Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 158 - My Happy

When I came back from Houston... someone asked me an interesting question. It stuck in my mind because it's not something that people usually ask. He asked me:

"do you think you can ever be happy again?"

It's such an honest question. I wonder if he feared the answer. Maybe I'll ask him one of these days. He might not even remember he asked the question, but I remember being asked. Very vividly.

How would you answer that question? If the love of your life was taken away? If everything you hoped and dreamed for were to crumble before your very eyes? Even now, I'm amazed at my own answer to the question. Without pause or hesitation, I said "yes, because my happiness isn't based on my husband, it's based on God". Yeah. I amaze myself that I answered like that maybe only a month or two after Anderson had passed. If someone asked that question again, I would hope that I would knee-jerk respond the same way.

Even now... 5 months after being widowed... I'm amazed. Only 158 days since I last held his hand... since my lips last touched his. His body was lifeless 158 days ago, but it still somehow brought me comfort to touch him. He'd scheduled e-cards to be sent to me... I got them every few weeks... yesterday I had the thought that maybe I'd received the last one EVER a few weeks ago... and my eyes started to well up with tears. I didn't sob. I just let maybe two big boys fall slowly out of my eyes... and then it was done. I also cried a tear this morning for him... as I laid in bed... thinking. I forgot about it until I felt the gritty crustiness of a dried tear extending out from my right eye, about an inch into my temple. Note to self: always wash your face after having cried in bed.

He used to call me his happy. I don't know if any man has ever laughed at me more than my late husband but if that meant that he was happy... if me being me... unrestrainedly ME... made him happy, then I'm glad cuz I really wasn't trying to make him happy... just to love him and enjoy him.

He was my happy too. I delighted in him. Just having him nearby gave me peace and contentment. He was the only person I knew who could make me feel better no matter how ugly, frustrated, or horribly crappy I was feeling. He never let me forget that I was beautiful. He always said that I was the most beautiful woman in the world. I'd tell him that he was crazy...and blind. But he'd always say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that I was hands down the most beautiful woman EVER. To which I'd almost always say "I lava july" :P (say it out loud if you don't get it). He was my emotional regulator... the ocean breeze that blew away the hot, smoggy stressors of life that threatened to suffocate me at every turn. Even as he was struggling for his last breaths after they removed the breathing tube, I watched the video he recorded for me and it brought me comfort. And then my happy was gone. Logically, I shouldn't be happy. But I am.

Whenever I meet new people, they remind me... that I shouldn't be happy. Not that they tell me that I shouldn't be happy, but whenever they see my rings and ask me when I got engaged or married, I just look them in the eye and tell them that I'm recently widowed. The usual response is immediate shock, a very abrupt fall in countenance and a quick and awkward blurb like "oh, I'm so sorry" "that must be difficult for you" "I can't imagine how you must be feeling"... my favorite one is "I don't know what to say". I think it's definitely the most honest comment I've encountered. There really isn't any "right" thing anyone can say in response to catastrophic loss. These kinds of things leave ME speechless. I usually respond by saying that I'm OK, really. And I really am. Honestly, I don't remember that I should be sad until people remind me that I should be. It's a good reminder. It reminds me how far I've come... how gracious God's been to me... how marvelous is His healing power to restore and pick up the broken pieces of my life and turn it into something beautiful. I wonder what Anderson would say if I asked him now... "how do I look?" I'm hoping/guessing he'd say "more beautiful than ever, my beauTIFFul wife".

Hm. I didn't mean for this post to be a super long one, but it looks like it's going to be.

So, I've been holding off posting about this... mostly because it's not resolved yet, but I woke up this morning and I felt like writing about it... so I am. Sometimes... I think it's nice to let people in on the journey as you're going through it even though it's also nice to tell a story that has an ending.

OK so... I've been applying to nursing jobs for the past few months... ever since I've been back home. I've applied to 10 different hospitals. I guess I could still apply more... felt like a whole lot. Anyway, so I hadn't heard back from many of them... half of them let me know that the positions had already been filled. I contacted a few of the recruiters and asked them what I could do to improve my chances for next time... a few of them said that there really isn't much I could do... they simply don't have enough spots for the sheer volume of applications they're receiving. One recruiter said they had over 200 applicants for 4 positions. That's less than a 2% chance. Even at my very best, I don't think I'm top 2%. Oh well. The economy has impacted the amount of new graduate nursing positions for each hospital. It costs about $20K to train a new nurse in the hospital. So yeah... that's what it's been like... applying for new grad positions.

So I have a google document to track my applications, websites, my notes on the recruiters and what they said (have you noticed that I have a google doc for almost everything?). On the last day of my public health nursing clinical, two of my classmates encouraged me to apply to their hospital. So I checked it out... I called HR... updated my applications document and then scrolled up. The last place I applied to was Little Company of Mary in Torrance. So I randomly decided to check if little company had any new listings. They did. So I applied again. According to my notes, that was 12/9/09. A few hours after I applied, I got a phone call from the recruiter at Little Company. Surprising; since I'd only ever gotten emails back letting me know that positions had been filled. I got an actual phone call. And this one wasn't to let me know that the position had been filled... this one was to ask me to submit a portfolio. The recruiter also told me that he never calls new grads...he just doesn't have the time to... but that he saw something on my application that he liked. Wow. Totally God.

So I collected the paperwork for my portfolio 2 days after the call... the only hold-up would be for my letters of recommendation. This was the beginning of finals week so I wasn't expecting too much from my professors... just hoping that they'd be able to write one for me... before Christmas. I hated to send reminder emails, but I just had to do it. A few days into finals week, a friend of mine who works at Little Company let me know that she knew the recruiter and that he was expecting a call from me. Oops. So I called. He and I had a nice little chat and he again, highly encouraged me to get my letters of rec and turn in my portfolio asap. By God's grace, I was able to get all my letters of rec by Saturday, the 19th of December. For one of them, I went to visit my professor and sat in her office as she wrote me the letter. Not a problem... it was fun to catch up... and praise God again that I didn't get a ticket for parking over an hour in the 30 minute zone.

Dec 21st, I was supposed to hang out with my friend in Pasadena... but at around 12:30am-ish on the 21st, I asked if it was OK if we met up in Torrance instead. Thankfully, she was very flexible and gracious (cuz I woke her up with my phone call) so I called the recruiter in the morning and asked if it was OK to stop by to drop off the portfolio... he said that he had time after 2pm (perfect!)... so my friend and I had breakfast in Torrance, walked around Del Amo... and then she came with me to drop off my portfolio at Little Company. We took a tour of the hospital and I somehow managed to run into 2 out of the 3 ppl I knew that were working there... the third person works nights so I wouldn't have run into her anyway... but really... what are the chances?

So we were done by... 3:30pm-ish... I hung out with my friend a little bit more and headed home around 4-ish. Went to hang out with another friend after that... while I was at her house... at maybe 6pm, I got another call from the recruiter asking if I could come in for an interview the next day at around 11am. He wasn't certain yet so I had to call him back at 9pm that night to confirm. More wowzers. I called at 9 and he said he still hadn't gotten complete confirmation from the manager, but to call again at 7:55am the next day to confirm. So I called at 7:55am the next day and confirmed an interview at 10:40am, just a few hours later. Do you know how fast God can work? It was amazing.

In between 7:55am and 9:45am... I was getting ready for the interview. Clothes, shoes... but more importantly... getting my heart, soul, and mind ready. I was thoroughly unprepared, but I knew that if I rested my hope in God... if I was filled with His Holy Spirit... He'd give me the words to say... the wisdom I needed... the calmness, confidence, and peace to get through the interview OK. Sent an email to my small group and a few selected people to pray for me and to share a quick praise report about all the things that had happened the past few days.

So I started driving... had to get gas... I (mistakenly) decided to take the 60/605 instead of the 57/91 route to Torrance... so I was stuck in a lot of traffic on the 60 and 605. But it was a good time in the car... to slow down... listen to some good music... to pray. I abhor traffic. Especially when I have to be somewhere....but that day, it was OK. I was not frustrated... yet.

I got there 5 minutes late, I valeted my car... swung my jacket on and ran into HR. Thankfully again, the recruiter wasn't really waiting for me... he didn't even know what time it was when I got there. Answered a few questions. He asked me how I was doing. I said I was a little nervous. He stopped to encourage me and reassure me... to just do my best so when all of this is over, I can look myself in the mirror and say that regardless of whether or not I get the job, I'll know, myself, that I did my very best, no regrets. He also encouraged me to just be myself and said that I was a good person... and that you can't teach someone to be a good person... they're born that way. Can anyone dispute that God's hand was in this process? Seriously... the first real job interview I ever went on, the person who interviewed me made me cry she was so mean to me.

So the recruiter walked me up to the manager's office. All the while, he was encouraging me, making jokes... it was nice. So when I interviewed, I was able to answer the questions I was expecting... my strengths, my weaknesses... why I'm a nurse... why I'd want to work at a faith-based hospital... and then came the nursing questions. Totally wasn't expecting them, but maybe I would have been had I had more time to prepare. Medications, scenarios... took me by surprise. Thankfully once again, I'd done my internship on a telemetry floor so I was able to answer almost all of them, but seriously... only by God's grace did I get through 30 minutes of non-stop questioning...with little to no feedback on how I was doing. After the interview, the manager took me on a tour of the floor and sent me back down to HR. We chatted a little bit more... the recruiter again spent more time encouraging me... explained the benefits, etc. of working at the hospital. He told me I should hear back from him by next week (which is this week) as to whether or not they have a position for me.

So that was last week. I hadn't thought too much about it since Christmas came and went... but this morning I had a dream that someone came to tell me that I didn't get the job... but gave me a box of cheez-its for consolation. Cheez-its wrapped in an Envirosac, which she threw away, but I rescued it from the trash. I woke up a little bit disappointed. I'm not saying that my dreams are prophetic... it might just be my subconscious expressing my fears... but I woke up disappointed.

So that's when the question popped into my head again... "do you think you can ever be happy again?" Thoughts of Anderson washed over me. That's when I cried that crusty tear and then decided to blog.

And then I thought again... that I'm happy. My happiness isn't based on what's happening all around me. My happiness is from within... nestled deep within the center of my heart... the core of my being... and the happiness is there because God is there.
Content Whatever the Circumstances
I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Phil 4:10-14 (The Message)
I read this a while ago... the image has stayed in my mind since then.
For the hearts that will cease focusing on themselves, there is "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" (Phil. 4:7); "quietness and trust" (Isa. 30:15), which is the source of all strength; a "great peace" that will never "make them stumble" (Ps. 119:165); and a deep rest, which the world can never give nor take away. Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear His "gentle whisper" (1 Kings 19:12).

Even in the fastest wheel that is turning, if you look at the center, where the axle is found, there is no movement at all. And even in the busiest life, there is a place where we may dwell alone with God in eternal stillness. - Streams in the Desert, Nov 24
Grounded and secured in the axle of God, I will have stability, peace, contentment... happiness, no matter how fast the wheel is spinning... no matter how bumpy the road traveled. And I've found it true in my life. The bumpier the road, the more I need to be strongly secured and attached to the axle.

Did you know I actually started blogging or emailing because I hated to repeat myself? There's also a reason why I sent an engagement email as opposed to calling people one by one. I absolutely hated to repeat myself. Even with news as good as my engagement... which, again, was kind of bittersweet because we'd just found out that his tumor had come back the 2nd time and that he was scheduled for surgery a month later. But nowadays... I really don't mind repeating myself... when it comes to telling the story about how God's carried me through this past year... of all the things I've learned... all the growth I've undergone... how God masterfully orchestrated each and every detail of my life to prepare me for the storms of this year and how He's drawn me so much closer to Him as a result... how abundant life is in Christ... how lavish His love for me and for His people... and each and every time I tell my story, I'm hit again by how much God has blessed me, how vast His love and grace is to me... how He has taken care of my every need... every single time.

His faithfulness and His love for me is... so amazing. Read this today... when I read the whole verse in its context... it made me kind of chuckle but it's actually more true than when I'd only read the first line in my morning devotional.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women. (1 Samuel 1:26b)
This is David, lamenting over the death of his best friend, Jonathan. My heart says that to God. Your love for me IS wonderful... more wonderful than that of [men] or Anderson... or than any man on this earth could ever love me. Anderson was my happy, but God is my ultimate Happy.

The devotional used it as something that she'd love to have God say to her at the end of her life... to have God tell her that through the hardships of life, though
"you were never popular on this earth, nobody knew much about you, though your life lived to My glory in the uninspiriting sphere of duty seemed to be wasted and its sacrifice to be worthless by those who knew it; but your love to Me was wonderful! Men said you made mistakes and were narrow-minded and did not catch the spirit of the age. Men thought you were a fanatic fool and called you so; men crucified you as they crucified Me, but your love to Me was wonderful!"- Springs in the Valley, Dec 28

My Happy. My God.

I'll keep you all posted on whether or not I got the job. Until next time...


  1. i enjoyed reading this post. it warmed my heart in seeing how God's used the circumstances in your life to draw you to him even more. thanks for chatting with me yesterday, tiff. twas extremely helpful to get your insight. also, i laughed when i read "beauTIFFul." quite a pun. was that from anderson?? also, impressed with your knowledge of telemetry. after AVNRT, flutter, and afib, everything looks like a squiggle to me. AF is kind of a crapshoot for me, but if i know they're arrhythmic folks, it's my last "educated" guess. cheers!!