Little Pencil

In the Hand of a Writing God

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Let Beauty Happen 

     As Jess, Meaghan, Nick, and I we walking the grounds of the only city palace in Munich (which pretty much every building looks like a palace to me…) we stumbled upon a gazebo. It was the stuff of daydreams. Beautiful architecture, surrounded by flowers, backlit by sunshine, and stone work to envy ancient Greece. We walked closer and heard music from inside the gazebo. There was a man playing violin for the many passersby and the good folk who decided to sit and enjoy for a while. Many more were sitting and enjoying which seems to be in much better practice here than in the U.S. The violinist was playing a familiar classic piece, “Time to Say Goodbye.” We stood for a while, taking pictures, as tourists do and when he finished his song, I joked (only partially) with the others that they could just leave me here and come back for me in a few hours. I really would have been content with that, but being the over cautious person that I am, I would never stay alone in a country with which I wasn’t familiar. As I very slowly began to move away, the violinist began playing my favorite song in the universe.  

🎶Moon river, wider than a mile. I’m crossing I’m style someday…🎵

As the familiar notes lept from the strings into the air, I was moved beyond measure. Phone was put away. There was no desire to capture this moment for Instagram, but rather the whole desire to drink in every moment of this beauty that was before me. Tears were falling. Smiles were on the faces of all those around. Little children were swaying to the music as they cooed in their mother’s arms. I am tearing up just writing about it. 
     Thank you universe. Thank you for reminding me that “Go go go,” is not always the way to live your life. Thank you for reminding me that life happens at the in betweens. Thank you universe for reminding me to let beauty happen. 

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I have been thinking a lot about my time in Malawi these past few days. I wore one of the skirts yesterday and realized how much I missed it. Funny how that is. I wrote this for Marion Medical Mission this morning and thought I should share it here too. Here is just one of the stories I could tell about a beautiful country and her amazing people.

I have wanted to go to Malawi with Marion Medical Mission since November of 2009. That was the first time I heard Tom and Jocelyn Logan share how God does the “Impossible!” The fact that I was able to go this year was only by God’s plan. I had just returned from a year-long mission trip in Hollywood, CA through the Young Adult Volunteer program. I knew it was going to be a culture shock going to Malawi after having lived in a place that is so busy and full of such grandeur. I tried to plan for everything! I however did not realize how kind people would be to me and how much I would love the people of the villages I visited. One day, my team and I were ushered into a village with song and “thank yous.” I wish I could share through words how beautiful their songs are. While we were standing at the well, my partner, Betty, was gathering all the necessary information for the installation and I was goofing around with some of the children. My favorite thing was to make the kids laugh! A girl and her mother were speaking together just a few feet away from me. The mama pointed at me and asked her daughter, “Do you want this one to be your friend?” The girl shook her head yes. The mama then said to me, “This is my daughter Chance and she has been praying to God that one of the people coming would be her friend.” Of course, I was more than happy to be her friend! I told her this and she was then comfortable enough to talk to me. I asked her if she liked school and she said she did very much. “I want to be a doctor and go to the United States someday,” she told me. I smiled and told her that I am a nurse in the United States. “Maybe one day, I will be working with you in a hospital.” She smiled, laughed and said, “I would like that.” I learned that she was 13 years old and the last born in her family. I told her that I am also the youngest in my family. As our truck pulled away, I waved to her and she said, “Goodbye my friend!” Her smile is forever ingrained in my heart and her kindness deeply rooted in my soul. To have these commonalities and be able to speak about them with a young woman, halfway across the world, only furthers my awe at the way God works. I pray for Chance daily and I hope that sometimes, she thinks of me. I know, now more than ever, that if anything is going to be good in this world, it is only through God’s awesome glory and by working together with the people of this world who are different and the same as ourselves. Chance taught me that. Uchandami Kwa Chiuta! Glory to God!20151017_114454

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On This Day

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

“Thank you” are often the only words that come to mind when Veteran’s Day is upon us. I cannot fathom the life of a soldier. The sacrifice and strength it takes to say, “I’m going to stand up for this country because I believe in it.” Veterans have given so much, that all I can say is “Thank you.”
I had the opportunity to work in a VA as a student nurse. I can honestly say that I loved every minute of working there. I learned much for my later career and gained so much more respect and admiration for those who have served and are serving our country. Because I was a student, I had time to sit with my patients and listen to their stories. Oh my goodness, the beautiful things I could tell you of their lives! Some of my favorite stories my dad tells me are when he served in the Army.
While I was a Young Adult Volunteer in Hollywood, we focused a lot on the stories of people. I encourage you to ask a veteran (a close loved one or volunteer at your local Veteran’s Services) to tell you about their time of service and be willing to LISTEN. Sometimes, they are not nice stories, sometimes a person won’t want to talk about it, most of the time you will be amazed, and sometimes you will be laughing hysterically. Telling someone, “I’m here to listen,” can be the most meaningful, and even empowering, thing that can be said and heard. Say this, and thank you.

On this day and every day, let us, as a country of human beings first, be courageous enough to say, “I will stand up for those who cannot. I will stand up for those who are not given the opportunity to stand. I will stand up.”

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A Year Of….

People Before Profits

The Young Adult Volunteer program’s motto is “A year of service for a lifetime of change.” While this is great, my site coordinator pointed out how it would also be true if it were said vice versa. “A year of change for a lifetime of service.” This last year in Hollywood changed a lot. It changed the lives of seven young people. It changed hearts, bodies, and minds. It changed Hollywood, no matter how slightly. At the beginning of the year, the change was the city itself.  I have been home for two weeks now. I am finding ways to serve in my community and further. Currently the 2015-2016 YAVs are at orientation awaiting the year of service and change to start. Many prayers are ascending for them, the YAV Alumni sharing stories and wisdom, and the staff of YAV Office and Stony Point. So with that small intro, I would like to share with you one of the last things I wrote while being a Young Adult Volunteer in Hollywood.

The YAVs had arrived at Susie’s beautiful home for our last retreat day. Matthew arrived, we had a wonderful breakfast prepared by Susie, then curled up on the couch and started talking about the inevitable act of leaving in a matter of days. We started with a prayer, as we so often did. Matthew used The Message version of The Lord’s Prayer. It goes like this:

Father Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

Our entire day together was focused on these words…

Set the World Right —–

Justice ~> Mercy

I am still trying to figure out how these two things fit together. How they coincide. Before this year, I was called naïve a lot. And maybe I will be after this year too. I hated it and then I kind of accepted it and morphed it into, “What’s wrong with being naïve in life if it just means trying to find love in the world.” While I know it is still of the utmost importance for me to find the love in this world and to be that love when I cannot obviously see it, what I do know now is this. The acceptance of being “naïve” doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t make me gain knowledge about my world. It keeps me sheltered and in the dark about the hardships, the wrongs, and the sadness here. It keeps evil in the dark, and that’s where it wants to be. That’s where evil can grow in its mold and dankness… That analogy can really just keep going because mold (evil) sits and seeps its way from the corners of your house (world) into your lungs (soul) and makes your body sicker and sicker. Until the mold just chokes the life out of you. You have to throw open the windows and get some light and oxygen in those dark spaces. Just light and air won’t make that mold go away though. Sure it helps, but there has to be some elbow grease in there to scrub it out. There has to be some remodeling. Sometime it even means moving out of the moldy house and starting over somewhere new.

So while it hurts to know more about the hardships, evil, wrong, and sadness in the world, wouldn’t you rather know and be able to throw some light on it? Rather have your muscles and your soul be tired and sore from work, than letting that mold seep in and just ignore it until it just takes you? I know I would.

Be informed. Love all you can. Accept love that is given to you. Find peace. Get into your community. Tell stories and PLEASE listen to others’ stories. Throw light on the evil in the world and then figure out how you can help alleviate the pain caused by that evil!

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Assumptions Are Dangerous

     I was journaling a bit last night and going through some old thoughts. I started then going through older Instagram posts. I found one from the talk that Matthew and Marvin gave at Fuller Seminary.


     Look at that last line there… “Blog post coming soon.” Did I write a blog post? No! Thankfully, I remember what the post was to be about! Here goes!
     Matthew, Marvin, Manny, and Toni had just finished a class lecture on the subject “Reconciliation Matters.” The class went until 9pm and then many stayed until almost 11pm still hashing out thoughts on what reconciliation looks like. After all, it is a conversation that cannot be easily cut short. There were several tears shed, breakout small group conversations, nervous and healing laughter, life stories shared that others couldn’t even imagine going through.
     Matthew and Marvin, even though I know they were physically and emotionally tired, drove me home. As we were sitting in Marvin’s car, there was a gentleman, who happened to be white, constantly staring at the three of us as he walked by us. Having just come out of an almost 5 hour conversation about race, I think we were on high alert. Marvin ignored this, obviously, rather racist man. I was, shamefully, quick to point this man out. “What’s this guy looking at?” I figured he thought it strange for a young white girl to be in the front seat with a black man and a white man in the backseat. Maybe he did, or maybe he couldn’t even see us. I’m still not sure. We all laughed about how he should have been in on our conversation.
     Marvin finished the text he was constructing and then put the car into reverse to pull out of the parallel parking spot. As he starting rolling backwards, the water jug that had been left on top of the car rolled off the front window. It made a loud noise that startled us. Then it dawned on me, and I think simultaneously on my site coordinators. That’s what the white guy, who was obviously judging somehow, was actually looking at. Probably thinking, “Should I say something? Are they gonna get that before they pull off?” That loud noise the jug made as it fell to the ground from the top of our car, I am convinced was the Holy Spirit saying, “Hey! Stop that judging! You don’t know that man!” God likes to mess with me like that, for which I am thankful. I am one of those people that needs to be hit upside the head with a stupid stick every now and then. So as I realized the mistake I had made, by judging someone for the fear that they were judging me, I felt about 3 inches tall. You know that adage? It goes, “To assume is to make an ass out of u and me.” Well, it’s true.
     My point in telling you this quite embarrassing story for me, is to tell you, we all make judgements that can be 100% wrong. When you find yourself being biased in some way, being overly defensive, check yourself. It’s what I have to do. It’s what we all have to do to keep this “Reconciliation Matters” conversation open! 

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Where Has June Gone?!

I cannot believe it. Today is June 30. The day before July starts. How did that happen so quickly? There are days that I feel drag on. Whether it’s because I am allowing myself to be bored, there’s too many things pulling and dragging my brain at once, or because I just really can’t wait to crawl back into my bed and sleep more; there are those days. However, I can’t get through my head how quickly a month goes by. Yesterday, my housemates, Matthew, and I spent some time during community day talking about the end of this Dwell year. It is quickly approaching. This brings very mixed feelings: excitement for going home; anxiety for what’s next; sadness to physically leave my friends and community in LA; etcetera.

For the first six months of our year, the Dwellers were asked this series of questions most often: “What’s your name? Where are you from? Where are you working this year?” Now in these last six months the questions have shifted: “How are you feeling about leaving or are you staying here? When is your year over?  (The dreaded) What’s next?”

I, half-jokingly, say “We don’t talk about that yet,” when someone mentions leaving LA and the DOOR house. Though I am dreading saying goodbye to people I have come to truly and deeply love, I am very excited about “what’s next” in my life, especially going into it with the lessons I have learned this year. I go home the beginning of August and for the first few months, I plan on being very happy and present at home. I don’t know that I ever would have said this before this year, but I miss Southern Illinois. I am not sure if I will be working, volunteering with different organizations, or simply spending time with the people I have missed so dearly. Come the end of September, I will be attending the Transition Retreat with my ‘14/’15 YAVs. Then in October, I will be going to Malawi, Tanzania, or Zambia (depending on where I am needed) with Marion Medical Mission. I am beyond excited about this as I have known I am supposed to go with MMM since I was 16 years old. I am a part of Team 2, which means I will be back in good ole So. IL in November. In January, I plan on starting my online BSN program through SIUE! I am very excited to get back into Nurse World, I have really missed it! I will also be looking for jobs throughout this time, prayers will be much appreciated!
While all of “What’s next” is exciting and coming up so soon, I plan to fully live in the moments I have here in LA. Life is too short and it’s too easy to miss what you have right here and now when you’re stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Love now. Live now. Worship now. Seek happiness now. Find peace now.

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Just Call Me Gracey…

My wonderful friends, Talia, Jessika, Delaney, and Ashley were all able to take time off from their jobs to come out to Hollywood to see me! I had been counting down the days before they got here! Finally on Thursday night, they arrived! I picked them up at LAX. Friday, after work, we went downtown, hung out in Grand Central Market for a while, then shopped ’til we dropped in Santee Alley. Saturday, we went to the Santa Monica Pier. The beach was wonderful, as always! Sunday, we hung out on Hollywood Blvd and did all the touristy stuff! We were on our way home to get ready for Universal City Walk. That’s when it happened.

I had walked too far ahead of the girls without realizing it so Delaney and Jess called out to me. I turned around, and thought, “Oh! I need to make sure they don’t get lost in the crowd!” I told them I would meet them down at the bottom, which was the PERFECTLY sane thing to do, then my brain was like, “No, just walk back up and keep your place so they can meet you on the elevator.” Stupid brain sometimes! So I did, and then just like that, I was falling to my certain injury on the escalator. I hit my knee really hard.  I saw Jess and Delaney turn as I fell and I heard them yell, probably thinking I was going to fall backward, thank God I didn’t. I started laughing, mostly out of embarrassment, partially out of shock, probably. I waved and said, “I’ll just meet you down there.” I didn’t get up from the steps as I was still kinda laughing. As I finally stood up, a little old man was behind me and asked if i was ok. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Thank you!” At that moment, I look down, sorry to be graphic, I saw blood gushing down my leg.  I think, “Oh, no. No, I’m not fine.” My first thought is to put pressure on the wound to stop it bleeding. I get to the bottom of the escalator and search through my bag, my hand slapped on my knee. First thing I find, a sort of bandage. Perfect! I put that over my wound and continue looking through my bag for my emergency kit. By this time, the girls have reached me, seriously, this happened within a minute.

Have I mentioned that we are all nurses? Yeah, good timing, I guess. They all help me over to the stairs to sit. We look at my wound (funny calling it that.) and it looks really deep and not good. We all think stitches will probably be necessary. Jess then grabs a cloth headband from her backpack and ties it around the makeshift bandage. I was then asked the strangest question I have ever been asked before, and I’ve been asked some weird ones! A man comes up to the five of us and asks, “Can I draw your picture with your bandage? You can have the drawing for a dollar.” I was dumbfounded, I really just didn’t know what to say. Talia, more than a little peeved, said “Sir, we’re trying to do something else here. No.”  I am trying to decide what to do as far as medical attention. The emergency room is almost immediately out of the question because I know how expensive that will be. So I do what any self-respecting early 20-something would do. I called my mom. She did not freak out as I was worried; the girls and I rehearsed what I would say first. I think it went something like this:

Mom: Hi sweetie!

Me: Hi mom, so you know how clumsy I am right?

Mom: Yes? What happened?

Me: Well, I fell and hurt my knee pretty bad. It might or might not need stitches. I just wanted to know if there are any urgent care clinics that I am covered by out here?

Mom: *silence as she gets her computer to look up where I should go.* *Mom advice about what to do in the time being. She’s the best.*

I then hear my dad in the background

Dad: What’s wrong with Lanita?

Geez, you’d think this has happened before or something…..

Me: Hi Dad, I’m ok. I just might need stitches on my knee. I fell.

Dad: How many nurses do you have around you right now?

Me: Five, including myself.

Dad: Ok, then you can figure this out then, right?

Me: We got it.

Mom: *tells me where I can go.*

The urgent care clinic was closed at the time so we decided that I should go home now and I’ll go in the morning. Delaney and Ashley trek back up the escalator, the correct way, and go to CVS to get supplies to clean the wound now. Honestly, I don’t know if there is a more gross place in Hollywood that I could have fallen. My phone then dies and we are trying to figure out the best way to get home. My mom, on and off Jess’s phone several times, is brilliant and Facebook messaged my housemates who then came and got me and the girls. Thank you Molly and Jordan!

Sunday – Escalator=1 Lanita=0
Monday – Jess and I went to the Urgent Care. Dr. Shadi, at Hollywood Walk In Clinic, was absolutely wonderful and said, “You got as lucky as possible. It didn’t hit the tendon, which is what I worried about when I first saw it. You are going to have to get stitches though.” Lanita’s Life Experiences: Stitches=Check. My brigade of nurses and wonderful friends had to go home. Off to LAX we went.
Tuesday – I took it easy at home with the clearance from my boss. Thank you to my boss and work for being so kind in letting me take some time off!
Wednesday – Went back to Dr. Shadi for a checkup. She said it looks really good, I’ve been sure to clean it properly. Hello? Nurse! Haha! Insert Animaniacs voices in here* She said I did need to keep it in the splint though until the end of this week to be sure I don’t pull at the stitches too much. I am supposed to take the brace off about 20 minutes a day to avoid stiffness in the joint. That has already started as I tried moving my knee last night and had to really concentrate on doing so. I did go back to work today and only did office work. Good time to get it done!
Thursday – Off to work, my site coordinator, Marvin is being incredibly kind and taking me in so I can avoid my fear of getting my knee banged on the bus and the hill that I walk to work.
Needless to say, I am being well taken care of! Thanks guys! Hope the story at least made you smile a little.

I couldn’t keep a strait face through this picture!