This morning I boarded an airplane for a much needed snowboarding vacation. Normally I would be over-the-top excited and ecstatic since snowboarding is one of my absolute favorite things to do. But today was bittersweet because I had to leave behind my darling grandpa going in for a cardiac catheterization this morning.
Being I nurse, I always thought this procedure was relatively benign (if you know a nurse, you know you don’t really get any sympathy from us unless you are literally dying. And I mean dying…blood gushing out of an artery-kind-of-dying). But this week at work I was faced with the harsh reality that no cardiac procedure is benign or without risk. (The beautiful part of my job is when we win the battle with congenital heart disease…the horrific part is when we lose. We lost a battle this week.) And of course, this harsh reality had to come the week my family member was having a cardiac cath. And on the same day I was flying out for a trip I scheduled 4 months ago. Timing is everything. And timing worked against me BIG time this week on so many different levels. As I walked out my door this morning, I really considered changing my flight or canceling my trip. But there is no way my grandpa would permit this and I also learned this week, that sometimes he is the boss. Like when I was in the ER with him a few mornings ago and I told him he wasn’t allowed to drink anything until the doctor came to see him. To which, he kindly stood up, kissed me on the cheek and said something to the effect of, “I love you dearly but sometimes grandpa is his own boss.” And with that he walked over to the water fountain and drank water. Grandpa- 1. Nurse Ashley – 0. I just want to protect him and keep him safe…and he just wants to do his own thing. Gotta love the man.
But as I reflect and blog thousands of miles in the sky, I am reminded that my grandpa is no safer with me by his side than he is as I sit in my window seat on the airplane. I have cherished every moment with him and have left nothing unsaid. I think the act of ‘leave nothing unsaid’ is really important in this life. I am slowly learning how to do this in my relationships. In the past I haven’t done a great job expressing my feelings—I’m either afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve or worried I will offend and/or upset someone. Or even worse, afraid I will be hurt by the person's response. But I have really started to embrace the resolution of my feelings. I am learning to let people know when I am upset, when I am thankful, when I am thinking about them, etc. I am learning to live my life such that if tomorrow were taken away, I would be at peace with the people in my life.
Ephesians 4:1-3,7, 26
1A s a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worth of calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace….7 But to each of one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” 26 “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
And this is where I am in my relationship with my grandpa. I have no unsettled anger or feelings or thoughts. I wouldn’t say anything else to him then what I have already said. He knows I adore him. He knows I love him. He knows I will see him on the other side of this life. We have nothing but peace.
And I need to remember to grasp that peace with me as I lift him in prayer. I need to remember who is in control. And it isn’t me. Even when I think I am in control, I am not. My job is not to supervise his cardiac cath (although I’m 100% certain I would if they would allow it!) or demand the standard of care I think he deserves today. My job is not to worry. My job is not to be anxious or unsettled. My job is to live my life according to His Will and ensure nothing is unsettled or unsaid. My job is to lift my grandpa up in prayer, trust the LORD and accept His plan.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation…pray”
So today I’m leaving on a jet plane… embracing His plan with a sense of peace and comfort. I’m leaving on a jet plane with snowboard in tow.
Cardiac caths, snowboards, and peace,
A few weeks ago, a friend’s dog decided to “mark his territory” inside my house. His territory just happened to be my shoe tower, inside my walk-in closet. And with one lift of the leg, several pairs of my shoes were christened with dog urine. I won’t say he ruined my shoes, but he definitely left his mark on them.
Then I got home last night to discover my cat knocked over a vase of flowers on my antique vanity. The water from the flowers damaged the surface of my vanity. This vanity I inherited after the death of a good family friend and it has always meant a lot to me. I have had it for decades and managed to keep it in pristine condition. Until today….now it is marred by a big water spot. All thanks to my new cat.
I have always loved my stuff…shoes, furniture, clothes, decor, mementos from life experiences. But over the last several years, all “my stuff” has become less important. It really has become just stuff. When I went through my divorce, all my stuff didn’t matter. And in fact, I left most of it behind because it was just “stuff”. Today I live pretty light with minimal stuff around. The thing I learned was being with my stuff didn’t enrich my life and being without it hasn’t made life less thrilling. The stuff that matters in life isn’t stuff at all. The things I value in life are the people, relationships and memories I am making along the way. I have started to really invest my time and self into the people that have carried me through the tough times. I’ve started worrying less about the plan, and more about the experience.
In thinking about all my stuff, I can’t help but think about Martha and Mary in the Bible…
Luke 10: 38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried about upset about many things but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha worried about all "the stuff" being in order—I imagine her running around to ensure the floors were cleaned, the plates were garnished, the dust was wiped off the coffee table, etc. And then there was Mary…just soaking up Jesus. Not worrying about the “stuff” but living the experience.
Five years ago I would have been heartbroken over the vanity and angry over the shoes. Five years ago, I was a Martha. Today, I am Mary. Sure, I love my shoes but there is so much more to life than shoes. I’m in a much better place than to be worrying about spoiled plans or ruined things. And although the road to this place hasn’t been easy, it’s been totally worth it.
Dog pee, shoes, and living the experience,
So Barbie is going to be in Sports Illustrated magazine and apparently the entire world is up in arms about it. Well, I love Barbie. I have always loved Barbie. I own a Barbie collection. And her being in this magazine actually only makes me love her more. However, I think the focus around it is ridiculous. I think we have bigger problems to worry about than if Barbie is featured in a magazine wearing a sexy swimsuit.
There is so much discussion around this magazine photo and much of it centers on woman and self-esteem. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get my self-esteem (and sometimes lack thereof) from Barbie or a swimsuit model or a Sports Illustrated magazine. And I am pretty sure the females in this world struggling with self-esteem on a regular basis, did not obtain those struggles from any of these things either. Our struggles with self-esteem stem from the way Barbie, models and woman in general are viewed and/or treated. I am blessed with what I consider to be an attractive body. Sure, there are things I would change about myself (my bust being one of them) and there are things I would rather not give up (like my legs and hair) but overall I am blessed. But I am so much more than my body. And the overweight girl the world considers “less attractive” is so much more than her body too. The problem is we don’t see past the body. I had a guy I dated actually tell me, “You have a great personality and are super intelligent but I hope you realize, men don’t date you because of those things. Men date you because you are a hot pair of legs.” Nice…what a gem. Can’t imagine why that relationship didn’t work out. And I wonder if a lifetime of dating people obsessed with “a body” hasn’t left a scar or two (or ten) on my heart. And I bet, being turned down by a guy because she isn’t consider “attractive” has probably left a scar on a girl a time or two as well. I am almost repulsed by any obsession (or compliment) with any physical aspect of my being. I am more than a body. And you are more than a body.
I want to be able to dress well, feel attractive, accessorize, flatter the parts of my body I love…and still be more than the body. And the girl that the world considers “less attractive” desires to do the same and be made feel beautiful. Beauty is not a body. And the reason we have so many self-esteem issues is because we have allowed others to make us feel like beauty is our body. Beauty is so much more than our bodies.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirits, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
So I fully support Barbie, models, Sports Illustrated celebrities, the Dove campaign, the Fruit of Loom underwear ads…because they are just advertisements and/or highlighting individuals in this world. I don’t find my self-esteem from them…and neither should you.
We need to embrace beauty in it’s real form…
Barbie dolls, magazines, and inner beauty,
I am in the midst of an exhausting few weeks at work. And today I realized in between running around like a crazy person, I have totally missed something God is trying to teach me.
Yesterday, I helped wrap up a very successful pediatric cardiac conference. It was great but I am going on my 17th day of working in a row…either physically at work or working from home in order to prepare for this conference and/or maintain the odds and ends of my job. I am exhausted. Exhausted in the physical, mental and emotional state.
And yet, over the past several weeks, all of my daily devotions have seemed to focus on…rest. It’s almost been comical. God is reminding me to rest during what is the busiest time of year for me. There have been moments when I wanted to say, "Are you kidding me? Do you understand what I am dealing with? Planning? Doing?" but of course, God is all-knowing. He clearly understands my situation. In my relationship with Him, I will always be the one that doesn't truly "get it". I was reminded God gives us exactly what we need. I am starting to wonder if the subtle references to rest have more to do with resting in His plan and less to do with sleeping. In the hustle and bustle of the last several weeks, have I missed a very valuable lesson!?!?
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it”
Today as I reflected on the idea of rest, in the context of getting very little in the last 17 days, I had to pause and think about exactly what it is I do each and everyday. God has blessed me with the opportunity to understand complex cardiac physiology of tiny, little babies…and the strength to care for them so they grow up and live life. God has blessed me with a passion for teaching and leading others…to do the same. God has surrounded me with physicians and nurses from all over the world to work, learn and teach alongside. A group of physicians and nurses that truly collaborate together…to save lives. Although I am absolutely exhausted…I am exhausted with a purpose. And that purpose is greater than everything else that is draining me. I need to learn to rest in God’s plan and His outpouring of blessings on my life. I need to rest on His strength.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So although I am exhausted…I know I can rest in the purpose. And that is all the rest I truly need.
Hearts, conferences and rest,
I thought I would be super cliché and blog about love on Valentine’s Day. Not because it’s my favorite holiday…because it’s not. Or because I had a particularly awesome Valentine’s day today…because I didn’t. Valentine’s Day is both loved and loathed for the all the wrong reasons. I have had great valentines—like the time my ex-husband and I were broke so we arranged a contest for whichever of us could buy the most creative gift for under $30. Of course, I won…remote control helicopter. It was so much fun! Or the Valentine’s dinner a friend in college planned for all of her single friends to celebrate good times and great memories--who knew this was the start of an absolutely amazing friendship. But I have had equally horrible Valentine’s…like the year a secret admirer left a beautiful purple rose on my car. Romantic, right? Romantic only up to the point I realized, although my admirer was single, his ex-girlfriend was 9 months pregnant with his child. Romance, I think not. Or the time my boyfriend sent me a gorgeous flower arrangement since he was out of town. Out of town with another girl. Yes, I have spent many February 14ths both loving and hating the holiday. But this year…the day came after a week thinking about how people treat each other. Rather, how people mistreat others.
The day is about love. Some people love this…and some people hate this. But I think the holiday is misunderstood because we so infrequently grasp the concept of love. In fact, I do not think we will ever truly understand unconditional love this side of heaven. So we create our own ideas of what love is or what love looks involving picture perfect romance. Romantic things like candy, wine, flowers, cute hearts, sexy lingerie, etc. help supplement for our lack of understanding love. The funny (or sad) thing is people in this world really need true love. We need to lift one another up and be sources of support and comfort rather than pain and sorrow.
Here it comes…the love bible verses! Probably the most famous passage about love comes from the Bible:
1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of wrong. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.
Even if you aren’t a Christian or a church person, you’ve probably heard this read at a handful of weddings in your life. It is a beautiful passage but I think it is misunderstood. We use it as a guiding light in marriage …but it is actually written by Paul. Paul wasn’t married. Paul usually wrote words of encouragement to people hurting or in a state of sorrow. I think these verses are rather words to live by then a sacred vow in marriage. We should demonstrate this love to everyone…not just the person we “love”. In our friendships, we need to use our words and actions to lift each other up. In our day-to-day interactions with strangers, we need to walk in footsteps of love. And most especially with our enemies…we need to demonstrate a loving attitude and maintain our own love integrity. This passage is about unconditional love. And although no one truly deserves this, we all really need it.
So on this day established by our good friends at Hallmark as a day of love, we probably should remember the importance of demonstrating love. And this is best accomplished without a single rose, chocolate, or greeting card. This is demonstrated through action. And action is really what love is all about.
Roses, chocolate and action,
I am a dog person. And I have the most perfect dog for me. He does his thing. I do mine. He prefers to have minimal to no physical contact with me. No petting. Very little scratching. And absolutely no cuddling. He's the perfect match. And if I try to do any of the aforementioned activities...I am presented with a toy. He loves to play with his toys. No snuggling, just good times.
We are matched perfectly because I tend to share his lack of passion for physical contact. Well, this perfect match, has recently been rocked by a kitten. A cute, cuddly kitten. I need to take a quick minute and clarify one point...I am NOT a cat person. I am a dog person. But I acquired a cute kitten for a specific purpose: to hunt things. "Things" includes lizards, roaches, rats--really anything but my dog. I expect this cat to hunt. Hence, he is named Hunter (to my beautiful cousin, I am so sorry for naming my cat the same name as your son, my cute, chubby-cheeked little cousin--if it means anything, your Hunter is way cuter than my Hunter). So I have this cat now. Except I have managed to acquired what has to be the world's most cuddly cat. No joke,,,if I am home, he wants to be all up in my space 24/7. He wants to be held and loved and pet and held some more. He wants to walk all over me, snuggle on my pillow and/or sit in my lap. Basically as long as he has physical contact with me...he is content. No contact, he cries. Clearly, it's been rough for me. We are adjusting. And by adjusting...I mean I am learning to cuddle.
I prefer physical barriers with just about everyone and everything. I will hug someone...when forced or when it is socially inappropriate to not embrace. For example, I can muster up a hug for a hot date. Or at least I can...on the second or third date, after a glass of wine. I will even sorta hug a friend hello-although most of the time, it is a half hug. It takes me a long time to get comfortable just being comfortable with someone. And the comfort includes emotional and physical closeness. It's just a thing I have about me. And as time has past...it's less of a thing and more of a problem. So it's something I am working on because I think God created us to be people full of emotion and comforted by touch. As people hurt us and leave scars, we build up resistance to things that should come naturally. My resistance to both of these things, emotion and touch, stems from some serious pain in my past. But I can't let the past prevent me from experiencing the present, both in the emotional and physical sense. Sometimes you have to let go of all the things from the past, in order to open your arms and hug the future.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!"
So I think this cute, cuddly kitten...is warming me up for a future of feeling everything new with a bit more emotion and maybe even a little cuddling.
And oddly enough...I swear even my dog has been a bit more cuddly since this kitten has burst into our lives. Life is sure funny sometimes. He better be a Hunter.
Dogs, cats and cuddling,
Several weeks ago, I had to undergo something mildly risky to my health. I was a bit nervous about it until I realized there was no way God was going to call me home right now. He has been working too hard to teach me many things…I just can’t see how He would stop here.
Have you ever felt like God is working overtime on you? It gets to the point you almost wish He wouldn’t pay quite so much attention. I feel like the last 2 years of my life have been lesson after lesson after lesson. I relate this feeling to being at the beach on a particularly rough day. The waves just keep rolling in…one after another after another. Just as you feel balanced, another one hits. I have felt the pressure of waves every single day for so long, it almost feels natural to be rocked. And just when I think He is done…another lesson rolls on in.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
The lesson I am currently in the midst of ‘refusing to learn’ is this idea of embracing my wall. I have this solid wall I like to keep around me—the wall takes shape in an emotional and physical form. I feel safe and protected and in control behind this wall, so naturally it’s been really easy to ignore it exists and just remain still. But I’m slowly learning that although this wall feels like a protective barrier, it is more prohibitive than safe. It shields me from absolutely nothing. And more importantly, it doesn’t allow ‘the real me’ to shine through.
Everyone has a wall to some level. Some walls are bigger, bolder and stronger than others; these walls usually exist for reasons that are absolutely understandable. These walls have a story. Unfortunately, when we accept the reasons or story behind the wall…we get no more protection than if we just embraced it. The struggle in embracing the wall is you first have to accept it is there and then figure out a way to break through it. But this process isn’t easy and it sure ain't pretty. But God reminds us…He uses everything in our life for a purpose.
We are assured and know that all things work together and are for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.
You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
I see God moving many things into my sight that serve only to magnify my wall everyday. And every time I try to duck, run, hide or distract myself from the wall…He brings it right back into view.
So although I have secretly loved my wall…I know embracing it and tearing it down -- no matter how painful, how uncomfortable, how miserable the process might be –- will produce an end result that will be beautiful. So although these daily waves rock me over and over and over…there will be a day of peaceful serenity on the ocean. And I am nothing but excited to reach it.
No, dear brothers and sister, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.
Here’s to embracing your wall.
Walls, waves, and peace,
My sister dyed her hair hot pink today. I guess technically it's blonde ombre to hot pink. Regardless, it's awesome and it reminds me of Barbie...although I didn't share that comment openly when I told her I loved it. But I do love it. I also love the fact that my mom didn't realize it was hot pink when she posted the picture. Gotta love mom, too.
My sister and I are as different from each other as the desert is the sea. She is a tattoo artist. I am a nurse. She played softball. I was a ballerina. She loved to catch bugs and lizards. I adopted a cat last week...just to kill lizards. She has three adorable kids. I have only a brown dog. We are different. And have never been particularly close. But over the last six months, I have felt a connection with her like never before. And I found an adoration and admiration for her that I never truly appreciated until now. She is the strongest woman I have ever known. Her strength goes beyond measure. The best depiction of this strength is demonstrated through a broke down car on the side of 595. One time my sister's car broke down on the side of 595...she had a baby with her (I can't exactly remember if it was one kid or two) and a dog. Well she packed up the crew and walked over a quarter of a mile alongside 595 to the nearest telephone. And do you know not a single person stopped to lend a hand. Amazing. I am almost certain if my car broke down and I was alone...I would have remained there until some serial killer came up alongside me to offer 'help'. She exemplifies strength and independence. More than I could imagine.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
But I have learned over the last six months, that we share similar struggles.
And we have perspective on our lives that no one understands because no one has walked in our past. She understands my outlook and feelings and struggles like no one else. For all the ways we are different, I think we are equally the same. And I thank God I have her to bounce my struggles off of because she makes me feel a little more normal.
So when you look around and only see difference around you...remember there may be commonalities, strength, and friendship in these differences. As you get to know someone, you might realize you share similar scars, joys, love, heartbreak, struggles...that you would never appreciate on the surface. These commonalities disguised as differences make me incredibly thankful for the last six months; for they have allowed me to know my sister in a way like never before.
Hot pink hair, broke down cars and commonalities,
So, it's February. One month into this New Year's resolution (see About section) so I wanted to take a minute to thank all of the friends, family and strangers that have left/sent encouraging messages regarding the blog. This has definitely been a bit out of my comfort zone...it's not that I am not open about my faith, feelings and sentiments but I prefer people get to know me before I pour my heart and soul on them. In this world, people are so quick to judge. I think we often associate judging with alternative lifestyles, ethnic diversity, etc...but I have been judged a time or two in my life just for my faith. I actually had someone I loved dearly say to me, "I cannot understand how such an intelligent woman can believe in the whole Jesus thing." This statement was like a betrayal on a epic level and left me brokenhearted. It was the only time in my life, I actually felt like I could empathize with Jesus and the betrayal He felt from his friends.
It's interesting the opinions people immediately form of you, when you are open about your faith. Being so transparent about not only my faith but my soul has been a bit terrifying. But having everyone around me so supportive has been encouraging. I think my 'freak out moment' came a few weeks ago when I realized everyone I randomly meet, that looks me up on Facebook, now has an immediate window to my soul. The new co-worker, the cute guy I meet out, the friend of a friend of a friend...one click of the mouse and welcome to Ashley's soul. For a split second I kinda wanted to throw up. It was a bit suffocating to realize how much of "me" is out there. And it magnifies how much of myself I don't share with others. What is probably even more frightening, is I fear I'm just getting started on this journey.
So for everyone that understands how challenging this has been...thank you. You have been so encouraging and I thought of you all this past Sunday. Paul is by far my favorite writer in the Bible. I think it is amazing how he ended up in prison, only to write a good majority of the New Testament. Anyway--I love this passage of encouragement Paul wrote to Timothy during a time of discouragement:
2 Timothy 1:3-8a
"Timothy, I thank God for you. He is the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother and grandmother. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord."
For some reason, when I came up with the idea to blog, I felt very led to do it. It's not something I was super excited about it...fearful is a much better description of my feeling. Fearful, terrified, and a bit stubborn to get it started. But as I write more and more (and edit, edit, edit) I feel more encouraged that it has been the best resolution I've ever committed to. And for those that have asked...yes, please share with anyone you think might enjoy it. The goal of this is encouragement for everyone's eyes that land on it. And again...thank you. Only 11 more months to go.
Faith, encouragement, and maybe just a bit of throw up,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.