Thursday, December 27, 2012


I held a newborn baby at work.

Innocent, fragile, untouched by the world. There is something so magical about the skin of a newborn; soft, pink, smooth, not yet marred by the hazards of the world.

I have many scars, and they all tell a story. One on my right middle finger from the times I sliced out my finger tip using an ice shaver. Or the one on my left forearm from bubbling solder during a stained glass accident. Most scars fade over time, some so small you can barely notice them, but others remain pronounced forever.

One of the things that marvels me about the world is the transformation of innocent newborn to the person they will become. Particularly when I look at those... whom society might not deem as appropriate or desirable. It never ceases to amaze me that often my co-workers and I are willing to forgive the four year old who is cursing and pitching a fit, recognizing that he is the product of his environment and often a victim of poor (or no) parenting. Yet, when we are faced with the 12 year old who is sullen and rebellious, judgment quickly ensues.

We all bear scars, emotional, physical, psychological;  while I believe we are all ultimately responsible for our actions, it's hard not to be feel sympathetic. What about those people who have never known security, empowerment, or unconditional love? Those who have not ever experienced feeling like they are worth someone, or taught right and wrong? When do we start accepting responsibility for helping them see a better path.

I've been thinking about my own scars a lot lately. There are many unpleasant things in my past, events and circumstances I might think I want to forget. It's hard to feel ties to your past, particularly when it comes to relationships. There are things people have done, things that I have done, things that have happened, that still sting. That scar is still there, and always will be I suspect, but acknowledging can be difficult when trying to differentiate between scars and emotional entanglements. When I think about Situation X, does it still make me angry? Yes. But do I consider myself as having moved on and past it? Yes.

For example, there was a significant controversy at my parent's last church.The details are unimportant, what matters it that I was hurt, and my friends were hurt, and most importantly, my family was hurt. Not only were we hurt, but our lives were forever altered and changed. I believe God can bring good in a horrible situation, and I know that no one was truly faultless, but to see my parents and siblings have their entire lives uprooted and changed because of someone else's (misplaced) vendetta. It's crazy how quickly miscommunication and misunderstanding can spiral out of control. What starts as petty rumors are fueled by those who are angry and end up changing the course of a church or an individual's life.

That experience altered my relationship with God. I walked away from the church for several years, uninterested in an organized religion that could be so tainted by bitter and vindictive people. My faith was so entrenched in the 'religious' experience of my childhood that it took me almost six years to rebuild my spirituality separate, though informed by, a structured belief system. Am I still actively angry and bitter at those people? No, by the grace of God. But I bear the scars.

So when things pop up that touch those scars, I react. My hot buttons? Being lied to and then told I'm an idiot/being treated like I'm stupid. People hurting my family. Betrayal from friends. Friendship should mean more than going with the status quo. Friendship should mean trust and loyalty. Not blind trust, but a general faith in the good of the other person.

I bear a lot of scars, in many different aspects of my person. Some are of my own making. Yet, I've learned I wouldn't want to change or remove any of them. They are reminders to me of where I've been and how far I've come. In many cultures, scars, particularly battle wounds, are a badge of honor, signaling the bravery and courage of the person. I view my emotional scars of proof of my endurance and fortitude. Proof that I've taken risks, and I haven't just sat on the sidelines watching others live.

They can just be frustrating to work around when they rear their ugly heads.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Exposing the jugular

Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we're wired that way. Because without it, I don't know; maybe we just wouldn't feel real. What's that saying? Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop. ~ Grey's Anatomy

I was once accused of being a 'sadistic b****" who got her "kicks off seeing children suffer".

It was an ex who, after having a frank discussion years later, admitted that the comment was reflective of his own pain, not of me. Yet for years the comment haunted me, making me doubt myself. question every decision, every motive. Even to this day I think it and twitch.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Visitng a Hospital 101

It's that fabulous wonderful time of year. Holidays, family gatherings, present giving, and eating galore. Nothing like the month of December to remind people of their blessings and inspire a desire to give back.

Working in a Children's Hospital means a time full of activities, visitors, and high census of patients. We are quite fortunate that even with several other larger children's hospitals in the area, we usually have an overflow of groups that wish to brings gifts to our patients at the hospital. However, we run in to a lot of the same problems, so I thought i'd give a little visiting 101 for any of you who are thinking of spending some time at your local pediatric wing, so you can avoid looking like an idiot... and keep from incurring the wrath and scorn of your local CCLS.

1. We get very full, very quickly. While we are certainly very very grateful that you are inspired to give during this time of year, please remember that everybody else and their families are thinking the same thing. Seriously, we get calls in August and September to start booking slots. So if you are very determined to come, call early and have flexibility in your availability. If we are not able to accommodate you for a full visit, please consider just making a flat donation of toys for our playroom, that is something the kids can use year round.

2. We only book one or two people a day. Having visitors is actually very stressful for us- having a full visit means at least 30-45 minutes ahead of time getting report from nurses and assessing our census, another hour or two of touring groups, and then clean up afterwards. Its a large time commitment so we can only really take a few people at a time-- so please don't be angry if we can't just 'squeeze' you in. Update: If we tell you no, PLEASE do not just show up and expect to guilt us into taking you around. *true story*

3. We love when people call with specific ideas of what they would like to bring/do, but please always run the ideas by us first (and don't take it personally if we veto an idea). The problem often is that outsiders have a great idea of what they want to do, which may or not translate to practicality. For instance, we love that you are a champion bagpipe player, but playing in the hospital... not such a great idea. Flutes? Yes. Bagpipes? No.

4. Along that line, flexibility is key. Look, to be frank, we can tell the difference between people who are giving out of the goodness of their hearts and those who have an agenda. People who are giving because they want to do something for other people are usually willing to alter their plans to fit what meets our needs best. We are ALWAYS grateful to recieve gifts for our patients, but not every idea is feasible. Please defer to us--- when we tell you it is NOT possible to only identify those kids with certain illnesses and give them gifts... we mean it.

5. We don't discriminate. EVERY patient is offered christmas/hannuakah/kwanzaa/halloween/easter/thanksgiving/etc activities regardless of ethnicity and religion. We love everyone.

6. The 'little bald kids' are very rarely the sick ones. Everyone coming into the hospital wants to see the cancer kids, but honestly- most of the time that is a very low percentage of the our population, and often those kids are relatively healthy. Pediatric cancer, as a whole, has an average cure rate of 80%; many of our other, full hair-headed kids, face more dire odds. The teen age girl with long brown hair is just as appreciative of your gift as the bald headed five year old. And guess what? They are all scared and all don't want to be at the hospital.

7. Always ask before you take pictures. Most places have very specific rules about photo consents. Even if a parent says it's ok, we can not legally allow you to take pictures of their child without proper documentation, and it's a hassle. Pictures of your group? Sure. Posing in the playroom to show off the toys you donated? Great! But unless you have a full marketing package (aka... you are a professional sports team, or hospital sponsored event), taking pictures of patients is just not appropriate.

8. Along those lines... remember these are kids just like yours. This isn't a trip to the zoo to see the rare animals; these are real human beings who are scared, tired, and sick. Imagine how you would feel if you were in their shoes? Treat them with the same dignity and respect you would want.

9. Using a hospital visit as a way to 'teach your kid a lesson' is so inappropriate (see tip 8).  We completely understand you want your kids to appreciate their blessings and to realize there are others less fortunate. My hospital wing is not the time or place to do that. It is offensive to subjugate the families and make an example out of them. Send your bratty kid to the humane society, or send them to boot camp. Do NOT call me and complain that I can't open a spot in two days because you want your child to realize they have it so much better than others. Seriously. #endrant
    9a. please have proper child care for your little kids. Most hospital have an age limit for visitors--- its' for your kids safety. It is frankly just not smart to bring a four year old to the hospital and expose them to all kinds of yuckiness. Hire a babysitter, or leave them with a non-rider.... for those theme park enthusiasts out there.

10. If you have to change your date/cancel please let us know ASAP. We are holding a spot for you that could be filled by the many other people we have to turn away.

11. Please remember the hospital is open 365 days a year. If you can't fit in the holiday visit because of our schedule, we would be more than happy to have you in the other 11 months. In fact, here's a secret, the families will love you more and the kids will be even more excited to have a random present in May than in December when they are expecting it.

*** All hospitals vary in their rules and policies. Always check with your specific point person rather than taking these things at their literal value.

*** We are SOOO appreciative of our visitors, and don't get me wrong, most people who come are amazing. We could not do our programming without their generosity. However... these are just some ideas to avoid being the 5% of people who call and make us want to pull our hair out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tales from the Kiddos: Careful what you ask

Conversation a while back with a former frequent flyer (aka a patient who used to come in a very regular basis). She had come to visit with her mother after school (elementary age).

Bethany: Hi Katie* (Read: Not her real name). I've missed you! How is everyone in the family?! How's Papi?
Katie: He's good...... Gassy as ever.
(hysterical laughter from all as mom turns red in the face)
Mom: Katie! You can't say those things.... I mean, it's true, but still!!

Moments like this are why I love my job.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tales from the Kiddos: The great water syringe caper

Following the heels of yesterday's post, I had to share a little moment from today.

I was asked by a coworker, a nurse, to help out with a patient. This preschool aged boy, we'll call him John (Read: not his real name) had just found out that he was in fact not going home today and thus would not get to visit his favorite relative. He was sitting in the room, alone, pouting, and refusing to do anything he was asked. AKA let's call the child life specialist and see if she can work her magic.

No pressure or anything.

I entered the room and sat on his bed giving him choices of activities: art, blocks, puzzles, video games, movies, everything met a flat refusal. As he threw a pillow across the room, his pent up anger obvious and I decided I needed to give him an outlet for letting out his emotions. I racked my brain with some of the options... building a tower of blocks that we could then knock down, seems a bit dangerous to have hard objects that could be thrown, playing voice games where we get to scream our heads off sleeping baby next door, nope, Making a frustration journal, nope a bit too mature for this kid...  and then it came to me.

I simply stood up and promised I would be back in a minute. (Child life 101: easiest and fastest tactic for establishing a relationship with a patient is to promise to return, leave, and then come back.. Trust and follow through demonstrated in one easy motion. Bonus points if you promise to return with an item (i.e. toys, prizes, movies) and come through).

I grabbed a piece of paper, drew a simple bulls-eye target with sharpie, came back in the room and taped it on the wall. As a I grabbed a magic marker John sullenly told me 'I don't want to do arts and crafts"

"Well good, you're not going to, this is for me. So can you tell me... what is making you angry right now?"

"I want to go to (insert relative);s house"

"Ok" I say as I write it down on our target. "What else?"

Following his prompts I wrote the few things he came up with and then promptly put the marker down, nonchalantly went to the 10 ml syringe I had previously filled with water, took a few steps back from the wall, and proceeded to squirt the water, full blast, at the wall and target, splashing both of us, the window, and the mirror in the process.

I wish I had a camera to document the look on his face.

He was so totally shocked by what I had just done that he completely forgot to keep up the 'tough guy' act. Not what you were expecting me to do at all huh?

"Do you want to try?"

Eager nod, happy smile, bounding out of bed to try his hand at squirting away his anger. We then proceeded to work on tinting the water, making squirt art, learning our colors and mixing the primaries, and eventually talking about his admission. I won't say he didn't have more tantrums throughout the day, but at least the throwing things stopped!

Moral of the story: You will NEVER beat kids in the "who can be the most sullen and angry" contest; you have the change the game. Nothing changes the game quicker than doing something totally unexpected, like shooting water at the wall.

Child life specialist FTW

Side note.. it's been a good week. I don't get to say that often. Honestly, life has been frustrating and somewhat overwhelming for the past few months, and work hasn't helped. A mixture of difficult cases including the passing of a patient with whom I was close, administrative pressures, policy changes, budget cuts, it all adds up to a stressed out Bethany. But... it's been a good week. Multiple happy cases, encouraging news programming wise at work, and opportunities to spend quality time with amazing friends. It's a brief reprieve from the negativity that has surrounded me lately... but I'll take it.

Tales from the Kiddos: Cookie Vampire Bites

Side note: you might have noticed several posts on here disappeared overnight. Without going into too much detail, there have been some issues at work regarding appropriateness of sharing information via social media (In general, nothing related to me personally). It has me very wary of anything work related on this site. Granted, any information/pictures I have referenced have been former patients and with their express permission. (Not to mention I'm always super anal about making sure Im not even remotely disclosing specific information like their name, age, or treatment information). However, to be on the safe side i have removed any post that has a trace of questionable material and will repost them once they are 100% ok. :)

My mom and I had a conversation tonight, during which I related a few very amusing patient anecdotes. Her response was the same was most other people when I share my crazy work related tidbits "It's a shame you can't write a book about these things".

Obviously much of my experiences can't be told in detail, but one of the reasons I originally started this blog was to have an outlet for sharing my experiences during my internship. I am now well past that time in my life (and fully employed, wahoo), but at some point my focus drifted away from the child life aspect and my blog instead became an outlet for my own theological/psychological musings. I don't intend to stray too far from this formula; I believe a blog should be a reflection of the individual, but when appropriate I would like to take an opportunity to share some of the gems from my job. I mean come on, sharing the "Bethany got sprayed with a coke enema gone loose" story never gets old. #noImnotjokingIwishIwas #lookupcokeenemaifyouareconfused #justanotherdayinthelife

So to start us off I would like to share today's "Only in my job" story

We have a young patient who has been at the hospital for an extended stay, as such most of the staff have 'adopted' him. Not going to lie, it's a shame I can't take pictures of him, but for your reference, think of the cutest baby you have ever met.... and multiply it by about three. You're getting close. I like to describe him as old enough to be deliberate in his actions, but young enough to not always know better.

This munchkin, we'll call him Roger (Read: not his real name), is incredibly intelligent for his age, a joy to be around, but unfortunately in that stage of life where mealtime becomes synonymous with playtime. Inevitably it becomes my job to feed him dinner (oh please, twist my arm ;) ), and afterwards clean him up and change his clothing. We've been doing this for a few weeks now and I've developed the system: 1)Wipe hands/mouth, 2) Remove soiled shirt 3) Put on clean shirt 4) remove high chair tray and stand Roger up, stripping the dirty pants 5) With one arm holding Roger in place, use other arm to pull on new pants.6) Follow up with a very high pitched "Yay" and hand clapping, emulated by said child. The high pitch is necessary and a well executed hand clap is the sign of a good child life specialist. #truth

It's a complicated maneuver but one that we have had down for a few weeks now... until tonight. Steps 1-4 went relatively well, slightly difficult as Roger had a mouth full of half chewed cookie slobber, but we had success removing the offending clothes without smearing Miss Bethany in cookie goo (not so much yesterday when I walked out unaware it was on my nose and in my hair). Yet, as we moved on to step five I felt Roger lay his head on my shoulder. Oh Cute.. he's showing me some love was my thought, until two seconds later I felt the rascal open wide and chomp down as hard as he could.

Yes, I now have a toddler hickey... and yet not only do I now sport an odd vampirish- bite on my neck base, my white shirt has a lovely cookie stain exactly in the shape of a young mouth. That and the cookie stains in the boob area were fun to explain to church friends later that evening. What can I say? At least the kid is eating!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A tribute

I apologize for this stream of conscious post. I am deliberately not re-reading and editing. It is what it is, because that is what I need it to be. Unhampered by grammatical and societal expectations. A simple pouring out of my heart as I grieve and process.

We lost a patient this week.

I had a million and one posts to write. Updates on different adventures, funny happenings.

And then I lost a patient.

It's not the first time Ive worked with a bereaved family, in fact, this isn't even the most tragic situation I've worked.

But it hurts more.

We talk a lot about professional boundaries in my field, trying to find a line between building therapeutic relationships and forming unhealthy attachments. It's easy in most cases; we know where our job ends and entanglement begins, and we don't cross it.

It's harder with long term patients. Harder when we go through the journey with them, when we become invested in their future.

This young lady I knew since day one of her treatment. I was by her side for any number of heartbreaking experiences, as well as some truly happy memories. I did education when she was first diagnosed, I accompanied her to surgery when her family wasn't around, I sat and colored with her when she was alone and scared. We knew this day would come, especially when tests came back not positive a few weeks ago, but none of us ever dreamed the end would come so quick.

She passed away, at home, with her loved ones, and I can only guess the rest of us would hope the same.

And I hurt, more than any of the other passings I've worked, because this one IS different. She became a friend.

I wouldn't change one bit of it. I maintained my professional boundaries, but I still grew to care for her immensely. Yet, I do not see how I could have possibly managed to do my job without building that relationship.

We choose pain, the pain of having loved and lost or the pain of never having loved at all.

We choose pain, but it seems to me that the former is what gives life it's meaning. My life is richer because of this young lady, and as sorrowful as I am in the moment, I will cherish the time we spent together, forever value the lessons she taught me.

I'm going to a funeral tomorrow night. The first patient funeral I have ever attended. It will be hard, this I know, but I also have no doubt it will be needed. I started this journey with her, and now it is time to end it. Because her pain is gone now, her struggle is complete. She didn't lose her battle to cancer, she overcame it.

So for tonight, I will be sad, and not apologize. For tonight, I will be grateful that I have a job that allows me to reach out to those who are scared and in pain. I will be thankful that I have such a supportive, loving family, and I will enjoy the time I have with my friends. I will live my life without guilt, because the time we have is a gift. I will remember that even when it feels like Im spinning my wheels. I am still slowly building my purpose with my patients. I will remember that I am NOT perfect, but I do not need to be. It is unnecessary to beat myself up over my flaws, but to instead embrace them.

I will stop fighting for, and chasing after, the things and people who are just out of reach. I will appreciate those who love and care for me. I will never give up hope that life can be a bit better.

Tonight I will appreciate, and tomorrow... and the next tomorrow... and the next, I will remember, my sweet patient, with the beautiful face, the appreciation of coloring, the obsession with Pixar movies, who never let her circumstances define her.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rides and Smiles 2012

I don't often get to talk about my work what with hospital privacy and confidentiality laws and all.

However, today I got to take part in a very special annual event. As this event was filmed and broadcasted over multiple media sites, I can share some of my own photos and memories of the day.

Homestead Speedway Miami, FL
 Every year in November, my hospital partners with a local auto group to allow our patients opportunities to take high speed rides in 'dream cars' around the racetrack. Last years cars included: a Camaro convertible, Porsche 911 GTS, Nissan Infiniti G37, Mercedes Benz SLK, Dodge Challenger, Ford GT, Audi R8, a Ferrari 430, and a Masarati. Cars are provided by dealerships and individual owners. (This year's included a Spyder, Viper, and Aston Martin, amongst others). Volunteer drivers take our patients (primarily oncology, and various outpatient rehab diagnoses such as brain damage and Muscular Dystrophy) for rides topping 100+ mph.

Needless to say, the day is an absolute blast. This was my second year participating, and I can't begin to express how grateful I am for our community support. As a staff member, it was refreshing to see the patients outside the confines of the medical walls, and acting as simply kids. :

Posing with one of the 'display' models

Topping 100 mph as we approach the straightaway

After the rides we were treated to lunch. The kids ate outside, enjoying subs. While the adult volunteers were given a chance for a very special lunch, complete with a flyover from the nearby Air Reserve Base

Lunch at the Victory Lane Viewing spot

As the kids finished up with their rides, I was quickly grabbed to do an interview for the local news. Given that i had about 30 seconds to prepare, I think it went quite well.

Click here to watch the full video clip

 We ended the day with gift bags for the kids and presented the association with a thank you card.

An absolutely exhausting day, but well worth it. Not to mention exciting that I can finally share real details of my work. Obviously it's not all fun and games. Most days are spent at the hospital, working one on one in the rooms, cleaning toys and delivering movies until I feel like a glorified maid. However, the special events like this make the rest worth it. I love all my patients equally, and certainly had time with all of my buddies throughout the day. However, I was able to spend time with two particular patients that are very special to me, for specific reasons that I won't share here. I have spent more time than I care to think about with them while they were still in treatment and each had specific challenges in their care. To have a relationship where even now, months later, we can all run around and hang out is truly special. I look at each of them and think of the many hours agonizing over interventions, desperately praying to God for guidance and miracles. I have a picture of them from last year's event, framed on my bathroom counter (given to me as a gift by the family), It reminds me each morning that I can choose to make a difference, i can choose not to give up, and to give my patients my all.

Even when I don't feel like it,

      Even when I feel like I am not making a difference.
            Even when I want to think tasks are beneath me.
                  Even when I feel trapped and ask God to give me more.

Even then- I can make a difference, and I do, with the help of God.

Today was a reminder. I may not always see God's plan in things, I may not always be happy with his answers. But I can do good where I'm at, if I choose.

And some things in life are just greater than me.

If nothing else, I remember, I am blessed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Musings

I work at a Children's Hospital; so naturally with today being Halloween, I was expected to dress in costume. My goal? To impersonate some sort of well known character without having to make any major purchases, aka use things I already have:

Mission accomplished. (I mean doesn't everyone have red patent leather flats laying around their closet.... or is that just me, the self-proclaimed clothes-a-holic?).

Things I realized in the process:

1) Dressing as a well-known character does give every person you encounter license to refer to you in character all day, regardless of whether or not they actually know you. ("Hi Dorothy" was the refrain all day, along with "Where's Toto?").

2) As a caveat- dressing as a beloved children's literature character goes over better when the majority of your coworkers are NOT Latin (aka did not grow up with the Wizard of Oz). "Are you a pilgrim girl?" "Wow, you look cute, but I have no idea who you are" "Your shoes don't match"= all things I heard today. (Side note- who hasn't seen Wizard of Oz? Like... seriously, isn't that mandatory for both childhood and US citizenship?? Classics people, they are the glue that holds our social society together.) (Side note to the side note, I actually love my culturally diverse coworkers but enjoy being able to throw things they don't know back at them given the number of 'pretty little white girl' jokes I endure on a daily basis! :) No racist backlash please!).

3) There's a reason I avoid pigtails and attempt to dress professionally on a regular basis. I lost track of how many other employees were genuinely shocked to find out I was staff, apparently I looked just like a 12 yearold trick or treater ( epic fail.... unless I could get away with ACTUALLY trick or treating for the goods... maybe I didn't think this through!).

4) Ruby slippers are $*#& on the feet, even when they are the ballet flat version.

5) Unintentionally baking cookies for a bake sale that are in theme with your costume is an epic win, even if you don't realize it til after the fact.

Wicked Witch of the West Cookies anyone?

6) Always amusing when you forget that you are in costume and get confused as to why people keep staring at you and smiling.

7) When all else fails, stand next to someone with an even more ridiculous costume and enjoy the day!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's no laughing matter.

Prepare yourself for another long-winded  story that somehow has a significant theological/life point at the end.  I call it the Bethany special.

I've been thinking about gas a lot lately.

Not that type of gas. Laughing gas; nitrous oxide, aka the stuff they give you in the dental chair to relax you.

Two weeks ago today I had my wisdom teeth removed. Frankly, I was terrified going in. Not because of the pain and recovery time, not because of all of the adverse side effects of the medications I was under. Not because I was going to swell up like a chipmunk (which thankfully did not happen). I was terrified of the actual process, namely the drugs.

It's almost ironic, given that my job often involves coaching kids through consciously sedated procedures, or reassuring them prior to general anesthesia; that I myself have never been sedated. Perhaps it is that exact exposure that was haunting me. Memories of laughing with parents at the ridiculous thing their children were saying. Having discussions with patients that they had no recollection of later. The idea of having no control or memory of my faculties for a period of time scared me more than I could say. However, on the other side of things, I had heard horror stories from people who were not sedated during their procedures. Was told that the sound of the tooth cracking haunted them to this day.

What to do?

Luckily, my absolutely amazing oral surgeon was very responsive to my concerns and offered up his solution to the problem: a combination of low dose valium taken the night before and morning of my procedure to relax me, followed by an administration of nitrous oxide that would further calm me for the procedure, with no lasting side effects. (All, of course, administered with the actual numbing agent). With his confidence in mind, I agreed to the  proposed plan, still skeptical.

With good reason, as I later found out.

As I took that first valium the night before my procedure, I was surprised to find no change in mental capacity. In fact, if anything, I became more anxious with worry that our proposed plan was going to have no effect. The next morning I took both the prescribed dosage along with the extra "if you need it to relax" pill, hoping the double dose would have an effect. Next thing I knew, I was incredibly jittery. Maybe it was the Valium... maybe my nerves just got the best of me, but either way the medication did not have the desired effect.

Fastforward a bit of time including a drive to the office, a wait in the office, an extended wait in the pre-room where I was informed that my dad had in fact made it to the hospital in time, and a tense waiting period until he got up to hug me briefly before I was taken into the procedure room. The assistants did a great job of helping me get comfortable, they strapped on the gas mask, and the doctor began the numbing process and turned the laughing gas on.

I still do not have the right words to describe my experience, but essentially what began as a nice 'buzz' feeling, quickly spiraled into a complete panic attack. As one part of my mind began to relax and 'float', another significant part was still vitally aware of the gradual loss of control. Almost as if I were commentating to myself the experience:
Hmm... this isnt so bad, I guess he turned the gas on and I feel kind of fuzzy. Almost like Ive had a few drinks. Like last weekend in Orlando, that was a fun weekend, I should call- ok wait... now the feeling is a bit stronger, this is very strange, shouldn't I be more relaxed and not so vitally aware of everything that is going on, this is starting to remind me of the stories my patients have told about being sedated and not having control of their own bodies but still knowing everything that is going on, crap wow, now Im really feeling foggy and can't communicate which is bad because my chest is feeling heavy and Im having a panic attack. SHIT I'm having a panic attack and I can't even tell them because the stupid other part of me is floating on a cloud...I feel like my own thoughts are crashing in around me and Im drowning in a sea of my own lack of control
Luckily this was about the point that the oral surgeon very kindly told me he noticed that I was starting to hyperventilate and lowered the concentration of the gas. Hallelujah, considering the feeling of drowning within myself was not very enjoyable.

Long story short, we got through the procedure with few complications (apparently my one impacted tooth had a 'lovely' surprise of three roots instead of two. That sucker had no intention of going anywhere...). However, at the end of procedure, the overwhelmingly suffocating feeling began to creep back in and they removed the gas component entirely for the final stitches. My dr later informed me he suspected my very fast metabolism had contributed to the odd reactions to both Valium and Nitrous Oxide. Uncommon, but luckily the procedure itself had been low in complications so it all worked out in the end.

So what's my take away point?

I have a very stubborn mind. Ive known this for years, and that experience just confirmed what Ive always suspected. I've attempted to learn to still my mind on many occasions. Meditation, guided imagery, relaxation, you name it, I've tried it. With no success, I might add. I have a seriously difficult time letting go, part of my mind is always fiercely grabbing hold to the present. Even during some of the best times of my life, a part of me can't continue to live in the moment and instead is busy crunching numbers and running data analysis. This is a trait that has also served me well; my ability to truly multi-task is unparalleled, which I in part attribute to my budding OCD (a topic for another post). I turn what could be a tragic flaw into a vital and integral part of my personality. No wonder Im accused of being high maintenance at times! (I prefer the term 'vibrant personality', p.s.).

So anyways, hard time relaxing, that's me. Hard time letting go, right here. Difficulty not dwelling and moving on... absolutely, partially because I am perfectly capable of dwelling AND moving on at the same time. Split track mind.

I have some things going on right now that I can't actually write about for a variety of reasons. Potentially great things, potentially scary things, definitely overwhelming, and causing me to trust and rely on God in a way that I haven't truly leaned on him for almost two years.

But why is it so hard to truly let go of my problems and trust that God is going to handle them?

Is it because I don't believe he can? Absolutely not, my past experiences have taught me that God has a knack for swooping down in the knick of time. If the balls up in the air are the ones he's planned, they will certainly stay up there with little effort on my part.

Is it because I don't think he will? Maybe... what I've learned is that while God CAN come in and save the day, sometimes he  doesn't. And I think he doesn't for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because what we think is his 'plan' isn't.  I've been guilty of assuming God has ordained things and not going back to check with him. Or, if I AM in his plan, I've decided how he's going to work things out, and he doesn't always work that way. But sometimes... bad things happens, and we have no control over it, and I don't know that God always does either. If we truly subscribe to the value of free will, then the repercussion is I can act the way I want and God can't interfere without infringing on my free will. If I decide I want to go out and murder someone... at a certain point God can't stop me without disturbing the balance of order he created. The same way he puts the laws of science in motion... which can then present as hurricanes, or cancer,or  rabid lion attacks. Sure, God can, and does, speak into our life to gently nudge us to take a different route to work to avoid the fatal car crash, but sometimes he doesn't. So even if these plans Im facing are God's... that doesn't mean they are guaranteed to happen.

I've learned that a lot this year. Sometimes God might plan things, and then we, as humans, screw it up. Guilty right here.

So these thoughts take up a lot of brainspace (although luckily I can multi task and play solitaire at the same time. Yes, obviously in my mind. What? You mean you don't do that too....?) And Im struggling with the balance.

I think there is some benefit to being concerned. It keeps me focused on God. My urge to get on my knees physically and pray has been so strong in the last month.  Yet, as my post a few weeks ago suggests, needless worry becomes a sickness. At some point I have to surrender control and tell God it's in his hands and Im done trying to 'make' things happens. Because, for me, not having control is the one thing that will reassure me in the long run that I am really in his will.

So in addition to making my daily thanks list (which sometimes makes its way on here), I'm also reminding myself of the ways God has answered prayers in the past. In the ways I had thought, in the ways I hadn't wanted, and in the ways that absolutely have blown my minds.

I'm on the precipice of having my mind blown again, or having my heart broken. Part of the excitement is the unknown. And frankly, what fun is life without that element of intensity? Either way, the only control I have is choosing to ask God to guide me and help me through whatever comes my way.

But keep your fingers crossed... please. And thank you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts on the Election

~I'm not sure that either candidate would have wooed my vote during any of the debates if I had been undecided.

~The intense negativity makes me sad. Particularly on facebook, tell you one thing- being nasty and ridiculing/lambasting supporters of the opponent is not going to do much for convincing people to switch sides. This goes for both parties; all it does is make me think less of you and your opinion.

~On the same vein, I promise to respect your opinion if you've done your homework and really thought about your candidate choice, even if it does not coincide with my own. I would respect the same courtesy.

~None of the candidates have it entirely right. Not the republican, the democrat, the independents, it's about picking the one who most coincides with your most important topics.

~Certain candidates should lay off the teeth whitener.

~Certain other candidates would do well to revisit the rules of order and stop speaking over everyone else, including the moderator.

~I really wish the candidates would focus more on outlining their plans for helping the country instead of explaining why the other one is a poor choice.

~I miss regular commercials.

~Regardless, I hope everyone gets out there and votes. My personal thought? If you didn't vote you have no right to complain about the election outcomes. Plain and simple.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Post Wisdom Teeth

It's been a really rough weekend. Luckily my wisdom teeth extraction went...relatively well. Relatively well as in the sedation medications didn't work as planned, and my one tooth had three roots instead of two (with the third not wanting to come out at all). But I've been in pain, I've been miserable, and I've gotten a string of seemingly bad news. To combat the self-pity that is slowly creeping into my stream of consciousness, here are the things that make the glass half full:

1)My family. Seriously. They rock. I know that everyone thinks they have awesome parents, but mine are truly spectacular. My dad got up super early to drive over and be there before my surgery. Because of some delays, he ended up sprinting through ten flights of stairs to get there in time. He then continued to stay by my side the next 24 hours, running errands, picking up soup, calling the doctor when I was curled up on the bathroom floor vomiting for four hours. Writing his sermon while sitting in the bed next to me so he could make sure I was alright. A friend of the family told me that she has always been impressed with how much my mom and dad love their three children. Between my dad's presence, and my mom's constant calls and emotional support, and my grandparents letting me stay with them and taking care of me...  I am truly blessed.

2) Insurance. I may not always love my situation in life,but I am thankful for the wonderful benefits I get through work. My surgery, which should have been almost $5000 ended up being only $530 out of pocket. When I was so sick I couldn't even keep the pain medications down, the medications prescribed were available to me for $10, not $120. I am so very aware with my job how often people have to go without their healthcare for financial reasons. I am not rich, I am not even always 'comfortable', but I can afford to take care of my  health, and for that I am grateful.

3) Friends. The number of people who have called, texted, visited, brought soup, is mind boggling. I am blessed with not just a high quantity of peers, but great quality as well. I've always said the best snapshot of a person's character is in the people they call friends. If that's true, I must be a phenomenal person; I am surrounded by such individuals of character, kindness and love. That they call me friend in return is such a blessing. Seriously guys, I love you.

4)Decent Recovery. Sure I've had my share of pain and misery. But no swelling. Not a bit. 30 hours after surgery I felt well enough to go hang out with friends at a local sports bar to watch a football game (no drinking obviously!). Aside from one swollen tooth, I have felt well enough to (cautiously) eat real food. I ended up taking the day off from work because physically I was still weary (and unable to talk!!), but given the horror stories with which I was presented before hand, my body ha served me well.

5) Lilly. She drives me crazy most of the time- but the truth is I love that insanely wild bundle of fur and she has been awesome to cuddle up with when I was feeling my worst.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thankfulness continues

Things that reminded me of how blessed I am today:

1) Receiving the sweetest, and unexpected email, from the parent of a former patient today. He wanted to let me know what a significant impact I had made on his daughter's recovery, and tell me that I am in their thoughts and prayers daily. The patient is also back in school; considering we weren't expecting her to pull through, I find this to be an absolute miracle and think it humbling to know God was able to use me in such a powerful way.

2) Super awesome halloween cookies baked by a patient as part of her occupational therapy.

3) Scoring $1.65 tube socks at Target with which to make my super handy ice pack contraption for Friday.

4) Calls and emails from friends who just wanted to let me know they care.

5) Being employed in a field that, while stressful, constantly reminds me that I am blessed. Seriously, no matter how bad my day is, I always work with someone dealing with issues that make my problems look miniscule.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Being Thankful

Today's sermon was on letting go of worry.

Not that I would have had any reason to listen to that particular sermon..... ;)

According to our pastor, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder; anxiety disorders are the number one mental health concern in the country, surpassing substance abuse and depression. Even though we are now living longer, living better, and have more access to the 'benefits' of the world, the amount of anxiety in our culture has multiplied 10 times in the last forty years.

None of that is any surprise to me.

I have battled bouts of depression, anxiety, and OCD for the majority of my life. Luckily, these issues have only interfered with my life in minor ways. Except for when my stress and exhaustion levels are at extreme highs, I can normally mitigate the effects of these issues on my daily living.

But still, I suffer from anxiety. I worry, I over think, I let concern for things that have happened, are happening, or could happen consume my thoughts and detract from living in the moment.

During my vacation this week, I was given the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group at Universal. Not only that, we upgraded to the VIP package for less than what a normal ticket would have cost us (Thanks Jason-the-ticket-salesman). In the VIP lounge was an electronic sign with a scrolling commentary. Hilarious (particularly after consuming alcohol), but also thought provoking. Our favorite train of thought regarded living in the moment. Can you really be in the moment and simultaneously be aware that you are living in the present without concern for the future? As amusing as it was reading an electronic sign argue with itself about this fact, it struck a chord with me the entire the rest of  the trip. I struggle with being in the moment. I struggle with letting myself relax and enjoy my surroundings without immediately jumping to what is coming up.

Our pastor today spoke on worry and how it consume our lives. This is not to say that healthy concern is not beneficial. We get through life by planning ahead and focusing ourselves when need be. Rather, his argument was that when our focus shifts from productive planning to obsessive worry, we give ourselves over to the anxiety. He states "You will never get to worry-free living  by trying to change the circumstances of your life". Problems are always going to be there, rather it is how we handle our selves in that situation, and the power we give our emotions that will influence our emotional stability.

Worry comes from focusing on the problems, and letting a desire for control become crippling fear in our daily lives.

Interestingly enough (or at least I think so), I recently read in a book (When bad things happen to good people) a statement on how human beings are the only creature truly aware of our own mortality. The argument the author mentions, and I would expand upon, is that it is this awareness that makes us human, and gives us the opportunity to truly appreciate life. 

I sunk into a bout of depressed mood when I got back from vacation. After the high of those three days, feeling relaxed and free, truly enjoying myself, to come back to the humdrum of reality was stark and unforgiving. Life felt hollow and meaningless, and I was increasingly aware of how unhappy I am with my present circumstances. However, it is because of the direct contrast of vacation and reality that I can appreciate the fun that I had. If every day of my life was easy, free, and fun, without a care or worry, I would not have appreciated my time in Orlando the same way.

In the same way, it is in going through the struggles and pains of life that grants us the ability to appreciate when things are good. You can't understand hot without cold, light without dark, in the same way a life without pain is also a life without appreciation of pleasure.

It is the knowledge of our own mortality that gives us the ability to search for meaning elsewhere, and to fully embrace the love of God. Matt 6:26 states that we should not be worried about our daily lives, just as the birds of air and flower of the field are not concerned. I agree that we should not let stress about the every day trials take away from our ability to fulfill our purposes, but I would argue that the very mortality awareness that makes this concern a reality is also the very thing that allows us to commune with our creator. Birds do not worry about their next meals, because they are not aware that if they do not eat they will die. However, birds can also not appreciate the way God fulfills their needs and provides for their wants in the same way people can.

Human Consciousness is the key to humanity, and what simultaneously drives our need and offers proof of a spiritual eternity. I have to wonder if our need for immorality, through long life, legacy building, "making a difference", is truly just an indicator of our eternal souls' responses to being contained in a temporary confinement.

I tend towards the worrying side of the spectrum. I let myself think about all the things that could go wrong, and obsessively plan for how I would handle them if they were to pop up in my lives. I do think having a back up plan and being prepared is important, however I'm getting sick and tired of letting that fear dictate my life.  The pastor started the sermon by asking "what are you worried about?" and a list came flooding to my mind. I'm tired of that.

So I'm making a pact, with myself, to shift my focus. If the power of worry truly comes from letting our frustrations and concerns become the primary focus of our thoughts, than I am changing what I spend my time concentrating on. First off? Making a point to list the things I am thankful for. To allot more awareness for the blessings I have in life, and the positive things coming my way, than the things I am scared about.

It won't be easy, particularly as I go for my wisdom teeth removal in five days. But it's needed.

So here, for today, are the things that stick out in my mind for which I am grateful.:

1) My amazing family, particularly my parents, who have always loved and supported me. Who are constant presences in my life, and go out of their way to make sure I know I am not alone.

2) For friends, all over the globe at this point, who seek me out and save me from myself when I need it.

3) Florida Football, and the ability to enjoy watching a team grow and struggle, but come out triumphant.

4) That despite the trials and tribulations of my current situation, I have the resources and support to face everything that comes my way.

Thankfulness is the best way to combat worry, a far as I am concerned, and I intend to be deliberate in my discipline for as long as I am able.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New rules for sex and dating

I just wanted to take a moment and recommend that everyone, single or taken, straight or gay, christian or not, listen/watch this sermon series (4 parts):

The new rules for love sex and dating

Written by Andy Stanley, pastor at North Point Community Church (Georgia).

A refreshing and honest view of relationships and our responsibility, before, during and after dating/marriage.

Seriously, it's been life-altering for me. I think it needs to be mandatory viewing for all teenagers (and some adults), particularly those within the Church. Changing the way we view dating, commitment, and even relationships inside of marriage.

It all sums up in one simple question: "Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?"

Watch it. I promise.

** Side note- when I went to pick the labels for this post, I just started randomly clicking on past labels that fit (i.e. dating, God, love). Then I saw "lust" and had two simultaneous thoughts. 1) Wow, I guess that does really fit with this topic. and 2) When the heck have I written about lust?!?! Turns out I didn't. I wrote about trust. Still related perhaps. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Epiphany in the exam chair

****Side note: I began this post months ago. I'm not even going to state how long ago, because frankly, it's embarrassing. However, the story has such an interesting ending that I couldn't have even fathomed when I first started writing. My present life is facing some incredible challenges that I can't openly post about on here, but despite that I think it's finally time to share this story. It has truly impacted the way I am viewing and handling my current problems, and I hope someone else can take courage from it. That and my insomnia has hit. So goodbye sleep.****

First Posting
I have "God moments" in the weirdest places.

I promise to finish my thoughts started in the last post at some point; I can't be making false promises to my (one) reader (Hi Judy! ;)). However, God spoke to me in a life-affirming, faith-altering, goal-changing way today. I'm still processing it and I'm still attempting to come to terms with the convictions and changes I must make, but for now... here's my attempt to make sense of what happened.

I have said it before on here, and I will say it again. I don't have God moments all that often.  It's not as if I live my life with a consistent conviction that I am 'walking in his paths'. More often than not I agonize over every decision, trying to make sense of my choices, and discern God's will. Sometimes, in fact, I even forget to make God a part of my everyday life, let alone a priority. (Gasp, Shock, Horror... I know, I'm a heathen!).

But every so often, I get those nudges. Moments when I am certain, even for just a second, that I understand a small portion of God's plan.

God speaks to different people in different ways. For some it is through prayer. Some find God's word through the Bible. Others hear his voice through conversations with others or through nature. For me it is through books. Something about the written word communicates to me God's love better than any other medium. I've already discussed when God gave me clarity about my relationship trouble, and how I received comfort regarding disappointment through friends from a passage of The Shack. I shared how reading The Purpose Driven Life as a nightly devotion provided God with opportunities to give me clarity on daily struggles. And most importantly, I shared how my all-time favorite book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, was given to me by God at just the moment I needed it, and subsequently changed my entire perspective on life.

Ok on second thought, I do seem to have these moments on a semi-regular basis, however, they always occur when I am being intentional about seeking God's will. When I am so desperate for clarity and answers that I am devouring these inspirational books . My God moments spring up on me, always unexpected; the words on the page speak directly into my heart and for one moment I know that God is giving me the answers I am so desperately speaking.

My latest experience occurred at approximately 9:20 this morning as I sat in the lobby of the Nova Southeastern College of Dentistry awaiting my cavity restoration.

But I should backtrack. I apologize that this story will be lengthy, but the details are necessary to paint the picture. And hey. It's my blog. I can write what I want ;)

It's been years since I had gone to the dentist. I won't tell you how long, you'll judge. But growing up I never had cavities, even when we'd go long periods of time between visits. Given that we didn't have dental insurance until the end of my high school years, my parents didn't see the need to take us multiple times a year when our teeth were in great shape. I don't blame them, it did no harm, but I also have never had the discipline of regularly seeing my dentist the way I do my eye doctor and general physician. Then came college, grad school, internship, moving and starting my new job. It has only been in the last month when I finally began experiencing some pain in a back molar (and realizing I had great dental insurance) that I decided to put on my big girl panties, be a grown up, and get this situation sorted out.

I went to the dentist that my insurance assigned me, and suffice to say I left the office and cried in my car for about five minutes before I could drive home. Multiple cavities in every tooth, necessary braces, wisdom teeth extraction, multiple deep cleanings. I knew I didn't floss as often as I should, but given my perchance for brushing/rinsing twice a day like clockwork I was shocked to know I had let my teeth deteriorate so far.

I'll keep this brief, after praying to God in the parking lot and asking his guidance for how to pay for this ridiculous amount of dental restoration, I headed in to work and buried my feelings, too embarrassed to explain to anyone what had happened. However, I felt a nudge to confide in a co-worker, who quickly informed me that this same dentist had pulled a similar stunt on her. A second opinion revealed she had TWO cavities (not 15 as he told her) and her husband had zero (as opposed to seven). Why I felt the need to speak with her, I will never know, but I knew God was giving me clarity on the situation. I quickly called my insurance, got permission for a second opinion, and made an appointment with the dentist recommended by my friend (who also happened to be based out of the building on campus at my hospital).

My second dentist was amazing, and I highly recommend Town Care Dental for anyone in the Miami area looking for an honest, caring practice. They have many many sites, including some in the fort myers area, central florida, and all along the east coast of Florida, but I can only truly attest to the character of the locations in my area.

Regardless, my (new and current) dentist began recommending treatments to me other than expensive drilling. Nightly flouride treatments to fix the cavities that were barely forming. A mid-range cleaning instead of a deep cleaning (as I had no bone loss). The list went on, and I began to calm as I saw my teeth hypothetically healing in front of me (and my dental bill dropping!) It was later in the appointment, as my mouth trays for the flouride were being fitted, that she came in the room and said "I have an interesting proposition for you."

Long story short, it seems the new CEO of the practice was a dentist with 20+ years of experience who had just moved from California, and was thus required to take the entire certification exam/boards again. Part of these exams involved a practical hands on exam, where the candidate must actually restore the cavity on site. She informed me that my lesion was a perfect example and could be used for this exam. The experience would entail my attending the board exam, allowing him to fill the cavity (After waiting all day) and being paid $1000 in the process. Free cavity filling AND getting paid. I am so there.

Needless to say I took my dentist up on her offer, met the CEO, fell in love (so to speak) with his bed(chair?)-side manner, and agreed to go along with the experience. Fastforward a few weeks, and I found myself sitting in the front lobby of a dental school, waiting for my turn. Nervous of course, as I was about to get my first cavity filling, but excited beyond belief thinking about how this money was going to ease much of my financial burden. Excited that God had found a way to provide for my medical needs. But also with a lot of time to kill. Luckily, I had brought along reading material. Just two days earlier my copy of The Circle Maker (Mark Batterson's newest book) had arrived and something in me clearly knew to hold off reading it until that day. I opened and began to read.

Second Posting
**This is the part you will have to bear with me on, as many months later my copy of Circle Maker is in the possession of a friend who was also in need of a good pick me up/God moment**

Many parts of the book immediately began to resound with me. I read about the author and his experiences stepping back and giving God control. I learned about his friends and colleagues who had taken risks and put themselves out there, trusting God to provide. I began to feel a bit disconcerted. As I was reading a part of me commended my steadfast dedication to tithing (10% pre-tax every single paycheck), and my trust in God's financial savvyness.  

But a small voice began to whisper "but do you really give until it hurts? Do you really trust God to provide? Aren't you always giving... but not to the point that you are forced to rely on him to meet your needs"

I brushed the thought aside and kept reading, clearly God was using this very lucrative experience to come to my aid in a time of need. As I read, I came across a passage where the author comments on a time that he and his wife felt God very clearly tell them to give a certain amount of money away, although at the time they were unsure how that would be financially possible. Still they trusted.

"Maybe I'm supposed to give some of this $1000 away"

I brushed the thought aside as quickly as it came, but it returned again, like one of those really obnoxious gnats on a hot day. (You know what I mean. No? Must be a Florida thing).

"Ok God, I'll give some of it away. $100, that's tithing" Feeling really proud of myself at the moment for being so generous, but the thought continued "ok maybe $300, that's a third of it. I'm sure there's someone else who could use that money and that still leaves me with $700. It's a step above just a basic tithe and definitely shows my trust level. You know, maybe God's calling me to give it all away... oh Crap"

For the record, once those thoughts pop into your head, you are screwed. I knew right there and then in that moment that I would always feel guilty if I were too keep the money for myself. I really had no choice BUT to give it away if I wanted some sanity.

But still.I tried to push the thought aside. And kept reading.

And read about how God isn't there for our comfort. He wants us to trust. Started feeling even more guilty as I realized that this $1000, which had at first seemed like God providing for me, was really me taking control of my life into my own hands. Feeling comfortable that I could pay my mounting dental and vision bills without stressing. Getting the sense that God was convicting me of my need to truly trust him

And then God rocked my world.

I have said , over and over and over, that the Lion Book is special. I truly believe that it has a knack for finding people when they most need it. Seriously. The book drops into people's laps at the precise moment that they need to hear those words. Friends laugh when I say these thoughts, although they don't argue. But turns out, I was right.

In Circle Maker (forgive the paraphrase), Batterson gives examples of using prayer circles for his first baby, the Lion Book. He talks about the circles of prayer he and his team prayed around that book. Asking God to give it to people when they need it most. That it would find the ones intended to read it, at the exact moment they were supposed to read.

I broke down into tears. (Oddly no one in the room was concerned. Then again. It was a dental exam).  I knew, without a doubt, that God was speaking to me in that moment.

I felt confirmed. That my Lion Book experiences were real. And I felt empowered. In that moment, as fear for how I was going to pay my bills began to flood in as I truly considered giving away this seemingly perfect gift, I felt God speak to me.

"Don't you trust that I can find a way to get you through? There is someone else who needs that money. Someone else who does not have the opportunity that you do, and I put you here to get that money for them. Follow through on this for me, put yourself into my hands, and see what I can do."

A name also popped into my head, which I will keep anonymous here. But an acquaintance, whom I knew was suffering more than I. I also knew exactly how to get the money to this person without them knowing the source. Something about that fact made me excited; knowing that I was not getting any glory for this, that God was going to use me to answer someone else's prayers.

So I gave the $1000 away. I cut my losses, thanked God for the gift of a free cavity filling, told a few select friends about the experience, and felt stronger for it. I filed the whole encounter away in my 'crazy God moments box' and figured we were done.

I was wrong.

Almost two months after this experience I was driving to a coffee shop when I got a call from my dad. We were catching up on various things and then he stated "I have something to tell you."

Apparently 25 years ago a good friend started a college fund for myself (and any future kids my parents might have). Due to some issues with paperwork when my parents moved, the government assumed that the account was supposed to be closed and sent my parents a check. My dad informed me that $3000 had been deposited into my bank account that afternoon.

I nearly ran a red light I was so overwhelmed.

And God laughed. Not in derision, but in joy. In amusement at what was surely a hilarious expression on my face. In pride, of how incredibly intricate his plan became. And in love, I'm sure, for being able to show me his power and care in a way that truly taught me a valuable lesson.

Like I said. I have God moments in the weirdest places.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”~ Ann Landers

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God Hates the Gays: The church, homosexuality, and problems with the modern religion. (Part Two)

In the wake of both the UMC's upholding of homosexuality as 'inconsistent' with biblical teachings, and the passing of Amendment 1 in North Carolina today, I guess it's time to continue with this post. I've been putting it off, waiting until inspiration hit, but despite a lack of clarity on what this content should be, I know the time to write is now.

These historical decisions have certainly inspired the ire of a great number of individuals on either side. Even for someone like myself who tries to stay away from engaging in political/religious debate on the internet, it has been difficult not to correct false assumptions, or respond to what I judge as inaccuracies.

I stated in my last post that my struggle with this issue is the absence of love and acceptance. We say that God loves us, warts and all, yet we are unwilling to extend that devotion to those whose lifestyles we deem 'incompatible' with our beliefs.

But where do our beliefs come from? Most would cite a religious text (the Bible for Christiantiy, the Bhagavad Gita for Hinduism, Qu'ran for Islam). I would argue these writings are certainly the foundation for our doctrines, yet is man's interpretation of those words that builds a religious movement.

There was a time in our nation's history when religious men used the Bible to justify the enslavement of 'colored individuals'. There have been times when religious institutions used the Bible to justify the mass murders of other civilizations. Religious movements have used their texts to justify terrorism, genocides, the suppression of women and more. As culture changes, as history evolves, it is always important to study our various texts and understand them within the society for which they were originally intended.

Despite my frustration with the Methodist church, I must say that I do greatly admire our willingness to consider these controversial issues. To recognize that as the world changes, we must change with it to stay relevant. I may not always agree with the decisions, but meeting people where they are is the first step to spreading God's love in the world.

You'll notice I always refer to God and not Jesus.

Do not get me wrong, I am not refuting the divinity of Christ, or the validity of his sacrifice. For me, however, I have always responded better to the 'father' aspect of God. The creator, the overseer, the ethereal personage. I am going to simplify a thought that I promise is much more complex and contemplated then it will appear here: God sent Jesus in an attempt to show us how much he loved us. To allow us to get past our own guilt and self-deprecation and realize that in our extreme depravity, he still loves and CAN save us, redeeming us for eternal life with him. But, in the greater scheme of things, my God is big and powerful enough to reach his people in other ways as well. He was doing it thousands and thousands of years before Christ, and I believe he can continue to do it now. I follow Christianity because it was the culture in which I was raised; the method with which I was taught to commune with my creator, but I have always felt spiritually and intellectually stymied by the teaching that other religions have no validity.

If you have not read Rob Bell's book Love Wins I highly suggest you read it. Regardless if you are a conservative Christian who is content in your beliefs of heaven and hell, a skeptic, an atheist, a Muslim, or just an intrigued scholar, this highly controversial book will force you to examine your own convictions. It may not change your faith, in fact it may cement it one way or another, but I truly believe that a faith that is not consistently questioned, challenged and expanded is dead. If you are truly confident in your belief system, then re-examining those beliefs in light of new evidence should not be threatening. If your faith does not grow and mature with you, it is not serving you to its fullest.


I quote Rob Bell:
As Jesus says in John 10, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen." This should not surprise us. The gospel, Paul writes in his letter to he Colossians, "has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven" (chap. 1). Every. Creature. Under. Heaven./ As wide as creation. Including everybody. The whole world. This is crucial for how we understand the current state of world religions, with its staggering number of religions themselves, let alone the multitudes of splinter groups and subgroups and denominations and factions and varied interpretations. Religions should not surprise us. We crave meaning and order and explanation. We're desperate for connection with something greater than ourselves. This is not new. This has not caught Jesus off guard. Jesus insisted in the midst of this massive array of belief and practice that God was doing something new in human history, something through him, something that involved everybody. John remembers Jesus saying "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me (chap 14)".... What he doesn't say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn't even state that those coming to the Father through  him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him, He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him."   (Rob Bell, Love Wins, pg 152-154).

The Writers of the scriptures consistently affirm that we're all part of the same family. What we have in common- regardless of our tribe, language, customs, beliefs, or religion- outweighs our differences. This is why God wants "all people to be saved". History is about the kind of love a parent has for a child, the kind of love that pursues, searches, creates, connects, and bonds. The kind of love that moves toward, embraces, and always works to be reconciled with, regardless of the cost. " (Love Wins, pg 99)

So where am I going with this? I think that we (all people, regardless of faith) get so wrapped up in dictating how what we believe impacts our lives (and the lives of others) that we stop focusing on what it is that we actually do believe.

Case in point, I don't often tell people my dad is a minister.

Not because I find it embarrassing. Not because I am ashamed. But because the reaction is always the same: "Oh wow, Im going to have to watch what I say around you!"

The automatic reaction is to assume that I will judge.

It's sad. Incredibly heartbreaking that as a whole Christianity is known for what it is against instead of what it is for.

Sad that the world first associates us with our hatred of sinners, gays, adulterers, and abortion, rather than the love of God.

Because isn't that what God is about? Paul states that the 'Gospel' has been meant for everyone. Gospel translates simply to 'good news'. And what is that good news? That God loves us. That he loves us so much he was willing to do whatever it took to demonstrate it. I'm going to tread on some toes here, but in my mind, Christ's death alone is NOT the good news. The best, most awesome, most inspiring news, is that God loves us. He desires us. He pursues us. Our lives are purposeful. We are not accidents. In a world of failures, disappointments, and seemingly meaningless happenings.... there is a plan. And it is orchestrated by a being that loves us within the depths of his (or her) core.

It doesn't get much better than that.

And yet we get sidetracked.

We are humans, beings that desire order and control. We are frightened of being overwhelmed, of being out of the loop. We do not function without a plan. And we do not cope well with the abstract. So we take God and we put in him into a box that we can fathom.

Im not disputing the need for this. Anyone who has had a "mountaintop" experience, as it is often referred to, can attest that to be fully in the presence of God and immersed in his full wonder is overwhelming and exhausting. In this human form we are not built to survive a continual relationship of this magnitude.

So we condense the wonder into smaller bite sized chunks for daily consumption.

The problem comes when we start believing that the watered down, abridged, Cliff notes version of God is as much as there is to our creator.

When we start limiting God.

I don't begin to suggest that I have it completely right. That I have some grand knowledge that overshadows any one else's truth. That's the great thing about truth, especially religious truth, it caters to each of our needs. God can be whatever, whoever, wherever, whenever we need.

But I do think it's time that we start letting go of the tight hold we have on God's leash and start letting him run the show again.

God is love. He loves all his children, even the ones who don't love him back. Maybe if we start sharing that news, demonstrating his love, living out the gospel, we can start reaching those we have alienated and hurt.

Maybe we can bring our world back into harmony. Maybe we can give people a reason why they need God.

Because I'm going to clue you in on a secret.

Telling people they are unworthy, sinners, and going to hell isn't going to convince them of anything.

Living a life of purpose and love that stands in direct contrast to the misery and pain of the world around us will.

Maybe we will stop passing homophobic amendments that limit and hurt the rights of heterosexuals just as much the LGBT community just because we are scared.

Maybe we will stop building walls between our churches/synagogues/mosques and the people who need the love the most.

Maybe we will start actively reaching out a hand to those around us, without first assessing the state of their personal lives.

Maybe we can make a difference.

Maybe, God can save the day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

God Hates the Gays: The church, homosexuality, and problems with the modern religion. (Part One)

Disclaimer: I debated long and hard about writing this post. I tend to keep my mouth shut on many 'social' religious issues, because no matter what I say I'm going to make someone mad. Conservatives Christians: because I'm too liberal and don't give the Bible enough credit. Non religious folks : because I give the Bible ANY credit. English and Philosophy Majors: because my arguments always have holes (and grammatical errors) in them. But this post wouldn't leave me alone. I have to write it. I'm going to say up front: you don't have to agree with me. In fact, you are welcome to think I am wrong. HOWEVER, if you DO think I'm an idiot, please refrain from trying to convert or change my mind, from belittling me, and from judging my character based on a hurridly written blog post.


In case you are unaware, the 2012 United Methodist General Conference is meeting in Tampa Florida this week. For those of you who do not have an entire section of your brain burdened blessed with a complex knowledge of the innerworkings of the Methodist Church here is a brief breakdown:

The local church is overseen by an appointed pastor who is assigned to his charge one year at a time.  All of the churches (and ministries such as campus ministry) in a regional area are grouped together as a "district" and overseen by a district superintendent.  The districts of a larger area (typically as a whole state, or part of a state) are grouped into finite conferences. For instance, the majority of Florida serves as the "Florida Conference"; however some smaller states may be grouped together, while other states (such as North Carolina) are broken up into two conferences. Each conference is primarily sovereign and overseen by a "Bishop". These conferences each hold annual meetings to discuss pertinent issues, assign pastors to new charges, work on overseas ministries, etc. 

The Methodist church as a whole is encompassed in the greater United Methodist Church Every four years each conference elects delegates to attend the General Conference. The Methodist Church is governed by the Book of Discipline although each conference has it's own set of rules that coordinate with the BOD . Every four years at General Conference different conferences can petition for changes in the BOD. The attending delegates discuss, debate, and ultimately vote on how to address these changes. Sometimes they are dismissed, sometimes the BOD is actually rewritten. This is how the church adapts to meet the needs of its people in modern times.

Wow long winded.

Tomorrow marks the conference vote on the Methodist Church's stance on homosexuality. I won't get into all the details, but this has been a long debated topic in our church... in every church. (and yes despite my personal issues with organized religion, and my current affiliation with a presbyterian church, I apparently DO consider myself a Methodist). Essentially, several conferences are petitioning to remove condemnation in our book of discipline to reflect the conflicted nature of the church, and to readdress the current ban on ordination for non-celibate gay ministers (and ban on performing same-sex marriages). 

It's an interesting topic, and one I've avoided coming out (hah pun intended!) officially as either pro or con on.


I grew up in a Christian Community. A very open, loving, and welcoming community, but one with fairly conservative values. I was taught (by my family, my church, my teachers), that homosexuality itself is wrong, but that we should still love everyone. "Hate the sin, Love the sinner" mentality.

It's a great mentality to have, it truly is great. None of us are perfect; we all have flaws. If we are going to ostracize a group of individuals by one choice they make, to define them entirely by a single flaw, then we have to turn that thought process on ourselves. We all make mistakes. We all have behaviors we continue to engage in even though we may know they are wrong. My problem with this thought though is that more and more as I aged I began to question the designation of "sin".

Why is homosexuality such a problem? Why are we so quick to chastise people for these behaviors.

An individual posted this article on the conference webpage and I found it highly intriguing. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I hope you will. NOT because I am trying to change people's minds or force my agenda, but because I believe the only way we can truly know our mind on a topic is to study all sides of the discussion. If you read this article and find issues with the logic and thought process, ok. I just hope you will keep an open mind.

But back to my question. Why do we take the topic so personally?! How does the behaviors of an individual in the bedroom with another consenting adult affect us. Why do we get so defensive about promoting our own beliefs on the topic (either way)?

Another pastor's daughter... who kissed a girl and liked it? ;)

In my experience (25 years as the daughter of an ordained (and soon to be Ph.D) clergy member), people take their faith very seriously. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, the concept of religion provides a significant foundation for a person's identity. Even those who dismiss belief in God are defined by THAT fact; I've met many an atheist who has become very angry and defensive when someone talks to them about God.

God (or lack there of ) defines us. Perhaps my next blog topic will be a discussion on my personal theories regarding organized religion, and the need to apply concrete rules and thoughts to an abstract and intangible topic. But regardless, criticizing an individual's faith is to demean that person's entire being. Unfortunately, many of these social topics have become heavily influenced by religious (or secular) thought. When the beliefs that abortion is wrong, homosexuals are going to hell, and birth control is immoral become entwined in one's concept of God, suddenly the private life of another DOES become personal.

So where am I going with all of this?

People take their religious beliefs seriously. With the upcoming vote on the Methodist Church's stance I have seen the best and worst in my fellow Christians. My thought process keeps coming back to this one thought:

Why is our purpose so focused on telling people what they are doing wrong with their lives instead of sharing with them the love of Christ?!

We have become so intent on spelling out all of the reasons people won't go to heaven instead of telling them the reason that they can!! What is wrong with this picture? How can we possibly look at a person and condemn them to an eternity of misery and pain based off one lifestyle choice. I certainly hope God is not so blindsighted when he looks at me to focus in on my perchance for gossiping, or my temper, or my condescending attitude, and think "wow... this girl so does not deserve heaven."

Because I don't. And neither do you. None of us DESERVE anything. We are given it because God is love. It is about his love for us, THAT is the message of the gospel. In my opinion, this obsession with homosexuality, with abortion, with ANY social issue, is just masking our true purpose. God didn't come to condemn. He came to save. (John 3:17).


I am going to stop this post here, as my brain is slowly turning to mush after a very, very long day. Rest assured, there will be a part two, and maybe three; continuation of this thought as I hammer out my own personal beliefs. In my experience, God won't let me rest until I've given this topic its due focus. However, I'd like to end with an excerpt from an email (and fb posting) to a friend who had messaged me, quite concerned about my beliefs on homosexuality:

But in essence, I have to ask... why does it concern you what they desire? If their homosexual beliefs are distressing to them, something they wish to shed, then absolutely seek treatment! I would say the same to any heterosexual struggling with their sexuality and expressions there of. However, for someone in a committed, happy, monogomous relaitonship with a person of the same sex? Why does it matter to you? How does it have any impact on YOUR life? Because you don't think God can save them? We all sin. All of us. Every single day. I believe God doesn't care so much about the issues we make to be such a big deal as we do. In my experience, God wants us to be fulfilled, and content, in a life with relationship through him. Unfortunately modern organized religion, and our well-meaning, but often misguided, attempts to change people to make their lives more "moral" push people away. People equate God relationships with Chrisitanity and because they can't 'buy' into the doctrine that we pound into their heads, they assume that means there is no room for spirituality in their lives.

My point in posting was to present an interesting take on a very controversial issue, and to remind people that our two greatest commandments are to love God and to love each other. I personally think we spend too much time trying to understand the rules and regulations and teaching others how to behave (or how not to behave) and WAY too little time on sharing God's great love. THAT is the message of the gospel. That despite (all of) our sins and mistakes, God still cherishes us and was willing to do whatever it took to prove it. After we've got that part straight... THEN we can take the time to figure the rest of it out. You don't have to agree with it, but all I have to say is regardless of whether or not you believe homosexuality is wrong, God calls us to love ALL his children. Not just the ones we like; not just the ones who believe the same things we believe. None of us are perfect, and it's time the church (universally, across denominations) starts sharing that love instead of using it condemn and belittle each other. John 3:17.