“How was your Summer?”

The most common question you get when you go back to school. Almost impossible to answer in a short amount of time for anyone- especially if they have travelled or experienced new things. Personally, it would take several coffee dates to really know how my friend’s summers were and for them to know how mine was.

Or my friends could read this post and know in about 20 minutes 30ish minutes, then the coffee date could be all them talking? I’m not sure how long this will be. I am going to try and include details or things that really stuck out to me.

It began with me going home. Last summer, was reaallly rough at home. Look back here to learn a little bit about that summer if you so desire.

Anyways, I was not expecting much by going home for a big chunk of the summer. It did not start off on the best foot either. I barely fit everything in my car (I am an extreme over-packer). I was headed home, but before I did, I got Starbucks with one of my favorite families here. They bought be a Frappuccino and filled up my gas tank. So sweet!

I hug them all and then hit the road. I was ready to go, the music was up. Ten minutes on the highway and my car starts vibrating/shaking. I’m sort of freaking out, because I had just passed a semi (I am convinced they should have separate highways for themselves). I slowed way down, hoping that my car would make the five and a half hour drive home if I drove slow.

As I slowed down, it started violently shaking, to the point where I could not help but stop and pull over because I thought my car was getting ready to explode on the highway. By the grace of God, there was no traffic around me and could get into the grass. Along with the car shaking, so were my hands. My shaky hands dialed my mom on the phone and I was trying to hold back my tears and handle it like a “big girl.”

My mom told me to calm down and call the families I knew in town to see if they could help me. Being the girly girl I am, I had no idea what to even look for. All I knew was that my car was stranded. Then I got out of the car, with other cars zipping by on the highway next to me. I don’t think I pulled over enough. I then realized my tire was flat, shredded to pieces, and something was also sticking out of my car. My bumper was cracked too… great.

IMG_6901
Not one of Tori’s best days.

The tears were streaming down my face at this point and I called one of my best friends, who was also on the road, just to ask for prayer and some words of comfort.

Then, the father of the family I just left at Starbucks, came to the rescue. We unpacked allllll of the stuff from my trunk. He helped me take took the bad tire off, put the spare on, and was certain we could drive it to Wal-Mart, get a new tire, and I could be on my way home. But after changing the tire, the car still wouldn’t start. We called a towing company and he waited with me for an hour. We loaded the most necessary bags I needed to go home with me into his truck and when my car was towed away, we drove to their house. We ate pizza and coincidently, he had to be near where I lived early the next morning for work. He drove an extra hour to get me home late that night. I had to call my boss and tell her I wouldn’t be at work at 7 am because of this whole scenario.

As scary as it was having a tire blowout on me and as clueless as I was about what to do with that, God provided me with generous people who were willing to help me. I wouldn’t have my car for the summer, but we had an extra car in the driveway at home for me to drive in the meantime before my dad sold it. God provides, again.

So when I was safe at home, I started work and my online class that Monday.

The online class kicked my butt- Pathophysiology. You can hardly say that in one breath, and a lot of people just have a blank stare when I told them that was the class I was taking.
DSC09711

IMG_7246
Summer Studying

Work was good about keeping me busy and building experience in the healthcare field. I dealt with a stubborn woman who both refused and forgot to use her walker. She fell so many times, and most of the time they were really rough falls. One afternoon, I was walking down the hallway and heard her screaming for help, I ran into her room to find her in the bathroom wedged between the toilet and the wall, with her walker in the other room. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. She was crying, anxious, and nervous because she was wedged in so bad, we couldn’t help her out. Until 911 got there, I just sat on the toilet, rubbing her back, telling her that everything was going to be okay and also explaining how I found her to my boss and co-workers. We put pillows under her feet so that they were not cold on the tile and so that her toenails were not being scraped. We saw some blood on the wall and figured out it was coming from her arm. The EMTS got there and were so good with her. They were kind, funny, and extremely helpful. They got her out of there safely and in no time. She didn’t break anything, but had some bad bruises and cuts. After that bad fall, I was nervous for her whenever I caught her without her walker. I was astounded that, even after that situation, she STILL would not use it. I struggled being gentle in reminding her to use it because I also had to be stern, because it was her safety at stake. Even though she hated the advice, she thanked me for it. So confusing.

There was also a woman who I really had a sweet relationship with when I was last there for winter break. She wanted to set me up with her grandson and showed me pictures of him and her other grandchildren often. I just giggled about her grandson and said he was handsome. She was so proud to be a Grandma (her pillow even said so). Her husband lived with her and was, so I thought, in worse shape than she was. He needed more assistance due to dementia. She just sometimes had a hard time walking because of back problems.

However, when I returned in the summer, she was in the hospital for cardiac problems. The first time I saw her when she got back, she was on Hospice care in the facility. I held back tears as I watched her sleeping and hooked up to oxygen tubes. Taking care of her from that point on was an entirely different ball game. She needed help being fed, was bedridden, and could not have real conversations anymore. She got moved out of her and her husband’s shared room into a private room because her husband did not understand what was going on with her (due to the dementia). He was always looking for her, going up and down the halls, asking us what room she was in. We would tell him whenever she was not sleeping, because otherwise she would get no rest. It was like a “Notebook” scenario and really tough to watch and deal with as a healthcare worker. She passed away shortly after I left that summer. Life is short. So, so short.

Working as a CNA is always a humbling experience. Constantly putting other’s needs above my comfort and selfish desires can get to be exhausting. But it’s so rewarding when you start to build relationships with those you are caring for and can help make them smile about something, even if they are bedridden, sick, and have not seen family in a week. It always reaffirms my desire to be a nurse and help the helpless.

Moving on… I got to be home for a lot of fun things:

  • Brother and Sister’s Prom
DSC09727
  • Weddings
IMG_6945
Chase Ford (NFL Vikings Player)
IMG_6942
Middle School Buds
  • Sister’s graduation
IMG_7192IMG_7170
  • Babysitting two of my favorite little girls
IMG_7197 IMG_7210
  • Friends Visiting & Precious Family Time
IMG_7173IMG_7134IMG_7062IMG_7070IMG_7072IMG_7073IMG_7076IMG_7306
  • Elementary School Reunions
IMG_7156
The best fifth grade teacher and wonderful long time friends!
I also took a wonderful vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. One of the most commercial beaches on the planet. AND SO HOT. but so fun.
Some highlights:
  • Using more sunscreen than I used body soap.
  • Heat Rash/minor sun poisoning on my feet (I learned that putting sunscreen on your feet is a necessity…)
  • Sand Castle building can be taken extremely seriously.
  • Crawfish boils are strange, but worth a try. (I just couldn’t get past the fact they were crawling 20 minutes before we ate them)
  • Six year olds have a lot to say. (My friend’s cousin was sharing about her “boyfriend”)
IMG_7280 IMG_7279 IMG_7273 IMG_7272 IMG_7271 IMG_7265 IMG_7262IMG_7302
So far, my summer was great. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it was going at home. I was busy, had friends to hang out with, and was able to serve my church there on the worship team. I came back to my apartment in college to get my car one week and was having a conversation with a friend that I felt like God was preparing me for something. I felt this way, because I was so refreshed after reading the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp (read my blog post about it here) which was all about being grateful despite tough circumstances life often brings you. I did not have anything to really complain about for my entire summer thus far. God knew that my soul needed that period of rest and joy. I am so grateful for that period of time I had to just look at life and do nothing but smile and give thanks. However, life cannot always be that way… I had scary thoughts that someone close to me was going to die soon or that I was going to die. (Dramatic, I know, but true!) Driving home from my college town (in my car that had the tire blow out) was one of the scariest drives home. Not only because I was paranoid about another tire blowout, but also because I just had this strange feeling that God was preparing my heart for something big, something possibly really tough, to go through. I did not feel ready, but I trusted Him and prayed about those feelings on my way home.
Advertisements

Eucharisteo.

Eucharisteo. He gave thanks.

Root word: charis. grace.

Derivative: chara. joy.

Embarking.

As I took off on my flight from Atlanta back home… I was stunned by the beauty of the sky. The picture above doesn’t do much justice. But the sun was this bright, warm, glowing orb setting after a long day of travel to the airport. I was thankful to make it on my delayed flight (and end up with a row to myself). There was laughter from a happy couple behind me. Young, fun love, I one day hope to have. The flight attendant was kind and making their trip special because it was the man’s very first flight. I couldn’t help but smile.

I turned on my phone to airplane mode (Bye, bye Spotify). I turn to my iTunes and find only 4 songs. I click on the song “Rise” by Jason Mraz… an instrumental piece. But the title was fitting as take off began. I was desperate to tune out the crying baby, because so much of me was ready to complain and be annoyed at the parents of the fussy child.

The headphones were an escape.

I pressed play and up we went. I was suddenly overcome by the beauty of the earth. I fell into this state of awe and attitude of thankfulness. As soon as we got permission to let down our trays, I got out the book I had finished that week on the beach, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, and un-creased the folded pages to underline and star my favorite quotes instead of leaving the pages creased.

I re-read some of the most groundbreaking quotes I came across in the book… still amazed at how much the words just cut through to my heart. I was encouraged and compelled to give thanks.

I decided on this flight to begin my journey of naming one thousand gifts.

By the time the flight was descending, I was reading my creased pages from the chapter called “Go Lower“.

“We will be landing in the next 15 minutes. Welcome to Orlando.”

Down, down, down the plane goes.

Meanwhile, I’m reading “…whenever I am parched and dry, I must go lower with the water and I must kneel low in thanks. The river of joy flows down to the lowest places.”

I have been praying against my pride and for my humility a lot lately… but in the very act of that prayer, I felt prideful and self-focused.

 Humility is so shy. -Tim Keller

Extravagant gifts are what humbles us.

I felt the joy of small, childlike wonder when I was giving thanks for the Beauty I had seen in the sky.

The quiet song of gratitude, eucharisteo, lures humility out of the shadows because to receive a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give. -Ann Voskamp

The sky, the Beauty, I was seeing, that compelled me to give thanks, was most certainly an extravagant gift. I cannot close my hand… I cannot keep the grace from flowing on.

 I could share the grace, multiply the joy, extend the table of the feast, enlarge the paradise of His presence. I am blessed. I can bless. A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ. -Ann Voskamp

I was ready to go lower, to land on this earth. As Jesus did. He left the Beauty of the heavens to come down on earth to serve, love, and rescue us… and the let the grace flow on.

“Beauty Himself Completes”

I am excited for this journey of thanksgiving God has called me, called us, to be on. Practicing this eucharisteo will help me to consider what God thinks of me, rather than how I think of God.

I will see His relentless love in everything and everywhere I go.

It is a discipline to unwrap one thousand gifts.

But in one thousand ways, I will fall in love. Fully live!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

A handful of things from my lovely pink gratitude journal:

1. Being woken up gently by mom.

3. Dad’s bear hugs.

14. Large, soft comfy Tshirts.

18. Dreamsicle smoothies.

21. Encouraging and being encouraged.

27. Family dinners around the table.

Shout out to Ann Voskamp for compelling me to count to one thousand!

“You’re the only Ten I See”

I’m in Tennessee for Spring Break, visiting some extended family! Here a few things I have learned:

  • I’m very timid driving on mountainous, winding roads.
  • Long talks with Mamaw are the best. She is 99 and remembers everything. The only reason she would not is if she pretended to hear something you did not say loud enough.
  • My uncle Jesse is way cooler than the Uncle Jesse we all know from Full House. (I already knew that though, but I thought I should enlighten you all of that fact, too)
  • People here like to yell stuff out the car window… they’re awfully enthusiastic.
  • My papaw knows his Nascar better than anyone I have ever met.
  • Coca-Cola is like water here… it’s served to you whether you like it or not.
  • Seeing friends from home is a breath of fresh air (even fresher when in the mountains).
  • I don’t think anyone here knows what “hungry” means. (My tummy might be mad at me by the end of the week)Pal’s milkshakes… nothing can compare to them. Dr. Enuf… makes me burp with every sip. Thank you, Insomnia cookies for the sweet treats and fun note.
  • UT has a pretty neat campus and Knoxville is so fun.. (shout out to my cousin and his girlfriend for an awesome weekend)My cousin, Chance, dangling from an old attic on a nature trail…This crazy, chaotic restaurant that gives you insults on hats. People pay to go there to have everyone be (humorously) rude. Quite the experience.Downtown Gatlinburg… stumbled upon a very very very talented bluegrass band…“Club Jump Jam” where you flip into foam pits, get hit by dodge balls, quickly run out of energy, and cannot get a good quality picture in because of the black light.. If you ever find yourself in Knoxville, I highly recommend visiting THE cutest place on earth… PUPPY ZONE!
  • Deers walk quickly and lightly and love leading you down trails… if you’re quiet. They might even pose for a picture for you 😉& finally, I was reminded that God is a beautiful, creative, and awesome designer.May we never lose the wonder.