Saturday, December 31, 2011

Desire.

I had a God moment tonight.

There is no other way to explain it.

Suffice to say the night was rough. I was left at the other end of a conversation that had me bawling my eyes out. Worried that once again Im one step away from being left in the cold, so heart broken that I don't know how to put the pieces together again. Except this time would be so much worse. Trust me on that one.

I took a shower, utterly confused, praying desperately for a sign from God. Wanting to trust an utter conviction that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to, despite my logical mind telling me otherwise. Trying to ignore that cynical part of my heart stating "you know you don't deserve to find happiness, you're just going to be abandoned again. No guy will ever think you are worth the fight."

So I prayed for a sign. And I waited, and nothing came.

Then I glanced over at my shelf and saw a book "The Journey of Desire: Searching for the life we've only dreamed of" (John Eldredge). A colleague at work has suggested the book a few weeks ago and I had purchased it, but had yet to have time to open the cover. Tonight was different though. It was late, I desperately needed sleep, but I knew it was time to read the book.

The same way I knew I was supposed to be in Orlando last winter. The same way I knew I was supposed to take my job in Miami. The same way I know that I'm in the right field.

Sometimes I just know.

Honestly it reminded me a  lot of the experience with my most recent book obsession (the Lion Book). For weeks I had been hearing about this manuscript and knew that I was supposed to read it eventually, but  I knew the time wasn't right. Then one day I felt the inner voice saying "Go get that book this very moment." I obliged to my inner bossiness, read the book, and had a life changing revelation a mere three hours before my world fell apart.

The same thing happened with my eHarmony experience. Deep down I've known for years that I was one day going to use that site to find my husband. I just knew in a way that defied reason. I also knew I hadn't reached the right time in my life for that experience. Until one night the timer in my head went off and without a single doubt I completed my profile. One week later I was matched with Curtis.

Maybe its the same way birds know when it's time to fly south for the winter. Maybe its the same way dogs can sense when a storm is coming. Maybe Im overthinking things way too late at night :). Either way, safe to say I have a pretty powerful intuition.

Where was I? Oh yes. My God moment.

It was time to start tackling this book my inner timer told me.

So I began to read. One page after another, interested, with a growing sense that one way or another I was about to get the answer I was looking for (Even if was not the answer I wanted). And then I stumbled on this passage:
Choosing love will open spaces of immense beauty and joy for you, but you will be hurt. You already know this., You have retreated from love countless times in your life because of it. We all  have. We have been and will be hurt by the loss of loved ones, by what they have done to us and we to them. Even in the bliss of love there is a certain exquisite pain: the pain of too much beauty, of overwhelming magnificence. Further, no matter how perfect a love may be, it is never really satisfied.. In both joy and pain, love is boundless (The Awakened Heart.... in The Journey of Desire).

I barely got through the first three sentences before the tears started running down my face. Then I read the sentence "Even in the bliss of love there is a certain exquisite pain" and my world began to change. I felt the tingly warmness over my entire body and began gasping for breath as the sensation became over powering. The tears continued to fall but they didn't control me, rather I simply sat through the mind-numbing realization that I am going to be ok. I have always tried to describe this awareness to others, a recognition that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin. I once told an ex that I appreciated my experiences at the hospital because "there is a certain exquisite beauty in pain"; to which he told me I was a sadistic ***** which got my kicks of watching dying children. I really know how to find them huh?

But that message was there. For me. With that one specific phrasing God was telling me that the message in that passage was for me. God doesn't come to me in a burning bush. He doesn't speak in a booming voice, or appear as a mirage. God speaks to me through literature, and not as often as I would like, but sometimes I get that inner stirring of "this is meant for you".


So where does this leave me? Utterly convinced that I am doing the right thing by putting myself out there in all aspects of my life. I am not guaranteed infinite happiness, in fact I know without a doubt I will struggle along the way. But as I once read in a class on death and dying "Everyone chooses a pain, either the pain of loving and losing, or the pain of never loving at all".

Tonight I felt like God was telling me it was ok to choose to try. I don't know what the result will be, I don't know where my happiness lies; but I do know that to deny my inner need  to jump all in and experience life to the fullest would be to deny myself. Sure others may not understand it, but that's ok. At the end of the day I have to live with myself, and I'd rather live with the me that I truly am instead of the me that I think others want me to be.

So I continue reaching and I continue fighting with every fiber of my being. At the end of the day, I can live with the knowledge that I did everything I possibly could, and the rest is in God's (and other's) hands. I keep being me and stop apologizing for it along the way.

And I hold tight to the conviction that regardless of where the road leads, I am an active participant in my own Journey towards my heart's deepest desires.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

I promised myself my next post would be light-hearted. I was skimming though old posts and realized how heavy everything is! Yikes.

Yet today is the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11 bombings, and anything less than honesty would trivialize the impact of that day. I visited a church for the second time today, and although overall I am impressed with their mission and approach, a comment was made about not getting 'swept up' in the events of today and remember that people die on a daily basis, many who don't know Christ.

I'm not arguing with that sentiment, and Im not questioning their motives. But for me, the events scheduled every year on this date are not purely about the lives lost as a result of the attacks, but a transformation in our cultural mindset; a realization of our own mortality; and a continual awareness of the similar plights of other individuals across the globe. For the first time, many 'civilians' were awakened to the real horrors terrorism and war impart on citizens of other nations, being given just a taste of what it feels like to not feel safe in  your own home. I thank God these attacks are so infrequent in our country, blessed but wary.

So for me, honoring 9-11 is about remembering the day that Global politics became real to me. About remembering a day when my own political consciousness was first stirred, a day when American citizens alike, old and young, male and female, north and south, black and white and brown and red, all joined together, bound by a common experience.

It's a day I hope we never forget. As I work with my patients it struck me to realize many of them do not have their own memories of that event; many of them had not as of yet been born. May we never forget the lives that were lost or the humanity we achieved.
----------------------------

I was in 2nd period when I first heard the news. We had sat down at the end of class, as was the norm, to watch the school-wide news story. I'm sure I wasn't really paying attention to most of the show; it was theatre class and in those days the program was highly structured. We sat in alphabetical order (thus I sat in the front row, on the end, next to my then-crush, now-bff Michael Fatica). The news show was the one point in that class where we could all converse a bit, though Dr. Stewart was quick to put a lid on things if they got out of hand. It's strange how even those memories seem so foreign and tender this many years later. Regardless, as the show ended, the news camera slipped back over to the female anchor Erin (I was always fascinated with the unique beauty of her eyes; they showed up very well on camera) and she looked slightly confused, slightly amused as she announced "I have just received word that a ... plane.. has hit the world trade center."

We all laughed.

It seemed truly ridiculous to consider. A plane? Hitting one of the largest buildings in the world? How much had he been drinking that day??

The class moved as one from the blackbox to the building next door for theatre history class, as was her wont, all casually conversing about the events. Once in our next class the tv was turned to the news, and remained there the rest of the day. The moment the second plane hit, I felt the weight sink in my stomach. The room became silent as reality set in.

I don't remember much more specific detail from that day. I remember watching the towers collapse. I remember half joking with friends about other attacks in DC, only to hear minutes later about the Pentagon. I remember a friend's concern that her aunt was in the city on vacation.

But mostly I just remember 'watching'.

And talking.

And wondering.

I remember . And I hope we never forget.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A fresh start

I don't always post as much as I intend. Throughout the day random thoughts/inspiration/ideas pop into my head and I think 'Wow, that would make a great starting point for a blog ramble', but inevitably I either forget the topic, get distracted, decide Im too tired to write, or re-evaluate my '2am brilliant idea that keeps me up' and realize that in fact it would only be brilliant to me!
Found here
However, once in a while I get an idea in my head that just refuses to leave until I put it down on paper share it with a multitude of unknown readers. The best way for me to work through my feelings and thoughts are to write them out, a little exercise I learned in college. Writing stream of conscience without much thought to the content and structure can often reveal more about our inner self than we realize. Usually after one of these sessions of spontaneous disclosure, someone tells me that the words I had written were exactly what they had needed to hear at that point in time. So maybe the difference between the posts that get shared and the ones that stay internal are really just God nudging me. Regardless of the reasoning, this is one of those posts.

I'm moving on Sunday. Packing up my bags (or at least the stuff that will fit in my beast of a car) and relocating to Miami for a job at Baptist Children's Hospital. It's an odd turn of events that's landing me at this particular location, one that I'll post about another time (or rather promise the post here and then never get around to it), but as far as my employment is concerned, I am quite confident at this point I am going where God is leading me.

I've moved a lot in the past few years. More than even the normal individual in my age bracket/position in life. Between transferring mid-way through undergrad, my parents relocating several times, going to grad school, and moving for an internship I have lived in a total of six cities and nine houses/apartments in the last six years. I don't regret any of those decisions; my nomad-like tendencies have exposed me to a great number of cultures, experience and people that I would have not encountered otherwise. But moving so frequently has its pros and cons.

Found Here

On a positive note, I've learned how to make friends very quickly. Any introvert-like tendencies were quickly pushed out by a need to fearlessly insert myself into novel groups of individuals and create new social networks. I have become a pro at seeking out opportunities to meet new people and join new groups. However, as a result of having to leave new groups and new friends, I have learned to hold a piece of myself out of these relationships. I often live with an expectation that happiness will not last, and to not depend on those around me to be there when I need it. I don't do well trusting and Im skeptical of people making plans for the future. It is then odd for me to consider this next move as semi-permanent. Clearly, I have no guarantee for how long this job will hold me, but to know that I can jump into things without the ticking time bomb of a deadline hanging over my head, to be able to invest in people, relationships, and groups with an expectation to see a return is mind-boggling. Exciting... but overwhelming.

But with this insight, we move to our attention to the thought that has actually inspired this post- I know I know... too much exposition. Nothing kills a show like too much exposition! (Ten points to the person who can name that reference!)

Moving is inherently a chance for a fresh start. An opportunity to start anew, reinvent yourself, your interests, your relationships and your image. But where does one draw the line between taking advantage of this blank slate... and running from past problems?

Found here

We all have emotional baggage, that is inevitable, and it can be very tempting to not unpack those bags, to shove them in a back closet and forget they exist. That doesn't work so well in my experience. You can't run from who you were.

But starting fresh can also mean a legitimate excuse to distance yourself from things (or people) in your past that need to stay right there, in your past. Here in lies my problem- where does one draw the line between running from your problems and taking advantage of a clean slate?

I am so excited for this new opportunity. This summer has served in part to highlight many things in my life that I've been carrying along for way too long, As I've been going through actual, literal boxes and sorting through the things that I need and don't need, it has struck me how much unnecessary junk I keep retransporting from place to place. This is partially from lack of motivation; it is a serious time investment to go through boxes, re-organize and pack. But another reason is  I am a bit of an emotional pack rat. I keep things for long periods of time for the sentimental value they hold. Not all of these attachments are healthy though, I've realized that there are some items, and the relationships that they represent, that I need to finally release.

Found here

In a lot of ways, there are MANY things in my past that I need to let go of. People. Relationships. Old (and irrelevant) dreams. Allegiances.

Maybe it is in knowing that this may be the LAST chance I get for reinvention that has me taking things so seriously. Always before I knew that another change was on the horizon, and now Im faced with some sense of permanency. If ever there was a motivation to let the past stay in the past, it's here now.

Letting go is hard for me though. It's been a tough summer of finally realizing that just because someone was important in  your life in the past doesn't mean that he or she is meant to be in your future. AND not having someone involved in the present doesn't actually undermine their value in the past.

Convoluted? Perhaps. But it's starting to make sense to me.

Found here

People grow. People change. And they don't always change together or at the same rate, unless serious effort is put in. It's not unnatural to grow apart. That takes some time to realize.

Our opinion of our own self-worth will be reflected in the quality of the people with whom we surround ourselves. If you include in your friends people who love you, respect you, empower you, and build you up- I can only assume that means you believe you are a person who deserves to be loved, respected, empowered, and built up. However, the times in my past when I have allowed myself to be in relationships that undermined my sense of self, bullied, and treated poorly were times when I had very low self-worth. You get what you expect from relationships, you get what you believe you deserve.

So I'm making a concerted effort to prune out the negative forces. To discern which allegiances are tearing me down, and which are building me up. To put in the active effort to sort through the metaphorical boxes and separate the potential from the junk. To leave the past in the past and embrace the opportunities of my future. It won't be easy- sometimes it's difficult to differentiate a friendship on the rocks that just needs a bit of TLC from one that is spiraling down the drain.

My fatal flaw is that I want to believe in people. I want to believe that every relationship can be saved. And some can. There is some damage that can be repaired through humility and hard work.

But some need to be let go. Sometimes a fresh start is really a chance to move on.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Expectancy and Friendship


"Let's use the example of friendship and how removing the element of life from a noun can drastically alter a relationship.  Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship.  When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking.  That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else.  But what happens if I change that 'expectancy' to an 'expectation' - spoken or unspoken?  Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship.  You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations.  Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements.  It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend."
~The Shack

Just some words for thought. Had an amazing conversation with a friend today about this topic, and I think I've realized that all too often I start piling expectations on the things in my life (and people... and myself for that matter).Figured I can't be the only one guilty of this!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a crazy life Charlie Brown

I had a tough conversation with a friend yesterday.

A conversation that was a long time in coming, but that I had avoided for quite a while because I was scared of the outcome.

After all was said and done (and I was pleasantly surprised by how well things had gone) I went to bed last night and still had a bit of a nagging feeling. I was surprisingly content with where we had landed, and I knew it was all for the best, but I got very caught up in worrying about the future. Trying to figure out how I was going to handle a multitude of events I would now have to face, worrying about whether or not we could actually stick to the plan.

Then I opened up my phone and randomly accessed the devotion app I installed. I stopped reading it daily a while ago because most of the 'devotions' were mindless and simple, without any real spiritual content, but for some reason I felt the need to look at it last night. Right off the bat the scripture jumped out at me

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


Right away I felt a sense of peace that whatever was in this message was directly meant for me. I read on:


"Do you know why many people worry? Worry is a substitute for faith. Worry does for some people what faith does for others.  Have you heard anybody say 'Don't tell me it doesn't help to worry. Most of the things I worry about never happen!' They really mean it. Some people are genuinely concerned that if they fail to worry, that which they fear will happen.
In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus was talking to Charlie Brown and observed ' I guess its wrong to always be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today.' Charlie Brown replied ' No, that's giving up. I'm still hoping that yesterday will get better' "

If I were completely honest, I would admit that more often than not I'm like Charlie Brown. I have this persistent desire to cling to the past, to hold on to yesterday.

Maybe that's because, for better or for worse, the past is known. If I look to my future I don't know what it holds. It could hold a great and wonderful job opportunity, or it could hold endless years of unemployment and scraping/struggling to make ends meet. It could hold the love of my life/a large family/fulfillment or persistent singlehood and heartbreak. The future may very well hold hurt and loss of friends, loved ones, pets, possessions and self-esteem.

But in the past- I can remember the great placements and fulfilling jobs I once held. I can remember what it felt like to be loved and appreciated by a man I respected, I can remember good times with friends and families.

At least that's the way I suppose I rationalize it in my mind.

I don't think we're supposed to forget our past. The events, experiences, people, relationships, they help define who we are today. We learn from our mistakes, and revel in the good times. The problem is when the grip on those past times becomes so tight, and our vision so shortsided that we never shift our gaze from the rearview mirror and navigate the traffic in front of us.

I will say this about God, he has a way of surprising me. The people he brings back into my life (and the ways in which he does it) are often in manners I could never have expected. I have a hard time really shutting and locking doors to the past because I truly believe that we never know who is going to be important to us in the future. But the trick is that I can't be the one planning things, HE has to be.

I get worried when I start thinking about the obstacles I now know the future will hold for me, particularly after my conversation last night. I start thinking about scenario a and b and think to myself "I can't handle that, there is no way I'm going to get through that", but I think the answer Im getting from God is to wait.

I'm right. If I were faced with those problems right now, I absolutely would not be able to handle them. There is no way.

But I'm not being asked to deal with it. It's not even in the foreseeable future. God is not going to give me more than I can handle, and instead of jumping ahead and worrying about how I will  handle tomorrow's problems, I'm actively choosing to forget about them. It's not denial, it's acceptance. As the devotion said- half the things we worry about never happen.

I choose sanity.

And I choose to be thankful for the things I do have instead of wishing time away on the things I don't.

I choose to be thankful for the doors God has shut and the things he protects me from.

And more than anything I choose faith over worry. I choose to believe that God has a plan, and while it may not be obvious from my current vantage point, he's already shown me that he'll be with me along the way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

God's Contingency Plan

I started this blog months ago at the suggestion of a few other people (coupled with a intuitive feeling that I was supposed to). I jumped in, wrote a few posts, enjoyed the chance it gave me for reflection and introspection, but then life got busy (i.e. my internship started sucking up my life) and it was easy to throw things on the back burner.

Then I got into that vicious cycle of "I should post. But I need to catch up. I don't feel like tackling a catch up post. I should just put it off. Now I have an even BIGGER catch up post to write. But I should post. But I don't feel like posting. If I had just started blogging when we started this argument I could be done by now. Well look who's getting bossy." What can I say? My mind is a scary place.

But lately I've been feeling that urge again, and after a friend of mine approached me on Sunday and commented "I just thought you should know I truly enjoy reading your blog and I really hope you have time to do it more in the future because your last post really touched me right when  I needed it", that was my sign it was time again.

Transparency can be scary. I always juggle the line between opening up enough to get my point across without spilling my guts to an unknown public. I have no qualms with being honest about my thoughts, beliefs, problems, and difficulties, but at a certain point there are some things that should be only discussed in person and not broadcasted to any Jack or Jane with a computer. So this is my latest attempt at an honest, but guarded posting.

Yesterday was a low point for me.

I'm not entirely sure what caused it. Ok that's not entirely true, I have a very good idea at a couple of the contributing factors, but at the same time, the reaction that ensued was not proportional to the preceding events.

Life has been a little rough lately. For those of you not in the loop- I finished my internship on May 6th (at some point I'll try to work on a summary post of everything that happened in rotations 2 and 3... because they were life changing!). After completion, I moved back to my parent's house in SWFL 'for now'. I once went to a leadership conference where they talked about living in transition. It's difficult and it's draining, and it's characterized by the words 'for now'. I'm living here 'for now', I'm doing this 'for now', I'm putting my relationships on the back burner 'for now', I'm taking this job 'for now'. The 'for now' is not purely the domain of college students and emerging adults, many people may face this semi-crisis of faith and life. Going through divorce, dealing with heartbreak, losing your job, battling illness. The heart of the transition period is a heightened level of uncertainty. Uncertainty can be exciting, it opens up the world to many new possibilities, but it can also be frightening, paralyzingly so.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I don't do well with uncertainty. I'm a control freak, I like knowing what's in front of me, twenty steps down the line. I think this is tendency is a product of both my general nature and the experiences of the last couple of years. I have moved seven times in the last six years. The plus side is I have gotten quite good at meeting new people, establishing myself, learning the ropes. I have my list of places to go and things to do to quickly settle down in a new location. However, it's exhausting to live in a world with deadlines. At a certain point there comes a desire to stop investing in the people and communities around you... because you know that there's an expiration date on the momentary happiness. It's an unfortunate truth that I have trouble letting myself be happy, to enjoy being in the moment, because that voice in the back of my head keeps whispering 'enjoy it while you can, it soon is going to be gone.'

Being in a position where I'm living without my next steps in front of me is frightening. I've been undergoing the job search, and actually had a great site visit with a hospital just last week. I am supposed to find out in the next week or so what their decision is, and the truth is I'm not sure which answer is less frightening.

One the one hand, I'm so ready to have a direction for my life. I'm ready to be able to move somewhere new and feel like I have a purpose again. I've felt so stagnant sitting around waiting for things to happen. The thought that I might get a call in the next few days that says 'thanks but no thanks' terrifies me. I don't want to have to go back to square one; I dread the thought of filling out new applications, explaining to people that i didn't get this job, going back to feeling like I'm treading water with no land in sight. I've been doing all I can to work on my thesis and finish up my masters, but with all the dififculties that have come from there, it truly feels like I have nothing in my life at times.

And yet... as much as I loved visiting that city, I enjoyed meeting new people and visiting with old friends. It would be a challenging position that would certainly stretch me both as a person and a professional. Yet.... the idea of picking up and moving somewhere brand new is scary. Being so far from family and friends, possibly permanently, is not what I saw my life ending up as. I've become more and more aware in the past week of exactly what I'd be giving up to move there and it hurts to think about. It's difficult when  you feel like God has given you conflicting desires, two senses of calling that seem incongruent. In fact it makes me angry.

And maybe that's what everything boils down to. Anger at God. An inability to truly trust and believe that he has my best interests at heart. I do all I can to consistently remind myself that I need to have faith. I work on building trust, and trying to believe that God loves me and wants me to get where Im supposed to be even more than I do.

But deep down? Maybe I don't.

I have a few amazing conversations with a couple of friends yesterday. I'm very good at recognizing when I've reached my breaking point and I need the advice of others to get me through a crisis. They were both very different but very helpful in their own ways.

One of them said something that suck with me. "I was just telling 'X' the other day that I feel like you can't catch a break. It hurts me just to hear about half the stuff you're going through because it doesn't seem fair that you keep getting hurt and disappointed over and over."

Right then and there, that was exactly what i needed to hear. Because, obviously for me, it does feel like the crap keeps piling on- and yet I feel guilty for expressing that sentiment. I look around at the problems of others and remind myself that everybody has their issues, everybody has their own heartbreaks, how selfish is it of me to think that I've somehow gotten the short end of the sick? To hear an objective party offer an unsolicited opinion that I have every right to be frustrated with things gave me such a sense of peace.

I've been reading this great book over the last couple of months. I read it for the first time about a month before my internship ended after hearing many other people talk about it over and over. "In a pit with a lion on a snowy day:How to survive and thrive when opportunity roars' by Mark Batterson. In short, I read the entire book in 24 hours the first time around, fairly gobbled it up. Life changing, life affirming, life inspiring. And not 3 hours after I had finished the book and was reveling in a new found glow of confidence in god, my self, and my life direction, I was hit with some devastating news that tested my entire resolve. However, sometimes I think God deliberately puts resources in our life to get us through trying situations. I remember being so angry and crying and lashing out at God "I JUST got to a place that I'm feeling optimistic. You REALLY had to hit me with this tonight?! Why couldn't you have just let me be happy for a day before you felt like testing my resolve." And then I heard a voice, my own in fact, respond with "No, my child, I didn't put this on you because you read the book, I already knew that this would happen today and I wanted to make sure you had the tools and ability to handle it when it came".

I'm not a big believer in burning bushes. I get skeptical of 'hearing' the voice of God. But in that moment, I broke down and sobbed for 20 minutes. Not because of what had happened, but because I knew I would get through anything because God would see me through it.

I've been recently feeling the urge to reread the book. I'll pick it up and read a few pages each night, stopping when I get the sense i'm done, and it's amazing how that works because last night I was right at the section I needed to be reading. Right smack dab in the middle of the chapter titled "Guaranteed uncertainty".

Here are a few quotes that jumped out at me:

"I'm convinced that the people God uses the most are often the people who have experienced the most adversity. This isn't necessarily what I want to write, and it isn't necessarily what you want to read, but it's true. Adversity can produce an increased capacity to serve God." (Needless to say I underlined and dated that particular passage last night. My friend had made the comment that she feels like all this adversity in my life has to be leading up to something really big, here's hoping!).

"Benaiah could have run away from the lion. And running away would have reduced uncertainty and increased security. But lion chasers are counterintuitive..... In the short term [chasing lions] increases uncertainty. But in the long term it reduces regrets." (This is the way I have always lived my life. I would rather jump in head first and put my all into something... and then be heartbroken and hurt when things fall apart, rather than live with regret and the wonder  of 'what if' the rest of my life. Sure it leads to a lost of sorrow but the book also talks about how rewards are directly proportional to risk.) "The more you're willing to risk, the more God can use you."

"Faith doesn't reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty...I believe in planning. I believe in goal setting. But there are some things in life that you can't plan or predict. And that drives the obsessive-compulsive part of us crazy. We want control, but the decision to follow Christ is a relinquishment of control. Following Christ is letting Jesus take the wheel. Of course some of us act like backseat drivers. Or worse yet, we're like little kids that make their parents crazy by asking one question over and over again: Are we there yet?... We never outgrow the desire to know exactly where we're headed and exactly when we'll get there... We're control freaks, but faith involves a loss of control... I used to hate uncertainty, but I'm learning to love it. It is an acquired taste. I am discovering that the greatest moments in life are unscripted. They are unrehearsed and unplanned and unpredictable and that is precisely what makes them unforgettable.  Embrace relational uncertainty, it's called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty, it's called mystery Embrace occupational uncertainty, it's called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty, it's called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty, it's called revelation."

God wants you to get where you're supposed to go more than you want to. I love that thought.

Maybe God is like a GPS (not one of those crappy ones that can never find your location and takes ten years to download the route). The destination is programmed and he tells us the steps to take, but sometimes we choose not to go down that path. Because it's scary. Because it seems ridden with heartache. Makes me think of the scene from the movie Beauty and the Beast where the father is faced with a choice between the open happy country side and the dark ominous forest. We chose a different path then the one God set out for us.

And yet... the GPS doesn't give up on us. It blasts for a while "Make a U turn, at the nearest intersection, make a u turn. Turn around, it's not too late, go back to the intended path" And when we stubbornly ignore those signs what does it do? "Recalculating". The GPS takes our present location and direction in account and finds a new route to our final destination.

I like to think that God works that way too. He has this great path in mind, and when we veer off he tries to prod us back, but sometimes we get too far off the beaten path. So he has to direct us in a new fashion... It's going to take longer than the original plan. We may have to make more pit stops, drive through scary parts of town, and spend more money on gas- but eventually we'll get there. God can work around our circumstances in ways we can't begin to understand.

The other friend I talked to last night made a comment about that very fact. She told me "I think God has a lot of contingencies for us. Specifically he has a habit of making sure we have the exact people in our life when we need them. I think you and I were supposed to be friends Bethany. We had a very specific purpose in each other's lives, and we've learned certain things from each other that no one else could have offered. But what if you hadn't come to Wesley? What if we had never met? I think God would have then provided me with someone else to fill that hole. I think God has countless 'people' for us, both friendships and relationships. And maybe he has certain pairings in mind, but we are products of our own choices and he's not going to leave someone hanging because the other half of the equation made different decisions. God's bigger than that. He's going to provide you with exactly who and what you need when the time is right"


And maybe that's the point. Maybe instead of trying to figure out that one perfect job, the one perfect boyfriend, the one perfect house, the one perfect school, the one (or two) perfect friends... we should isntead look around at what God has given us. And trust that when things don't work out the way we had thought it doesn't mean we weren't on the right path. It doesn't mean we did anything wrong, it means that sometimes even God can't control the actions of others around us. I truly believe that sometimes we don't get the exact blessings God had intended for us because either we or others stepped in the way. But that doesn't mean God can provide something entirely different. There's always going to be a Plan B, and Plan C, Plan H... and Plan T.

Sometimes I just don't trust that God has my best interests at heart.It's easy to see the immediate and forget that there's so much ahead of me. "The greatest haphazard to your spiritual health is thinking that your past is haphazard or that your future is left up to chance alone. It is anything but, I can't promise that everything will make sense on the near side of eternity, but that shouldn't shake our confidence, because our confidence isn't contingent upon the character of God. Our circumstances may not make sense, but we know that God is planning His work and working His plan."

"There is nothing easy about taking risks.... But lion chasers have the courage to overcome inaction inertia. Their fear of missing out is greater than their fear of messing up."

So where does this leave me?

With a whole lot of questions and not many answers. But a conviction that something big is coming and the best thing is to stop trying to figure it out before it gets here.

It's a constant daily, hourly... by the minute battle to give things to God. I give it up to him and enjoy the temporary relief... and then drag it back in again because I don't trust him enough to take care of it.

So I pray, and do my best to trust, and just believe that when the time is right the answers will come.

Until then I guess there's always blogging ;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Living with Purpose (Part One)

So I started this post about a week ago and then halfway through got distracted and never came back. However, I had this little voice whispering in my ear tonight to come back and finish it- so I'm just going to assume that God needs to tell someone something important, and if he wants to do it through my ramblings, so be it!

One of my missions this year (I hate to use the word resolutions) was to be more deliberate in self-reflection and daily devotion. I know from experience that aiming for very concrete goals such as 'reading the bible daily', 'making sure to pray 20 minutes a day', etc are nearly impossible to maintain consistently without a fail. Typically as soon as I miss a day or two I feel failure and eventually give up on the entire endeavor. Instead this year, particularly as I headed into my internship (a time I recognize as an opportunity for growth and maturation), I wanted to make an effortful attempt to spent time on self-reflection.

In many ways I feel as though I'm at a crossroads with my life. In two months time (Wow, can that be accurate?!) I will be done with the training portion of my career and ready to start searching for employment. In approximately six months time (provided I can get my butt in gear and write) I will have successfully attained my masters and be completely done with schooling, or at least done for this season of my life. The past 6 years have been primarily characterized by a state of transition. I know that a big portion of that blame lies on my own shoulders; it was my own choice to switch school half way through undergrad. I don't regret any choices I have made, and I feel that each place I lived/visited has contributed into making me who I am today. However, in short, I am ready for some stability.

That stability is still several months off, and instead my focus during this last (hopefully) transition period, is in making sure that I am very clear on God's plan for my life. I have been incredibly guilty in the past of not really giving God much say in my plans, or at least doing so in a very controlling manner. I did a similar thing with a patient the other day. We were building a tower out of blocks, and the little girl was not old enough or adept enough to actually do the activity on her own (in her defense she was 2!! lol). So instead, I would let her play with a block or two, putting them where she wanted and then doing the rest of the work on my own, yet still giving her credit for the overall product. Although I did most of the work, I let her have enough control to believe that she was actually in charge, and thus get a sense of mastery and competence. For that patient it was a perfect plan, unfortunately (or rather fortunately for us!), God isn't that naive. It's as if I somehow thought I could fool God into believing I really was letting him dictate the course of my life, while I was simultaneously making all the decisions.

Needless to say that hasn't gotten me very far. Or maybe, God was doing the same thing for me; he has been guiding me where I need to go all along, although doing so in a way that makes me think I'm the one in the driver's seat. I truly do believe that at this point in time I am exactly where I am supposed to be, however I think I could have saved myself a lot of pain and heartache if I had been willing to accept a little divine counsel along the way. So I'm doing things differently right now. Only took me 24 years of struggle; no one said I was on the fast end of the spiritual learning curve. But as I tell my patients, don't compare yourself to others, you just need to work at your own pace.

Wow that was a long winded-way of prefacing my topic today! One of the ways I have been effortfully focusing on God's purpose in my life is through nightly reading/journaling. Every night, before I go to bed,I take a moment to handwrite in a journal all of my praises and concerns. One of the most difficult things for me to is to really ask God for help. I often feel like my requests are trivial and insiginficant, yet I do think God likes hearing it all, small and large. I love hearing all the details of my friend's lives, even the little things, why wouldn't God feel the same way? So I write it down. Even the simple praises like "I found my car keys", "I had a delicious lunch", "I found a great deal at the store"- I try to make myself focus on all the little joys in my life. The same with my concerns- I write them all down and try to give them to God.

I then have been reading from this book:

 
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

I know this book was circulating the Christian community almost 10 years ago, but as I was home over Christmas I saw the book on my sister's shelf and felt an urge to pick it up. Over the past month I've been reading a chapter a night and writing down any particular quotes or ideas that jump out and speak to me. Talk about timing though, God certainly had a plan in this because so many of the nightly topics have perfectly reflected the events/struggles of my day. I thought I'd go through and share a few of the insights I've gathered, because let's face it, it never hurts to remind ourselves over and over again that God cares for us! (Direct quotes from Purpose Driven Life will be marked)


"While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children"~PDL

Jealousy and envy will get you no where. If you want the life and happiness others have you must be willing to emulate their efforts and sacrifices A fulfilled life does not come without work.

"Those who follow the crowd eventually get lost in it"~PDL

"God wants us to pass the test, so he gave us the questions in advance"~PDL

"The way you see your life shapes your life"~PDL

Sometimes what we view as our greatest weakness or character flaw is actually a unique gift from God. For example, I beat myself up for getting overly emotionally involved with my life, however that trait is also what makes me so adept at forming strong therapeutic relationships with my patients and families. Likewise, my anxiety issues force me to be meticulous and thorough in everything I do.

"Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what is best for your life. You expect him to keep promises, help you with problems, and do the impossible when necessary"-PDL. For the record, this was in my nightly reading the day that I found out I might lose my internship unless I was granted a miracle.

"When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that's called worry. When you think about God's word over and over in your mind, that's meditation. The more you meditate on God's word, the les syou will have to worry about."~PDL

"Time is your most precious gift, because you only have a set amount of it"~PDL

"Pride builds walls between people, humility builds bridges.. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less"~PDL


Read the following quote the night after I had received very very very critical and harsh feedback during my first evaluation (and was feeling hopeless, despondent and highly critical of myself)
: "the truth will us free but often it makes us miserable first. The fear of what we might discover if we honestly face our character defects keeps us living in the prison of denial"~PDL

"We can measure our servants heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants"~ PDL This came on a day that I had issues with superiors/other colleagues treating me like as though I was worthless.


 --------

I want to post tomorrow and really reflect on the past four weeks as I have now completed my first rotation, but I will say that it has been challenging in ways I had never expected. I can physically observe the changes in myself, both external and internal, and it has been amazing to watch the transformation. I will say that one of the best compliments I received during my final evaluation for Rotation One was that I am truly gifted in self-reflection. My preceptor told me how impressed she's been with my ability to accurately self-evaluate and my willingness to really dive into my own character flaws and deficiencies. My desire to improve and become a better person AND a better child life specialist is readily apparent and makes me a great student to work with. I think hearing that made me happier than if she had told me I had been perfect in all our clinical work!

(To be continued)



Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chipotle

If you love Chipotle as much as me- you MUST click on the picture below:



Free Chipotle?! Yes please! :) Happy Sunday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Be Still

I'm not always so good about stopping and taking care of myself. Even when I do have down time I still am checking email/facebook/twitter, calling friends, reading books, crafting, watching tv, you name it. At my small group last night we discussed the need to take time to clear our schedules and simply rest. I mentioned that moving here was a good opportunity for me to reset; I was so incredibly busy in NC that I very rarely had time 'off' and when I did have a spare moment there were always stacks of assignments and papers to work on. When I moved here though I suddenly had nothing on the agenda (minus work) I started to lose my mind a bit. My natural inclination was to frantically search for activities to fill the dead space. I don't do well with free time.

The last two weeks have been crazy to say the least. In addition to working full time (closer to 45 or 50 hours than 40), I spent the previous weekend in Port Charlotte and this past weekend in Gainesville; multitudes of fun activities, but not much time to rest and recoup. I've been running on 5-6 hours of sleep a night and it finally came back to bite me. I went into work this morning, woke up with a bit of a sore throat but didn't think much of it, however suddenly realized during morning report that I was incredibly lightheaded. Over the next hours things progressed so much that my supervisor decided it would be best if I left for the day. I really didn't feel that sick, but when one works in the hospital, one has to be much more careful about infection control.

So I came home. I sat on the couch and practically haven't moved since. It's been glorious. I didn't realize how tired I was until I laid down to take a cat nap and ended up sleeping for 3 hours. I caught up on email, I watched the Ellen show, I even moved outside to watch the shuttle launch! (We're close enough that I could actually see the flames coming off the back of the shuttle). I've been able to watch Florida Basketball (Go Gators!), and catch up on assignments. Apparently God knew better than I that I would need a day of rest today, I just hope I am well enough to go back in tomorrow!

It's important no matter what our work might entail to make sure we are taking time for ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. It's so easy to burnout and studies have shown that higher levels of stress are associated with increased risk for illness (Thank you psychoneuroimmunology!) As part of my thesis I included a survey asking people what types of self care strategies they find helpful in preventing emotional exhaustion. I thought I would include it here for you tonight. Read over it, think about your own self-care strategies, and maybe get some ideas of new techniques to try and keep your emotional health!


Self Care Assessment Worksheet
Source: Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization. Saakvitne, Pearlman & Staff of TSI/CAAP (Norton, 1996)
Physical Self-Care
___ Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner)
___ Eat healthy
___ Exercise
___ Get regular medical care for prevention
___ Get medical care when needed
___ Take time off when needed
___ Get massages
___ Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
___ Take time to be sexual—with yourself, with a partner
___ Get enough sleep
___ Wear clothes you like
___ Take vacations
___ Take day trips or mini-vacations
___ Make time away from telephones

Psychological Self-Care
___ Make time for self-reflection
___ Have your own personal psychotherapy
___ Write in a journal
___ Read literature that is unrelated to work
___ Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
___ Decrease stress in your life
___ Let others know different aspects of you
___ Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
___ Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibit, sports event, auction, theater performance
___ Practice receiving from others
___ Be curious
___ Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Self-Care
___ Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
___ Stay in contact with important people in your life
___ Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself
___ Love yourself
___ Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies
___ Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
___ Allow yourself to cry
___ Find things that make you laugh
___ Express your outrage in social action, letters and donations, marches, protests
___ Play with children

Spiritual Self-Care
___ Make time for reflection
___ Spend time with nature
___ Find a spiritual connection or community
___ Be open to inspiration
___ Cherish your optimism and hope
___ Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
___ Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
___ Be open to not knowing
___ Identify what in meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
___ Meditate
___ Pray
___ Sing
___ Spend time with children
___ Have experiences of awe
___ Contribute to causes in which you believe
___ Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

Workplace or Professional Self-Care
___ Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch)
___ Take time to chat with co-workers
___ Make quiet time to complete tasks
___ Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
___ Set limits with your clients and colleagues
___ Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
___ Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
___ Get regular supervision or consultation
___ Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise)
___ Have a peer support group
___ Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest

Balance
___ Strive for balance within your work-life and workday
___ Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reasons I fail at life Part One

I do think about blogging, I really do. Quite regularly actually. Often as I am driving from Point A to B I start crafting an absolutely beautiful and verbose posting that is sure to simultaneously rock your world and alter your perceptions on faith, life and love.

And then I get home and I either A) pass out from exhaustion, B) get distracted by something really interesting on tv, C) get distracted by something totally worthless on tv, or D) forget. I can't promise I won't still have long lapses in between postings, but whenever I get that creative burst I will do my best to keep you updated on my daily life (Especially as several friends have given me grief in the last three days for not blogging regularly!) So in an attempt to make up for my silence I give you what promises to be a rather lengthy bit of reading  :)

This weekend was truly lovely and a great opportunity to take a step back and breathe. I feel like for the last three weeks I have been going non-stop. Work, papers, journaling, driving places, cleaning, 'reflecting', it takes a lot out of me. Yet, God seemed to know that I would need a chance to recharge, and the past three days have truly been a blessing.

I should start by saying that last week was a complete 180 from the previous one. I'm finally starting to find my footing in the hospital and really feel like I am making progress in the right direction. In fact, during my weekly evaluation on Friday my preceptor told me that I was doing a "wonderful job" and that I'm clearly taking all of her advice to heart. It meant a lot to hear that.

Quick recap of the clinical highlights of Week Three:

~Completing morning report entirely on my own (also know as a game of "Nurse Hunt" as I run throughout the unit trying to track down the various RNs to get report)
~ Facilitating my first one-on-one medical play activity (Very successfully might I add!)
~Helping bring a teenage patient outside into our play area after being stuck in his room on a ventilator for two months.
~Exporing storage to get prizes for Bingo (AP gets so many donations over the holidays we can literally fill three storage units even after giving away toys to every kid in the hospital, stocking the playroom, and setting aside prizes for clinical procedures).
~Helping facilitate a rather large game of Hospital Bingo with patients from all over the hospital
~Doing my first couple teaching/educations to patients (and might I add that after my last one my preceptor told me that i had done the education portion perfectly!)
~Watching the staff deal with grief after learning a former patient had passed away
~Attending a class taught by my supervisor and getting to talk with several college students interested in child life. It was neat to be seen a bit as an 'expert' on the student training process and DEFINITELY reassuring to hear her tell the students that I am doing a really good job in my position!
~Leading my first group art activity where we made various versions of these:


Overall it was a great week. I made a LOT of mistakes, but that is part of the learning process. I've realized I'm going to make mistakes and it's alright, that's how I develop and improve. I'm still nervous a lot and feel anxious walking into rooms for the first time, but slowly it's getting easier to focus more on the patient's needs instead of my own performance. I have two more weeks left on this unit before I move to my next rotation and this coming week I will take on responsibility for half the patients. It's a bit overwhelming, but I seriously make an effort to say a small prayer before I walk into each room- asking God to calm my nerves and help me say the right things. If nothing else I am truly trying to keep the focus off of myself because it is the only way I am going to become adept in this field.

This job has been so fulfilling but it is also requires a certain level of focus and commitment that can be absolutely draining. The plus side is I am certainly sleeping better than I have in a long time (although that is also partially thanks to a great combination of herbal medications and a new white noise machine). I've also started getting involved with a local church, and my roommate and I joined one of their small groups. I'm excited to have an opportunity to meet new people but I also have realized that once again God has a greater plan than I could even guess! During our first meeting last week we went around the table and all introduced ourselves, sharing a bit about who we are and what we do. When it was my turn I mentioned the fact that I am working as a child life intern and the girl next to me got very excited suddenly. Turns out she just quit nursing school 3 weeks ago, realizing it wasn't really the right path for her. She had at one point three years ago considered child life, but hadn't been in a position to really follow through with it, and I was the second person in 4 days that she had met who was working in that field. We got to talking and she shared that she's starting to think God is also calling her into this field and I was able to provide her with a lot of helpful information. 

Funny how he plans things sometimes huh? I had had a few doubts about whether or not I should attend this particular group, primarily because I knew they were aiming to meet for 12 months and were gearing for individuals age 25-40. Now I know being 24 doesn't necessarily mean anything, but when all is said and done I was a bit nervous. Clearly though, God had a plan and I have to admit sometimes it amazes me (And it really shouldn't) how perfectly he orchestrates events in my life to occur.

More than anything I've realized I HAVE to take time to take care of myself emotionally and spiritually if I am going to last in this field (let alone this internship!), which is an ironic realization considering that is the entire focus on my thesis. But regardless, this weekend was the perfect blend of exciting, fun activities while still having opportunities to rest and recharge.

This weekend marked the first time I have been able to return to Gainesville since I graduated almost two years ago. What started as a desire to attend a gymnastics meet turned into a fun three days of visiting with friends, attending sporting events, and eating great food! As soon as I get my pictures uploaded (read: as soon as I get my lazy butt in gear) I'll post a full update of that trip... because let's be honest, I take every opportunity possible to share my Gator Pride!

So that's it for now. I have to say, I've really been surprised at how many people have told me they've been reading here. I started this on a whim and figured there would be a handful of people *coughcoughBritaandAllisoncoughcough* who would be interested in reading about my endeavors, but over the last three weeks individuals I never would have guessed have mentioned my blog and how much a particular posting had meant to them. I thank you for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts and if nothing else I pray that God uses this blog to remind you as much as he reminds me that he is always working in our lives, sometimes we just have to be effortful at looking for his touch.

God bless!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

24- no, not the show!

So today was my birthday. I turned 24.

Nothing spectacular, nothing monumental-- there really isn't anything significantly special about the age of 24 in and of itself (Except if you're like me and loathe prime numbers- so moving to the age of 24 is awesome; always loved that number... I mean seriously, its divisble by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12... how cool is that! Plus as my cousin pointed out, its twice 12 (the day of my birth) so that makes it like a double golden... ok I'm getting off track...)

Where was I? Right, I turned 24.

I had decided a week ago to go ahead and come back home for the occassion. I've only been away two weeks, so it seemed a bit quick- but at the time I figured it made sense because I really don't know anyone in Orlando, and I didn't want to the few people I did know to feel responsible for making something happen that day. Plus, what's lamer than sitting around alone on your birthday? So I made the decision to come home. Once again- God knew what he was doing.

I haven't posted a lot lately. I truly expected to make an effort to post something every day. I wanted to share my experiences and inform others about this awesome field. I don't think I expected how exhausted I was going to be. Working 8 hours a day is tiring in and of itself, but when you add in the approx. 90 minutes of travel time, having to wake up before 6:30, dealing with emotionally charged situations, and feeling constantly under pressure- it all adds up to a truly drained Bethany.

This week was a struggle in many ways.

In some respects it was incredible. I LOVE my job. I typically call my mother as I leave the hospital every day just to check in and to make the travel time go a bit faster, and I think pretty much every day this week I've opened with the comment "I LOVE my job!" I've been exposed to so many different things, met so many people, gotten so many opportunities it's incredible. For example, yesterday morning we had a guest entertainer for the children. This lady works at Epcot in the Japan section and makes pulled sugar candy animals
She is truly incredible. With just a ball of 'dough' she can create almost any animal possible, and she catered to each child's wishes. Our children who were healthy enough came down to watch and make their own requests; for the others we brought some back to the units for them. The woman is a true artist, and the children were thrilled to watch her work. Earlier this week Disney's Animal Kingdom came in and did a big exhibit for the children. They had centers for the patients to learn about animals, a few games, a stage area where they showcased a few 'exotics' (owls, hedgehogs, snakes, etc), and then chip and dale came for a meet and greet. Did I mention I  love my job?

But it's also been difficult. my preceptor was sick so I've had three different supervisors, plus some expectations were not communicated to me properly so I've been a bit confused about my role with the staff. My evaluation yesterday went differently then I expected when my preceptor expressed a concern that I was letting myself get so caught up in the pressure that I was sort of playing a role and coming off as very tightly wound and forced. That hurt a bit, but at the same time I was glad to hear her reassure me that she has no doubt I'm going to be a great child life specialist- I just need to try to relax and not worry so much. I don't have anything to prove to them, they know I'm well trained, they know I'm prepared. Instead of worrying about trying to show them I'm ready to do this, I should just let myself experience it.

It's been an adjustment that's for sure; I'm learning so much about myself and who I am. Trying to get my priorities in order. Coming home and spending time with my family has been crucial. I am definitely a very touchy, feely, lovey dovey, emotionally laden individual- and although I am starting to make friends in the area, it's hard feeling so alone a lot of the time. I know its a natural byproduct of moving and will go away with time, yet God knew that this weekend I was going to need to be surrounded by people who love me. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to come back and recharge before I face the coming week. I appreciate all the prayers and support I've been recieving- Lord knows I need it! I just continue to trust that he has a plan for me and I know that growth is going to be painful. Yet that pain is necessary to truly prune away that which is holding me back and to emerge better and stronger on the other side.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

One week down= thirteen to go

Things I've learned during my first week of Internship

1) It's always good to make sure you have quarters in your car BEFORE getting on a toll road access- you never know when you'll find a booth with no cashier.

2) Admitting you love college football is the fastest way to bond with male patients of any age. However, admitting you're a Florida Gator fan doesn't always work as effectively.

3) Always double check (and triple check) your alarm clock to make sure it will actually go off

3b) It's amazing how quickly you can get ready in the morning when under a time crunch

4) Packing lunch the night before is a great way to save money AND time in the morning

5) Granny Smith Woodchuck is NOT as satisfying as Amber Woodchuck

6) Being surrounded by Disney figures all the time is super great for my mood, so is walking under a two story castle to get to the elevators

6b) Its very easy to forget in the midst of all the exciting activities and environments that tragic events do occur in the hospital. Children get sick, painful and uncomfortable procedures still occur, some patients will die. Tragedy is all around, our job is not to erase or eliminate that fact, but to make it more bearable.

7) Cute kids tug at the emotional heartstrings- its important to take care of yourself to keep from burning out

7b) Drinking wine with the roommate over home-cooked dinner is a GREAT way to do this.

8) No matter how early you go to bed, 6:15 will ALWAYS feel early.

9) Good friends send you 'good luck' wishes and tell you they will pray for you. GREAT friends call and text you constantly on your first week to make sure you know they are thinking about you, and tell you they can't wait til you come home.

10) There is nothing more exhilarating than feeling overwhelmed and underqualified- but also knowing that you are living out God's will for your life.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So I'm through with the first week, and Friday I spent a few hours shadowing the inpatient acute pediatrics floor that I will be working on for the next four weeks. Acute peds means that the patients typically have less severe diagnoses and do not need the same types of constant monitoring that those in Pediatric Special Care or the Pediatric ICU require. Examples of things we might see on these floors include asthma, short gut (part of the bowel removed), Appendix removals, new diabetes diagnoses, etc. Length of stays are typically 2-4 days on these floors (although they can certainly be MUCH longer). I would wager a guess that the majority of child life internships start their students off in an acute setting (or something similar) because it is less emotionally and physically strenuous than some of the more critical care units, and it is a great place to start to develop a craft. Our acute pediatric floors (AP has 2) have very large playrooms, and a lot of our children can come down when we are open.

However child life's mission is to provide services to children regardless of their limitations. For example, even if we had a patient who had a ventilator (meaning they can't talk very well) and was in complete traction, we are still responsible for helping them cope. In these cases we might use vicarious play where we work on art projects and have the patient decide what colors and materials are used, even though the specialist is the one actually making the project. Or perhaps we might build with blocks, but the patient chooses what shapes to make, and where to place particular blocks.

Child life is more than simply 'playing', we work with the purpose of helping children deal with the traumatic stress of hospitalization and try to facilitate normal coping and development. Its easy to get caught up in the 'fun' aspects of what we do (like Friday when I got to work with a pet therapy dog and a character (Clifford the big red dog) visit) and forget that more importantly we are there as advocates and support for children during their stay.

Because of confidentiality, privacy and HIPAA laws, the amount of information I share about my experiences will be very very limited. So instead of describing particular situations I find myself in, I figured it might be more appropriate to describe the general medical problem or procedure that I observed and talk about what role child life plays in those circumstances.

For example, on Friday I was given the opportunity to observe an NG tube placement. NG stands for nasogastric- and it involves running a tube up an individual's nose, through their esophagus, into the stomach. The NG tube is used for feeding purposes but also for the administration of chemicals and medications that can not be taken orally. For instance, a patient I observed on Friday had to ingest a chemical for contrast purposes during an X-ray that was so disgusting it would be impossible to take by mouth. NG tubes are also used for suction in the case of bowel obstructions.
borrowed from rootsandwingsco.blogspot.com

Placement is difficult for children because it is not a procedure that we can sedate for, or even use distraction,, because the patient must be sitting up right and is asked to swallow constantly to assess the placement of the tube. When all goes well the tube can be placed in as little as 10 seconds, however when a patient is uncooperative it can take a lot longer.

As I mentioned before, Child Life Specialists can not always use distraction in these cases because the procedure is done in the line of vision of the patient. For procedures like IV starts, we can help the patient direct his or her gaze away from the doctors and instead focus on video games, picture books, i spy games, etc. For NG placement our interventions usually deal with preparation. My preceptor talked to the child and explained what the doctors would be doing. She described the procedure in terms that he could understand and then answered any questions he had. She was honest when he asked if it would hurt  and told him that some children say it hurts a little bit, but that once it was placed, he would forget it was there, and then it wouldn't hurt coming out.

During placement we serve as emotional and procedural support. Child Life Specialists NEVER serve as restrainers (in fact we try to discourage restraint all together and typically work with children to try and increase cooperation). Instead we sit by the child and help talk them through things, enact any coping strategies that were put into place, and support the parents during the experience. Afterwards we talk with the child, provide rewards and prizes for dealing with such an invasive procedure, talk with them to get their take on what happened, clarify any misconceptions, and then design activities to try and help them regain mastery over the environment.

Watching the NG procedure was a good reminder for me. I've been getting so caught up in all the fun exciting elements of my placement that I think I was forgetting a bit that the hospital is NOT a fun place. Even though we try to decrease the negative experience, we can never make it GOOD we can only  make it a little bit easier.

It's going to be an interesting three months, that's for sure. I'm continually praying and asking for support, and I know that will just increase as I get farther into this experience. I'm so thankful for all the support I've received from family and friends; that support is the only thing getting me through.

Now if I can just figure out how to guarantee my alarm goes off in the morning, life would be good!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First days

Life has been crazy. Can I just say that?!  I fully intended to make myself blog each and every night, but last night I just couldn't seen to find time in between the EIGHTY pages of reading, academic journaling, self-evaluation and discussion board posting I had to do. Ok, let's be honest, I didn't have the energy to deal with it! So to make up for my total and utter laziness, I'm not only going to recap my first two days for you, I'm going to give you PICTURES!

First and foremost, I would like to begin our little venture with a discussion of the wonder known as Orlando traffic. For those of you not in the know- it sucks. Majorly. One of the most populated areas in the world, and an out-dated, insufficient infrastructure do not go well together. Although the townhouse in which I am residing is actually only about 13 miles from the hospital, it takes me about 30-45 minutes to get to the hospital (Even using the toll roads). However, after some major hiccups with the toll system, getting lost downtown, and a non-working GPS I finally arrived here:

Arnold Palmer and Winnie Palmer Hospitals (His and Her Hospitals? That's a new one!)





Ok so the REALLY cool looking building is not mine- it's the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies (the second largest volume of babies born in the world...), but still, its a pretty awesome sight to see!  I quickly made my way to the parking garage, proceeded to get lost trying to find my way out of it, and then proceeded through the hospital to meet with my supervisor and the other intern (who is incredibly sweet and I am SO excited to work with!).

We then proceeded to our electronic documentation training- where for three hours we learned how to access patient medical records, submit and check orders, input documentation, and add assessments. Maybe not the most exciting thing ever, but definitely will come in handy soon! We ended up finishing Sunshine training early and headed back to the child life secretary office where we were given.... our beepers!


Ok, I know most of your are rolling your eyes right about now- but you have to understand, having your own pager in a hospital is a sign of importance. It signals that you are someone that somebody may need to get a hold of, its a signal that we are a step up from merely students or volunteers. We are, in fact, professionals in training.

Lunch with the staff was great- the entire department is incredibly welcoming and excited to have us. Their enthusiasm is contagious! After lunch we were given the "$10 tour" as my supervisor labeled it. Let me tell you... the hospital is a true conglomeration of buildings. Four different building phases have contributed to the current floor plan- which is counterintuitive in many ways, and difficult to navigate in others. So far Sara and I have managed not to get lost, but I have a feeling it's just a matter of time! After lunch we completed a few online and written trainings and received our binders! We each have two, and let me tell you, at three inches thick a piece they are intimidating! Luckily, I realized that a good number of articles in the 'required reading/resource' book I had already read for my thesis. All I can think is that by the end of this internship we are both going to have very nicely toned arm muscles!
Resource and Internship Binders- oh joy!

Super excited for our binders!

Today was filled with more orientation items- including walking through the entire internship binder from cover to cover. I feel a lot better knowing that all of the expectations for me are written out and set before me. We received our rotation assignments, and started reviewing hospital policies and procedures. Our supervisor also gave us a selection of items to add to our 'distraction tool kit'. Not going to lie, I'm pretty psyched.
Awesome child life resources! (I know I'm hopelessly dorky!).

Today also entailed 'scavenger hunts' learning where various resources and offices are, reviewing safety procedures, and learning about the various codes. Although I am grateful for this extended period of time for getting my feet wet and adjusting to the hospital, I am also getting antsy to actually get out on the floors and start learning. It's intimidating to know that in less than two weeks I will be the child life specialist responsible for the care of several children on the acute peds floor. There's no doubt that I will have plenty of support and resources at my disposal, but it is still slightly frightening to realize that it's finally here. All I can do is take it one day at a time and give my best to each and every patient I encounter.

Now if I can just manage to handle downtown traffic life will be great!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tomorrow... Tomorrow!

So tomorrow I will be driving to Orlando. Monday I get to start my internship at the most magical (hospital) place I've ever seen!

I'll be surrounded by this









Needless to say- I'm a tad bit excited. Nervous as anything, but excited. I get to learn about the field I love in an environment so conducive to emotional and therapeutic creativity.

Now just say a prayer I can get there safely!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Long day

I drove up to Orlando today to get my official badge made and pick up my parking pass. I figured that would make this a great time to give my Child Life 101 talk... but driving 6+ hours in one day has made me utterly exhausted. So that post will just have to wait for another day.


Mom decided we should watch Enchanted tonight. Not going to lie, its one of my favorites. By day I may be this sophisticated, intelligent, mature young woman... but by night I'm a 4-year old Disney Princess. I may or may not have seen that movie four times when it was in the theater, I also possibly might have coerced my roommate into going with me at midnight the day it came out on DVD and then convinced her to watch it with me right then. There's also a rumor that I can recite the entire movie from memory. I will neither confirm or deny that tidbit.

Regardless, in honor of our 'female bonding time' (plus Wil), and because I'm too tired to write anything of substance, I present to you my single most favorite moment of the entire movie. I'll be honest, I've been known to put the dvd in and watch just this one scene. I mean come on, they recreate the ballroom dance from Beauty and the Beast (my single most favorite animated feature), and it has McDreamy Patrick Dempsey singing in it, what's not to love?!

"A good man might be hard to find, but a good hairdresser is next to impossible"

So you'll have to excuse the lack of focus in my posts for the next week or so. With my internship not starting for another week, my life is a bit all over the place (and I have a bit more time on my hands then I know what to do with- of course I should be using said time to work on my thesis, but lets be honest, that's so not going to happen). In a week's time I promise to regale you with tales of my hospital experiences (devoid of all personally identifying information of course, thank you HIPAA), but for now you must just make due with ramblings of my current daily living.

Today began with the following phone conversation. I woke up this morning and realized that I needed to call my hairdresser Holly to make sure she had time to work me in before I move next week. Still in bed, I open my phone and realize I do not have her number saved. I look up her salon on the internet, finally find a phone number and press send (crossing my fingers that it was the correct number). I promise you, this is word for word how the conversation went:

(Phone rings a good 4-5 times)
"Hey. when can you come in?"
"When are you free?"
"In half an hour"
"Ok I'll be there"
(Hang up)

The whole conversation took, according to the handy timer on my cell phone, 8 seconds. Took me a second (in my half drowsy state) to realize that she does not in fact have ESP... but caller ID.

I should mention that I love my hairdresser. Love isn't the right word. Adore, perhaps. Only Holly would answer the phone like that, totally bereft of any social 'niceties' and get right to the point. Such a loving, caring, giving woman. It doesn't hurt that she's a genius with hair.


I've had a great number of ideas regarding where to take this discussion. Although I knew that conversation was too hilarious not to share (ok maybe not to you, but definitely to me!), I didn't quite know what point I wanted to make. A musing about the control electronics have over our life, so much so that we no longer have the need to formally address the people with whom we converse? Perhaps I could dedicate this post to beaming over the many wonderful individuals who have supported me in one way or another over the past few weeks. Or maybe I could give an in-depth analysis of my self-esteem issues and launch into a diatribe on the problems with our societal views on beauty and fashion.

But instead, I want to talk about trust.

A discussion on trust, exemplified by my regular mid-session freak out.

I have real trust issues when it comes to my hair. I've had one two five way too many bad haircuts in my day; trust me, we have the family photo albums to prove it. The frizzy hippie stage, the 'goldfinger' incident, or really my favorite- the psuedo mullet. That was a fun one, Ally and I had long hair; long, gorgeous, down-to-our-butts hair. Mom went out of town for the weekend, dad took us to a family friend to get a 'trim'; I don't quite remember all the details but I do know a friend had come into town the previous week to visit with a very short bowl cut and perhaps I had asked to emulate it. All I know is that without the maternal presence to control the situation, Ally and I very soon had the most interesting hair cuts--- but I digress. Where was I? oh yes. I have trust issues with my hair.

Enter Holly, the wonderful hairdresser at our church who informed my dad that she felt one way she could give back to God was in taking care of the pastor's family's hair. After a months of this, she convinced me to let her try highlighting mine, and she's been doing so for 2 years.

Holly is a true artist when it comes to hair, never doubt that, I get compliments left and right on my hair (when I actually bother to style it). However, at some point during every session (usually when I see the first glimpse of color after the removal of the foils), I begin wondering what in the hell I've done to myself. I curse myself for having this vain pursuit of beauty, and worry that i may be walking around bald.. or with orange hair.

And then inevitably, Holly works her magic and I end up staring into the mirror, beaming. More often than not, the finished product is different than anything I had pictured in my head, in a good way. The momentary panic subsides over the realization that I was only seeing one piece of the puzzle; there are many more steps to take along the way. Over time I've learned to stop letting those moments of doubt take over, and just trust in the established relationship I have built with the woman who has never let me down. To stay calm and just know that my hair is going to come out looking fabulous.

I bet you can guess where this is going.

I get that way with God too sometimes. Except that I'm still not so great at trusting him to give me a great finished product. I become impatient as I work through a situation, and decide to steal a glance at what is going on. And then, typically, I get distressed at the sight before me and forget that it is really a work in progress, and I am no where near the finish line. I look around and see my life in chaos, deadlines not being met, people letting me down, relationships in turmoil, and I wonder: Why? I get distracted by the mess in front of me and starting doubting that God has any real plan for making something worthwhile and meaningful out of my life. Yet, if I take a step back and re-examine many of the times in my life when I have felt that way, I realize now it was all part of the journey to something even greater than I could have imagined.

As I mentioned, I'm still not so great at the trusting God. I say I do, I try to convince myself that I do, but when the foils start coming off I panic. It's a daily struggle for me, one I'm sure I'm not alone on. As I survey a lot of the 'chaos' I've encountered over the past 6 months, I feel like my life is on the cusp of something major, and that God is in the process of unveiling something wonderful, but I'm realizing I am still a few steps away from being at that final stage.

But until then, at least my hair looks great!!!