Sunday, July 14, 2013

For such a time as this...

So last month I wondered why God gave me such an amazingly awesome week... and I wondered what it was preparing me for... I think I have a little bit more insight as to why I needed that week... it was to prepare me for the month of July.  Just like a runner loads up on carbs before a marathon... I needed to load up on... spiritual and emotional carbs to prepare me for this month.

I've wanted to take the time to write earlier but I really hadn't been able to find the time.  I wake up every morning asking myself what do I NEED to do today?  What are my MUST DO priorities... and what can wait?  Even hour by hour... I've needed to make choices as to what is better and what is best and let go of the things that I really don't have time for... right now.  It's not to put these things off forever... just for a few more weeks.

I also wanted to write because it makes it a little bit harder for you to rejoice and celebrate with me after it's done if I didn't let you know what a struggle it was during.  The deeper the struggle, the bigger the victory.

Where do I even begin... I have no idea.  I'm just going to start writing and hope some sense comes out of it.

Yesterday's application question... "In your life right now, would your psalm to God be a hymn of praise, lament, or a song of thanksgiving? Write that psalm and share it with someone."

This is my psalm and I'm feeling so many different emotions that it's hard for me to separate into praises, laments, or thanksgivings.  I think it's all at once.  I've had a hard time putting a finger on what I'm feeling because it's all of them and it may be none of them.

So... why is this month particularly difficult for me?  This is the month that I do data collection for my evidence-based clinical project thingamabobber... It's so much easier to call it a clinical dissertation but that may or may not be totally accurate... but it is easier for me to remember than an evidence-based clinical change project or something along those lines.  It's a research project.  I had to look at my clinical setting, identify an area of interest or where there could be potential change, research what's been done in the area, choose an intervention, implement it, and then analyze my data and write it up.  Call it whatever you want.  It's a big deal and I've been preparing for this for years.  It's the culmination of my doctoral degree.  It's kind of a big deal, yo.

I realized the other day as I was printing an image for my education board... that my entire project was motivated by my experiences with Anderson.  When this picture came out of my printer... my jaw almost fell when it hit me that it really IS all because of him.

This one experience had a ripple effect which continues to impact the things I do and the choices I make today.  I've written so many papers on what it was like to experience healthcare from this point of view.  When they asked me to choose an area of research that I like and I'm interested in... it was really hard for me in the beginning... but I sat down and asked myself what about the entire experience impacted me the most... and it was how I was treated in the hospital... how the staff made me feel... and the ways in which the things they did or didn't do affected my perception of how good their care was.  So yeah.  That's what I wanted to research... patient and family-centered care.  And it was all because of Anderson.

I look at the way I live now and I'm basically going the extra mile by talking to every nurse I can individually on both day shift and night shift to tell them about my project.  I thought it'd be nice to give them individualized attention even though it isn't time efficient and it makes me come to the hospital sometimes at 3am or 10pm because I know that it's better for the nurses if I avoid the rush hours.  It reminds me of the ways in which Anderson and I differed when we invited people to our wedding.  We only had one day to let people know we were getting married.  We also only had one day to prepare for the wedding.  I evite-d my entire address book and posted a status update on my facebook wall.  "Come to my wedding at 3pm and here's the address".  Done in 5 minutes.  He spent the entire day calling each and every one of his friends in his phone address book.  Granted that was his way and probably between the two of us, we covered almost everybody but... it showed me the differences in how he and I approached things... the ways we approached our friends... and I now find myself trying much much harder to invest more personal time with my friends rather than always taking the easiest, most efficient method.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Esther and Esther 4:14b stuck out to me.  It was when Mordecai told Esther that "who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther had a remarkable story.  She was chosen out of all the virgins in the kingdom of Persia to be the queen... after a series of kind of shady circumstances... but nevertheless... it is no small thing to be chosen to be the queen.  A definite Cinderella or rags-to-riches story.  It never mentions whether or not there was love involved... but regardless... it was a pretty special thing.  Miraculous even.  And in the moment, Esther probably had no idea why any of this had happened to her.  Maybe even Mordecai had no idea... but it was quite impeccable timing that she was there, in the palace, with the power to actually do something about the decree that would basically abolish the Israelites in Persia.  Mordecai said that if Esther didn't do anything about it, he was sure that God would raise someone else or bring about some other set of circumstances where they would be delivered but shame on her if she had it in her power to do something and didn't.  Who knows if this is why all of this has happened?

I asked myself "why has my life turned out the way it has?"... perhaps for such a time as this?  "why am I here, right now... doing my study... this month...?  Why am I at Newsong?  Why ME of all people?  I don't know.  But maybe for such a time as this.

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago and my friend from nursing school who very RARELY messages me, sent me a link to a video and said that the video reminded him of me.

I think that particular morning I was feeling really emotionally constipated and what I really needed to do was cry.  Watching the video definitely made me cry.  I felt a huge release after crying... and then I asked myself... why am I the one that's left here?  Why wasn't I the one who died?  Because... I suppose there is still much for me to do here.  For such a time as this.

I wasn't planning on implementing my study this month.  I had actually planned on implementing early next year... or after I was done with my clinical hours.  I still have maybe 300 hours left to complete in the hospital.  I planned on implementing after my hours were done and then giving myself an extra semester so that I would graduate in May 2014.  The way my course plan was laid out previously... I was supposed to graduate in December 2013 and walk in May.  I had decided that my sanity was worth the extra semester of tuition.  But I guess God had other plans.

About a month ago, we started to have summer volunteers at the hospital.  I probably wouldn't have noticed it if I weren't still working.  I also had made plans to quit work this year but for some reason I'm still working... and I'm also shadowing a few MD's at my hospital too... but anyway so I was talking with a friend at the hospital and I was wondering... whether or not it would be possible to have the volunteers help me with my data collection.  It was just a small thought.  And then within a few days, I got two different directors to approve the idea and then the ball started rolling.  According to my original theoretical plan, I would educate and talk to the nurses for two weekends prior to the study implementation week and then implement my study for a week straight and then do the post-surveying.  The moment that the directors gave me the green light to implement my study that month... was just enough time for me to implement according to plan before the volunteers were done with their summer program.  I was also able to obtain use for 4-5 of the volunteers for my research study as well.  Now it all sounds like the stars were aligning and doors were flying open... so I should have been really, really happy... and I was... except... I didn't feel ready.  It's one thing to theoretically say you're going to do something in a certain way... and it's quite another to actually do it.

Even though I'd been preparing for implementation for two years... I hadn't actually looked at any of my work since before January of this year.  At least six months had gone by and I felt like I'd already forgotten most of the details of my own study and my own research.  And now I'm supposed to implement in 3 weeks?  I really, really didn't feel ready... or adequate.  A HUGE part of me was whimpering inside...  "I don't wanna do my research study..."... "I really don't wanna do this..." but then I had to sit myself down and tell myself... "then why did you decide to go back and get your doctorate anyway? You did your literature review... you planned out your methods... you already had your survey done... why aren't you ready?!?" and I really couldn't answer my own questions.  I wasn't ready to grow up just yet.

The first Saturday of my RN implementation weekend... I was totally dragging my heels.  I woke up hours later than I had intended.  I was taking forever to get ready.  But I somehow had a thought... I wonder if my friend is working right now... so I decided to text her.  And what do you know... she was working that weekend.  Not only was she working, but she was willing to HELP ME.  And she was such a calming influence.  I really hadn't talked to her in maybe six months or more.  Who knows if I had made friends with her so many years ago... for such a time as this?  I needed someone to help me feel like I wasn't alone... who I trusted to listen to me and provide a logical response... and who cared enough to meet me where I was at... and practical enough to actually help me put things in order.  This friend was perfectly what I needed in that moment.  The perfect cheerleader for that moment when I transitioned from being a theoretical doctoral student to a REAL doctoral student.  God is so good.

For reals, I almost cried right before I approached the first RN to tell her about my study.  Almost.  I didn't cry.  I actually chose the one person on the unit that I felt most comfortable talking to and she was my first.  I don't even know what I would have done if I didn't decide to do my study on a unit where I had already worked.  I knew at least half or more of these nurses already... and even though I hadn't worked there in a few years... whenever I walk on the unit, I get smiles from many of these nurses.  Who knows if the kind of person I was a few years ago had impacted the way people respond to me right NOW?  After talking to the first person... it got easier and easier.  I talked to everyone on my intervention unit and then moved to the control unit.  I knew almost no one on the control unit, but thankfully my old manager from the intervention unit was willing to go up with me and introduce me.  Once I was introduced... it got a lot easier to talk to the other manager as well.  And then to talk to the nurses there because I'd already practiced on the ones that I already knew.  I think I got to this point kicking and screaming.  I don't know if anyone is ever ready to grow up.  It's whether or not you rise to the occasion when it comes time to step up and be a grown-up or if you sink down and go back to a place that's comfortable until you're ready to try again.  I think I did OK... so far.  The worst is yet to come.  Can't wait til Friday.

Hm.  It all sounds like everything worked out so perfectly now that I look back on it... but I remember being really nervous and freaking out a lot on the inside.  I was glad to have so much support though.  SO, SO thankful.  I thought back on my own research experience though... and I realized that this is NOT the first time I've done a research project.  My first research project was in undergrad... I had to make a poster presentation and a powerpoint and talk about my little project.  When I was doing my masters, I had a thesis... where I came up with my own study and had to research it as well... but all I did at that time was have a one page survey which added additional information to a pre-existing data-set... and because the data were collected from physical education classes, all I had to do was give stacks of my surveys to the professors and TA's and they collected my data for me.  I got back completed surveys and then was able to enter and analyze my data.  I had jobs as research assistants... where I helped someone else implement their study and it pretty much ate up my life when I was doing their study... but I didn't feel this same kind of stress.  This time I had to do everything myself for myself.  Maybe I'm just being dramatic but it felt like a huge milestone for me even though I recognized that God had taken me on many, many small, incremental steps to get me where I am right now.

I was washing my car the other day and I was thinking about how thankful I was that I had done so much work and so much planning in the previous two years... and even in the years prior to starting this round of grad school.  I thought about how important it was for me to prepare for the future... and how I am now reaping the benefits of years of hard work.  I may not have known back in undergrad that what I was doing in the research lab would have prepared me for the next step in my journey... and I may never have realized that getting my masters in public health would have prepared me for nursing and then in getting a doctorate in nursing.  I may never have realized how being widowed at 27 would have had such a big impact on my future... on my career... on my clinical dissertation... on any of what I'm going through right now... but it did.  All my past impacts my future... and that made me realize that everything I'm doing right now is also impacting my future as well.  The way I live presently is training me for... something... and I might not know what I'm training for... but I'm training for something bigger and better than whatever I'm doing right now.

My present is important.  How I live my life is important.  Life shouldn't be spent waiting around for the next big thing to happen because... if that next big thing happens and I haven't done my best to prepare for it right NOW... I might not be ready for it when it comes.  I'm not really sure what else I want for my future other than to travel more and probably be married again and maybe have a family... but in the meantime if that doesn't happen, then I should be cultivating new hopes and new dreams and laying the foundation for them right now.  I do want to teach... probably.  I do want to go on international missions trips as well.  I want to mentor more people and be mentored.  I want to learn how to do more things... scratch things off my bucket list.  But all these things... eh... they may happen or they may not happen... but something the speaker said today really encouraged me... "that the posture of my heart and the disposition of my attitude are more important than anything I do".  It really doesn't matter what I do... if my heart yearns to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself... if my heart humbly seeks to please and glorify God in everything... and if I strive for excellence in every endeavor... I think I'll be adequately prepared for whatever else God wants for me.  Here's another quote from today's message... "living an extraordinary life means laying down our agenda and taking up His agenda... laying down our priorities and taking up His".  And then something a friend has reminded me repeatedly came to mind... A man's heart plans his way: but the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9.  

If I hadn't done so much legwork previously... if I hadn't submitted for IRB approval last year... if I hadn't submitted my second IRB at my hospital last summer... I wouldn't have been ready to implement on a moment's notice.  There must be some reason why God opened the door for me to implement right NOW so that I could be done with classes in December... probably defend in January... and then take boards around February... and then hopefully be licensed and ready to work soon after.  I'm not sure if this new timeline will pan out but so far, it's looking like it will.  I wonder why?  But maybe I'll find out when I get there... that all this happened... for such a time as this.

This is getting pretty darn long and I think it's kinda boring for anyone who isn't me... but this is probably more for my documentation than anything else so... I'm going to write as much as I want.  I want to write about today.  Today is Sunday... and tomorrow I start a big wave of my data collection.  Tomorrow is the first day of my study period and my research assistants and I will be collecting a huge portion of my research data.  I had been dreading this day for two weeks.  Only two weeks, I know, but things move fast in my life and two weeks is quite a long time for me actually.  I've also been SUPER tired lately.  Exhausted.  I pulled an all-nighter last weekend and then I had 8 hours of class for four days straight last week... and then I worked a 12-hr shift yesterday and then did more talking-to-RNs afterwards... so... today was the first day I could potentially sleep longer in many, many days.  I slept like almost 10 hours and it still didn't feel like enough.

I wrote to a few of my friends earlier in the week... or maybe it was a few days ago... I can't even remember... that it feels like I'm climbing a really steep mountain.  My legs are going.  One foot in front of the other.  My muscles are tired, but still moving.  My heart is pounding... but still going.  My head is throbbing but I'm still functional.  My lungs are screaming to stop and catch my breath but I have to keep pressing on... and I am.  For some reason or another... I'm still going.  I'm sustained for now.  I don't really understand how every piece of me is screaming to stop and yet I still keep going... and I also don't understand how I can be freaking out about the whole thing and yet also so peaceful about it.  Pieces of me are freaking out... and other pieces of me know that everything is going to be OK no matter what.  So I feel "ok" but "not ok" at the same time.

I woke up this morning and I thought about what I NEED to do today.  And I NEED to spend time with God today.  So I did.  I also REALLY want to go to church today but I was contemplating whether or not I should just skip it and get rest and work on stuff... but no... I decided that it was important for me to go and see people... even if I was dragging myself out of bed and taking forever to get ready.  I was like half an hour late for church today and I really hate walking in late but... better late than never.  And I'm really glad I went.

I sat by myself today during service... which isn't really something I like to do but I think it was necessary today.  The message gave me a lot to think about and I wanted to think about it without other people distracting me.  One thing I really appreciate about NOC (the church I go to now is Newsong North Orange County... but we call it NOC) is that I can have moments with God during service... and it doesn't feel weird.  I'm not sure if it's the atmosphere that NOC cultivates... or if I'm just in a place in my life where I CAN have moments in the middle of service and I can feel free to be who I am and do what I want to do even if it isn't what anyone else is doing... and just BE.  But anyway... I really appreciate my times of communing with God at NOC.  I am definitely where I need to be right now... and I haven't felt like this in any other church I've been at in the 25 years I've been a follower of Christ.

I came to service knowing that I wanted or needed something... but not really knowing what I needed exactly.  Prayer would be nice... but how often do people pray for you when you're not crying or breaking down or having a meltdown?  Unless today is a day when the prayer team is up there and you get to go ask for prayer from people who are prepared to give it.  Definitely no coincidence that today was a prayer day.  So I got prayed over today.  That was really nice.

Today was also the day of our church-wide picnic.  Part of me wanted to go but part of me didn't.  I wondered if I should just go home and lay down for an hour or so... and then go to the M&M half-time refresher (the mentorship program that I'm involved in)... but I decided to go to the picnic and I'm really glad that I did.  I might not have eaten much for lunch if I hadn't gone.  I also might not have gotten a chance to see some friends and to even talk to one in particular who has been SUCH a HUGE encouragement to me during this time of struggle.  Even though she's not a nurse and she's not in school right now... the ways in which she ministers to me and encourages me are EXACTLY what I needed in the moments I've needed it.  She always says that she didn't do anything... but all the little "nothings" she's done has meant so much to me.  And our friendship really started because I felt that God had burrowed a hole for her in my heart and wanted ME to minister to HER and help pull HER out her struggles... and now she's doing the same for me.  Who knows if God prompted me to be her friend in order for her to be MY friend for such a time as this?

During M&M halftime refresher... I was pondering on my mentorship relationship with my mentee and at what a blessing it has been.  I think that God has definitely done a great work in bringing the two of us together and I see in the ways we've interacted and all the progress we've made thus far... that it is special and unusual and definitely a beautiful thing.  It was an easy pairing and it is definitely easy to mentor my mentee.  How many people can say that?  It was definitely of God and from God.  He is VERY, VERY good.

Oh and during service... the speaker's wife came up to share with us her vision for our congregation... and it pretty much echoed what has been going on in my life and what's been going on in my heart lately.  It was about taking risks... about trusting in God's character and giving up something in my life to receive something greater.   I started my journey a few years ago... asking God to grow me in new and different ways... and I realized that in order to grow in new and different ways, I'll have to do things that I've never done before... to push myself and stretch myself... and also to let go of the things that hold me back... in order to have room in my hands to receive things which are greater.

This year, I've definitely done things I've never done before... and I recognize those things as God growing me in new and different ways.  It's scary to do things you've never done before... but if I am secure in my ultimate future... whatever outcomes happen on this earth... really can't be all that bad.  Just like I'm holding on for a little while longer... until after my data collection is done... I hold on in this life... just for a little while longer.  The pain, struggle and sacrifice are temporary in light of eternity.

So all in all... God has been preparing me my whole life for such a time as this.  The amazing thing is that right now, He's preparing me for my future stuff as well.  I can't even imagine.  But one day at a time... one survey at a time... one little something at a time and I'll get where I'm meant to go and be who I'm meant to be.

OK.  Too, too long.  Do you think this was overall a psalm of thanksgiving?  Maybe.  Congrats on getting this far.  Sorry so rambly!

much much love,

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