Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

"A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn."

Destination: Clemson University
Total Miles: 36.5 (one-way)
Total Cost: approximately $23,500

Ten years ago on May 9, 2004, I wrote a letter for my high school senior English class...a letter to myself. Five years to the day, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Bob Jones University.

And on May 9, 2014, I walked across the stage in Little John Coliseum at Clemson University and received my diploma for my Master of Science.

Trust me. No where in my high school letter was any mention of graduate school. Anywhere.

It's a long story that is filled with tears and much prayer.

(Joel and I, friends since
 the undergrad days and
still friends as we pursue
graduate degrees in
nursing~CRNA and FNP)
I know people think I'm smart, but honestly, I'm not any smarter than the next person. In fact, I had
some of the lowest passing grades in undergrad among my class. I have a very healthy dislike for science (and a VERY healthy respect for it!), and it was a miracle that I graduated five years ago...and I very distinctly remember as I walked out of the FMA that I was never going back for grad school. Ever.

Yet, five years later...the Lord has a sense of humor.

A little over three years ago (has it really been that long?!), I began to seek where the Lord would place me next. I will be very open and candid with you: I had never expected to be turning 25 and be single and in the States. In fact, it was one of the last places I wanted to be. As the official middle-of-my-twenties approached, I began to question the path I was on.

I prayed and sought the Lord's will for the future. And while I cannot say at what exact moment I realized that He was directing me back to school, I do know that when I discussed the possibility with my parents, my dad was literally speechless and my mom fell out of her chair.

After some personal struggling, I sought out a school for midwifery and applied. During the application process, it was made clear that I would not be accepted into their graduate program because I had not graduated from an ''accredited'' BSN program. I was a little taken aback...I knew the Lord wanted me to pursue a degree that would further my abilities to work in foreign countries. This school had seemed the perfect fit. Yet, a rejection was not what I had planned.

After talking with several friends, I decided to apply at Clemson University. I usually procrastinate on everything, but I finished my application and had everything turned in almost a month before it was due.

And they lost my paperwork. Twice. (and people wonder why I procrastinate!)

After waiting for almost 7 months with almost no communication, I gave up hope that this was really the path God wanted me to follow. I applied for some traveling companies and started pursuing that path.

One week later, I received an acceptance email from Clemson which was quickly followed by a letter of acceptance.

From there, life became a little more crazy...I suddenly went from a life of travel and living debt-free to juggling a night shift schedule with classes and a huge bill every semester.

There were many ups and downs...trying to remember how to study, meeting a whole new group of people, writing papers out the wadzu, buying books...trying to flip from nights to days and back again several times a week...and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life and some sanity.

Many people have asked how I did it. Honestly...with the Lord's help one day at a time.

In spite of the craziness, I have never once regretted following this path. The journey, though long and winding (and expensive!), has been one of faith.

I have cried. I have laughed. I have made new friends. I have learned
so much. And I am looking forward to where the Lord puts me next.

As I was hooded during nursing convocation and then later received my diploma, I was reminded of a song that I have sung in choir:

"We walk by faith and not by sight, led by God's pure and holy Light.
Prepare us for the journey, Lord, and may we know Your power and might as we walk by faith and not by sight."

Clemson Lampost Moment
This journey is just beginning. I have taken the first couple of steps and cannot wait to see what adventures await!

Nursing Graduate Class of 2014

Chenille and I

Thomas and I after graduation! We made it!!!!
Thomas and I during graduation
-Got to love alphabetical order!

Can't believe it's done!

My beautiful sister, Charity, who has supported me through it all!

A true fortune!

The Diploma (that's one expensive paper!)

Chenille and I...
we made it!

Baby Lizzie's bib:
"My Aunt is the Best!"

(Go Tigers!)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Closing of a Chapter

Destination: Unknown
Total Miles: Unknown
Total Cost: Unknown

So...this blog has been tracking my many journeys, and I would be remiss if I failed to post about the ending of a journey that began over 5 years ago.

On Election Day 2008, I was finishing one of my last critical care clinicals of nursing school and was assigned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Spartanburg Regional. The day before, I had been complaining to a fellow senior nursing student how discouraged I was that I had not found my "niche" like so many of our classmates. She and I prayed and left it in God's hands. The next day, He made it very plain where my niche was: the NICU.

I loved every minute of those 7 hours. I loved the staff. I loved the babies. I loved going on deliveries. I loved it.

And when my instructor sent out an email the next day stating that the NICU at Spartanburg Regional had requested a practicum student for the Spring, I did the unthinkable: I changed from a safe bet in an ICU with a good friend to an unknown NICU. The 200+ hours I put in for my practicum in the Spring were grueling...and I loved every minute of it! I experienced the joy of new life and the sorrow of death. And when the manager approached me halfway through and offered me a job, I took it without looking back.

I spent 4 months in orientation and prep before heading to night shift.

And I've spent the last four years on night shift...probably some of the craziest years of my life!

I don't know how many hours I put in...the hours don't matter, honestly.

I don't know how many deliveries I went many babies I admitted or many bottles I many IVs I hindsight, none of the statistics are important.

What is far more important are the friendships I have made, the lessons I have learned, the babies I have seen grow from tiny 1+ pounders to toddlers, and the lives that have touched mine.

My coworkers and I have laughed and cried...we have supported each other even when we had our personal differences...and the list could go on and on.

I could list so many lessons that I have learned in the last five years...things they do NOT teach in nursing school...but I think I will share the six that come to mind:

1. Neonates will teach you how to defy all closely...even the tiniest is born with a pugnacious attitude.
2. Your coworkers are people. They have problems just like you, and sometimes they will bring those problems to work. Be willing to forgive and maybe offer a listening ear. Treat them as you want to be treated...with love and respect.
3. When people are put in new situations, they react differently. Just because a neonate's family was gruff earlier, do not assume they are always like that....they were just thrown into a scary new and unexpected world.
4. Remember, you are responsible for your response...(this one is sometimes harder than it sounds).
5. EVERY person that enters your world is important, whether their job is taking out the trash or fielding calls. Treat them as such. Just like you love to be recognized for doing a good job, take time to thank them, no matter how menial their task.
6. Neonatal nurses are a different breed. Spend enough time with them, and you won't be the same person. They will advocate for a patient and stand up to any one. Do not enter their unit without expecting some questioning stares or gruffness. They are extremely protective of their tiny patients. They will call a baby a 'troll' one minute and cuddle that baby the next. They have strong opinions, developed from countless hours spent discussing life. Behind that sometimes blunt exterior, there lies a heart of gold that has faced down death and said "Not today." They have seen what few others have: a first breath and a last. They are NICU nurses.

I have been privileged the last five years to work with some of the strongest people I know. As I close this chapter of my life, I must express my gratitude.

To each of my coworkers: nurses, doctors, respiratory terrorists (I mean, therapists), secretaries, cleaning staff, and transcriptionists...Thank you.

To all of my babies and their parents...Thank you.

I would not be the person I am today without each of you.

Through thick and thin...I am eternally grateful.

( all the Starbucks people...Thank you for the amazing hot chocolate and putting up with me, especially the last two years. I have maintained a semi-stable state of sanity largely impart because of your encouragement in those brief moments you hand me my tall extra-whip hot chocolates. Blessings!)