I am the pencil?

“I am like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.” Mother Teresa

Many times in my life I have been keenly aware of God’s direction–the rather remarkable circumstances through which I entered nursing school (and my profession/life of the past 36 years), the miraculous discovery of the one physician who could salvage my daughter’s life, the indelible influence that my Christian collaborating physician and his beautiful wife have had on my life, and a text message a short while ago from my granddaughter, a beautiful, intelligent young woman of whom I am very proud. She wrote that she has been working on a blog for some time now, but has been timid about sharing the link with anyone. Guess what, dear–your Nana has heretofore been very selective in sharing her link, too! As a matter of fact, my first post pretty much details my ugly fears and uncertainties. I was rather depressed for about a week prior to clicking “Publish”, but, surprise! I have been inordinately happy since doing it. My mind is full of ideas, phrases, analogies–all just struggling to make it to the printed page. And, I am happy. Don’t take that the wrong way. It’s not that I feel important or particularly gifted. I know my blog is not literary genius or food for the intellectual. But it is my soapbox, my stage, and, if any readers show up, my audience.

You see, it is easy to feel that one has little of importance to say. But, perhaps, in God’s eyes, the least of these thoughts timidly recorded is a very big deal. I have often pondered Mother Teresa’s words quoted above. I don’t think the pencil analogy has to do with just words, although words are very important. As a nurse, I think of the words and phrases that evoke such vivid images to us and capture so succinctly the patient situation we are describing. We say, “just fan him with a big white hat,” to mean that there is nothing specific we can do to help that particular complaint, but that the white hat, representative of the good cowboy saving the day, might somehow send good karma his way. Or what about the phrase “she’s crashing and burning”, which inspires in our gut the same adrenalin rush that seeing a plane’s fiery demise might? Although it has fallen out of favor, in my young nurse days the words “he’s low sick” described a patient in the valley of illness with multiple issues and declining vital signs and a grim prognosis. Today “she’s a hot mess” might be heard in the clinical setting to describe the same patient. For me that phrase brings to mind a steaming hot pile of whatever turns you off–a big mess that has to be cleaned up, and the cleaning made all the more difficult because it is, indeed, hot! The patient that breathes the thought, “I want to go home,” and you know he’s talking about a better home than his home here on earth, can inspire a particularly keen watchful wait in the nurse. And then, there is the all-important “just tie a knot and hang on”, because even when the rope is slipping through your hands and you are about to fall to your fate, the proverbial knot will give you a handhold to cling to.

Words do indeed speak volumes and are tremendously important, especially to a writer, but actions are important, too. Sometimes the action of clicking “Publish” is more important than we know. For too long I have been afraid of failure. Mother Teresa also said, “God didn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.” If I am, indeed, His pencil, every word typed and published is His to use as He chooses. Perhaps those words might offer inspiration, encouragement, or comfort. It is my job to trust and just do it. What about you? Are you His pencil? How are you fulfilling that challenge? I hope with confidence and with the best effort that is in you.

And that you, dear, dear granddaughter, will go forth boldly to share your knowledge, creativity, sensitivity–so many gifts in one beautiful package! Go ahead, sweetie, blog and broadcast it to the world!


This whole adventure of blogging has set me to thinking about who I am meant to be, how I’ve gotten to this point, and people and events that have changed my life. Today I honor one of the great influences in my life–one of those lifelong friends who, though distant geographically, is always present in my heart.

Arlene is one of those people. The only child of loving parents, she was given a name that blended the “given” names of both her father and mother–Arlin plus Lorene equals Arlene. The name is so dear to me that I named my daughter, Cindy Arlene, after her. Arlene and I met during our years in the fledgling nursing program at a Christian college in Arkansas, our home state, 38 years ago. We were among the four married students in our class. I was the most nontraditional of all since I already had two children, ages 5 and 3. We married students gravitated together, but Arlene and I “bonded”. We struggled with endless clinical assignments, skills labs, lectures, exams, and care plans. We studied together, commiserated with each other, laughed a lot, cried some. Arlene and I made a memorable but delicious mess cooking toffee with melted chocolate for a Christmas treat. Her mother gifted me with a lovely Christmas cross stitch piece designating remembrance of friends as a central theme at Christmas–it still graces our home each Christmas season. And, finally, in May of 1978, we graduated with a baccalaureate degree in nursing from Harding University.

Arlene’s husband, Kelly, is a college professor, and his work led them to live in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama. At about the same time after graduation, though in two separate states–she working in the student infirmary at Ole Miss and I at home in my kitchen–we each decided to try regular dishwashing liquid in automatic dishwashers! The result, of course, was a seemingly unending flood of beautiful soapsuds cascading down the front of the machine and into the floor. The fact that it happened to both of us was comforting somehow. Through each of her moves, we never lost each other. Months might go by without a visit, but then Arlene would return to Arkansas to visit family or Cindy and I would load up and travel to each of those states to visit in her home. Arlene’s sense of gracious southern hospitality is unfailing. She is the ultimate gentle southern Christian lady–serene, compassionate, insightful, devoted to serving others. She practiced nursing as a registered nurse, as I did, but she soon found her way into the role of nurse educator, guiding students to understand not only the technical skills necessary for safe nursing but striving to inspire in them the same sensitivity and compassion that characterized her as a nurse. She has a special love for geriatric patients–seeing past the confusion or the querulous nature into their hearts and minds. She was an example of daughterly devotion as she cared for her mother through her battle with cancer and, later, with seeing her father through the hardships of cardiovascular disease and aging. She has become a true nurse expert, author, and presenter, and has been honored by our alma mater as an outstanding alumnus.

I have become a better, stronger, more devoted Christian because of Arlene. She gifted me with a daily devotional book in 2001, and I have read portions of it every year since. It truly speaks to me and inspires me to strive to be gentler, calmer, and always true to my faith. Arlene has seen me through many storms of life–a divorce, the struggles of single parenthood, dealing with my own family tragedies and illnesses–and the happiness of a second marriage “made in heaven”. She is the ultimate prayer warrior, supporting me and my family through the challenges of a child’s mental illness.

Thank you, Arlene, for being my BFF, my confidante, my sister in Christ. I honor you today, your birthday, and thank God for blessing my life with you.

The Next Chapter

Why am I here? (Blogging, I mean.) And, just what do I have to say? (That would be worth others reading!) It’s about recreating myself. Or, just maybe, having the courage and initiative and perseverance to pursue what I hope will be my “next” career.

You see, it seems that most of my life has been about being a nurse. And it’s been a really good part. Don’t get me wrong–I am still, and will always be, a nurse. Nursing still occupies a major portion of my days. But, sometimes it’s time to dream the next dream, conquer the fear, and start something new. I think this is that time. It is time to begin writing the next chapter of my life.

I have always dreamed of being a writer. A for real, published writer. I thought that was just about writing a book and getting someone to publish it. But, in this day of the worldwide web and immediate internet notoriety (and noticeability), I have learned one needs to be “present” in that great void of connectivity. To say it in the vernacular of agents and publishers, one needs to have a “platform”, to be visible, and to have followers.

Why would anyone “follow” me? Well, to start out, you might congratulate me. For taking this first step. It wasn’t easy. I have agonized over it–been fearful, frustrated, and despairing. Yet, here I am–imagine that!–writing to the great “void”–bold, confident (well, maybe that’s stretching it), and full of hope. I am reminded of Isaiah 43:18-19a: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

So, here I am. Doing a new thing! I wonder how many of you have unrealized dreams, how many others have been fearful, frustrated, despairing? Surely I am not the only one! Or, maybe I am. Just wondering. This journey should be interesting, to say the least. More later…………….