Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Touches my Heart...or Breaks it?

I tell you what, there are certain issues/people that are truly on my heart...I don't know a better way to put it. There are just a few things that seem to touch my heart and break it all at once...if that makes sense. I mean, it feels like my heart is so open and I feel so moved to do reach out, to say something...because I know the need is there...I know that someone needs to hear exactly what I'm reading...but sometimes I feel so I don't even know how to respond. Other times, I feel like I know just how to respond. I can see in my mind how to do it...I hesitate to say that I have a vision for such ministry, as it seems to bold. It seems to imply that I'm specially equipped or uniquely gifted for such things, and I can't prove that. I don't want to make such a bold claim. I just know where my heart is, what my passion is least, what it's for when it's stirred up. I could give examples, but I wouldn't want to ramble too much. But as I think on these passions and dreams...I can't help but get teary-eyed. I give props to those who share my passions and visions. Then again, I give props to those who have different passions and visions. We are all different for a reason, I believe -- different parts of one body, right? If we're Christ's body...then we have the ability to do great things on this earth...and are able to touch so many lives...if we so choose. Don't you love that about free will? God equips us and calls us, but it's our choice to follow -- to do? I read a book once upon a time (I know...shocker) entitled Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. It discusses the image of the church as the body of Christ. It's amazing because it uses knowledge we have of the human body, which has clearly increased since the time when Paul busted out the whole "body of Christ" deal, to show how different people, different congregations, different denominations, are uniquely gifted to serve a different role...but that no one role is greater than the others because all are needed for the beautiful functioning of the collective body. I don't really know what part I am...or exactly what part I play...but I know where my heart is.

Anyway, so tonight, I want to give props to xxxchurch. Some of the stuff they are doing blows me away -- reaching out to broken people, offering something more, and most of all, letting beautiful young women know that they are valuable. I also give props for Dove and their Campaign for Real Beauty. I love what they're doing. It touches me somewhere deep every time. I love the materials they're developing, and there's such a part of me that wishes I'd had access to some of those when I was running my girls' group because I know that those girls would've benefited from some of that. Not to say that God didn't work through that group as it was, that God didn't bless The Sisterhood. He amazing ways. I mean, I am blown away when I consider the fruits of that group. I had no idea...I had no idea...but God used the meager resources we had and the energy and passion we offered to do awesome things...and really, such resources would have only enhanced the group...well, maybe given me more to draw from as I put it all together...or maybe made another year possible. I guess I don't know that The Sisterhood has ceased to exit. I pray that it hasn't, that my girls will have someone step up and continue to help them grow in their faith and grow in love...I really do...and a part of me wishes I could be there...and share the things that I've been learning and reading and see what God can do with it...but I don't know if I'm called to go back to those won't stop me from loving on them or from praying for them...I just...pray that God will find ways to continue to remind them that they are amazing and beautiful and strong and that He has amazing things for them in the future...and I pray that God will use Dove's materials to bless more young women...that they may know their worth...that they may know their beauty...that they may learn the truth...and I pray for xxxchurch's outreach and the outreach of similar they show young women their value in God's eyes...and as they remind all of us that we are all sinful and that we are all equal in God's eyes and that no one is beyond the reach of God's amazing love and amazing grace...ever...maybe that's why my mind keeps going back to "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5) me, that means so much. It reminds me that there is always hope because we are called to be children of the light, and so we will never have to remain in the darkness. It reminds me that no matter what lies surround us, no matter how thick they are, the truth remains. No amount of lies can destroy the truth, or keep it from us because it is always there. Truth is stronger than any lie, light will always shatter the darkness, hope will always remain...God calls us to shine His light into the dark corners of our souls, the dark corners of the bring His hope and His truth to everyone...because we all need it...What I love about that is that it will take on new meanings for different people -- it will be accomplished in new and different in different places in different lives. It's a beautiful thing...a beautiful thing that touches my heart, moves me to tears, and inspires me to keep going.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Love the Skin You're In

So, last night I was watching Bend it Like Beckham and found myself really wanting wanting to look like Keira Knightly because she was so thin and cute and adorable...As I was watching this and thinking this, I was eating a small dish of frozen yogurt and enjoying a cup of coffee...It was a leisurely, relaxing time with the coffee and the ice cream, but I felt bad because here I was admiring her thin bod while I consumed these calories. So, I started lifting some weights while I was reading and watching the movie. I felt conflicted. I think I look like the "curvy" Fruit of the Loom women, or at least, I'd like to think that I do. I mean, those girls are attractive and proportional, but they have rounder stomachs than the normal models. I think they're attractive women, but as I looked at Keira Knightly, I seriously felt a growing discontent with my appearance...with the presence of my "curves" (?). After the movie was over, I started trying on outfits to try to find something good to wear to church the next day. I felt so weird, so out of place. I felt so strangely shaped...too curvy...too top heavy or too bottom heavy? I couldn't really decide. Nothing seemed to look good. Nothing seemed to fit right. Everything seemed unflattering and weird. Then I wondered: isn't that just how I am? Is it like that saying "a leopard can't change its spots"? I mean, I know you should take care of yourself and seek to be healthy, but how relative is "looking healthy". Does everyone have their own special "ideal weight" and "ideal shape" and "ideal size"? My instinct is to say "yes", as I know that we're all unique and that even if two people do the same workout, they won't become twins or whatever.

Then I started thinking about the slogan: "Love the skin you're in". I can't remember what product that's for...Dove maybe? It's some beauty company. Anyway, it was striking me as more profound than necessarily intended. I mean, I should love the skin I'm in because it's what I've been given? I mean, God created me the way I am. He blessed me with the traits that i have when He "knit me together in my mother's womb" and I am "fearfully and wonderfully made". But sometimes I feel like my love for myself is skin deep...not in terms that I love my outward appearance but not my soul, rather, I love my skin and my complexion and my hair and all that, but I think I my struggle is with loving the stuff that fills my skin. Know what I'm saying? Beneath that skin there's muscle...and fat...and I have a really hard time with that sometimes. I mean, I find myself checking my stomach in the's a compulsion sometimes...I need to make sure that it's flat enough. I need to make sure that I'm proportional enough...that I'm "okay". I know it sounds silly, I really do. But it's a symptom of my lingering struggles, I guess. I mean, it's a habit from "back in the day". Your stomach is one of the last places to lose fat; so, it's a bit ridiculous to use it as my measuring stick of "okayness" or "improvement" or whatever. But it's been my was my obsession...and I remember a time when I would use a sharpie to write the word "fat" on my stomach to motivate myself to work harder. That roll....when I see a freaks me out some days...If you read the note that I posted on facebook just before writing this, it will make more sense to you.

Anyway, the concern for me is: at what point should I be content? I want to be healthy, but I feel like I have such a skewed view because in my head, I should look "healthy" as opposed to feeling or being healthy. I mean, if I lose some of these rolls, if I have a little less flab, I will look healthier, but what price should I pay for that. I mean, there have been days"Healthy" what cost? There are days when I go about things from a healthy mindset, but there are other days where I'm flirting with disaster. It's silly because I know what I'd say to other people, but why is it that I suck so badly at self care sometimes?

I guess I struggle sometimes in trying to keep it all in perspective. I mean, isn't there something in the Bible about how my body is not my own? How I'm the workmanship of my creator? How I'm fearfully and wonderfully made? That in Christ I'm a new creation? So, to be discontent with my body, aren't I like dissing God's creation? *sigh* But it's something I struggle with again and again.

I find it almost humorous how I come back to this issue time and time again, despite talking to others, despite praying on it. I mean, I talk to "my girls" about it at least once a year, but it's like the words that come out of my mouth never sink into my heart or something. I'm the exception to the rule, though I know that can't actually be why do I always think it? Why is it so hard to accept? I mean, I talked to my sister Mika last night, and she tells me that her Spanish teacher (one that I love so much!) said on the first day of class, "Mika, I can see so much Takara in your face." and Mika says she gets compared to me more than she does to any of my other sisters...that she gets told we look the most alike..and that she agrees...and she sees how much we have in common, in our activities and interests. The crazy thing is that in her eyes, in her mind, that's a compliment. She doesn't get mad or offended if someone compares her to me. She's not angry if we match. She thinks we're a good match. She looks up to me. In her eyes, I am beautiful and worth looking up to. It saddens me that I don't see that...that I feel like I need to strive to be the amazing person she thinks I am. Not that she thinks I'm perfect, but she does think I'm pretty sweet.

It's something that I'm working on all the time. It's something I think and pray about. Something I continuously struggle's crazy. But it is why I have this prayer on my closet door that I try to read when I get dressed in the morning:
"Dear Jesus,

I now put on with thanks the armor which you have provided for me -- girding myself with the belt of truth; binding up all that is vulnerable of my femininity; first my need to be pursued and fought for. Thank you for daily pursuing me and fighting for me as well.

I also gird up my desire to be irreplaceable in a grand scheme of Yours. You have placed this desire within me and I wrap Your truth around it, in hope of what You will do. Grant me eyes to see each day in light of Your activity, to live in the bigness of Your story.

I gird up my desire to offer life through my gifting, the beauty You have bestowed on me. I ask You to continue to reveal and confirm what You desire to do through me and all You have given to me. I trust that You have called me by name and have given me a love, a beauty, a gift to pour out on my family, my friends, and those You bring to me. May this day be an offering of love poured out before You on the altar of my life. Amen"

I know I'm not the only one struggling with such things. Which is why I feel okay putting this out there...and why I pray that each of us can better understand who we are and how lovely we are...that we can learn to truly love the skin we're in and all that lies beneath it.

Settling Down

Is settling a conscious decision? Do you know when you're settling? Is settling giving up? Is settling taking the easy way out? Is it the defeat of the will? And what is the opposite of settling? Moving forward? Pushing beyond? Taking a leap of faith?

Maybe settling is merely accepting less than you're worth? Less than you deserve? In that case, then to not settle would be to strive for what you know you deserve, to believe that you are truly valuable and worthy and living up to that? Or something like that, anyway....

I wonder about these things because I'm pretty sure I have tried to settle and have settled in the past. However, by the same token, I think there are times when others have accused me of settling when I believe I was just marching to the beat of my own drum. Like my major, so many accused me of choosing a major that undermined my gifts and my potential. They believed I was selling myself short by choosing nursing instead of pursuing a medical degree or some other prestigious, smarty pants major. Or my school, some felt I was once again selling my self short by not applying to the ivy leagues, by choosing a cheap state school in the heart of the midwest.

With the decisions staring me in the face and my conflicting thoughts and feelings regarding them, I can't seem to tell which choice is me "settling" in order to appease others or avoid my fears of failure and which choice is the one I'm actually called to pursue. I mean, my family seems to always complicate things. A part of me so doesn't want to go back home for the summer, but I do care about how my parents feel and what they think. And there's always my sisters, blood and otherwise...and my fear of missing out on a great opportunity, my fear of being left behind, my fear that this one opportunity is all I'll get. I recently got a call from the Pella Hospital HR department...asking me where I'm at in my decision making process. They're "not pressuring me", and they "don't expect me to answer just yet, but I can't help but feel a bit of anxiety over it...a bit of concern...a bit of pressure to decide...It's a great position. It's a great opportunity for me to learn and make money and network; it could lead to a future job, and it would look great on my resume. But I can't help but think that some of the pressure I feel is from my fear that this is the only position out there for me. I realize that the positions aren't all finalized. Few of the facilities have finished making their calls, but with each passing day, each time I hear from home, I worry that that's all there is for me. I feel bad for saying that because it wouldn't be terrible to be home with my family, working in that hospital, having a paid internship...I feel terrible because a big part of me is praying for something else, something it like before when I was in relationships that I knew weren't the end all be all but was worried I'd never find someone else, someone better? Or am I just getting cold feet? I need to hold off and wait, I'm sure...but I am so nervous about calling back the HR department and saying I need more time. And by the same token, I'm a little scared that I might, one day, have to tell my mother that I want to go pursue an opportunity somewhere else. I just dread letting anyone down, especially myself, I guess?

There is so much I want. So much I want to do. So much I want to be a part of. I'm almost kicking myself for looking into these other opportunities, for branching out and exploring my interests and passions and exploring the possibilities. If I'd never explored it, I'd never have wanted something more. I'd never have even thought of going somewhere else. I wouldn't be here thinking these things over. One day, I suppose I'll settle down...I just pray I'll be settling into the spot I was born to fill...I won't have to leave a part of me behind...I won't be settling for less and trying to be something I'm not. I'll be settling in and feeling at home in my own skin, knowing I'm just where I ought to be...if that's even possible.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

God + Sex and the City

Okay, let me start off by saying that I do not like to put limits on God. That's why I was not surprised when I felt like God was speaking to me through an episode of Sex & the City, specifically episode 3 of season 3, entitled "Attack of the 5'10" Woman". Yes, I watch Sex & the City. I love Sex & the City! Because of the sex? Not really. But because of the relationships and the way it reflects on the nature of men and women, the way it depicts the way women relate and think...and how important time with your girl friends really is. I always get to thinking when I'm watching Sex & the City. I think about how much I appreciate my friends, and how I wish that I had time to sit down at least once a week with my girlfriends and talk...about real things...I mean, jobs and school...but also relationships and most importantly, God. I have always appreciated women's Bible studies so much...and conversations with godly women. It's such a blessing. I love the insights and the sharing and the learning that takes place (I always get so much out of it). But alas, I often get swept up with busy-ness and don't get that time...and I'm not even in an organized women's Bible study , right now. I wish I could have a Bible study with my good girl friends. It would be amazing...mind blowing! Even if it's just a simple one. Like my sister gave me a devotional called "Time for Coffee" or something like that...essentially, it's a short little devotional designed to be read over a cup of coffee. As soon as I saw it, I thought about how great it would be to be able to discuss it with another woman over coffee. Astounding! (I would like to point out that there is a part of me that would love to live a fabulous Sex & the City life...complete with great girlfriends, frequent meetings with those girlfriends, great food, and great events. And, what you should know...I think I'm a bit more of a Charlotte...)

Anyway, so this episode was special to me because it really spoke to my struggles with self-image and such. In this episode, Charlotte expresses insecurity over her body. She goes to a spa with her friends and is too embarrassed to remove her towel in the women's steam room. When she talks about it with Carrie, she says it's because she felt like the women were looking at her like her thighs were too big. Carrie tells her that it isn't true and that she has a beautiful figure, but it throws Charlotte for a loop, and she changes her eating habits to reflect her insecurity. What I'm trying to say is that she decided she couldn't/shouldn't eat sweets anymore, ordering a fruit cup instead of a dessert with her coffee. She said that a fruit cup was splurging because it had so many carbs and that she had to be careful because she hated her thighs. Carrie said, "Honey, the problem isn't your thighs, it's your head." When Carrie talked about needing to look fabulous at a luncheon over coffee, Charlotte told her that she was stunning and amazing and would be the most incredible woman in the room no matter what she wore. Carrie said, "Thanks, sweetie, but why can't you do that same thing for yourself." It kind of gave Charlotte the encouragement she needed to try the steam room again. It paid off, she not only sat in the steam room sans towel, she received a compliment shortly after that from a woman who said, "I'd kill for your breasts." I realize this account of the episode may sound shallow and irrelevant, but it was very meaningful to me. First, because it shows a very common concern women have...that they aren't beautiful or stunning...and are nothing compared to their friends...I mean, I know that sometimes, I am hardest on myself when I think about how beautiful and amazing my girl friends are...sometimes, I think of myself as the ugly duckling. That's why I could so relate to Charlotte and her insecurity. I know that I have features I consider less than stellar, and I know that I disregard the comforting compliments of my friends often. I frequently freak out over my lifestyle and how it effects my "trouble areas", like Charlotte, and I realize that it's maladaptive and dysfunctional and worries friends from time to time...yet, it's one of my great struggles. I'm never quite good enough. But what Carrie said to Charlotte...she might as well have been saying to me as well. And it's one of those things that I know, but I don't know know (that's some fancy womanly double speak for ya'). I don't remember it when it really counts...or in my times of crisis/trouble...Sometimes, I just need to hear it from an impartial third party...someone I know has no vested bias...but then again, I think that I wasn't really hearing it from Carrie...or Sarah Jessica Parker (the actor)...I honestly, think that those words or at least...the way they hit my ears...came from Someone who has an extremely vested in me...Someone who loves me very much...and Someone who thinks very highly of me. Hearing "The problem's not your thighs, it's your head." almost made me cry. Hearing Carrie point out Charlotte's ability to praise others but not herself...hit me so close to home...and seeing Charlotte take a chance and attempt to be comfortable in her own skin, made me cheer deep in my soul. Hearing that woman say, "I'd kill for your breasts." cheered me up remarkably. I mean, it reminded me that admiration goes both ways. Just like I see beauty in the women around me, the women around me probably see beauty in me, too. Plus, it reminded me that just like I have features I'm not crazy about. I have some that are pretty flippin' amazing!

Point is, God works in amazing ways to touch your soul and remind you that He loves you and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He uses the world around you, the people and things in your life, to bolster you and to love on you. I love that God reminded me of the beauty in His creation. He reminded me that everything He made is beautiful and yet unique. It's like when you go to the beach and you're picking up seashells. You can't take every shell home; so, you have to be a little bit choosy. But how do choose? I mean, I remember my own seashell hunts, picking up some that are beautiful because of the hint of red, others because of the hint of purple, others because they were so white, others because they were so shiny, or so smooth, or beautifully textured, or shaped. I mean, each one was beautiful in its own way. How could I rank them? Ultimately, it would be personal preference, not inherent beauty because each one was stunning. Even when I was picking up oyster shells (I love them because they give birth to pearls...which are my favorite!). They all have a similar shape, a similar texture, a similar color...but they are each amazing in different ways. I ended up taking home six because I just couldn't choose one. I mean, they were slightly different in the notches and the bumps and the patterns of the colors and the size and the proportions and depth...and their unique qualities made them uniquely beautiful. They were created equally beautiful but not identically beautiful. Such are women...not identical, but beautiful. Unique but equally stunning because that's how God created them to be. And ultimately, who is to say one is superior to another. In God's eyes, they're all gorgeous because He doesn't make mistakes. So, when they are ranked, each person will probably rank them differently...because beauty in the eyes of the beholder...but only in the sense that the beholder determines what is pleasing and attractive and preferable to them...but the beholder doesn't bestow beauty, that's what the Creator even as we rank beauty, the beauty of ourselves, the beauty of others, we must remember that while we may not see just how amazing we are, how stunning we are, God was extravagant when He created us...and He bestowed each of us with amazing beauty to match His amazing love.

Yes, I realize I will probably continue to struggle this, but I have faith that God will keep His promise to never give up on me and never abandon me...(you know, never forsake me and all that). So, I just hope and pray that He continues to remind me of the beauty that I have and that I will continue to listen to the many ways He chooses to speak to me about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Worn and Torn

So, I've packed and unpacked in the last couple days, and whenever I do that, I purge some of my stuff. I often feel I have excess stuff, and I hate the lack of simplicity in my life sometimes. So, as I packed and unpacked my clothes, I evaluated some of my stuff and determined which items were "keepers". Now, since I've also been working on my denim quilt this last month, I've been really thinking about jeans. Now, I, admittedly don't own the styles of jeans I would like to own, but I find that interesting in and of itself. I mean, I love that denim goes with everything. I believe denim to be like sweet corn in that it's so versatile and can be a part of every day. Yet, everyone does have their own taste in denim -- preferences for particular washes or cuts or brands or detailing or whatever (If you ever want to hear about the crazy facts I learned about distressed jeans over break, please let me know.). Anyway, I feel like there are some parallels that can be observed between denim and relationships. For instance, relationships are a part of every day of our lives, and we all have different types of relationships, and relate to people differently. Don't worry, I know that's a bit weak, but it's not my main thought; so, I'm just throwing it out there because it popped up in the ol' noggin'. Seriously, though, I think about new jeans. They fit exactly how you want them to, and the wash is perfect. I don't know about everyone else, I guess, but I know when I have new jeans, I have a tendency to wear them only when I want to look my absolute best. I don't want to get them too dirty. I don't want to be too rough on them. I treasure the dark blue of them. That's kind of like new relationships. New relationships are often coddled. You don't want to test them too much, for fear they will be ruined. It's funny because denim is generally thought of as durable, and a quality relationship should be durable, too, but when they're new, both are treated as precious and fragile. As I've owned jeans longer, though, I wear them for whatever and whenever. I stop worrying about grass stains or rips or whatever. Which brings up my thoughts on getting rid of a pair of jeans. Different people have different criteria, and as I think about my relationships, I wonder how much of that carries over into the way we evaluate relationships. I mean, some people get rid of jeans when the style or wash goes out of style. Some people wait until there is a significant rip. Some wait for a rip that is significant and poorly placed. Some people wait until the jeans don't fit or literally fall apart. It just makes me wonder: in this largely disposable society, do we treat our friendships the same way? Are old friends the comfortable pair of jeans that hold memories and stains from past adventures? Or should old friends be pitched when the trend changes?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's in a Name?

So, I've finished Genesis, and one of the things I love about Genesis is the recounting of the genealogies of various figures. I love the passages where a child is born and named. I love reading, "and they named him _____ because he was born _____". I love it because there's a reason for the name. For some, it describes the circumstances of the conception or birth, for others it describes the hopes that the mother had at the time of the birth. Either way, the name is chosen for a reason. I think that has fascinated me lately because I've been thinking on my own name. My parents chose my name partially for the meaning. Takara is Japanese for "treasure; precious object". I don't know if that's because they thought I was precious or because they treasured me or because they hoped I would remember that I was important to them or what, but I know that I have that name for a reason. Essentially, it means that someone thinks of me as precious, someone treasures me...I've had a hard time with that lately, though. I haven't felt precious or treasured. I've felt cast aside and kicked around. I've felt broken and faded, unimportant and worthless. I just keep praying that God will show me that there is something to my name. I pray that He will show me that I am treasured, loved, cared for...and that He will whisper my value in my ear...that He will speak to my heart so I can believe that I am "as advertised"...not because I deserve to be treasured, but that I'm precious to Him anyway...I just keep praying that He'll whisper it to me while I dream so I can wake up and feel worthwhile. I keep praying I'll wake up and feel like a Takara...that I'll be able to live up to my name...I'd hate to be reported to the Better Business Bureau for false advertising....or would my parents have to face the charge, since technically they're the one who slapped the label on me? Something to think about...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cry Out to Jesus

The first 6 lines of that song almost brought me to tears today:

“To everyone who’s lost someone they love
Long before it was their time.
You feel like the days you had were not enough
When you said goodbye.”

Maybe you don’t know this, but I’ve had a number of deaths in my life, lately. Were all of them close to me? No. But some of them really were (not like relative close, but definitely really good friend close). And others affected me because I wish I could do something for the family because I know the family is experiencing so much pain, right now.

Allow me to explain a little bit. Most recently, I found out my friend’s grandfather recently died. I didn’t know her grandfather, but I know that it is hard on her and her family. I have never lost a grandparent. I still have four grandparents and one great grandparent. My other great grandparents died in my lifetime, but I was either too young to know what was going on, or too young to even know who they were or both. As a result, I’ve never dealt with that kind of loss. It scares the crap out of me, to be honest. I mean, (I realize this will sound wrong, but I don’t know how else to say it) I always hoped my first grandparent would die before I was in college. That way, I’d be close to my family when it happened. I could help take care of things around the house. I would be better able to be strong and deal with it well because I would be home and have to be strong for my sisters and my mom and all that stuff. I wouldn’t have to be alone in the grieving process. I would get to play the role of the optimist, the person who has faith and hope in God and can reference that to the benefit to others. (Yeah, in a crisis situation at home, I either disappear so I won’t get in the way and screw things up…or I am the reassuring voice of faith, pointing out the silver lining and all that. But alas, that was not how it went down. I’m out of the house (for the most part :P) so when one of my grandparents passes, I will have to deal on my own…I won’t have an excuse to not be emotional. I know, poor me, right? The thing of it is, I totally am okay with death in general. I get that things die, and I’ve dealt with people as they were dying, after they’d died (you know, washing up the body and what not), etc. That doesn’t mean that I’m a huge death fan or something, but it does mean I’m no stranger, and generally, I handle it well. I mean, I have yet to freak out about the onset of death or the realization that someone has died. But I do miss some of the people in my life that have died recently.

Quite a few of my residents at the nursing home died while I was off at school. I knew about some of them. I mean, when I came home for Mika’s confirmation, I swung by the nursing home to make the rounds and see how everyone was and all that. At that point, one of my favorite ladies (I always told her that she was the coolest grandma…and she taught me bits of Dutch from time to time. I loved her. She was adorable) had already passed away. That was pretty sad for me. At that time, other people had passed away as well, but her death was the saddest one for me. I wasn’t really sad about it, though. I remembered how much I loved taking care of her. I loved being around her so much. She was so awesome and beautiful and sweet. I remember a lot of great times that I had with her – conversations, laughs, touching moments, etc. I remember one day when I was taking care of her, she was talking about her deceased husband and her family and where they all lived. I remember thinking, “I’m glad that while she can’t live the last few years of her life in her home with her family, she can at least live out her last years in a place where people lover her and care about her.” I think that’s why I don’t feel grieved at her passing. I know that she knew I loved her. I know she died surrounded by people that loved her and cared about her. I know that she had faith, and I believe that God blessed her with peace. I believe that she went home to see Jesus because I know she loved Him.

Then, when I came home for Christmas break, I didn’t get to come home to another two of my favorite residents (understand that several more passed away while I was at school, but there were a few that were truly special to me). One of them, I knew was going to pass, and I had known he had gone before I came home. When I was home for Mika’s confirmation, his daughter made certain that I got to see him (he always said I was his favorite, and he told one of the other girls that she was one of his two favorites…and that I was the other one). When I visited him, he told me that he was in stage 4 renal failure and was refusing dialysis, which meant that he could go at any time…he was taking it one day at a time, and he made it clear that he didn’t expect to see me at Christmas. But once again, I wasn’t really upset by his death either. He knew I loved him. Everyone who took care of him loved him. He was a retired minister with great faith. He prayed with me before I left for school in the fall (I remember him thanking God for sending me into his life to love him and care for him.), and he and I prayed together again when I visited him in November. I know that He went peacefully. His daughter even told me that his last words to her were that he was ready to go. I’m thankful for that.

The third death that really hit me was largely unexpected. I mean, she had been sick plenty of times, but we always joked that she had 15 lives. We joked that she was too stubborn to die. We had thought she was dead several times, but she always came back. What made it even more shocking was the fact that she died the night before I was supposed to return to work. I mean, I was really looking forward to seeing her. I loved singing with her and laughing with her. I loved her faith. I loved hearing her talk about Jesus. I loved hearing her laugh. I loved hearing her stories. I loved seeing her tooling around in the hallway. I loved her so much. Her death was a bit harder for me because she wasn’t as with it as the others. I’m not sure if she remembered that I love her, but I know in the moment she always knew I loved her.

I realized this week that I missed the three of them a lot! I was in one of their old rooms and caught myself hoping to see them on the other side of the curtain partition. I caught myself looking for them in their familiar haunts (in all the familiar places). I missed talking with them and laughing with them and just being around them. It was rough, and every now and then, I felt like crying. It was so permanent and so real, and it was hard to be missing good friends that way. It helped to talk with one of the other residents. She had been missing some of those same people. So, while I gave her a shower, we reminisced about them and laughed and missed them together. There were no tears, but I know we both needed that conversation.

Then on Tuesday, my neighbor up the street committed suicide. I guess he shot himself Tuesday morning. I don’t know much more than that. I was hurt by it somehow, though I hardly knew the guy. I think it was because it’s scary and sad that he thought that taking his own life was the best option. I mean, how terrible of a place, how dark and scary of a place was he in? (I clearly don’t mean physically. I mean emotionally and spiritually and all that.) Have I toyed with the idea before? Sure. Have I contemplated it in a scary way? Yeah. Have I ever tried it? No. How sad is it that he was left with no hope? Thought of no alternative? Death is inevitable. We will die, but to die without hope? That’s not a death I want to experience. It made me think even more fondly about my residents. It made me think about all the great times and how much I missed them. I thought about the pain his family must be experiencing. I thought about how I wanted to grieve but didn’t have the time. I thought about how I used to look forward to seeing them. I thought about the role they played in my life, and I prayed…prayed that Jesus would lovingly greet all of them. I prayed for the residents I care for now. I prayed that they would know they were loved and cared for and that we would be able to be a second family to them and be there for them in what will probably be their last years. This all happened as the song “Cry Out to Jesus” was playing in the background and I got a woman dressed. That’s when the chorus really started to hit me:

“There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus”

I needed to hear that…not just in relation to my dearly departed…not just because being home can be rough…not just because I’m messed up…because it’s a reminder that the answer to the problems is in Jesus. I can’t work hard enough to solve my problems. I can’t study hard enough to solve my problems. I can’t fix it by myself. I need Jesus. I need Him desperately. Luckily, I know that He will always be there. He won’t leave me, forget me, or forsake me. That’s something I need to remember. I need to remember that I’m not alone. I’m extremely thankful for that. So thankful it brings me to tears.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Here Am I

So, recently I decided that I would start reading the Bible cover to cover (I should interject an “again” and maybe a “try”). I haven’t made it through Genesis quite yet, but I’m getting close. Anyway, my progress isn’t the point. The point is I’ve been reading it and thinking about those Old Testament figures and their faith. I mean, over and over again, I read the words “Here am I”. I know it occurs later, too. I know (because of other times of Bible study) that later on I’ll read those words again, over and over. I mean, it’s so amazing how in each of these people’s lives, God calls to them, asks them to do something, and they say, “Here am I” and they do it. I mean, Noah built an ark, looking crazy for seemingly no reason. Abraham left his family, not knowing where he was going. Abraham went into the mountains to sacrifice his son, not knowing God would provide an alternative…and that’s just a few examples!

It got me thinking about my life. Surely, God is calling me to something or maybe calling me to do a few somethings. However, I don’t know if I have been responding with a “Here am I”. I started looking at some song lyrics because that’s just how I think sometimes.

First, there’s MercyMe’s “Here Am I”. The lyrics include stories about people who haven’t heard of Jesus, those that could be reached. The chorus goes, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me? To the ends of the earth who will rise up for the King? Here am I, send me. Here am I, send me.”

Then, there’s Daniel L. Schutte’s “Here I Am Lord”. The lyrics of this one really make me think more of Samuel, but it’s a lot like Jacob and Joseph as well, and I can imagine several of the Old Testament figures saying words like those in the chorus: “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”

Chris A Bowater’s “Here I Am” is one I haven’t sung before, but I’d like to track down the melody so I could learn it. It’s full of New Testament references. The first two lines, though, are what really stood out to me: “Here I am, wholly available. As for me, I will serve the Lord.” I love the “wholly available” part.

The last one was a new one to me, but I was definitely intrigued by it and will have to start searching for a way to enjoy it more. It’s “Here I Am” by FFH. Once again, I’m struck by what I can only call the chorus, “Here I am, falling in the arms of grace. Here I am, seeing You’re the only way. Here I am, You have come to plead my case. Here I am, inside the walls of mercy and grace.”

This kind of comes together to describe my thoughts. I don’t know if I’m called to be a missionary, but like MercyMe’s “Here am I”, I know that I am called to share Christ’s love with others through my words and actions. That’s what I’m called to do every day. I also believe I’m called to share Christ’s love with my patients, co-workers, friends, and the youth that I have the pleasure of working with. The second song, really hits me because it kind of speaks to my confusion right now, my pondering of what is next. I’m trying to determine just what God is calling me to do this summer and where. That’s the whole “Here I am, is it I, Lord?” part. That and no matter what and where I end up going this summer, it will require me to take a leap of faith. That’s the “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.” And I’m praying for all my potential co-workers and those I might serve. That’s the “I will hold your people in my heart.” part. That third part feels like a charge to me. “Here I am, wholly available. As for me, I will serve the Lord.” I mean, whoa! I wish I could say that I was making myself wholly available to God. I wish I wasn’t holding back on following God. I wish I were saying “I will serve the Lord” instead of “I will serve the Lord if ”. That last song, sounds like the place I’m getting to, now. “Here I am, falling in the arms of grace.” It sounds to me like surrender. That’s what I’m slowly doing, surrendering to God’s will, allowing Him to move me and guide me, giving up my ambitions and my pride and my concerns and trusting the Lord to provide for me. I don’t know that any one song speaks to me more than the others. I’m at a crossroads right now. I’m a bit jumbled and vacillate between the various emotions represented by those songs. I mean, I thought that I could explain how much I love the phrase and what those songs say to me in a nice progression. I thought I could pinpoint where I was in the spectrum, but it changes so frequently. One minute, I’m on fire and feel like I’m living my call. The next, I’m wondering where I’m going to go next. Then, I find myself feeling charged and challenged to honestly seek God’s will. Then, I move on to an almost desperate surrender, a desire to truly take that leap of faith, but then I remember that I don’t know what’s next, get scared and go back to the desperate pleading of “Is it I?” because I want to be certain. Then, I remember the opportunities I have and realize I’m living a call right now…I just bounce around between them all. I need to put them all in a play list and hit random (‘cept I don’t own any of them…I haven’t even know the melodies for some of them). Yet, it seems to be the playlist of my heart right now, and I can wish for the faith of the Old Testament figures (saying “Here am I” and go and take some incredible leap of faith), but wishing won’t do anything. I’m really praying for the faith it takes to beautifully surrender to the Lord. We’ll see if it happens. I know what I really need is some “knee time”. That’s the first step, right? “falling on my knees to get back on my feet again”? It’s definitely worth a try.

Post-interview Thoughts

I have returned from my interview with fewer answers than questions. However, I believe it was a successful endeavor. I think I impressed my instructors with my preparedness, qualifications, attitude, and educational background. They were impressed by the experiences I had already had and seemed satisfied with my answers. Plus, they liked that I was repaired with research and questions of my own. I aim to please. :P I must say they did answer my questions well, as well. They did a good job of conveying that their facility is moving forward in technology but that it aims to provide holistic and patient-focused care. They impressed me with the opportunities to involved in professional conversations and organizations through the facility. They impressed me with the measures the facility has taken to successfully minimize nurse turnover/burnout. They impressed me with the opportunities and resources in place to assist new graduates in adjusting to professional practice. It seems like I would learn a lot and get a lot of experience. I wouldn't get as much technical experience in the areas I would most like it, but they said they do provide opportunities to practice those skills in a lab of sorts. It's not a bad set-up. It could be good. I still don't know if it's where I want to be, and I still don't know if I want to come home for the summer, but I do know that my interview went well (despite minor set backs this morning). I'll find out in late February or early March (just like every other internship/job application) whether or not I have a position at PRHC (there are only two intern positions :O ). So, I guess we'll wait and see if I get any other interviews and go from there. This did not narrow anything down for me, but it was nice because I was able to be confident and articulate and express myself -- who I am, what I have to offer, etc. I felt competent, which generally rocks. I do love nursing, and I hope I can one day find an awesome facility to work in. I'm going to have to continue to hit my knees ab0ut this. I'm hoping that God will make it clear to me where I'm called to be next. I know that this semester, I'm called to be working with youth, practicing nursing, and growing in my faith...after that? Gawl, I must say, a base pay of $10.45 is not anything to scoff at, though. I mean, I could definitely use that cash...I'm soo shallow! Or such a college student! ;) Whatever, I'm going to go make some supper (chicken parmesan) and contemplate "calling", which reminds me, I need to finish my Ewalu app.

Pre-Interview Thoughts

So, I'm sitting here working on prepping for my interview at Pella Regional Health Center for a summer nursing internship. Let's just say I'm more than a little nervous. I'm trying to prepare myself for the questions they'll ask and the questions I'll ask. I'm trying to make sure I look presentable, yet approachable. I'm trying to look professional but fresh. I'm trying to get all dressed up but still look like myself. It's a bit of a challenge. The hardest part, I think, is the fact that most of the questions I have about this internship can't be answered by those who will be interviewing today. They'll need to be answered by God and myself. I'm not sure what I want the outcome of this interview to be. I'm not completely convinced that I should take it and spend another summer at home, but at the same time, I don't want to blow it. I need this as a back-up? I need it at as a confidence booster so I can know that I can interview well and that I can get a job that I am wanted and that I have something to offer. I do want to learn, and I do want to see what this internship has to offer. So, I'm going to go put on my make-up and do my hair and talk to God for a bit. I pray that God will grant me an open heart and an open mind, that I may view this interview as an opportunity and might be open to His call throughout this whole process. I pray that I will be able to be calm and confident so these interviewers can see the real me and know exactly who it is they'd be hiring. I'll update when I get back (possibly after I take a walk, we'll see.) I thank any of you how have prayed for me and this interview.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My Many Parts

Lever 2000 says you should love all 2000 parts of you. I was thinking about that ‘cause I’m pretty sure I don’t love all 2000 parts of me. Not even close. I know it’s sad, but it’s the truth. I feel the need to be honest on this point. I remember a long stretch of time where I didn’t really like any of my 2000 parts. I kept thinking if I would just ________, I would be beautiful and I would be happy with myself. Of course, that’s not the answer…no matter how much weight I lost, no matter how I styled my hair, no matter how much I worked out, no matter what clothing I wore, it was never enough. I was always too pudgy, too boyish, too flabby, too ________ (you get the idea). However, when I was shopping the other day, I realized I’m better than I was. I still don’t love all 2000 parts, but there are a few I love. I love my eyes. I love my mouth. I love my wrists. I love my feet. I love my shoulders and my neck. The sad part is that there’s a big gap there. There’s a large percentage of those 2000 parts that I am not in love with….yet? I hope it’s a yet. Mother Teresa said something to the effect of: Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. So, we must learn to love ourselves as Jesus does. I believe she had it right. I mean, if we can’t accept Jesus’s love for us, if we can’t learn to love ourselves, how are we going to show the world Christ’s love. Understand that I’m not saying that I should get all down on myself over this because that would be counter-productive. I am saying, though, that I hope that God will be patient with me and continue to work in me and show me what He’s doing in me and through me. I pray that God will continue to reveal to me what He thinks of me. I pray that God will show me my beauty. I pray that I’ll listen and learn how to love myself more. I mean, the thing I’m really looking for is God esteem rather than self esteem. It makes me think of the song “Heaven’s Eyes” from the Prince of Egypt. I want to learn to look at myself through Heaven’s Eyes a little more often. I want to be able to see the beauty and love in my life that I so easily recognize in the lives of my friends.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Reflecting on Christmas

Christmas is a weird time for me. I really love parts of it, and other parts are almost awkward for me. I mean, I love some of our family's traditions. But presents? That's...well, that's another story. This year I really realized how much NOT a present person I am. I have always kind of hated that about myself. Like if you're one of those love languages is definitely bottom of the totem pole in my world. Quality Time? Heck yes! Acts of service? Woo-hoo! Physical touch? Yes, please. Words of affirmation? Sure. I like to understand what's going on, and I cherish letters and whatnot.

I like to believe my dislike or inability to understand gift giving is part of what has made me a horrible girlfriend and makes holidays awkward for me. Ok. That's a bit of an exaggeration. Part of the problem is that some people don't realize that about me and interpret my appreciation for the gift and their effort as like being lukewarm about the relationship. I just don't typically get giddy about presents. So, even when my dad gave me my acoustic electric bass guitar (which I retrieved from my sister's closet)...there were no shrieks or giddy giggles or squeals of joy. I can recall a handful of those, but honestly they only occur over extremely thoughtful, unexpected, and useful gifts. Like that's how I roll. I get excited over very little things. So, sometimes, those more grand gestures...I just don't know what to do with them. I would like to think some of that is that many of those gestures weren't very specific to the things that do rev my engine, so to speak...they were kind of blanket romantic gestures. I don't know. *shrugs* I don't want to make a tremendous deal out of it. I just thought on it briefly over Christmas. Like buying presents can be hard for me unless I buy them throughout the year, like when I see something that makes me think of that person. Which made it especially weird for me when I did randomly decide to get presents for some of my friends. Like I was really nervous to give them to my friends 'cause I was afraid it was too weird...'cause I felt weird...I don't know...I guess I always worry my affection, intentions, etc. are unclear when I give a gift. I just don't know that a present will show just how much that person really means to me. Plus, I do often have an aversion to the acquiring of random it's funny and cute, but I don't like piles of things that have no purpose...but at the same time...I am sentimental (especially lately) and have a hard time getting rid of something if I love the person who gave it to me. What a quandary. Kind of a delightful one, if I didn't have friends that I wouldn't be an issue at, praise God for that...and for learning more about myself? I don't know. I think my brain's tired or something.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

That Special Place in my Heart.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I love music, and there's a special place in my heart for hymns. Why? Because I love the thought that some of those songs have been song for centuries. It makes me feel connected to the larger body of Christ. I mean, to sing a song that transcends denomination and era...that's tight! Anyway, so we were singing this one at camp, and I absolutely loved it. So, I did a little research. So, the following is a little bit of the hymn's back story and the lyrics to it. Hopefully, you find them at least half as beautiful and enjoyable as I do.

Jesus Paid It All

Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

Music: John T. Grape

If the title “God Works in Mysterious Ways” were not already taken, the cir­cum­stances of this song’s or­i­gin would cer­tainl­y qual­i­fy for it. Elvina Hall (1820-1889) sang in the choir at the Mon­u­ment Street Meth­o­dist Church in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land.

One Sun­day morn­ing the pas­tor­al pray­er was ex­treme­ly long. As the min­i­ster went on and on, Mrs. Hall’s thoughts be­gan to wan­der. She opened her eyes, and, on the blank fly­leaf of her hym­nal, wrote down a poem that came to her.

La­ter that week, she took it to the church or­gan­ist, John Grape (1835-1915). The words were an exact fit for a tune Grape had just writ­ten.

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus paid it all,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.