The Good Girl Lie

Yesterday I woke up too early. I woke up fidgety and restless. Falling back asleep was out of the picture so Netflix was turned on immediately. When that failed to distract, I got in the car under the pretense of running errands and picking up groceries but the driving was what mattered. Getting out and doing something. Meandering down the aisles did nothing for me so I found myself back in the car. I drove the long way to the movie theater. A favorite form of escaping myself. Only I wound up in the theater forty minutes too soon even after grabbing a bite to eat. I saw a movie about a girl who more or less ran away to find herself and contemplated doing the same. Instead I got back in my car and went to some stores and bought nothing before heading home, completely forgetting to stop at the grocery. The restlessness followed me into my apartment, buzzing and popping in my ear while I waited to go back out. I was so grateful it quieted down once I saw my friends. I wish it had gone away because it would have made for a simpler evening. Instead it turned into anxieties and frustrations and an inability to keep my legs still. It never fully dissipated until I fell asleep. Sleep which mercifully came quickly once I let my head hit the pillow.

January wasn’t a kind month. It’s not one I care to revisit should time travel ever become a reality. 2015 did not ring in with all good things for me or for so many people I love. Honestly January was just hard.

February, while better, has been about regrouping. It’s been about coping in all its glory. It’s been about learning to do simple things that have grown complicated. About navigating the way new normals.

Hence the restless agitation I woke up with yesterday. My coping skills sometimes involve far too much pushing emotions down. This leads festering which I have learned the hard way in the past. I didn’t want to bottle things up because I know I’d eventually explode so I have been talking about how I am when people ask. I’ve also resisted the urge to hide and withdraw because I have been there before and it took me way too long to resurface. Instead I have been very social and engaged in all kinds of activities and avoided hunkering down and going it alone.

This morning, though, when I finally made it to the grocery, feeling much calmer, I realized it’s not the coping that caused my restless Thursday. It’s just that good girl skin itches.

I’m not sure if it started with avoiding time-out or fear of not getting presents from Santa, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I had to be a good girl. It’s a role I’ve worn for as long as I can remember. Just be good. Don’t get into trouble.

I’ve spent a lot of my life being a “good girl.” I rarely got into trouble, I made good grades, and I participated in upstanding activities. I steered clear of underage drinking and premarital sex. The idea of doing drugs or anything illegal (other than speeding) rarely crossed my mind. To this day I am a helper and a fixer and a doer.

Which means that since basically forever, the adjective used to describe me has been sweet. I have received countless notes, yearbook comments, and compliments where people have told me I am sweet. As a teenager, this drove me batty. I wasn’t edgy at all but sweet sounded so blah and it was never an adjective the guys I knew used to describe girls they wanted to date. I was okay with being sweet but I wanted people to realize I was so much more. It’s probably why when a friend told me a couple weeks ago that he was glad I’m around because I’m so mean that it made me very happy. Our friendship involves a lot of good-natured ribbing so he was mostly kidding but I took it as a compliment all the same.

There’s nothing wrong with being good or sweet for its own sake. The problem is that sometimes I equate being good and sweet with good things happening. Be good and you can blah blah blah. Be good or Santa won’t come. Be good and God will give you what you want…

And that’s when I start to feel itchy. Good girls don’t get mad at God. They don’t argue with Him when babies die and relationships get tough and work feels like too much work. Good girls smile come hell or high water. They are sweet and polite even if they don’t feel that way. And they certainly keep it together.

Right?

But God never said being a good girl would get you what you want anymore than falling short removes his love, thank God. Grace is a five-letter word I live more and more. I am finally discovering that the good girl is a lie. She doesn’t exist. She’s just a facade I’ve worn for too long and God is peeling that skin away- whether I like it or not.

This peeling skin is unpleasant. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. It comes off in weird patches and takes time. It’s leaving me more sensitive and vulnerable than I’d like. Sometimes it itches, stings, and hurts. But there’s hope in it too. This new skin may be raw but it’s new. It’s whispers that it’s okay if I don’t have it all together because He does. Maybe it’s time to start believing verse I’ve been clinging to and writing on myself, “In Him all things hold together.”*

Maybe then I can say goodbye to being a good girl and start learning how to be a grace-filled woman.

*Colossians 1:17

Vulnerability: AKA Something I Suck At

I stood in my kitchen yesterday, eyes watering from cutting onions and thought,  This is why I bought them pre-diced.  But for some reason or other the diced onions I’d purchased smelled rancid and I wasn’t about to ruin the chili by using those. So I keep dicing and blinking tears.

I thought about the year that dicing onions was the closest I ever got to crying. I was numb and knew if I let myself cry, I’d fall to pieces. Since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to put myself together again, I just continued to keep it together, to put one foot in front of the other. Keep calm and carry on.

Because I have a reputation for being calm and collected. I’m a steady, sturdy girl. I’ve been described as reliable, responsible, and all things that make for a good baby-sitter, fairly typical first-born and all around good girl. Part of it is my nature. I am easy-going and flexible. I’m not easily flustered. I know how to roll with the punches. But more than that, I know how to make it look like I’m okay. I am quick to present myself as having it together. I mean I’m not above admitting when I don’t know the answer and I’ve never had a five year plan, or even a one year plan. But usually when I don’t know what I’m doing, I know how to make it at least look like I know what I’m doing. Which isn’t always a bad thing, especially in my line of work. It’s generally a good thing to feel confident that your nurse knows what she’s doing.

The trouble is that I like the control of it. I like being able to manage my emotions. I like knowing that I have the ability to compartmentalize and by simply reading a good book or binge watching a TV show, I can push back emotions that bubble under the surface. Once I compartmentalize, I can go on presenting a pretty picture of poise and composure. Or at least do a decent enough job that most people buy the line that, “I’m just tired,” or, “Busy,” when they question if I’m okay. Because I like looking like I’m okay. No pride there, eh?

But as I stood there, dicing those onions, I looked out my kitchen window at the rain falling and the trees on the hill. I felt like those trees. I’m changing. The leaves are just beginning change color. They aren’t vivid oranges, reds, and yellows. There’s just a subtle hint of color. It won’t stop you in your tracks and leave you breathless but there’s enough difference that if you look for it, you’ll find it. That’s the trees, that’s me.

A month ago, I was talking to a friend. We were having a very honest conversation and I told her how I suck at being vulnerable. She told me we should have a week of vulnerability and see what happens. If it went badly we could, “have a crying party and build up walls.” It was mostly a joke but something struck me and it became a challenge. Could I be vulnerable?

I wasn’t sure. But I googled Brené Brown because I remembered she did a vulnerability study and this TED talk popped up. It’s definitely worth watching. Here’s the part that smacked me in the face:

 There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

What do these people have in common? [. . .] And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? [. . .] And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage,when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were,which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable,nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing.They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

She continues to talk about how the problem with numbing the bad feelings and experiences is we miss the joy too. I know this first hand. I’d lived it and I don’t ever want to again. She concludes with this:

But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen,deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

By this point I am feeling one thing: deep conviction. So, I tell my friend that I’m going to try to be vulnerable. I felt a little bit nauseated but it convinced me I was right. Conviction usually makes me feel like I might throw up. That night at home group when it was time for prayer requests, my heart was thudding in my ears but I managed to spit out an honest request. I blushed as I shared what felt “silly” and “girlish” in comparison to what I’d deemed as “worthy” and “serious” requests. Fortunately my attempt to be vulnerable was met with the kindest words, encouragement, and understanding.

So, I go through the week trying to be more open. I try to answer direct questions with truth. I may not be an open book (no matter how long I live) but I share more than I would have before this challenge. At the end of the week, my friend and I touch base. She asks how it’s gone and I tell her I think I need a month to decide if it’s worth it.

A month later, I know it is. Oh, it’s not easy, not one bit. I fight it. I’ve had moments where I’ve put up walls, deflected, and generally failed. I’ve had a couple conversations where there’s been too much silence as I try to make my lips articulate what’s going on in my head and my heart. But I also had these really great conversations with people because I’ve let them see what a blushy mess of a girl I am right now. I’ve gotten to know people better. I am having a harder time not letting what I’m feeling flicker across my face. It’s a little disconcerting to me when people can guess why I’m sad or smiling but I’m slowly getting used to it.

I’m taking more risks. I’m attempting to be more open. Sometimes it’s worked out really well and other times I’ve found myself apologizing and having to try, try again. This month has been a roller-coaster of emotions. It hasn’t been calm nor business as usual. I haven’t been steady. It’s weird and sometimes it’s made me weird by extension.

I know I’m just starting down this path of vulnerability. The closest I am to wearing my heart on my sleeve, is to kind of put it out there on my sleeve and then cover that sleeve up with a jacket but it’s a start. It’s a risk I think I’m going to have to keep on taking because even though getting hurt is a real possibility, and honestly an inevitability, there’s too much good and sweet and wonderful I’ll miss if I don’t risk it.

I hesitate to even post this. It’s very real and very messy and I’ve already confessed how I like to appear to have it together but these words were echoing in my head and I felt like I should put them in writing. And then I thought definitely no I should not do that. Too much. But in church this morning, while I was debating, Matt read this verse:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7

This verse is one of the verses written across my heart. It has been a mantra I’ve clung to over the years. I’ve repeated it to myself as I’ve spoken things I’ve been afraid to say. I carried it with me through places I was afraid to walk. It steadies me when I have shaky knees. It’s conviction and courage all in one verse. And just hearing it felt like a push to write. To put a little bit more of myself out there. To let one more wall drop away and receive more space to breathe. To live a little bit more open and free and love a little better. It may be messy and hard and sometimes it really hurts but I think this whole-hearted way of living just may be a crazy-wonderful-beautiful way to live.

Framily

As I was driving back to my apartment last night from Franklin, I found myself thinking about the first time I made this commute last year. I was headed to a game night at a friend’s apartment in Bellevue. I’d never been there and as I drove down the seemingly  never-ending stretch of Old Hickory, I kept hoping I wasn’t lost. Just about the time I was contemplating turning around to see if I’d missed the turn, I saw the complex. I triple-checked to make sure I had the right apartment before knocking and worried about how I was late.  By the time he opened the door, I was was so nervous I almost dropped the plate of brownies I had just baked.

Now when I pull into this apartment complex, it’s to go home. The roads that use to perplex me, especially I-440, are ones I navigate without a second thought. It’s funny how much life can change in a year.

At the beginning of last summer, I kept thinking about Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, I was a girl in desperate need of different results so I made some decsions and tried new  things.

The first something different was deciding that I would start wearing dresses just because. I’d always reserved dresses for church, special occasions, and girls nights. But I had these cute sundresses that hung in my closet and it seemed sad not to wear them when it’s sweltering outside just because I limited them to certain activities. So, with some inspiration from my friend Dani and if I’m being perfectly honest, Taylor Swift, I just started wearing dresses whenever I felt like it. It wasn’t a pivotal change but it was a start and it made me happy.

The second decision was to start going to Church of the City in June. This was not a decision I made lightly. It was something that took a lot of consideration and more courage than I care to admit.

The other major decision was accepting an invitation to spend Fourth of July with my best friend and her family and friends. Group activities were not my forte and I’d gotten in a really bad habit of declining social invitations. I can remember around this time my littlest brother telling me I needed friends. I had friends, the life-long and long-distance kind but I knew what he meant. Socially, I was in a huge rut. Since I had declined more than the acceptable amount of invitations from this friend and had no reason not to go, I found myself headed south for the weekend.

And while the dress-wearing decision really only changed my wardrobe, the other two turned my little world upside down so much that I had to write about it. Should you so desire you can read more in these posts: The Beauty of the Church ; A Schooling in KindnessAnother Sun Soaked Season Fade Away.

Which brings me to this summer. Last week I went to Saint George Island, Florida with my family. I love the beach. Being near the water has always been so restorative for me. I can never get over the vastness of the ocean. I still play in the waves like a little kid. It was a really great trip. Our best family vacation in recent history. I think I just appreciated it more this year. Now that I don’t see these people on a daily basis, the time I do get is far more valued. Naturally, since we are a family, we still get on each other’s nerves and push each other’s buttons. But we also have a lot of fun together whether we’re watching the sunset from our dock, laughing at TV shows, playing games, or getting lost trying to find the Barnes & Noble in Dothan, Alabama.

Sprint recently launched an ad campaign introducing what they call a “Framily Plan.” Basically it’s a plan that allows anyone to share a mobile phone contract.  Here’s a commercial if you haven’t seen one:

And while the campaign is more than a little kooky, I love that word. Framily. It’s a word I’ve needed to describe what I’m experiencing this summer.

At missional community (A.K.A. home group) yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing how we’re no longer a group that sits around the table and has stilted, polite conversations. Now we talk across each other at table and our conversations weave in and out of topics and tangents. Politeness has long been replaced with teasing, sarcasm, and blunt observations.  It’s a unique mix of all different ages and stages but to me that just makes it even more like having dinner with family. After nearly a year of meals, service projects, and Bible studies we’ve really grown to love each other. Like any home group we discuss Scriptures and walk alongside each other through serious life-issues but we also have a lot of fun celebrating and laughing together. And isn’t this what the church should look like? Shouldn’t it look more like framily and less like a bunch of stiff, polite people? I think we just might be getting something right.

Speaking of getting something right, I really did get something right when I decided to go to Florence last year for the Fourth. I’ve heard this group called many things from “friends-group” to “village” or “tribe” but if there was ever a place to use the word “framily” this is it. For starters some of the members are actually related by blood or marriage so there is an actual family component to the group. It’s usually pretty easy to see this fact when we play games. As one of four kids myself, I can vouch that games bring out sibling-rivalry more than anyone cares to admit. We are all friends but not all family in the traditional definition which is why I love that “framily” word. Because when we’re all more or less together (which isn’t as often as we’d like due to jobs, school, and being across state-lines) it has the feel of a family. There’s a lot of laughter and fun but there’s also honesty and fraying each other’s nerves.

I went back to that house this Fourth of July. It was a slightly different mix of people. We all arrived slightly different than we left the year before. But one constant is the love you can feel sitting in a room with all these family-friends. At one point, I was blinking tears as we sang around the piano because I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this group of people that adopted me last summer. Because that’s what they did. They didn’t just welcome me or invite me in, they adopted me. I didn’t know how much I needed them and now I don’t know what I’d have done this past year without them.

This weekend a bunch of them are getting together and I have to work. Funny, a little over a year ago I would have been relieved to have work to use as an excuse to get out this kind of social event. Now, I wish I had an excuse to get out of work.

Change isn’t easy. I’ll admit I don’t always like it. Sometimes change drags me along and other times I’ll live in denial that anything has changed. But sometimes deciding to walk through a new door on unsteady feet with a racing heart is exactly what you need to jump-start a better you. And if you’re really lucky you’ll find yourself in rooms of casual acquaintances that a year later become people you can’t imagine not knowing and like me realize change can be a really beautiful thing.

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.