to studying, and above all don’t panic.

Well, panicking hadn’t entered my mind. I had felt that sense of peace of knowing I was in the right where I was supposed to be. I was nervous, sure, but I hadn’t considered panicking until I heard people tell me at least ten times not to panic. Fortunately, as I left I found a voice mail message from my nursing buddy who was entering her last semester. I quickly called her back. “Naomi, should I be panicking?” I asked. She laughed and laughed. She told me I could do it, that sure nursing school is hard but I’d be fine. She was right.

So here’s what I wish someone had told me before I started nursing school:
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Count My Stitches, Cross My Heart

The thunder rumbles and I count my stitches. I cross my heart.

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Even with a pattern to follow, I make mistakes. I drop stitches, I add one too many, I have to take them out and start again. At least this time the needle fails to draw blood. With each stitch the picture looks a little bit more like it should. I pull the needle and thread, I whisper prayers too close and wistful to say aloud.

The rain keeps falling and I listen to rainy day music.

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A Schooling in Kindness

I said yes. I simply said I’d love to come. Then, I made plans. I went shopping. I made cookies and Chex mix. I packed. I didn’t think about what that yes entailed. Well, at least not until it was too late to back out.

And for the past few years I’ve been the queen at backing out. I can come up with an excuse lickety-split. You know those books people read about how to set boundaries and how to say no to people? Never needed one. I’d gotten so good at building fences they’d become fortresses. Which isn’t a good thing, it’s just a fact. And even though she’s my oldest friend and I love her dearly, it’s her invitation I have declined again and again. Not when it’s just her mind you. We go to dinner, we’ve talked over cups of coffee, we’ve historically split large Sonic Reese’s blasts with extra Reese’s on too many occasions. But when it came to parties and group events I quickly came up with an excuse. Or I said maybe which nine times out of ten became a no. I’m sure it was hurtful to her at times but that didn’t really occur to me until recently. I’d just been thinking of how I felt at those parties. Small. Continue reading