Still trusting God for the next steps: licensure and employment.
"Behold, I make all things new..." (Revelation 21:5)
I am ashamed to confess that my faith is like multiple generations of the Israelites who, even after deliverance from Egyptian slavery, began to doubt that God would do the next good thing. Just like those who walked across the Red Sea on dry land, I have come out of a bondage and through terrors all my own, only to stand in my current wilderness wondering what's next. I have no doubt that He can do a new, good thing or that He is sovereign over my every circumstance and condition, but I still find myself doubting that I would be the recipient of any more of His wonders. I know it is the religious prejudice in me that judges myself as unworthy of God's delight, but it is a profoundly deafening voice. I need to constantly recall that, through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"
The storm of nursing school has swirled to a single funneling cloud and it looms over this week, slurping up hope and spitting out turbulence that obscures my vision of deliverance. I remember Peter, who began to sink when he "saw the wind and waves" (Matthew 14:30), and I'm trying to keep my eyes on the Savior rather than my carnal condition, but the stinging surf laps at my ankles and the blistering winds blast my face.
Plotting a course through my obstacles feels like naming the winds and waves I see, but trusting God to get me past them requires I let go of my illusion of control and perfection concerning them. It also counts as prayer requests when I meter and chart them for you my prayer supporter. So know that this week is a torrential beast. On Tuesday I see a dermatologist to have several precancerous (actinic keratosis) lesions removed from my face. On Wednesday I take our unit exam. Then Thursday I will sit for the standardized nursing school exit (Hesi) exam, which determines whether I graduate and am eligible to sit for the national licensure (NCLEX) exam in about four weeks. Following that, we have our final exam next Wednesday, and the celebratory proceedings including the nurses' pinning ceremony on May 8th and college commencement on the 11th.
...through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"
I am surrounded by classmates, some of whom face this week without the advantage of knowing a Savior who has their future in His hands, some who do, and others like me who do but have a hard time keeping Him in view amid the thick, dark, cloudy demands of nursing school. I pray for them faithfully, even when I am too overwhelmed to pray for myself. I do so hope to encourage and inspire them rather than capsize anyone's already unsteady vessel!
This spiritual swamping is why I need friends like you on stable footing to throw out lifelines and prayer from dry land. I covet your intercession and thank you for your support. God bless you as you read, as you pray, and as you go into your own mission field of life, spilling out grace that overflows.
Cindy and I sort of have an agreement that we will not spend our household budget on inflated gifts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put something celebratory in her online profile.
“There’s nothing quite like a girl who's willing to put up with late night shifts, extended hours, insecurity regarding hubby's safety, taking care of things at home, and habitual control issues that can wear and tear on any relationship. My valentine is a champion! "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. ...Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:10-11, 29, NIV) Happy Valentine's Day, Cindy Lemmon!”
Her husband has full confidence in her......
Cindy’s had anything but a happy way of it lately. Our precious furry friend, Duke, took ill a couple months ago and we finally had to put him down. In his last days, Cindy broke her shoulder heroically cradling Duke instead of catching herself in a fall. She’s been nursing her gimpy fin ever since, dealing with intense pain and all the inconveniences of not being able to flap both wings, but she’s done it with a smile. As if pain and grief weren’t enough of a duo, they teamed up to form a villainous alliance with unmet deadlines at work, an upper respiratory infection, and the typical specks of irritation in any home or relationship that make everything chafe when rubbed together.
Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.
I’ve been so overwhelmed with Nursing School and whether I’m making a passing grade on any given day that I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. An honest inventory of the foes she’s fighting would include: my mid-life career change, being a Nursing School wife (every bit as demanding as police-wife), seemingly endless missionary preparations with ambiguous ministry launch plans and dates, plus all the stuff that goes in between like medical evaluations, surgery prospects, emptying nest, outstanding debt, and more. The truth is life is tough. But when the ones who live it give it what they’ve got and come out shining like my wife does, that’s a sparkling example of God’s refining fire at work.
I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV
Thank you for praying for my Valentine! She’s got her hands full and I’m not always the most attentive sidekick.
God has been correcting my attitude of trepidation that keeps His joy from being complete in me and limits my effect on others while I trudge through Nursing School. Since the last of four terms in the Associate Degree program starts tomorrow, it is a good time to address this.
I have addressed many in crisis, often in the wake of trauma, and one of the pearls I share in such times is that trauma, whether physical or emotional, causes the human body and mind to focus on self as a preservation mechanism. We need to expect it, address it, let it do its job of preserving our lives, then overcome it so interpersonal relationships aren’t overwhelmed and capsized by the experience. An example of this is the warrior shot in battle who loses peripheral sensation, manual dexterity, complex reasoning, and many other functions as the body focuses all its resources on the wound and survival from it. An emotional example is the grief shared by a family when a central member is lost. While each party recoils from the bereavement, their interpersonal sensitivity and capacity for consideration is shunted in a preserving mechanism of self-interest. Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds. Any who attempt to settle a relative’s estate while empathy is in such an impaired condition soon witness the self-serving effects of this biophysical reaction as an attitude of “every man for himself” prevails in such proceedings, often destroying family relationships.
Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds.
I am discovering it is similar for those in the tumultuous realm of Nursing School, where fear of failure makes every experience one of perceived trauma. It is something like teetering on a high balance beam when you’ve stumbled once already. Every muscle quakes with the trembling awareness that another slip may send you crashing. Every communique from the faculty seems to impale a student’s spirit with the same advice: “Try not to worry, but if you screw this up you’re out!” It is about as helpful as the dubious advice, “Don’t look down!” to one scraping for their lives on a rock face. I’m tired of looking down and worrying about what happens if the unknown ahead of me is unfavorable. The immutable truth is that God will still be on His throne, and I will still be His no matter what happens. So what is there to worry about? Nothing! (Someone please remind me this in twenty minutes.) God is fashioning me into a nurse. It is not an overnight process. He might be done in four terms and He might take longer. Either way, I will be answering His call to “become a nurse” so I’m fulfilling my part. The rest is to be diligent and live out my calling as a missionary while I’m at it, rather than waiting for some far off day when I am somehow magically transfigured into something I haven’t been.
To grow into tomorrow’s version of me, I have to be today’s best version. That may mean letting go of a lot of yesterdays worth of dysfunctional living, but it most certainly means letting God do the whittling and plastering instead of insisting that I get to be art, artist, and architect. His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts, and neither is His timing mine. That’s the tough part of servanthood: doing what the Master says instead of what I want; letting the results be His design and not mine; allowing Him to fret over the details instead of me. I don’t have a dog in this hunt; I am the dog in this hunt!
One of the ways I plan to accomplish this revolution of attitude is a new way of thinking. When I start my morning reading Scripture and praying, it is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance (especially when reading Old Testament Scripture). God is showing me that I have no business remaining on the floor of repentance once it has done its work. He longs to lift me into His lap if I will but stand in His grace and allow Him access to lift me. Still, we worms have great difficulty standing with no feet to stand on. That is why I plan to limit my morbid reflection to that which is necessary to lead me to Holy Papa’s throne of repentance then, without delay, move into a receptive attitude to receive His grace, declare my royal priesthood, and don His heavenly character with the authority and confidence of one purchased at high price.
It is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance...
This morning, I invited my bride to join me in such a celebration as we took the Lord’s Supper together. The sacraments do have significant power to change spirit, emotion, and attitude! Even as the elements were blessed, those words of affirmation began to have effect.
Furthermore, I was reminded that, since we will be called to account for every idle word, I need to be more careful of the words I say, the thoughts I think, and the postures I assume. Each has a bearing on my faith, and I refuse to be hung by the tongue.
I am. I can. I have. I will!
I am. I can. I have. I will!
What about you?
This has been a monster week for me, and I must confess the disturbance has not fully given way to sabbatical just yet with final exam grades yet to be posted and some health issues being investigated today. There was little doubt that I would pass my class going into the final exam since, according to my obsessive calculations, I only need a 46% on that test to achieve a passing overall grade (76% gets me a B, and an A is not possible since it would require 111%). Grades are expected to post some time this week.
Just one week ago, I was on an ego roller coaster, receiving word that I had been accepted into the honor society for associate degree nursing students just before the news that I had failed a previous exam. A dear friend stunned me when she responded to my report with a commendation. Here is the exchange:
Me: I failed (the exam) but God owns the outcomes.
Friend: Yes he does. His ways are so interesting. I'm so happy that your outlook has changed. It was painful to see you flog yourself after a perceived fail. Thank-you for letting me see another miracle today. I love you brother.
I often hear it said that one can make a mistake without claiming they are a mistake. Apparently God is bringing about a transformation in me significant enough to align me with the grace in that statement. I have exercised application of that principle to "mistakes," but the word "failure" resists adherence to the same rule. I am slowly coming to recognize that I can fail a test, whether written or lived, without being a failure. Nursing school is certainly teaching me that, since I have failed several written exams over the course of this venture, and still God has managed the outcomes so that I was inducted Monday into the Alpha Delta Nu Honor Society. Miraculously, even the failure of a week ago was turned around after a faculty review of the exam.
Somehow, the obsessive perfectionist in me refuses to die, and yet I can say with ultimate certainty that there is no such thing as a satisfied perfectionist. Einstein's definition of insanity feels far too fitting: "doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." Furthermore, if I insist on condemning myself even while my Heavenly Father extends me grace, then the wrong one of us is in the Judge's chair. I was reminded this week that, no matter how often I dethrone and place myself at God's feet, the Good Father is never content to leave me there, but gently lifts me up onto His lap and celebrates my sonship which I did not earn, but which He bought at great price. The ultimate irony is that in relationship with Heavenly Papa, I am elevated higher and more securely than I could ever be sitting alone on a throne meant for the Master of the universe.
I'm having a hard time knowing where to stand between a position of faith and one of humility and diligent stewardship. On one hand, I know that I need to let go of every aspect of control in order to let God have complete rule of my life. On the other hand, I am told to be diligent, to strive after knowledge and wisdom with everything I have, and to pursue learning as a precious jewel. Every time I share my concern about Wednesday's final exam I am met with well-meaning statements of faith: "Oh you know God will be there for you," "You've got this, and there is no reason to worry," "Oh, I'm not even concerned because I know God will give you the grade you need." I just can't be so presumptuous to expect God will do everything I want Him to do every time I want Him to do it that I shirk my responsibility to diligently study.
I'm reminded of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into the fire. Before their date with the furnace, they exclaimed that the God of Heaven was able to deliver them, but that even if He didn't they would never bow to the idol (Daniel 3:16-18). I want to stand like that, completely assured that God is capable of getting me through this and delivering the miracle I believe I need, but content to know that, even if He doesn't, I will walk in His way for me.
To put it more in terms of Elijah, I believe that the altar has been built, the trench has been dug around it, the wood and the offering have been saturated, and the ground all around is soaked with water (1 Kings 18:30-39). What I need now is fire from Heaven to come and blaze for the glory of God in my grade-book. But even if God chooses instead to administer a lesson of patience and humility, I will walk in His way for me.
This last session was a snarling grizzly bear from which I only narrowly escaped by the grace of God. I am reminded that while God said, “Become a nurse,” He didn’t call me to get straight As or maintain my place on the President’s List. It’s a good thing! After failing three of the six written tests of the past seven weeks, I will scrape by with what I calculate to be the lowest passing grade plus two and a fraction points. God is capitalizing even the scary moments of overwhelm to His glory, and refining my character by and in the process. He reminded me that He, and He alone, can only be as consistent as perfection, and that my part is to get out of my own way and lean into trust. Every obstacle ends with His sovereignty - every one!
“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalms 131:2 NLT
Let me share some highlights of my recent clinical rotations that I found affirming. Those I served were highly complimentary, many remarking that I was the most caring healthcare worker they had ever met. I silently hoped no one told them how new I was, and I met each instance with the prayer that I would always maintain the focus to make each person I deal with the most important thing to me at that moment. In the operating room from behind a surgical mask, I learned the power of touch and the communication of the eyes, as I watched sheer terror on the face of an 80 year-old man melt away with just a smile, a reassuring word, and a hand held. Rather than just observing, I made myself a part of the surgical team that day, and each member expressed what I believe was genuine regret at seeing me go and commended my compassionate fitness for Nursing. My medical-surgical patients bonded with me, and often saw me as their point of contact, even though I was shadowing a supervising nurse at all times. It was a strange and wonderful feeling when, even in a room full of more qualified healthcare professionals, a patient sought me for support and comfort while the others addressed her care. I was permitted to pray with some patients, and readily capitalized the opportunity. A nursing assistant who observed my work on the medical-surgical block asked me if I was also a missionary, then said the reason for her question was, “You just seem like someone who would be a missionary.” I can’t tell you what a pat on the shoulder from Holy Father that was!
With all the struggling in the classroom and the affirmation of the clinical practice, the biggest changes over the last seven week session have actually been in my personal growth. God is teaching me how better to pray: to take the dominion He gave Adam (Mankind), combine it with the authority of Jesus’ name, and call for God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it. Furthermore, I am reminded that I cannot expect to treat everyone as the most important thing to me in their moment without treating my precious bride with the same priority at least daily. So much gets brushed aside in preference of the business at hand, what is important gets neglected. I need to make the priority of marital unity an intentional part of my day. Last, and perhaps most altering, is the recognition that the sinister voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough or I won’t measure up, is a mental foothold of Satan that has no business in the mind of a blood-bought child of God. Man’s dominion of Earth begins in the individual mind.
I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it.
And so, I close with this prayer I prayed for a hurting sister recently. It stirred my spirit so much, I wept over it and her; and as I reread it discovered it was exactly what I would pray for myself or any of my siblings in Heaven’s family, including you just now:
May the Master of the universe calm your storms. May you see past your wind and waves, to visualize His face guiding your path. May the water at your ankles serve to remind you that the Creator of their molecules also ordered yours to have dominion over this dark world; that you are highly esteemed by Him, betrothed to be delivered from the veil that now obscures your true reality: you are vibrantly alive in a world dusty with the ashes of death - you are destined for a royalty that will never tarnish, corrode, or decay. May the sufferings of this dirt world remind you that you have died to it and are merely preparing to be at home in holiness. May every moment of pain be capitalized as motivation for compassion when, in future moments, you discover another weary soul feebly crossing through their shadowy valleys of fear, anxiety, and despair. May your kindness and gentleness be evidences of God's grace working through you, for His purposes and by His providence. May you live to see this dark day as one in which you turned another revolution of renewal. As seasons ring the pulp of a tree, so may your experiences leave their mark on your spiritual growth. May God grant you, now and always, knowledge of His will for you, resource to carry it out, and faith to see His hand at work for His purposes in Christ Jesus our Redeemer-King, amen!
Prayer partners, please share in my grateful praise to God for the news I received last week: I am the recipient of a full scholarship for the rest of my Associates Degree Nursing program, including books and school fees. God did what I could not do, and filled in the gaps I saw no bridge to cross. He is amazing!
Furthermore, I managed to find a new home for the truck I obtained for interim transportation, and replaced it with a more economical sedan, ideal for a commuting student nurse. God just keeps smoothing over rough places and making ways where there appeared no way.
I know that the view while climbing uphill always seems empty, but as I crest each obstacle I find the horizon always opens up to new opportunities, resources, and motivation to drive onward. Thanks for standing in the gap for me through so many various climbs. The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills also owns all the hills; so I, one of His blood-bought heirs, lack nothing. Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! My tuition got paid and the books, supplies, and uniforms have been purchased. Nursing School began Wednesday, ushering me into a new phase of life. I’ve pushed out of the cocoon of the idle fall term, shed the crusty title of retiree, and emerged as one of many new Associate Degree Nursing Students. I’ve already made new contacts among my cohort, which experienced nurses tell me will become like a family of fast friends. Together we are all working out the kinks of a brand new curriculum on a new, all-electronic textbook format. It is nice to know that no one is ahead or behind. I am not expected to lead or follow, but to grow alongside my equally unsettled classmates. God, who called me, equips me, and purposes me, will not fail to escort me to and through this new stage of development
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
There was neither fanfare nor chiming of any bells to mark the occasion, but the local state college has upgraded me from “provisionally accepted” to a registered nursing student, with classes beginning January 6th. Among the voluminous correspondence received by applicants was a study guide along with a hint that there would be a test administered on orientation day. Measurements, ratios, conversions, dosage calculations, medical terminology, and abbreviations, much of which looked like Greek to me, was to be mastered by Monday, November 16th. True to my nature, I studied every jot and tittle until I had found every typographical error in the packet and unraveled every mystery within its pages, but not without some measure of anxiety. There was that little voice in the dark corner of my mind whispering that I would not measure up, be enough, win the prize, shine brightly, or whatever it was I was after. Without my devotional exercises reminding me Whose and what I am, I surely would have been pierced by those fiery darts of the destroyer.
When I arrived for orientation, I was surprised at the number of future nurses who were completely unprepared for any such exam. “What study material?” was repeated by more than one horrified face gathered around me. Later, when the topic of the dosage calculation and medical terminology test came up, the proctor dismissed it as merely one of the many forms that would be passed out, signed, and turned in. It was, she said, just a pre-test to determine where the collective starting point was for the group. The “test” was actually a single leaf of paper with twenty questions on it, and would in no way count toward anyone’s grade. Simultaneously, I was relieved for my friends who had not prepared, disappointed that I had prepared so diligently and would receive no credit for it, and ashamed that I had worried for nothing. When will I ever learn to just do my best and let God control the results?
It was a good thing I received that remedial lesson in not fretting, because when I finished registering for classes I was shown the bill for the next two semesters. The amount was staggering, but includes all electronic books. I have been in person and on the phone with every financial aid, loan, and scholarship office available to me, but it looks like I will need $1,200 by tomorrow, November 19th. Those in authority have told me to wait until just before 7:00 pm to contact any of the others in authority, but by then offices will be closed and students will begin being dropped from classes for non-payment. The confusing, conflicting information I received boils down to a choice to go deeper into debt even though scholarships have not yet been awarded or risk being dropped from the nursing program. I sure am glad I learned not to fret! The God who owns all the cattle and all the hills on which they graze will make a way for this to all smooth out.
Dear Father, today, help me surrender the worries to You and to be obedient with the steps You orchestrate as I reach them, never more than one at a time.
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I have been collecting letters of reference and crafting my scholarship application. Below is the essay I wrote to describe my career and education goals, work experience, community involvement, and current predicament. If you're new to this blog, I hope it's a good way to catch up.
In the late nineteen-eighties, there was no college requirement to become a police officer. I was drawn to public service, and so gave up my job pumping aviation fuel at the local municipal airport and went to work protecting and serving for our county Sheriff. That our security was directly dependent on our physical mobility was a fact most of my peers avoided considering. The truth was that without any post-secondary education or training outside our specific field, should any one of us lose a trigger finger or the ability to jump and run, we would be up a very narrow financial creek without a proverbial paddle. Twenty-five years later, only as I have come to the end of that particular creek have I ventured out into greater waters, frantically scrambling for headway with my police pension serving as makeshift oars as I have returned to college pursuing a nursing degree.
When the idea of switching professions was new, I discovered I was entering a field that was undergoing drastic changes. The American medical field rumbled from Presidential mandates and newly enacted laws that shook many doctors into retirement or relocation and shifted emphasis toward nurses. Nursing was responding to changes with advancing education requirements. Associate degreed registered nurses with decades of experience were expected to quickly advance to Baccalaureate degrees. I knew I needed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to serve in this changing climate.
At the same time, I was confronted with a grievous need on the other side of the globe. While westerners gulp seven-dollar espressos and drive luxury sport sedans, our brothers and sisters in the East walk six miles a day to heft barrels of filthy water onto their heads and shoulders to present it as the only means of hydration and sanitation for their families, many of whom die from preventable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. The reality of this inequity weighed on my heart, and my wife and I began to consider serving as missionaries. As our love for the hurting would not be silenced in our hearts, we committed to move to Uganda to serve where an estimated 2.6 million children are orphaned by war and disease.
Just after I retired my gun and badge, my bride and I set out to meet the land and people to which we had devoted our futures – Uganda. We introduced ourselves to over a dozen missionaries from nearly as many different missions as we made a circuit around the country. We discovered a people eager to smile, content with their labor, and dependent on a beautiful land filled with want, disease, corruption, and difficulty. Twice we found ourselves in police stations where a newly abandoned child needed attention. The desperation for food, water, and clothing outweighs the human connection of family, and the stigma of AIDS still looms like a death sentence on this uneducated population, thrusting need into despair. The Lemmons fell in love with Uganda, their some-day home.
Our lofty plans and higher ideals screeched and burned like landing gear tread on the runway as our feet again touched U.S. soil. Our burden now is bridging from here to there, building a retired police officer into a useful missionary nurse. The first step is education. I need a degree. The obstacle is finances. A police pension and a wife’s wage keep the roof patched and the lights on, but tuition, books, uniforms, skills kits, and testing all takes money our budget does not allow. The demand for excellence precludes working while in school unless absolutely necessary, and so I am compelled to petition for scholarships, loans, and external support.
My extra-curricular involvement centers around my church, as I am a section leader in the church choir, serve in the nursery, and enjoy contributing to children’s and youth events several times throughout the year. I was recently inducted into the Emmaus community, a religious organization outside my church. At school, I have involved myself in the ASL (American Sign Language) Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have supported my peers by forming a study group to which as many as five Anatomy and Physiology students have flocked, several of which have become great friends which I mentor even now. I look forward not only to what I will receive from applying myself to my scholastic endeavors, but to what I can leave in the relationships I make on the way. Every one of us is on a mission field of sorts, sharing what we are with those we contact. I may have a grand destination, but the journey itself is the mission at hand.
I have an amazing encouragement support network. Even my postal clerk was vigilantly checking my box, eager for the chance to congratulate me upon receiving this good news. As I opened the large white envelope with all the enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, I was surprised to find that a congratulatory greeting was not the first thing out of the package. Where I would have expected it was a laundry list of things to do, prove, and buy, along with very strong warnings not to miss deadlines which were emphatically repeated in multicolor boldface. About three pages back was a letter that began with the word “congratulations” but the context was even less celebratory than its position in the packet or its peculiarly small and plain font.
“Provisionally accepted” are the terms which describe my current status. They hit me like Mother’s “maybe” (if you can remember those). Some of the provisos about which I have no concern are a background check, fingerprinting, and drug screening, but the one that slows my hallelujah roll is the physical exam. I was almost excluded from being a police officer decades ago because of a spinal condition of which I had no knowledge and even since have had no symptoms. Since then I've aged a bit and lost enough of my hearing to require correction. This struggle with a stethoscope seems far more relevant than whether my vertebrae connect to the tailbone. Perhaps it is in my human nature to be cautious before celebration, or perhaps it is just plain doubt, but either way, my prayer warriors should know to shift from focusing on the acceptance letter to the tedious processing that now follows.
I have ordered most of my supplies and uniforms, have submitted my drug screen sample and fingerprints, and am checking off my to-do list as I go. There will be a basic skills pre-test at our orientation, November 15th, and I am studying for that, brushing up on fractions, ratios, learning how many drops are in a milliliter, how to convert milliliters to teaspoons and tablespoons, and things like that.
Meanwhile, Cindy is on her Walk to Emmaus (a weekend spiritual experience, similar to a retreat but with too many differences to call it one), so I'm playing the bachelor at home, trying to ready the place to surprise her when she returns. In between trying to find a men's nursing shoe and properly size myself up for white scrubs, I’m cleaning and repairing to beat the band, and praying fervently for her and the other lady pilgrims on her walk.
I was confronted with a very basic principle during a chapel visit on my walk last weekend. I confessed to those with me that I have a basic fear of not being enough. As I worked it out in meditation, God reminded me that I most certainly am NOT enough, but that no man is. “All…have fallen short” (Romans 3:23, excerpted for emphasis), “but,” God seemed to continue, “I AM!” So the passage in Romans continues, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24, NIV). I am redeemed, not just from sin and its eternal consequence, but from failure, from not measuring up, from falling short of the glory of God. Who am I to counterfeit the glory of His perfection anyway? I don't have to impersonate the Victor. His victory is already mine by His grace! My sufficiency is not in my bones, my ears, my aptitude, or my grand plans, but in Christ Jesus alone. There’s my hallelujah roll!
Thanks, everyone! Please keep praying.
It happened this morning when I confidently strode into the Nursing School Administration office to submit my application for the Fall semester. It was promptly rejected by the director of the program, who informed me that the classes in which I am currently enrolled must be completed before I submit my application. This sets back my admission into Nursing School another semester, to Spring, 2016.
Bad news number two was the kind that rattles faith and shakes foundations. I have been engaged in what can only be described as fervent and faithful intercessory prayer on behalf of my cousin, who was expecting a child with complications. I was forced to concede the battle Tuesday, when the news came that my unborn second cousin graduated directly to Heaven without taking a breath.
Bad news number one was merely an appetizer for these later two disappointments. It had to do with a mechanical failure on my 1997 pickup truck that amounted to about $1,200 in repairs. This seems trivial next to the loss of a baby and a rejected Nursing School application, but when one doesn’t have $1,200 and is trying to find a way to pay for school on a fixed pension income, it at least constitutes bad news number one.
I know that God’s will is better and higher than mine, and that there is surely some concealed reason for these hiccups in what I would vainly call “my plan.” I am certain that I am doing what I was called to do, and that God’s purposes, not my vanity, will be served. I am critically searching myself for any sins of the flesh to which these annoyances may be trying to direct my attention. Perhaps I said, “I start Nursing School in the Fall,” too many times without adding, as James 4:15 exhorts, “If it is God’s will.” Maybe I suffer from a case of overconfidence in self. Maybe God is just trying to protect me, my cousin, and my budget from unseen struggles we will never be fully exposed to. Whatever the case, I am content to offer up my expectations as sacrifices to God, and to let Him operate the universe as He sees fit rather than as I would have it. Still, though I am not a superstitious person and do not believe in luck, after this very disappointing week, I sincerely hope that three is the limit of my bad news for a while.
I planned to retire in March and, after celebrating 25 years of service in January, did just that on March 14th.
I set out to tour Uganda, where God has called me to prepare to work as a missionary nurse. In April, my precious bride and I set out and met our future home as well as some very dear friends we made while in that country. There, God gave us a glimpse into what our future will hold and a burning desire to drive toward that mission.
I planned to return to school as a full-time student, tackling that fear which kept me from getting a college education all these years. I marched through the doors of my classes, made myself at home, and achieved higher marks than I ever imagined I could and made some friends who will be accompanying me in my preparatory track for nursing school and perhaps beyond.
I committed to develop my physical training program to include more than the rudimentary getting off the couch three times a week, and in March bought my first pair of running shoes. With training and a coaching mobile application, I progressed to a 5k then 10k run, then graduated on my own and finished the year by running my first half marathon.
I committed to getting a rein on my finances, and my bride and I have graduated from Mvelopes financial coaching “boot camp” and are well on our way to paying off our debts. The exception to this is a new student loan, which I obtained to meet the needs of this year’s tuition costs while both of us were briefly unemployed.
I renewed my commitment to do my part to maintain my weight and, as of this day, God has held me steady at my goal weight for three years and two hundred two days.
Looking ahead, I hope to keep up my grade point average. The adult 4.0 still balances against the sins of my youth to end up somewhere in the high 3s. I plan to graduate with my associate of arts degree following the summer term, during which I will also apply and (God willing) be accepted into nursing school. The fun will really begin in the fall term of 2015, when I hope to be a full-fledged nursing student. Allegedly those are creatures without social lives, forced into isolated study. I will be approaching it as a spiritual exercise, tackling each next obstacle as a fulfillment of my calling.
As for the rest, I am looking forward to keeping on doing what I am doing: seeking God’s purposes in my daily life and fulfilling them to the best of my ability; harming none I don’t have to and helping as many as I have the opportunity and resource; building myself and others up and abstaining from behaviors that would tear me or them down. In 2015 I want to leave the world better than I found it in 2014.
After developing a plan, I marched into my guidance adviser's office this morning to get her approval. There, I received both encouragement and constructive criticism of our laboriously developed plan. The great reminder was: when it comes to nursing school, many apply but few are chosen. I was cautioned to craft my academic schedule to facilitate the best study patterns and the highest grades. "Straight As is what it takes to get in!" my counselor advised. She told me the fact that I am male and no longer a teenager were points in my favor, but said my "minority" status was no guarantee of admission.
She also gave me some sound wisdom concerning plans and contingencies. Where I had whittled out every class I might not need, she encouraged me to take the ones I might need, in case I am accepted into this school but not that. I tweaked my schedule, adding classes I celebrated dropping the night before, and penciling in future ones I had hoped I could avoid, just to keep my options open.
The bottom line is this: pending timely acceptance into either the nearby University or my current community college in the Fall of 2015, I should (God willing) graduate with my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing at the end of Summer, 2017. I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least the tunnel is dug.
Okay, God, the gopher wood for this ark is stacked and the blueprints are dry. I've got a long way to go before sailing day and there's not a cloud in the sky. I'm counting on You for the resources and the outcomes. Help me to be diligent and honorable as I set about Your purpose.