The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.

10.20.2008

two questions, two answers

I wanted to post my responses to two questions that I have been thinking about recently. If you wondered what I was hinting at in my last post, you will find your answers below:

1. Please explain why you wish to serve with Mercy Ships:

The short answer to this question is summed up in a quote from The Glorious Pursuit by Gary L. Thomas: “It’s not that I want more tally marks of service; I want to know more of Christ, not in head knowledge but in heart knowledge.” This book has been transformative in my life recently, shaping my thoughts about what it means to know and have a relationship with Christ. I want to truly know Christ more, and I believe that kind of heart knowledge comes through seeking to follow His example by loving people, healing the sick, and reaching out to those in poverty.

To give more depth to my answer, I will say that many things in my life have been nudging me toward applying to work with Mercy Ships. Over about the past six to eight months, a variety of books, sermons, conversations with friends, and conversations with God have prompted me to do a lot of thinking regarding what it means to know God and follow Him.

One result of that thought process is that I’ve developed an increasing awareness that the particular skills, gifts, and education God has given me—including my skills as a nurse—are meant to be used to bless others. I want to use my nursing education and skills for God’s work; I want to labor for what satisfies (“Why spend your money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2). Although I have been working at Mayo Clinic as a nurse for the last two years I feel that my life and work are largely self-focused, and thus have not been a source of great satisfaction to me. I have become insulated from poverty and need, but I want to purposefully move towards a life in which my focus and passion is intimacy with God and being a part of His work.

Similarly, I have also been thinking about service as an act of obedience to God, and as a way of seeking to know Christ. In the Bible, James states that faith unaccompanied by action is dead. I want to “love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18); not in order to “win” God’s affection but in order to worship Him and seek to be more like Him. God Himself commands us to love others in practical ways. Isaiah 58 lists some of the things that God considers pleasing acts of worship: loosing chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, feeding the hungry, and in general meeting the needs of those around us. Mercy Ships is involved in just that kind of work and worship and I want very much to be involved in that.


2. In Mercy Ships, we seek to follow the example of Jesus. Please explain what Jesus means to you:

• Creator: formed me and knows me intimately; continues to work in my life. I am made in His image, as are all people.
• Lover: desires relationship with me; despite my failings and sins, looks on me with love and desires me to become more like him. His love is transformative and is making me into a new creation.
• Lord: Jesus is ultimately in charge, not me (although this is hard for me to live out). He has plans for good in my life, and wants me to obediently follow where He leads.
• Light: I have walked in darkness, but I have seen a great light and I will never be the same.
• Redeemer: of my broken life, but also of broken relationships and this broken world. He will make all things new and all things right.
• Savior: I am no longer condemned by my sin to spend eternity apart from God; Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection have given me eternal life!

8.19.2008

what satisfies?

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Isaiah 55:1

I can, at times, be more than just a little dense. I can often look back and recognize God's hand at work in my life, nudging me through people and events to deal with issues in my life. Most recently I have been nudged towards thinking about what I'm doing with the time, money, and abilities that God has given me. At first this might seem similar to some of my past posts about my ongoing career indecision, but it is actually quite different. I've been approaching the question from the wrong angle, looking for what would make me happy and fulfilled. The real question is: how can I align more closely with God's heart and his work? That is what truly satisfies.

One of the many little "nudges" I've had recently was in this past Sunday's sermon, which I highly recommend but won't recap here. Aptly titled "It Won't All Fit," you can find it online at http://www.cccrochester.org/sermons/index.html if you are interested.

After church, I went out to a coffee shop and journaled copiously; some of those thoughts are echoed below.

I'm not sure but what my plush, comfortable life is quite empty and hollow. I may be a nurse, but it's easy to 'take care' of people without truly caring for them. My life here in Rochester is entirely my own, and entirely about what pleases me. I work as a nurse--which ought by definition to be a calling to care and heal--but I am not present in my work. In one of my college classes we discussed how God created work as a good thing, sacred even. Work ought to be an act of worship, but I find that I have not been worshiping through my work. Being at the Mayo Clinic has been more about the adventure than about faithfulness to God's calling. I've been laboring on (and for) things that do not satisfy.

I'm also holding on to so many things in life. Possessions, certainly, but much more than that. I jealously guard my time, especially my leisure and sleep time, and resent any intrusions. By choice I've become so comfortably insulated that it is hard to hear the still, small voice of God. What do I need to let go of in order to be able to more clearly hear His voice? What a radical question, and one to which the answer could very well be much more radical than I would like.

Not that it is impossible for me to labor for valuable things here at Mayo; not that it is impossible for me to discern the voice of God while living in Rochester; not that I 'need' another upgrade or adventure in my life. What I do need is a realignment of my values and priorities in order to better pursue intimacy with God. I don't want to love with my words or tongue but with my actions. After all, the gifts that I have been given are not for my benefit but for the benefit of others.

I'm not sure where this questioning will lead me, but God is working in me and I cannot remain unchanged.

6.18.2008

lost: a moment of clarity

I had it all figured out: I would stay here in Rochester, work part-time at Mayo, and work on getting my Master's in Nursing degree (Nursing Education Specialist focus). That would hold me for another three years. The feeling of having finally, finally made a decision was exhilarating.

And yet literally one day after that decision was made, I was thrust back into a tailspin of indecision, second-guessing, and doubt. Once again I am in the purgatory of trying to figure out what to do with my life.

What caused the internal change? A talk with Sarah, although Roo I hope you know that I do not blame you in the slightest--you just happened to be the catalyst this time. Sarah told me how she is enrolled in a master's program online; she told me how excited she is to take classes like "Holistic Mission;" she told me how this is such a perfect fit. And it IS a good fit for her...only I want it to be a good fit for me too. Not that program in particular but more just the whole public health and development idea.

What kills me is that I feel like I'm settling, somehow, by getting a MSN. It's easier, certainly cheaper, and much more practical. It's also one enormous gauntlet to run--it will get me where I want to go, but I have to submit to a whole lot of ugliness in between. Two entire years, in fact, of awful classes which happen to be the very core of academic nursing: nursing theory, health policy and finance, advanced pathophysiology, research, advanced pharmacology, etc. Talk about soul-killing. Does it seem too much to ask that I actually be interested in the subject matter I'm studying for a master's degree? At least I know what I could do with a MSN--unlike the MPH, where the potential careers are vaguely defined at best.

But the MPH route is much more exotic, more unknown/exciting, and definitely more global and broad-minded. There are some hard questions to be asked, though: at the end of the day, am I going to live overseas and work for an NGO or government humanitarian organization? It seems unlikely. Am I going to live stateside, working for some big beaureaucratic machine like the UN or USAID, probably in DC or wherever those kind of organizations are centered? Again, unlikely.

Ultimately I am frustrated at the narrowness of nursing as I know it, and I do realize that the nursing I know is only a small slice of the whole continuum. In the hospital setting nursing is so very reactionary, both in my day-to-day work and also in the larger sense of dealing with exacerbations of chronic illness. There is little to no place to see growth or change on a large scale--success is by definition getting someone mostly back up to par so they can go back home and make the same poor choices again. Or success is finally getting someone placed in a nursing home.

Being frustrated with nursing makes me more than just a little wary of getting a master's degree in it. It also makes me second-guess having gotten a bachelor's degree in it, which is both disheartening and futile. I will choose NOT to regret that decision, not after five years of bitterly hard work.

I feel like I need to step back and get some perspective but am not sure how to go about it. I also think I need to let go of the idea that the MPH would be a good fit for me, almost in the same way that as an undergraduate I let go of the idea of being a literature major. I need to let go of an idealized, romanticized picture of what my life could be in order to joyfully, willingly accept the idea of what my life SHOULD be.

It makes me think of an Emily Dickinson poem I read in high school. I understand parts of it, but not all of it. Here it is nonetheless:

Renunciation—is a piercing Virtue—
The letting go
A Presence—for an Expectation—
Not now—
The putting out of Eyes—
Just Sunrise—
Lest Day—
Day's Great Progenitor—
Outvie
Renunciation—is the Choosing
Against itself—
Itself to justify
Unto itself—
When larger function—
Make that appear—
Smaller— that Covered Vision— Here—

4.15.2008

a short list of things I love...

...just because I can.

jazz music. candlelight. earl grey tea. pears. my Roo. white Christmas lights. how the leaves change color in the fall. peonies. green & black's maya gold chocolate. Italian architecture. a really good tall nonfat caramel latte with no whip. ambiance (think B&O Espresso). swing dancing. Compline. my handful of old books. tomato basil soup. falling asleep in the sunshine. speaking Norwegian. decoupaging when I happen to be in the mood. good conversation.

3.22.2008

when it is dark enough, you can see the stars (Persian proverb)

Three Cups of Tea is a book that I savored over my own cups of tea the last two days in the hours between working and sleeping.

How simple is this world I live in, and yet how complex. On the surface the book is about education, how to lift families out of poverty, and about the power that women have to change their communities--if they are allowed. Yet on another level the book is about what it means to be truly human, to deeply love others (despite lacking a personal relationship with the God of the universe which so often inspires such love), and about how the hope of something better is the ground in which real change blooms in the human heart.

Thanks to the kindness of a friend, I have also been reading a book entitled something resembling Making Decisions by the Book, with "the Book" literally meaning the Bible. My main lesson learned so far is how much extraordinary freedom God has given his people regarding decisions in life. Despite all I have previously heard about free will, I have been laboring under the idea that I want to choose the path that God wants me to choose--as if there was only one right path, and that God was going to mystically guide me onto it through various circumstances and gut feelings (sentiments such as "God opened the door" and "I really feel a sense of peace" come to mind here).

Oh how simple, and how complex. Here I am peering at the rest of my life’s journey, trying to discern through the fog some landmarks to start me down the "right" road. I really would like a road map, please.

A map might save me from the indefinable pulls I feel in my heart and mind towards intangible ideas such as "education," "health," "international development," "a master’s degree in public health." A map would, perhaps, point me directly down one path or another and spare me this internal struggle. And yet I can see that the map is only created as I travel and not ahead of me. Places I have not yet been cannot be mapped, except by One who in His wisdom chooses not to despite knowing both the destination and the journey.

I’m not afraid, exactly. What I am is unsure and perhaps, in truth, a little wary of the choices ahead. I want so much to do things the "right" way the first time around. What if there are no second chances?

At the end of the day I am slowly learning that I need much prayer--not asking God to show me specifically which way to go, but rather asking for the wisdom to make choices in my life that are honoring to Him.

Here’s to the grand adventure unfolding even now...

2.14.2008

today's gem

One conclusion from today's musings: I am not a stellar floor nurse. Good/decent/passable perhaps, but not stellar. Moreover, I don't think it is possible for me to be a stellar floor nurse...and I am honestly rather relieved.

I am not very good at what I like to think of as "trench work." By this I mean things like being a floor nurse, the one providing the service to the patient. Not that I can't do it but rather that I am not exactly well-suited to it.

The only way I can think to explain this in concrete terms is, unfortunately, with a scenario that only those from SPU will understand in any real sense. Let's be honest: I was not a good SMC. Now it does not necessarily follow that I was a bad SMC, but it certainly was not one of my shining moments. However I think (and I'm hoping desperately that I am not totally off-base!) that I was a pretty darn good RHMC. At the very least I can say that it felt much more natural.
The difference lies not so much with the content but with the processes involved; the type of work involved. I thrive in situations that allow me to teach, enable, empower, encourage, mentor, and guide people--and this is key!-- who are motivated, intelligent, passionate, and likely to succeed.

For a long time I thought I just wanted to teach/mentor/guide etc. and that it didn't matter the person on the receiving end. In fact I thought that it was more noble to go to those who were really needy--those with poor situations or few resources and the like. To work in the trenches or on the front lines, so to speak. (This sounds suspiciously like a savior complex: to come bearing a metaphorical light to those in darkness.)

And this is what it means to work in the trenches--to stand in the midst of brokenness and try to assuage it.

But I realized today that I am not good at that. I am too easily frustrated with things beyond my control; I am too easily defeated; I do not have the willpower or the motivation or the drive to stand in the brokenness. And that's ok.

While I don't believe that God is heavily invested in my self-actualization, neither do I think that it does anyone any good (and it might in fact do harm) for me to try to do what He has not created me to do. In a spin on my Foster and Hicks learning, an owl cannot make a very good dam.

My conclusion is this: I should not work in the trenches (aka try to build dams). What I can do, however, is support those who do that kind of work. I can teach, encourage, brainstorm, analyze, problem-solve, mentor, equip, provide emotional support, and see the bigger picture. And that can be my part of mending the brokenness in the world.

What a gift and a blessing it is to finally understand this part of myself! What a struggle it has been with feelings of inadequacy and frustration, and what misery to feel deep ambivalence towards a job that I thought was a calling.

And what then is my calling? I don't know, but I do know that God will open a window--if He hasn't already.