Friday, May 29, 2009

Give. Pray. Fast.

Vale and worth. Value and worth. It's like I'm Yukon Sam (The dude in the Rudolph clay-mation movie)...I might as well sing it to the tune of "Silver and Gold" because it seems to be always on my mind...always up in my blogs. It's like cruel irony for someone whose name means "treasure" (that'd be me). Yup.

So, this one, I can't say this blog travels far from the well-beaten path...but perhaps a different perspective on a familiar theme. "Give. Pray. Fast." is the title of one of the chapters in the book I've been reading, "Starving Jesus". The book is your faith, doing what you've been called to do. The chapter talked about giving, praying, and fasting as some starting grow closer to God and to live out your call. It really got me thinking because...only a few days before I read this chapter, I had been really bemoaning my own seeming lack of value and I was superfluous because I wasn't DOING anything. At present, my days are generally filled with studying for the NCLEX, filling out job applications, doing a workout, drinking coffee, reading my news feeds, and writing emails. The end. It's really not exciting, and it makes me feel isolated and occasionally frustrated. I mean, I'm unfortunately still waiting to get notification from the state board of nursing that I am allowed to sign up for a testing know, so I can actually take the boards that I'm studying for. And I get kind of down and kind of frustrated sometimes because of the number of rejection letters I've received regarding the RN positions I've applied for. I know it's the economy, but I can't help but feel like it's personal sometimes. It's hard to not know what's next in that sense...I just want to help people...After my last interview, I had a new sense of purpose and passion. I want to show people they have value, that they are important, cared for, and loved. That's what I want my nursing career to be all about. Sometimes, that passion wanes as I get bogged down by the fact that I don't have a one has hired me to care for the people in their facility, yet. And until the other day, my workout had seemed to be doing nothing for my BMI. Needless to say, last week found me discouraged (and lonely, as I don't have much in the way of friends...or support here in Pella).

At first, I thought I was just stressed by the circumstances...then as I was venting to my boyfriend on the phone, it started to dawn on me that I was feeling worthless because I wasn't DOING anything. He replied that my value isn't in what I do, that my value is in how I am, how God made me to be. While I know that's true, I was still super frustrated felt like the faith and works know, how works should flow out of your faith, your faith isn't supposed to be kept to yourself. I felt that way about my value/who I am...what's the point of it if I'm not doing anything with it. *sigh* That's when I read "Give. Pray. Fast." I really to thinking about all three of those words/actions. Do I do them? Give has always made a lot of sense to me. I mean, giving of money, time, possessions...I can do that, no problem...serving others? sure! Sharing what I got? Hard to do at times, but I totally get the importance and strive to actually do it most of the time. Pray has always been a bit harder. Like, there are days where I totally understand the importance of prayer and make it a point to make it a part of my day, days when I pray for my friends and my patients...but there are way more days that I honestly don't even think to pray, don't want to lift it up, don't think it's worth lifting up, selfishly keep the control of all of it to myself...While I have seen prayer do awesome things and have felt called to pray for a specific person at a specific time and responded...more often than not, I don't. I just don't. Now, fast, of course is a goat of a different color in my world. Self-discipline, I can do...I've given up candy for years at a time, pop for years at a time...I struggled with anorexia on and off for years. Self-denial, I have done to a sickening extreme. However, fasting, like denying oneself to draw closer to God, to better serve others in faith, because God called me to do so? Nope. Not once, really. I've done the Lenten disciplines, I've done 30 hour famines, but were they ever really fasts? No. The intent, the attitude, the mind-set were always wrong. It was always about doing it 'cause I knew I could, 'cause I'd look strong, 'cause I knew my friend couldn't, 'cause it'd make me more physically attractive, more pious...because I struggled with self-worth to such an extreme that I thought I had to do it to be loved and loveable...because I wanted to be in control of what I did and did not do...So, nope...not a fast. I don't think I'll be fasting anytime soon, either...Fasting from food has proven too scary for me up until this point. Skipping one meal seems to always cause me to feel a sense of power and a desire for more's a temptation to return to that anorexic way of living and all that entails. I was checking out an anorexia-recovery site for Christians one day that recommended to recovering anorexics that perhaps it would be best if they fasted from something other than food...and that they be aware of where they're at and what will be too much for them...I think my current stance is that I won't fast from anything until I feel called to do so and until I can do so with the correct mind-set.

Alright, so it seems like I'm babbling, right? I know, right. Point is...I felt challenged by the chapter and comforted at the same time. So, I've been frustrated 'cause I felt like I don't have a lot to give...with the lack of income, lack of job, lack of connections in town...The chapter made me feel challenged to give more when I'm able...and to give as much of myself, my love, my time to others as I can...I then thought about fasting and the intent and the attitude and feeling challenged to grow to a point where that can be possible. And ultimately, I felt called to grow in prayer. I want my life to be grounded in prayer. Mother Teresa said once, "We have to learn to pray the work. To do it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus -- that makes us 24 hours with Him." I love that...the book talked about prayer being part of your life like breathing...granted that takes time to work up to,'s so beautiful to cultivate a relationship with God where you speak with Him throughout your day, lift everything up to Him, listen for Him...I want that...I want to grow in that. And if I grow with God, I will not only be able to serve better, but I will be able to grow in my understanding of who I am, who God is, and what that all means.

The book also mentioned something about living your life in such a way that it would be positive for a child to emulate your life (not that it's perfect, but that they would be able to see your love for God and his faithful love for you reflected in the way you live your life). I want that, too. It made me think of one of the youth pastors that shaped my life when I was in high school. Watching him and his wife together, I learned so much about relationships, love founded in Christ, supporting each other in ministry, etc. I dream of having that type of life...and that type of life with my husband. Such a life will take growth...and I feel like growing in faith and in daily what God is calling me to do right this time when I feel like I'm not DOING anything. A vision to match this call to be more intentional about prayer has begun to develop. You can trust that I'll share it when I understand it a bit better.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Hard Lesson.

I was often told growing up that I was "too damn independent". I never really thought of that as a bad thing. I like to plan and organize and have things in order so that I'm prepared and such...and if that makes me too independent, fine. Well, I thought it was fine...well...maybe I still think it. I never thought I'd be less than a week from graduation and not have any legitimate lead on a job. I never thought I'd be moving back into my parents house for more than a month post-graduation. I think a part of me dreamed of never actually living there again. But that's where I'm at, I guess. Instead of heading off to lands unknown to move into an apartment and start my nursing career, I'm going back to my bedroom/my parent's storage room to study for my boards and apply for more jobs until...well, until I pass boards and have a job, I guess. *sigh* It freaks me out entirely. Today, I tried to make myself feel better by just delaying my panic...I never really planned on working until after I took boards anyway. So, I reasoned, as long as I have a job lined up by the time I take boards it's okay, right? I think I'm grasping at straws...or better, grasping at leaves trying to cover my shame (not of being naked, of not having a job) because I can't seem to get past my previous ideas and expectations, making my current situation "not ok". I've worked hard all through nursing school. I started contacting hospitals early and sent my applications on time. I did phone interviews and panel interviews and still nothing.

Today the words "trust" and "value" keep running through my mind. You know that story where Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all he has and follow him, and the man says he can't? I'd always understood that story as meaning you let go of what you thought gave you value and security and put your trust in Christ...trusting Him to lead you and care for you. The biggest problem is I think I've mistakenly allowed myself to think of that as a one time deal. I have always believed my value laid in what I did, what I do, what I have done...that's why I continuously say that I am a body at motion...I feel like I've lost all value if I'm not doing something...if I'm not actively contributing through time or money or effort or something...So, I have always worked hard to have the next thing/endeavor all lined up. I go from one position to another. I don't leave one 'til I know the next is there...kind of like monkey bars, not the ring ones but the bar ones. I don't let go of one bar 'til I'm darn sure my hand will hit the next. I need to see it and nearly feel it before I'll let go of the previous one. Even last summer, I took a position at camp instead of taking an internship. I felt I was following God's call, but I was following cautiously. I didn't turn down my internship until I was certain I had a position at camp. (I always like to have a back-up.) And while I knew that it'd be easier to get a nursing job with an internship, I trusted in the job security offered to RNs...I figured if someone had been interested in giving me an internship, surely someone would be interested in me when I graduated. So, following Christ to camp was a rather safe bet. The only thing I worried about at that point was how I was going to pay for school when I was banking less, but God provided and I earned an extra scholarship and cashed in some bonds I didn't know I had.

What I hate now is that I'm realizing just where my trust has lain. I have put my trust in job security, in productivity, in planning, in effort...I trusted I would find a position I loved because I planned on it, because I made a spreadsheet, because I applied early to a variety of places, because I had good grades and worked hard, because there's job security for RNs...In other words, I have not been trusting God with my plans. I think I figured He'd somehow like interrupt if I went the wrong way or He'd take care of it by having one of the first 30 applications lead to a job. I think I was operating under the "God helps those who help themselves" philosophy...and focusing mostly on helping myself. Today, I started to think about what really bugs me about not having a job lined up. Is it the money? Is it how it looks to everyone else? Is it feeling useless? Yes, yes, and yes...apparently. *sigh* I worked hard to become an RN, and I am so proud of graduating with my BSN...I'm so excited to put RN behind my proud...and I want people to know...I want to be called "nurse". I have a hard time thinking of doing anything else after working so hard to become a nurse. I feel vain for saying that. Yes, it is feeling useless. I worked hard and I just want to take care of people. I would love to work in hospice or palliative care or mental health or a nursing home or pretty much anywhere...I just want to help people as a nurse. I feel dumb for saying that because I can, of course, help people without a job, let alone a nursing job. And yes, it is the money. I don't have debt. I like that. I like that I can stand on my own two feet, in theory (and if you don't presently count my dad's feet). I'd kind of like to stay that way...I feel selfish for that.

That brings me to the next facet. I have an amazing boyfriend who is supportive and loving. He's been helping me through the semester in big and small ways. I know that financially, he'll help me out, or take care of things, or even take care of me. But I have a really hard time allowing for that. The thought of it...of not contributing financially, of not supporting myself financially...that's hard. I know that when I get married I want my money to be "our money", but I think I have an easier time thinking of my money being "our money" than his money. I think it's my desire to be not be dependent on someone else...I feel like a horrible person for even saying that, though. I don't like that I think that... but...I do...I don't want someone taking care of me because...what if one day they decide not to anymore? I can guarantee that I'll be dedicated to taking care of myself...but I can't promise that someone else won't just get sick of taking care of makes me feel like a lazy bum, a mooch, when someone else is footing the bill. That's what I get for growing up "going Dutch". I want to think of money as fluid within a relationship, but clearly I have a mental barrier to that. Similarly, it complicates my job search. I've always only looked out for me. Every relationship I had, I would tell him what I thought I wanted to do, and when he replied with, "What about me?" I said, "What about you? That's up to you, this is about my plans." I refused to plan my life with any of them because I had this feeling they weren't going to be with me when it came to that point, and I refused to let something in the short-term affect my long-term planning. But now...Now I have this amazing man in my life. I love him and I know he loves me. Even before we were dating, I couldn't imagine living away from him...I wanted to be with him, which at the time was rather unreasonable. But we are dating, and I can say that without it seeming creepy. I want to be with him. I want to have a life with him. I want there to be a "we" an "our". And he's so good about supporting me right now as I look for a job and figure where I'm going next. He's not making demands and says he's willing to follow me where ever it is I need to go. He says he wants me to be happy -- to have a job that I can be happy with. He won't ask me to give up a dream or a dream job. Yet, I find myself freaking out when he makes suggestions or talks about where he wants to go next...It makes no sense...well, it makes sense but only when you consider how much I suck at trusting anyone. *sigh* I mean, I was looking at jobs in places I knew he wanted to go before we were dating because I wanted to be near him. Now, I know that I could be with him, and I'm totally freaked out by it. I just don't know how to do this. I mean, we aren't married, we aren't engaged...we've talked about it, but that doesn't change the fact that we aren't. So, we aren't really a "we", right? We're a potential "we"? So, I don't want to have my job search turn into bargaining or a debate or agreement...'cause ultimately, it's "my move", right? But at the same time, I want to marry him...I want to be a "we"...And while he may not follow me right away, if we get engaged, he plans on following me to where I am, which would technically make it "our move", right? Just a staggered move? I's hard for me to trust him enough...or maybe I'm just not letting myself trust anyone right now 'cause like I said earlier, I haven't even been trusting God to take care of me. That makes it even harder to trust John. Ultimately, if we are a "we", then it's a threesome...him, God, and me...and if we're a "we" then I have to trust the other two individuals in the "we". I can't have a relationship all by myself. I mean, I know that God takes care of His children. I know He promises to take care of me, and I know He will. I know that He has plans for me. I know that He means for me to serve Him and care for others, I truly know He has called me to do that...and so, I know I can trust Him to show me the where and the who with that. I know He'll lead me and take care of me. And I know that John loves me and will love me. I know he will take care of me as best he can. I know I can trust his decisions because I know he considers me in them. I know he considers what's best for me. I know he considers my needs and my wants, not just his own. So, I know he would never ask me to do something contrary to God's plan and God's provision. I know that if God really intends us to be a "we", He will provide for the two of us and lead us to somewhere where we can build a life together.

But you know, all of that knowing means nothing 'cause it has not translated into actions lately. I've become so worried and so upset that I have begun to keep it all to myself, not only running from possibilities and failing to trust, but actually starting to draw in upon myself. I don't know how much of my concern, how much of my thought process, how much of my decision making to share and how much to keep to myself...Clearly I should be including God a LOT more than I have been...but how much should I include my boyfriend? Is it appropriate to? Will he get sick of my worrying and planning and thinking everything through? It's definitely not fun stuff to talk about because I'm upset and stressed, not dreaming and hoping.

Last night at the children's musical at church, I realized that God's really been showing me lately that my value doesn't lie in what I do, how much I do, how much prestige my job has...that I have value in who I am because I am His, and He will use me to care for others regardless of what job I get and where it is...because that's what He made me to do -- to glorify Him, to share His love and care for and serve others. That will happen, of this I am certain. And I realized, too, that I can't really grow in my love with John if I don't include him, if I don't trust him. In the nearly two years I have known him, he has never stopped loving me...he has been with me when things weren't "fun", when things were messy and I was stressed out and uncertain...he stayed with me, he didn't abandon me. He's shown over and over again that he loves me and cares about me -- that I can trust him. Others in the past have proven to fickle in their love, they didn't have my best in mind, they didn't stick with me when things got tough, but that wasn't John and that wasn't God, so they can't really be punished for it.

Like the title states, trust and value are hard lessons for me to learn, and I doubt I'll ever master them...but...I'm definitely being called and challenged to learn them better now. Pray for me as I do.