October 31, 2011

Spend Yourself {Day 29} :: If you ...

When you start living loved, you find new room to breathe. Because the opposite of living loved is living claustrophobic ... all closed up in fear. Ann Voskamp says "fear is the notion that God's goodness ends."

I don't think I ever believed God's goodness would end ... maybe just hover on the verge of drying up. Figured He would eventually get tired ... of same ol' me.

Because we can know gospel truth, but not really live it.

I spent so much of my young life becoming an approval addict, trying to grasp at praise from others in order to be okay. By the time I was a young-married, I still wasn't sure who I was if someone didn't tell me. I had found freedom in so many areas and I was living whole, behaviorally speaking. But sometimes the heart is the last to catch up and I job- hopped every year or so ... unsure of what I had to offer or what I was made for.

I worked in different places, alongside Todd in ministry and in the hospitals too. I was great with kids and good at nursing skills, but I couldn't self critique and couldn't handle ambiguous feedback. Couldn't handle a 90-day review, never knew where I stood.

And ICU and Labor and Delivery didn't have time to coddle a girl who didn't know her own abilities. I could deliver a baby if the doctor didn't show and I could rally at a Code Blue but I couldn't look my supervisor in the eyes, speak up at a staff meeting. And when the praise didn't come and fill me up on cue, I filled in my own gaps. I assumed failure ... wore it like a brick and apologized for all the gifts I didn't posses.

I cried to my dad, asked him why it was so hard to be confident, sure. Asked if he was still proud.

I knew I was good at spending time with kids, but good at being a nurse? I was like a tiny-framed girl in front of a mirror ... seeing only curvy flaws, bulging imperfections. And when I spoke of my work with adolescents as my reasonable act of worship? God showed me that later. It didn't start out that way. Not by a long shot.

When I wandered onto that unit for misbehaving teens, I believed it to be a second rate job. While all of my peers worked in the NICU and the PICU and on the cancer unit at King's Daughter's, I believed I was hiding out right where I belonged. I never wanted to be a nurse anyway, I said. I just wanted to rock babies in Africa. I just wanted to be a mother.

And I had no psychiatric experience ... just my own story of being lost, of too much and not enough food. Therapy. Support group.

This place felt sort of like redemption.

On my very first day, a kid eloped onto the roof and two girls punched and kicked each other on the floor. This work was not glamorous and I was intimidated. Everything in me said "bail out." I was sure I would fail. Someone bet I wouldn't last two weeks.

But I had an odd sense I was on sacred ground and for the first time in my short, working career I committed to not running scared. I thought maybe this place had something to offer me. Could I slow down, receive it?

I worried I wasn't strong enough to be there in the murky water of psychology and trauma and disturbing behavior. I cried in the car and kept bible verses in my pocket ... don't be afraid, be courageous, offer yourself as a living sacrifice, my grace is sufficient, we do not have a spirit of fear, whatever you did for the least of these ...

And my crazy friend Kathy prayed me into work on the phone and called to check in after long nights. She understood the struggle somehow, offered encouragement from a distance.

I wrote words like these in journals, asking for enough integrity, enough grace to stay healthy, stay brave. I want to love kids from a place of wholeness. This can't be about finding me. Jesus, you already did that. Right?

I started handing myself over, one eight-hour shift at a time. I said "no" to old patterns when anxiety welled up and I turned off old tapes that said I couldn't succeed, couldn't lead. I wavered, got tired, and the change was slow. Real. I spoke up and I began to advocate for the children. I watched them, listened, looked into their faces. I started loving them from a real place without an agenda. 

The job became a privilege and while I wasn't there full time, I spent my whole self when I walked through those doors: physical, emotional, spiritual. I logged a lot of miles walking up and down those halls and when I crawled into bed at 2 a.m. my legs ached. I went to bed offering up their names.

I would study Beth Moore later that year and she would quote Isaiah 58:9-10. Call it our "prescription for recovery..."

For the first time in years I fell asleep with with someone else's healing on my mind ... instead of my own performance. Someone else's need ... instead of my own lack.

I fell asleep thankful with a hand wide open, asking Him for more. More energy, more compassion, more grace. Because when you finally start to live loved, you finally have something to give away.

And if you trade in your oppression and spend yourself , in turn, on the oppressed ...

then ...

We'll finish up tomorrow, friends! Day 30 and 31 for a total of 31 posts in 32 days. You have been so dear and this has been hard! And while the old Abby might have focused on running a day (or two) late, I am celebrating a big win on the court of courage. Thanks for grace and for walking this road ... 

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