Sunday, February 9, 2014

inhale grace, exhale praise

Hm... a lot has happened this past month.  

January 2014... I got my eyes lasered... I turned 32.  Two big things.  

I don't even know where January went.  It was 2013 and then all of the sudden it's February.  I tried to remember what happened to January and I honestly think I ate my way through it (during many, many birthday celebrations) or I slept my way through it... because getting my eyes lasered forced me to slow down a little bit.  

I don't really have a clear focus for this blog post.  It's most for record-keeping or reminding myself what was going through my head at this particular juncture.  I'll write to you as if you asked me, "so...what's been going on with you lately?"

Getting my eyes lasered.  It was something I wanted to have done one of these days.  I kept putting it off... putting it off... until I realized... that... one day, I'm just going to have to buckle down and get it done.  So I asked a friend for advice on it... and then I was getting my pre-op consultation... and then I was getting xanax'd and lasered.  The pre-op period wasn't too bad.  A lot of it was just getting used to the switch from hard lenses to soft lenses, adjusting to my astigmatism which seemed to go pretty crazy in the weeks prior to surgery, and then trying to follow directions as best I could.  The pre-op directions weren't as difficult as the post-op ones... and even those weren't that bad.  I WAS afraid.  There were moments when I thought whether or not it was all worth it.  Thinking about something cutting into my eyeballs was a little freaky.  But so many people have gotten it done.  There was a pretty high likelihood that I'd come out of it without willingly blinding myself.  But it was a possibility.  

I'm a nurse.  I take care of post-op patients sometimes.  I follow orders.  I monitor for signs and symptoms of complications.  It's really different when I, myself, am the patient and when the consequences of any failure to report a complication is my eyesight.  I became highly paranoid.  Who wouldn't?  They're my EYES after all.  I was making plans in my head... for what if I end up blind... what I could do for the rest of my life.  I'd definitely quit school and work.  I didn't think too far beyond that.  But I did think about my post-op care... a lot.  

I got papers with instructions for what to do and what not to do.  Other people went over them with me.  I read them over and over again.  It seemed simple enough but what was left to do was for me to take care of myself and put those drops in my eyes.  Drops, drops and more drops... and even more drops because I had some pretty severe dry eye immediately post-op.  The dry eye reminded me that I needed to follow instructions but the fear of getting an infection, the fear of damaging my eyes from improperly managing post-op edema... I don't know... fear of doing something wrong and going blind... kept me motivated.  The surgeon, or other docs who know what they're doing, wrote me these instructions and if I followed them, I'd be less likely to have complications... it was not a guarantee but it was good practice based on evidence.  It wasn't to ruin my life with constant eyedropping; they were for my own good.  And I learned a little more about having a heart of obedience.  

All in all... I'm really enjoying the vision.  It's really nice not to have to put in or take out contacts.  It's really nice to just open my eyes when I wake up and to be able to see.  Sometimes I wake up and I forget and panic just a little bit because I thought I slept in my contacts... and then I remember and I breathe a sigh of relief.  I'm glad I did it.  And that might be all I have to say about that.  

This past birthday was a pretty amazing one.  I did the same thing I've done for the past few years... I spent time with my friends.  I had a google document where I had people sign up for time slots to hang out with me.  I do this because what I truly value is spending quality time with my friends.  Personally, I don't really like going to big parties where the only person I know and the only person I actually WANT to talk to is the birthday person... but I probably won't get to talk to them much because they're too busy trying to enjoy themselves or talk to everyone else.  I'd much rather focus on one friend or a few friends at a time and only have them stay for that particular time slot and then let them be on their way.  It might take me days or weeks or even months to do it... but I want to spend time with the people who want to spend time with me.  

So many people wanted to spend time with me that the night before my birthday weekend... I actually got anxious and afraid that I wouldn't have enough energy to make it through the entire weekend.  I couldn't sleep the night before because I was scared I'd get tired and grumpy and take it out on a friend who went through so much effort to come see me.  But none of that really happened.  What I did feel... one friend after another... was joy.  

I realized that what I longed for was the presence of my friends.  Not even just their physical presence but to spend quality time knowing them... catching up with them... laughing with them.  I loved that so many people took the time to drive out and spend an hour with me.  Some people probably drove for more than an hour to spend that hour with me.  The time and the effort was extremely meaningful for me.  

And even more... I think this year was one year where more people than usual actually read my evite and followed directions.  I appreciate physical presence, but even if you cannot make the drive to me... I also appreciated the skype-time, the FaceTime, or emails.  EVEN MORE... was when the select handful of people wrote out their responses to my gift request.  I wasn't expecting people to come prepared having done their "homework".  It made me feel special and loved when people did what I requested.  They were meant to be suggestions... but some people wrote responses to every single item!  I truly FELT loved by these friends.  And again... learned a little more about the heart of God... how he longs for our presence, how he longs to just talk with us and hear us and KNOW us, and how much he must delight when we follow His requests/instructions.  It does hurt me a little bit when people make promises and don't keep them.  I know their intentions were to be there or to come through... but then again... I also learned a little bit more about the heart of God... and feel a tiny bit of what He must feel when we make promises but other things become more important... we don't make it... or even worse... when we forget.  

So in case you didn't make it or just for my own record-keeping... here's what I would have shared with you.  

(from the evite)
- share your highlight(s) from 2013, hopes for 2014
- share a favorite memory (with or without me in it)
- share an encouragement or an encouraging moment 
- share a favorite food of yours (or mine)
- share something meaningful with me... whatever you choose... song, poem, picture... something uniquely "you"


Oh man.  Too many to count.  I finished the worst year of my NP schooling.  Last January I was having meltdowns as I was confronted with my own inadequacy and ignorance as I transitioned into practicing NP work.  Honestly, I still don't feel even remotely competent or prepared but I still have a little bit of time before it really counts.  I completed my own doctoral study in July.  I sent my director my first final draft.  She said it's pretty much done.  Just a few minor tweaks left, I hope.  I'm waiting for my doctoral defense date.  After that... I'll be done and graduated and can remove the (c) after my degree so that I won't just be a candidate... I will be a full on Doctor of Nursing Practice.  I guess then I'll update my resume.  After I pass boards, then I guess I can add a few more letters after my name.  Dr. Tiffany Chen, DNP, AGACNP-BC (adult-geriatric acute care nurse practitioner-board certified)... and then to figure out where to stick the MPH (master of public health) in there... does that go after the DNP?  Do I even need the RN in there anymore?  The PHN (public health nurse)?  Sounds fancy.  And complicated.  I somehow don't even really feel like I deserve all the letters...although I guess I did go through all the schooling for it.  I'm going to have to figure out how I'm supposed to order all those letters... soon.  I bought myself a lab coat which I was going to have embroidered for myself.  Maybe I'll just make myself stickers and change it around like scrabble pieces.  I still feel like a kid even tho I know I'm supposed to be an adult now.  

HOPES for 2014.

Whelps... after I finish my defense, then I'll focus myself more fully onto studying for boards and also looking for a job.  Once I find that job, then I'll hafta focus myself more onto learning that new role.  I may move out if my job is far from home.  So... overall... 2014 is going to be a year of HUGE changes for me.  One step at a time though.  I have plans... ish.  Nothing's specific but I have an order with which I'm going to tackle each step.  I hope I survive.  I hope I'm not crying everyday after work like I did for the first 3 months when I started working as a RN.  I hope I actually find a job.  Wouldn't that be crazy.  But I still have my RN job and my director told me that I'd always have a job there as long as I wanted one.  Not worried.  

Every year for the past 5 years, a friend has taken me to Disneyland for my birthday.  After the first two years, I decided I didn't need so many pins with just "Tiffany" on them so I started making up names for myself.  Two years ago, I tried to be "Flower" and it ended up looking like "Floner".  Last year, I was "Love".  This year, I thought I wanted to be "Hope" but I ended up choosing "Faith" this year and I think next year will be "Hope".  Then I will have pins which say, "Faith", "Hope", and "Love".  My cousin and I joked that I should try to collect all the fruit of the Spirit.  I should like to enlist the help of some brave friend who'd like to get "Self-Control" for me to complete my collection.  O-o.  

I chose "Faith" this year because... in all my Bible readings... and pretty much every lesson that God's been teaching me this year... it's all been pivoting around my faith.  Faith in who God is... faith in His power... in His provision... in His perfect plan for my life.  Seemed fitting then... that I dedicate this year to focus more intently on my faith... with the pin labeled as my promise to God this year.  


I liked to take this opportunity to reminisce on favorite memories with that friend... or think about the first time I met them or the first time they endeared themselves onto my heart.  A favorite general memory... hm... maybe... the one I can think of right now... is one that happened in June of 2013... I remember feeling washed with a sense of peace... having a giant weight lifted from me as I purged memories and burdens which I had buried deep within my heart from over a decade ago... I stood in the middle of the street, next to my car, at night... closed my eyes and raised my face towards the sky.  I extended both my arms and just... breathed.  I remember feeling the brisk night air hitting my face and filling my lungs.  As I think back now... the line... "forever I'll be breathing in Your grace... and breathing out Your praise..." seems to label that memory.  


Don't be afraid to make changes, or remain still, when necessary.  Assess your situation and assess it often.  Think about where you are, where you want to be short-term and where you want to be long-term.  If something isn't lining up, then take steps towards realignment.  I think back... a few years ago... when Anderson left this earth... I lost my best friend.  I prayed for God to bring a best friend into my life.  I know how rare it is to find a best friend so late in life.  And God brought me like two best friends... and a whole bunch of really, really good ones.  It was like... when I was with Anderson, I only had a few friend-roses in bloom... and now when I look at the garden of my life... I have so many friend-flowers... all different kinds... from all different places... in all different colors... and it's a thing of beauty.  A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to have a mentor... a woman who I could follow and learn to grow in passionate love for God, passionate love for God's people and passionate love for God's Word... and God provided two women who have faithfully cared for me and have spoken wisdom into my life for the past 3-4 years at least.  When I asked God for a church community which would help grow me in new and different ways... He provided that too.  I went out and sought these things and sometimes it took a few tries to find something that stuck but God provided all of these things for me.  He heard the cries of my heart and He gave me what I asked for.  Sometimes I had to let go of some old things in order to make room for the new ones but overall... I think I've gained more than I've loosed and even things that I've let go... here and there I realize that they didn't go anywhere.  They just come in and out of my life occasionally with purpose, intention, and meaning.  Where I am right now, is a far better place than where I was 6 months ago... or a year ago... and I think that things will only continue to get better and better in the future.  Things change... circumstances change... adjusting myself to those changes and then making changes when necessary... has seemed to work out pretty well for me.  God has been very, very good.  


Lately... fuji apples... chirashi... carne asada... grilled shrimp tacos... genmai cha... jasmine-green tea... peach tea and boba... really excellent egg tarts... this coffee bread with cream cheese from JJ Bakery... mm... beef... always beef... 


OK... so after my birthday weekend and 4 straight days of rapid-fire friend-hangouts... I went into an introverted recovery period where all I wanted to do was rest and be quiet and alone.  I felt myself retreat as the chaotic whirlwind of my birthday festivities came to an abrupt end... and I entered into a period of... depression maybe?  I'm not sure.  My aunt took this picture of me at Laguna Beach... and I felt like it really represented how I felt at the moment... kind of dark and stormy.  

As loved and honored and cherished as I felt over my birthday weekend... I somehow switched gears and FELT alone, unwanted, abandoned, and unworthy in my storminess.  I felt the weight of the years of hard work... the scars of people who had hurt me in the past... and I just felt beaten and worn and ugly... like the side of this rock I saw on the beach.  Striated with scars... with open gaping holes where people have punched in and out of my life... and just blah and colorless.  Is that what depression feels like?  It sounds kind of bad now that I'm writing it out.  I'm pretty emotional sometimes... it's just part of who I am.  I'm sharing something "uniquely me", remember?

Striated and punched
 I realized that even though I felt blah and poopy and ugly... that sometimes... it's just a feeling.  Feeling blah and being alone only heightens the feeling for me.  What I needed to do... what was good for me... was to get out and be with people.  I needed to open up with other people and share life with them. I had hangouts scheduled with people who couldn't make it to see me during my birthday weekend.  Going out and seeing people I haven't seen in a while and recounting the things that have happened in the past... sharing the lessons I've learned... remembering favorite memories... hearing how they're doing... seeing their growth and progress... remembering all that's happened in the past few years... telling them "thank you" for the impact they've had on my life... or simply sharing a meal and laughing at myself when I broke my cone in half trying to transfer my self-serve ice cream from the scooper to the cone... those are the things that break me out of my poopyness... the things that bring joy into my heart... the things that make life worth living.

Before he died, I caught Anderson telling one of my friends... to make sure that she gets me out of the house... out from behind the computer screen... that she makes sure that she does things with me... so that I would continue on and live life instead of hiding behind the things I thought were safe and comfortable... or watching movies and living life vicariously through the characters on the screen.  I realized only recently that I feel the most joy and fulfillment when I am making meaningful memories with other people.  How did he know... when I was just a seedling... what kind of a flower I would turn out to be?  Maybe when he loved me with a love like God's... he also saw me with eyes like His as well.  I think Anderson saw the best version of me... even when I couldn't see it in myself... and he did his best to pave the way so the best version of me could live the best life I could live... and then to encourage me to share it with everyone around me.

K.  That was long.
Night y'all.

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