To the Man A Floor Below

I have a story that I have oscillated about sharing for a couple weeks. 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. 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 ❤

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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 ❤

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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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See ya later alligator… ❤

 

Doubt.

This post is a bit different than my usuals, but I feel something on my heart that I want to share. I am about to get vulnerable with you all, but I am learning more and more that sometimes the most freedom in life can come from a place of vulnerability. I also want to make the disclaimer that no matter what you believe, what religion you are, where you are from, I do not disregard you- I’d love to hear your thoughts. I additionally truly hold firmly to loving everyone, no.matter.what.

The keyboard in front of me daunts me. I have so much going on in my head that it intimidates me. I am afraid that my simple words will not do justice to the joy that consumes me. This past season of my life has been one of growth that compares to none other. Before I begin attempting to articulate in my own human capacity, I pray that the hand of the Lord guides and directs these words to speak to what He wants to say. This is my current story, my current testimony, and it has been seven years in the making, and continuing.

Let’s back up. I was raised in the church and surrounded by mostly believers. I accepted Jesus as my Lord at a young age and was living zealously for Him for most of my life.

But at a certain point there was something I was lacking- an essential element: Faith.

The first time I recall experiencing my first wave of doubt about Christianity and what I believed was my sophomore year of high school. I have a skeptical mind, and I like proof. Then proof behind the proof. I like the “whys” and the “hows” behind every single little thing. But sometimes this yearning for proof can leave little room for faith and a lot of room for doubt. This phase of doubt, however, was short-lived- I talked with people I trusted and respected about these questions and felt settled and at ease with the answers they had given me. For now, at this time, I was satisfied. I believed.

Shortly after wrestling those first doubts, my dad passed away. The first words I barely choked out when I was told of his passing were, “I just need God.” My mom handed me a Bible and I just held it. Not absorbing the words, but just holding it. Surprisingly, this moment further corroborated God’s existence to me. In that desperate of a moment, how could God be what I reached for, almost instinctively, if He wasn’t there?

I didn’t struggle with any additional doubts until I went to college, a Christian university nonetheless. This is not at all a reflection of the University itself, but of my personal circumstances. Slowly, and I can pinpoint just a couple instances, I had become so jaded toward the Church. By the Church I mean by the very people of God. I became resentful. I resented the people that were supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. I resented the atmosphere of a worship service. I resented basically anything that had to do with Christ. If I were to see what I am writing right now I probably would have rolled my eyes and stopped the minute I knew it dealt with Christianity. Everything and anything that once touched me as perfect and awe-inspiring began to morph into something superficial, hypocritical, and false. I am not blaming others for this- I myself stopped pursuing God. I put too much stock in my experience of religion rather than focusing on my relationship with Christ. People fail, Christ never does.

Here is the crazy part. During this time others probably perceived me as a “good Christian girl” for the most part- fitting the outward mold of “that type” to a T. I knew how to talk the talk. I told people I would pray for them, but rarely ever did. I encouraged people that “God had a plan”. I said the right things; I had been trained well. I slept walk through the motions, I did religion, and man, I did it well. That is not to sound cocky, and I am not bragging. Quite the opposite actually. I became the very facade that I so severely resented in others.

This place of resentment allowed the doubts to creep in stronger than ever. As I promised to pray for others, as I said the “right things”, as I worshipped in Church, in the back of my mind I thought, If there is a God, If He is even real, If I even truly believe this over and over again.

The Ifs consumed me, my mind, my everyday. That is a very uncomfortable place to be; it terrified me to my core.

I have heard all the arguments for Christianity- and let me tell you, they are strong. Lest we not forget at the root of any belief is an element of faith- even those who choose to believe nothing exists. My mother encouraged us to explore other religions because she was so sure of our faith. I took a class in high school looking in depth to each major world religion (and other streams of existential thought) back to Zoroastrianism. I was given historical, logical, natural, scientific data even pointing to a Creator and Jesus being Lord. This is not to mention my own personal experiences that supported the evidence. I found myself multiple times throughout life thinking, This proves it, how can anyone deny this evidence? Yet I did, in the face of the best of it.

It was not about a lack of evidence, but a lack of faith.

My heart fiercely wrestled the “ifs”. I was so engrossed in the uncertainty. These were some serious doubts as I mentioned above. I wondered if we were truly just animals with nowhere we were going, only destined to live our lives for a few years on a wasting planet. I pondered upon these doubts in my mind; only consuming a small part of my thinking at a time, but soon becoming monsters that overcame me. I realized, if none of it was true, if Jesus was not the One true God and if there is no such thing as “God”, then what the heck was I doing with my life?

I would have no identity. No hope. No purpose. No future. No promise. No life. I would have nothing. I would be nothing. And just because I desired for this to not be the case, it became a possibility before my eyes, before my soul.

I begged. I begged God on my knees for removal of that doubt. I begged the Lord to take it from me and allow me to believe with unwavering belief I used to have. I begged for days. I begged for months. I begged in utter desperation for over a year.

But then I begged less. Instead, I busied myself with my studies, with my responsibilities, my job. I prayed less. I sought out God’s Word less. I’ll deal with it another day, became my everyday. I was on the spiritual “tomorrow diet”. I was putting the most fundamental aspect of life on hold for anything fleeting. I worshipped anything but the One whom deserves our worship: my to-do list, my responsibilities, my day-to-day superficial desires, myself

Silence. Doubt.

I told hardly anyone of these doubts I was facing, but I did tell my husband. He was beyond encouraging. He responded to everything perfectly. These doubts of mine didn’t scare him or cause him to even blink- He knew that God would be faithful. But still, the questions made themselves at home in the back of my mind, and the uncertainty caused my heart to ache with a chronic pain that I had become so familiar with. At this point, after living with these doubts for nearly two years, they didn’t shock me or shake me like they used to. I had grown numb, apathetic, and lifeless in my soul. I told my husband that I was fearful of moving somewhere that I was wrongly convinced hardly anyone had a relationship with Christ. I was fearful that I would be further pulled into the depths of these doubts and completely turn away from whatever speck of faith I was haphazardly clinging to, if any at all.

The time for our move came this past summer. We packed up and began our road trip toward the place that would become our new home. Every second of that trip was filled with awesome memories that I will treasure forever, however, two specific stops stand out to me. The first was the Grand Canyon- seeing that majesty, the beauty, the awe-inspiring tapestry- it stirred something within me. Driving up Highway One and Big Sur had the same impact. I began to have that thirst again, I wanted to rejoice God in my soul for whom He is, I wanted to believe it in my soul, and not just have a longing for Him to exist; I wanted a longing for Him. The doubt was still there, but I had a rekindled urgency to face it.

The second Sunday that we were here my husband announced that we were going to Church. I agreed verbally, maybe even excitedly (reaction formation), but I put up slight protest in my heart. I didn’t want to put on a show. I didn’t want to be surrounded by hypocrisy. I didn’t want to be the hypocrite.

The first Church service we attended shook me. I remember leaving thinking how can they worship like this if it isn’t all real? God was working on me, but I had no idea the monumental changes that were about to occur.

We began attending groups within the church- Bible study groups, hiking groups, community service groups, etc. I clearly began to see the way these individuals live. It is not a superficial knowledge that drives them. It is not a duty or obligation. It is a relationship. Look, these people are in deep, undeniable relationships with Christ. They have zero judgment. They are not brain-washed. They are intelligent, wise, and beautiful individuals who know the real thing when they see it. They aren’t “Bible thumpers” with their heads in the clouds. They are some of the most authentic individuals I have ever met. They do not claim perfection, and they only boast in Christ. The seed of resentment began to disappear from my heart. From these relationships I was motivated to repair relationships from the past, and dig out the root of bitterness that had entangled me so deeply. I began to crave the fellowship of other believers. I began to desire that freedom that comes with worship. The doubt began to wither away.

Sunday after Sunday we went back to this Church. Each time, my heart was softened. Each time I opened my Bible I grew more and more enamored with Him. I began praying again, thanking God. I thanked him for his faithfulness, for his future faithfulness too; I knew that He was going to be faithful, even if the doubts were still there, He was greater than them.

During a particular worship service, I found myself overwhelmed in the best way. I felt enraptured by the Holy Spirit in a way that is nearly indescribable. This moment literally took my breath away. In the middle of worship that still, small voice in my heart that I had not heard for so long said, I’m here, I’ve got you. It was not my emotions speaking- This was undeniably the Holy Spirit.

Whatever doubt had been there was replaced. It was replaced with a fire, love, passion, desire, yearning, and an assurance of the One True Living God.

I know many would say that this was perhaps an emotional connection to the desires I had- grabbing onto the first illumination of something to believe in. But it was not that. For every second of doubt I had, it was as though a confidence now overwhelmed my soul, washing away those uncertainties. And ever since then, He has continued to confirm again and again His presence in my life. I just had to seek Him. He has always been there.

Romans 8:38-39 declares, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Nothing can separate us when we are in Christ. Nothing. Not our doubts, not our fears, not even ourselves.

He never left me. He was with me through every single step of this painful process. He did answer my prayer, in His time, better than I could have ever pictured. I don’t know why He didn’t help resolve these doubts earlier. This is not a stance on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but I do think He was waiting for me to seek after Him fervently, to give up the resentful, hateful seed that had been planted so deeply into my heart. And if I ever face this again throughout my walk, I know I can face it with the assurance of knowing Christ will see me through. I also will not stop in my pursuit of objective truth- I just have a confidence now that it will point back to Christ. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Moreover, I know despite my flawed human imperfection, His timing is perfect. My heart is set ablaze as I enter this new stage of life, a stage where I am more available to do whatever He calls me to than ever. I have confidence far surpassing what I had even early in my walk before the doubts set in. I have a fire and passion to share this love with others. I realize the selfish life I have been living for so long and have a desire to truly turn away from it. Everything that seemed so important of this world seems so foolish now. I have a thirst for more. I have a thirst for something real. All glory to the One True God.

From this time I have also taken away this: Doubt is okay, it’s natural. Doubt is not something to be ashamed of, in fact it can be so good. It is a season, that most, if not all, people do face. God uses all seasons to sharpen us, to mold us, and to grow us. It’s nearly a cousin of faith, but tackling our doubt deepens our faith. He doesn’t want blind followers. He wants us to pursue Him and praise Him with a confidence and assurance.

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 right hand.”

So to any brothers or sisters struggling through the tangles of doubt, I just want to whisper this piece of truth from my heart to yours..

He’s got you. He is real. He loves you more than you can imagine. He is with you, and He will be victorious over this season.

Why “no” is such a beautiful word

I am in a strange stage of life. It’s a stage that I cannot define. And in twenty-two years of life I have never experienced anything like this.

Ya know, like first, you are surrounded by a bunch of other drippy-nosed rugrats in kindergarten. Next comes grade school that begins the continual climb to the envied Senior year of high school. (We won’t discuss the middle school years; we all know the horror.) Then comes college where you pursue a degree in your dream job and then swiftly as college comes it goes leaving you with that beloved job. Right? Apparently not, at least not for me; at least not at this moment.

I pursued my degree in nursing for four strenuous, formative, fantastic years. Oh, how I loathed it, but, oh, how I loved it even more. The hours of ceaseless studying, tears, lack of sleep, the criticism of crotchety nurses, being cursed at by hurting patients, and putting my life on hold was worth it if I could make a difference in someone else’s. But for now, my “dream” to be a part of the extended hand of healing is temporarily on hold.

The California State Board has a slightly longer timeframe to approve someone to take their state boards than other states (by slightly longer, I mean tremendously). Most of my friends were approved within a couple weeks of graduation in late April to take their nursing boards. I was offered an interview with my said dream job, but in order to sit for the interview, I would have needed to take my boards by mid-July. I am still waiting. I studied laboriously for all of May and June. I reviewed, took practice exams, and reviewed again until I was burnt out. I finally reached out three weeks ago to the state board. They said they were just waiting on my fingerprints, and then I would be good to go. Last night, the anniversary of  these three weeks I have had boldly marked in my calendar, I called again. After ten attempts to even get through, and an hour of being on hold, they told me they could not give me the timeframe that my application would be processed. They clarified it would not be “soon” as they were still processing the group before mine (the March 1-15th group) that they have been processing since May. I submitted my application March 21st. If I had submitted my application a week earlier I potentially could be working right now. I could have a job. I could be pridefully proclaiming that I am successfully onto the next stage of life. I could be someone doing something. But here I am- unemployed, in a waiting period, and at complete peace.

Peace? No, not a typo. Allow me to explain. I am the type A “go-go”, never stop, to-do-list-always-three-pages-long type person. We all know the type. Especially through nursing school, I never took much time to do the things I enjoyed for their own sake like reading, writing, playing my guitar, or hiking. We all have seasons where we feel we just have to do what we have to do to get by, but I rarely took time to do, in my mind, “non-productive”, restful things. DJ jokingly calls me “Max (MACKs) Efficiency”.

I talked to my sage older sister this morning (aka my therapist). She helped me process this stage of waiting and confusion. I expressed the guilt I have been feeling from not doing something society deems productive while I wait to be approved to take my boards. She helped me realize, that this period of rest, is exactly where God wants me to be.

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Guys- God literally moved me across the country to where I know hardly anyone and slammed the door of my plans with a resounding “no”. What has happened in this “no” period? I have lived. I have let the creativity that has been suppressed so deeply within me come back to the surface. I have explored His awe-inspiring creation. I have read books for pleasure that don’t mention needles, aseptic technique, or catheters. I have experienced new cuisines. I have had the best conversations and time with my husband. I have found a church home and have started beautiful friendships. I have danced around the apartment just because. And I have rested. “This guilt about non-productivity is not from Christ, Kenz”, my sister said to me.

This guilt is not from God.

How true is that? God even rested on the seventh day. This guilt is my pride echoing the words of society that if you are not contributing or producing something tangible, then you are nothing. But God did not create us to be robots. For so long, my identity has been in my output and achievement, not in Christ. She hit me with a left hook when she said,

“Busyness doesn’t allow us to experience God’s awesome interruption”.

I have kept myself so busy for so long that if God had something to say to me, if and when He had something better for me, I could not have heard it above the deafening noise of my schedule. I fended off the plagues of doubts about my beliefs and faith because I simply didn’t have time to process them. Now, in this time of my life, I am falling in love with Christ all over again as He eliminates those doubts and renews my soul. I am ecstatic about the ability to pursue passions that He has given me.

I love the illustration that trying to do it your way is like constantly wearing a candy necklace, when God has a string of pearls for you. (Some may prefer candy, but you get the picture). Without realizing it was happening, He took everything from me that I thought defined me, and instead gave me joy. 

I do not know what is next. I don’t know what these next few months consist of until I receive my approval from the State Board (and from God) to pursue nursing. Maybe I will be working as a barista again in the local coffee shop while I wait. Maybe God will use me to make a difference in someone’s life, through a different avenue than nursing. Maybe I will make lifelong friends or maybe I will discover a new favorite running trail. I am such a control-freak, but what a blessing that at this moment nothing is in my control. What an even bigger blessing that God has this under control.

“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

Wishing you ineffable joy,

xo ❤

Mack