Two weeks

Unorganized and Incomplete Thoughts After 14 Days as an RN

Scores of scrub-clad figures approach the doors. Coffee in hand and sleep in eye, they file towards their posts. Blearily blinking as they herd onto elevators, yawns precipitating yawns. Shoes squeak on seemingly sterile tile and brows furrow in response to the insulting florescent lights. Third shifters pop their heads from behind computer screens and out of patient doors, owlish eyes seeming to sigh in relief in response to their relief. Hushed tones mingle with groans as quiet words prepare the next installation of men and women for their watch.

“Hun.” “Honey.” “Darlin’.” My teeth grate. Grateful the stifling mask is there to hide my grimace, I respond, “No problem.” Those words, while probably the most degrading, were the mildest of his language. The entire twelve-hour shift, my hackles were raised and my eyebrows cocked. When I received my assignment, sympathetic grimaces were sent my way. Couldn’t be too bad, I thought, I am only an orientee. While the physical and medical care is challenging, it pales in comparison to the toll taken on my patience and graciousness. Demanding. Taciturn. Offensive. I feel immensely relieved to report him off to the next nurse. Then I think about these things that make it difficult for me to serve and love this man. He is demanding.

Then I think about these things that make it difficult for me to serve and love this man. He is demanding. How often am I demanding of my heavenly caretaker! He is taciturn. How fickle my own heart and soul are! He is offensive. The sin and lies I deliberately choose to live in at times are abhorrent to the Healer. How much more wretched I am to my Father and Lord than this man ever will be, and yet He gives more grace. How remarkable and astonishing this illogical and counter-cultural love is; can I not treat this patient with love in my heart of hearts rather than just outward respect and tolerance?

As a beep sounds from a distant IV pump and the steady hum of ventilators fill the air, another sound joins. Laughter. The tech is entertaining the nurses at the station with an amusing story about a cute radiology tech. A husband sits anxiously in an unforgiving chair near the bedside of his wife, wringing his hands and wondering if he is strong enough to change her code status to DNR: do not resuscitate. A visiting woman rushes out, urgently trying to calm her crying infant. Further down an off-key rendition of Happy Birthday drifts down the hallway; a family celebrating despite the change in venue. This is one of the most beautiful sounds I have heard. The resilience of the human spirit. The doggedness and willpower to continue despite. A tear pricks at my eye as I stride medication in hand towards a man groaning and crying out in pain.

Dear Future Americans

Dear Future Americans:

Hey, you. May peaceful times be ahead. Whatever history may write about this time, let me clue you in on a couple of things.

  1. Do your research. The media has been extremely active the election cycle. People would get inflamed from a statement, a speculation would snowball, one inflammatory statement would ignite retaliation as is escalated at exponential rate. It is so important for you to be informed! Look at multiple platforms of information from both parties. Make sure people are citing or validating their claims. Make sure you don’t just listen to CNN or Fox or Buzzfeed for your information. Consult the word of God. What does he have to say about these issues? Just because someone is a republican doesn’t mean they uphold biblical values; just because someone is a democrat doesn’t mean they don’t.
  2. You don’t have to vote down party lines. I know many who voted a certain way because they always have. Be informed about the issues and plans and policies of candidates (see above).
  3. Local elections matter. I know it seems like just a bunch of names, but these people make decisions that will directly affect the buildings you work in, the company you work for, the roads you drive on, and the people you interact with.
  4. Just because he is the president of the US, does not mean the majority of people agree with his opinions. Fear. Fear drove this election. But it doesn’t drive everyone. The popular vote went to an inclusive individual, not without her flaws, but not preaching a rhetoric of fear or hate either.
  5. It is not okay for women to be treated or talked to the way he does. I am sorry that we set an example for you that you can sexually assault women and, not only get away with it, but become an American president as well. Treat women with respect, as individuals inherently imbued with dignity because they are made in the Father’s image.
  6. It is not okay for him to fear-monger and lump Muslims and refugees in with jihadists. Look up the vetting process to even find refuge in our country.
  7. It is not okay for him to have a complete disregard to the planet; be a good steward of the earth we were given. Climate change is real. I can’t believe it’s 2016 and I still have to write that.
  8. It is not okay to ignore and invalidate the fears and concerns of others. Right now is a very socially charged atmosphere. History will look back at this time, and, I can only hope, say we overcame. If someone is afraid, don’t say that they aren’t or that they can’t be. Seek understanding. Be an ally and a safe place for the exiles, the marginalized, women, people of color, and the underprivileged.
  9. Love others. Love and do not hate. It doesn’t say love those that agree with you. Division is rampant; love reconciles.
  10. You decide. You decide how you will act and behave. You decide the behaviors you will allow and the behaviors you will challenge. You decide to vote. Please, decide to exercise your power to decide when you can. Decide where you draw the line. And then, hold the line.

To close it off, I’ll leave you with a quote from the Queen (J.K. Rowling of course): “We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalized. We hold the line.”

With all my love and efforts and hopes and dreams,

Jess

 

Love Trumps Hate

I am shaken. Shaken right to my core by this entire election season. It wasn’t until the polls were closed early Wednesday morning that I realized how much hope I had placed in the outcome of this election. I have seen more hate, disdain, and single-mindedness concentrated into the past 12 months than I have seen in the past 12 years.

Most of what has been visible on the media and on social site has been a condemnation and demonization of the other side. We leap to the worst conclusions with our neighbor, our friend, our brother. We are divided. That has never been more clear than it was last night. But rather than letting our divisions act as seed of hatred, let us address them. Let us listen to one another, actually listen. Don’t spend the whole time they speak formulating rebuttals. View their concerns, fears, and opinions as valid. Seek to understand the decisions and ideas behind their actions. Mourn with those who are mourning; address and enter into their fear and pain with them. Do not make personal attacks against those who are of a different mind then you, rather try to put yourself in their shoes and understand.

I am from the state of Wyoming. It is a rural state with much revenue coming from coal or oil industries. The EPA is a bunch of hippies to most Wyomingites, because they would restrict money garnering industries. Yes we are completely modernized and have indoor plumbing, “Old West” justice and ideals are palpable. Wyoming votes largely Republican, having only voted for a democratic president only once since the 1950’s. For the people of Wyoming, most have valid reasons for voting red; they fear for their livelihoods. I did not come by this understanding by accusing my fellow Wyomingites of being bigoted, racist, misogynists. I had civil discussions with those who hold different opinions.

For those who are close to me, it is obvious which candidate held my vote. I called a friend on election day celebrating that I just voted for a woman in the presidential election in the US. But we were not victorious. Now, we lift up our heads and keep moving forward. It does no good to sling hate at those who are not disappointed.

That being said, we as followers of Christ are called to respect authority. Whether or not we personally feel like Donald Trump is a respectable individual, he is the president elect. On January 1, he will be known as Mr. President. That title alone demands respect. This isn’t an easy thing to swallow, but Christ did not call us to many things that are easy. So we ought to respect Mr. Trump, or at least try to.

We as followers of Christ are called to be agents of reconciliation, are called to display unity. How mightily we have failed these past months. Let us take this opportunity to join together with other believers, creating a peaceful and safe place for those who are hurting, fearful, or angry. Our religion should influence our politics but our politics shouldn’t influence our religion. It is not up to Mr. Trump to go to bat for the oppressed, the exile, the fatherless, or the widow. That is still on us. How we as a church are failing.
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Philippians 2:3 comes to mind. “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” That means those who I disagree with. That means those I am fearful of. That means Mr. Trump.

So let us humbly step forward into this new season with our country, filled with respect, love, and consideration.

Photo from poet Tyler Knott Gregson.

Hi, my name is Jess and I…

The end is nye! Actually just the end of my undergraduate career. I teeter on the edge of my known world. Up until this point in life, I have always had a basic understanding of what comes next. School always transitioned into more school. Middle school to highschool. Involvement in those four years to lead to the optimal college. Where do I go to college is answered by where am I getting the best deal and most money to attend (simplified). You pick your major and have every class for the foreseeable future plotted and planned out. Then, graduation. The cap and gown seem a garb donned for the unknown.

Before now, my future plans were always related to education; a degree was the shiny thing tied in front of me leading me onward. Granted, I have some understanding of what comes next. I find a job in critical care nursing at XYZ health system. But past that, I have no idea. What city? What church? Where will I live? Who will be my people? Will I be good at my job? And the questions continue. The next 50-60 years of my life are societally defined by my work and, should I choose, family. Fifty years. I have yet to live half that! This is a period so long and so uncertain that it seems a a big black pit. What’s at the bottom? I dunno. I teeter on the edge of this void and prepare to dive in.

The majority of my preparation has been researching health systems. Research, apply, and pray for an interview. The process uniquely draws attention to one’s self and gives us an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. When applying and interviewing, you always put your best foot forward; you capitalize on your strengths and minimize you shortcomings. The way you present and introduce yourself says a great deal about the things you value and how you identify yourself.

“Hi, my name is Jess! I am a nursing student from MSU set to graduate in December (the 17th to be exact, but who’s counting)! I am interested in seeking a critical care position and I was told you’re the one to talk to! My current clinical experience in a Neuro/Trauma ICU has made me fall in love with critical care. I especially like…”

And it goes on. Sometimes for hours.

You talk about yourself. But only because you must. You are friendlier and more chipper than normal. But only because you must. You make sure they only see the best of you. But only because you must. You have to do all these things in order to get the position you want, right?

We present a foundationally flawed image of ourselves. You minimize your flaws and capitalize your strengths, portraying a shiny but unrealistic version of yourself. Here is why my very being takes issue with this. I am not simply what I do well. I am more than the sum total of my accomplishments, experiences, and flaws. I am more than Jess, the MSU nursing student who wants critical care. My 30 second elevator speech, and I would argue everyone’s, fails to represent me as an individual.

None of these explain how or why I work. How or why I think. How or why I make the decisions that I make. The standard to which I hold myself and the driving force of my life are not translatable to 30 seconds and resumes. These fail to convey our identity because who and how and why you truly are cannot be conveyed through any medium other than the familiarity of souls.

I am not the things I have done. My identity is rooted in the things done for me. In a life and love given so freely it broke the chains of death. I am not the things I say I am. I am a child, beloved, given purpose and passion. I am not my professional conduct or nursing skills. I am an innately flawed individual, tripping and learning and growing my way down this path.

But I cannot pretend as if this knowledge has changed my interactions with potential employers. I have yet to translate this knowledge to action in these relationships during this time. How would it impact the way I present myself and the stories I choose to share? I pray that I may yet learn.

where humanity does not haunt

where humanity does not haunt

where society falls silent, my heart begins to beat.

there the gears of my mind turn

oiled by the thrumming of my restored heart.

the windows of my soul are opened

life breathing in and brushing back the cobwebs,

 blowing back the dust.

cement. brick. mortar. metal.

these are bars in my soul

preventing the drift, the depth.

yearning for the absence of man

so obvious the depravity he boasts or hides

the air around him hangs dead. noxious.

my soul longs for eden in the far east.

MAN. NOISE. SPACE.

CREATION. GOD. PEACE.

Higher than I

True to form, it’s been quite some time since my last post. I am resolved to only write something when I need this as a form of processing so it is far more for my benefit than yours (sincerest apologies). Good oft precedes bad; now maybe this is some inherent confirmation bias that since the bad has come, the time prior takes upon it shiny, sugar-coated qualities, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think that we serve a God of providence and omniscience. Knowing hardship is on its way, our God of endless grace provides us with a season of plenty. Being filled to the measure in this season, we can then endure whatever lies before us.

I think this is evident in God’s word as well. The Lord allowed Egypt to prosper under Joseph so they would survive the coming famine; Job was rich beyond belief before everything was taken from him in a day. God’s providence prior to sad or awful things happening is further testament to His goodness, but we seldom recognize it. Too overwhelmed are we by our current situation to praise God for the endless ways He has been and is being faithful to us, though we don’t deserve it.

Why do I write all this? Am I going through anything particularly difficult right now? Not really, no. But situations that have arisen in the past two weeks have tried me, tested who I turn to and what I lean on in crisis. A year ago, eight months ago, maybe even six months ago, I would not have responded as I have. Rather than turning away and trying to shut the Lord out, it is to Him I cry out to first and foremost, by the grace of God. The Spirit of the Lord has been so patiently molding and shaping this sinner’s heart, elbow deep in the mire. The Lord has used these trying times to show me growth and further deepen my reliance on Him, leaning in to His truths and comfort.

I serve a God who doesn’t shy from my questions. A God whose plan and ways and thoughts are high above my own. A God who is unwilling to let me continue on in ways that are destructive to myself and do not bring Him glory.

So what do we do with all of this, brothers and sisters? We make the most of times of plenty. If we have much, we serve one another and build one another up. I shan’t pretend to be a good teacher, of truth or otherwise, but do the things you are implored to do every Sunday by the man behind the pulpit. Be doers of the Word rather than just hearers. Then when times of little come, our base will be strong, the scripture will already be etched upon our hearts, community around us when we need it, and turning to the Lord will be muscle memory.

So, for myself and for all of you, my prayer for you in the times of plenty:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, selah, that your way be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy for you judge the people with equity and guide the nations upon the earth. Selah. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!”

Psalm 67

 My prayer in times of little:

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah. For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name… So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.”

Psalm 61

Grace and peace be with you, friends.

Real Talk

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It’s been a while. Quite a bit has happened in the past year-ish; I’ve learned some from it and get the feeling there is a whole lot more waiting to be discovered from this experience.

I want to be raw and glaringly honest. I took a break from my faith a while back. It was an internal rebellion rather than external, but rebellion all the same. I returned much changed from my prodigal experience. I am far worse than I used to be, by my old standards and measurements. I do less, curse more, and question more. By my old mentality, I have strayed from the path that leads to righteousness.

But friends, I am becoming whole in the ways of grace. The impure motives and incentives that used to fuel my walk have been extinguished. Loving Jesus is not about becoming good or climbing a metaphorical ladder to purity in the Christian life. My piety and goodness were poisoned with striving and a need to display that I could defeat my demons and mend my brokenness through sheer will-power and inner-strength. My soul was left completely dilapidated, having given more than I ever had to offer, indebted, and hopelessly circling round my own striving.

But now, those impurities have been burned away; all that’s left is the deep anguish of my soul and, hallelujah, I can finally be real – I am broken, too.

But grace came. And I was able to be me. Just me. No added actions to bolster my reputation. Bare and raw and naked and alone Jess. Lacking and not enough and too much. But grace and grace abundant saw me, accepted me, and thus allowed me to be free. No, I’m not better than I was, but I have internalized now that my creator loves me for who I am, and sometimes, despite who I am. I feel so intimately and utterly known and loved by Jesus I no longer constantly feel the need to perform. I feel as if I can genuinely love others, rather than doing it as an obligatory action.

Sorrow. Pain. Brokenness. Those things will be our constant companions in this world. But I choose, rather than to put on my brave face, to lean deeper into the Immanuel’s grace. His grace that sees the darkness in me and accepts me anyway. His reconciling grace. His redeeming grace. His healing grace. His paradoxical grace. Hallelujah.