love & [reflection]

Ya’ll.

It’s about to be 2019.

Like a year away from 2020.

Whoa.

Years ago, a couple of best friends showed me the importance of reflecting at the end of seasons, and I haven’t looked back. It’s one of the coolest things! And man, has this year been a year.

I have probably cried more times this year than I have in my life. (Well, maybe not when I was a cute little infant baby.) But this year, I had to acknowledge depression and anxiety, look them in the face, and say “you’re not going to swallow me whole”. And decided to go to counseling. Which is still a strange thing to say out loud.

But gosh, this year I’ve also experienced some of the deepest joy in the formation of friendships and servanthood. I’ve learned how to celebrate friends, and TRULY celebrate them. Like burst at the seams with excitement of how much they are killing the game of life, even when I don’t feel like I’m doing the same. I’ve had some of the best conversations, filled with honesty and truth and encouragement and straight up vitality. And I think I’ve loved people really well this year. I showed up when I could and when I didn’t feel like it and when it meant the most. And I’ve told people that I love why I love them. And why they are important.

This year sucked in a lot of ways, but when I count up all the sweet things, I see fortune instead disfavor.

At the end of the day, life is hard and surprise! – it only gets harder. BUT here’s a charge:

Keep showing up and keep loving people, always. “What’s done in love is well done” is one of my favorite quotes because it holds true.

Keep your favorite human beings close to your heart, and take care of yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself – not just for you, but for the people around you.

Most importantly, keep trusting God. He hasn’t forgotten you, He’s always always making moves – especially when it doesn’t feel like it.

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uncomfy

The other week at work, a co-worker and I were in my patient’s room making sure he was situated and ready for bed. He has been one of the, if not the most kind and appreciative patient I’ve had in these 6 months of the nurse life — let’s just say that can be hard to come by. He was admitted to the hospital for complications of heart failure, but unfortunately had a much longer stay due to some unforeseen health issues. Throughout the time he was in my care, he was always so sweet and so kind, but as the long days and sleepless nights in the hospital became innumerable, it was obvious his joyful spirit began to dwindle.

After helping him to the bathroom and finishing up his nightly medications, I said, “Alright! Are you comfortable? Do you need anything else right now?”

He responded, “Well, I might be comfortable soon. But right now, I’m not really.”

I was kind of puzzled at his response. So I said, “Tell me what’s wrong and we can fix it. I want to make sure you’re alright.”

“I think I will be comfortable eventually… Right now, I’m just not. But that is okay.”

We went back and forth a little bit and eventually I accepted the fact that he was content with where he was at. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t give him exactly what he needed.

This was a simple interaction, but what struck a cord with me was his willingness to be uncomfortable. He was unbothered by his circumstance. No grumbling, no complaining, just being. We live in a culture where instant gratification is expected. We are told if we’re not happy, to get out while we can and go after whatever it is to be happy. But that’s not always the best approach. We can see that by evidence of failed marriages or bad financial decisions. Sometimes, I think we just have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable things in life – the sucky job, the awkward love life, the difficult conversation with a close friend. Sometimes, we’ve got to be okay with where we’re at, even if it’s not the most fun or the most ideal.

Not only was my patient content, but he was hopeful. We don’t always have certainty on whether our bad situations will change sooner or later, or at all. But we can always hope our circumstances will get better. We can bank on the fact that nearly all things are temporary, expect for the One who made them temporary. And that’s a hard concept to grasp when you’re living in a now society.

So if you don’t love where you’re at in life right now, it’s all good. It’s temporary, and be hopeful that cooler and better things are to come.

Just get comfy with the uncomfy.

the beauty between pt. 1

Some of my post-grad days are really good. I love the days when I’m off and get to spend time reading a good book, or when I get lunch with close friends I haven’t caught up with in a while. When I take a trip with my family, or dress up to go somewhere on a Saturday, I’m think to myself “life is really fun”. But some days just aren’t. Some days, I make mistakes or give the wrong answers at work and have to talk about it. Some days I get home at 9 because I didn’t manage my time well and have to wake up at 5 am to do it all again. Or I have to cancel dinner plans with a friend for the 3rd time because I’m just too exhausted and go more weeks without seeing them. It stinks.

I don’t feel hopeless, but I don’t feel at peace either. I’m stuck in between.

So to motivate myself, I just rush through life. Which I think we all tend to do. We all “can’t wait” for the week to be over, or for summer to come, or for a marriage to begin, or for the next paycheck. We are always looking for the next thing because we have this urge for more of something. More security, more love, more satisfaction. But we’re always left wanting more afterwards.

For the past 2 months, I’ve been listening to this really incredible album by King’s Kaleidoscope called The Beauty Between. It’s an album about being present where you are, in the “between” parts of life – right in the middle of two extremes. About how everything is not black or white, so you kinda just hang out in this gray area. About how not everything makes sense, or is defined, or is even planned to expectation, and how uncomfortable that can be. But as the album goes on it shares, quite melodically, how beautiful those parts of life are still.

While I don’t feel like my mundane life is beautiful all the time, I’m reminded that I’m merely wrong, and that it is. How beautiful is it to laugh and to cry and to ask questions and to know the answers and to fail and to succeed. How beautiful it is that going to work at 6 am means seeing the sunrise and that near or far, I still have friends that feel like sunshine.

There’s so many gaps and deficiencies in life and we simply can’t fill them all in. I feel like I’m dosey-doeing through them, but luckily I’ve got a faithful dance Partner.

I fortunately fall into the beauty between.

Image result for between a rock and a hard place

cleanse

I stopped using social media for a month and here are 9 positive lessons I learned:

  1. Enjoy the moments you get to be apart of and fully immerse yourself instead of wishing you recorded them for other people to see
  2. Don’t automatically pick up your phone during socially awkward moments of silence and dull conversation; put away and dive deeper
  3. Detach your self-worth from outward love and approval ; love yourself for who you are, and your body for what it is
  4. Be more intentional in your relationships and facilitate sincere conversations with people you think you know really well
  5. Don’t assume friends are doing well from photogenic pictures and 10-second videos; put meaning to ‘keeping in touch’
  6. Form your own opinions instead of cleverly articulating someone else’s
  7. Take pictures because you love them and want to capture the candidness life has to offer
  8. Let go of the pressure to persuade your followers how adventurous and artsy you can be; you are both
  9. Don’t compare your journey to others’ journeys; not everyone is getting married or working their dream job (there’s always a few that happen at the same time so it feels like everyone, but you are most likely in the majority)

A month isn’t a long time, but it made a significant difference. A month ago, I was waiting by my phone, hyper-vigilant about how many likes and views I was getting. I was watching friends’ Snapchat videos, wondering if I wasn’t invited because I wasn’t actually that likable. Every time I exited a social network, I’d open the next one, continuing this rotation of opening and closing apps as if anything would have changed within the last 15 minutes. Surprise! That cute couple is still together. That girl from college still turns up every weekend. That friend is still dancing in the car (LOL totally me)… Nothing ever changed. I was still me; they still them. But I noticed the more I used social media, the less content, less creative, and less confident I was. Scrolling through timelines became less about keeping up with people I cared about, and more of a place for self-loathing, pondering why my life didn’t look a certain way.

Gradually, I let these minuscule, fleeting things equate my value, and it’s a bad habit I think we all fall into every now and then. It’s hard when our world glorifies money, beauty, and success. But I know that my worth and my identity isn’t rooted in the things of this world; it’s rooted in Christ. He goes before me; to Him my heart belongs and in Him my treasure is stored. I know that I exude love and that I’m full of life and that I’m fearfully made and that I’m beautiful every single day, without the fashion and the makeup and the Insta likes. I just had to be reminded. And what a sweet reminder God’s love is.

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“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 spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

just do it

I was talking to someone the other day who felt like she was stuck in a spot. She shared how she has longed to move on & be the foster mom she’s always wanted to be, but feels like she has issues to work through first. Issues that have been in place for years, but haven’t been resolved because of work and negligence of counseling. I asked her if she felt like these problems had to be fixed right now in order for her to achieve motherhood, and she said she doesn’t know if it’s really holding her up, or if it’s just an excuse.

We think that because we are not as loving as we could be, as selfless as we could be, as adventurous as we could be, that we can’t do great things right now. We are perfectionists, and want to show up in tip-top shape, looking our best, but God does the coolest things when we are the most out of shape. He wants to meet us right where we are, in the grit and rubble of our lives, and show us how He can take something that is broken, and remake it into something that is beautiful. You don’t need to be all fixed up and wrapped with big red bow to be useful. Sometimes, we have to be really screwed up in order to recognize our need. I think that is incredible.

I struggle with this a lot. There are some goals I want to achieve that I won’t say out loud because I don’t want to fully commit, or I’m scared it won’t come to fruition. There are so many opportunities that I turn down or run away from because I don’t think I’m a good enough person to go for them. I think there’s a lot of work to be done and I never think that I’m ready to take on certain tasks that come my way. But having these weaknesses and doubts are a chance to see what grace is all about. Some of the greatest growth and blessings come through not knowing what the hell you’re getting yourself into. Not being ready. Being broken.

Embrace the fact that you may not be your best self. You think you’re unlikely; well you’re not. God has used some of the most amateur, unlikely people to take on his most marvelous deeds.

thankful.

for the simplicity life can offer.

for a quiet night in where I can learn how to knit.

for the opportunity to start a new show on Netflix.

for being able to go out for a drink with my friends.

for a car and a parking spot that’s not far.

for the fact I can sit in my room in peace.

for not having to fear being displaced from my home.

for not being in an area where war is happening.

for not having to worry about my next meal.

for making it through the semester without giving up.

for getting paid extra by doing very little.

for a mom who helps me out when I’m struggling financially.

I know how to be positive. I try to take the time and appreciate the small things in my life. I love celebrating little triumphs, even if it’s finding $5 or completing something on my to-do list. When life is good, I’m good. But there are those seasons when life isn’t so good. In tough circumstances, I am neglectful, reclusive, and negative. I give up so easily, I don’t ask for help, and I get pretty ticked at God for not doing what I asked or wanted.

There are always going to be bad times where smiling, laughing, and rejoicing won’t feel right. Life is not catered to us. It’s important to smile now, laugh now, rejoice now, in the joys and simplicity of life. Take a moment and be thankful for the good things around you, in whatever situation you’re in. I’m working on it too.

a week in Ghana

My first night in Ghana was spent in the city of Accra, and the next day, I took a 9-hour bus ride to my aunt’s house in Berekum. We waited to get on the bus for about an hour, but in the heat, it felt like several. We only stopped once on the bus ride, so naturally my bladder felt like it would explode at any moment. When I finally got to use the bathroom, it was hidden deep in a dark alley. It was so insanitary that I thought I’d quite possibly die if I touched anything surrounding it. Eventually, we arrived in Berekum, and my aunt took very good care of me. She always made sure I had a full plate of food, heated up my shower water, washed all my clothes, and even gave me her room to stay in. I met her convent sisters, and they were all so loving and generous; wanting to make sure I was as comfortable as possible and had huge smiles waiting for me when I arrived. Although I had been traveling for a total of 2 days, exhausted, dirty, and jet lagged, I was hopeful for the weeks to come because of they way they welcomed me. I was certain I would enjoy every moment here and thought to myself, “I can get used to this”. However, that night made an interesting start to my stay. I couldn’t sleep because of the heat, but became so exhausted at 2 am that I ended up closing my eyes. After less than an hour of sleep, the roosters and dogs that inhabit Ghana kept me up all night with every sound you can imagine. With their howling, barking, and cuckooing, I stared at the ceiling for hours, wide-eyed, praying I’d go back to sleep. But then, a congregation of Muslims, who began their prayers and worship daily at 4:30 am, kept to routine and shouted all morning directly outside of my window. So I just lied in bed, angry and frustrated. But my aunt reminded me I wouldn’t be staying with her for the remainder of the trip. Rather, I would be moving into a hostel connected to the hospital I was to volunteer at, so that transportation would be easier. I would also have the opportunity to connect with other internationals that came to work in the hospital, so I excited to say the least! As long as I didn’t have to sleep with the roosters, I was all about it. I woke up in a pool of sweat, but was excited for my first day at the hospital. After being shown around the facilities, shaking hands with nearly every doctor and administrator, and meeting my two roommates from Germany, I got settled into my room. My aunt hugged me, wished me luck, and then left.

 

I looked into my room, which resembled the old miniscule dorms at school, and sighed. There was no air condition, no fan, and a dim bulb that did everything but provide light. I went into the bathroom and learned the water was not running. Instead, there was a waste bin filled with water, with some mysterious particles floating inside. This was to be my bathing and tooth brushing water. The floor was wet and dirty, along with the toilet, and it definitely did not smell like roses. There were numerous little ants hanging out on the sink, and there was no soap or trashcan. I dipped my washcloth and soap in a bucket of water, and grabbed another bucket to rinse off. As I poured the cold water down my back, a small lizard fell out and into the shower. I ran to the other bathroom freaking out, only to see a non-flushable toilet and massive cockroach next to it. I quickly retreated to my room to get dressed and lay down for a little; just to be sweating profusely again, but was soon was greeted by my roommates from Germany. They came together a week prior, so they were already well acquainted. They warned me beforehand they were not trying to be rude when speaking German instead of English, but it’s hard for them to explain when they don’t know the words. So a lot of our conversations included me just looking around. Eventually, they said they were going to the market in town and asked if I wanted to join. I opted to stay inside because I wanted to maybe go online and chat with some friends or family, but alas, there was no Wi-Fi, let alone a network. Then the electricity cut off and the kids next door started to shout. Rather than taking a nap, I just cried. I cried a lot.

 

I felt lonely and isolated. I quickly began to make a plan to complete my clinical hours as soon as possible so I could return to my aunt’s place, and eventually home. I still couldn’t believe I was in a foreign country, and started to feel the immensity of being alone. I so strongly wished that I had come with someone, or that I was maybe on the other side of America rather than on a totally different continent. Everything was unfamiliar and hard to understand. I was slowly realizing how much of a contrast living here was compared to my life in Delaware, and had no desire to keep going. My homesickness was growing, so I called my mom. Her encouragement and presence helped me calm down a lot, but as soon as I hung up and was reminded of how far away she was, I became saddened again. In the hospital, I got a lot of stares – maybe because I was wearing Nike sneakers, or because I said “like” a lot. Or maybe because I can only speak English, and everyone else speaks Twi (their native language). I got teased because of words I said differently or embarrassed when I couldn’t understand people through their accent. I wasn’t sleeping partially because of the heat, but also because of the anxiety of how I’d make it for 3 weeks.

 

All week, I kept asking myself why did I come here? Why did I forgo a month off from school with friends who live next door to me to spend time in an underdeveloped country? Why did I subject myself to uncomfortable taxi rides, innumerable mosquitoes, and excessive heat? Why did I travel halfway across the world all by myself? I didn’t know any of these things would happen. Had I known things would go this way, I may have thought twice about coming. But that is the cool thing about uncertainty; not knowing what is going happen causes you to trust in something outside of yourself, and for me that has been my faith.

 

I wasn’t given a how-to manual on how to live here, I kind of just showed up and trusted God would take care of me. For a little while, I thought he forgot about me, because of the loneliness I was feeling. But I’ve made some sweet friends in the pediatric and surgical ward at the hospital, who want to know absolutely every detail of my life in America. They have beautiful smiles and big dreams; I wish I could bring them home with me. I’ve grown to know the ladies from Germany very well, feeling a lot more included in their conversations than before. They even invited me to sightsee with them in the city, along with their professor. We spent Saturday visiting museums, buying cultural items, and eating delicious food. They cared for me so well and it was nice to see outside of this small town. I’ve never missed a meal because the people here are fantastic cooks. I have a bed to sleep in, I have survived the 110 mph bumper to bumper taxi rides, I have drinking water, I haven’t been bitten by mosquitoes (yet), I was not harmed by that lizard or cockroach, I have been checked on every single day multiple times a day, I have not been forgotten.

 

I know God has me in Ghana because in America, we knowingly and unknowingly live in ignorance. We have more than we need, and that in abundance. So many things we have, we take for granted. When situations happen outside of our confines, especially in other countries, and they do not directly bother us, we don’t concern ourselves. And even when we do with curiosity, we would most likely choose not to experience it. It has been good for me to be out of my comfort zone, and to learn so much about the comfort zones of the people here. The people of Berekum, Ghana deal with on a regular basis what I consider struggling, and it is not foreign to them. I can only imagine how my mom might have felt moving from Sierra Leone to Brooklyn, New York by herself at a young age.

My eyes have been opened a lot here in the past 7 days. It’s been a challenging and interesting week, and I’m currently trying to rid off the ants that have found their way in my t-shirts… but with time, patience, and changing my perspective, I’m making the most out of my situations, and know things will only get better!

Disclaimer: shortly after writing this post, I got bit by a mosquito.