On Leaving

A story about how I am not the person to ask for advice about how to leave a church.

Because when I wake up at 4am suddenly wanting to write, I try to do it.

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We had left a church before – kind of slipped out the back without a plan during a hard time of life.  We wanted to do it better now.

After praying about it for months, we kept coming to the same conclusion. We had dreams, hopes, and beliefs that stretched out in a different direction of where our current church was heading.  It wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for us to remain there.

They left at about the same time as us. But they were “sent” – blessed from the pulpit as the pastor wished them well in their search for where they fit.  It was a sad but beautiful day.  They did *something* right . . .

We prayed and thought, “Pastor should be the first to know our plan.” We didn’t want rumors to spread, and feelings to be hurt. We set up a meeting with Pastor and Pastor, and on that day also shared a carefully written letter from the heart with all the other staff so no one would feel left out.  We had respect and care, and wanted to do it right.

Obviously I do not know how to properly leave a church.

We were not “sent”  – whatever that means – and we were barely blessed as the door closed behind us that day.

Perhaps hurt feelings are partly to blame.  I hoped we could see beyond that to the greater purpose of God’s Kingdom spreading. The church body has many members. You are an arm, maybe, I am a leg – and that is ok, even good.  It’s okay and good that we reach and connect with different people in different ways. Right?

“Could I meet with you please?”  I asked.  Three times.  Desperate to explain, to make sure I was not severing ties when we moved on.

“Sorry, I am too busy right now.” Three times.  Taking the hint, I backed off and thought you would reach out in a few weeks when you were ready.  Of anyone there, I wanted to talk to you first, start with you…  I have since given up waiting for that conversation.

In the silence of miscommunication, we lost a piece of our lives.  Out of respect for the church, we didn’t want to meet with everyone to explain why we were leaving.  We didn’t want it to look like we were trying to spread unrest or gossip among the church-goers.  We thought it was best to keep it mostly to ourselves. Obviously we did that wrong too.  The rumors and glances grew more piercing before they dulled.

To the ones who reached out to us – to hear our story – I thank you. You were a comfort, a friend.  You stood out with your loving presence as you sought to understand and not to judge us.

Today, all I can say is that every step was purposeful, and prayerful, and we did the best we knew how.

Years later, the pain has faded. But the place in my heart where you lived may always feel empty, and unfinished. I know without a doubt that my family was supposed to move on, branch out.  Yes, it could have gone better. I forgive the places where it didn’t go as I had hoped. I pray that others have done the same in their hearts towards us, but in the end, I only control me.

Church is about family.  Sometimes family looks different than we want, sometimes people don’t follow in the footsteps of dad’s family business so to speak – but we are still kin. May we all reach out to someone today who might feel shut out and embrace them as family. May we realize that hard decisions such as leaving a church are usually not taken lightly by those people that we have known and loved. They are the same thoughtful people, trying to listen to the voice of God and follow His leading. May we be the peacemakers.

And to you, dear Pilgrims, I wish you well on your journey as you embark on this change.  It may be a hard road, but I pray it is blessed.  I hope for you that you feel “sent”  – that you feel supported as you go, and not shut out.  I hope you find that your family of friends only grows and grows.  To God be the glory.

 

 

Once, I lived.

This post is a rambling rant. A long whiny complaint. It’s where I am. You are under no obligation to read further. All these thoughts I’ve had for so long . . . keeping them mostly to myself. It’s time to put this out there.

People often ask me how I like being a nurse and the answer is far too complicated, so I usually give the short, “oh, it’s good” reply. Do I like caring for people? Yes, I love it! If that was all there was to it, it would be great.

So this blog is the real answer, the full answer.

I hate being a nurse. 

There. I said it.

I don’t hate ALL of it. Just most of it. Maybe 80%?

15 months ago I started working as a nurse. 3 years ago my life stopped as I entered a grueling nursing program.

I keep waiting for my life to start up again.

I remember back to right before nursing school, when I was a homeschooling mama. The happiest days of my life. But I felt the internal push towards nursing. Or did I? People I trusted confirmed: it was a good choice. But here I am, 15 months in, and I’m wondering if I heard from God correctly when I began this pursuit of being a nurse. Why on earth would God lead me here??? Over the last three years, I have never been so stressed, depressed, and lacking in purpose.

I have lost who I am.

Who have I become? How did I get here? Why am I doing this?

I have kept silent because so many people will not understand. You will say, ‘every job is hard, you just have to tough it out, be strong.’  But for those of you who are, or have bee, a nurse, you know. Nursing is unlike any other career – demanding so much of you emotionally, mentally, and physically. High stakes. High stress. I dread every shift. I don’t sleep the night before or the night after a shift because of the anxieties racing through my brain. Always adding new responsibilities, in the same 12.5 hours. “Customer satisfaction” means my patient gets to rate me on how fast I brought them their coffee, even if I was delayed because I was in an emergent situation down the hall. There is never enough staff. Never enough time. I have to assess my patients, give meds, chart, chart, chart, answer and make scores of phone calls, put in orders, check orders, cancel orders, hunt down meds, walk the patients, toilet the patients, chart, chart, chart . . .  it just goes on and on. I imagined having time to sit at my patients’ bedside to talk with them, and hold their hands to comfort them. That is a luxury I have rarely seen.

Meanwhile my feet have developed fasciitis, heel spurs, saddle bone deformity and achilles tendinitis despite my expensive athletic shoes because I go from sitting to sprinting at the sound of an alarm, and walk an average of 8 miles a day. After one shift, it takes my body until noon the next day to feel like doing ANYthing. After two back-to-back shifts I am limping and sore from head to toe and need an entire day of nothing to recuperate. My lower back is a constant mess of pain from turning 300 pound patients in their bed so they don’t get bed sores or putting them on bed pans, and the stress knots between my shoulder blades cut like a knife.

Two work days for me looks like: waking up at 5am, leaving at 6am, home by 8pm, scarf dinner, try not to cry about my day, shower, bed. Repeat. Two full days of not really doing anything around my house, or interacting with my family in a meaningful way. Try as my family might, they cannot quite make up for mom being gone two days in a row. Inevitably, school-work or errands mean I often come home to dishes and messes that take days to fully undo – usually just in time to go back to work my next shift.

All of that stress might be worth it to some. I am left in jealous awe when I talk to a nurse who loves their career and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I wish I felt this way. Nursing has killed the life in me to such an extent that I have no energy left to pursue relationships outside my immediate family, and even that is a stretch.

It’s not worth it to me. I have lost almost all of my friendships due to my lack of investment there. I am missing out on my children’s activities and life moments. My son drove a date to his junior homecoming recently – I got a text message picture of them while I was at work. I wasn’t there to help him fix his tie or meet the lucky girl. My daughter has grown from a child to a young lady while I’ve been off in nursing land, and I have missed SO much. She tells me weekly how much she misses me.

I spent this January through May in a deep depression. Barely getting out of bed. Forgetting what joy felt like. Feeling like death must surely be better than this life.  I thought I would never shake it, and the climb out of that depression was slow and hard. I faked a lot of smiles.

I am a shell of who I was.

Once, I lived with purpose.

Once, I was involved. Volunteering at the kids schools. Helping them with homework. Going to parent-teacher conferences. Meeting friends for coffee. Calling to talk with family members. Having people over for dinner. Leading small groups, volunteering at church, mentoring young people, singing, blogging, outreaches . . . .

Once, I lived.

And the money? This stress ain’t worth the pennies I make off it. I would choose living off ramen noodles and thrift store clothes-shopping over how I feel today.   We survived on one income before, we can do it again. It was a blessing to save for a down payment on a house. Maybe that’s all this was for – so we could get a house, or so I can have a career in my pocket in case anything happens to Andrew . . . .

I don’t know.

Next week I will begin again on a new floor – changing from a surgical floor to postpartum care. This is a big change – and some people in the hospital world look down on mother-baby staff. They say that’s where nurses go to retire. I have seen the raised eyebrows when I said I was moving to mother-baby, but frankly, I don’t care. I am sorry I am not cut out to be a medical/surgical nurse, or critical care nurse. I truly wish I was. But at this point, I am just trying to stay in the game and not give up completely, so I have to try something. Back to midnight shift I go. Luckily, I work at a great hospital and am surrounded with awesome staff. And I love babies. So that’s something . . . a fresh start on mother-baby. I want to give it at least a full year or two. Really give it a chance. Beyond that, my future is up in the air.

Nursing school was painfully hard, but there was always an end in sight – a goal to be reached. It was temporary pain. It kills me to be at that goal and my only wish is for it to be over. Can I just retire now and be a florist?

I have 7K left in student loans. I signed a contract with my employer that I would finish my bachelors within five years of hire. Do I want to take on 20K more debt for this?

I don’t know.

This was a hard post to write. I feel quite vulnerable. It’s hard not to feel like I am letting people down. All the people who always remind me they are “so proud” of me becoming a nurse . . . .

If you stuck it out and read this far – you are a brave soul.  :)

All of this negativity . . . but besides all that, I am so grateful for my life. I am grateful for my husband who has stuck by me and encouraged me over and over. Letting me cry on his shoulder after so many hard shifts. I am grateful for my beautiful home that we have now. I am grateful my children have seen what it means to work hard towards a goal and who have become so self-sufficient these past few years. I am grateful for a church where I feel the love of Christ with no pressure to perform. I am grateful for my family that loves me even when I’m absent or down.

I am so grateful.

Deep down, life is good, and there is hope. I know God will never leave me. I’m trusting Him to lead me to where I need to be.

Better Days Ahead,

Amy

If you’re bored, here’s some articles on nurse burnout:

http://minoritynurse.com/why-good-nurses-leave-the-profession/

http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/why-americas-nurses-are-burning-out/

http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/news/entry/beating-the-burnout-nurses-struggle-with-physical-mental-and-emotional-exha/