Seemed like it’d never happen! Then it did. Finally graduated from the Penn State College of Nursing alongside my fellow nurslings.
Reading all the Facebook graduation statuses I felt a little obligated to mark the occasion with my own social media shoutout but didn’t really know how to say anything other than “Status: Graduated” or “Official P-RN” (Pre-Registered Nutcase).
This is how I felt wearing my graduation attire:
So there ya go, that’s my status. But wait! Is that all I have to say after 4 years of glorified chaos? oH no, come on you know me better than that. So stop here if you wanted that reader’s digest version of a simple life update.
If not, well, come sit down buttercup!
So the past week began with me taking (severely under-studied-for) Final finals, to moving out of the sweet Dirty Hersh, and ended last night walking across the stage beelining it to one of my very favorite clinical instructors for that magical hug I’d been hoping for since her medsurg clinical junior year! So needless to say it’s been a wild few days and right now I’m not sure how it all pulled through. Feeling like that about the entire nursing school experience right now–I have no idea how it happened and I actually rolled out alive on the other end. It’s like crawling out of your basement fire cellar and laying on the ground realizing you forgot what the sun felt like.
Right now I’m watching the last 30 minutes of LOTR Return of the King in the other corner of my screen. We’re at the part where Frodo and Sam are stranded on an island in the middle of lava pouring from Mount Doom and Frodo is saying his famous “it’s gone, it’s done” and from that point on I’m emotional toast. During the graduation ceremony I was sitting between two pals and that scene fell through my mind, it was so nice to be with them at that moment! It was one of those snapshots where I might get confused and forget I was actually 22 in the present moment, not 82 remembering the day I graduated nursing school. Another weird thing I tend to do in these situations is look at the scene and people interacting around me and wonder how we will all be in 10 years, also even weirder and slightly morbid–I wonder a lot how we’ll die. Yes, you may tip-toe away now. It’s odd and I don’t think about it in a sad way, just more matter-of-fact way. Have you seen the movie ‘Big Fish’? Remember that part when the dad as a young boy goes with his friends to the witches house and they all look into her eye and see how they die? OK moving on, we are not dead! We are very much alive right now and people are just moving through their stories. Sitting down to write now I’m feeling a little like when Frodo is finishing Bilbo’s book at the end, sitting there saying “how do you pick up the threads of an old life, how do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand, there is no going back?” (oh gosh Domico, DRAMA QUEEN much? but really. let me have this.)
It’s barely been a couple of days since leaving the Village but I must admit I’m developing separation anxiety from the nurslings. Nothing requiring treatment yet but just feeling that little hole in my heart fill up like a dentist fills a cavity. For something I was such a total brat about for the longest time, some of the most wonderful moments did occur in the midst of the Dirty Hersh, and it goes to show that I really don’t know what was best till it’s reviled to me after-the-fact. Recently, I stumbled on this Lewis quote:
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”–C.S. Lewis
Perfect. This sentence encapsulates exactly what I can safely say I know about myself now. Myself a few years ago might have been more doubtful that God would do good for me, or that I could trust Him to not hand me a ‘Plan B’ life because I screwed up too much for ‘Plan A’ to work out. Right now though, I can no longer say honestly I fear God’s purpose to do good within my life-I know whatever He does will be good regardless of what I feel or think–I fear the pain of real life. It is tempting to live for enjoyment and pleasure. Many times it seems more promising to take what we want through the means which we see immediately available rather than allowing the rest of the story to unfold because we fear that if we don’t take the opportunity we will miss out on what was best for us, what would bring us the blessing we want. I don’t want to give you some cheesy post-grad-life-wisdom-lecture, as if walking around for a day in a funky flat blue hat and matching gospel choir robe makes me any less a fool than I was 4 years ago.
Right now I’m just going to share some reflections and encourage you to think about your life, whatever it’s been for the past few years–what the heck, go ahead and do a full on life review, it won’t kill ya.
Meanwhile: I never not enjoy watching the music video to #SELFIE. There’s a basic bitch inside us all.
When I think about most of my college-aged life I recall my trend being very much like a mixture of a Jacob story and a Leah story. Funny, these Biblical people were actually married to each other, however I’ve found a lot of fasciation and relateability to their individual stories and how God worked through each of their broken lives. Yes, we’re about to get Sunday Schooled. It’s been a while so you can deal, ok? Ok. In a nutshell the Leah story is about a girl whom finds herself as an undesired obstacle between her husband, Jacob, who was tricked into marrying her. Basically he ran into her crazy beautiful sister, Rachel, in some field and he was all smitten and pledged to work for 7 years if he could marry her. So he does and is all pumped about finally getting the trophy wife he thought would bring him every happiness in the world and on the wedding night her dad slips in Leah instead of Trophy-Wife-Rachel! OUCH. So…talk about the awkward morning after? So he’s tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel and he’s ticked (duh) and so he works another bunch of years so the dad will let him marry Rachel too. Well, now he’s got HotStuff Rachel and the MistakeWife Leah, yes he’s way into Rachel more. Here’s the thing, Rachel can’t have kids but Leah can. So Leah is pumping out babies and miserable because her husband doesn’t even like her and never wanted her. Yeah, don’t blame her for being a little disheartened here. But get this, here are the translations of the names of her children in birth order from first to last:
1. Reuben–>means “See, a son” and Leah’s response was: ” Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”
2. Simeon–> means “heard/sign”, Leah’s response: “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”
3. Levi–> means “attached”, Leah’s response: “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons”
4. Judah–> means “praise”, Leah’s response: “This time I will praise the Lord”
Umm can we side-step for a second and reflect on how if you and your sibling were married to the same person it might be a little..uncomfortable? Whatever. I’ll leave it at the times. They were into that sort of deal back then I guess. Do me a favor and save me the typing, but read this: Genesis 29:1-35 even if the Bible isn’t your jam, I’m asking you to read this just to get the context of the story I’m referring to.
Read that again. Pay attention to that birth order. I’d love for some more info on Leah’s life during those childbearing years and what she was thinking and how God was working in her everyday life. The Bible doesn’t give us her personal diary account but leaves it at her children’s names, which provides us with unique insight into what those years may have been like as far as her relationship with her God.
There was a conversation I had with a close friend a few months ago in which I was attempting to describe some things I’d noticed about my own life each year of college (and I’m only using college as a time-reference, I’m not trying to imply that it was the defining aspect of my life, as my life would’ve probably happened anyways for the past four years with or without participating in college). Going into nursing school I’d had many expectations and plans to acquire the blessings I wanted, especially if I lived as that good little Christian girl should. “See? I did what you wanted right? Now I should have ____.” Reuben. Sophomore year was similar in many ways to freshman year, basically a continuation of “I know God see’s and hears me..I’m still trying to make this work…am I not following “instructions” right? The roots of ache for blessing were so deep inside of me, and the more they were uncovered and exposed to light, the more frustrated I became. Simeon. Junior year. Oh boy. Well that was something I’d never order on the menu again. And by saying that I really fear God will hand me another similar time potentially worse, but with the same holy outcome. Crap, I know I’m supposed to look forward to the future with all that Christian joy and pizzazz but guys. I do not. Sure, sometimes I do get a little rush out of thinking of the future and not knowing what will happen but equally as many times I am filled with the desire to not know because I don’t’ want to know the pain it will bring as well. OK back to the point–Junior year was one of the scariest times of my personal emotional/mental life (so far). Sure, school was so so hard but it was just the tip of the iceberg. School wasn’t’ my problem, it just aggravated the real problem–myself. Ever heard the saying: “We stopped checking for monsters under the bed when we realized they were inside of us?” During this time I became so frantically unstable that I was desperate to attach myself to people and things I believed would satisfy my blessing ache even if it was just partially. I didn’t care about what God wanted me to do, I decided God had seen me struggle and stumble enough times and I’d be better off just numbing myself to him and living in apathy and bitterness. I knew I was fallen and ruined in some way, and at that point I just took what I could see. I wanted something, even if it wasn’t’ the whole thing, I just wanted whatever I could get. What do you think happens when you attach yourself and your contentment to something you can lose? You drown with it. Levi. Senior year was a surprise Judah. I never foresaw any praise after the Levi Year. I walked into Judah unaware that the raw, open lacerations leftover from Levi were the portal in which joy would leak into my veins and permeate my body. Perhaps my eyes were just opened enough to see more tiny moments of beauty and blessing because I had to be desperate enough to ask? I have experienced tears of joy this year just in moments where God allows me to see a mini-movie of these years in my mind and given me insight into where he was within the story. Do you know the ‘Footprints in the Sand’ poem?
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, many scenes of my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed the low periods of my life, when I was suffering anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could only see one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, “you promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints int he sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”–Mary Stevenson
While I was cleaning out my room in Hershey last week, I found this poem on a poster on my closet. I’ve had the poster since freshman year, though not purposefully. It just never made it in the trash like all my other posters. Funny it was this one survived every poster-purge! Realizing that the times of one set of footprints (Levi) was a time of blessing because I wasn’t doing the walking was so beautiful and simple that I couldn’t not feel reverent praise at such grace given within my own foolish being. This past year I’ve felt significantly stronger as a person (not that that’s the adjective people associate with me when they experience the havoc of Rebecca during their day, but this is more about personal experience ok?) and more able to care a lot less about people and things in insecure attachment ways. In fact, in comparison to myself a few years ago, I feel more open to the ride rather than the knowledge of exactly where we are stopping and going. Just letting things play out offers some surprise joy without as much fear as begging for a particular future then not having it. Sure, I’ll bet there will be tons of other hills n’ valleys in each of our lives so really I’m just digging deep into one tiny timeframe of experience here, nothing crazy.
Can I Biblical History-nerd-out on ya one more time here? So, Jesus is actually a descendant of Leah’s bloodline. Regardless of your opinion of his divinity/whether or not he was who he says he was, stay with me here a moment and think if he is in fact who he claimed to be, the son of God and savior of mankind, the picture God painted through Leah’s life was indeed redemptive and stunningly beautiful. The saving grace of mankind came through a line of an unwanted, broken woman. Not from the worldly-favored line of Rachel (no offense against Rachel, she plays an important role in the story too but I’m just not going through it here).
So I mentioned Jacob’s story earlier right? How do we relate to this guy? Who is this guy who thinks he can just marry away and treat one wife like crap and love the other one more? That’s a side note, not really the point here. But what we know about Jacob and what the Bible tells us about his life is that his life is a series of pursuits. Pursuits of blessing, from his father, mother, brother, and his women. He chases after sustaining blessing through these relationships which all fall through and do not satisfy him in the end. Later in his life (he’s married to Rachel and Leah with a bunch of kids and servants) when his brother is looking to kill him (!), he meets God. Read:
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Last year I heard my campus ministry pastor speak on this story and many points of this sermon pointed out the trends of blessing pursuit in Jacob’s life. (You can listen to the same sermon here! It’s titled “Meeting God”) One of the things he said, “god is attracted to fools” was a novelty to me in my thinking of who God is and how he works. The people God chose to pursue within these accounts were oftentimes outwardly insignificant people of their time by their society’s standards, and even rejected by their society. This should say something about the character of God, this God chooses the lost and messed-up to build his kingdom and create his eternal story.
Jacob spends his life going after blessings (he goes to his father, mother, brother, wife for blessings and in all of these relationships the blessing fell out and he could not create the blessing and satisfaction he wanted from any of his pursuits). So he goes through his merry way of looking for this fullness in everything else until he is isolated and alone, his family across the river and his brother waiting to kill him in the morning. He meets some stranger and wrestles with him, oh and the stranger happens to be God. Just another average day in Bible Times right? Someone’s going about their business and then BOOM God shows up and tells them to do something kinda weird! It’s like he’s the main character or something. The big deal here? Jacob finally realizes what he was missing in all of his other pursuits, similar to Leah, they both chased blessing so hard from their own means till they came to a point where they demanded blessing from God himself. And God gives it! We do this–we are looking for someone/something to BLESS us, to choose us, to tell us we are OK. Even if you do not think you need this, do you have parents you care about? A girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse? An endeavor? Music? Academics? Hobbies? Why do you even bother to maintain relationships or academic goals if you don’t’ see some justification and self-benefit from them? You don’t practice any of theses things or relationships without motivation. You expect something to benefit you through these, and that isn’t inherently a bad thing. These things are so attractive to us because they mimic shards of authentic soul-satisfying blessing. Taking another point from that sermon, think of this, when a person meets God it is a personal experience. It comes through authentic blessing that our soul’s recognize as the true love we’ve been designed for, and it occurs through “wrestling” with God himself.
“God cannot give us happiness and peace apart form himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.”–C.S. Lewis
So there you go, another dramatic novel by Your’s Truly! Thanks for sticking around, and let me say that when I refer to different times in my own life as more difficult than others I do understand that this goes for everyone and my experience is only unique because it is my own but that doesn’t make it any better/worse than yours and I want to respect that. I also don’t think that my life is all that notable and when I dramatize it in writing it’s simply taking a magnifying glass on a simple person in a simple life apart of a very grand story, much bigger than herself and that for me is thrilling. I share these kinds of things with you in hopes you will find personal use and inspiration to think of similar moments of your life and how you interpret their meaning. I do talk of God, well, because that is who I believe is driving the car, BUT I don’t expect you to have that exact same outlook on life. That’s fine peaches! You still have a brain and a soul that I’d bet craves the exact same thing my soul does regardless of what we believe we came from the same deal. I hope you have the most rich life of your soul and I want true and real things for you very much, I hope you do to.
Woah, well that felt good. Not sure about you but it’s been a while and I love talking with you like this. I hope you have a good night and sweet mercifully-dreamless sleep. The next latte I make at the best job ever will be dedicated to you, and I wish I could give you all the lilacs I stuffed my face in on my walk to work today.
*Thank you pintrest, tumblr, and Facebook for all images here.