In-Between

Some years Christmas doesn’t come quite like you expect. Some years you rewrite the rules, upset traditions, and find yourself in new territory. That was certainly true for me this year.

I had the hardest time making a Christmas list because there wasn’t much I wanted that could be purchased. I needed new work shoes since my current ones had holes from scurrying in and out of patient rooms. I added some things for my apartment, a phone case, and some well-loved movies to fill out the list. But what I wanted most for Christmas this year looked far more like a prayer list than a Christmas one. I was wishing for safe deliveries, healthy babies, negative test results, jobs for friends, and second chances.

Instead of having presents well in advance, I was that girl in Target and Walmart in the early hours of Christmas Eve purchasing the last items on my list. I managed to see Elf and White Christmas but missed It’s a Wonderful Life– a favorite. I baked Christmas cookies while listening to Serial instead of carols- a move I don’t regret in the slightest.

Traditionally, I spend Christmas Eve with my family. We eat something delicious for dinner, go to a Christmas Eve service, come home, open family gifts, slip into our new pajamas, eat sweets, and stay up late talking, while my parents try to get us to go to sleep so Santa can come. This year I was scheduled to work, which threw a wrench in our traditions. Naturally I was bummed to have to work. I went in trying to have a good attitude and quickly realized not for the first time how selfish I can be. No one wants to be in the hospital at Christmas. At least I was there because I have a good job and not because I was really sick. Changing my plans to help others heal really isn’t asking too much. My parents and brothers showed up with treats for my team. It was the kindest gesture. The night went by fairly quickly and I did have festive fun and great food with my coworkers. See, not too much to ask.

I drove to my parents and was immediately urged into my Christmas pajamas by my brother to get the morning started. We ate breakfast and opened presents. I was more than a little sleep deprived by the time we opened the last gifts but I think that was amusing for my family. After my nap, the day proceeded with in a more traditional manner. Dinner at Grandmas with my dad’s sister and her family. We had a lot of fun and laughter. One of our better Christmases I think. Although, I still miss sitting with my grandpa cracking nuts and jokes. That probably won’t ever change.

I haven’t made it to see the lights at Opryland Hotel this year. That’s one of my very favorite things to do this time of year. I didn’t go driving to look at lights. But I did put up a new tree in my apartment. I decorated it with my childhood ornaments, red beads, and white lights. And while many things have changed this year, the lights on the tree still draw me in like they always do. I’ve sat by the tree in the early morning hours praying and the late hours dreaming. I’ve found myself looking at the tree with childlike joy and watching the lights blur through tears. No matter how bleak the news or how dark the night grows, there’s a lot of comfort and joy to be found. There’s still light. There’s still hope. If there is one thing I pray to never lose, it’s the hope I feel sitting under these lights.

Christmas is over. The New Year is coming. I know it’s almost time to take down the tree and wrap up the lights, to put away the sparkling bulbs. But not just yet. Because this is the week of the in-between. A week when there’s time to rest and catch up with family and friends. A moment to think about how far we’ve come this year and dream about where we will go. There’s still time to make this year count. To start the new one off right. Christmas may be over but the joy and hope it brings doesn’t leave. And that is good news whether you are a shepherd thousands of years ago or a twenty-eight-year-old in the Twenty-First Century.

So, I wait in the in-between. I write words by the light of my tree. I sip coffee and live the words of Sleeping At Last’s song “Snow”.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lSxMqyiVfsM

I play with the necklace I wear, a present from my sister and hold tight to its word believe. Not just the simple meaning but what she told me “the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul,”* and being “full of joyful trust.” That is, after all how to thrive in the in-between.

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*http://biblehub.com/greek/4100.htm

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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.

Fall 2014 TV Lineup

Fall is coming. Not that you could tell from this hot and humid Tennessee weather. But I know it’s on its way because I bought mums to put outside my front door. I’ve changed my toenail polish from “coral silk” to “lingering spices.” There are sundresses that I probably won’t wear again until the spring. They’re airing football games now where the score actually matters. I also keep wanting to make soup and chili- that is until I remember it’s eighty-five degrees outside.

The arrival of fall brings changing leaves, cooler temperatures, sweaters, lazy Saturdays, and everything pumpkin. It also ushers in the new season of TV shows. After a summer of Netflixing and watching reruns, I am more than ready for new episodes of Scandal, which always has me glued to the screen, and Parenthood, which always makes me cry. They air in fourteen days. Not that I’m counting. . . And while I look forward to my favorites returning, I’m always intrigued by what’s new.

Late August is when a lot of people start drafting their Fantasy Football teams. I like football but I don’t follow it with much fervor. I if I did attempt to draft a team, I would basically just pick whatever players I thought were cute. Honestly, this is how I decide who to cheer for in any game when my team is neither playing nor affected by the outcome (much to the dismay of my brother, Zack). I may not be good guessing who will rack up fantasy points in a game, but I am pretty good at guessing whether a TV show will make it or not. So when people were drafting their teams, I was doing something a little different. I was organizing my fall TV bets

Two years ago, my dad and I decided to take bets on whether or not we thought a show would get picked up for a second season or not. Last year I posted how we do this here. The basic gist is we watch the trailers for the new shows and try to decide if we think the show will get a second season. Then, we watch the pilot and get a second chance to make our bet. Sometimes the trailer is a great reflection of the show and other times you need the second take. We try to base our decision solely on gut reaction and not what critics are saying. Finally, we wait and see what makes it and what doesn’t. Some shows are quickly canned after only a few episodes and others we have to wait until sweeps to find out how they fair. Whether we guessed the shows correctly or they cancel the one show we really liked (Studio 60 we still haven’t gotten over your premature execution), we have a lot of fun doing it.

Last year I predicted the outcomes after watching the pilots with 84% accuracy and won.

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I highly doubt I’ll better this score, but I’m up for the challenge. Although, having watched the trailers for the new shows, I think this year will be hard to call.

So, if you’d like to place your own bets here’s how we do it:

Watch the extended tailors of the new broadcast network TV shows. I’ve compiled a them all on this playlist for your viewing pleasure:

Place your bets. You can use this pdf if you want: Fall 2014 TV Bets.

We usually like to know what airs against what because while there’s a lot more options now and you don’t have to watch a show when it airs, knowing its time-slot can be very helpful. TV Guide is my go to place for the Day-By-Day Schedule.  You can also find out when your favorites from last year air using their Premiere Calendar.

I definitely do not have millions of dollars to give away like they do for the winner of Fantasy Football, but if you’d like to play along, feel free to send me your picks. You can at least win bragging rights.

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.

Springing Forward

I could tell it was coming. It’s happened every year I’ve lived here. One day we’re in the thick of winter and the next my eyes feel the first hint of itchiness. Then my nose starts getting stuffy. I know the sneezing is just around the corner. I double up on the Zyrtec and brace myself for what I know is just around the corner: the arrival of my arch-nemesis, the blossoming Bradford Pear Trees. I’m not sure who decided to plant dozens upon dozens of these trees in my little town. I know they look pretty but they smell like fish (seriously, not exaggerating even a little bit) and they aren’t even very sturdy trees. We loose several in every major storm. All of which, might be tolerable if they didn’t constantly assault me with buckets of pollen.

Further hints that Spring is coming was the fact we lost an hour of sleep on Sunday. But this Daylight Saving’s wasn’t a typical one for me because I started working nights for the first time. The funny thing about working nights is how fluid time’s become for me. Wednesday morning at nine, after my third twelve-hour shift, felt a lot like a Friday night at nine. My attempts to sleep during the day feel more like taking long naps than getting a good night’s rest. My “day” starts in the afternoon and I leave work while most people are just heading in.

I’m actually liking night’s more than I thought I would. There’s far less distractions in the hospital at night. I have time to think about what I’m doing or need to do. I’m less panicky that I’m forgetting something in the chaos. Which is fantastic considering I need extra time to process everything I’m doing. I’ve found as long as I have some caffeine around two or three in the morning, I’m not even any sleepier than I was when I got off at 7:30 pm vs 7:30 am.

Working nights is just one more thing that’s changing lately. I think that’s why despite allergies I’m so ready for Spring. After such a cold (for Tennessee) winter, and lots of gray days, I am craving blue skies and warm breezes. I miss my sundresses and have grown tired of my coat. I need the days of driving with the windows down and the music up.

I found these beauties at Publix yesterday. They made me happy so they came home with me along with the ingredients for Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili (which is crazy delicious) and Peanutty Buckeye Bars.

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I love watching the leaves change colors and the snowfall. But Spring has this way of infusing hope in me like no other season. It reminds me that there really is an astounding amount of beauty in the world. It carries with it the promise of summer; it hints at BBQs, picnics, and days at the beach. But it has a grace all it’s own. Days filled with ever-increasing amount of sunshine and perfect temperatures for eating on patios and going for runs.

Spring gives me hope that something wonderful is just around the bend. That there are second-chances and new-life to be uncovered. It whispers that maybe the best is yet to come. And all that makes me believe that seasonal allergies are a  pretty good trade for some seasonal hope.

God of the Middle

I heard a beautiful story yesterday. It was about how God has given my friend rainbows over and over again the last six years. For example, when she was wondering if her now husband was the one, she saw over seventy rainbows. An impressive feat considering she lives in the desert where it almost never rains. It was a story about His faithfulness at every turn.

Sometimes a rainbow is just a rainbow and sometimes it’s a reminder of God’s hand. I know a group of women who would tell you the same thing about purple flowers. That in some form or other when they are making decisions or needing to feel God’s love, they will stumble upon a field of purple wildflowers or find just one exactly when they need it. I have another friend who literally finds pennies from heaven. That change you pass on the ground every day without a second thought, is something she bends down and picks up, claiming God’s faithfulness.

I don’t have one thing I can point to as sign in my life. I can say that ever since a yellow lady bug landed on my blue dress with sunflowers as I was entering my audition for Annie, they’ve been something I view as a blessing. I mean I did get the role of Tessie so ladybugs seem downright lucky. I know it’s not just luck though, it’s also reminder. I’m the kind of girl who holds on to movie tickets and little trinkets from events I want to remember. So, it seems natural that I have a rock I picked up on a hike in Colorado and a shell I collected on the beach while watching the sunrise. Both are markers of times I heard God’s voice clearly.

How often have I found myself praying, “God, if xyz, then send me a sign”? It’s a prayer I occasionally utter when I’m making a decision to start down a path or bring a chapter to a close. But I find it incessantly on my lips when I’m somewhere in between. In the middle, that’s when I wonder what have I gotten myself into. It’s when I’m halfway across the rope bridge and feeling its definite sway. When I’m too far along to backtrack but unsure how I’ll ever reach the end.

 
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV

These words I know to be true. I need little reminder that the creator of the universe is in the process of its redemption. I know he is the Beginning and will be the End but, oh, I need a constant reminder that He’s also the God of the Middle.  He sees me shaking my head when I find myself exactly in the spot I was afraid of winding up. He hasn’t forgotten me when the waves are getting higher and I can no longer remember why I ever got in the boat. He knows where to find me in the inbetween.

He knows what I need before I ask.

He can reroute me if I’m lost.

He knows what’s on the next page.

My God is the ultimate author. He knows the middle matters. It’s what gets you from “In the beginning,” to “Amen.”

He hasn’t forgotten me along the way.

I’m the one in need of reminding. I need the Ebenezer. I need to mark a moment. I need to remember that ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’*

And I know He hasn’t forgotten you either (even if it feels like it). And I pray that He’ll remind you however you need reminding- be it flowers or sunsets or pennies or rocks or shooting stars or whatever your thing may be.

Tonight I find myself grateful he’s more than the Beginning and the End. That He’s also the God of the Middle.

* 1 Samual 7:12

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

Things I Like Right Now

I love snow. I love watching big flakes drift from the sky. It always makes me incredibly happy (as long as I’m not driving in it. . . ). There’s something about the beauty of it all that makes me believe anything is possible. I love it even more now that I live south of the Mason-Dixon line after spending my childhood walking to school in feet of it up North. So, I understand that my brother shares this giddiness of a rare snow but it’s not nice to rub it in my face that he got 7 inches when the “snow” here just made my yard muddy.

IMG_0968 copy 2And it’s really not nice to do so at 6 am on a day I’m not working. But I still love snow and my still-a-kid-at-heart brother.

Speaking of not working today, I’m really enjoying working only three days of the week. I mean my schedule is downright chaotic at the moment being I’m at the mercy of the system and limited preceptors, but I think I’m really going to like it.

I also am really enjoying the Olympics. I like team sporting events well enough. I like watching people watch football. MLB’s Opening Day always feels like the start of summer. I’d like basketball more if their sneakers weren’t constantly squeaking as they ran up and down the court. And while I like like team sports, I love the Olympics. I like the variety. I like how it’s edited for TV so there’s not a lot of downtime between plays, runs, or participants. I like all the crazy tricks and spins and flips and freakishly fast speeds. I like learning about random sports and countries. I like how I can never figure out the scoring system. I like the patriotism of it all and proudly wear my team USA t-shirt. There’s something great getting so caught up in it all that you’ve stayed up until 2 am and are watching an event you’re not that into like curling. There’s always a story behind every athlete and I love hearing them.

I’ve always been a girl who loves stories. Library days were my favorite and I often spent recess reading. (Yes, I was and still am a bit of a nerd like that.) I also love going to the movies. I love everything about it minus the ticket price. I believe if you’re not there in time to see all the trailers, you’re missing out. Sometimes I get so caught up in watching the previews that I forget what movie I’m about to watch. I’ll even go to the theater all by myself when I need to escape the day-to-day and I can’t get near the water. Going to the movies alone is not sad; it’s wonderful. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.

So, because I love books and I love movies, I love when books I love are being turned into movies. Here’s two I am a bit giddy about seeing in the nearish future:

One will have me on the edge of my seat and the other will have me reaching for Kleenex. I’ll let you guess which one is which.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m just telling you about things I like right now. That’s about the only thing connecting these scattered dots in my brain, so I’m just going to continue. Continue reading

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.