Saturday, November 16, 2013

Although the storms may come...

Wow. It's been a minute since I've written anything. Maybe that's because I have NO life and no time. Nursing school is wearing me out-- some days are good, some days are bad. I can say one thing: the past few months have made me doubt myself more than I have in a long time. To go from something I'd done well for a decade to something that I am pretty darn clueless...well, that's just tough. I went from being the teacher to the student.

I am overwhelmed. I feel hopeless at times. I feel incompetent sometimes. But I also seem to get just enough air, just enough reassurance, that I continue to breathe and move on. I put 100% into school and I feel like I'm neglecting my family. I spend time with family or friends and I'm stressing over all the school work that I'm not focusing on. Bleh.  I have had several moments where I think 'maybe this isn't it'. I want to be GOOD at something; I want to find my calling and excel. (It doesn't help being the sister of someone who is fantastic at so many things....Dave is a master of many things: running, teaching, playing any instrument on Earth.) I want to be a fantastic nurse. And maybe I will one day; right now, though, I feel pretty dern clueless.

I realized recently how important the eyes are.
I was listening to a CD from our church the other day, and this song hit me:

Although the storms may come
I won't be 'whelmed by the flood.
And although the waters they rise,
Won't pass my chin, won't reach my eyes...
Because you are with me

When I was in my first C section with Trafton, Chris sat beside me throughout the procedure. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I'd never had a true panic attach until that night. I couldn't breathe, I was crying uncontrollably, and I couldn't stop shaking. I remember asking the anesthesiologist to hold my other hand. I looked up and a man in a mask was inches from my face. All I could see were his eyes and I knew immediately that it was my husband. "Hey, stay with me. Look at me, look at my eyes. I'm here" he said. God is saying the same now. I AM HERE. I am so many things for you-- comforter, healer, encourager. Even when things suck, the waters won't reach my eyes and overwhelm me.

I had a patient this week who had a history of strokes. He could not communicate verbally or follow simple commands. Up until this point, I had worked with patients who could talk to me. Some more than others. (I may have even forgotten to do something because I got so wrapped up in conversation with a patient....imagine that, me being talkative! Ha.) Even if they weren't chatty, they could still tell me if they felt pain, nausea, etc. So this week threw me for a loop. I was nervous from the get-go. I realized though, he did have a way of communicating with me: his eyes. The first day I was working with him, he had a lack of interest. His eyes told me that he didn't want to work, he didn't want us poking/prodding him. He wanted to be left alone. He would keep them closed when different team members entered the room. (The second his daughter walked in, though? WIDE awake. She commanded his attention without even trying. That's how daughters work!)

The second day, I noticed a change. He was "tracking" more; that is, he would follow me around the room more with his eyes. They looked softer almost, like he was loosening up with me just a bit. Maybe he was beginning to trust me?? Hard to say. By the end of the day, I told him that I'd like to clean his mouth out. I met his eyes and asked him if he could open his mouth for me. Fully expecting no response, I almost squealed when he followed my directions. Mouth open, his eyes continued to look at me. Might seem minimal to some, but my inner cheerleader went crazy.

I feel like God is handing me little moments like this to sustain me. The waters are certainly rising but they haven't quite reached my eyes. I am still breathing, still treading water.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Goodbye, Summer

Well, my summer came to an end today, as I ventured into new territory. Day 1 of my nursing orientation started bright and early, then lasted through the afternoon. Before I start classes and officially say goodbye to the summertime, I wanted to note a few things that I have learned...

Trafton is almost 3, but has the attitude of a spoiled teenager at times. One moment, he tells me, "I love you really much, Mama". And the next minute, homeboy is screaming, stomping his feet, and embarrassing the mess out of me. We've had a lot of fun times this summer, but we've had our struggles as well. We have attempted potty, still working on that.

In the spring, I spotted a bird's nest in our garage. I watched each day as the mother bird would fly in and out; she would sit on her eggs for hours. Sadly, the eggs continued to sit, never hatching. I refused to give up hope, thinking that maybe this type of bird takes longer to hatch. But they never did, even after a couple of months. Finally, Chris discarded the nest (without me knowing, of course). My heart sank each time I saw that mama bird fly to the nest. I realize that this is the circle of life and all that; I know that death happens. But to watch her flutter in each day- dedicated and hopeful- was sad. It was no mistake that this happened over the course of our summer. As much as we struggled, I fell more and more in love with my children. I may have lost my cool or been exhausted some days, but then God would grant me those moments when I'd realize 'holy moly, you chose ME to be a mother'. He has allowed this mama bird to watch her little ones hatch and grow.

Toddler-hood is an interesting mix between being fiercely independent ("I do it!") and needing the help of mommy or daddy. Sort of like our lives as adults. I know that there are so many times that I claim to have it all set, all figured out. Only for my bubble to burst as I realize that nothing is set in stone, nothing is obtainable on my own, and that I am a big ol' mess without God's guidance and grace. Today I ventured into new territory: I had my first day of orientation for nursing school. I definitely felt like one of the old ladies in the group, especially when one speaker asked if anyone in the group was born in 1994, the year that she started working for the hospital system. BORN in 1994??! I was already in middle school in 1994. (I felt even better when I shared this story with Chris once I returned home. His response? "I was already out of high school and working in 1994". Ha! Love my old man.)

Anxiety reared it's ugly head today as we heard all about what our schedules will demand and how much we'll have to study. I got a couple of interesting looks when I shared my children's ages. One lady even asked, "Hmm, what made you decide to go back to school NOW?!" My answer is complicated and difficult to explain in a few seconds, to a complete stranger. I sum it up by telling them, "I am ready for a change" or "God has made it clear that it's time". It's deeper than that though...I want to work for the Lord. I want to put my hands on people and help to heal them. I want to look at someone who is massively disfigured or ill and smile, love them, and help them find peace.

Last night, before this dreaded orientation day, Trafton and I spent some time looking at the website for Mercy Ships. If you've never heard of it, it's AMAZING. We sat on the couch and looked at before/after pictures of people in desperate need of surgical help. We talked about how people look different and we still love them. Trafton saw a picture of a small, African baby with a growth on her face. He pointed and said "She's like Mae Mae". I think my heart stopped for a second and tears came. Nevermind the different skin color. Nevermind the fact that she had a baseball-sized growth on her face. He looked and saw a little girl; he saw a little girl like his baby sister. He saw beyond color and beyond differences. PROUD MAMA. Sitting there with him reminded me (thank you, Jesus!) of why God is taking me on this journey: to love others, to reassure others, to HELP others.

They talked about how important it is to have a strong support system. Fortunately, I have that covered: a devoted, consistently strong husband; Parents and a Mama-in-Law who are amazing; Friends who are understanding (and probably think I'm crazy, but love me nonetheless). Most of all, I have a God who is constantly telling me and showing me that this is HIS path and HIS journey that He has picked out for me. No matter what I think is going to get in the way or be too hard- it all just seems to work out. I can feel Him easing my heart and reminding me that He's got this. Just remind me of this in a few weeks...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Howard E. Lee Jr.

Death is an interesting thing. Some folks are scared of dying, some people don't like to watch those who are dying. Sure, the unknown is scary. Of course, we hate to watch loved ones suffer.

But the beautiful thing about death is that it makes us celebrate life. We sit and watch someone struggle to breathe; we watch as weariness takes over and someone's spirit slips away. Thankfully, God gives us the ability to remember someone as they were. He allows us to remember Tiger Paw as the studious engineer, the hard-working father, and the generous (sometimes grumpy) "GRANDPA".

Some favorite memories:
- Football Games: fried chicken, tiger paws painted on my cheek, sitting on TP's lap while he talked with family and friends
- Tiger Paw and his soapboxes: he had many favorite discussion topics, though typically "discussion" involved him talking and others listening. From the Declaration of Independence to his days of service in the Navy, Tiger Paw loved to tell you about life. Once, after Mema had suffered a few years from Alzeimer's, I went to visit my grandparents at the beach condo. Having just arrived, I sat quietly with Mema, who did not speak much at this point. Tiger Paw proceeded to school us on freedom, our government, and history. Not exactly what you yearn for on vacation. After about a half an hour, Howard informed us that he would "get off his soapbox". Without missing a beat, Mema gruffly asked, "Ya promise?" Following protocol, Tiger Paw piped down and obeyed his wife :)
- A hard exterior, Tiger Paw was not mushy and emotional like some of us. But you knew that he had a caring heart, and he showed his love and devotion in different ways. You knew it was there. During his last days, I loved when he would hold my hand, smile at me, or actually say "I love you" back. Those were the really treasured moments.

Our grandfather went by many things:

To my daddy, Tim, and Howard- "Dad"
To Matthew, his first grandchild- "Big Daddy"
To myself and my brother- "Tiger Paw"
To Amanda and Austin- "Popeye"
To Tammy and other sweet angel caregivers- "Mr. Lee"
And, best of all, to Mema- "Buster" or "Cottonpicker". Probably some other names that I should not mention.

Whatever the name, our grandfather was many things to many people. To some, it may have seemed like Howard Lee was the head of the household, or "the boss". In reality, Helen ruled the roost. And he let her. Always a devoted husband, he knew that he was to honor her and protect her, which he did until the end of her life in 2006. He knew that they were a team and that they had built something together: a happy home and a growing family. From their marriage in 1944, Howard and Helen Lee allowed for God's will to unfold. They moved and adjusted, trained and found jobs where they were planted. Two sons later, they found themselves in Clemson. "Timmy" was born and their family was permanently rooted in Tigertown. Years later, here we are. Big Daddy, Tiger Paw, Popeye...grandfather to five. Life got even sweeter for Tiger Paw when he became a GREAT-grandfather to Trafton and Chamblee. Always generous, always supportive in his own way.
Many names, many things to many people. Sort of like our Great God. Recently, on my way to see my grandfather, I listened carefully to a song in which the singer explains how the Lord walks beside us through life. He might go by many different things, but He is there. When we are young, He is our "elbow-healer" or a superhero of sorts. When we are teenagers, He is our "heartache-healer", He keeps our secrets and can be our best friend. As an adult, I find myself spent and weary with two small kids (three, if you count my husband!). He is my shepherd, my pasture-maker, He holds my hands and gets me through. I want to share the last verse of Nicole Nordeman's song with you- so very appropriate for this point in my grandfather's life:

When life had begun, I was woven and spun
You let the angels dance around the throne
And who can say when, but they'll dance again
When I am free and finally headed home
I will be weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name

Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer
Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End
I Am.

After I found out about Tiger Paw's death, I sat in the crib with Trafton after his nap. I told him that Tiger Paw had stopped breathing, that he'd gone to sleep and gone away. My 2.5 year old son looked at me, held his hands in the air and comforted me. "Mama," he said, "Grandpa isn't sick anymore. Grandpa is better now." A nice, simple reminder of how death can be a beautiful thing. Today, I want to celebrate my grandfather, my Tiger Paw, this man with many names. Today, I want to celebrate the fact that he is now comforted by our Healer, our Redeemer, the Beginning and the End.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Managing Blessings

Feels like I'm losing my mind just a bit. I'm starting to forget things that I normally wouldn't let slip. My mom says that it's called "brain overload". Despite being BUSY (and maybe a bit overloaded), God is sustaining me. Some bright spots from my week...

  • Waking this morning and immediately thinking 'what day is it?!' Feeling exhausted, I sit down to read. My devotion this morning? About RESTING and giving your time to God. Point taken, Lord. Even if I don't have a day to sacrifice, I can sacrifice other things: my heart, my thoughts, my daily activities. I can worship Him and spend time with Him anytime I want to. I finished Lysa Tyrkheurst's Unglued a couple of weeks ago. My favorite chapter was about being busy and losing it when you feel overwhelmed. Instead of thinking 'why do I have to deal with this?' or 'I have too much on my plate!', she explains that you are really just MANAGING BLESSINGS. Yes, we have jobs, kids, responsibilities. Yes, sucky things happen and people can be nasty. But you find the beauty in it all (if possible!). You find God and His message through it. Trafton is screaming "NO" at me? I am blessed to have a son who is healthy and can speak. Chamblee is pooping in the car? At least she has a GI track that works properly. I look like a cow in my shirt? I am blessed to have a closet of different options. The dog threw up on the carpet, the dishwasher is leaking, and the air conditioner isn't working?? I am blessed to have a handy husband :)

  • Thrilled and deeply touched by a RAK (random act of kindness...any "Evan Almighty" fans?? Love that movie!) that I came home to yesterday. Opened a card from a childhood friend. Haven't seen her since her wedding a couple of years ago. She either noticed that I was going back to school or she heard from her mama (our families are still in touch). Either way, she took it upon herself to treat me with a Starbucks gift card (drool). She included a card: "As if working full time and having two kids weren't are amazing! Thought you could use a little caffeine to help you". MADE. MY. DAY. Not just cause it's Starbucks, but because it was random and heartfelt.

  • So encouraged by a new mama friend. Her kids are in my classroom and I truly feel like God has ordained our friendship. I am praying for it to grow and blossom, as she believes in loving others and loving the Lord. She sent me encouragement this week in the form of an email. She asked me to consider Daniel 3: three men refuse to bow to Nebuchadnezzar. He throws them into the fire. Onlookers see four men inside- Jesus is with them. They talk for a bit, and then walk OUT OF THE FIRE, unharmed. Maybe my "fire" is being swamped with work, school, kids. Maybe my "fire" is frustration with others. Maybe it's frustrations with myself. But Jesus is standing and talking with me, and I can walk out of this fire unharmed.

  • Also encouraged by a wise woman who I was able to talk with this week. Dealing with frustrations out of my control, this friend reminded me that in order to have peace, sometimes things or people are taken out of our lives. Sometimes peace may not flow like a river; sometimes peace is a SWORD. Sometimes things unfold a certain way-- it may be ugly and sad, but His will is unfolding and I have to yield to that. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

  • Finally, excited about my new journey. The opportunity to love people and get a pay check for it. I realize loving folks in this new profession pursuit might involve some downright gross stuff. But He will equip me. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. (Matt 20: 27)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spiritual Surgery

God has been operating on my heart recently and it HURTS. He is carving out the bad and reconstructing things. I read once before that spiritual surgery is much more painful than physical surgery.

In 16 years of believing in Jesus, I have never been as consistent in my morning time with Him. Sure, it sucks when my alarm clock buzzes at 4:45, but once I stand up, I'm usually good. I am a morning person but my poor husband is can imagine his happiness when I wake him in the wee hours. Take this morning, for instance, when I remembered something in the middle of my quiet time, jumped on the bed and whispered "honey!" and started tapping him. Still, he patiently mumbles an answer (which he doesn't recall later).

Anywho, the mornings have become my solace, my grounding, my prep for the day. Understand, I am not commending or bragging about myself. I am still the same giddy, emotional, slightly screwed-up woman that I was before. But I am learning to slowly control my reactions to things, with God's grace. I am seeking out peace. And as long as I am seeking Him and listening to the Holy Spirit, I am doing what's right.

This week, I felt an urgency to confess to and ask someone for forgiveness. I did not deserve it, but I could hear God saying "Go, do it now". So I obeyed. And my universe feels "righted". I felt off-kilter before and since following His prompting and seeking peace, I feel resolved.

Not only because I hopefully rekindled a friendship, but also because I was brave in Him. God gave me the courage to approach a challenge that I was, in truth, quite nervous about. And He remained steadfast and held my hand.

Suddenly, every verse I read seems applicable. Every song lyric that gets stuck in my head is somehow descriptive of current struggles or celebrations. (Unless, of course, we're talking "Twinkle Twinkle" or "Ten Little Monkeys".)

In his book, Forgotten God, Francis Chan encourages readers to "surrender yourself and invite Him (the Holy Spirit) truly to dwell within you, whatever that may mean and wherever that may take you."

He explains that "the spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you normally wouldn't want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross...definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be."

Truly, as He has worked on my heart, it's been difficult. The past few weeks have been painful but empowering. And I have all I need to continue..."his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blessings Abound

When you have everything,
You have everything to lose…
A candle throws its light into the darkness
In a nasty world, so shines the good deed

Make sure the fortune, that you seek
Is the fortune you need.
(Ben Harper, Diamonds on the Inside)

Lately, I feel such a longing for my God. Hard to explain, but I've found myself craving my time with Him each morning. I can't wait to get up, have coffee, and just be in His presence. Recently, I can feel Him reminding me of all that He has showered me with...
Like coworkers that truly love from deep within. Friday, I met a friend in the hallway who just wanted a hug. We wound up discussing the overwhelming feeling you sometimes get as a wife, mom, teacher, maid, etc. Well, I say we "discussed" was more like me venting and her listening. What a blessing to commiserate with such a sweet soul. Earlier in the week, I spent some time on the playground with some of our amazing kindergarten assistants. We shared stories about our children, which lead to praise and stories of how the Lord has brought us where we are now. I got so happy and excited that I could've thrown up a tent and shouted "glory" at the top of my lungs. It was straight revival time, we all joked. I love hearing from other women/mommies who rejoice in where they have been and all that they have learned.
Another blessing: realizing and feeling how large and connected God's kingdom really is. It's no accident that I am given students whose parents are believers; it's no accident that we are awarded opportunities to share that we know and love Christ. And the coolest part of my week?? Making a friend in Uganda! Yep, AFRICA. "Meeting" another sister who is halfway around the world from me, and being blessed by her words and wisdom. The Lord knew I needed someone to understand the longing inside my heart, so He provided.
God's provisions also come in the form of a feisty little two-year-old and his little bundle of a sister...
Like when Trafton covers his eyes to count during hide and seek. His stubby little fingers cover half of his eyes, while he peeks out of the open areas. He counts "1, 2, 1, 2, 9" and then informs us "ready, set!"
Or when he enters the room and sees his sister, he shouts out "Hey, Mae Mae! Kiss her!" and insists on giving Chamblee a smooch. This certainly makes a mama's heart happy.
Suffering through a hug from mom...just up from a nap. He wakes up like Daddy....slowly.
Sweet girl enjoying the exersaucer :)

I am so very fortunate.

I have God's more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day...
At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.
(Psalm 4: 7, 8)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Knit Together

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar....

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

(Psalm 139)

I am struggling, fighting between what I should be doing and what the devil injects into my brain. I have struggled with this demon for years- 14 to be exact- and it's rearing it's ugly head. Prayer, positive thoughts, scripture on my mirror all seem to help some. Insecurities run wild. Fortunately, my Father God is stronger. He takes my weakness and turns it into something He can work with. My prayers vacillate between wanting to get better and not wanting to heal, instead justifying what I'm struggling with as "normal" or something that will pass. Hasn't passed in 14 years, not sure what makes me think that one day it will disappear.

No matter what I pray or plead, somehow God meets me right when I need Him. On Monday morning, I was having an especially hard time. Y'all, He HANDED me scripture. I read, in 1 Kings, about Solomon's temple that was to honor God. Then I happened to pick up Forgotten God (Francis Chan) and read a few pages. What was this chapter about? Why, taking care of God's temple, of course. And he wasn't speaking of a literal temple. Instead, Chan was referring to our bodies- the shell that God has gifted us to walk through this life inside of. Once we know Christ, He equips us with the Holy Spirit. He accompanies us as we weave down the road of life. He tells me where to turn and how fast to go. I may not always adhere to His directions, but He IS there, gently prodding. I SHOULD let him be the driver, but instead I push Him into the passenger seat.

On Monday morning, after reading these two things, I went to get ready for work. As I dried my hair, I glanced at Chamblee's ultrasound pics that are stuck to our bathroom mirror. Wow, I thought, these look so different now that I know her heart and her personality. She is no longer a simple black and white photo, just a skeleton. She smiles, she cries, and she blesses me with her life. I realized, suddenly, that this is what I am to God...not merely a shell of bones and muscles, but a Spirit-filled child with a heart for Him and for others. He doesn't care if my shell is perfect; He cares what I'm doing with what He has given me.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us