February 27, 2014

on being a nurse . . . and listening

It's funny how there are certain patients that will always stick out in your mind.

I remember a lot of patients from my orientation and new grad days.

I could tell you way too many stories, but I will stick to one or two for the sake of the reader. :)

(and thank you for reading - otherwise I wouldn't keep writing)

This gentleman was admitted to the ER, was found to have a dangerously high blood sugar, and was transferred to my unit.

He needed an insulin infusion, and so he had to come to the ICU.

He had been stressed out and upset, didn't want to be on the monitor (understandable, neither would I), and was just having a bad day all around. I guess it's always a bad day when you have to be admitted to the hospital.

Mind you, he was also the equivalent of Biggie Smalls' cousin . . . I later found out that he was a rapper/MC, but he was also the same size as Biggie.

So, I start my shift, unsuspecting of anything . . . and meet my friend Mr. Smalls. I immediately knew I didn't want to mess with him, when I noticed that every time he moved, the entire bed moved as well. I also noticed that his hands could probably close around my throat in one smooth lunge if he got riled up . . . but tried not to think of that too much.

Before I could even do any kind of assessment like a good little nurse, he started telling me all of his frustrations since he came to the hospital.

I was a captive audience, maaayybe because of the fear I was trying to keep hidden, but I digress.

I stood at his bedside, listened, and started to empathize with him.

The team caring for him, myself included, did the best we could to get his blood sugar under control so that he could leave the unit . . . but he had to stay more than 24 hours, to his disliking.

But you know what I noticed about him, and why he stuck in my memory?

All I did that morning was stand at his side and listen to him. No medical interventions. Just some therapeutic communication (like they teach you in nursing school, right?) - that's all he really wanted in that moment.

He thanked me for being the first person who made him feel like he was heard since his admission. I watched this once intimidating individual transform his demeanor in front of my eyes.

And I watched what a small part of me thought to be true all along . . . under that tough exterior was a giant teddy bear.

He ended up being one of the sweetest patients I have cared for. The day he left our unit, I was on break when he was being discharged.

 I wasn't his primary nurse that day, but he asked to see me before he left. That may be the only time I was glad to be interrupted during my lunch. (nurse's lunches are no joke. we need that 30 minutes!))

February 24, 2014

beauty . . . and flavor

I woke up entirely too early (5:05am to be exact) to take the best spin class of my life. Not even kidding. It was more than worth it. Sync Cycle is my new favorite thing.

On the drive home, I saw a painted sky as the sun rose over I-40.

It made me think . . . how awesome is God, that He shows us such beauty, even in the daily things?

In the fall, I was reading The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. There's a section where He talks about creation and how everything that God designed points us back to Him.

He writes:

When we eat certain foods, I want to be thinking of the fact that the flavor was created by God . . .
He created the flavors! He created the colors. He created it all, and he did it all out of the overflow of his perfections. It's not like he was thinking, "Oh, I've got some fajita flavoring over here. I know: let's put it on the cow and the chicken." He created the avocado to have a certain flavor; he created the skirt steak, the fillet, and the tenderloin to have certain flavors. That was God's doing. So every aspect of creation, from the largest galaxy to the tiniest burst of flavor in food or drink or seasoning, radiates the goodness of God. Everything declares that "in the beginning, God made me."

I was at the beach with my parents when I first read this. You know when you read something and God reveals Himself to you in a new way, or when finally something inside of you just "clicks" and your eyes are opened? This part of the book did that for me.

I got suuuper excited about avocados and the fact that God made such a wonderful food, along with thousands upon millions upon billions of other amazing things on this earth.

I remember running inside and telling my mom, "God made avocados! I am so glad God made avocados! They are just so amazing! God is so amazing!"

She must've thought I was out of my mind.

But seriously! When is the last time you took a step back and thought about creation and the author of it all? God didn't have to make colors or flavors or sounds or sensations. He could have put us in a world that was void of color, sound, tastes, feelings or experiences. But He did (I'm so glad) and all of those things point back to Him and His glory.

Back to the avocados . . . they are SO good. I'm glad that God made avocados and cilantro and chipotle peppers and everything that constitutes my roommate's fish tacos. It's like the glory of God exploding in every bite. She's making them this week and I'm suuper excited.

February 22, 2014

the small things


I have been reading a book called "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby and Claude King . . . there is a workbook to go along with it (similar to a Beth Moore study) and I've slowly been going through it over the past few weeks.

The authors help you to learn what it means to really know God and have a closer relationship with Him.

One of the main points is this: God is always at work around you. Watch to see what He is doing and join Him.

So often we think that we have to go and "do" something on our own for God, instead of doing something with God and allowing Him to use you and work through you.

I have been praying that God would open my eyes to what He's doing around me. I was expecting and hoping for something huge, out of the ordinary, monumental, etc.

But this week, a friend reminded me that God is working in my small group.

It caught me off guard.

When I was looking for something crazy out in left field, I was missing what's right in front of me.

Sometimes God does show us amazing and grandiose things.

But He's right there in the small details, in the daily, "normal" things. How often do I overlook this?

I lead a small group, and God is working in the hearts and lives of these women I encounter every week.

God is working in my co-workers and friends who initiate conversations with me about Him.

God is working in the patient who is holding onto His promises each day through a chronic illness.

Where is God working around you?

I pray that God would continue to open our eyes to where He is working, and that we would be delighted in the small things.

It reminds me of this song, "Whisper" by Natalie Grant.

February 20, 2014

on being alone

My roommate has been out of town this week, and it's revealing what I already knew to be true . . . I don't love being alone.

When you're home alone, suddenly ordinary noises become magnified . . . like the ice machine, or the light in the fridge (yes, it made an amazingly loud sound the other night), or just the normal creaks and groans a house makes in the middle of the night.

I was by myself for most of Tuesday, and by the evening I just felt this yearning to be social. I was excited to go to work on Wednesday because that meant I would be with people all day.

That's how I know I'm an extrovert.

I can really only handle about 12 hours of being in isolation before I start to go cray cray. There is such a thing as thinking too much or being inside your head too much, you know?

I really really really want to get married and have a family one day, but right now God has me in a different spot. I have an amazing roommate, amazing friends, amazing community that He's gifted me with and I'm so thankful. But I'm telling you . . . if I never get married, I don't think I'll be able to live alone.

Sometimes I think I need to suck it up and say something like, "it's OK, I don't need people, all I need is God." And it's true that He is to be our sustainer, our fulfillment, our lasting joy and source of life. But there's so much that I'm missing when I start to think that I don't "need" anyone or anything . . . as if I'm supposed to live in a vaccuum.

It's comforting to know that God designed us as relational beings. Even He didn't design me to be an island. So when I start to feel the pangs of loneliness, it's OK . . . it's normal.

I read a post on the Gospel Coalition that highlights this:
(see the entire post here)

"God said something quite profound about the man. Perhaps the most profound statement uttered about humanity in all of human telling, second only to explaining that male and female are uniquely created in the image of God.
What was this statement?
"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone . . .'"
(Genesis 2:18)
Before the Fall had touched and defaced humanity and creation, God said there was something that was not good. It was not good for man to be alone.
But what might we have said to God in response to His statement? I know what I would say:
"But God, I'm not alone. I have You, what else could I possibly want or need?"
God did not forget or overlook the fact of his own sufficiency. He wants to show us something very important about us, what God made us to be. Man was made for another, like him, but different as well. And it was not good without . . . her.
God made us in such a way that even in our sole relationship with him, we are not as we were created to be. Yes, that is very curious, even startling, but it's what God said.
Just as God is a community of Divine Persons, man as God's unique image-bearer in creation must live in a community of human persons. And the first community of human persons that God established is the communion of husband and wife called to enter a union of intense physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy of love which is life-giving, just as the Trinity is life-giving. This human pro-creative union will bring forth the third member of this human trinity after their own kind. A baby. A new generation God-imagers.
This is what God gave us to satisfy and solve the original problem of man's solitude.
Jesus is Lord of all creation. We must hold him above all and before all. But we don't hold him alone. We honor the Lord of all creation by enjoying, glorying, observing, and participating in the wonder, beauty, majesty, and fullness of His creation.
Christians are not  gnostics nor solipsists. We live in our Father's world. And we do so with others."

February 18, 2014

five random loves



1. Macarons
I have become slightly obsessed with making macarons . . . ever since I tried them for the first time at La Farm, I was on a mission. Biscoff, red velvet, chocolate with vanilla buttercream . . . wondering what new flavor to make next :)

2. Miranda
My roommate discovered this British comedy. I am really particular about what shows I like, and this one won me over . . . I laugh out loud every time. It doesn't help that we watched all 18 episodes in a span of 7 days (thanks, hulu), but the episodes are still entertaining the second time around :)

3. Natalie Grant - Hurricane
I bought this album on a whim last Monday and I don't regret it one bit. I love Natalie Grant anyway, and this album is wonderful :)

4. A Pink Ladder
My mom surprised me at Christmas by not only buying me a badly needed stepladder, but also by sanding it down and painting it pink with glitter. ah ma-zing. It's wonderful to change your air filters without the fear of waking up in the neuro ICU with a head injury.

5. Sync Cycle
Ever since a co-worker told me about this, I've been hooked. Spin is my favorite workout and this takes it to the next level. It's the only reason I would dare to wake up at 5am on my days off. Insanity, yes . . . but I just love it.

February 15, 2014

this week

Glenwood Avenue 2/12/14
This past week, I was scheduled to work Wednesday and Thursday. I was in charge both days.

I saw the emails from UNC, suggesting that employees bring an overnight bag with enough toiletries and clothes for 72 hours.

I saw the weather forecast.

Did I take it seriously?

Nahhhh, in years past I've never had to stay overnight. I knew I'd get better rest at home even if it took me three hours to get there, so I didn't pack a bag. I've driven in the snow to work before, and it was OK.

Even when we were told to expect 4-6 inches of snow with a quarter inch of ice on top, even when they told us "wherever you are at 9pm, that's where you're gonna stay," I didn't think anything would really happen.

Around noon, it started snowing and sticking - fast. I called my mom, the woman who was born and raised in Minnesota, and asked her if she would go to my house, pack a bag and bring it to the hospital. The fact that she told me it wasn't safe told me it must be serious.

Shortly thereafter, all of RDU was in gridlock. It was reminiscent of an ice storm Raleigh had several year prior. Anyway, see above photo. That really happened. Most of my friends ended up abandoning their cars on their way home.

I began to think about night shift . . . what if my co-workers didn't make it in? We can't leave unless we get relief, and my manager and other nurses had talked about taking shifts of sleeping and doing patient care if our colleagues couldn't make it. I really didn't want to do that, but what other choice do you have?

Long story short . . . six of us ended up sleeping in the conference room across the hall from the unit . . . in recliners and really small couches. We slept in extra scrubs, showered in the on-call room, wore patient grippy socks, I even used specimen cups as makeshift contact cases.

Some of my co-workers slept in the hospital, some came in early, some walked to work, some picked up extra work, the longest commute was four hours . . . and they all got there safely.

I am so thankful for such a dedicated, wonderful group of people. It makes me love and appreciate this place even more.

However, by Thursday afternoon, the effects of being over tired and over stressed caught up with me. Thank God the roads were clear that evening . . . there's only one other time in my life I can remember being that excited to be home.

36 hours is just a liiiitle too long to be at your job. 

February 11, 2014

Baking lately

February 10, 2014

building up

Words can be so powerful, can't they?

As Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, our words can have the power to build up, encourage, or tear down those around us.

One of my friends was describing a couple she knows . . . she observed that they only speak respectfully and highly of one another. They seem to hold each other in the highest honor, and she's never heard them talk poorly or complain about each other.

That stuck with me all weekend. Even though I was hearing about this second hand, it really impacted me.

Scripture teaches us to speak kindly, to love, to build up those around us. Sometimes this comes easily, but other times it's not.

The closer you are to someone, the more you see their flaws, their imperfections, their sin, even things they do that get on your last nerve.

So it's not that you speak kindly because your spouse/friend/family is perfect or always on your good side, it's because you can choose to. You can overlook their flaws, you can see them the way God sees them . . . a man or woman that He loves, that He has created in His image (and someone who is imperfect, just as you are).

When you speak this way, that person can thrive and rise up to who God has called them to be.

I've heard it said that grace is the most powerful change agent in the world.

Will complaining, slandering or speaking negatively about our loved ones change them? Will it build them up to become a better person? Will it be helpful to us, them, or the people we speak to?

I'm not saying it's easy . . . I struggle with this all the time.

I have to ask myself, how do I speak to people and about people? Is it kind? Is it beneficial to those who hear?

What would happen if we choose to speak positively and build up those people in our lives? What if we only speak what is kind, what is helpful, what is beneficial? How would it change our relationships, how would it change those around us, how would it change you individually?

February 7, 2014

how I feel after working a week of night shift

. . . and that about covers it. seriously.

Nurses have a weird schedule sometimes. This week I worked 7PM to 7AM.

The way I switch back to a normal sleep/wake cycle is to come home after my last shift (usually around 8:30am), sleep until 1pm, then treat it like a normal rest of the day and go to bed at a decent hour. 

I used to always have some sort of coffee or lunch date planned, or at least plans in the evening. It's pretty hit or miss these days . . . and more often than not, I'm too exhausted to do anything that exciting.

After working a stretch of night shifts, my roommate likes to tell me that I have this vacant stare in my eyes, like no one is home. I'm pretty sure she's telling the truth.

I legitimately want to stay in tonight. Just work on getting back to a normal schedule. Sometimes I feel like I'm 50 for getting excited about staying in.

But when I push myself to go to every single social event, I end up getting cranky, mentally checking out, not being fully engaged with the people I'm with. So sometimes it is better to just have a date with the couch.

Here's to being 28 . . . going on 50. ;)

Happy Friday!!!

February 5, 2014

a perspective change

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17
"In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I recently read this devotional by Mars Hill, titled "God never gives the wrong gifts" that was centered on James 1:9-11, 16-18. 

Mark Driscoll also preached this sermon on it. Both are awesome.

I have found that it's not natural to have a heart of gratitude. 

It's easier to focus on the things that you don't have, isn't it?

But when you take a step back and realize that everything, everything you have is a gift that God has freely given in His grace (undeserved, unmerited favor) . . . it changes things.

Instead of focusing on your unmet longings, your eyes are opened to how much you truly have . . . and it even becomes overwhelming.

It's good to reflect on this, to even make a list of things, blessings, gifts that you have been given. It will change your perspective, lift your gaze and your spirit.

I started this exercise today, and there is just so much to be thankful for. It's everything from being thankful that God chose to pursue me and have a relationship with me, to being thankful that I have health, that I have freedom and security in this country, for the comfort of a friend, for the smell of coffee in the morning, the sound of birds singing . . . and life suddenly becomes that much more beautiful.

February 4, 2014

on being a nurse . . . new grad edition, part one

Let me tell you a story . . . a story about being a new graduate nurse.

It all started, well, a long time ago. I will just begin when I graduated nursing school with honors, proud of my GPA, excited about starting life in the "real world." (I'm pretty sure my mom said something like - the world is your oyster!)
I had landed what I thought was my dream job, I was about to move back to my hometown and was just all around enthusiastic.

I had a vision of this next chapter of my life and it went something like this:

Living a glamorous life as a young professional in the city . . . I would have a beautiful apartment all to myself, I would not only adore my job in the ICU, but I would excel at it because of my GPA. My patients would all be calm, quiet and well-behaved. I would love my field so much that in my spare time, I'd read books and journal articles on critical care. I would float through this season with confidence, grace and ease.

You could say that I was a little bit idealistic.

Turns out life after college was a much bigger transition than I had anticipated.

When I started my new job, I had the support of my family and a close friend from college who was also living in the area, but I hadn't found my social niche quite yet. That is another challenge - finding friends and community after college. But I digress.

Remember the vision of how my life as an ICU nurse was going to be?

Enter the real world. I had about 12 weeks of one-on-one training with an experienced nurse (also called a preceptor) before I was going to be cut loose. I had never worked in a hospital before, or even worked a 12-hour shift.

All at once, I was learning how to be a nurse, learning how to be a critical care nurse, and just trying to figure out life in the "real world" in general. Overwhelming was an understatement.

I remember those first weeks in the hospital. I was no longer in my safe, comfortable bubble that I had when I was working as a medical assistant in a clinic in Wilmington.

I found myself in an unfamiliar, unpredictable, uncomfortable, overwhelming world. The doors to the ICU used to make this daunting click! click! sound as they unlocked and swung open every time you swiped your badge to enter the unit. Cue my adrenaline.

I quickly realized that I didn't just need a good GPA, or book smarts - I needed experience and judgement and critical thinking skills to fly here.

When you're a new graduate nurse, you go through this insanely steep learning curve. Week two, I was in full blown reality shock (and that's legit one of the stages of the curve). I remember thinking . . . "What have I done? I went to school for this? really?"

In this new environment I was eager to learn and do well, but at the same time I was very insecure, quiet and shy. My preceptor was exactly the opposite. I don't think I will ever forget her.

Those dreams of my patients being quiet and well behaved all went out the window when I met one of my first patients.

Ms. Patient was riding her bike to work when she was struck by a truck, and acquired multiple fractures as well as a head injury.

The thing about head injuries . . . they can make you confused, lose your short term memory, change your personality, cause you to become impulsive . . .

About the fifth time she yelled out into the hall, my preceptor told me that it was my turn to go into the room, and re-orient her ("You were in an accident, you're in the hospital, you're OK, etc")

She was laying in the bed with her eyes closed, banging her arm on the side rail and hollering, "open the door!!"

I gently said, "You're in a hospital bed, you're not in a car . . . there is no door."

*golden silence for 30 seconds*

*rattling of side rail re-commences*

"open the window!!!!"

. . . this is gonna be a long night.

February 1, 2014

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unrequited friendship

it only looks unreciprocated . . . she knows I'm her favorite sister :)

Have you ever liked someone who didn't like you back?

It's called unrequited love.

Just to make sure I was using the right vocabulary, I googled it and here is what I found:

adjective: unrequited
(of a feeling, esp. love) not returned or rewarded.
synonyms:unreciprocated, unreturned;
 I believe it's happened to all of us. You meet someone and think, I totally want to be friends with this person! . . . but they simply don't feel the same way.

Sometimes it even happens after you've been acquaintances or friends . . . after a while, you realize that you are genuinely more excited to see them and legitimately want a closer relationship when they are not interested.

Well, now what?

After you get over the hurt and disappointment of rejection, you can do several things. Or, you could refuse the rejection and just try to win the person over. (I don't think that usually works, though).

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and think . . . this isn't going to work because our personalities are too different (I've been told that I am "too high energy"), maybe the other person is too busy for new friends, etc. etc.

You could write that person off, become bitter . . . maybe you could decide that you don't want to reach out to anyone again. You could shut yourself off and nurse your wounds.

You could become defensive . . . or maybe you could become uber insecure, asking endless "why" questions and try to figure out, "what's wrong with me?"

Underneath all of this, what's really going on? When we feel this way, what's going on in our hearts?

You could call it "people pleasing," "fear of man," etc. . . but don't we all long for the approval of others? I want everyone to like me, even if I don't like them (and why do we feel this way?).

I read a book by Edward T. Welch called When People are Big and God is Small that helps to address this issue.

All of us are trying to fill the void in our hearts, and sometimes we want other people to fill that void. We want to feel loved, wanted, valued . . . and we try to get those things from other humans.

Ultimately, other people cannot hold that weight and power in your life. If you try to find all of your significance and worth from another person, you'll end up sucking the life out of them and crushing them.

Sometimes I feel like I need that person to like me or give me approval . . . but when I do, I am putting them and their opinion of me on a pedestal. I feel like I need them to like me and be my friend. I feel like I need their validation.

But after all, they are just another broken, flawed individual - just like me. What ultimately matters is this - does God approve of me? Does God love and accept me and give me worth, value and significance?

If we find everything we truly need in God, that frees us up to love other people and extend grace, rather than trying to squeeze the life out of them in order to have our needs met.

And what else? We can extend grace to that person who doesn't want to be our new BFF. We can free them from unrealistic expectations, we can let go of bitterness, we can be at peace with the situation. When we are finally filled with God's love, our needs are met in Him and that love then flows out of us to other people. It can be quite miraculous.
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