Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spiritual Leftovers

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I've felt the need repeatedly lately to come to God daily for strength for that specific day.

My week day mornings are crazy and rushed but I've found that I can  take 5 minutes, right after I wake up, to sit on the edge of the bed and read some Word and pray.  I've found that  I look forward to it, that this is one of my favorite times of my day.  Saturdays are my only day to sleep in a bit and to have a relaxed, extended time with God and that's my most favorite.

I've been impressed that I can't rely on yesterday's strength to keep me going through today's problems.  I'm reminded of how in Exodus 16 God gave His people just enough manna to sustain them for that day.  If they tried to take extra so they wouldn't have to go out and get it the next day, it became filled with maggots (except for the day prior to the Sabbath, because the Sabbath was the day for rest God let them gather up twice as much the day prior and the manna didn't go bad then).

Life brings so many challenges every day, and I realize more and more that I'm just not strong enough, smart enough, creative enough, or energetic enough to do it on my own.  I need to be connected to God my source.  A favorite author of mine, Richard Foster, through his books taught me about a Quaker practice called centering.  Unfortunately, there's some controversy about centering prayer, but for me all it means is to get rid of all the other distractions of life and give myself anew to God, to seek to become more sensitive to God's Holy Spirit within me.  I like the word centering because it represents how I want my life to be centered on Christ.

I find that without that time daily I still become centered, only it's on me and not on Him.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weird Work Stuff

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This job is definitely the biggest roller coaster ride I've ever been on.

I've shared before how:
I was just thrown into opening up the medical department of this newly opening facility without any knowledge or training on the company's polices or procedures, without having ever walked into or seen a functioning medical department with this company or any other correctional facility, without anyone to mentor me or show me the way, and without any prior exposure to ICE.  I've lamented here about all the over the top long hours I was working to try to figure it all out and put it all together, while building a team and training my staff (not to mention while taking care of patients).  The customer ICE wasn't happy so the company finally brought in someone  as my boss and made me the assistant Health Services Administrator (H.S.A.).  This new boss had worked in corrections for around 14 years, had worked for this company 2 years, was an RN, and and had worked as an H.S.A. for a few years.

I've complained about all the challenges with my new boss over the past 5 months, but I've also shared some about how God's worked.  How I kept praying that God would change my heart and then, one day when this new boss shared about her lack of friends, I started finding it easy to love her.

Love's like that you know; we just love people how they are.  Even though they have flaws and irritate us, we just can't help it, we still love them.  It started being that way with my boss; don't get me wrong, she still drove me crazy with her lack of leadership and planning, and her dumping stuff on me, and the way she thinks she's being direct with people but she's really being mean.  But I also started appreciating how thoroughly she knew the company's policies, how good she is at administrative stuff like organizing employee files, getting policy books together, and getting medical records organized, and her clinical skills and knowledge as a nurse.  I stopped even trying to get her to get together with me frequently so that we could game plan together and just started going with the flow since that was my only option.  Interestingly enough she started coming to my office and seeking me out and sometimes that game planning happened after all.  Other times I had the opportunity to just emotionally be there for her.  If anyone could understand her struggles and challenges in her job it was me.

To my surprise this past week they walked my new boss off the job.  They let her go from this job because the customer ICE is not happy with her.

Basically the same thing happened to her as happened to me.

Like me, the company didn't fire her.  They demoted her to being a floor nurse at another correctional facility.  She'd moved here from Colorado, so they paid her moving expenses back there and gave her a job at a facility of theirs in Colorado.

Imagine my pleasure and gratefulness to read these words she emailed me the day after she left:
" Miss u already. U deserve so much more. Keep your chin up and I think of u as one of the few friends I have tracy!"

Wow.  You just never know what's going to happen.

When the warden and the regional director came to my office to talk to me after she'd left I was glad for how different I felt then when 5 months ago I was with these men and a couple of other "suits" in the warden's office being demoted.    This day I felt confident, I had energy (before I'd been working so many hours that I was just plain frazzled and used up), and there was a certain sense of detachment.  Although I still work  hard, still seek to have a vision and a plan for the big picture as well as the daily details one, and every day I want God to minister to others through me, I've already been disillusioned with the job and this company and am just not concerned about what they think of me.

I told them that I really liked ___________ (my boss' name).  The warden told me "me too".  Then the warden talked about what an extremely easy person I am to get along with, and he spoke with an air of this being an unusual thing; I'm hoping that somehow this might be a witness to him about God.  The warden and regional told me some concerns that the customer had and I didn't act worried; I let them know even more details about those issues and others like them and how I'd fixed the specific problems, what we were doing systemically to prevent those problems, and about the tools we had already created and were working on creating to conduct ongoing quality checks to ensure we avoid these pitfalls.  The regional first of all was confused about "tools" and then wanted me to have myself or someone else check every single provider order to follow it through and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks (it needs to be mentioned here that we have hundreds of orders daily).  I explained about the double-check on the orders that we'd just trained on twice over the past two weeks that still isn't being consistently done.  I continued to be candid and let him know that this in itself won't perfectly ensure that no follow up items fall through the cracks and that I'm working on figuring out how to monitor/prevent these things from occurring.  I could tell he wasn't happy with my response but I was confident in the truth of what I was saying and the fact that I'm right.  And I really don't care what he wants to hear because I know I'm doing my best and if he's got someone with some real, down and gritty, answers I'm totally open to hearing them and working with them.  The warden talked just like he did in the meeting where they demoted me about how much they appreciate me; who knows if this is real or not but I can at least rest in the assurance that I'm seeking to do exactly what God desires for me.

Later the warden's secretary came to me to help her with some stuff she wasn't sure about.  She told me how much she admires my attitude.  I told her that God's good and I'm grateful; I also told her that ICE is really difficult to work with!  She said that she'd use a much stronger word than difficult.

So who knows what tomorrow will bring at this job.

I continue to pray for another job and keep my eyes open and apply when anything comes along.  But I also continue to acknowledge that maybe, and apparently, God wants me here for now.  So may I be obedient every day that I am.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I've gotta remember that my kid's lives are theirs

Warning: This is a rambling post where I'm sorting out my feelings about some things.

I'm grateful for Kelsie. Kelsie came into our lives in an interesting way.

During the second semester of his freshman year in college my middle son, Dylan, had messed up and lost his college football scholarship.  I never learned all the details, but it somehow involved marijuana.  Dylan had apparently been so ashamed that he never even directly talked to me about the whole thing; he just called his biological father.  I will say for his dad, this time he acted wisely.  His dad did not bring him back to me because he knew all the struggles I'd had with Dylan over these very kinds of issues during his senior year of high school; plus, his  friends in our area were the very people with whom he enjoyed partying.  So his dad took Dylan to Phoenix Arizona, a city where several members of his dad's family live.  His dad's youngest brother JJ let Dylan live with him for a few weeks and even let him work some for him to earn money. Dylan went job hunting every day and eventually ended up with a part time minimum wage job in a food joint that, combined with the money he earned from JJ, allowed him to move into a room he would rent from someone.  Dylan's dad helped out with the initial deposit to rent the room.

Dylan wasn't too happy in his living situation.  He's a people person and he was lonely.  He was renting a room in a small 3-bedroom condo, where a man and his 20-something son lived; he didn't know these people and felt awkward.  But he also knew that he'd gotten himself into the situation. So Dylan started looking in the classifieds for a different room to rent.

Kelsie had ended up in a 2-bedroom apartment but now her roommate was gone so she was advertising in the classifieds.  Dylan responded to Kelsie's ad.  Kelsie did not rent to Dylan and, in fact, Dylan helped Kelsie move her furniture into a 1-bedroom apartment that she decided to rent.  They had fun together when Dylan helped her move.  So they started spending time together and fell in love.

Then Dylan decided to move in with Kelsie.

I've got to tell you that I struggled with this one.  I believe in marriage - not living together.  I believe in taking the time to get to know one another, to develop a friendship, to let love grow, to then get engaged and afterward get married.  I believe that sex was designed by God to be within the context of marriage.  But the bottom line here is that we're not talking about my life here - we're talking about the life of my son who was 19 years old at this time.

On the good side, Dylan stopped smoking dope, he got a full time job that paid close to 23% above minimum wage, and he started back to college at the local community college.  I believe that it was Dylan who made these healthy choices, but I also believe that Kelsie was a major source of encouragement. It's obvious that Dylan is crazy in love with Kelsie; and he's the kind of person that he'll do anything for the one he loves.  Kelsie is practical and grounded; she's also a bit older than Dylan and, in some ways, is more mature.  I remember her visiting us with Dylan around this time and sharing with me that she knew about some of the bad stuff Dylan had been into.  Kelsie's attitude toward marijuana can be summed up in these words of her's: "dope makes you lazy".

Then one day I get a call from Dylan telling me that I'm going to be a grandmother.  I was stunned; too stunned to be able to process.  I don't really even know what I said to Dylan.  I remember talking with Kelsie soon after this and her telling me that this wasn't how she'd planned it, but that sometimes life just happens and you've got to go with it.  Dylan talked to me about the fact that they are very young, he does not have a good job or career, neither of them has health insurance.  He said they talked about the fact that many people would just end the pregnancy, but that they couldn't do this - this was their child, a real human being.

So I helped them pay for self insurance for the prenatal care and delivery.  They found out that this baby is a girl and they named her Lillian Eden White.  Since they needed all the money he earned, Dylan started selling his plasma and saved that money and bought a ring for Kelsie.  They drove to the Grand Canyon on their off days because she's never been there.  They camped out for a night and then, on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Dylan asked Kelsie to marry him and she said yes.

But they didn't set a date for the wedding.  They've just changed their life status to engaged.  They're going to give birth to Lilly while they remain engaged but not married.  I struggle with this.  But again, this is their lives - not mine.

They've spent their time off at garage sells and looking in the classifieds.  They were blessed to be able to find a house to rent that only costs a bit more than they were paying to rent their 1-bedroom apartment so they moved.  They've gotten the nursery in order and I was delighted to find that Kelsie liked the things I sent them for Lilly's room; that we share some of the same decorating tastes. 

Dylan told me about a speech he had to give for his speech class.  The assignment was to give a speech about someone who was a source of inspiration for him.  He said that other students spoke about professional athletes or musicians, but that he talked about Lilly.  He talked about how he used to just live for himself and fun, but that he's fallen in love with his baby to be born - Lilly.  That, because he wants good for Lilly, he's changed his priorities and the way he lives.  He said he got an A on that speech.  I cried when he told me about it; I asked if anyone else teared up and he said that a few of the girls in his class did.

Dylan has taken on working on his off days to earn extra money.  He just finished his first semester there and got good grades while working full time. He calls me once a week and shares with me what's going in their lives.  I can tell that he feels good about himself and all that he's accomplishing and that he's still crazy in love with Kelsie and excited about the birth of Lilly.

If I let myself I could worry about them.  He's only 20 and she's 25.  Their history together is brief to be living together and having a child together.  I know what a blessing and what a stress a newborn baby can be.  They don't have much money.  So instead of worrying, I pray for them a lot. I pray that God would bring people into their lives that they like and can relate to who love Him.  I pray that He would bring them to Himself and that He would teach them how to love each other. That God would strengthen them and keep them together.  I try to be a source of encouragement.

During one of his weekly phone calls recently Dylan announced to me that he's decided that, after Lilly is born, he needs to get back into church.  That children need church, that this is where they get their moral grounding and are around others of like values.  He said that he's talked with Kelsie about it and they're going to do this.  What I wish I'd heard is that he's fallen in love with Jesus and wants to be in community.  However, I'll take what I can get.  At least this is a step in the right direction.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A college student - Again

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I'm 52 years old.  Many people see that as middle aged and time to be settled; but I don't feel old, I just feel like me.

I've been considering going back to school for the past few years.  I'd been concerned if all the time and money I'd end up spending to get by masters, would come back to me in terms of job position and earnings. Then, toward the end of last year I'd heard  a preacher speaking about being a person of excellence in everything you do.  He'd mentioned that in this job market you have to be learning new skills and growing every day.  I can say that I've learned all kinds of new skills over the past year and a half I've been at this job, but I just felt impressed to go for my masters.

So I applied to a  college that has both a residential and an online option to obtain my MA in Health Administration.  My husband is supportive but, if he were to be totally candid, thinks it's silly and too ambitious at my age.  But the more I've looked into it, the more I want to increase my skills.  I want to do more; not for the sake of money, power, or prestige, but to be better able to make a difference.

My main mission, or heart's yearning, has always been to extend God's mercy and grace to people who are hurting.  Every job I've had in the last 3 decades has been about that for me.  So it's not by mistake that the school I've picked to apply to was founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy

Although I've constantly learned through the jobs I've held, and pursued some certifications through the years that have required me study to pass state and federal exams, I have not been in a formal college setting since 1983; that's 30 years!  Going back to school will definitely be an opportunity to daily come to my stronghold.
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