“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.

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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.
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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
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  • Weddings
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Chase Ford (NFL Vikings Player)

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Middle School Buds

  • Sister’s graduation
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  • Babysitting two of my favorite little girls
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  • Friends Visiting & Precious Family Time
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  • Elementary School Reunions
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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”)
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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.
I made it home, but then something shook my world.

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Pruning…

Not like your fingers when you wash dishes.

Like pruning plants, pruning.

I just find so much satisfaction in this word. Because God tells us this:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-3

God will mold and shape us when we remain in, abide, or dwell with Him. He cuts off the parts of us that are not good, that He wants gone so that we will be more fruitful in life.

“But, cutting off doesn’t sound very pleasant. TBH, it sounds more sad, painful and like something I really do not want to be a part of.” But hang with me for a minute.

This past summer, God did a LOT of pruning in my life. I felt so alone. I really just worked, went to class and to church. I thought church would be a safe place… but half the time, I did not even feel comfortable because my friends at home were not really being friends at the time. (Thank God for repaired relationships and examples of how to forgive)

My dad was adjusting to his new job because he had lost the one previous to that. So. Scary.

My family also had to move homes… talk about an emotional roller coaster. I would drive by our old home and cry while listening to “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert because my dogs really are buried in the yard and I really did learn to play guitar upstairs in my bedroom. I was selfish and upset that the new house did not have a room for me (so my fantastic parents had a wall built to make me a room), we have no pool or spacious backyard anymore, and other very materialistic things I had grown accustomed to having are absent from this home. (I like having a smaller home, though. Less to clean, and our family is a lot closer because of it).

Moving made me exhausted

Tuckered out. Moving made me exhausted

It was also the longest period of time I had been away from my great friends in college. Then, when I finally got back to college, I thought for sure I would catch a break from this desert I had found myself in… haha.. hah! I was wrong. I experienced losing my car (due to {expensive} electrical problems and a minor accident) for an extended period of time and losing my church here at college (due to some major division).

WHYYYY?! I did not understand at the time why God had me enduring all of this stuff.

He was pruning.

Cool thing, though, is that at Passion conference 2015 (a HUGE gathering of college students united for Jesus) my community group leader taught us that in Greek the word “prunes” in John 15 literally means cleans or to lift up.

TO LIFT UP?! Wait, what? Pruning is like cutting stuff down, but God is telling me that it means to lift up?!

Light bulb. All of these things happen so that I will learn to remain in Him and therefore bear much fruit.

I have recently watched my roommate go through a pruning process. Poor thing has had two infections from wisdom teeth, lost her dog, lost her grandmother, her car got hit, Enterprise wanted to charge her $500 for the (nonexistent) damage on the rental car, and she has experienced some kind of ear problem.

I cannot even say all of that stuff in one breath. Side note: I have also watched another dear friend here at college struggle with many tough unspoken circumstances in her life.

My roommate came into my room tonight explaining a situation that just really made her heart happy. So much so, that  it compelled her to tears (this girl does not normally get moved to tears over things). Her heart has not been happy in a long time. But this particular situation was something she would have never thought possible. It would not have been possible had all of the other stuff not happened. God is SO GOOD.  She looks back on the past two months of small train wrecks and just thanks God because He knows that she would have prayed for every one of those unfortunate events to happen had she known the end result. Going through it sucked, but God is going to do some AWESOME things in her life through everything He has taught her.

If you feel as if the life is getting sucked out of you, like you’re in a pit, or that the bad days don’t have an end… hang in there, take joy in the fact that God is pruning.

He is lifting you up.

Grenada. Love this picture because it shows beauty in brokenness.

Grenada. Love this picture because it shows beauty in brokenness.