When I opened up the envelope, I felt my stomach drop just a little. It was a mixture of dread, shame and anxiety, in one fell swoop.
The deadline is at the end of April.
There is time. I have time.
But even yet, I knew I need to wrestle with this decision soon.
Would I renew my nursing license?
You may or may not know that I have my Bachelor’s degree in nursing. It may seem a little odd to the college students who knew me as their Resident Director or Area Coordinator. It may seem a little odd to those who read my blog and see my life in this current season of motherhood and transition and writing. And to be honest, it feels a little odd to me too, that this experience and education is part of me, since it feels a little less “me” than other things I’ve chosen in my life.
In high school, I chose the path towards a career in nursing because it felt like the best decision with what I knew at the time.
I knew I wanted to help people in a tangible way. I knew I wanted to help people in the mess of everyday life. I knew I wanted to make a difference. And I knew on a practical level that I wasn’t grossed out by blood and wasn’t particularly squeamish when it came to nasty cuts on my brothers. I also knew I didn’t have a love or passion for it when I started down that path, taking my first class in Anatomy and Physiology at community college at 16.
But I thought it would come. In fact, I felt sure that it would catch up to me. After all, I didn’t need to love it yet. I was still up to my neck in textbooks and diagrams and exams.
But those days of early morning clinicals and flashcards of drug names and exams that made me cry didn’t last forever. By the end of my junior year, I was beginning to have my doubts about what I’d signed up for. The passion and love hadn’t kicked in the way I thought it would.
I wasn’t seriously considering changing my major, but I was quickly finding out all the things I didn’t want to do, instead of the other way around. I felt surrounded by nursing students full of passion and drive, whereas I felt like I was putting in my time with nursing school so I could go do what I really loved, which was Residence Life. They were excited for graduation so they could start their dream, whereas I was daydreaming of marrying someone in Residence Life to stay connected to what made my heart come alive.
I was a nurse for a year. I thought I had it in me to clock in at least a few years on my hospital floor before moving to something different, but before a year was up, I was burnt out and exhausted. In his kindness, through a dear friend, the Lord gave me permission to pursue something different.
As I walked away from nursing, it seemed prudent to leave that career door open a crack. I didn’t know what my story held and didn’t want to dismiss the possibility that the Lord might ask me to return to being a nurse someday. I transferred my license from Oregon to Pennsylvania and plugged away at continuing education modules to keep it current, while the rest of my life was dedicated to a job I loved with my whole heart.
A few years have gone by since then. I’ve been a nurse for six years, almost seven, but only actively practicing for one of them. Nursing has been part of my life for almost thirteen years.
Every time I get the notification that it is time to renew my license, I have to fight shame.
Shame at investing in something that I’m not currently doing.
Shame at feeling like I choose poorly and stupidly.
Shame at being one of the only ones in my nursing class that walked away from that career.
Shame at not loving the medical field.
Shame at not finding life there.
Shame at not being a nurse and not wanting to be.
I know if it was someone else, I would have no problem believing truth for them. It wasn’t a mistake to pursue a nursing degree. I wasn’t stupid or making a poor choice. I was making the best decision with the information I had at the time. There is no shame in that. I can’t see what the Lord is doing. He doesn’t waste things. He won’t waste my degree, even if he doesn’t use it in a traditional or conventional way. There is no shame if what makes you come alive doesn’t match what is true for someone else. That is comparison talking, not truth.
But that little envelope wasn’t going away and the shame was simmering under the surface.
I knew the decision to renew or not impacted more than just me and I wanted to include my husband in it. As we talked on a recent date, I shared my fears and voiced the shame I felt.
Isn’t it the smart thing to do, to renew?
Do we still want this to be our backup plan?
I don’t know if I could honestly pass the NCLEX again. That test felt like it took everything I had and I was barely enough, after months of studying and preparation. What if I let my license go and couldn’t pass it and I needed to?
He listened, kindly and then asked me these good questions.
Would I actually be helping people as a nurse?
Could I be a safe one?
What was truly motivating me to want to renew my license?
When did I picture “needing” to be a nurse again?
As he spoke, I saw my fears for what they were: loud fears, but nothing more.
I didn’t honestly think I could be a safe nurse at this point, after so many months of not practicing those skills. There might be a few settings where that could be true, but there weren’t many I could think of, and none that I particularly wanted. I would have to study up a lot to be a safe, competent nurse again.
And my motives weren’t to help people. My motives were to prove myself and to not “waste” my education. My motives were to have a backup plan. My motives were to make money if we absolutely had no other option.
The only time I pictured “needing” to be a nurse was if my husband was dead and I had to provide for my daughter and myself. As I said those words out loud, I couldn’t help but laugh. The last thing I would need after my best friend died would be to enter into a job I knew wasn’t lifegiving for me, as an attempt to be my own saving grace.
I voiced the question, lurking beneath all the rest: Do I trust the Lord?
Do I trust the Lord to take care of us?
Do I trust the Lord with what makes me come alive?
Do I trust the Lord with what is true for this season?
Do I trust the Lord with what I hope for?
Do I trust the Lord with the story he is telling?
Today, my trust looks like filing my status as inactive. My trust looks like talking about the shame and voicing the fear in my heart, proclaiming truth over it. Because when we talk about it, the truth gets to be louder than the fear and the shame.
The truth is:
The Lord is my provider.
The Lord is my story teller.
The Lord made me and because of that, I can celebrate the things that make me come alive.
The Lord gave my heart dreams and hopes. I don’t have to be ashamed of them.
The Lord can be trusted.
The Lord can be trusted with me.
The Lord can be trusted with my future.
My story isn’t prescriptive. Trusting the Lord, for someone else, might look like keeping their license current. But I recognize the peace that flooded my heart when I unclenched my hand around my nursing license and gave it to Jesus. That peace only comes from Jesus, when he shows us the way we should go and we say yes.
My prayer today is for trust, and I echo Psalm 20:7.
Some trust in backup plans and safety nets, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. [my own paraphrase]
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. [Psalm 20:7]