25 December 2012

The Heart of a Servant



What is Christmas about to you? Is it the gifts, unending holiday food, being surrounded by family or snow? When I think of Christmas, it requires snow (even though it’s cold and no fun to drive in); when on vacation in FL last week with my favorite twin, my mind was boggled by the fact that there was Christmas music and lights but no snow—rather 80° weather. My favorite part of Christmas, however, is not the snow, chocolate, or even the gifts but the undeniable joy and hope radiating throughout the atmosphere, amidst the normal chaos and hatred. In my eyes, Christmas is about giving hope and spreading joy, which is why I give up Christmas Eve with my family to spread love and cheer to the exceedingly vulnerable—those who need it most. No, this is not an easy task; in fact, nearly no one is willing to do it because it is not all “fun and games” as it looks on the outside but is instead, behind the scenes, consumed by stress, sore muscles and excessively tired bodies. Here is an inside look at my favorite part of Christmas: serving those who need it most—those intubated and/or surrounded by IV pumps and catheters, heart monitors and medicine of all kinds—most unable to survive on their own. Christmas isn’t about getting but giving.

This morning, as I was getting ready to be an “elf”, otherwise known as “Santa’s helper”, my heart leaped with excitement at the thought of doing what I love most—spreading contagious joy merely by serving. Nothing is more rewarding than a life fulfilling its purpose—a life created to serve the King. This year, unlike last, I was not going alone but with another “elf”—my little sister. Honestly, I couldn’t have been more excited to have someone following in my footsteps, so to speak, and experiencing the atmosphere I love most: Akron Children’s Hospital.

Once we arrived at the hospital, surrounded by endless donated gifts as well as chocolates and other goodies, we headed out to the Atrium desk I normally run, in order to get a good view of Santa arriving by Air Bear—the hospital’s very own helicopter, which landed right above my room in ICU after my spinal fusion four years ago. As soon as Santa was spotted, amidst the Air Bear, people went crazy and lined up along the fence, only to be viscously sprayed with cold snow from the helicopter. As soon as he stepped one foot onto the once snow covered grass, cheering and screaming filled the air and smiles consumed each face. Wherever he went, a crowd seemed to follow which certainly didn’t change the entire day, requiring absolute patience—in fact, we had to sneak him into the hospital so we could get started passing out gifts to each patient, both young and old. As soon as we arrived on the floor and sorted the gifts according to age and gender, as well as each room’s specific patient characteristics (which changed often throughout the day due to discharges and admissions), one “elf”, arms piled high with gifts, stood outside each occupied room awaiting the presence of Santa. Despite small hallways and unlimited medical equipment, the media (yes, I felt like a superstar which ended suddenly as my annoyance sky-rocketed) bombarded every corner with cameras literally right up in our faces as we only tried to get things done. Questions were thrown one after another and recordings of which required special sound equipment we had to put on were endlessly taken. Honestly, it may have been the most awkward time of my life (and I’ve had many of those) due to the endless on-the-spot questions, cameras literally inches from my face (exaggerating every flaw) and 24/7 surveillance, catching every move. One hour or more behind schedule, we finally arrived to our destination, after the media had gotten all the coverage they needed. Once there, everyone was “thrown out of whack”, so to speak and the process was a “hot mess”, to put it bluntly. Since the “main elf”, who’d organized this event for countless years, moved out of state, I was voted to “get things flowing” despite the fact one “elf” had already made herself boss. If there was one thing I learned from today, it was that organization and pre-planning is essential to this process in order for a timely delivery to be made and stress minimized; despite the fact that leadership is at the far opposite end of my comfort zone, I will do it if it means more children can receive hope and joy.

At each floor, an accurate census must be received in order for us to be able to pull appropriate gifts for each patient in the hospital; every year I am absolutely blown away by the generosity of average people, who selflessly donate enough gifts that we can administer at least one to each patient and have a six foot cart overflowing with extras for the emergency room. These gifts are not just stuffed animals and blankets but iPod Touches and American Girl Dolls, as well as countless other prized possessions. My personal favorite part of the day was when a young boy who’d been waiting after discharge to see Santa said, with eyes as big as the moon, “Santa, how did you know?! How did you know I wanted this? How did you know?! YOU must be the REAL Santa because the one at the mall had pimples!” Kids never cease to effortlessly paste a smile on my face and consume my lips with laughter by their hilarious comments as well as loving hearts—I can feel my heart melt in their presence! Every year, as well, I look forward to visiting the NICU(neonatal intensive care unit) where infants as small as one pound are taken care of; the miracle of life abounds in each corner, as tiny cries escape the lips of premature infants whose survival denies nature. The joy of serving is what Christmas is about for me

My Christmas Eve may not have been stress-free but I wouldn't change a thing because through it God is preparing me for my future and teaching me to accept leadership, whether I like it or not. Merry Christmas everyone! 

04 December 2012

Bethel Camp

“His voice leads us not into timid discipleship but into bold witness” (Charles Stanley).
What distinguishes us, as Christians, from this decrepit world? How are those of the world to know that we are His disciples?  According to John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The very essence of love is what separates us, so we are, in the words of Britt Nicole, to “look like love” in all we do. This is my prayer—what about you?  When I think of a place that “looks like love”, so to speak, the first place that comes to mind is Bethel Mennonite Camp—the very first place my abominably wounded and overlooked heart found rest.
The very first time my trembling feet entered the doors of this camp located in Clayhole, Kentucky, I was scared to death yet strangely set at ease by the incomprehensible love overtaking every corner; my scandalously disregarded self—sexually, verbally as well as emotionally abused—remained wholeheartedly confused as to why she even mattered and convinced as to never be worthy of love—true and selfless love, however that looked. After but a week spent here, I was convinced this was no typical camp but indeed a bold witness for Christ—a place distinguished from this decrepit world. Convinced of these things, I was able to begin the arduous journey of allowing God to heal the incapacitating wounds and scars camouflaging my fragile body, both inside and out, and to embrace my identity as a Beloved Daughter of Christ. No matter how many times the devil shot debilitating arrows at my penetrated and vulnerable being, God’s plan as well as unending love for me never changed but indeed strengthened my feeble legs. Grounded in truth, I was now able to fight back—no longer a victim but wholeheartedly protected for the first time from the devil’s wicked schemes. No matter what came my way—abuse; trauma; a seven hour surgery fusing my 60° spinal curvature to less than 20° with 21 screws, 2 titanium rods and multiple hooks as well as bone grafting; the life-threatening disease of Anorexia determined to absolutely annihilate my life by causing me to fear the one essential to survival: food, leaving me at the verge of death countless times; these scars as well as immeasurable others could not come close to separating me from the unrelenting love of my Pursuer and Creator—my God. Had I not been exposed to the atmosphere of love Bethel Mennonite Camp expressed, my life may look drastically different, I dare to argue.
Even though I could only attend this camp several times as a camper, due to infinite Anorexia treatment centers and hospital admissions as well as a newly fusing spine, my life was undeniably changed. This summer, for the very first time in several years, I was able to set foot on this very same ground I’d once entered with fresh wounds oppressing my being--now completely healed by the undeserved grace of God. Even though I was not a camper but a videographer, of which I was scared to death to attempt, the experience was not the least bit disappointing but absolutely unforgettable and encouraging. Truly, I cannot put into mere words the astounding experience of being surrounded by fellow disciples, encouraging one another in this so called battle of life. Though I can never repay this camp for the unending work they do to merely keep it running, I am not about to let that stop me because my heart, after all, was created to fight for life; discipleship requires unending sacrifice but it is my dream to play a part in awarding these selfless beings with but a glimpse of the provision God has promised as they blindly walk by faith. I imagine it is quite costly to run a camp but this has not stopped Bethel Mennonite Camp from continually keeping their doors open; they've had the same facilities for countless years, lacking the commodity of air conditioning despite the high ninety degree weather as well as a single dining hall now outgrown by the increasing number of campers--over fifty from my area. They are hoping to build a new dining hall as well as chapel, with an aim to reach as many people as possible with the incomprehensible love of Christ, but finances are not in their favor, so to speak: $360,000 is needed by the end of March in order to make this dream feasible but $150,000 is what remains in their hands thus far. I am well aware of the fading as well as corrupting economy, especially that of the nearly nonexistent middle class, but out of faith I am asking you to consider giving in some way to this life-changing camp, whether through time, money or prayers. If God has called you to give financially, CLICK HERE where debit/credit cards can be  used via Paypal or the money can be sent directly to Bethel Camp at: 2773 Bethel Church Rd., Clayhole, KY 41317. For more information, see http://www.bethelcamp.org. Your help is much appreciated! 
“What makes the Dead Sea dead? Because it is all the time receiving, never giving out anything. Why is it that many Christians are cold? Because they are all the time receiving, never giving out anything” (D.L. Moody).
What we see now

What we hope to see

28 November 2012

The Uncertainty of Life

Wow...what a day; I don’t even know where to begin! Insane does not even begin to do justice the crazy reality of today; never in my life have I experienced or even anticipated experiencing such a day as this! So now that I’ve increased your curiosity or I at least hope to have done so, here is an overview of a day I never hope to repeat.

Well, ever since I first laid eyes on the syllabus for my first fundamental nursing class, anxiety gripped my heart at the sight of a complete head to toe assessment requirement; I expected it to be intense but despite my worst nightmare, intense is not the word to define this experience. In order to pass, every pulse, lymph node and valve in the body must be memorized as well as each of the twelve cranial nerves and how to assess the multitude of nerves’ solitary intactness and countless other techniques. When my partner and I originally signed up, we were scheduled for 9:30 AM but today, despite the fact I arrived early to lab, waited nearly two hours merely to be let in; the assessments were running ridiculously behind due to the extensive three page list of requirements merely to pass. According to various sources, this was the first time a head to toe assessment included such complicatedly numerous aspects; in fact, half of the things we were required to do/assess they’d never even heard of—just my luck! Once my trembling feet entered the nursing lab, the atmosphere of chaos impressed itself upon me; nothing was going as planned and frustration radiated throughout the room. After being assessed by my partner and discovering I am in perfect health (despite the consuming stress), the moment I’d been dreading for months arrived: alone in a room with an instructor and forced to single-handedly perform a complete head to toe assessment in an orderly fashion while being prepared to answer any questions thrown to divert my path. Despite the fact my mind was relentlessly racing and gripped with anxiety, I climbed the mountain once thought to be insurmountable, solely by the power and grace of God; endless days spent studying could not prepare me for such a chaotic if not traumatic experience. My assessment may not have flowed but I didn’t forget anything, which would have been my worst nightmare, requiring a second chance. To be honest, I am still shaking from the oppressing anxiety; words cannot even begin to describe the chaos of today!

As soon as I’d finished documenting my partner/patient’s objective as well as subjective data and coming up with a nursing diagnosis for her condition, I literally ran over to the library and up the stairs to the AIDS/HIV booth I’d promised to run; originally, I’d signed up for 11 AM to 12 PM but a severely delayed assessment prohibited this from being feasible. Once I settled down, surrounded by condoms and AIDS literature which was a definite first as well as stretch for my sheltered mind, students seemed to come out of the woodwork for testing. Once the rush died down, with not a single person in line, the nurse persuaded me to be tested, even though I knew my chances of having AIDS were slim-to-none—it’s difficult to be infected with AIDS if you’ve never had sex, to put it bluntly. I realized here that it wasn’t the testing necessarily that God wanted me to have done but merely to encourage and bond with a fellow nurse, no matter what her age; as a nurse, you never stop learning and the advice of elders is essential to improvement and overcoming barriers. Despite the fact she took my blood, I consider her my friend as well as role model; this vivacious elder was undoubtedly an inspiration to my skeptic heart, convincing me once again that nursing is my calling—no matter how many times I relentlessly try to run away. Once the results of my test were processed, I was informed to be HIV negative—shocker!

Oh, and I must add that it was also a first to sit and have a “normal” conversation with a professor and one with a Doctorate in Biology I might add—I felt quite honored; a great reason I chose the Stark campus was due to its small population and close-knit interactions due to my relational core. In the middle of a discussion with my professor as we ran the booth, an older man stormed up to us, raging with hatred and fire in his eyes, yelling “This is a fraud” as well as threatening our safety. In all honesty, as he screamed accusations our way, I sat in my seat and laughed, overtaken by the naivety as well as total insanity; never in my life have I witnessed such a confrontation as this! The professor let the man, who I am convinced to be insane or at least mentally unstable, “know whose boss” as well as called security to hopefully rid us of his disturbing presence which had created quite a scene! The man stormed to the other side of the room, only to appear moments later, convinced we’d killed his friend by medication administered to treat his immune system suppressed by AIDS; although I never said anything, I am still convinced that the medication is not what killed him but AIDS itself, so I had to laugh once again at the irony of the whole situation! Once the disturbed man started to “get up in my face”, a man who I am sure to be an angel sent from God to protect me physically stepped in to push the psychopath away, only to be reinforced by the much anticipated security guard, armed and ready to protect—finally my traumatized heart could find rest, if only for a brief moment. One thing is for sure—today is one I will never forget, no matter how hard I may try! 

11 November 2012

Beauty Amidst Absolute Chaos


Last week is over and I am still alive—how is that possible? At times I felt as if I’d spontaneously combust from stress overload. Last week was one of the busiest of my entire life: three tests, one nursing lab simulation, volunteering, working, a five-page essay and last of all, teaching (yes, I did say teaching) one of my nursing classes. Honestly, as much as I fight against and deny it, speaking comes naturally, leaving me at ease in front of a crowd when it comes time to “do my thing”; the time leading up to it is not so easy, leaving me feeling as if I could collapse. Ever since first grade I informed God I would have absolutely nothing to do with teaching since endless scars camouflaged my fragile and overlooked soul as well as body; school as well as the medical field personified the essence of hell in my relentlessly wounded mind, bringing to the surface wounds too abominable for this world to ever know. Once I surrendered the little I have to the God of the Universe, nursing evolved into my undeniable passion and now the same may be true for teaching, as much as I hate the thought of it. I’ve never thought I have what it takes to be a teacher but as I was sitting in church today, I was overcome with a calling to equip future nurses with the tools they need to be successful in nursing school and eventually nursing as a career; as I go through college my eyes are opened to the laziness and absolute selfishness surrounding me and I cannot help but feel unfalteringly disgusted. Nursing is to some people merely a good-paying job with disregard to the impact of each client interaction; nothing has become more stressed than the concept of impatience and unaltered selfishness. My heart raging with disgust is furious because nursing is not merely a job but a passion and commitment to forever change lives in an absolutely positive way—the patients’ lives are literally in our humanly imperfect hands and this is nothing to take lightly. Patients don’t exactly want to be stuck in the hospital, at least most, so we as nurses need to encourage as well as teach; nursing is about influence and living by example. Caring is the essence of nursing—the core of its endless identity. Selflessness rather than selfishness is the key to satisfaction—the very essence of servant-hood of which we were created.  I long, above all, to allow God to change and “beautify” this crooked and depraved world through my mere existence and I wholeheartedly believe it is possible—God’s love never fails so what better place to start? If teaching is part of God’s plan for this beautifying process, than I will take up my cross and follow Him in absolute surrender and brokenness. I truly believe with all of my wounded heart that God’s love never fails because I am a living example; this world desperately needs this incomprehensive and unfailing love, so what are we as disciples waiting for? As TJ, my childhood and present role model, would say, “Let’s give it all we got”.


Now, for all of you who are wondering how my first college teaching experience went, here is the story and let me warn you—it’s not so pretty! At the beginning of the year we were split into groups of three and assigned a topic to teach and spend the whole class period on; my group was assigned “Teamwork/Group Process and Development/Facilitating Group Discussions”. We’d been preparing for weeks on end and the day before our presentation one group member informed us she hadn’t done her part but in fact decided to go out on a limb by piecing together bits and pieces of a jumbled mess—it was pure and utter chaos to say the least! Even though my other partner and I had done our part and were all prepared, we had to completely change everything the night before because the other person wasn’t willing to cooperate to put it bluntly. We were literally sitting on the bookstore’s floor, in the middle of Kent State clothing and memorabilia, desperately trying to figure out how to make this monstrosity work. My one willing partner than later came over to my house so we could at least attempt to smooth over this monumental disaster, despite the fact we were missing the most crucial part: the information that was “set in stone”, unwilling to be altered by the one who caused this mess. The power point I’d worked endless hours perfecting had to be torn apart and reconstructed from basically nothing in a matter of hours. Two speeches were ripped to shreds and completely reconstructed in less than five hours while one remained unknown yet absolutely untouched. My body kept screaming “Sleep, I need sleep!” but was silenced by the effects of coffee—my lifeline. Finally, after reaching a conclusion that we were getting nowhere and needed to be able to function at seven o’clock—merely six hours away—we called it quits and allowed our brains to recharge. Seven o’clock AM came way too fast but in all honesty, I just wanted to get this nightmare over-with before I spontaneously combusted. The entire time I felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off but tried to remain at least remotely functioning (I do not like feeling unprepared in any essence). The only positive thing that came to mind was my cute outfit I’d prepared—the one thing I had absolute control over; since we were required to appear professional and dressed up (we were actually graded on this), I had to come up with a new look of which was absolutely foreign to me: how on earth could I be a professional yet still fashionable, remaining true to my identity? I bought a pair of dark grey dress pants (yes, my very first time wearing such a thing) to pair with a black sheer button down blouse, black chunky sequined belt, silver sparkly pumps (high heels), black sequined infinity scarf, a black and silver flower and of course...color—a hot pink camisole to shine through my boring, black top. Walking into college was quite a trip; the wind nearly blew me off my high-heeled feet, reminding me of why I rarely wear such things: I remain a victim, unable to run away or even walk fast which is my worst nightmare. Minutes before our seminar was to begin, the coffee came into effect and I had to rush to the bathroom; my only choice to do this fast was to run barefoot through the halls (which I would prefer to do every day), so I took off my “chains” and sprinted for the door, nearly taking out one of my own classmates but for today my student—way to start off an already chaotic day! I miraculously arrived before eight o’clock AM, when we were scheduled to begin, attempting to appear “put together” and disguise the fact I had no idea what I was doing. Being the last person to speak just very well may be the worst possible feeling as I was forced to remain calm all-the-while increasingly freaking out about the speech I’d never gotten a chance to recite. Once my turn arrived, a sense of peace overcame me (undeniably the peace and confidence of God) and the rest is history; God took my absolute brokenness and shame, turning it into undeniable beauty. Once the much-anticipated nightmare was over, I was free to go home and do what my aching body desired most—sleep, only to be awakened to study for two tests the next day. Yes, my life is in fact insane but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I trust that putting myself last, forsaking competitive exercise and sports—my one love and past identity, will be worth it, even though I hate every second lost! Since my first teaching experience is finished, I’ve had time to get my head back in place, as well as my belongings (I cannot function properly in a chaotic, messy, and unorganized  atmosphere) and even slightly relax—a foreign yet much appreciated feeling!


Despite this previous chaos, I discovered a new talent of which I once thought completely out of reach: teaching. Organization and technology remain two things I cannot live without (or at least not for long) as well as learning and research—the very things required to be a Nursing Professor. If God calls me there, I am no longer unwilling but whole-heartedly surrendered. 

03 November 2012

Translucency

The world is violently crashing down into the pit of destruction yet I am in absolute denial; I don’t want to admit to the reality staring me straight in the face because my heart is consumed by beautyonly hoping what I see surrounding me isn't true. Today, I was reminded of what a minority I truly am; whole-hearted Christians are one of the rarest commodities in this decrepit world. God was right when He said those who follow Him will not be exempt from trials but in fact will be subjected to a lifetime of persecution; the world may not approve but we are not oneI am called to be separate, “letting my light shine before all men”. College is filled with an atmosphere of alcohol, tobacco and swearing, to name a few, yet I am to walk beyond these annihilating daggers, accepting the rejection and criticism as an encapsulated honor. ““You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom” (Matthew 5:10).  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:18-20).

Gratefulness can disintegrate in the blink of an eye, only to be replaced with the disease of greed manifested from the seed of pride. The sinful nature within me has taken over as I have been fighting with God; the future He has called me to seems far beyond reach as well as utterly exhausting—honestly, all I have time to do is study yet I feel as if I know absolutely nothing. Miss Perfectionist has been rearing her ugly head as a 4.0 is no longer a reality despite countless hours of study as well as forsaking the essence of my identity.  As seemingly everyone is getting engaged, my selfish heart is filled with self-pity and a child-like dream of planning my very own wedding but then reality hits, reminding me of the numerous assignments due the next day. As much as I attempt to block out reality, the truth still remains that this battle is not mine to fight but the Lord’s; His plan has already been determined and it is far beyond beautiful, despite my overwhelming doubts. At times I want to run away—to make this nightmare disappear only to be replaced with unaltered selfishness; I know that the end will be worth it, as everyone tells me, but why can’t I believe it without a shadow of a doubt? I’m scared to death for clinical next semester because I am but a guinea pig—I have the least hours completed (I've only been in college slightly over a year, earning 39 credit hours), leaving me to choose from the leftovers. Everyone is in it for themselves and competition is brutal; the only option for clinical was the most despised professor and nearly every class I needed was taken—it’s discouraging to be cast aside, so to speak, leaving me feeling absolutely unlovely and unworthy.  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13). I wonder who truly has my well-being in mind after being taken advantage of countless times; who can I trust? I know that person is God alone, but a part of me hesitates because I don’t see the potential beauty—I only see the countless hours of tears, sweat and pain remaining.

God, to be faultlessly honest, at this moment I hate Your plan; I hate how time is nonexistent and homework only keeps piling up and knowledge nowhere to be found—confidence disintegrating along with it. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing and this territory is absolutely untouched and treacherous; I don’t know how much longer my feeble legs will sustain my wounded essence. I want to trust You but I’m afraid—afraid it won’t be worth it. I know this sounds ridiculous but I truly am terrified, feeling as if a Great White Shark is five inches from my face, with its mouth wide open and ready to effortlessly decapitate me. Give me patience to wait on You, even when the impatience of my soul takes over. I know that You love me, but why? I am a mess and wholly unworthy nonetheless unlovely; I have bruises and scars camouflaging my existence yet You see me as flawless—how can that be? God, the taunts and persecution of those surrounding me burns through my flesh and bone and a part of me wonders why it is worth it—please remind me of the promises You have made to my very own soul. Blind my eyes so that only You remain; wholly separate me from this eroding and decrepit world. Give me strength to be a witness everywhere I go—let me look like love far beyond earthly comprehension. Shield my heart from the hater of my soul. Give me unwavering faith. Fill me with knowledge when it seems to evaporate—I put my trust in You alone.

As I prepare for teaching Nursing class next week, doubts and lies flood my exceedingly vulnerable mind. Ironically, my topic is on Patient Safety which is at the exact opposite of the spectrum I embraced as a wounded childsafety was the absolute last of my worries. I am once again reminded of how far from comfort God has called mea life embracing the opposite of all I’d once lived for. As I look in the mirror, a wounded and forsaken little girl stares back at me, fear consuming her eyes as she was convinced she’d never be safea girl who had to fend for herself in a world seeking to destroy her innocence. Once her innocence was heartlessly stolen from her fragile and delicate hands, this little girl remained consistently on edgeeach touch sending daggers through her overlooked heart, convincing her she'd never be worthy of love. I see a girl hiding in the corner of her closet, with not but a glimpse of light, merely trying to escape from a reality of pain she seemed to be destined for. I hear the piercing screams radiating from the depths of her lifeless soulscreams she couldn't force out of her mouth. I see a young girl so consumed by shame of what was being done to her that it became the very core of her existence. I am reminded of her significant lack of trust because those she’d once trusted most failed to see her heart. I see a hideous scar running down my backa scar which will always remain no matter how hard I try to hide it. I see this same little girl residing within these scars and picture her as everything she’d once depended on was ruthlessly stolen, including her very identity. I see a girl so inhumanly overlooked that it eventually became expected. When her heart was shattered into billions of pieces, she had to find the strength to move on without letting anyone even suspect anything was wrong. Pain was the one constant when the world surrounding came violently crashing down. 

27 October 2012

Die to Myself



Life, please slow down yet speed up all at the same time; there is not enough time in a day to get everything done but yet I wish I could fast forward to May 2015 when I hopefully graduate with my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). College has overtaken my life, leaving me nearly nonexistent and savagely burned out but why — because I’ve been fighting on my own insufficient strength out of adamant fear and aversion. I am completely and undeniably incompetent but yet my stubborn streak of relentless determination will not be squelched; life has passed by in a mere blur, faster than my small mind can comprehend, and I have not taken the time to slow down because it is, after all, what my soul destined for speed hates most. Slowing down does not come easy in any sense; when an extensive seven hour spinal fusion threatened my sole existence, slowing down was not an option and four years later this unfortunately hasn’t changed. Countless nursing classes and unending hours spent studying as well as working, volunteering and writing a book are but a small glimpse of my chaotic life. Time seems to be but a figment of my imagination as none seems to be spared for my own existence and desires. A part of me wants to resort back to the abounding comforts of childhood and a life free from obligation as well as responsibility but then I remember that there is a time for everything and that time has brutally expired.


After painfully reliving the endured yet still painful trials, I have been distancing myself from the King of Goodness; reliving the nearly unthinkable pain in order to bring freedom to others is emotionally draining yet I trust the benefits will far exceed the costs. Fear overwhelms me as I expose to this fallen world the abysmal and exceedingly vulnerable wounds of my heart; fear seems to be ever-present as I practice competent nursing care despite the abounding insecurities residing within my fragile soul. Fear has become a part of my microbiota because God is not at the center of my wounded heart — the selfishly sinful desires of my fallen soul have taken His place amidst the chaos of life. My pride has to relentlessly be shattered in order for impenetrable strength to be feasible.


The stabbing wounds of my past have ruthlessly come back to haunt me and the devil loves nothing more than inhumanly beating me with daggers meant to eradicate life. The book I am getting ready to publish is filled with agonizing pain I’ve never yet enlightened — each page filled with raw emotions and disregarded blood. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” (Ambrose Redmoon).
God, use my pain to enlighten beauty in the lives of others; don’t let a single tear shed from my once lifeless eyes be wasted but rather brought to purpose. Restore the abysmal wounds of my shattered heart — protect its very existence from the annihilating daggers thrown at it. Give me words to speak and overwhelm every inch of my incompetent being with Your loving presence. Speak through my pain. Give me strength to relive the past and approach the world with a translucent heart. Rid me of myself. I pray most of all that I would decrease so You could increase; let the world see Your faultless image of love and purpose.


Despite the intensity of nursing school, I refuse to give up volunteering — it is the one place my heart brilliantly sparkles. Last week I was voted to paint pumpkins with the Akron Zips football team and have never felt so small in my life; it was quite hysterical to see these giants in the presence of a children’s hospital, surrounded by nearly microscopic chairs and tables merely several inches off of the ground. The experience was awkward (scars of past abuse have left me vigilantly uncertain of males) yet absolutely astounding — to see these young men sacrifice their valuable time merely to paint pumpkins with oppressed children stuck in a hospital was exceedingly beautiful, convincing my shattered heart that males are not the enemy (at least not all). Volunteering this week as well was nothing short of beautiful, reminding me of the future I have been called to; nursing may not be easy but remains my unaltered calling.  ““Behind every specific call, whether it is to teach or preach or write or encourage or comfort, there is a deeper call that gives shape to the first: the call to give ourselves away - the call to die” (Michael Card). 



05 October 2012

My Weary Soul Finds Rest

Every day is literally a relentless battle between the hater and Lover of my soul; I am beaten down time and time again with weapons intended to destroy but the Lover of my soul will not let any life-stealing demons threaten my mere existence because I am His beloved princess and we are one. I am so weary and worn out from trying to fight these insurmountable battles on my own; why do I do this to myself when God is right beside me at all times and never expected me to carry these incapacitating burdens on my shoulders? Nursing school is completely different, I have come to realize and it terrifies me. I’m so used to fighting for straight A’s but in nursing school, the grades don’t matter so much—critical thinking and choosing the most correct answer out of many possible is more essential. My selfish and prideful self wants to maintain a 4.0, so I’ve been absolutely driving myself crazy trying to fight for something nearly impossible within my own feeble and near nonexistent strength. I’ve put God on the backburner and school on the forefront of my wounded and twisted mind, completely abandoning myself as well; pride keeps me from admitting these failures but I remember that in order for God to work, pride has to be absolutely shattered and nonexistent. Even though my writing class offers ten extra points to students with perfect attendance, I decided much against my selfish will, to stay home and take care of my well-abandoned self in order to find strength; I realize it was on my own strength that I was trying to earn an A and I hated myself for not doing everything possible to bring this into reality; however, after a slap in the face, I’ve realized that if God wants me to get an A, he can make it happen whether or not I earn ten extra points or not—He specializes in the impossible! Why do I so regularly fail to remember this essential truth—because I am a fallen human being with nothing to offer but brokenness to the Creator of my soul.
God, forgive me for trying to fight these relentless battles on my own and for following the sinful desires of my heart. Remind me who You are and what strength only You provide. Take these beyond heavy suitcases from my feeble and compromised hands into Your hands that hold the universe so that I can stand again. Restore my soul and ignite the passion within me. Remind me of who I am amidst the chaos of life and to take care of the body You have given me and indeed call Your home. Show me what You see when You look at my wounded being and restore my confidence stolen from the grips of my hand. Mold me into the image created at the very first thought of me and bring me to my potential. Fill my eyes with compassion and my heart with love. Give me Your perfect wisdom and crucify my sinful self along with its selfish desires so that only You remain. If a nurse is what You have called me to be, I pray that  You would make it happen while reminding me of my feebleness not intended to fight alone. Restore me and give me the strength to persevere so that lives may be reached. Use me, above all, for Your perfect glory.
For those of you wondering, my book The Beauty of Pain:There is Beauty in Everything, You Just Have to See It is currently being reviewed as well as edited, so please remember to cover it in your prayers. I’m terrified, in all honesty, and completely incompetent but perfect love casts out all fear; the reason I expose my absolute vulnerability is for the sake of others. I will take up my cross along with its shame and follow Christ, no matter where it takes me. 

12 September 2012

A Relentless Fight

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23).’”
Insanethis will most definitely never change but consistently remain true about my very essence driven by a relentless need for adventure and spontaneity. Today, as I sat studying, was mercilessly haunted with the faces of dying people worldwide desperately needing the “life of the flesh”blood.  Despite the fact that I hate the overcoming sensation of syncope (fainting) which occasionally consumes my recently pierced body post-blood donation, I anxiously approached upon this very atmosphere consumed by blood, needles as thick as pencils and chairs sometimes viewed as deathbeds. Saving lives, qualifying my mere essence as heroic, is vastly beyond worth the excruciating side effects maintained, not to mention free food! With only an hour to spare as well as numerous college students ahead of me also seeking to save lives, stress overtook my sole existence; waiting…and waiting did not come easy or without hesitation but success was achieved after but eight minutes from the moment the gigantic needle pierced my monstrously popping veins filled with the “life of the flesh”. Since time was of the essence, my utterly stubborn self exempt from a pint of blood ran and walked like “a wild man” across campus (passing those still maintaining every pint of blood manufactured by their body) and up three flights of stairs in order to avoid tardiness of my next classno, it was not the most convenient time to lose a pint of blood but living selflessly requires sacrifice. I can’t stop looking at the deep hole now partially scabbed over, reminding me of the indescribable feeling of the pain endured to see as many as three lives  saved.
Whoever said nursing school would take over your life was absolutely and undeniably correct, I have come to find these past three weeks; I have had to reframe my mind to think as a nurse and learn the testing style and routine of what has been declared as the hardest possible undergrad available. The journey is by no means easy in any essence but God sustains my legs when they only want to crumble beneath me. Stress has become a part of my normal microbiota and coffee my lifeline to stay awake and keep fighting. As I sit in the simulation lab every Wednesday, learning as well as attempting new nursing procedures, am blown away by the grace and inconceivable power of my God and Mighty Warrior to whom all credit belongsmy strength is nonexistent but manifested by the Man who moved mountains and created the universe. As I seek to find the balance between nursing school, publication of my God-written story and a social life of any kind, as well as sanity, am left in complete surrender at the foot of the cross where all sin was exposed and Christ-like perfection attainable. Cling relentlessly to God’s promises and absolutely nothing will be beyond your grasp. For those curious about the current state of my book, it is almost completely finished on my part but I am still waiting on some minor details to be worked out; prayer is beyond appreciated and always worthwhilewords can never even begin to do justice the gratitude overtaking my being for every prayer interceded! 

28 August 2012

This is Crazy but DO NOT Call Me Maybe

I want to cryto curl up in a ball and hide, never to be found again; the little girl in me is shaking relentlessly as she relives the painful past too brutal to bear. Today, as I sat in the hospital’s cafeteria for lunch, felt someone watching me; I glanced up to see a young man staring at my innocence, contemplating whether or not to sit down and eat lunch beside me. Freaked out, I quickly got on my phone and pretended to text and appear busy but despite my efforts this determined young man asked to join me: what do you say to things like this? This is where friendliness becomes an absolute curse: I don’t want to shatter his own heart but also don’t want to appear interested; I want to be a witness for Christ and guide to everyone I come in contact with, leaving me to sometimes let people “step over me”, in a sense. I hesitantly agreed to let him sit on the other side of the table and tried to be a “friend” by listening as he unloaded his hurts; I’ve learned that, in the words of Zach Gay, “girls are different than boys” which is a life-changing lesson; as much as I want to be a friend to everyone, it’s different with males. I regret allowing him to sit at the same table: he asked me a ton of questions (including if my boyfriend would beat him up for talking to me) and offered to buy me anything I wanted, leading up to requesting me to be his girlfriend and slyly stealing my number. No, I have not texted back and probably never will; why are guys interested so utterly creepy?! I just want to cryto let these tears bottled up inside flow out.

I’ve never been on a date and talking to most males, especially those seeking more than friendship, leaves my mind a jumbled mess and my nerves about to explode; thinking straight isn’t an option as I completely make a fool of myself nearly every time! The wounded-ness within me never wants to have a boyfriend; yes, I do believe the distorted view and fear of males is mostly because of past experiences and wounds which left my heart shattered into a million pieces and confidence nonexistent. I want to be open to a relationship but I’m scaredscared of vulnerability and having my heart relentlessly ripped out from within the depths of my body. I want to be open to God’s plan, above all things, but am afraid of my sinful nature getting in the way of hearing His voice and allowing Him to take my hand, leading me to freedom and true abundant life. I am a fallen human being and as much as I want to be perfect, will never achieve this unrealistic expectation!
On a good note, this week has been the start of my nursing classes; in all honesty I wanted to run away but find strength merely by the will and grace of God. I adore the nursing classes but they’re the complete opposite of my comfort zonein fact, so far it seems impossible. I hate to feel clueless but in order to survive will have to “suck this up” and get used to it, as well as utter and complete fear. God wants to do this for me but my stubborn self sometimes desires control, leading to painful but deserved failure and pain.

 God, I “raise my white flag; I surrender all to you” because “the war is over and love has won”. I cannot fight these brutal battles of life on my own because I was not created to; I am well aware of my complete incompetence as well as failures so I ask You to fight for me. The warrior I’ve tried to be is exhausted so I ask that You’d carry me since my legs are too weary to stand. Forgive me of my failures but most of all help me to forgive myself, which is the hardest part. Steady my heart to hear Your still small voice and give me confidence in Your perfection, even when I am unsure of Your voice. Fill me with discernment and wisdom. Give me a voice that is heard among the chaos of this world as well as the confidence to stand up for myself and set boundaries, relentlessly sticking to them. Remind me why You love me—the essence of imperfection. Take all of me, leaving not one mere speck, and replace the emptiness with Your very presence which is more than enough. Heal my wounded heart and comfort the little girl within me as she hides in the corner from the relentless pain of this world; hold her in Your muscular arms as she runs to you. Love her like You love the children. I surrender, God; the battle’s already been won, so why am I fighting? Take these swords from my vulnerable and imperfect hands and be my Warrior, protecting me from the relentless darts aimed to destroy. 

24 August 2012

Me, a Professional?




Stressed out—the epitome of my life recently as I prepare for nursing school and the crude reality of a once excruciatingly nightmarish future quickly approaching. This summer has been chaotic to say the least, leaving me nearly nonexistent at times and wondering where in the world my sanity lies; earning straight A’s in Human Physiology and Art as a World Phenomenon after a brutal five weeks left me exhausted and utterly burned out, wondering why in the world I do this to myself.
A vacation was exactly what I needed as I headed out to Kentucky to roughly put together a movie for campers of a place vitally near to my childlike heart; the week was not at all as my selfish heart had envisioned but ended up being exactly what I needed—it’s crazy how our God works! Serving is what my heart was made to do and nothing makes it pump faster than a life of fulfilling its purpose. I left camp with new friendships stored in my overworked heart, feeling more refreshed than I ever knew possible.
It seems I can never get enough of camping as yet another weekend was spent in the outdoors—my favorite place. Heart to Hart, our youth trip spent in Hartville, was anticipated by me with very little expectations but turned out refreshing my heart yet again in ways far beyond my own feeble comprehension; God has truly blessed my mere being far beyond measure with the most epic youth group possible, so a weekend spent with them was exceedingly beyond epic! Roughing it is what we do best so outdoor showers, port-a-potties, tents and sports seemed to be a luxury of sorts as well as the perfect setting for peaceful meditation with the Almighty Strengthener. There is nowhere I’d rather be than within the depths of the magnificently beautiful outdoors, surrounded by the very essence of the Creator of the Universe aka my BFF. This week proved to be yet again a time of extravagant renewal, despite the devil’s failed attempts of hindering this by inflicting sickness upon my vulnerable being.
I bet you’ll never guess what my next week consisted of: more camping! Shocking, right? Family is one of the most beautiful and valuable gifts of life, so a weekend spent catching up with each other’s busy lives was gloriously refreshing and encouraging. My heart aching for life spontaneously decided to buy a bunny and so I took my new companion along with us, embarking on her first road trip; there’s no doubt that my soul was created to comfort as each moment spent with the energetic creature in my arms left my heart a flutter. Life is so beautiful!
My last week of summer has been anxiously spent preparing for what now is my future; my microscopic mind fails to grasp all that God has brought me through which is vastly beyond my greatest imagination and dreams. I cannot believe that I am now a sophomore nursing student after countless years of insisting I’d have absolutely nothing to do with medicine once viewed through my wounded eyes as a death trap. Today as I sat in the classroom during nursing orientation the world seemed to cave in upon me and the breath seemingly left my  delicate lungs as I enragingly asked God “why me?” I am well aware of the fact of absolute incompetence and today seemed to put a seal on this fact; I am scared to death to embark on a journey so rigorous yet highly regarded and sometimes want to revert back to the comfort of childhood where responsibility is less and selfishness is center. Despite the fact that I feel as if I’ve learned nothing, implying much deeper the fact of incompetence, I am going to follow Christ: I will take up my cross and go. On my knees, in humble prayer, I will fight this battle because that is where invincibility is found; surrender, as painful as it may be, is the only way to win.
After feeling as if my brain were about to spontaneously combust after another piece of information thrown at it, I chaotically headed up to Akron Children’s Hospital; although my selfish heart would’ve preferred to be at home perfecting the countless nursing responsibilities, I entered the doors to an atmosphere that genuinely needed me and encouraged me to depths beyond comprehension by the very essence of love; as soon as I set foot into the office I felt a sense of peace far beyond description as they literally jumped for joy at my presence since no one was available to run the surgery desk resulting in a mad frenzy. Never have I felt more loved than today as each moment was filled with endless affirmations and even a piece of Dove chocolate from my favorite doctor! Beauty is truly around EVERY corner and this is the proof!
Another exciting requirement of nursing, among the numerous six pound books, is immunizations so on Tuesday I was privileged with five, leaving me nearly unconscious sad to say; yes, as a matter of fact I did push myself too hard by refusing to show weakness resulting in near syncope (fainting) much to my dismay—not one of my favorite moments; I am still recovering as we speak!
Prayer is beyond appreciated as well as vital for my sanity as nursing school approaches and also the scary and excruciating process of publishing my story; the devil is relentlessly attacking me as there is no doubt he’s scared of what God is going to do through my vulnerability—please pray for strength, wisdom and discernment as I put into words the utter darkness once called reality and enlighten a beauty once thought to be nonexistent. Pray most of all that God’s name would be made known because that’s all that really matters. 

31 July 2012

The Immeasurable Beauty of Surrender

How can life be so beautiful yet so full of pain and suffering? Last week I was beyond privileged to be a part of the camp which forever changed my life at a young age, showing me true love as well as a glimpse of the awesomeness of the God we serve. Before I could head down to Kentucky, there was one more milestone I had to cross—the annual TJ Sommers Memorial Softball Tournament. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since my hero and role model relentlessly dove through the gates of Heaven with a softball glove on his left hand and an unceasing smile overtaking his radiant face as he died doing the one thing he loved most—softball. TJ taught me to be a relentless competitor, unwavering in strength and fazed by nothing; Shakespeare’s quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce” personifies exactly what I mean and remains one of my favorite quotes as it reminds me of the true essence of my soul created to fight—fight for life. After TJ’s death, his selfless family decided to honor TJ’s wishes to be an organ donor and his decomposing body was cut up to remove his vital organs in order to bring life to the dying; his selfless family didn’t just stop there—they chose to allow one death to bring yet more life by hosting an annual softball tournament supporting the needs of the unfortunate. Through this tournament my life was literally saved as money was raised to assist my medical bills more numerous than words could ever accurately describe: a seven hour spinal fusion including two titanium rods, twenty-one screws and numerous hooks as well as bone grafting; over ten hospital admissions in less than a year for the life threatening disease of Anorexia determined to take away my life; two inpatient treatment centers, over three months each, to restore the health of my body as well as my mind; two outpatient treatment programs to restore normal eating as well as disruptions in my mind; weekly doctor, dietitian, and therapist appointments; too many blood draws to count; two six-packs of Ensure Plus weekly, despite the fact hardly one was actually being consumed—the list goes on and on. Without the support raised, my life would look drastically different as my heart would have ceased to beat and I would have become another statistic—another killed by the deadly grips of Anorexia. Although I can never repay those that gave, I am determined to not allow that to stop me; my day was spent in humble service, making too many burgers to count and helping in any way needed. Although my selfish and deceitful heart wanted to be in the center of the competition, I found that service and complete surrender are why my frail heart is still beating.

The next morning, after yet another late night, I headed on my first road trip exempt from chauffeurs and embraced yet another beautiful adventure. To Kentucky and back, we used nothing but written directions and arrived exempt from stress as well as difficulty; yes I, the queen of getting lost, arrived without problems of any kind, merely by the grace and power of God who obviously wanted me to be there. The week was nothing short of amazing and beyond fulfilling, even though my first choice of being directly involved with the kids was not granted, as God had other plans; my soul consumed by encouragement was filled not by counseling, as I’d first hoped for, but by the mere service of videotaping the week and creating a movie. Although my heart longed to play a role in the center of attention, experiencing each amazing and life-changing experience as it came, I am honored to have been a part, as small as it may seem, in the week which forever strengthened many vulnerable lives. God’s presence was intensely felt and miracles answered beyond comprehension, angering the devil who fought his hardest against the lives of innocent and incredibly vulnerable teenagers. Spiritual warfare was experienced and lives taken in attempts to destroy the newfound strength of faith in God. The week was one I will never forget—full of testing as well as strengthening, bringing forth beauty beyond compare.  


The Olympics will always hold a special yet bittersweet place in my heart as they remind me of the future I was relentlessly training for, convinced nothing could be greater and determined at all costs to pursue and obtain my selfish desires. Placing in the top four, as a freshman in middle school, in the running events against high schoolers as well as the freakish strength and discipline of a relentlessly determined athlete convinced me sports was my calling—my life. Through much pain and fighting, I surrendered the selfish desires of my heart and allowed the God of perfection to consume me, bringing me to the life I’d fought with all my strength against. A life of competition will always haunt me, bringing my sinful self to the verge of tears, but a life of service will forever keep a smile glued to my face. I’ve found what makes my heart sing and life is no longer based on my own feeble strength. My pride has been shattered relentlessly into a million pieces as daily I embrace the fact that on my own, I am nothing but a mere speck of dust.

Prayer is greatly appreciated as I pursue publication of the story God has given me; timing is crucial, and I, having an intense need for speed, tend to rush things and run low on patience. Pray for discernment and that I could hear the still small voice of God as He leads me, directing each step and every word written. More than anything I write so others can be strengthened by the mere and underestimated effects of love—what keeps my heart forever beating. 

28 June 2012

Awestruck


Each semester brings forth such an amazing and eye-opening learning experience, leaving me with yet more knowledge; my brain has proven to me that it can hold more information than I’ll ever know- when I feel like it will explode from one more detail stuffed into its delicate folds, it proves me wrong, first of all by not exploding and second of all by finding room for yet more knowledge. This semester may very well be the most stressful one yet; cramming what is known as the hardest upper division class into five weeks, 1/3 of the normal time, has proven to be more stressful and time consuming than my naïve mind could ever even begin to imagine. As it comes to a close in my final week, I am absolutely awestruck by my God and cannot deny in anyway His unending love for me. First of all, He has gotten me through these absolutely brutal five weeks and has more than exceeded my expectations and even requirements to pass; there is nearly nothing as rewarding as seeing the blood, sweat and tears I shed more than paying off. I do not mean, in any way, to take away from the fact that God is the one who sustains my feeble legs nor do I intend to take credit for deeds beyond my own capability, which is basically everything but sin. Giving God the wheel while I sit right beside Him in the passenger seat is the most rewarding and beautiful thing there is; no mountain becomes too high to climb nor any star beyond my reach. It is true that “what is impossible for man is possible with God” and I will forever cling with all my might to this truth.
Human Physiology has taught me many life-changing and eye-opening things, but the fact that most sticks out to me is how much of a miracle I truly am; I now see the other side, through the eyes of a medical professional rather than a skeptical, uneducated, and naïve child. God loved me so much that He DENIED nature, His very own creation, just to keep me alive; I do not feel worthy of this completely incomprehensible and selfless love and sometimes want to push it aside in attempts to prove my worth, when the fact is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less; my mere existence is enough…worth this incomprehensible and selfless love. I cannot put into words the knowledge I’ve gained from being on both sides of the spectrum: the patient and the “expert”; I see all too clearly the reality that according to the power of this world, I should be dead. I am left in awe, completely speechless as I NOW get it…I understand the doctor’s concerns, the reactions of my body, and most of all…the fear of my family. For far too long I took for granted my mere life and existence without realizing the fact that at any moment I could enter into a coma…that any medical tragedy was within my grasp. As I look at the discharge papers from my multiple hospital stays and see the words hypokalemia, bradycardia, heart arrhythmia, dehydration, malnutrition and so many other terms I cannot currently recall, I no longer look with confusion but can picture exactly what was occurring. Through this I am reassured that I am on the right path, with God directing every step; my heart jumps at the thought of sharing with others what God is capable of doing and in fact will do for each and every one of His creations if they would just come back to Him; He denied nature to get me back and is capable of doing the same for you. His love for you is so vast that He will do anything to bring you back into His arms of love; the only thing holding you back is yourself.
I am also amazed by the diversity God has bestowed upon my fragile self. For so long I lived in a black and white world, surrounded by dullness and free from individuality; I believed only one thing could define me, according to the world’s as well as my own self-imposed standards. I’ve come to see that diverse is how God intended me to be; I will never be boring, that’s for sure! God created my soul for adrenaline, among many other things; my heart leaps at the thought of a new adventure and is driven by spontaneity. Despite the world’s opinion, diverse is how I was created: most days Under Armour is my preferred outfit of choice, but I also adore fashion and “fabulosity”. Sweat is my companion as sports will forever remain a part of me; on the other hand, perfume, curled hair, as well as flowers in my hair also belong in my heart. There is a tenderness in my soul, a gentle spirit; oppositely, I have a fierceness about me, a relentless spirit unwilling to give up. My heart comforts and consoles as well as leaps at the thought of hunting- yes, killing animals. Tents and camping will always remain my friends as well as hotels and civilization. Although I could never live in high heels and dresses, there is a time when these things intrigue me. Bloody knees and sore muscles tag along beside me but relaxation and pedicures are never too far behind. As you hopefully can clearly see, there is not one single word to define the essence of Chelsea; my identity remains in the hands of my Potter, as He molds me into the creation He had in mind at the very first thought of me, that has never changed.