Of fall, pumpkin spice lattes, cool evenings, and the nursing profession

It's actually cool enough to open the windows at night and wear a light sweater to work at 6 am.  Heck, it's even cool enough to roll the windows down in the car in the evening.  By "cool", I mean it's in the 70's at night and it was 91 degrees the other evening when I felt the "cool" breeze blowing through the car at 6pm.

It's my favorite time of year.  The warm aroma of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, the cool mornings and evenings...and that's about it.  There's no changing color of leaves in Surprise, Arizona.  There's no wood stove burning in the house.  But, we do our best in the suburbs of Phoenix to make ourselves feel like the season has changed for more than the first and last 4 hours of a day.  We see fall colored fake foliage in the grocery store.  We smell warm pumpkin spice candles and see advertised warm pumpkin spice... everything.

I like to make my own pumpkin spice lattes.  Real pumpkin.  Dark french press coffee.  Milk. Honey. And a dash of pumpkin spice mix.  Better than Starbucks any day.

Today is the last day of my second week in the BSN online program at GCU.  Tonight after 14 hours at work I submitted the first collegiate paper I've written in 17 years.  The assignment:  A formal 750-1000 word paper discussing the difference in competency between the associates prepared nurse and the  baccalaureate prepared nurse, as well as identifying a patient care situation where approaches to nursing care or decision making might differ in having a BSN versus a diploma or associates degree in nursing.  In my initial attempt I wrote 500 words without thinking twice and found all I had was an impassioned argument for why the RN, BSN isn't any more competent than the RN, ADN.  It hit a nerve.  But what developed I think was a pretty well thought out paper which addressed the subject matter the instructor wanted while pointing out that the perspective taken in writing this paper all depends on how you view competency.  The main difference in competency is not clinical skills for bedside nursing.  The main difference is competency in being seen as a professional amongst other health care professionals, and in honoring the leading role nursing is in health care with a degree which is fitting.  Nurses with BSN degrees can move into leadership positions and be seen by their cohorts as professionals.  Nurses with BSN degrees raise the bar for how nursing is viewed.

Nursing has evolved over it history from a job seen only fitting for, "an ignorant woman, who was not fit for anything else," (Draper, 1893/1949) where nurses blindly obeyed doctors orders without questions.  Nurses in American history strove to get nursing to be seen as a profession with a unique perspective on health care.  And they weren't wrong to strive for that.  Nursing is a profession.  It isn't mindless task work.  Nurses today have to manage the health care of acutely complexly ill patients while collaborating with doctors, therapists, and other health care professionals.  The truth is nurses are professional health care providers.  But that truth is being pushed to light in a system that is still trying to work in the dark with nurses as medicine delivery technicians. Nurse's are expected to have the knowledge of their professional cohorts while working in environments that continue to expect timed tasked work.  Other health care professionals in the health care system aren't expected to answer call-lights, take patent's trays, empty trays, pass medications, take vital signs, answer phones, call referrals, enter orders into computer system, clean their own equipment, file repair reports, make beds, move beds, order patent's meals, draw labs, draw blood, communicate with pharmacy, IT, management, CNA's, family members, case managers, cafeteria staff, PPS coordinators, doctors, nurse practitioners, PA's, patients, maintenance, housekeeping, central supply, linen services, etc.   Nurse's are expected to do all that, plus do extensive documentation and assess, plan, coordinate and carryout a plan of care for their patients as well as educate their patients and the families all in a 12 hour shift.

If the system is going to push nursing to be seen as the profession it is, as equals among health care professionals, the system has to stop treating nurses like waitresses.

The truth is nursing is a service-oriented profession.  Good nurse's will always do the "dirty work"of lowering themselves to help someone else. That is not beneath the profession of nursing.  But the pressure to do more tasks in a 12 hour period as well as the pressure to be seen as a professional by getting a higher degree are pressing hard on nurses so that the ones who do get higher degrees are moving away from bedside nursing beyond their first year as nurses.

The work of a nurse historically is honorable, no matter what society thought of them.  Whether doctor's respected nurse's or bullied them, nurses have been advocates of health and people in need of health care for centuries. The work of practical nursing does not require a bachelor's degree. And that does not mean nursing is a job vs. a profession.  But nurses do have a unique way of approaching health care that is distinct from doctors.  Doctors treat disease.  Nurses approach people wholistically  for their health and well being. Nurses should be seen as health care professionals. And I'm glad to honor the profession of nursing with a fitting degree.  I just wish the system would honor the profession of nursing not just with pressure to attain a higher degree, but with a role in health care (I'm especially thinking of acute health care, a.k.a. the hospital) that honors the profession.

At work today I parked a patient with severe brain injury next to me at the nurse's station for his safety and my convenience.  I had about four hours of charting to do and he couldn't communicate or control his body safely with attached tubes and lines.   As I assessed his needs through facial expressions, the way he held a pencil and the tears welling up in his eyes while he squeezed my arm and pointed to the coffee cup he couldn't drink out of, I decided he was communicating his despair.  I put my hand on his back and gently scratched while assuring him he was in a good place and we were going to do all we could to help him get better.   He arched his back and made an expression of relief, enjoying the back rub. A lot of problems get solved with a back rub (and a cup of coffee if the patient can have it).  It doesn't take a BSN to make an aphasic man feel comforted.  But it does take the kind of compassion that rubs a back to make a professional nurse.

Ok.  End of soap box.  I think.

a fly by the seat of my pants post on preparation

I was listening to a podcast by HopeWriters today.  They were talking about having a set aside writing day.  It's ridiculous that I was so scandalized by the idea, but yeah, a writing day.  I would like that.  No, I would love that!  Seriously an entire day to write.  That would be better than a pedicure or manicure for me.

But then they got to talking about the reality that you need to plan and prepare for that day... it's not going to be magically awarded to you by your fairy God mother.  Yep.  That's the truth of anything I want to accomplish.  I have to plan and prepare.

I'm gonna do it.  I'm gonna plan a writing day.  But thinking about that got me thinking about how true the need to plan and prepare is for anything in life that you really want to do.  Do you want to be more fit?  Plan and prepare.  Do you want to have more time alone with your spouse?  Plan and prepare.  Do you want to start eating healthier?  Plan and prepare.  Do you want to further your education?  Plan and... well, you get the idea.

My first assignments this week for my first week of the online RN to BSN program at Grand Canyon University involved writing out my greatest fears in furthering my education.  When I thought about it (other than Algebra), my greatest fear is being overwhelmed.  And that fear really involves my greatest weakness: time management. I don't really know if it's time management.  It's distractibility.  Or procrastination.  Or poor planning.  Or saying yes to too many requests.  Or trying to do too much in one day.  Whatever all that is called, it creates anxiety in me.  And the only thing that keeps the anxiety tame is planning and preparing.  I can't control the unexpected in a day or week.  And I think I function pretty well in a flying by the seat of my pants mode.  But although I can function like that, and go wherever the day takes me, if I haven't planned and prepared for I want to achieve in a day the anxiety builds and builds and builds.

For me, planning and preparing to face my fear of being overwhelmed involves lists, calendars, alarms, check off boxes, notes to self, etc.  Even still the reality of life is, lists and calendars and alarms are good things, but they won't guarantee that what I've planned will happen.  This is where resting in the sovereignty of God comes in for me.

I don't believe you should throw the baby of planning and preparing out with the bathwater of trusting in the sovereignty of God.  In fact, planning and preparing and then committing those plans and preparations to the Lord creates a humble stance of readiness to face whatever may come without being overwhelmed by the anxieties that come with unpreparedness and lack of planning.

This is true of the relationships I care about so much.  I'm 24 years in to a very trying marriage.  Ours are the trials that I'm sure many face.  In recent months my husband and I have taken a shoulder to shoulder stance with a mutual goal of being old and still married.  Granted, that shoulder to shoulder stance feels unequal at times, but the agreement of the goal were aiming for helps tremendously. Reaching that goal is requiring us to not hope that spontaneity will have us still married when our heads are covered in silver strands.  We're realizing how intentional we both need to be on a day to day basis to plan and prepare to strengthen our bond.

Whether its the joy of writing, or facing the fears that come with going back to school as a middle-aged adult, or healing and strengthening a marriage, or raising sons to be men; God has not designed the life of faith in Christ to be like having a fairy God-Mother grant you magical wishes.  His ways are good, and practical and miraculous.  Like a seed, planted in the ground, dying to bring about new life.  Like a patient farmer planting and watering and waiting for God to make it grow.  Like a mom and wife planning and preparing to win a husband and raise men for God and get a higher degree and have a writing day.

 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
-proverbs 6:6-8 

I think I can I think I can I think I can

Today is the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the 16th anniversary of my first shift as a registered nurse. I think its fitting that today is my first day of "class" in my online RN to BSN program at Grand Canyon University.

I completed my virtual classroom with my university counselor, Simon, and finished my first online assignment and bio.  Day one of going back to school as a 43 year old- done.

I listened to a podcast while doing dishes today (yes, we wash our dishes by hand) where the podcasters speculated about how a day a work in their individual careers would be different if it was 1985.  I don't know that I wish 1985 back, but I do feel more comfortable with a manual, real-paper-book, life than I do with the online, technology driven life.   Getting online with my school counselor to do a virtual tour of my "classroom" had me feeling like... a 40 something year old college student.  I'm excited to learn, but I admit I'm intimidated by the technology.  Next: Learn Powerpoint. 

Got a voicemail from an FFA student in Globe, AZ who asked her FFA group could market my soap for a agri-business marketing project.  I've also had several people email, text and message me asking what soap I have available.  I haven't made a batch of soap in several months.  I want to make soap.  I like it that people benefit from and enjoy my soap.  But I feel like making soap and selling soap right now is distraction from the direction I'm going right now, which is pursuing a higher degree in nursing.

Going back to school, having people inquiring about my soap, having people at work encouraging me to promote into a leadership position, having two sons in the throes of puberty, having a troubled marriage (which is currently better than it has ever been), having a church family (finally!) that I've committed to investing myself in... all of these have me seeking God for what it looks like for me to run the race set before me, eyes fixed on Jesus. 

The school, soap and work could drop off the planet for me right now.  They're not eternally important. But the sons, and the husband and the people I'm getting know and serve at church, they are.  When I think about my "race"- the life God has set before me to run by faith, I don't think about school or soap or work very much (although I do think about my witness as a Christian in those arenas of my life).  What I do think about is the people I live with everyday and the people throughout history and geographically who will be my family eternally.  The desire for those to be one group is a burden I take to the only One who can transfer anyone from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of his Son.

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Around the house and Charlottesville

Current happenings:

1) Today is my first day of unscheduled activity since July 1st.  I napped.  Read a book for leisure. And went to the gym late.

2) Yesterday I received a $2000 scholarship from the Sun Health Foundation for use towards my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. I'm very thankful there are people in the community who give their money to invest in nursing students.  These people are often the patients cared for by the Banner hospital system.  And as one of their donor's put it, they would like us to be better nurses when they're in our care.  I can appreciate that.  I want future nurses who may care for me to be better nurses too, which is why I love having students when I work. 

3) After talking with several nurses I work with I decided to call Grand Canyon University to look into their RN to BSN program.  Turns out those nurse's gave me good advice.  Grand Canyon won't require me to take any additional math and I get a tuition discount for working for Banner hospitals.  Yay me!

4) The front covered patio project is nearly completed. The actual patio and permit for that project has been reviewed by an inspector from the county and passed inspection.  There's no longer a timeline pressing my husband to get the project done, but there are still endless projects to be done.  We both feel relieved just to be done with the patio/permit/inspection process. And it looks really nice.  James definitely has a gift for quality craftsmanship.  Next, the siding and landscaping of the front yard will happen, but for now, the before and after pics look like this.




Current even thoughts:

The events in Charlottesville Virginia sicken me.  As a white, Christian American I feel the need to stand on the rooftop and shout at the Alt Right and white supremacy groups wearing their stupid costumes and spewing their violent, evil agenda:  YOU BROOD OF VIPERS!  

I would like to simultaneously shout to my neighbors:  THAT IS NOT CHRISTIANITY!  Christ is the Lord of peoples from every tribe, tongue and nation.  Heaven will be ethnically and beautifully diverse.  There is no such thing as white supremacy.  White supremacists are terrorists using the name of God, Christ and the Bible blasphemously.  

It bothers me A LOT that our president is quick to tweet attacks on people for all sorts of things but he needed two days to think about the facts before Luke-warmly speaking out against the violence in Charlottesville.  He needed to stand up there and say, "White supremacists are terrorists among us and they will not be tolerated!"   If a Muslim gunman ran into a building shooting people at a club he wouldn't have flinched at calling it Islamic terrorism.   The evil that people do in the name of God is evil, no matter what religion they use to defend it. 

I love the Christ I have never seen and worship the God of the Bible.  I believe he is the way, the truth and the life, but I don't believe that means everyone who calls on the name of the God of the Bible is a Christian.  Nor do I believe that every person who calls upon the name of Allah is a terrorist.   There is a very scary evil in the hearts of every human being, that unchecked by the grace of God is capable of the atrocities we see in every ethnicity.  

I don't want any part of racism.  I want to find deliberate ways to bring healing and reconciliation to the people of darker pigments and other cultures in my neighborhood, workplace, community and country.   I feel like under our current president, the efforts of real Christians shining the light of Christ in this dark world is increasingly in direct opposition with our historic right-winged political affiliations.  

The United States of America is a country built on the backs of African slaves.  The history of racial discrimination is in our roots and its still producing the evil fruit of violence and hate towards people made in the image of God.  As a white person I want to be part of laying an ax to the root of racism that is part of the culture I take for granted every day.  Charlottesville has me thinking and praying about ways I can do that.

I work in an environment that's very diverse.  My little street here is pretty white.  And in this rural street of a major metropolis it's easy to not think much about racism and my role in bringing reconciliation where there has historically been division and pain.  In an article I read the other day I came across a suggestion for how to bring hidden thoughts about racism to light by inviting friends and neighbors to discuss the goings on in Charlottesville.  I think that's a good place to start.  

the good stuff

I've been mostly offline for the past 10 days while at Sierra Bible Camp with my sister, her family and my boys.  But we're home now, back in the groove of booking faces and hashing tags (as Mister Brown would say), and accessing the world wide web between loads of post-camping laundry and back-to-school shopping.

This is our second year going to Sierra Bible Camp with my sister.  Last year I was only there for the last 3 days of camp, my boys were there for the whole week.  This year I was able to take time off work to go for the entire week and was very blessed with being able to teach 6-9 year olds the gospel while I was there.  Teaching and listening to the teaching from Mister Brown (the speaker for the camp), and hearing people's stories and watching my sister and her children's ministry team work with 35 kids between infancy and 9 years of age stirred me up!  I needed stirring.

As I think over the specific ways God impressed something on me this past week, I come up with 7 good things.

1. It's good to get away with God

Honestly it's been years since I've been to any kind of organized Christian retreat or camp... more than 14 years.  I intentionally seek out time alone with God each day.  A walk alone.  Sitting out on the patio alone.  Staying in my room alone.  Praying, reading scripture, chewing on the gospel in my fight to live by faith and turn from my old sinful self.  But there is great benefit to a setting aside, week or even weekend, away from the daily grind, soaking up what the Holy Spirit would teach and comfort through God's word and God's people.

2. It's good to be with God's broken people

The church is full of people.  With problems.  Like me. It gets messy.  It's hard to hear people's stories sometimes.  But to see the power of the gospel really transform a person's life, little by little... watching those "ah-ha" moments of revelation as a Bible verse is studied or preached.  Seeing people sing for joy and repent of sin and love people different than themselves... it's a beautiful thing.

3. It's good to serve children and their parents

The week at Sierra Bible Camp I spent as a co-teacher with my sister of the pre-campers (age infant to 3rd grade).  My sister has a God-given charismatic personality that instantly engages children.  I'm not so charismatic, but I love the gospel and the scriptures... I love to talk to kids about Jesus.  Being around my sister is good for me.  Her zeal and passion and joy are contagious.  She makes me want to smile more and dance around a little.  Getting to work with her and her team of faithful, loving women who served these 30 plus littles and their parents lit a fire in me!  When you have to put the good news about Christ and the doctrines of justification and sanctification into words and illustrations a 6-9 year old can understand, it reminds you of the wonder of how simple and deep the gospel is.  God's message in Christ invites little children to come to him.  And it's a joy of joys to get to be the one doing the inviting!

4. It's good to hear God's word preached with power and application

Mister Brown was the guest speaker at the camp this year.  His ministry through Proclaim Ministries and Hello Mister Brown, has a huge impact on students but also the parents and teachers who get the privilege of hearing him too.  Being a black man, raised in "the hood", as he put it, without a father, in a church where he confessed he was focused on the pretty girls more than God, he had a life experience that could testify to the transforming power of the gospel while understanding the circumstances many of the students there found themselves in.  He brought the gospel message in every talk while teaching the Bible, emphasizing the importance of memorizing scripture, and connecting the Bible to the relevance of the broken young lives listening to him.  I HIGHLY recommend him as a speaker for youth events. I left each session convicted of my laxness towards memorizing scripture and speaking it into my life and my sons' lives.  I left praying, confessing and resolving to make God's word my priority.

5. It's good to revive resolves

The combination of working with those kids and meeting people with stories of broken lives, seeking Jesus, and the preaching of God's word sent me home here to Arizona with a renewed desire to love my husband and children, teach my boys the ways and word of the Lord, and to give myself to the building up of the local church in whatever way God would have me do that.  I love the church.  I love God's people.  I love that we're broken and being made new day by day and we love each other.  My resolve to pray with confidence in God's promises and to pour out my heart to the Lord, trusting that he will not give up on his promise to complete the good work he's started in me.

6. It's good to be outside

Northern California is a beautiful place!  Spending time outside is almost instantly a magnifier of God's praise in my heart.  The detail and purpose and design in God's creation captures me.

7. It's good to play

Have you heard of Gaga Ball?  I played this not-too-technical game with kids I've never met before, my own kids and other adults.  I never won a round.  But watching the kids self-govern the game fairly and cheer for each other and call each other out on things was great fun.

Tomorrow I go back to a full time work schedule as a nurse and my sons start their first day of high-school and eight grade.  May God be with me in every circumstance everyday to live for his glory!