Psyched for Life

mh-nursing

Suicidal ideation. Alcohol dependence. Psychotic behavior. Mood stabilizers. Hallucinations.

These are a few words that have become completely normal in my vocabulary since I began the whirlwind of a career that is psychiatric nursing. I work at a private psychiatric hospital for adults and adolescents in Fort Worth, TX and I am certain it’s exactly where I need to be. You may think, “what? Why do you want to work in mental health when you could be saving lives in an ER or holding newborns?” I’d love to share with you. It is amazing what I’ve learned about the world in the past 9 months as a newbie nurse and how God continually molds me and challenges me through it.

In no way, shape, or form do I look down upon the work of nurses or medical professionals in other specialties. Nor do I look down upon anyone else’s work for that matter! My intention is to share with you a little bit about the uniqueness of psych, and why I do what I do.

My friends often ask me, “how’s work going? Any crazy stories?” to which I don’t know where to begin. As a nurse it is my duty to respect the confidentiality and dignity of my patients, so I don’t like to go into much detail. Also, a lot of times I’m still processing what I encountered at work the night before. Because unfortunately, even the best nursing school may not fully prepare you for how to address the needs of a young girl who habitually skips meals in an effort to be thin. Or a boy whose arm is covered in self-inflicted cuts. Or a woman who is responding to a plethora of hallucinations & delusions. Or a girl who fantasizes about the next time she will try to take her own life.

My point is, there are times when I feel completely helpless, emotionally exhausted, and in awe of the extent of the world’s brokenness and how mental illness can destroy a person. And yet, by the grace of God and the way He has wired me and equipped me for this new role, I’m simultaneously driven by the challenge of it all. I find joy in encouraging my patients as they walk through a severely difficult time, and in seeking to show them that someone cares. Someone is listening, rooting for them, and advocating for their well-being. Because nursing is so much more than passing medications and performing assessments.

I’m not merely entrusted with the care of “patients.” These are people. They are souls. They are dearly loved and have value, worth, and purpose to be lived out. Something that really hurts my heart is the stigma associated with mental illness and “psych wards.”

It is my belief that this world functions in a fallen state, prone to disease, death, and darkness. Mental illness is one of the many manifestations of this. However, we are not without hope. In one of my favorite verses, Jesus says: “look! I am making all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). The cool thing about God is how He’s actively at work in our lives and, if we allow Him to, brings us healing and peace when we have none.

I have absolutely loved gaining skills as a RN and becoming comfortable in my role—learning more medications, calling the doctors, checking labs, documenting assessments, giving injections, etc. The passion that runs deeper in my heart, however, is the beautiful opportunity I have to connect with people under my care. It is for this reason I became a nurse, and at this point in my career, I believe I am meant to be in psych. I cannot explain the gratitude I have toward God for bringing me to this point in life. It’s exciting, rewarding, and grows and stretches me in ways I wouldn’t have dreamt of.

So, hooray for all the nurses and the incredible work we have the privilege to do.

I pray that whatever you do, you’ve found purpose and joy in it. ❤

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Day 4 | He is Alive!

Scriptures:

Luke 24:1-7

1 Peter 1:31:8-9

Galatians 2:20

Revelation 3:20

My thoughts:

Having grown up in church and hearing about God’s love for me by sending His Son to die on the cross for me, Easter Sunday came pretty naturally to me as a celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead. For a long time, I thought everyone knew that this was true and believed in the true meaning of Easter. Unfortunately, also for a long time, the words “He is risen!” became a bit too familiar and commonplace to me. I was blessed to have my life’s foundation built on the knowledge that God was good and loved me, had a wonderful plan for my life, and had sent His Son to die in my place. However, in my own sinfulness and narrow vision prior to the radical work He did in my heart my freshman year of college, I took Jesus’ rising on the third day to be just another fact of life. I was blinded to the life-giving, transformational, death-conquering and victorious power that is Jesus’ walking out of the grave! I had totally missed out on how not only were my sins forgiven when I put my trust in Him, but that I had been given His Spirit to walk in renewed life — resurrected with Christ!

I find myself more and more like Mary & Mary — awestruck at the news of Christ risen from the dead — as I grow in my relationship with Him. He is alive, Hallelujah! I am filled with “inexpressible and glorious joy” as I experience his resurrection power at work in me, transforming my hurt, shame, frustration, and hopelessness into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The way that He continues to change my heart’s attitude, words, and actions to honor Him is living proof that Jesus is alive!

I hope that you’re encouraged this Easter Sunday, not only by how Jesus rose from the dead to conquer sin and death for us, but also because of His standing invitation to know Him and come into our hearts.

“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

let us continue to rejoice that He is alive!

Suggested Prayer:

Dear Lord, I am awestruck today as I recognize that you were put to death for my sins, and that you on the third day rose again, that I might put my faith in you and be brought to the newness of life with your Spirit. I pray that you would transform me today so that I would seek you & know you better, and rejoice in your salvation! In your heavenly name I pray, Amen.

he is risen

Day 3 | It Is Finished

Scriptures:

1 Peter 1:18-19

Isaiah 53:5

Ephesians 1:7-8a

John 19:28-30

My thoughts:

True confession: I’ve always wanted to be a princess. Ladies, are ya with me? Seriously, ever since I first saw and fell in love with the movie “The Princess Diaries,” I’ve been waiting for some long-lost relative to visit me and tell me I’ve been a princess all this time and that my kingdom awaits! So maybe the Disney princess movies I watched obsessively growing up influenced me in some way, but I’m pretty sure I’ve always aspired to achieve the privilege of wearing a sparkling, royal tiara. What can I say, I’m a princess at heart ❤ you can imagine my thrill at the thought that God, the King of kings, calls me His precious daughter — a princess in His eyes! Because Jesus proclaimed his true identity as the Son of God, the King of the Jews, he was mocked & ridiculed for this, as the soldiers who put him to death were blinded to his majesty.

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.” (John 19:2-3)

How humbling it is to recognize that Jesus, the true King and Son of God, bore a crown of thorns as he approached the brutal beatings and excruciating death on the cross — that we might in return, through faith in him, be received into the Kingdom of Heaven, to wear crowns of silver and gold for all of eternity. He suffered, and bore not only the direct punishment of those who put him to death, but also paid the ultimate debt, while innocent — the sins of the world (past, present & future) were laid upon his shoulders. His blood poured out to wash our sins clean. This was the most pivotal and meaningful moment to ever occur in all of history and in all that is to come.

And praise the Lord that when Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED”, it meant that we were not; this was only the beginning of the Father’s relentless grace and transformation of our broken hearts. Our strivings, resolutions, and countless efforts to do better, be better, and to earn God’s love are hopeless because of Jesus’ redemptive and finished work on the cross. We need only rest in the fact that the innocent Lamb of God was slain, and let His blood cover our shame & iniquities.

“by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) – because He hurt, we are healed and made whole.

“Hallelujah it is finished, hallelujah it is done. Hallelujah, King forever. We thank you for the Cross.” – Bethel Music, For the Cross.

Friends, let’s remember in our hearts this weekend the incredible cost of our sin. The precious blood of Jesus was sufficient then, and is sufficient now for our weary hearts and our inadequacy. He received our penalty that we might receive His crown.

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Please feel free to pray whatever is on your heart in response to these scriptures and reflections. Maybe you could grab a journal and come up with your own applications and reflective notes. Jesus is worthy of our praise and prayers!

Day 2 | Insatiable

Scriptures:

Luke 22:14-20

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 6:35

My thoughts:

Insatiable. in·sa·tia·ble adjective; (of an appetite or desire) impossible to satisfy.

To be human is to be insatiable — that is, constantly feeding an appetite that is essentially never fully satisfied. I know I can recognize the ways in which I fit this definition perfectly, as I search for just a bit of relief in [my guilty pleasures]: chocolate/sweets. pizza. netflix marathons. social media. jewelry, clothes & shopping just to feel fabulous. boys? maybe sometimes. Whatever it may be, I’ve realized that while all of these are blessings in life that God has given me to enjoy from time to time, when I binge in any one of these, it quickly becomes a vice through which I become trapped in never-ending thirst for more. Is it such a bad thing to be insatiable? I’m learning that when I overindulge in material things, or even in human relationships that fall short of perfection, I’m struggling to find rest and true satisfaction in my life. I’m so thankful that I’ve found fulfillment in my relationship with Christ.

These scriptures tell the essence of the story of the Last Supper — Jesus gathered His disciples to share with them that His body would be broken, His blood poured out, and that He would be betrayed and denied by those who claimed to be His followers. As I read these words, they are so familiar to me, having grown up taking communion at church and whatnot. However, I’m able to find truth and beautiful depth to Jesus’ words each time I encounter them, because I recognize that I never stop needing the bread & wine, symbolizing His death on my behalf. I love that He states in John 6 that He is the “bread of life” and in John 4 that He offers “living water” — that we may partake of Him and never [spiritually] hunger or thirst again. While our physical bodies continue to need food and water as we remain living, our souls can be satisfied in Him — the bread of life!

The Last Supper is a pivotal point in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as we recognize that crucifixion was now quickly approaching for Him, and He spent valuable moments explaining to His disciples the meaning behind His body broken and blood poured out for us — the bread & wine that offer true life and sustenance. He is so good to offer Himself for the sake of our satisfaction in Him eternally!

Suggested Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for the last supper, indicating that your physical death means spiritual life and satisfaction for me in return. I pray that I would recognize this week that your blood was poured out for me, that I might have life. Thank you for being the bread of life to sustain and nourish me in your Spirit. I pray that I would recognize your glory more and more, Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen.

bread:wine

Day 1 | Lost Sheep

Scriptures:

Psalm 119:174-176

Matthew 18:12-14

Luke 19:10

My thoughts:

Lost. We’ve all been there before (although we may not always admit it!) or at least I know I have. I’m pretty certain that if it weren’t for my trusty GPS, I’d be in somewhere like middle-of-nowhere, TX — shout-out to my fellow directionally challenged folks! Anyways, other than my tendency to get geographically turned around, I can also recall many moments when I’ve felt a deep sense of not knowing what I’m doing or which way to turn. Long story short, for much of my life growing up, I lost myself in thoughts about what others thought of me, and in frustrations with my appearance, my personality, and in the patterns I felt pressured to fall into. I’m so thankful that God sought me out in the depth of my mess and brought me into His sweet love and forgiveness!

Scriptures refer to sheep as animals who often wander off and get into trouble — I’m realizing more and more that our tendencies are not too different from these creatures’. I find myself chasing little paths here and there that I think are what’s best for me, but the Lord is the Good Shepherd who constantly brings me back to where I need to be. I’m thrilled to know that He is our Shepherd, and like the parable (Matthew 18) said, He searches for the lost sheep, and delights when it is found and returned to Him! Doesn’t it feel joyous to be sought out and cared for? In fact, because God knew I’d be prone to wandering beyond His care and guidance, He went so far as to send His Son to “seek and save what was lost” – that’s you and me!

I hope that this gives you a glimpse into my own experience recognizing that I need a Shepherd, and a Savior to rescue me from my own hands — the true purpose behind the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’d be pleased to have you join me over the next few days in uncovering a story of the lost made found, through love, sacrifice, and ultimately, redemption. “Holy Week” leading up to Easter is upon us, and I hope you’ll see clearly the hope of Christ, God’s love displayed for us, and how our lost and broken hearts are found and healed in Him.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I recognize that I am like a sheep – prone to wander and lost without your guidance and care. I pray that this week, I would rest in your leading me back to Yourself, through the sacrifice of your Son and His death on the cross. Open my heart to receive your grace and be filled with Your Spirit. In your holy name I pray, Amen.

lost sheep

Joy & Heartache – Farewell, Santa Cruz

Hey y’all! Greetings from the great state of Texas!! I arrived home this past Saturday (August 9) and have been back at my home away from home in Fort Worth, hard at work with my sorority for spirit week in preparation for Panhellenic Formal Recruitment next week. But let’s back up a little bit…I wanted to write one last post about my time in California this summer! I hope you’ll experience with me the string of emotions that are attached to such a crazy transitional time of wrapping up summer project.

The last time I wrote, we were preparing for our Christmas in July theme party, which we invited our co-workers to for a great time of dinner, Christmas karaoke, cookie/gingerbread house decorating, and wearing tacky Christmas outfits! It was so much fun to have them come to our motel and just be goofy with us. Two weeks after that party, as one of our last events as a project, we hosted our final theme party, “Taste of the South”. This one was a little more laid-back as more of a farewell to our co-workers (sad!). We had a great Southern meal, karaoke, and as always, dancing! We always love to spend time with our amazing Boardwalk co-workers! Here are a few photos from the parties:

"Awkward family photo"

“Awkward family photo”

Action Group at Christmas in July

Action Group at Christmas in July

Tahlia & I with our co-worker friend Chelsi at Taste of the South!

Tahlia & I with our co-worker friend Chelsi at Taste of the South!

Tyler and I - sorority girls!

Tyler and I – sorority girls!

Another significant event that happened in the last few weeks of project was God allowing me to lead my co-worker friend, Madison, to Christ! My relationship with Madison began towards the end of June, when I worked with her at Whiting’s one day, and I invited her to join us for dinner later that week on the night that I would be sharing my testimony in front of everyone! She was eager to come and get to know others from our group. After that, she went out to lunch and shopping downtown with several of the other project girls that also worked for Whiting’s, and she continued to come to meals whenever she got the chance and get to know us. One day, she and I took a walk down to the lighthouse on the West Cliff by the beach. It’s a beautiful view and we got into a great conversation about our spiritual backgrounds, and I had the chance to go more in depth with her about my story of how I came to know Christ! I then felt the Lord leading me to share the gospel with her, but alas, we were distracted by some kids who were cliff-jumping into the water! We watched them for a few minutes and then Madison seemed ready to turn around and walk back. I was disappointed, because I felt that the depth of our conversation may not be able to continue, and I didn’t know if I would be able to share the gospel as directly as I had wanted to. However, as the Lord in His sovereignty would have it, as I was hopping the short metal fence that you have to go over in order to get back to the main part of the sidewalk, my foot got caught between the bars and I twisted my ankle as I was coming down the other side of the fence! It hurt really badly and I almost started to black out…Yikes. Thankfully there was a bench nearby, so Madison quickly helped me get over to it to sit down and recover. After a few minutes of recovering and my pain easing a little bit (though my ankle did begin to swell up – don’t worry, it healed after a couple of days!), the Lord allowed me to transition smoothly back into the conversation she and I had been in! I asked her if I could share more in detail what we (Cru summer project) believe, and she said yes! I pulled out the Knowing God Personally booklet and began to share with her that God loves us very much, but because we are all sinners, we deserve eternal separation from God and His love for us. However, because God desires to know us personally, He provided His one and only Son as the provision for our sins to die on the cross, the punishment that we deserved, and rise again 3 days later. Because of this, when we place our trust in Christ, we can be forgiven for all of our sins and begin a relationship with the one true God! I could tell that as I was sharing this, Madison was understanding what I was saying, and it seemed to have personal meaning to her. Long story short, when I asked her if she would like to pray to receive Christ, she was hesitant at first, but after understanding more about God’s grace and mercy towards her, she decided that she did want to pray for a relationship with Jesus Christ! I am extremely thankful that God blessed me with such an amazing opportunity in this conversation with eternal significance, even if it did mean twisting my ankle so that we could sit back down 🙂 This was definitely the highlight experience of my time in Santa Cruz!!

Here is a photo of me with my sweet friend and new sister in Christ, Madison:

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As part of wrapping up our time in Santa Cruz, we had to say goodbye to the children’s ministries at each of the churches that we served at during the length of our stay this summer! I was so blessed by my experience serving in the 4th and 5th grade class at Santa Cruz Bible Church, with one of my project friends, Daniel. Here is a photo of us with all the kids on our last day at the church:

SCBC children's ministry

SCBC children’s ministry

Next came wrapping up our time working at the Boardwalk. Unfortunately I never got a picture while wearing my work uniform (not sure why I never took one!), but here is a photo of the infamous “Boardwalk” entrance sign lit up at night. This place will always, always hold a special place in my heart:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

One of my favorite things I got to do this summer was saved for the tail end of my time in California. Yosemite National Park is probably the most beautiful sight I have ever laid eyes on and I had the pleasure of hiking there for 6+ hours with several project friends! I didn’t feel up for taking on the challenge of Half Dome like so many other project people did, but I was challenged nonetheless on my 8-mile hike up to Nevada Falls! Here are some shots from the day – they really don’t do the beauty of it all any justice, but they give you an idea:

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Rebeca, Rebekah, and Rebecca :)

Rebeca, Rebekah, and Rebecca 🙂

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Reppin' that ADPi <>

Reppin’ that ADPi

Glorious.

Glorious.

The last week of project, after returning from Yosemite, was filled with saying goodbye to co-workers and our favorite places in Santa Cruz, breaking down everything we had set up in our motel, replacing the normal motel beds and such, packing up our personal things, and hardest of all, saying goodbye to each other. Let’s just say that tears were flowing. One of my favorite things from that week was our Appreciation Banquet for all of our employers/supervisors from the summer! It was really nice to get all dressed up, eat a fancy meal, and hear from several speakers about how this summer has impacted us and how much we appreciate our employers. Here is a photo of me with two of my supervisors at Whiting’s, who I so enjoyed working with!

Soad & Alyssa

Soad & Alyssa

My sweet action group lovelies at banquet

My sweet action group lovelies at banquet

Okay, I’m not normally much of a cryer unless it’s in private (pity party of one?), so I was able to keep it together pretty much any time other people were sad and crying about having to say goodbye. However, on my last full morning in Santa Cruz, I went for my last run on my usual route down the wharf and back. When I reached the end of the wharf, I looked out at the beach, the boardwalk, and the city I’ve learned to love, and that’s when it really hit me how much I am going to miss that place. Again, pictures don’t do it justice, especially not in the morning when the fog is still in the air, but I wanted to hold onto the view for one last time. I can’t describe how heartbreaking that moment was for me, but I pray that I will return one day and continue to see the Lord’s hand on the people of such a spiritually dark place.

Santa Cruz beach in the morning fog

Santa Cruz beach in the morning fog

I could write an entire other post solely dedicated to what God taught me this summer, but thankfully I’ve been able to process a lot of this in my journaling and prayers. One thing I will share with you that God really laid on my heart this summer is how important it is to choose community over isolation – I tend to use my introverted nature as an excuse to avoid going deeper with people or going out of my comfort zone in order to make new friends, and He’s revealed to me how unhealthy that habit really is. He blessed me with such sweet community this summer – from the 60 other college students I lived with, to the 23 amazing, Christ-following staff members, to my co-workers on the Boardwalk, to any other brother or sister in Christ I met on the street, He’s shown me that I don’t have to be afraid to be myself and let others see me for who I am. I hope to take that and so much more that I learned this summer back to my sorority, my classes, and Cru at my campus!

Thank you to anyone who actually read this; I hope you enjoyed hearing about the adventure of my lifetime on SCSP 14.

Living the Dream

Hello friends! It’s been awhile since the last time I posted, so I thought I’d share an update of how things have been going here on Santa Cruz Summer Project. I’m learning so much and it’s flying by so quickly! It’s hard to believe that I am nearing the end of my 7th week here – only three more to go until I return home to Texas! I’m definitely soaking it all up while I can. Here are some of the major things I’ve been up to lately!

The halfway point of this project was a couple weeks ago, which marked a significant transition for us, as the 23 faithful Cru staff members that had been leading, directing, and shepherding us students, returned to their homes, and the 61 students took over leadership of the project! It has definitely been a faith-stretcher for us all so far, as we have the opportunity to see what God can do through us at our fullest potential. I’m extremely honored to have been chosen by my action group (small group/Bible study) leaders, to become the action group leader after the staff left! I am thrilled for this opportunity to grow in my leadership abilities in shepherding my four roommates (my small group) as we continue to study God’s word and reach out to our coworkers for Christ together. I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue in this responsibility; that I would love and lead my girls well, with humility and faithfulness! Here’s a photo of our group having a last lunch together before Lynn and Teresa (our staff leaders) went home:

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God has definitely been teaching me a lot this summer about leaning on Him to renew my strength each day – our schedule is very busy here between work, committee meetings, project meals, action group time, outreach, social events, weekly meeting, and theme party preparation! We have really come together as a group to support each other through this demanding schedule and it is so refreshing to be able to trust the Lord with each task I am asked to complete. Right now, we are in the middle of preparing for our Christmas in July theme party for tomorrow (Saturday) night! Similar to the hipster party we hosted last month, this is a cool way that we are able to reach out to our co-workers and invite them into our community, all while having a great time and making memories. We have someone coming in to make some supposedly to-die-for barbecue, which, as a Texas girl, I can’t help but be stoked about. So the party should be a success – please pray for lots of co-workers to come, and that it would open the door for deeper spiritual conversations and gospel sharing!

Whenever I’m not busy with project activities, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy other parts of California outside of Santa Cruz! We had a fun day in San Francisco, complete with attending a Giants baseball game. Here’s a couple photos from the day trip:

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I also got to spend a day exploring the gorgeous 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach golf course, the wharf in Monterey, and the quaint town of Carmel! I had the opportunity to visit these areas with my family 3 summers ago, so it was truly a blessing to get to go back with friends this time. Here’s a couple photos from the day:

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I’ve really been enjoying the wonderful community that is my project family. We each bring unique gifts and personalities to the table, and it’s a joy to be living with these people all summer and reaching Santa Cruz for Christ together! One of my highlights of project so far was definitely the spontaneous beach bonfire we had one night about a week ago.

Work is going well, I am still enjoying my job on the boardwalk with Whiting’s Foods! It has been really encouraging to meet co-workers who are interested in coming to our meals to find out more about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, as is our goal as a project! I have gotten to hang out with a couple of girls from work, and I know that the Lord is working on their hearts. Please join me in prayer for our ministry to be more fruitful than ever in the last few weeks that we are here!

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, hopefully these photos help to sum up what’s been happening in Santa Cruz. I’ve posted plenty more photos on my Facebook and instagram so please check those out! Please forgive the disorganized flow of this post – I am trying to hit the key points here 🙂 If you’re reading this as one of my financial or prayer supporters, thank you thank you thank you for helping me get to Santa Cruz! I am learning so much and I cannot wait to come back and share more about my time here! Please continue to pray for our unity as a project and for me to stay focused and driven by the Lord’s spirit in me!

One more, this is my incredible view from work, of the Santa Cruz Beach:

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