Midwest Culture Shock

Hello and happppy weekend!!! This trip back to Ohio for a wedding was absolutely perfect. It was a fantastic reminder of why the Midwest is so great, and but wowzers mctrowzers sooo different… we haven’t been back in the summer since we moved and we had a definite culture shock returning. (Also I should clarify – this is a small town in OH, the culture shock would probably be less in a big city like Cincy or Columbus). I thought it would be fun to record some of those observations since what used to be our norm is now foreign to us! I actually made a post when we first moved to California highlighting the CA culture shock I initially experienced. It shows how quickly your perspective of “normal” can be shaped by your environment. I should also add this probably could also apply going from many urban to rural areas and does not cover all of CA nor all of Ohio. I will be working on my recap this weekend, but for now I’ll just leave this list of shockers here. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts!

  1. Driving in the left hand lane as a single driver. In CA, we have to drive in only the right lanes if you are alone in the car, the left is for carpool lanes strictly.
  2. As soon as we were on the road with our rental car, we were asking, “where is everyone?!”. The lack of traffic on the road made us wonder for a second if there was some sort of natural disaster. I miss those open roads!
  3. Food prices. Food is insanely cheap comparatively. I think DJ and I have just gotten used to the exorbitant prices to eat out and it was refreshing to see a more forgiving bill.
  4. Hearing people talk about fishing, barbecues, and buying a home. Buying homes out here is, well, just not an option. Hearing people my age discussing buying homes was mind boggling.
  5. Along with the lack of traffic, there is the lack of food options. (But it doesn’t mean there isn’t great food- as you will see!). While I was there, the same place was suggested to eat for dinner three separate times, and the same breakfast place two separate times by all different people. LOL! That would never happen here considering the multitudinous options.
  6. Less Diversity. Something I loved when we moved out here was just the melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. We are definitely the minority where we live, so going back and being in the majority was a bit strange too!
  7. Seeing people you know at the grocery store… and the local coffee shop.. and the bank… and everywhere. It’s a small town, and you inevitably at least recognize someone everywhere you go!
  8. We aren’t considered “young” for being married. Most of my friends are married, engaged (or on their way to being engaged), and popping out kiddos. In CA, most people don’t get married until late late 20s, early 30s (if that), and we are certainly an anomaly.
  9. There is not a Starbucks (OR PEETS) every half a mile, so plan your coffee trips accordingly 😉
  10. There are certainly way more trucks than Teslas. DJ’s truck is considered a commercial vehicle here, hah!
  11. People eat dinner so early! We have adopted more of a 7/7:30 pm schedule for eating in the West, but most in the midwest schedule dinner for 5:30/6 pm.
  12. Thunderstorms are intense. I forgot how scary it can be driving in a torrential downpour. I do not miss driving in that rain, but I do miss the storms!
  13. The pace. There was something so beautiful, refreshing, and perspective forming about the slow pace and emphasis on what matters most in life- family, friends, faith and making memories. In Northern CA sometimes it feels like everyone is just rushing, always in a hurry to get somewhere and do something (but in reality everyone’s just sitting in traffic). There is a bit more of a concern and emphasis on occupation and education here too. Those things still matter in the midwest obviously, but it just seems that those priorities are different. It was a nice reminder for me, and maybe it all goes back to the slower pace. <3 (**also not saying this applies to everyone in NorCal, but just my observation**).
  14. Everyone is so friendly & strangers actually talk to one another.
  15. PLASTIC BAGS FROM THE GROCERY STORE. And without paying 10 cents?! Woah. woah. woah.
  16. Space! There is so. much. space. And grass!
  17. Country music plays everywhere. LOVE IT.
  18. Fashion is different here than in the midwest. Midwest fashion is brighter, more floral, and relaxed. In NorCal, fashion is more monotone dark colors, sleek, and form fitting. Denim is worn on the bottom in the midwest, and as a jean jacket in the Bay.

I could probably go on. Both places are two entirely separate worlds. They each have pros and cons, and I wouldn’t trade living in CA for the stage we are currently in. But it was a great reminder that no doubt, OH will always be my home, and I’ll always be a midwest girl at heart.  <3

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xo <3

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Nursing: Tribulation & Triumph.

Hey guys- This is another journal-like entry as I reflect on this past year. I don’t want to forget these pivotal moments, but to my loyal readers- do not feel obligated at all to read this one. It’s quite long! 

Do you ever have too many thoughts swirling around in your mind that the idea of trying to articulate them is intimidating? I’ve been putting off this post simply because I do not know where to begin. But something I have learned through writing these last couple years is “just write it”. It’s like if Nike modified their slogan to fit not physical athletes but those who win essay competitions, those who fuel up on coffee rather than Gatorade, and who suffer from carpal tunnel injuries rather than sprained ankles. Writers are athletes in their own right (or in their own write). Oops- now, this is the problem with just write it… it can get you far, but maybe not in the right direction.

Allow me to redirect this metaphorical train back to the topic at hand.

I  have not mentioned yet in my documented nursing rhetoric around here that in order to pursue a doctorate full time, I cannot continue to work full time simultaneously. I will be traveling cross country a few times a semester, potentially driving for hours to and from clinical assignments, and then studying hours on end. After extensive conversations with my husband we agreed it would be rational to begin the program without the full-time commitment, then potentially reapplying for part time or per diem positions once I feel out the flow of the program. I turned in my notice about a month ago. My managers could not have been more supportive. As I began telling each of my coworkers individually the realization started to set in …

You all know this job (although job seems such an inappropriate word), this calling that began on March 20th 2017 has been an obstacle, or rather a series of obstacles, tribulations, and triumphs. It has been the most strenuous, yet the most rewarding venture I have ever embarked. It has pulled my heart strings in nearly every direction that at times I thought it would tear. It pushed me to such utter fatigue that I felt that I didn’t have energy to speak at times. It shoved my emotional boundaries where I often wondered how my body could possibly produce another tear. It forced me to grapple with the most profound questions of life and come face to face with with the most integral parts of humanity- and to recognize the best and at times the darkest parts of myself. It brought to light the robustness of the human spirit- it showed me what true strength looks like as I walked along my patients, warriors, who fought tooth and nail for another day.

As the last day of work approached, this past Friday June 1st, I was overcome with reflection and contemplation. I didn’t realize it was possible to grow this exponentially in one year. I think back to my first days where I knew next to nothing. For about the first three months, I felt like I was given an insurmountable to-do list. I was given a  group of HIPAA names at the beginning of each shift that represented human beings that I was responsible to keep alive and I didn’t know how. If I made one wrong move, this person would lose his or her life because of me. The one phrase that resonated with me was, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. But what do you do when you “don’t know what you don’t know” involves peoples’ lives in the scales? The “don’t know” can be the difference between another day and the grave. Is there anything more terrifying? Every time I woke up to go to work I knew I would potentially be facing the next worse day of my life. This sounds melodramatic, but it’s the bleak truth- during this time I would often quietly hope that I would get in a car accident on the way to work so I wouldn’t have to go in (I know how awful that is- and I sought the proper help when those types of thoughts started creeping up). I don’t want to admit that, but it’s part of this story and it’s the cringe-worthy truth. I was depressed, and I was desperate, and I was failing. I was not going to make it through.

Then a note came around month four. We have these cards patients can fill out before they leave the hospital to thank someone who cared for them. I received a note from a patient thanking me for talking with her about some tough things she was going through outside of being sick and how much that conversation meant. When I received this note, it changed everything for me. To see I could have that type of impact changed my perspective and renewed my passion. It gave me a fire and strength to continue on. Then the next note came, then the next, then the next. I started to feel that I was actually making a difference, and nothing is more fulfilling than that.

And it was a two-way street. I reflect often on these patients that, conversely, impacted my life, and made every day, as hard as they were, so worth it. The past couple weeks these memories and interactions have flashed in front of my mind. There was the paraplegic man that was rotated among nurses because he was an “ extra difficult assignment”. When it was my turn for him, my heart just broke- he was not in good shape and, you know, I’d probably be cranky too. After a morning filled with a long string of complaints, aggravation, cruel words, and a ceaseless scream for “NURSE” that echoed into the halls, I had a moment of conviction. God was pulling on my heart strings to offer to pray for him. But God.. He won’t let me… it’ll make him more upset that I even offered… I still have to be his nurse for seven more hours… But ultimately the conviction won over. Through a single exhale I asked if I could pray for him. He looked thoroughly stunned, but quickly mumbled that would be ok. I prayed over him, and he was quiet for a moment. He thanked me and for the first time that shift, he asked me my name and didn’t just call me “nurse”. We had a great rest of a shift together. He asked if I would be back the next day. I wouldn’t be, but I was sad I couldn’t be back with him for a second day in a row.

Another patient was an older adult who was there for a spine surgery related to cancer. He was having a challenging recovery, but by the third day we had together we were able to get him up and walking. I rarely ever had time to walk with my patients, but this day I was able to squeeze one in with him, it was special. He was thrilled to be out of bed, walking about, and proud of his progress. At one point as he whipped around a corner with his IV pole I even had to pull out one of my go-to cheesy nurse jokes, “You better slow down, or you’ll get a speeding ticket!”. But soon, the nausea caught up, and I sat with him as he threw up. I loaded up his IV with anti-nausea meds and pressed a cold washcloth to his head to help him get it under control. He was so disappointed in himself, but I was not about to let him forget his tremendous progress. He was a rockstar in my book. That goodbye was a challenge because I knew he would be discharged by the time I returned. Upon saying goodbye he said to me, “I will never forget you for as many years I have left”. I will never forget him either, for as many years I have left.

There was the stroke patient who was engaged at the time of his stroke, he was trached, peg’d, unable to speak, and it was unclear how he would recover- if at all. He was one of my most trying patients from an acuity perspective and from an emotional perspective. I at times was at a loss for words with how to communicate with the family. After caring for him for three shifts in a row, I was on my day off, running outside. The whole situation suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. Out of nowhere I stopped, I couldn’t breathe- and suddenly I just sobbed in the middle of the sidewalk. It’s not fair, I thought to myself. But for the first time I realized my tears were not from anxiety, they were from deeply grieving for my patient and his family. He wasn’t in my rotation of patients for a couple weeks, but one time I passed him when he was sitting in the hallway. He no longer had his trach and looked so much better, he was awake and seemed aware. I walked by and said hello and he spoke back in full sentences. For the first time, I saw a drastic recovery like this, and thought, I love my job.

Perhaps one of my most difficult assignments was when I was floated to another unit. I was assigned a man with a terminal illness who was showing signs of quick and acute decompensation. He was not yet comfort care, but I didn’t think he looked as though he was going to make it through the night. After consulting with the doctor, she was able to get consent from the family to convert him to comfort care– meaning we do everything possible to make him comfortable without continuing life saving treatment. His family was clearly in denial- which is extremely common. It can be confusing when we were just drawing labs, taking blood pressures, and giving fluids, and now all the monitors are turned off. He was slipping in and out of consciousness, and I told his wife if they had any family they should call them right away. I think it finally hit her, and the begging, the pleading, the crying, the look in her eye- is something I will never forget. I gathered with the family and we prayed over him and did whatever we could to make him more comfortable. It was 4:30 pm, and my float nurse insisted I take a lunch. We are required in California to go off the clock for thirty minutes, but the whole time I just mechanically ate like a robot- tasting nothing at all, only eager to return to the bedside. I thought my patient was going to pass on my shift, but he waited until later in the evening to go peacefully. During that shift and when I was home, I reflected on repeat what one of my clinical instructors said to me, “It’s a blessing to be there when someone comes into the world, but God hand picks those who are there as someone leaves it”. What a great responsibility it is to be a nurse.

I could list these stories, these actual realities for many, for pages and pages. Countless individuals have changed me as a person in a single year. I do not view life the way I did only a year ago. My outlook and priorities have changed. The job itself is relentless and hard, but I would not have made it through without my patients, their hugs, their encouragment, their humor, and inspiration to find a strength that pales in comparison to their own.

Working in this call, despite the pain and challenges, despite how the beginning was marked by an overwhelming cloud of anxiety, I have been filled predominantly with gratitude and appreciation. I would have conversations with God on the way to and from work, asking why he would entrust me with such amazing individuals’ lives, how do I have the honor to call myself a nurse? How did I end up at a teaching hospital where I was getting the best education and learning? How did I get blessed with such an unwavering support system to make it through? More than anything this experience made me appreciate the most basic elements of life.

I remember on a particularly tumultuous day, I stood in the supply closet forcing back tears and just found myself thanking God for the ability to breathe on my own, to pee on my own, to walk on my own, to speak on my own.

I have had to enforce fluid restrictions for patients with critically low sodium levels, and the way they would beg for just a sip of water….it was one of the most awful orders I had to carry out- I couldn’t give this water to them because they could die. It even made me appreciate drinking water at my leisure.

Working in the field of neurosurgery with my neurosurgical patients has been the most awakening, perspective changing and humbling experience. Each day is a gift, each moment, each breath is a gift.

Day by day, I slowly found my confidence in being a nurse. It didn’t mean it became easy, far from, but there was an empowerment I experienced with more competence. I felt more pride, ownership, and reward as I navigated the scary medical waters. I found I could advocate for my patients, communicate with them better, answer more questions, and confidently provide the best possible care without questioning every single thing I did. I found myself multi-tasking in a way I never realized I would be able to. Skills that would scare the code brown out of me at the beginning, I was able to do much more at ease. I was advanced to a Clinical Nurse II by my six month mark. I didn’t feel entirely deserving of the advancement in title, but was determined to do my best to live up to it.

Each day was still immensely intimidating, but around month eight I found myself able to separate home and work, having less anxiety, and experiencing more rewarding shifts. On Christmas Eve, I walked in to do a neuro assessment on a patient who had a marked change. I recognized something wasn’t right with her strength in her legs as it had been the previous assessment. I let the MD know, and as soon as the order was in I rushed her up to an MRI and CT scan…the resident came running into the CT room, out of breath, with a  surgical consent form in hand explaining she had an spinal epidural hematoma and needed emergent surgery. We got her into the OR right away. For the first time I think I saw how clearly I had saved someone’s ability to walk, potentially her life in a moment. As I was silently basking in this save while back on the unit changing another patients’ wound dressings, my phone rang. The secretary was on the other end, “Uh.. hey.. your patient fell in 9A”. “WHAT! Fell?!”. I couldn’t believe my ears. I can’t seriously have my first patient fall today I thought. On one of my best days as a nurse, I also had one of my worst. Tis’ nursing. The next day, Christmas, I received back the patient from with the epidural hematoma after a night in the ICU. She was moving her legs about and had no complications. It was one of the greatest Christmas presents I could have received. We sat and watched parts of a hallmark movie together as I pushed antibiotics through her IV, and I remember thinking, These holiday shifts aren’t so bad.

Come springtime, I was voted employee of the month, which I thought was a typo in the staff email or surely there was another person with my name on our unit because it couldn’t be me?! March I was our class representative at our Residency program graduation and gave the class speech. And this is not at all to brag or say I did anything special- I say this to highlight the fact that I was perhaps the most inadequate for this job, but my patients, family, friends, coworkers, and God’s providence pulled me through. With Him all things are possible, it is true, because this was an impossible obstacle in my mind.

Then my last day came… I felt so much love from my coworkers in a way I never expected. They even threw a surprise potluck complete with a sheet cake from Costco (the best, right?). It touched me deeply, and I will miss every single one of them. We have been through the thick of it together. I gave my last shift report and in true nursing shift fashion one patient reported chest pain, the other went into a state of delirium, and the other suddenly couldn’t pee. I tried to help tie up the last few loose ends best I could, but recognized I had to entrust my last few patients (for now) into the next, exceptionally competent nurses’ hands.

As I left the floor I had a moment, where after all the chaos quieted I was alone in the break room. I was about to leave, my hand turning the doorknob after cleaning out my locker, but I stopped, turned around for a moment and took in the view of the room one last time- this room had seen so many tears, fears, and victories. With a bittersweet sigh, I turned back around and walked out the door for the last time, leaving a job but taking an intangible amount of learning, stories, and faces with me.

I washed my scrubs for the last time today and as they tumbled in the laundry machine, I received an e-mail about class scheduling for school. I don’t know how I arrived to this place, but I am thankful. My heart is saturated with gratitude. I am humbled and honored to have had this experience. My patients have no idea the effect they have had on me- and they are my motivation to be the best darn NP I can be, to be the best person I can be. I realize now the most grueling of times are vehicles for the most tremendous growth. I have learned sometimes there is not a clear line between ugly darkness and beautiful light, but often they dance together contrasting one another in a profound way.  I understand that God will not give us more than we can bear, but he will often give us more than we think we can bear. He is faithful and will carry us through.

15 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Grad Nurse

One year ago, I began as a baby nurse, every fiber of my being laden with trepidation and excitement. I pulled up my compression socks, laced up my promisingly supportive Brooke’s ghost shoes and stepped foot into the hardest year of my life. I didn’t think anything could be more challenging than nursing school, and I was in for a rude awakening. Everyone says the first year of nursing is the most challenging, but it’s hard to grasp until you are in the throws of the anxiety, incompetence, and fear that plague your every day. There are a few things I wish I had known or someone had told me before I began this year, and maybe, just maybe, this can help some new grad nurse out there on this emotional, wild, and spectacular rollercoaster.

  1. You will make mistakes. For some reason, I didn’t realize that as a new grad nurse, you make mistakes. No one ever said point-blank, buckle up, you’re gonna screw up…. a lot. Maybe people don’t talk about it because we have people’s lives in our hands, and we should strive for perfection. This is true, but I think it would have saved me much of the intense self- badgering if I realized mistakes were inevitable. Don’t get me wrong– always triple check your meds, doctors orders, operate in professionalism, always do your absolute best….. but every little mistake from having an overdue med due to mismanaged time (IT WILL HAPPEN) to forgetting to unclamp your piggyback antibiotic (everyone has done it) to not charting something correctly is an opportunity. Never try to cover it up, make sure your patient is safe first and foremost, and then… learn. Trust me.. you won’t make that mistake again. Do not beat yourself up. Repeat after me… Mistakes= Lessons, Lessons= Growth. You need the mistakes to grow, and each mistake is molding you into a strong, robust, competent nurse. The mistakes will become fewer and farther between, but they never will entirely cease. Neither will the lessons, and neither will the growth.
  2. You will experience a new level of anxiety, but it will get better. Every single day I stepped onto the floor, the anxiety overwhelmed me in a way I have never experienced before; it plagued the crevices of my mind and soul. I felt like I was operating in flight and fight at work AND at home. I couldn’t separate the two, and would often wake up in hot sweats- “Did I return that med?! Did I chart that?! Oh shoot, I forgot to get that patient ice chips!”… I had literal breaks with reality. One time I woke in the middle of the night panicked because I thought I had forgotten to give my husband insulin (he’s not diabetic). But somewhere along the line, I was able to turn the “work” brain off. It took a long time, but now a year later even though I still think about my shifts, it doesn’t carry the same anxiety provoking reflection it did at the beginning. I still shed plenty of tears for my patients on the way home or the next day after a hard stretch of days, but it’s out of mourning for and with them… not from anxiety.
  3. Those impossible skills…. become possible. One of the most frustrating parts of being is a new grad is the lack of agility and the constipated pace of your skills. Tasks that are super “easy” to most seasoned nurses still scare the code brown out of us. Even priming IV tubing seemed like a formidable obstacle when I began (air- in-line alerts sent me straight into cardiac arrest). By the end of the year you will be taking out central lines, hanging blood, straight cathing, and working with PEGs/trachs like it ain’t no thang. Hands on skills were my weakness, I didn’t think I’d ever get the hang of it. But somewhere along the way, I did. And trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
  4. 12 hour shifts are long, but nursing is a 24-7 job. One thing that I didn’t quite get when I began is nursing is a 24-7 job. Yes, in those 12 hours that belong to you, the weight of people’s lives are in your hands. But always remember— it’s a 24-7 job. Do your best not to pass on any tasks, make sure you give all your shift meds, but if you don’t get around to changing the now expired IV tubing because your patient was physiologically unhinged and you were keeping them from grave, it’s ok. I used to think I literally would get fired if every single little protocol ridden task was not completed. Some days, all you can do it keep someone alive. It’s a 24-7 job. Just remember that.
  5. Yes, you can do another day. Countless times I thought to myself, I don’t know how I can do another day of this. Sometimes we have such a bad first shift in a stretch of three, and we don’t know how we can physically or emotionally handle the next two. But you do. You just do. After enough times of thinking this, and enough times of doing that “next” shift, you start to know that you can, in fact, do another day.
  6. Listen to your patients! Sometimes symptoms are not textbook clear. If a patient says they feel “off”, listen to them, closely. What is off? When did it start? Listen to their concerns, even if they seem unwarranted, because often times they are not. There are clues in conversation, history, and in chats with family that may not show up in vital signs.
  7. Patients listen to you, closely. Patients will ask you so. many. questions. Sure, you may know some, but there are plenty you will have no clue. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but let me find out!” or direct the question to the proper team. Something I have discovered is when you have those scrubs on, patients take you at your word. Even if you put a disclaimer- such as I’m not 100% sure- or, make sure that’s ok with your primary doctor, or “I think _____” but double check with your pharmacy….. they will only hear the answer part of your statement. Avoid saying those disclaimer statements, because as soon as it is out of your mouth, they will hear my nurse said ____ and take it as truth. It’s better to utilize your resources (call pharmacy, ask your charge, ask the MD) and give them the most informed answer possible.
  8. Listen to your gut. “What gut?” you may be thinking as you have only been a nurse for about a month. Ok, your gut will develop as time goes on (and I’m not just talking from break room potlucks and donuts). If you have that “bad” feeling… investigate why. There are so many times I wish I had just listened to my gut a bit more. Just last week I had a patient who I had a off feeling about. Nothing had changed in their baseline neuro exam or technically by physiological assessment. But I knew something wasn’t quite right. I told the MD, but he had no real basis to conduct any additional tests either. I told the next shift nurse about this feeling too… and the next day when I returned this man was in the ICU. Trust. your. gut.
  9. Nursing Assistants are vitally important. Y’all. I don’t think I understood just how important nursing assistants are before starting this gig. They are massively crucial to our success and the patients’ success. The nursing assistants on my floor are brilliant, many have been working for years and single-handedly keep me afloat some days. I learned (and continue to learn) a tremendous amount from them. Do not be afraid to ask them for their tips/tricks in patient care.
  10. “Thank you” goes a long way. This may seem elementary, but as a nurse, you begin to understand the weight and gravity of a thank you. Give thank-yous out like candy. They are free to give and priceless to receive. Thank your housekeeping staff, your charge nurse, your transporter, your nursing assistants, the previous nurse who tried her best to get loose ends tied up for you, doctor’s, PT/OT who helped your patient walk for the first time since surgery. We are a family in healthcare, and it’s so important to remind them they are all appreciated.
  11. Make recommendations, and happily accept constructive criticism in return. ISBAR- the “R” (for recommendation in communication) is especially hard for a new nurse, but do it anyways. You will get some MDs who will make you feel as if your idea is the worst possible idea they have ever heard. You will also have others who will kindly suggest an alternative. And EVEN some who will accept your recommendation. Regardless of the response, ask them to explain the reason behind the intervention/order/medication, and then thank them for taking the time to explain. It will go a long way in developing rapport among you and the provider.
  12. Go the extra mile. Cue the eye rolls from my nurses in the back. I get it, we already are given an impossible to-do list every day. There is no way to go the “extra mile”. Or is there? When I first began, I barely saw my patient. I only saw the to-do list. I barely had time to be with them, because I was just trying to get it all done. Yes, this is the way of nursing now it seems, but sometimes, just taking the tiny extra seconds to hold their hand and say, “How are you” at the beginning of a shift or offering an extra pillow can make all the difference. This one takes time to conquer, but you’ll get there. I am still learning how to do this, and it takes reminding myself daily to just look the patient in the eye and not just to examine their pupils.
  13. ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. Not sure how I didn’t have this listed as number one… but ask every question. Do not assume ANYTHING. You will feel like you are grating the nerves of some other nurses, but you will learn who your best resources are. Remember, a little annoyance is nothing in comparison to someone’s life. Even the slightest bit of doubt, check it out!
  14. ‘You time’ is necessary time! “On the clock” for us is a fight of life vs. death. When you are off the clock embrace your life- do what you need to do to take care of you. Go for a walk outdoors, exercise, do yoga, pray, write a letter to your friend who lives far away, get a massage (get multiple massages), pedicures, go out for a nice dinner, nourish your body with healthy foods (and nourish your soul with dessert), travel, or do nothing at all. Find what helps you relax and disconnect. I didn’t want to be social at all for a good six months and found myself in a hole of isolation and depression. I didn’t think I had the energy to do anything. But once I started making plans, planning trips, etc. things started turning around quite a bit. Find what works for you!
  15. It’s worth it. Oh my sweet fellow baby nurse, you don’t know if you will survive, but you will. I know it’s hard to believe, but things will get better. People would say that, and I just didn’t believe them. Have faith. You are stronger than you think. This year, yes it is hard, it’s probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but it’s worth it. When you see your competence start blooming, so will your confidence. When a patient tells you that they will never forget you, it’s the most rewarding feeling in the world. Through this whole process you are impacting countless lives and countless lives will impact yours. Soon you will have forever-in-your-heart moments, unforgettable connections to patients, and “good” days under your belt, or stethoscope rather. Write them down and remember them. Because at the end of the long twelve hour shift day, there is no amount of fear, anxiety, or bad days that can overshadow the honor it is to save a life.

Go get em, Rockstar! You’ve got this!

Ohh, and never use the “Q” word. Never, ever, ever use the “Q” word.

To the Man A Floor Below

I have a story that I have oscillated between sharing or not for a couple weeks now. But this story is something that I have grown and learned from tremendously. Hence, I think it may be important to record so I do not forget these lessons that have been on my heart.

After Church two Sundays ago, I walked downstairs into our lobby to head out for a run. There was a group of people surrounding a forty-something year old man who was sitting on the ground, back supported against the wall, barefooted, eyes closed, and head rolling. Immediately, those nurse instincts kicked in full force. Once I confirmed 911 had been called I sat next to the man and began a rapid assessment. He was conscious, AOx4, but had slurred speech and not able to keep his eyes open. He was showing signs of tardive dyskinesia. He told us the drugs he had just took and clearly was overdosing on benzos before our eyes. I was just praying the EMTs showed up with some Romazicon soon if he were to lose consciousness. I was itching to get a blood sugar, a pulse ox, an EKG… but all I could offer was my presence. I asked him about how he was feeling; he told me he didn’t want to live anymore and was afraid he was going to kill himself. He had come downstairs into the lobby to get help. When the people around me asked if I was a nurse and I confirmed, I noted the relief in their eyes. I felt I didn’t deserve this trust put in me, and suddenly realized the responsibility I had in this situation I had stumbled upon. Yet, the training and experience I had was nearly robotic. I now understand why they say nursing is a calling; it’s knit into the fabric of who you are at all times, on or off duty. I assured him we would stay with him until help came. I think it was what he wanted at this moment. He expressed such gratitude. Finally, the team came and he was off to the hospital in a flash.

Something that has loomed in my thoughts is the fact that he was a resident in our apartment- only one floor below us. I probably had rode the elevator with him before, I probably had passed him by the mailboxes or in the parking garage. Yet, I had no idea that there was someone only a floor below fighting for the will to survive. While I propped my feet up on the couch and turned on some silly reality show, someone a floor below was counting pills. “How many might it take?” he contemplated. While I counted the stressors in this year to come, someone below was counting if the stressors of his life were worth living another day.

It woke me up a bit- the reality that we don’t know what those around us are truly going through. It’s cliched, I realize, yet it carries a visceral weight. If we recognized that every single person we encounter is going through something, has a story, has a painful anecdote that formed them or is currently molding them would we all be kinder? Would we smile a bit more as we pass perfect strangers or look the cashier in the eye when we are checking out? I understand that we can’t solve everyone’s problems in this world, but what if we all lived more intentionally. Maybe taking our heads out of our phones and our eyes off our own lives for a second and simply asking, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” to the stranger next to us on the subway, the train, or in line at a grocery store can make all the difference. It’s simply saying to another human- “I see you, you matter, and you are not invisible” that can make or break a person’s day, their life. I know I’ve been there. I’m still there many days. I have battled a long stream of mental health battles my whole life, yet most of the people in my life have no idea. Why didn’t I realize this sooner- that many others probably aren’t wearing their grief and heartache on their sleeve as well?

This man just wanted to be seen. He came downstairs and sat against a wall in the lobby because he knew he would be seen. How can we see the pain around us if we refuse to look up and see? I know we have heard this probably a hundred times, I’m not bringing any type of sage wisdom to the table, but for some reason for the first time this idea, this reality, hit home in a new way. The plague of our society is the acceptance of facade and the taboo of authenticity. Our interactions with one another may be short, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be meaningful. Our words may be few, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be powerful. Our own time may be precious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be shared. I pray that Jesus will give me His eyes to see those around me the way He does, that he will give me the courage to ask the tough questions, the patience to listen, and the heart to love.

And to the man the floor below, I need you to know, you are loved more than you can imagine. You are worthy. You are the most valuable. There is One who sees you and knows you better than anyone ever could. There is someone who knows your pain so intimately, and He died for it so you don’t have to. There is someone who conquered the grave so you can live. You are never truly alone. I pray for you each day, and I pray that our paths cross again.

Six Month Nursing Evaluation & Reflection- Good News!

HEY GUYS! Wow, a ton has happened since my last post, and I am stoked to update you all! I am going to whip out another post soon about my friend from college who visited, but I want to do a quick six month nursing reflection realz quick for my own archives.

**If you want to read my last nursing update, hit up dis link **

So, as you know, I had my meeting on Monday for my six month evaluation and end of the probation period since beginning this nursing gig in March. Most people said if we haven’t had any prior “conversations” we were probably in the clear, but being me, every little thing I’ve done wrong since beginning this job just danced around in my mind. When I went into the office, the response I received from my managers, patients, and coworkers shocked me- it was so uplifting, encouraging, and positive. She quickly said she was excited to promote me to a clinical nurse II (Eeeek!). Like I said- I was shocked. Shocked.

This was tremendously different than the voice that I’ve been feeding myself this whole time. If she had asked, I could have given her a list a mile long of everything I have done wrong, everything I need to improve on, everything I’m too slow at accomplishing, everything I don’t fully understand, and every failure I’ve had since beginning.

I have a bad, bad habit of beating myself up over everything. Can I get an amen from my fellow perfectionists out there?

For instance, I could have several truly beautiful and meaningful interactions with my patients, but that one patient I feel I fail is the one I dwell on. I could do twenty things right, but that one little mistake is what keeps me up at night. That’s called negativity, ladies and gentleman. And wowza, after realizing how much I wallowed in that negativity, this truth hit me bold in the face: I am a hypocrite. Allow me to explain. Just the other day I was sitting with one of my patients that was having some negative self talk. I sat down next to this elderly man, and presented him the positive side of every negative thing he had just said. Then I grabbed a water bottle at his bedside that was serendipitously half full and held it out in front of him. I looked at him, this man who I couldn’t get to crack a smile the whole day and said, “Now, is this half full or half empty?”. He looked at me, totally catching on to what I was doing, and reluctantly he broke a small smile. After a long few seconds of deciding whether he should appease his dorky nurse, he finally said, “Half full”.

Yup, there is always a half full. I was just missing it, and apparently I was not living what I was preaching.

This whole evaluation process helped me realize several things. First, the perspective I have had of myself as a nurse is quite different than how those around me perceive me, but more importantly- how my patients perceive me. The feedback from them means more to me than anything else, and the fact that it was all positive meant the world. I know I have failed them at times, and some days on the unit I am simply too busy to provide the emotional support I wish I could. However, seeing that it’s been all positive feedback means somehow I am still conveying I care, even when I feel that I’m failing. Second, I learned it’s actually okay necessary to be kind and forgive myself. Every mistake I have made up to this point has only made me a better nurse. The inability to let go of these “less than perfect” circumstances only creates turmoil in myself, it’s a destructive seed that benefits no one and manifests in hair loss and a chronically upset stomach. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Soo, I am choosing to forgive myself and offer myself grace. Third, although it’s super important to learn from the mistakes and look for constant improvement, it’s also okay to acknowledge when I do something well. I need to start realizing that I am competent, because this will translate into confidence, allowing my patients to have more confidence in me.

This has been hands down the hardest six months of my life, and I have spent far too much reflecting on my many, many failures. So now I will take time to reflect on the successes. (This is strictly for me to be able to reflect and document my growth as a nurse- not at all in a sense to come off braggadocious because, let’s be real, I could write five novels on how I screw up daily).

Thinking back to when I started on the neuro. unit six months ago, the growth and learning that has taken place really blows my mind (pun totally intended). I cannot take for granted this opportunity and experience, and I reflect with a thankful heart despite the countless tears, heartache, anxiety, and well, insanity.

Six months ago I could not interpret lab values or interpret what was important, but now I’m managing critical labs and hanging potassium like it ain’t no thing. Six months ago I couldn’t titrate a lumbar drain or an EVD, now I can work in the neuro close observation room managing a couple at once. Six months ago I couldn’t perform a thorough neuro exam or identify a patient stroking or developing ICP, now I feel confident calling stroke codes and requesting stat CT scans. Six months ago I wouldn’t have the first clue in knowing how to manage a patient’s blood pressure using only PRNs, but now I will bring a BP down from 170 to 130 in less than 30 minutes. Six months ago I couldn’t do discharge teaching or admissions, now I am doing multiple at once (slowly, but surely!). Six months ago I didn’t know what to report to a doctor, but now I know am making recommendations. Six months ago I had no clue how to turn a patient or reposition them, now I dare you to get a pressure ulcer on my watch. Six months ago I was terrified of IV pumps, now I titrate lidocaine and heparin drips. Six months ago I had no clue how to work with PT, OT, SLP, or case management, but now we coordinate care together daily. Six months ago I didn’t know how to collect spec. gravs or draw blood from central lines, now I’m managing DI and SIADH with every hour Is and Os and shooting that blood up in a tube to lab is oh so satisfying. Six months ago I would shake in my scrubs at the idea of changing a PICC dressing, now it’s one of my favorite nursing skills. Six months ago, I was too emotionally and physically exhausted most days to do anything outside of work, now I am making plans with friends again. Six months ago, I didn’t take the time to stop and pray with my patients, now I try to offer whenever I can. Six months ago, I didn’t put my full strength in Christ, but now I surrender every single day to Him, because without Him, I would not have made it through these six months. These victories are not my own, rather it’s the victory of all the family and friends who have supported and encouraged me. It’s my husband’s victory, who has been my rock this past six months when I’ve been crumbling. And ultimately, it’s the victory and glory of the One who has carried me each second of the day. (Oh, and I guess coffee deserves a shout out too).

Thank you all for your sweet words and prayers leading up to the evaluation. Also- I received the stamp of approval on my research project today, so that’s what I, and a couple others from my unit, will be tackling for the next six months. I am absolutely giddy about it, and one eager beaver to share it with ya’ll in March!

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xo <3

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20 Things that Happen When you Become a Long-Distance Runner

1. Your tan lines are def not cute, but for some reason that tank stripe down your back, the especially awkward white thighs, and permanent socks create some feelings of pride because #commitment.

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2. Weekend long runs= weekday carb load. ‘Nough said.

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3. While we are on that food topic…. on your long run you think about the endless amounts of food you will then proceed to devour the rest of the day.

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4. Sometimes you get lost in deep, philosophical thoughts for miles. Seriously- all the epiphanies come on long runs, but you forget them all the minute someone mentions pizza.

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5. Oh, and there’s that first time when you realize there is nowhere to pee and you’re ten miles out.

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6. Butttt not too long into the game you also realize peeing in the woods is totally acceptable.. (deep, deep into the woods)

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7. Ohhh and then there’s that moment when you are more fit than ever in your life, but your jeans like to feel more snug #musclemadness

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8. Post run coffee appreciation is a thing. A real thing. A real big thing.

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9. Annnnd that glorious moment you get your first runner’s high, and you begin to rethink your whole life because you are suddenly convinced you could do absolutely anything you set your mind to: Starting an orphanage in Timbuktu while writing a NY Times Best Seller and getting your pHD in Quantum physics suddenly sounds feasible.

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10. Until you hit the wall.

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11. But then you have your beloved fanny pack/pockets/sports bra (Come on, ya know you do it too) filled with gu, jelly beans, waffle zingers, and twizzlers to get you through those last few miles. Don’t mess with a runner’s sugar supplies.

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12. There’s also that moment you realize that you can actually call yourself, “A runner”.

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13. You additionally start scheduling your whole weekend around your long run.

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14. Oh shoot, and then there are those times people ask how many miles you run each day, and you panic, because A. There is no set number per day and B. You are nervous you will eventually have to explain that F word: Fartlek.

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15. After 100 cobwebs, 20 mosquitoes, and calves full of mud, you finish up that trek feeling like the nature warrior you are.

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16. When folding your laundry, your running clothes greatly out number the “normal person” clothes because you also wear your running clothes even on days off. Did I really wear all sixty-two of these sports bras in one week?!

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17. Wait…did I mention the food after?

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18. And we all know when you see a someone else with the same pair of running shoes you use, or even the same brand, you automatically know they are probably a really decent human being, and you want to be their friend.

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19. One word. TAPER.

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20. Last, but certainly not least, let us not forget- post run naps= ultimate naps. Can I get an AMEN?!

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xo <3

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Nursing: Peace in the Chaos.

Do you ever have an endless stream of thoughts that you want to share but are not sure where to even begin?

That’s me right now.

In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to divulge about the past couple months, my journey with nursing, about how I’ve both regressed and then grown in my faith, and how I have learned more in just a couple months than I do in a typical year…

I have a lot to unravel, it may take the full seven hours of traveling honestly. I’m treating this like a diary post, and I know it will be long. I will not hold it against any of you, even my loyal readers if you skip it.

But today I just need to write.

I need to write and record the transformative period that is my existence right now, and share the tremendous ways God has been moving in what seems impossibly bleak circumstances. I also know some friends and family that are going through this similar transition, so I hope to offer some encouragement to those individuals as well.

So, nursing. Nursing, nursing, nursing. I always compare this to an emotional rollercoaster, and all I can say is what. a. ride. While I may start off kind of explaining the gargantuan obstacles, it’s amazing what I have learned through it! This is not a venting session, but rather the most raw, honest insight into the life of a new nurse, and how I am slowly, but surely, learning to cope with the hardest year of my life.

Neurosurgical nursing is notoriously difficult, and our floor is no exception. I deal with a number of critically ill patients. For example, a patient’s nausea can be a simple side effect of their pain medication, or it can mean they are developing increased intracranial pressure; if I don’t assess it correctly, they truly could die on my watch. We have patients that have drains coming out of their brain’s ventricles and spinal cords. If they sit up without letting me know they are repositioning, they could drain out their own cerebral spinal fluid, and have dire consequences. I’ve had patients that seize, and I watch as the oxygen saturation plummets, while I hold them on their side. They sometimes go still and for a second, I panic- thinking for they are dying right there in my arms before their oxygen creeps back up. Fear gnaws at me, an unwanted tumor that relentlessly impedes on my emotional well-being and my life. I give so many medications constantly, so even when I triple check before giving anything, I am always afraid of making an error. In nursing, there is infinite room for error, countless scenarios that could potentially go wrong. It leaves me, a brand new nurse, perpetually terrified.

Every day I wake up to go to work I know I will make a mistake or have some type of failure. I was not prepared for this when graduating nursing school. I knew that I would have a massive learning curve, but I didn’t realize that making mistakes was part of the job. No worries- nothing that has compromised my patients’ well-being, but I always fail in some way. This isn’t some pessimistic self-fulfilling prophecy, but the reality of being a new nurse.

Do you ever have those dreams where you can’t run or talk or scream and feel stuck in quicksand? That’s how I feel majority of days on my shift. I know exactly what I need to do but one thing after another impedes me from moving at the pace I would like. Say I have my morning meds to give to four different patients. I have a one hour window to give those meds. A realistic, typical day goes like this- I step into my first patient’s room to do assessments and give medications. My phone rings, another patient wants their blood glucose checked and their insulin because their meal tray has arrived. I glance down wide-eyed at the twenty pills sitting on my workstation on wheels and can’t leave until I give these meds. Hence, my patient down the hall will have to wait at least fifteen minutes before they can start to eat. Overwhelmed. I go down to see the patient and give them their insulin, and then they ask for their food to be microwaved (understandably so). They also want to use the toilet, but it takes twenty minutes to get them out of bed, to the bathroom, and back. I wasn’t assigned a nurse assistant to said patient because they are technically mobile. They also want a bed-bath, their teeth brushed, and me to fill them in on the “plan” for the day- which is all totally understandable, but at this point I have to explain that I will come back as soon as I finish up with the other patients. Frustration. As I leave they ask for their pain med, so I have to go back out down the hall to the Pyxis, grab their pain med, and come back. I get a page from the front desk, “your patient in room#__ is de-sating” (an emergent situation). Panic. I explain I must leave although I have their pain med in hand and run down the hall to make sure my other patient is getting oxygen. I look at the watch. It’s 0830. I still haven’t seen my last patient and rounds with the doctors are at 0845. I dive into my last patient’s room and quickly grab a set of vitals because our sepsis screens are due by 0900. Overwhelmed. As I hand my patient their med, I get a call from a patient’s family member wanting an update on how their loved one did overnight, but I can’t remember all the facts pertained to which patient in report. Confused. By the time I get back to the other patient to give them their pain med their pain has spiked from a 5 to a 9 on that 0 to 10 scale. Incompetent. It’s one big game of whack-a-mole, and I feel like the weak little four-year-old that keeps fumbling with the hammer in an arcade. Except I have ten hours left in this arcade.

I have so many moments like this that I freeze like a deer in the headlights. I start to go into a panic, I can’t see straight, I can’t breathe, I wait for my knees to buckle out from under me. I can’t stop the tears from coming. I duck into the break room and let the attack pass. I suck it up and step back outside. I’m supposed to smile and act like I have it all together in front of my patients. Nothing is supposed to rattle me, but everything does. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so this is quite difficult for me. A colleague asks if I am ok. I wish they hadn’t asked because that question gets me. I can’t respond because if I do the tears will start again. I failed. I let my emotions show. The rest of the shift is one thing after another. I don’t sit down until 2 pm for a 30-minute lunch.

At 1730 the float offers me a break. We aren’t allowed to chart off the clock, but my charting isn’t done. I use my last fifteen-minute break to frantically chart. Exhaustion.

At 1830 I still have a list of things to get done, but change of shift is at 1845. I’m in my patient’s room in a hot sweat trying to get their antibiotics hung, their last meds given, and their lumbar drain checked as the night shift nurse anxiously waits for me to give them report. The family members asks, “rough day”? I failed again. I failed miserably. I let my feelings show in front of a patient. No one told me how much acting is involved in nursing.

I go home filled with guilt that I was so busy I didn’t connect with one of my patients. I replay the things I did wrong over and over. I can’t turn my mind off. Guilt. Fear. I wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat. Panic. I think I’m supposed to be charting, DJ reassures me I’m at home and not at work. I get texts from friends asking to hang out on my day off and feel guilt saying no because all I want to do is sleep. Guilt. Failure. I’m drowning. Exhaustion. I slip into a dark place, the depression that I experienced in high school is creeping back, suffocating me. Darkness.

This is the reality. I am not able to handle this on my own. And about two weeks ago, I realized it. I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to make it through the rest of this year unless something changed. I gave myself a hard look in the mirror and realized what was starkly missing- time with the Lord.

Since I’ve started this program I haven’t opened the Bible or prayed much at all. I don’t know what it is about stressful periods of life that I just stop actively seeking God.. it’s weird. I think it’s possibly this selfish defense mechanism, or maybe I just want to be numb and engaging with the Creator of the universe kind of doesn’t allow that. I think I also feel as though I don’t have the energy to invest or something, but it’s so ironic because all God does is renew and refresh when you devote that time to Him. I decided that I would recommit my mornings to Him, and it has transformed everything for me.

I decided to read 1 Peter. I have no idea why. I never spend much time there. I don’t even remember consciously choosing it. I read it once, then read it again, and again. God knew exactly what I needed right when I needed it. There were certain verses that blew me away; the Holy Spirit undeniably was directly speaking into my circumstance. This happens every time I spend time in the Word, but it nevertheless continues to amaze me each time. It is the living Word for a reason.

The first verse that jumped out was verse 5, “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power”. The idea that I am shielded, guarded, and protected by God’s power each day I step foot onto that nursing floor gave me a great sense of peace. I felt like I could take a deep breath. I actually had a conversation with my sister Andrea (who always brings the wisdom) and when telling her my fears she said, “Kenz they aren’t just your patients”. At first I thought she meant they have a team of doctors and other nurses on the other shifts that care for them. I quickly went to the defense “but they are my sole responsibility in that moment”, but she jumped in saying, “No- you are not alone, they are in God’s hands too.” Woah. So true, but why hadn’t I thought of that? I’m not alone. It really hit home for me when I read this verse. I am shielded by God’s power. He has called me to this place. I can’t do this in my strength, but I can in His strength (Philippians 4:13). And what a relief that I don’t have to live in intense fear. (2 Timothy 1:7). That fear is not in line with walking with the Lord.

Then verse 6 and 7 continued speaking into my circumstance.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 

Um, hi. This is the greatest trial of my life! Grief has become quite the familiar acquaintance. So naturally this verse grabbed my attention. Why does God have me here going through this painfully difficult time? Why did he call me to this profession? Why does it have to be so hard? I could have chose from plenty of other directions or majors, why this?

Those questions were answered by the second part of the verse.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

This verse woke me up. These trials that I’m experiencing will only strengthen my faith- which I can say, without a doubt, is true. If I wasn’t going through this time, I wouldn’t see how much I need Christ daily. I wouldn’t feel that I was hitting rock bottom with only Him to lean on. But then there is a responsibility attached to this- we are to bring praise, glory, and honor to Christ through it. The whole reason I went into nursing was because I believed it was my place of calling and ministry. In the two and a half months of working, I haven’t been ministering in any type of way. I haven’t been looking for ways to have conversations with patients about Christ, I haven’t been offering to pray over them, and I haven’t been praying myself asking the Lord to give me His eyes and heart and courage to offer to make a difference for Him. But when I read this verse, I realized my perspective has been all wrong. I haven’t surrendered this career to Him, and I haven’t surrendered this blessing to Him that He brought me, that I begged Him for. This career is not about me, but I was making it about me for the first couple months. That changed with reading this scripture.

The last couple verses in the first chapter that I underlined many times was verse 22 “… so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” And then verse 24, “For all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

This last verse might sound a bit off-putting in our human nature. But I found such great relief in it. The fact that this life is not about me, about my accomplishments, about my success relieved such a great weight. All I am called to do is love fiercely in Jesus’ name and bring Him glory through sharing this love with others.

The last verse I want to share (although there are countless others that really spoke to me) is 1 Peter 3: 13, “Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?”. Since beginning this job I have had this strange mindset of waiting for the next shoe to drop (my irrational fear of getting sued or fired). I may not be perfect, but I can say I am tremendously eager to do good. This brought me peace- God knows my heart, He is my strength, and He will protect me with His shield of power. Wow. My perspective shifted. I felt like I could breathe.

On the way into work that morning after reading these chapters, I was ready and even eager to get to get started so that I could approach the day with courage be this love to my patients and my coworkers.

Here’s what happened…

I arrived at work and glanced at my assignment. I did a double take, convinced they made a mistake. I was assigned to the NCOR room (neuro close observation room). This room is where the patients require eyes on them literally 24-7, the most unstable patients on our floor. The nurse is isn’t allowed to leave the room, and if she/he does, then she must be replaced by another nurse, even to use the restroom. I didn’t think we would be placed there until further along with more experience, although we technically oriented for a couple weeks in the room.

A week prior, or even a day prior, I would have seen that assignment and immediately been thrown into a full blown panic attack. Rather, I looked at it and felt excited because I knew this was just an opportunity to rely on Christ, to love people in a scary point in their lives, and to grow my faith.

It ended up being one of my favorite shifts. I grew close to nearly all the patients and families, I took initiative, I kept a smile on my face, but I wasn’t faking it, even in the midst of the craziness.

Every shift since I have grown deeper with my patients. The best moments are the moments I get to pray with my patients. I had one patient who was not exactly kind toward me and wearing me down a bit emotionally. At one point at the height of my frustration I just offered to pray for him. He seemed stunned and allowed me to. This opened up the door to a great conversation about church and faith.

Another patient expressed to me her doubts about God’s existence. I shared with her how just a year ago I was in her shoes. I assured her that God would make himself known to her, and I would be praying for her. Tears rolled down her face and began welling in mine as we shared this moment together. That shift ended up being one of the most chaotic, one where I didn’t get my meds done on time, one where I felt like I was drowning, possibly the worst shift I’ve had yet. But even if I did many things wrong, I know I loved right.

The opportunity to love deeper had been there, I just hadn’t seen it in my selfishness, my distorted perspective. The shift loads are the same, maybe even worse, but I see each challenge as an opportunity, not an obstacle. My purpose for being where I am is clear now. My purpose in this life, this career, is simple, but I was blind it. It is simply to love. Not to be perfect, not to start flawless IVs, and especially not to be comfortable- because God very clearly calls us out of our comfort zones, and nursing is the furthest thing from comfortable. Additionally, no one has changed the world or a life while being in their comfort zone. So, I don’t wish for that. I will embrace the exhaustion, I will learn to forgive myself and look at each mistake as an opportunity to learn, I will be eager for constructive criticism and invest in a heart of humility. I will see this year through, even when I want to quit, I will not. I know I can make it because I have someone omnipotent holding me through those twelve-hour days, I have someone omniscient that can help me think clearly, I have someone omnipresent who will continually wrap me with peace in the chaos. I will fail at times, but I am following the One who never does.

Thank you all for your prayers and support through this time. I am thankful beyond words, truly beyond what I can express, for all of you. All Glory to God.

The Butterfly Effect

I spend too much time thinking. My mind is in a perpetual hum, going in a million directions, yet going nowhere at all. It’s exhausting! When I was young, I used to look out the window with a furrowed brow on long car rides and just think. My Dad would glance in the rear view mirror and say, “Kenzie, what is it that a five-year-old has to think about so seriously?” At the time they were probably pretty basic questions of life, why is the sky blue?, why do we have ten fingers and ten toes?, who let the dogs out? (please help, I still don’t know this one)but lately something else has been plaguing my mind: purpose. How is whatever I am doing at this moment meaningful? And not just on the surface level, but I mean deeply, viscerally meaningful. It’s like everything I do has to have some kind of “productive” end point. But that’s not how we were meant to live. It’s a perspective issue, not a reality issue.

I know how we all have a specific calling and purpose designated by our Lord and that our identity is ultimately found in Him. This is so important to understand. But at times, it’s not always about the insecurities about who I am, it’s more about what I am doing. But maybe the two get inappropriately tangled at times? I’m not sure.

Something I’ve found myself caught up in recently is the purpose of this blog. I started it to catch up friends and family on the happenings in our lives, share how God is working, and to record a few of our favorite adventures for us to reminisce about someday. It brings me joy. And that should be enough. But at times I feel like it’s not- particularly when I get caught up in the comparison game. For example, there are times I’ll find myself slaving over a recipe, giddy in the making of this creation, getting ready to post it, and then suddenly I’ll come across an “accomplished” blogger with many printed cookbooks, perfect photos, and a massive following. Naturally I think, “What’s the point?” and stuff the post into drafts.

Comparison is the thief of joy- no truer words.

But lately my perspective has been shifting, and I hope to offer encouragement to anyone else that may be experiencing the throws of writing insecurity, lack of direction, or is just asking, “What is the point?” in anything you do.

This shift came with contemplation of the Chaos Theory- the idea that a flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. Some think the theory is a bit silly, but I love the illustration. It fascinates me- this idea that something seemingly minuscule can create something massive, powerful, unstoppable.

Maybe we can learn a lesson or two from this small, fragile creature. As cheesy as it is to use a butterfly metaphor, I’m gonna use it, gosh darn it.

Let me pose these questions-Did the butterfly physically see the the breeze created from a simple flap of the wings? Or did the butterfly actually witness the power ultimately created from this small act? No, but it continued fluttering along anyway.

The butterfly didn’t flutter it’s wings with the intention of creating that tornado. It flew because it was what it knew how to do, because it allowed the butterfly to live its short life the best way it knew how with what it was given…because it was the butterfly’s own form of artwork. Maybe the “small” things we do and invest time in don’t always have results that we can see right away, but they can breed wind storms of creativity and joy within ourselves. When we do something we love for its own sake we are bringing joy to the Ultimate Creator, who instilled these innate passions and abilities uniquely for each of us, so why deprive ourselves of this? When we can learn that investing in joy is a worthy investment, despite tangible results, our lives can be lived dramatically differently- in freedom.

Additionally, the butterfly flutters on persistently despite what the other butterflies are doing. We each have been created with an originality and purpose that will differ from anyone else’s. Just like no two butterflies are the same, neither are we- so why do we insist on comparing each of our journeys?

It’s when we can fly in this freedom that the breeze becomes a gust, and the gust becomes a storm- a storm of inspiration that overflows out of us. When a butterfly flies on by, it’s hard not to pay attention to the beauty of the creature basking in its own ease, persistent in doing what it was meant to do with it’s short life. In all that we do, no matter how seemingly small, if we do it with the same fervor and persistence, others will be inspired. When we allow ourselves to get lost in our own chaotic creativity, passions, and pieces of life that bring us joy, others will not be able to look away. There is something contagious and infatuating about someone who pursues what they love unapologetically. But if we miss the freedom of being content in our own originality and situation, we lose this power.

Even when we feel like we are walking uphill in thick sand, when nothing seems to matter that we do, and when we don’t feel like we are making a difference in the mundane ebb and flow of life, we have to realize we may not ever know the profound effect we are actually propagating. We just have to take that next step, continue fluttering, if you will. We don’t know what difference our footprints could make for someone else who stumbles across them later on. It could even be the comfort they need in knowing they are not the first to walk that journey

So to those who are wondering if you should share that post sitting in your drafts, publish it. To those that are wondering if you should call that long lost friend, do it. To those that are wondering if pursuing something you love is worth the risk, it is. To those who are wondering if you have a purpose, you do. To those that are wondering if you are worth it, you are.

Take that step unapologetically. Whatever you do, do it with love and with heart.

That next step may just be the first step to unstoppable.

Today I’m Terrified. But…

This is probably pretty elementary for most… but it’s just something that is ringing true in my life today. I know by recording these thoughts I can look back in the future and see how God has been faithful through this time. 

Sitting here on this rainy day, I have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. When most people jumped for joy ringing in 2017, I had a part of me that dreaded the turn of the year. This may shock many of you… considering I tend to optimistically embrace change in life more often than not.

So why the dread of the New Year? In 2016 a lot of good developed in me as an individual. The person you see is not the person I have always been.  I used to live life with anxiety about the next day, rather than embracing the present. I’m always a work in progress, but I see 2016 as a time of growth. That season of transition , although initially a frustrating waiting period, developed into, perhaps, my favorite time of life. I learned to live a life of balance (well at least more balance), I started embracing life in a way I never have before, I started doing things that brought me joy for their own sake, I traveled, and I found my faith again. Up to that point I let school, studies, schedules, and deadlines dictate my life.

Now, in this first month of 2017, I am faced with boot-shaking interviews, hefty decisions regarding my career path, and the end of this season. I feel like I am grieving a stage of my life that I so loved. I’m afraid that I will give up on the “extra” things that have brought me immense joy- blogging, exploration, baking, reading, writing, traveling, hiking, etc. and get lost in the tangle of the day to day again.

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a nurse, don’t get me wrong. I have a zealous passion for this career path, and I truly do feel called to it. I am beyond excited to get started. I even have an interview with my dream employer- I am ecstatic about this opportunity, and truthfully in disbelief that I even made it to this point. At the same time, I know the chances of getting this job are slim, statistically. For a long time I didn’t want to admit that I really want this job. But I can’t deny it: I really want this job.

But… what if I fail? What if I choke in the interview? What if I do get this job, but I disappoint? What if I am not good enough?

Having these thoughts I felt convicted, because, oh, they are so not what our Father in Heaven wants us to be thinking.

Philippians 4:6– “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Those “what if” thoughts reap anxiety and worry. They are lies. These are seeds of insecurity that are not in line with Christ. 

When I am being fed these lies and begin to believe them, there is only one thing that combat them: TRUTH.

Isaiah 41:10“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God promises to be with us in these times of life that bring trepidation. He will strengthen us and help us. He will be with me and help me in that interview.

2 Timothy 1:7“For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control”

God’s Spirit is not of fear. He promises His Spirit of power. I can have the assurance that I have His power helping me, even when I feel weak in my current abilities.

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

He promises us peace. I can have peace in any circumstance, because He has given us this gift. I can have peace walking into this field even knowing there are endless challenges coming my way.

1 Peter 5:7“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” 

Wow…we can simply just give our worries to Him. Because He cares for us, He promises to carry our worries. I don’t have to worry about being good enough, about having the right words, about my inexperience, or about having time to continue to do the random things I love- because He’s got me.

Matthew 21:22“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Cowabunga. I know He promises to give us what we ask for in His name with an expectant hope. Something I am working on this year is praying more confidently in Jesus’ name. If I truly believe He is who He says He is, how drastically different my prayers should look!

I know He will come through on His promises. I know He will place me in the nursing job that will allow me to bring healing to my patients and love them each deeply in His name. I know He will take care of me, because He promises this.

And if I truly believe this, then what do I have to fear?

Something our pastor recently said has stuck with me with great gravity: “Two opposing options reside in the unknown: Fear and Faith. Which will you choose?”

I want to choose Faith.

So rather than my “what ifs” of insecurity, uncertainty, and fear, what if I choose faith. What if I choose to trust in God’s promises, what if I strive for what seems impossible in His name? What if I no longer ask “what if” and rest in His promise?

Going forward, I am going to change the way I have been thinking this first week of January. I am going to be excited and expectant for the future. I am going to lean on Christ and rejoice in His blessings each day.

I choose to give my fear to Him and rest in His beautiful name.

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How God Answered My Impossible Prayer

This is the most intimidating story of my life for me to share yet. There are many reasons for this- I know it will uncover emotions that I have learned to keep at arms length, it may be a challenge to condense many interplaying factors into one single comprehensible post, and I am afraid that sharing this story will in turn somehow destroy a sacred cherished memory I hold dear. I am afraid it will offend people, confuse others, or cause me apprehension and regret on sharing it in the first place. However, when I started writing on this platform I promised God that I would be obedient to His prompting. I am writing this without any idea on who it may give hope, encourage, or touch, if anyone at all… But at the end of the day I am choosing to place these fears in God’s hands and allow this story to bring Him glory because there was a day He answered my impossible prayer. 

On November 28, 2009 my dad passed away unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. I remember the moment I found out clearly. There is a door in my mind that accesses the room I house that memory. Rarely do I go near it to look inside, but sometimes I do, inevitably feeling like a train has bouldered into my heart. Sometimes I don’t choose to look, but the memory works it’s way through the corridors of  my mind, forcing itself to the forefront of my thoughts. Regardless, that moment has a way of replaying itself occasionally like a reoccurring nightmare.

The phone ringing, my older sister sounding on edge on the other end of the line, asking to talk to my mom, not wishing to chat or make small talk. My mother sitting across me as I was just casually unwinding from a day at basketball practice. A plate of cheese and crackers next to me as I watched some mindless television. The characteristically cloudy November day. The look on her face.

I knew. I just knew.

Screaming “No” over and over again as I felt that I was spiraling into the ground. I begged myself to wake up as I embarked onto my first stage of grief, the shock and numbness manifesting in both denial and hysteria. The realization. This is not a dream. My heart breaking more minute by minute, realizing this would soon be my younger sister’s nightmare too. She’s only thirteen. Thirteen. The millions of questions in my head, far too clouded and confused to even articulate one. 

Yes. That moment I will forever remember- branded into my brain and onto my heart, an indelible mark. The events in the months to come thereafter were not so clear. I remember parts and pieces of that time like a bystander, rather than a partaker. I barely remember the Calling Hours, but I do remember a few conversations from that day. People would say, “You will see him again”, and “He is watching over you!”. I never grew angry at anyone’s attempt to empathize, I greatly appreciated all the compassion and could not have made it through that time without it. But those phrases… those words. I couldn’t come to peace with them. Here is where this gets tricky to explain. But I will do my best.

My father was a remarkable man. He had the kindest heart. He loved people and above all else family. At the end of the day, he would always ask my siblings and me, “Did we make a good memory, guys?” He is the reason I understand the value in making and treasuring the memories in our lives. He saw no one as a stranger, but as a potential friend. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known, and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a math wizard, a gene I did not inherit. He was the best listener, my protector, and the one with whom I had the most inside jokes.

But there was something I had great unrest about. There are many factors here, far too complicated to explain for the sake of this, but overall I just didn’t know for sure if my father had a personal relationship with Jesus. We had never talked about it, about what he believed personally. I could assume that he did, sure, he supported my siblings and I in our involvement in church growing up, would pray rehearsed prayers with us before meals and before bed, and referenced God occasionally. I just didn’t have an assurance that outside of those things he believed. I hope this doesn’t come across harsh or condemning. I know that we cannot truly know the state of someone’s heart. I know God is just, and He is the only one that can judge. I just wished so badly I could go back in time and ask him if he believed all this too, for himself- that the motions of religion weren’t just a way to raise us “right” or appease my mom, but something he wanted personally.

So I prayed for peace and assurance. I wanted to be able to say with confidence that I would see him again, but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t know. It felt like such an empty prayer, because how could God possibly give me this rest in my soul I so desired. I couldn’t go back in time. I couldn’t ask him.

Three years went by and healing did take place, slowly. For a long while I didn’t want to admit that anything good could come out of losing one of the people I loved the most. But upon reflecting, I see how God turned elements of the pain into blessings. It has taken me a long time to admit that.  And yet, despite the tremendous healing that time allowed, I still longed for peace about the wearisome question mark in the back of my mind.

The  summer before my freshman year of college my grandfather on my dad’s side, whom we called Papa, received the diagnosis of cancer. Since my  dad’s death, my siblings and I had become especially close to my papa. That summer, my sisters and I sat with him and read the Bible, prayed with him, and just talked with him. He never gave much feedback during those times of scripture and prayer. I couldn’t read how he felt about all of it.

In Autumn of 2012 that followed, we knew things were taking a turn for the worse with Papa’s health. Before heading back to school on my fall break I made sure to visit him. I remember that he wasn’t “all there” anymore mentally. My heart broke as I watched him slip away, and I knew this was likely my last time with him. As I said my goodbye and walked out of the nursing home, I felt a nudge in my heart, turn around and ask. I ignored it and walked to the car. TURN AROUND. I started the car and started driving. I became nauseous and the words of my soul screamed incessantly turn around now! The tears started and right when I was about to turn onto the highway entrance I turned around. A great part of me protested within myself, I don’t want to ask him. What if it makes him angry. He won’t even know what I’m saying. I don’t know how he will respond. I want to leave on a good note! 

But I pulled back into that nursing home, and jogged through the halls with a sudden urgency. I opened his door and started sobbing. I could barely calm myself down enough to ask. But regardless of the trepidation, I had to ask, I had to know. I blurted out before I could second guess what I was doing, “Papa- do you love Jesus?”.

He looked at me, as though a switch had been flipped, and lucidly said, “I sure do, Honey, I sure do” with a weighted confidence.

On that drive back to school I felt overwhelmingly thankful that I heard those precious words from my papa. I didn’t want to deal with the questioning that forever would be on my mind about my dad.

A few weeks later, my papa passed away. I drove straight from school to the funeral home. Although it was a painful time, I was thankful he was no longer in pain, and even more thankful for our last conversation. I remember standing over the casket with my older sister’s hand on my back. I said to her, “Andi- I know we will see Papa again, but I don’t know if we will see Daddy”. This is the first time I had said these words to anyone like this. She looked at me, without saying anything for few seconds, and then took me into the lobby of the funeral home.

She handed me her phone and had a voicemail playing she had saved. I listened. It was my dad’s voice, my dad’s beautiful voice, saying such sweet things to my sister and concluding with “Thank you Andi, for getting your old man ready for when his time comes”. I stood there in shock and awe. Andrea explained that they had been reading the Bible on the phone for the last few months leading up to his death. She said with undeniable certainty that we would see him again. I heard it in my father’s own voice, three years later. He was ready, he was prepared.

I will see him again.

So while November 28th is a day that brings with it memories that harbor tremendous pain, on the other side of that pain is a prayer. An impossible prayer. And on the other side of this impossible prayer is a limitless God.

And He answered my impossible prayer.

To Him forever be the glory. 

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img_3660 See ya later alligator… <3