♻️Dying and Living

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end-of-lifeGreetings my fellow readers and bloggers! It’s been way too long since my last post. RN school has really taken most of my time these days, and as many of you know, it’s not easy tackling school, work, family, and church. But, we must take it one day at  a time. 

So, last week in class, we were asked by an instructor to write a couple paragraphs on our thoughts of end of life/death, since it is our lecture topic this week. Well, a couple paragraphs turned into 3 pages! The purpose of the reflective journal was not only just for her to read, but for us to check ourself, and see where our heart is with such a difficult topic for many. Below, I will post an exerpt from the paper, of my thoughts, and experience on dying. This is my story.                      ***Disclaimer, you may need tissues handy.*** 

  I used to wonder why bad things happen to good people. I used to blame God when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I used to blame myself, on why I didn’t reach out to more people. I used to…

            My brother Manny had just turned 31 years old, he loved to laugh, dance, and just have a good time. Anytime I was going through something rough, he would always make a joke, and always made things feel lighter. He was not perfect, but after all no one is. He was the life of the party, and filled with life! Growing up in Los Angeles was not always peaches and crème. Manny turned to other things that helped him cope with his environment. I was also living in L.A at the time, and our parents were living in rural West Virginia, where God had called them to pastor a church. Praise God for praying parents, who always encouraged and loved us no matter the poor choices we made.

            One day, my brother Manny decided to leave his old lifestyle and moved across the country to West Virginia. I was so excited for his decision to finally change, and told him I would drive him to the airport myself. I picked him up about 5am to head to the airport. I thought he wouldn’t’ be ready, or flake out, because it was such a huge move! I knocked on the window to his room, to find him wide-awake, and all he could do is share the excitment of his next move! I told him if he was ready to make this life changing decision, and he hesitantly and farsightedly said he was. He was also leaving his two young children, who he loved very much, in the care of their mother.

            He arrives to West Virginia, and quickly begins to get aquanted with his new home. He slowly made a 180 turn in his lifestyle choices. He quickly gets a job, and soon enough becomes a manager at a local fine dining restaurant. His life was falling into place. He starting to send any extra money he had, back home to California to his children, and started to attend church again. He paid off old parking tickets, therefore allowing him to get his drivers license, and purchase a vehicle. He was happy as can be. I was still in Los Angeles during this time but, I remember my sister calling me and telling me she took him to the DMV to get his drivers license. They asked him if he would like to be an organ donor. He asked them to clarify, not fully understanding what it meant. And so they explained to him, for example, if anything were to ever happen or say he would get in an accident, if we would like to donate his organs, and save another life. He quickly responded, “yes, I would save someone’s life.” The statement he made would foreshadow the events to take place a few months later.

            I was working nightshift in an acute Psych unit in a hospital in the L.A area. About 2am, I get a call from my mom, which was very strange to me, since it was 5am East Coast time, and wondered why she would be calling me so early. She begins to share that Manny was in a car accident, and from the trembling in her voice, I knew it was bad. She said that the doctors told my parents that they needed to call the family and have them come right away. I left work early, and got the first morning flight out to D.C the next morning.

            I get to the hospital, along with a few other family members who flew in, to find Manny in an ICU bed, lifeless. He was intubated with mechanical ventilation (life-support). I held his hand, and felt him say he was okay and at peace. At that moment I knew he was gone. With tears flowing down my face, I walked out the room and began to pray. My parents and family (I come from a family of ministers) prayed, and urgently sent messages out to all the pastors in our fellowship, and had everyone praying for a miracle. My family contended for a miracle, that only the hand of God can do. But, after a second EEG confirmed there was no brain activity, other decisions had to be made.

             Then, the Gift of Life Program came into place. MannyBoy was an organ donor. After a week long of tests, and keeping him alive on life support, he was to become a donor.

“You were born with the ability to change someone’s life, don’t ever waste it”.

            Early on Saturday morning, they would take him in the OR (Operating Room). We held Manny’s hand for one last time, and as his flaccid body lay on the bed at the doorway of the OR, we said our last goodbye.

            After he passed, my siblings and I went in his room, and took home with us some of his belongings. I took a couple of Manny’s Bob Marley shirts, and his favorite “Jager” shot glass. I began to step back into a lifestyle I am not proud of. I started taking pills, smoking cigarettes & pot, and “backslid.” I was angry, hurt, and had no self-esteem. I was mad at God, on how He would allow such thing to happen to Manny after he changed his life around. I blamed the two other girls in the car with him, the driver of the car, who was intoxicated. It was a difficult season. organ_transplant_SPLAT

            One night before going out to a Hollywood club, I was taking shots in Manny’s shot glass, and as I was pounding them down, I heard Manny’s voice, “what are you doing to yourself…” My lifestyle of destruction behavior quickly changed. I began to go to church again and seeked God. God is my refuge and my strength, and through everything, He was always in the midst. Even in my darkest times, God was protecting me from the many poor decisions I was making.

            Two years later, my sis-in-law receives flowers from the young man who received Manny’s heart. Words cannot describe what this meant to my family. We were (and are) still healing from this. That a young man is now alive, and able to live life, because our Manny wanted to “save his life.”

            There have been many situations of death I have experienced. I can say it has gotten much easier throughout the years, but it is always something difficult to go through. About 5 years ago, while working on a Med/Surg floor, I lost a patient, and held his hand as he took his last breath and went to be with the Lord. I have also had family members pass away related to drug use/misuse.  Death is never an easy thing to go through. I can honestly say that like myself, many have doubted God, when these heartbreaking situations occur. The sad truth is often times, healthcare workers and other professions become “numb” to dying, as we see it all around us. 

             A couple weeks ago, during my OR clinical rotation for school, I was blessed to be able to witness first hand, an organ harvest/transplant surgery. Having seeing that, it has even more so brought awareness of the value of being an organ donor. My hope is that everyone would consider being one too. 

So, here I am almost 4 years later since Manny went to heaven. I have been set-free, and delivered from depression/suicide thoughts, drug abuse, and promiscuity. I am studying to become what God has ordained for me to be. That despite all circumstances, and hindrances, I will reach my goal. My prayer is that people will see the light, and know that God is in control. Amen.

 

For more info on becoming an organ donor: 

http://www.organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/

 

🔭Destiny Vs. Rear View Mirror

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dont-look-back-unless-its-a-good-view-148264-500-3241        Recently, I was introduced to the much acclaimed show called,  The Walking Dead. There’s something about the zombie apocalypse and a captivating storyline to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat!  On the contrary,  I must admit, for a while now I’ve chosen to adopt the “no watching tv” concept. Although on occasion, I tune in to some shows (view via iPhone apps). Anyhow, it doesn’t really matter why I’ve chosen to opt out of television (for such a time as this, at least). But just know this, I’ve chosen to explore other avenues to occupy my free time.

       Back to TWD… in the show, they often speak of, not looking back, or “don’t look back.”  This is primary to the fact that if one does look back, it will slow you down and therefore increase your odds of getting bit, or killed. In watching this show, I am reminded about life itself. How many times have we heard people say, “your past does not define you” or “keep looking ahead, things will get better.” The way I comprehend it is that we should remember where we came from, and look forward to where  we’re going in the direction God is leading us.

Often times, we tend to look at our past in regret, instead of with appreciation for how far we have come. It may be difficult for us to keep looking ahead, if our mind is so fogged in our past. I say this with humility, knowing that I too have been guilty of this.

About a year ago, I had some issues with one of the side view mirrors of my car.  Within a couple days of eachother,  I replaced the mirror twice. The first time the mirror “broke”, it was knocked off by another driver. After being repaired it was replaced by a new mirror, and that very same day, it was struck by a bike rider who was riding too close to me.  I found it odd in wondering how this continuously happened to my poor Stevie Wonder (my Toyota Camry, yes, I named my car).

As I sat and reflected on this car issue, the Lord began to speak to me on why this mirror kept  “falling off” or “breaking.”  You see, the mirror breaking was a physical manifestation of what my spiritual being was being dealt with. In the spiritual, I was dwelling on my past. Condemnation tried to sneak in a peak and remind me of who I was before Christ. I reflected back and thought about the what-if’s (why this did or didn’t happen).  God was showing me that there needed to be a “break” in how I viewed my past. Then, I was reminded of the scripture, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”-Romans 8:1.

When looking at a mirror, you see a reflection of yourself. But, when you look through a rear-view mirror, you are looking at what’s behind you. Now, I’m not saying we should all ignore the rules of driving and not look through our rear-view mirrors. But, The Lord is telling us to stop looking at the past in regret or shame. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Just because the past taps you on the shoulder, doesn’t mean you have to look back.” For many of us, our past is not the most desirable and safe place we would like to be in again. When I think back on how far God has brought me, and all He has carried me through, it has only been by His grace that He has kept me. Looking back in regret is not how God wants us to view our past. Let us look forward on to the great things God has planned for us, our destiny. When we stay in His will, He will give us everything we desire and more. Our hopes, dreams, and deepest desires will come to pass as we continue to remain obedient to the plans He has set before us. Be encouraged and look forward, not back. Blessings.

❤️Thirty things I’ve learned at 30

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  Thirty things I have learned at 30

      By, Norma Renteria

 Today is November 13, 2013, and it is my birthday. I am now 30 years young. My twenties were quite an adventure. I’ve learned and grown so much, practically and spiritually. God has revealed so much to me, bringing things to light in my life that I never realized before. I took some time to sit down, and reflect on some things I have learned in life thus far. I pray this encourages you.

1. LIVE-LAUGH-LOVE-Live life like it’s your last day, Laugh so hard you pee your pants, and Love as Christ has loved you.                                                                             

2. I cannot “do it all.”  Let your “Yes be YES, and your No be NO.” ~James 5:12    Do not overwhelm yourself with commitments you can’t keep. Be a person of your word, integrity.                                                                                 

3. People cannot read your mind, so share from the heart. Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes. BAM.

4. Always give your full attention to whomever is in front of you. Look at people in the eyes when you are talking to them. Put your cell phone away, its rude to be glued to your phone in the company of others (I’m still learning this).

5. Ignore the small stuff. Give them a break. Sometimes, it’s the little things built up to cause disaster. This is has been especially difficult for OCD people such as myself.

6. Do your best. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord.” ~Colossians 3:23.  Show up; Give 100% of what you can give that day.

7. Be a Risk-Taker. Be brave and take risks.  You will not regret the things you did, but those you did not do.

8. Finding your passion is important.  My passion is Loving God and Loving People. Strive to please God. ~Nursing-Family~ Live to Love.

9. Relationships matter.  I’ve learned not to isolate myself. Stay connected, through the good times and bad.

10. The past does not equal the future. “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” You can’t change the past, so it’s important to focus on the present. Your Past Does Not Dictate Your Future.

11. It’s OK to wait.  We don’t need to hurry. Sometimes it’s okay to wait a little longer for something. Enjoy the journey. God’s Timing is always perfect.

12. Don’t believe everything you think and feel. Don’t over think. The enemy will sometimes distort things, causing you to feel contrary to what you stand for and believe. Pray and ask God for clarity.

13. There is a definition of love. Here it is: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”

14. Change is good. Change is an uncomfortable thing because we are creatures of habit and comfort.  “How will you ever discover new waters, if you’re afraid to leave the dock.”  So if you’re too comfortable it means you’re not growing. Change=Growth

15. Be transparent. You can’t grow and get help if you’re not honest with yourself and others. Concealing your reality stunts growth and prevents true change. Every meaningful relationship requires transparency and openness.

16. Don’t let anyone or anything define you. My identity is in Christ.  I’m nothing in myself, but I’m grateful that I know who I am in Him!

17. TRUE BEAUTY: God loves me the way I am! I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”, 1 Peter 3:4.

18. Who ever said, “you can have it all”… You can’t have everything without sacrificing something. So figure out what means the most to you and then prioritize.

19. Live a life serving others. Take the focus off of yourself and find out what you can do for someone else on a daily basis. That is True Joy!

20. Travel, NOW!  God has created such beautiful world we live in! It would be a shame for us not to embrace His goodness. Save $, Travel, and Explore! Bon Voyage!

21. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Albert Einstein defined this as insanity. Enough said.

22. Have a teachable spirit. Allow loved ones to correct you and tell you about yourself. Correction doesn’t feel good, but it is necessary for growth.

23. Don’t stress, don’t be anxious, and don’t worry. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right” (in my Bob Marley voice).

24. Don’t complain. Instead, give Praise and give Thanks!  I used to complain a lot, until I learned that the root of complaining was selfishness and ungratefulness. Ouch.

25. There is beauty in simplicity.  Less is more! It teaches you to appreciate every little thing!  Sometimes, the simplest things in life have greater value. Enjoy the simple things in life.

26. Do not make big decisions (or write important emails/texts) after 10pm.  This may not be the wisest choice. Sleeping on it is always a good idea.

27. God’s not dead, He is surely alive. His spirit is living in me! My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and I must treat it with the highest utmost respect.

28. Forgive, period.

29. Eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are sleepy. Lack of both of those is no bueno. It leads to a moody, rude, and ignorant person. Trust me I know (I’m referring to myself).

30. I am so ready for my thirties!  I’ve loved most of my 20s, but am really looking forward to this new decade.  So bring it on, 30s!

The Best is Yet to Come!

😁👍Last Day in My 20s

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Stories from my 20s:

2003-2013

I have lived an amazing past decade.

At 20: I became a homeowner, and bought my first duplex. Raised my first Boxer puppy,  Carter.

At 21: Went back to school and became a full-time student, while working 2 jobs.  Learned to lean on Jehova-jireh, my Provider.

At 22: Went on a Medical Mission Trip to Central America, and my life was forever marked.

At 23: Learned to water ski. Graduated from nursing school, passed boards, and became a Licensed Practical Nurse.

At 24: Visited La Isla Del Encanto, Puerto Rico. Was maid-of -honor at my younger sisters wedding.

At 25:  Left the east coast, and moved back home to L.A. Fell in love with Walt Disney World, Orlando as I visited for the 1st time. Played the slot machines for the first time in Vegas.

At 26: Delivered from depression and suicide thoughts. Begin working in an Acute Psychiatric Unit.

At 27: Moved from  Southern California to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Became free from alcohol, drugs, and smoking.  Rededicated my life to Christ. Started working my travel nurse job, that flew me all over the U.S (first-class). Tasted interesting creatures for the first time (snails, frog legs, alligator).

At 28: Got baptized (again), Baptized in the Holy Spirit, Committed myself to Christ to abstain and stay pure until my wedding day. Went sky-diving. Ran the Philadelphia Marathon. Wrote my 30 by 30 list, and started my blog (this one) : ) Started working for UPenn.

At 29: Went on my first cruise to the Bahamas. Able to witness my niece, Alegria Jubilee being born (one of the most precious moments of my life).

Last day in my 20’s: All I can say is, “Wow.”

I am sitting in my office at work, looking out the window to the colorful fall foliage (today, we received our first snow flurry of the season).  I am in awe of all that God has done over the past 10 years.

I cannot wait to see what He does over the next 10… I have hopes and dreams that I hope to see God fulfill someday.

I have acquired… more faith, a deeper appreciation, and understanding of Who Christ is in my life.

Today, is my last day in these wonderful years. Praise God for this season of transition and transformation! Thank you Heavenly Father for being my first love. Thank you for teaching me what unconditional love looks like. I am grateful to have learned that no matter what I do (or don’t do) God still sees me as his daughter, and calls me by name. I am beyond blessed and highly favored, and happy to know that the best years are ahead.

Amen.

~Norma (the 29 year old)

Be a Goal Digger!✊

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Be a GOAL Digger! So, I realized that my 30th birthday is soon approaching (in 8 days to be exact). I have not completed my 30 by 30 list, and I do not think I will. I did not want to “rush” in checking things off the list, just for the sake of getting them done. I wanted each of them to be completed with purpose (Quality Versus Quantity). 

But, things will continue to be worked on, even after I turn 30. I will keep moving forward, until my goals are accomplished. And when this list is completed,  a fresh new list will be in the works… The Best is Yet to Come. Be encouraged.

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With that being said, I was reminded of…

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Here are some keys that encouraged me:

Biblical Keys for Goal Setting

Faith - We serve a big God who can accomplish the impossible.  There is nothing He can’t do.  We can believe that He journeys with us and always has our best in mind.  He is trustworthy and faithful.

Humility - We never want to be in a position of demanding that things work out or that all our goals are accomplished exactly as we say.  The Lord’s will always trumps our own.  We need to be sure our attitude is one of humility before our holy and mighty God.

Commitment –  We need to commit ourselves to the tasks at hand.

Diligence - Goals often require hard work.  We need to be diligent in our effort.

Perseverance - We will face set backs and disappointments, but need to persevere through rough times.  Don’t give up!

Alignment with God’s Word and Will - As we mentioned above, are we within the parameters of God’s Word and His character?

Forethought & Planning – Have we done the appropriate homework before starting our task?  Have we counted the cost?

Motivation - We need to ask the hard questions.  What is our goal and why?  Do we have selfish motives or are we operating with a healthy heart.

(From: http://celebrateeverydaywithme.com/2013/04/25-scripture-verses-on-goal-setting.html)

“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal.”

🎶Motown, the Musical🎤

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A couple weeks ago during Labor Day Weekend, I spent a few days in NYC hanging out with some friends visiting from Los Angeles, and met up with a couple of my Philly girls to see the Motown Musical. I thoroughly enjoyed the time, and had one of the best weekends of my life. Not only was the weekend jam packed, I was able to go to the Motown, The Musical Show on Broadway. This was my first, at not my last to say the least Broadway Show. We had such an amazing time at the Show, and I did not want the show to end!063

Here is my Review: We waited in a long line outside the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 46th St. and Broadway. The anticipation grew as we lined the street, it did not help that the weather was sticky, and humid, but normal for a typical summer day in NYC.  As we entered the theatre, many Motown memorabilia and photos surrounded us. We found our seats, and anxiously seated preparing ourselves for the show. The theater was filled with a bunch of 50 and 60-something year-olds.  We were excited. Sugar Pie Honey Bunch!  The show begin with none other than The Temptations! And yes, they tore it up! With their glittery, bright colored suits, and shiny Stacy Adams, they got the party started. Everyone in the theater was dancing and singing along, after all, we couldn’t help it.071

The whole show was definitely one to remember. We laughed, cried, danced, and laughed some more.  All my favorites were in the show, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Mary Wells, The Four Tops,  Jackson 5,  Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, … can’t forget Smokey. This show is definitely a must-see!!

Motown will always be a heavy-duty part of my life because those are my roots”.
Smokey Robinson