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When He Leads You to the Desert

The Ask…

About 2 years ago, things in my life seemed pretty stable — I had no idea that 6 months later, my whole world would be turned upside down. That God would very clearly ask me to leave all my comforts, all the known places and people, and head back to a place that held very few happy memories for me. 

It’s no secret if you’ve read some of my posts or had a conversation with me, that even though I was born and raised in Indiana, I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged here. It’s been more of a black sheep feeling whenever I’ve been in Indiana. The way I think, live my life, and the life paths I’ve taken don’t quite fit in with the viewpoints or life plans of most Hoosiers. Some of these have been my choice, others have been chosen for me. 

I’m a Christian, but tend to lean to the more progressive side. I’m most comfortable in a room full of diverse cultures. Instead of getting married and starting a family in my 20s, I lived in 4 different states and obtained 3 degrees while establishing and progressing my career. I’m 32 and have never owned a home, never been married, have no kids, and am obsessed with my dog.

Desert, When God calls

The place…

So when God made it clear He was calling me from Chicagoland, the place I had settled into as an adult — MY home and my comfort place. The place I didn’t feel like a black sheep. The place where it was ok I wasn’t married or didn’t have kids or didn’t own a home. The place where I felt I belonged. The place I had a church. The place I had a job with people who felt like family and the population I loved to work with. The place where it was normal to go grocery shopping and hear multiple different languages and I was constantly exposed to new cultures. He asked me to leave MY PLACE — and follow Him to the place He was asking. The place I never felt like I belonged. 

I wouldn’t say I went willingly, but I followed. I followed, because He asked and I trusted.

The Desert

When I got here I was full of hope. Full of ideas. Full of the thoughts and dreams that maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t feel the same as I did the first 22 years of my life.

Maybe, just maybe, I would find my place. 

A year and a half in, I haven’t found my place. I miss my friends. I miss my job and the family of co-workers (side note, I love my team, they truly are what keep me going in a high stress job). I miss hearing the different languages while shopping. I miss the people who loved me for me, not what I could give or do for them. I miss the church I was excited to go to. I miss the normal restaurants I would eat at.

I miss the feeling of home.

In the desert, God led me to a boy. And when we  met, we were both transitioning through a lot of change. The change looked different, but the heartache and processing were similar. The challenge to trust, despite the pain and quietness was familiar to both of us. 

I’m still here…

And a year and a half later, I’m still in the desert. Wandering, finding water wells just when I think I can’t go anymore. They come in all shapes and sizes and forms. Sometimes in the quiet whisper that reminds me God’s got this. Sometimes in the loud reminder of a song. Sometimes in the gentle nudge of the sunrise reminding me His mercies are new every morning. In the gentle cuddles of my sweet dog. In an encouraging text from a faithful friend.

And though I haven’t found the overflowing lake to fill up my dry reservoir, I’m trusting in the One who knows the way to that lake and will follow one step at a time.

Because when He asks I follow. And never, ever has He let me down before. It often takes time (ugh, time) to see what He is doing, but it always has been worth it. So I remind myself of His faithfulness in the past. In the aspects of not only my life, but others that have been completely changed because I followed when He called. I’m reminded of the amazing people I’ve collected along the way because of going where He’s called. I’m reminded of the incredible career path and how He’s taken me from being told I was too dumb to be a nurse, to being a nurse leader.

And when He brought me to the desert… I found Mercy and Healing

Have you ever listened to a song for months and then one day, the lyrics hit you? My word of the year has been mercy. Normally with my word of the year, I’m sick of the lessons God has been teaching me 6 months into the year. But in October I realized I was just beginning to grasp what God had been teaching me about mercy. It was like the small trickles of water He has been giving me throughout the year. And the other night with just a few days left in 2018, He hit me square in the face with the lyrics that have been on repeat, but I never truly heard.

My past embraced
My sin forgiven
I’m blameless in your sight
My history rewritten

Amanda Cook “Mercy”

And to be honest, I could keep writing, because of the sweet, sweet message I have been given, but that would make for one lengthy post. So until next time, remember, His mercies are truly new every morning, even when it doesn’t feel like it…

Thankfulness for What I Have

A Guest post from my friend Maggie who recently finished treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma:

The real question is…. after being a bald woman for 6 months… once my hair grows back, will I ever complain about it again? Look at it and constantly wish it was different? “Better?”


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In all honesty, I used to think “it’s too thin/it’s not straight enough/it doesn’t grow long enough/etc etc etc”. Her (fill in random person) hair is better/nicer/prettier/etc etc. I wish mine was (fill in the blank…) oh yeah and my eyebrows are too thin. And my lashes aren’t long enough. And and and…
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Now I’m like “where should I draw my eyebrows on today… I think they *should* probably go right about…here??? 🤷‍♀️😆 some days it’s super annoying but some days I have fun with it. Maybe I draw on just one to be weird and crack up with my husband at how funny I look 😆. That’s me being me. You have to just make jokes when you can… you gotta be able to laugh  And the Lashes? What lashes? They all fell out.

I’ve never been a super girly girly but let me tell ya these changes have not been easy.
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So I’m reflecting. A lot. Perspective is a funny thing. Hindsight is 20/20. You can always see clearer when you’re looking back on things. And that’s okay sometimes, I think. The real important thing is you learn, you grow, you change.
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What am I learning? Here’s a few things: thankfulness for what I have; how comparison is the thief of joy; how you don’t realize how good you have something until it’s gone. Even the vary things you complain about. Or think aren’t good enough. They actually are treasures. Sometimes wanting more/better/different xyz… it’s a lie. It steals your happiness. I’m learning as the Bible says “to be content in all situations… in need and in want…”. Still learning.
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These are things we often hear, sometimes said as cliches. “You don’t know what you got til it’s gone”, for example. We’ve all heard it a million times. maybe we know this logically, but how often do we pause, reflect, and actually apply these and other truths to our hearts? Experience them?
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What does this look like for me? Well, now, I have some dark “thick” (in comparison to my previous bald potato head) buzz coming in. and I’m all like…. WAHOOO!!!

And even funnier… I’ve really missed my thin wavy floppy baby soft hair. Yeah, the stuff I complained about a lot, and thought wasn’t “good enough”, should be better, was insecure of at times, in this way or that.
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How many things do we do that with in our lives? I’ll be the first to admit it; the hair is just one example. There are other areas of myself at times I’ve wished were “different” or “better”. Don’t we all? we’re human. Imperfect beings. Psychologically we more naturally remember the negatives more easily than the positives. We can be at times critical of ourselves or others. We look to what’s next, what’s better, we compare. And the 10 good things that happened today can be clouded by the one “not so good” thing. But we don’t have to just accept worldly standards and labels for our hearts and minds.
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Let’s choose to fight to focus on the good. Challenge the thoughts that tell us something about us, something we have, isn’t good enough or would be better some other way. Often those are lies, and they steal contentment. Acknowledge the negative but don’t let it take over. Learn and grow and challenge the status quo. I believe we find freedom in doing this, and we don’t have to do it alone. God is with us and for us and wants us to be free, to experience the joys of each day! And even as a person who has SUFFERED… let me be clear… SUFFERED physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually through now 8 months of being REALLY sick… I have fought to find and focus on the joy. ❤️
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Has it been perfect? No. Has it been easy? definitely not. Have I needed lots of help and support from my husband, my family, my friends, my church? Oh yeah! But it is possible. I choose to fight for this. Even in the darkest storms of life and the scariest moments. Even in the face of trauma. There can be peace. There can be joy. We can be hopeful and expectant. I know because I have experienced it. And it’s available to everyone!
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So Im still learning a lot. And my perspective is stretching. So while I’m NOT happy I got cancer or for all the ways it has wrecked me or my loved ones, I AM thankful for what it is teaching me. Never thought I’d be able to say that, honestly.
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So… yes. I think Ill be happy if/when my hair comes back, just as it was before. Or… even if it’s different. Because honestly… it’s really not as important as I thought it was after all.

It’s Been — A Reflection

It’s been a little over a year since I moved back to Indiana. I spent 9 years away from my home state. 8/9 of those years were within a large metropolitan area. So moving back to a smaller metropolitan area, has been hard, to say the least. I never quite felt like I belonged in the place I grew up, and I can’t say that it has changed as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I would say I feel even further removed from the place that I was born and raised now that I’m back here.

It’s been interesting to process through my first 22 years of life in Indiana, and then my life after Indiana. There isn’t anything wrong with Indiana, it just doesn’t quite fit who I am or the way my life has gone. It’s a really hard thing to admit that you don’t feel like you belong in the very place where you had so many of your formative years. But it is also a very freeing feeling to acknowledge that I’m different, and that’s ok.

It’s been interesting to watch how the majority of people around me in Indiana, followed the “Indiana dream”. They got married fairly young, had children short thereafter, now have a house, and their children are in or are starting school. Meanwhile, I’ve been developing my career, am just starting to head down the path toward marriage, have no kids, and still live in a rental. The last year the question I’ve been asking myself has been “what’s wrong with me that I haven’t had the normal life progression of people in Indiana?” So much of this also ties back to being an enneagram 2. As a 2, I have trouble feeling like I belong, but have this deep need to feel like I belong.

It’s been quite the process to realize {yet again} that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. My life just looks different. It’s not that I don’t want to get married or that I don’t want children, quite the opposite, I want it very much; it’s just on a different time table (at least I hope). I didn’t plan on my career being my priority, it just happened that way. But I also know, that if I had had kids younger, I probably wouldn’t have developed my career like I have. I may have never found my calling as an oncology nurse, which would have been heartbreaking. I also never would have gotten to live in so many different places, meet so many incredible people, have amazing experiences, and heal in ways I could have never healed living in Indiana.

It’s been eye opening to go back to Chicagoland. This past weekend I spent up there and I realized, it still feels like home. I also realized little things that I never appreciated while I was there, like that there are side walks and walkways everywhere. There are also things that I knew I would miss like the incredible food scene, the amazing friends who became family, and the diversity that is everywhere. Chicagoland makes me happy, and it’s funny because I went there not too excited thinking it could never live up to my time in New Jersey, but left kicking and screaming. Turns out, I liked it just as much as New Jersey and it developed me in new ways that New Jersey hadn’t been able to. In both places, I was able to find a place where I was accepted even when my type 2 the giver couldn’t give. I found people who didn’t care that I wasn’t married or that I didn’t have kids. I found people who loved me as I was, not for what I could give them.

It’s been a year of processing and learning since I’ve been back. A year of accepting that I finally landed back in Indiana, and though I planned to settle here, I’m not quite sure I will. I’m not quite sure what the future looks like. But when I landed back in Indiana, I found an Indiana boy, who grew up feeling much the same way as I did. However, this Indiana boy has never lived anywhere else. So now the question remains “should we stay or should we go?” I’m not sure when we’ll get the answer, but I’m finally at peace knowing it’s ok that I never felt I belonged here, because I found my place of belonging. I found that there are people and there are cultures where I feel at home and love me for me. Indiana, thank you for raising me, New Jersey thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone and giving me the feeling of home the second I hit your state for the first time, Chicagoland thank you for helping me become who I am today and giving me the place and space to be who I really I am.

It’s been a year of facing my past and walking through things that happened in the past that needed healing. I’ve been facing my pride, which ties back to being a 2. It’s hard for us 2s to not admit we don’t have it all together. Or that sometimes, when we give, we give too much and that can ruin things. Sometimes as a 2, I’ve given so much and received nothing in return which causes me to break and run the other direction. I don’t think my feeling of not belong in Indiana is solely tied to being an enneagram 2. But I do know that facing the core of who I am and my past, is allowing me to resolve what is on me and what is just because it is.

It’s been hard to stare straight into things I was able to leave when I left Indiana. Things that shaped me and formed me. Not all of it was bad, but parts of it have been very painful to face. Without the healing and accepting I found in the other places I lived, I could have never come back to look the things of my past straight in the face. Mercy is my word of the year, and even in September, I’m still grasping what this word means. I think it’s so hard for me to understand mercy, because as a 2 it goes against everything that drives me. As a 2, it’s ingrained in me that I have to earn love. But the truth is, I don’t have to earn the love of my Heavenly Father, it’s there for me no matter what. And no matter how much I do, He’ll love me, just the same — just as I am.

It’s been. Now it’s time to step into what it’s going to be one step at a time. One healing at a time. Accepting and loving myself just as I am, while facing the things I need to change to continue to improve myself. Most importantly excepting the love that is offered to me without any strings attached from up above. Secondly, allowing those to love me even when I have nothing left to give them.

It’s been, so what’s next?

 

Orange, Ginger, Honey Chicken “Sushi Bowl”

The last few days have been a bit stressful, so I took to the kitchen. This orange, ginger, honey “sushi bowl” hit the spot. It’s delicious and allows this highly sensitive person to enjoy a taste of Asian.

  • *First you need a pound of shredded chicken. I like to put chicken in the crock pot on low for about 6 hours in chicken stock.
  • *Second you need a cup of cooked rice. I use the rice cooker, but you can cook it on the stove top too

After you have the above 2 ingredients, put them in a sauce pan on low and add the follow ingredients.

  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos -1/4 cup gf soy sauce (If the above doesn’t cover all the rice and chicken and make them slightly brown tint add coconut aminos until it is)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar -1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • juice from 1 mandarin orange
  • 5 green onions diced

**allow the above to simmer for about 15 minutes on low*

While the above is simmering dice a cucumber and if your shelled edamame is frozen, let that defrost.
On your plate add to 1 cup of the cooked mixture

  • diced cucumber to taste (cucumber is a bit strong for me, so I don’t use a lot of it)
  • avocado (I used 1/2 a mini avocado)
  • 1/4 cup shelled edamame

Enjoy!

When a Leader Lets You Down

Where this post began…

Recently someone asked me how I was taking the news that came out about Bill Hybels. They knew I had called Willow Creek my home church for 3.5 years and would still be there if I had not moved last July. So I answered, honestly. When a leader let’s us down, it’s hard. It takes processing, self reflection, and honesty about ones own feelings, to work through.

“But running from emotional pain is never a good idea, as it only leaves us damaged of soul and hindered in our ability to fulfill our purpose. We have to turn and face our torturous seasons and the scars they try to leave on our hearts.”
― Stephen Mansfield, Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People

As I’ve been processing through the possibility that these allegations could be true (and the more that comes out, the harder it seems to digest), I reflected back to the beginning of my journey at Willow Creek. I walked into Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois in January of 2014. I was broken, damaged, and so beyond hurt by “the church” I had no plans of actually staying there or at any church. I was at the point where I wasn’t sure I would ever want to be more than just a bench warmer in any church ever again.

I walked into Willow Creek broken in pieces, and I walked out 3.5 years later (kicking and screaming that I wasn’t ready to leave yet), healed and stretched in ways I could have never imagined. The church, any church, is made up of broken and sinful people, this includes it’s leaders. As a result of this, (at any church) people can get wounded and damaged. The churches I have been hurt in have provided healing and growing for others. And the church I found healing and growing in, has caused wounds, some extremely deep and unimaginable, and damage for others.

“Your horrific time of trouble offered you truths about yourself, windows into your own soul, and maps to the terrain of your inner life. Wise people learn to gather this intelligence to help them conquer themselves and then to live in loftier ways.”
― Stephen Mansfield, Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People

No one wants to be alone…

One of the biggest desires I’ve found we humans have is to resolve the “I’m alone” feelings. This has resulted in many scenarios where one group of people take one side and another group of people take another side. I think when we fight so hard to feel not alone, we often forget to keep our mind and hearts open. Because just like any story or situation, there are always 3 sides (if not more) to the story. There are the ones from each person (or people) involved and then somewhere in the middle of that, there is the truth. I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a leader is to hear out both sides before coming to any conclusions.

I’m beyond guilty of that need to not feel alone. For me personally, it stems from when I was a child. In 5th grade I was the targeted child in a very small class for bullying. I don’t know why I was the target, but it sticks with me to this day. The lies that were taught to me when I was just 10 years old were that I didn’t belong and I wasn’t wanted. These have fed into my needs and desires into adulthood and, if I’m not careful, they can run me into very wrong directions and decisions.

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” Nelson Mandela 

A reflection on leaders failing…

So back to the whole reason for this post. Leaders are going to fail us, they are human. I’m a leader and I’m going to fail, because I’m human. But even when leaders fail us, that doesn’t take away the good that has resulted from their leadership. It doesn’t dissolve any positive experiences or growth you’ve had under their leadership. It doesn’t mean that the church, corporation, or group of people they’ve lead aren’t going to continue to grow and flourish. It also doesn’t mean that just because they’ve excelled in certain areas, that the hurt that has resulted from their misconduct shouldn’t be brought to light and that apologies shouldn’t happen.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” Jim Rohn

I don’t know what the truth is behind the Bill Hybels misconduct allegations, but I do know this. Because of his leadership, I was able to find healing. But I also know, because of some of his choices, there are people today suffering. My heart breaks for these people. It’s a very fine line to be able to celebrate my healing as the result of leadership of one person, while also mourning for the pain of others that result from the same leader. It doesn’t take away the value of my healing and it also doesn’t devalue the extent of their pain. It doesn’t mean that just because I found healing as a result of this leader, while others found damage, that we can’t still be in it together. It just means that we are two different sets of people, in a broken world, that have to learn to walk together with different experiences and say “you’re not alone, I’m with you”.

My promise as a leader…

So what will I take away for my own life? As a leader, I promise to always be open and honest. To hear my employees out. To apologize if I’ve said something either I or they feel was hurtful. I promise to not aim to be perfect, but to be honest and real of my shortcomings. I promise to listen carefully when someone feels I have wronged them and try my hardest not to come at it from a biased point of view. I promise to live with truth, integrity, and to continue to build my skills and character so each day I can become a better leader for whomever it is I may be leading. Whether I like it or not (and it is often on the not side), I know God has called me to be a leader. This is not a responsibility I carry lightly and I sure hope the burden I feel for being called into leadership never lightens. And if it does, I hope those closest to me challenge me and ask if I truly should be in leadership anymore.

I also hope that if I should ever be unable to look at someone else’s side, that those around me will call me out. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about the hurt on both sides and how can we come to a place where we both find healing. And to those suffering right now from leadership hurt, I pray that you find the healing you need. And as a leader, I apologize that we have let you down.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ” Philippians 2:3-4

What My First Chemo Taught Me

We have a guest post from my friend Maggie today. She was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and speaks today about the lessons she learned with her first chemo. Thanks Maggie for your being brave enough to share your story along the way! 

The school of life gives us lessons in perspective, and for me, I’ve been learning so much lately. One thing my oncologist said to me is that this whole experience and journey with cancer will really change me. It will open my eyes in new ways to the world around me, and make me appreciate the little things even more than I did before. It won’t let me sleep walk through life as some people do, hardly realizing when the sun shines and the flowers bloom. It hasn’t been long, but already I’ve found this to be so true.

Like most brides, I was so concerned with getting in shape for our wedding, growing my hair long and taking good care of it (even buying nice products for once!) and making sure things were “just right”. Now it seems so silly; I honestly don’t care about those things. And I realize that so many other things of that sort have taken up valuable thoughts, energy, mental space for me. I hope to continue to grow in that— realize what actually matters and is worth my mindspace, energy, time.

Now I’m just so happy and thankful I’ll be able to even have my wedding, marry my best friend, and that I probably won’t feel that sick that day! Praise the Lord! I’m thankful that from my first cycle of chemo, I know my “sick/pain/bad days” will be about 7 of every 15, and I’m so thankful that I get to have a “good week” where I can be outside, eat good food, walk around, and smile without pain! Life is brighter. I’m already changing. I’m so much more thankful for those “normal”, regular days than I ever was before!

My hair started falling out, and I thought I’d be devastated when that happened. But I actually got excited. Weird, right? so I dyed it a fun color, and chopped it short. Something I never would have wanted to do but, I actually like it! And I’m thankful to have some fun with it on it’s way out.

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I am thankful I worked out a class schedule that works too! (With No class on chemo days!) and my school was so helpful in enabling me to keep working towards my goals in education.

I’m thankful for warm weather, for family and friends, for summer adventures to come, and for the countless ways God has provided for me during this stormy season — through all those around me. Your prayers are working. Know that they have sustained me, and God has been so faithful. There have been dark moments and very hard times, and your prayers have carried me though them.

Every little word, gift, message, encouragement— it has meant the world to me and Travis. Thank you for being with us and being Jesus hands and feet. I would not be in the place I am without you. I know the hard days will be hard, I will be sick and in pain, and it will not be easy. But the storm will pass and I hope to come out a stronger, wiser, more thankful woman. Thank you to everyone for being a part of our life!

Ps: Travis surprised me with a BIKE!!!!!!

 

Cancer – The One Word That Changes Everything

Cancer. It’s my life’s work. My calling. It’s a word that makes people shudder. It’s a life changing diagnosis. Once the word cancer is uttered by a provider, that patient’s life will never be the same. Their world is suddenly turned upside down by just one word. Cancer.

I devote hour after hour to provide the best care possible, both indirectly and directly, to cancer patients. To me, this is the reason God put me on this earth. I can, and have previously on this blog, gone on and on about how incredible it is to work in the field I get to work in. On Friday as I was walking out of work I was talking with a co-worker who recently had a loved one diagnosed with cancer. She made the comment that it is really incredible the perspective that cancer, both fortunately and unfortunately, gives one person on life.

I’ve sat with many patients as they digest that 3 weeks ago they were living a normal life and now they are in the hospital indefinitely with a diagnosis that could cut their life expectancy in half. I’ve sat with the mom who says “I just want to see my kids grow up” or “I just want to see my child get married next month”. I’ve walked through the hair loss and grief process that goes with losing something you’ve never lived without. I’ve sat with the young adult who’s arms are so bruised up from being poked, they start crying before the needle even comes near them.

But no matter how much I deal with it day in and day out, it’s always different when a loved one of mine is diagnosed. I got into this field because of watching so many loved ones walk through it, but each time it happens, my heart continues to break. It doesn’t change the heaviness or ache that is in my heart. In fact, I think the more I know, the more my heart aches, because I know too much about the road ahead.

My beautiful friend Maggie recently heard that one word. Cancer. She has cancer. She was in grad school and planning a wedding to her dream guy, when her world crashed into pieces around her. And my heart breaks that with my recent move, I am now 4 hours away from her.

Cancer.

Maggie and I met at church and had an instant connection. It was one of those we couldn’t talk fast enough to each other, because the comfort level was there from the beginning, and the “me toos” just kept on coming. We think alike. Dress alike (have shown up in the exact same outfit, more than once). We have similar passions and dreams. And no matter how long it’s been, we can pick up right where we left off. Maggie is one of those people that has made me realize I’m not alone in this world. She’s a lively spirit, that has a passion for life, and chases after her dreams with every fiber in her being. She has a heart for God and to serve others.

So when I got the news today, I stopped dead in my tracks. I must have looked pretty lost because the people at Whole Foods kept checking to make sure I was okay. Cancer. It’s struck again. This is the thing about cancer, it doesn’t have a bias. It can choose anyone. While yes, there are things that you can do to help prevent it or raise your chances, but it still can strike wherever and whoever it wants. And it does. And in an instant cancer, changes everything by rearing it’s ugly head.

But true to Maggie and her fiance Travis’s character, they’re choosing hope and to fight with all their might. They are choosing to not let cancer win. They are choosing to face it head on, to get married, to plan for a family, and to love the God they serve. And this. This is what keeps me going day in and day out in the field of oncology. People like my precious friend Maggie and her fiance Travis. That know no matter what the outcome is in the number of days, they don’t let cancer win because they choose to live every day.

Read more about Maggie’s Story Here

Clinging onto Grace

The Setting

Have you ever been tubing behind a boat? It’s an activity I’ve enjoyed since I was a little kid. Sometimes when I’m hanging on tight and being whipped and thrown in every direction, I wonder why I enjoy it. But every time I end it is like a sense of accomplishment and the next opportunity I have, I come back for me.  Lately life has felt a bit like that. It’s a funny thing when life heads in a different direction than you planned and you grab onto the rope just trying to hang on. It almost feels like I’ve been half on a tube hanging on one handed for the last nine months of my life just trying to keep my head from going below and swallowing a bunch of water. Can anyone else relate?

If the me from nine months ago was looking in on my current life I wouldn’t even have any idea it was my life. The only things that are stable are my furniture, my dog, my cell phone number, and the fact that I remain an oncology nurse. So, I guess, when I reflect on the fact I feel exhausted and a bit wandering, it feels a bit more understandable.

Nine months ago I was dating someone, but knew it was probably about to end. I had absolutely no idea though how the break up would be drug out and get worse and worse as time went on. I had no idea that the duplex I had called home for 3 years would  no longer be my home come July 13th. I had no idea that I was headed from outpatient oncology to inpatient oncology. I had no idea that the women’s group I had been leading and leaning on for 3 years would be going on, but without me there. I had no idea that everything about my day to day life was about to change.

It’s all about grace…

So, as I’ve continued on in this season of learning about and leaning into grace, I’m learning more than ever what it means to give myself grace. As I navigate the somewhat familiar, but not home like streets of Indianapolis. As I learn a whole new job. As I hit speed bump after speed bump in life, or I guess, if we’re still going with the tubing concept, huge wave after huge wave, I’m learning I can’t have it all together. I’m learning that establishing a whole new home, a whole new job, a whole new church, a whole new friend group, and a whole new routine — it is absolutely exhausting.

And as I look around, I realize, we are all exhausted from this thing called life. I wonder how is it that we can help each other by easing the big waves, or providing assistance to help grab the other handle, or how is it we can help slowdown the boat to help each other? How is it that we can help each other to travel along life easier? And I think the answer comes in grace. Letting go of expectations where they should not be, giving people grace when they mess up, and realizing that we need to lean into the grace provided from up above.

Grace — I’m clinging onto you with every weary bone in my body. Trusting that this crazy tubing ride like life will at some point slow to a comforting float, but until that season, I’ll cling to grace.

2017 – The Year of Grace

2017. What can I say? You were everything I didn’t expect you to be. I was excited for you. I saw boundless potential in you. I had ideas of how the year would unfold. And here I am, on the other side of you, looking back and saying “see ya later and please don’t come back.”

You started off well. I was getting comfortable in my new role at work. Life felt comfortable and I had people around me I called family. I was dating someone and it seemed to be going well. I wasn’t the new person anywhere for the first time in a really long time. I loved my church and my small group. I even got to go on a vacation for the first time in about 3 years. So when my word of the year “grace” was revealed to me, I thought, oh, maybe God is giving me grace this year in the form of an easier time than how my normal life goes.

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” 
― Criss JamiKillosophy

Come March and beyond, and my life quickly went crashing in. To name a few things… My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dog almost died from a GI bleed, the guy I was dating turned out to be an absolute jerk, my sister went into early labor (thankfully it was able to be stopped), relationships in my life I thought were fine exploded in my face, my brother had a stroke, and God made it absolutely clear I was to leave my comfortable life in Illinois, take a pay cut, and move back to Indiana (that sounds exactly like what someone would want to do, right?). Following that move between the address change issues, the insane amount of time it took to get my title transferred, working way more hours than I was before, no longer having my support system, moving expenses that seemed to be endless on top of taking a pay cut, and dealing with a mouse issue in my apartment for the last month — I’m exhausted.

“When life doesn’t meet your expectations, it was important to take it with grace.” 
― Patricia BriggsWhen Demons Walk

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss Illinois. I do, I miss it, the people, and the familiarity with every fiber of my being. However, I would also be lying if I said I felt like I heard God wrong about moving back to Indiana. It was one of those situations where God spoke so clearly, I cannot even in my weakest faith moments, doubt this is what He asked of me. Isn’t that the hardest thing when you’re in the middle of some place you don’t necessarily want to be —Knowing God has you exactly where He wants you. That you are wrapped fully in His grace, even amidst the chaos.

“Grace is what picks me up and lifts my wings high above and I fly! Grace always conquers! Be graceful in everything; in anger, in sadness, in joy, in kindness, in unkindness, retain grace with you!”
― C. JoyBell C.

So as I review what I’ve learned in 2017, I’m honestly overwhelmed. I’ve learned a lot, much of which I didn’t want to learn, but needed to learn. And I have such a deeper understanding of that grace that took place on the cross. I’ve learned that I can’t be so hard on myself (it’s funny how giving yourself a little grace in rough patches is much better than being hard on yourself). I’ve learned that a lot of times on the other side of a what seems like good is great, even better than I imagined (especially in the world of dating). I’ve learned what it means to be stripped of all the comfort and feel like you’re standing naked, in the crowd, just waiting for the tomatoes to keep flying at you. And I’ve learned that on the other side of a very, very tough year, I can still be thankful for that year, but never want to live it again. Lastly, I have learned that I am capable, brave, significant, and strong even when I feel like I am absolutely not.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
― AnonymousHoly Bible: New International Version

So, as I round out the final days of 2017 I enter 2018 with a different mindset. One that is full of a heart that is open to whatever it is God may have for me. One that is open to this new life He has for me in a place different than where I pictured ending 2017. I trust that the Creator of the universe still holds my future in His hands. And I trust that whatever word He has for me this next year will teach me everything I don’t expect it to. But isn’t that the greatest thing about serving a God that is larger than life, knowing He has something unimaginable in store?

A note to oncology care providers….

A few months ago my staff and I experienced multiple losses in a short period of time of patients we were very close with. This is a note I wrote to them to remind them that while our job is not easy, it is so worth it. To all oncology care providers out there, remember you are making a difference.

It was a tough week last week… which got me to thinking…

Recently I sat down at my new church to learn more about the church and in return, they wanted to learn about me. Quickly into my career as an oncology nurse I learned to just say “I’m a nurse” leaving out the oncology/cancer/hospice part. The reason for this is because once you say the word “oncology” or “cancer” and especially “hospice”, people’s faces tend to fall and the next question is often “how do you do it?”. In this particular case I did say just nurse first, but they proceeded to ask the question of what type of nurse, so I answered. Then I heard countless stories of how other people in the field of oncology had touched them and their family through cancer battles.

Each of you are a part of this team who makes a difference day in and day out in the lives of these patients and their loved ones. You hold their hands when they are scared, you clean up their puke, empty out their urinals, help them to the bathroom when they are too weak to make it on their own, but they want the dignity of going in a real toilet, you educate them on safety and why you need to be there, and the list goes on.

Each of us got on this career path for different reasons and each of us will be here a different amount of time. For some, it is a brief stop in their career journey. For others it will be their life’s work. Others it is somewhere in the middle. Some people landed here because you yourself or a loved one was personally touched by the care other healthcare providers in the oncology field provided. There are those that just landed in this because it was the open position. And others have a heart for oncology just because. No matter the time frame or reason, you matter.

So as I reflect back on the losses that we all felt deeply this week. As I think of the countless times I’ve felt the grief of losing an incredible patient to the horrible disease that is cancer, I want to encourage each of you. I want to let you know that you aren’t alone. I want to let you know that there is room to grieve. Most importantly though, I want you to know that you matter. That the work you are doing day in and day out is changing the lives of people, many of who have a ticking clock over their heads on how long they have left on this earth.

Oncology nursing has been my career plan since I was 16, but nursing leadership/management was not in that plan, that is more something that transpired as my career has progressed. As a leader on this unit, I am honored to work alongside each of you. You all and the patients are the reason I am here. And every time I hear “exceptional plus” or “satisfactory plus” in response to the care you are providing, my heart swells with joy and pride. Thank you for being a team that listens and truly cares. Thank you for caring, even when the pain runs deep. Please know my door is always open for a place to debrief and I’m walking alongside each of you. Thank you for making this unit exceptional plus.



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