Pushing Pause

As a kid growing up in the eighties, I recall many joyous movie nights with my family, watching video tapes on the VCR. After popping some popcorn, we would gather in the family room to watch movies together. Every so often, though, someone would push pause to take a break to renew his or her focus before continuing onward in the plot.

What activities encourage you to “push pause” in your life journey? I discovered my recent need for this as I spent one afternoon with my husband in a local park. We were lying on a blanket beneath the shade of a tree with glimmers of the sun shining in between the leaves. Surrounding ourselves with this natural environment, it gave us a place where we could rest and reflect upon our lives. After a few hours, I felt so rejuvenated and restored in order to continue forward in my plot—personally and professionally. Hence, it is in these moments in which I spend time with those whom I love that I can rekindle my love of serving others, especially in my ministry as a chaplain.

So, when was the last time you “pushed pause?” Whether it be a specific activity or not, it is in these moments of pausing that you can continue playing through the script of your life. May you be able to take some time this week where you can push the pause button to your own journey—not only to restore you physically but also emotionally, socially, mentally and spiritually as you interact with and serve those around you.

Establishing Trust

When I was born, it took my physician three days to diagnose my disability, and this was followed by many medical professionals saying they were unfamiliar with my condition. After a few weeks, my parents took me to Shriners Hospital where Dr. Schoenecker entered the room and, upon noticing me for the first time, exclaimed, “She has arthrogryposis!” Feeling a great sense of peace, my father responded, pointing back at him, “You are our man!”

Reflecting upon this experience reminds me of the image of throwing a stone into a body of water. Our throwing of the stone not only has a direct impact of where it hits the water but it has the rippling effect around that area. Similarly, this best illustrates our ministry to those whom se serve. We directly care for the patient, but our care also affects their loved ones. We address the needs of not just the patients but also their support systems—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is through our care of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—where trust is established, and we can begin the journey of healing, no matter what the outcome.

God, as we enter the healing journey of every patient and loved, help us to remember that our words and actions not only influence those on our unit but also have a rippling affect beyond the walls of this hospital. In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Never Do That Again”

As a young child, I recall my mother having a magnetized notepad that she kept on the refrigerator door with her running grocery and chore lists. Wanting to model her behavior, I decided to write on the refrigerator of my toy kitchen with a crayon. My mother passed my room, catching me in the act and scolding me for drawing on my kitchen, and then she instructed me to scrub it off as she gave me the cleaning materials. A few minutes later, peeking in to check my progress, she smiled as she overheard me repeating to myself, “I never do this again. I never do this again.”

Life offers a web of experiences where we can learn through the opportunities and change how we respond to future similar circumstances. It is not the concept of never doing an action again that molds us, but it is the wisdom we glean as we reflect on these thought-changing moments.

Lord, thank You for the delicacy of life and how it continuously unfolds before us. Guide us in utilizing all circumstances—big and small—as steps to blossom into our fullest potential and to draw closer to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.

A Breath in the Transition

It was 8:40 a.m. My pager vibrated, and when I called the number listed, a nurse requested my presence to support a patient who was actively dying but had no family present. Upon my arrival, the bedside nurses informed me that the patient’s heart rate had greatly increased since paging me. I walked over to the patient’s bedside, gently held her hand, and provided pastoral support, including words of comfort and encouragement, prayer, and a blessing. A few minutes later, her heart rate began declining rapidly, and she eventually took her last breath. As I reflected with the nurses in the room afterwards, we discussed how the spiritual support seemed to grant the patient “permission” to move forward in the direction she was heading.

All of us face transitions in life—some that we can overcome alone and some that require support from others. During those times of feeling overwhelmed, it is crucial to acknowledge when we need another’s breath of life for support and to reach out and/or receive that assistance. The Lord encourages us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and to “help each other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

What transitions are you facing in life right now? How can you breathe life into those around you facing difficult times or receive that breath from your peers?

Lord, as we confront various transitions in life as well as support those facing their own, may we acknowledge You and Your presence through it all. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Sacred Silence

Have you ever discovered the sacredness of just being present with another?

One Thursday, after experiencing a difficult training session, a resident chaplain thought to himself, “I don’t think I can do this. God, what should I do with my life then?” Feeling defeated, he headed to the Stress Center to lead a spirituality group. Upon arrival, one patient followed him to the group room before starting time. Speaking only a few words, the chaplain silently journeyed alongside the man who was now staring out the window and shedding tears over his personal grievances. Finally, the patient turned back to the chaplain, shook his hand, whispered the words “thank you,” and exited the room. Sitting in awe afterwards, the chaplain began pondering, “Okay, God; I can do this. Thank You for this confirmation.”

As members of the healthcare team, we primarily focus on how we can best serve those in our care. However, it is sometimes the patients and their families who serve us in our need—our need for positive affirmation to continue our ministry of caregiving. In the book titled Compassion, the authors summarize this idea by stating, “Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other’s vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, become part of the uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination.” Thus, it is through being present with another that we can experience the sacredness of silence.

Lord, in the book of James, You instruct us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Guide us through the moments where we can just relish in the sacredness of the silence. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Traditions

Around Memorial Day, there is a constant roar throughout Indy about the upcoming race. As Hoosiers, we constantly talk about attending the race, including the seats we have, the noise of the race cars, and our pre-celebratory plans. We become connected to the drivers by learning about their personal lives through the local media as well as attending various events leading to the big day.

Personally, not being from Indiana, my connection to this annual event arises from my grandfather and father. They lived in Indianapolis for several years of my father’s childhood and teenage years, and my father even worked in the race stands during the Indy 500.

One tradition that Grandpa and Dad established and continued doing—for as long as I could remember—was the yearly bet. With there being thirty-three drivers, Grandpa selected his three top choices for who could win the race, and then Dad took the remaining twenty-seven racers. This tradition was not significant for the one dollar on which they placed the bet but for the camaraderie that was built through this competition. This ritual became such an important part of my family that Dad and I now still carry it on—except he now selects the three drivers!

What memories do you treasure from your past? What traditions exist for you and your family around this time of year? No matter whether it be through annual traditions with family and friends or through newly established customs, may you take a few moments not just remember those who have served our country (and continue to do so) but also your own service to God, your family, your friends, and your ministry in this community.

The Fragility of Life

In January, I traveled to Salisbury, Maryland, where I met my six week-old niece for the very first time. During my moments of holding Isabella, she either laid still in my arms—sleeping, sucking on the nipple of a bottle, or staring aimlessly in different directions. When she was more awake, I had to grasp her a little tighter as she wiggled to become more comfortable. 

As I closely observed my niece, I began reflecting on how the infancy stage holds similarities to that of someone approaching his or her last moments here on earth. In both of these stages, the individual heavily relies on his or her caregivers to provide for their needs as well as to make the appropriate decisions for them. Many a times, the persons are requiring much rest, and when they are awake, they desire comfort and possibly attention. 

Furthermore, each of these spectrums of life can offer similar reactions from family members. Loved ones gather at the bedside, waiting for the arrival into or exit from this world. Whether it be of joy, mourning, or relief, cries are commonly heard from those watching intensely as the event unfolds.   

Lord, in moments of both life and death, may we remember that You are the commander of the entire cycle. May You offer Your peace not to just those whom are directly impacted but also to those whom are caring for the individuals. In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

 

“Forks in Life”

One morning, my husband Jeff and I were sitting in a Sunday school class, each eating a cup of trail mix. With us both not liking raisins, Jeff decided it would be comical to start tossing his raisins into my cup. Glaring at him, I whispered, “I don’t like raisins!” Smiling back at me, he continued on with this annoying gesture. At this point, I came to a fork regarding my decision on how to handle this—either ignore his action and not eat the trail mix or continue eating as if his action did not bother me. I chose the latter.

Reflecting on this trivial incident and my response, I am reminded of a famous poem that I cherish—“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

We all come to different forks in life—both significant and insignificant ones—paths where we do not know what lays ahead but are forced to make a decision. Though it may sometimes feel like a solo path where no one comprehends what you are facing, there is One always available and always willing to journey alongside you through every fork that you encounter. Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Know that God continually avails Himself to us and offers guidance in all circumstances; may this realization grant us the peace and strength to move forward through all the challenges that this life holds—making all the difference

Carrying the Load

Our work shift can change in a moment’s notice. A trauma require emergency attention. An overhead code bellow through the hallways. The medical condition of a patient suddenly takes a turn for the worst. In all these stressful times, we may experience anxiety and tension. According to author Lena Horne, “It’s not the load that breaks you it’s the way you carry it.”

As we wait for the patient’s and/or family’s arrival, what can we do besides preparing the room and taking report? Take a few deep breaths. Triage what needs to be done now and in possibly the next several minutes. Whisper a prayer to the One above Who travels alongside you everywhere you go.

Lord, according to Matthew 11:28, You said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We come to You now, asking that You help us carry the loads we have now and those that will be placed upon us. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Standing Out

With spring being around the corner, the changes that this season brings stand out around us.  The longer days allow for our enjoyment in the warm air.  New buds appear on the branches of trees and bushes.  Birds awaken us with their early songs while geese approach us aggressively as they squawk loudly. 

So, in what ways have you brought change to our work environment here within the walls of this building?  How do you stand out?  I stand out—definitely physically, and I do not deny it.  There have been many times when I have received peculiar looks from others as they observe me performing daily activities, such as walking, sitting, and carrying objects.  However, it has been through these unique encounters in which I have acquired a more intimate encounter with individuals, empathizing and encouraging them through their own personal struggles. 

As we go before the Lord now, reflect on the opportunities He has given you to stand out:

Gracious God, thank You for the ways You stand out in each of our lives.  Thank You for the changes You bring to each season of our lives.  Give us the courage to further stand out as we strive to make a difference for others.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Sharing Your Story

We all encounter unique life experiences for a reason.  Sometimes that reason is evident from the onset, and other times, it becomes apparent as time passes.  The latter held true for me when I worked with a particular patient and his mother.

Upon following up with the unresponsive patient, I met his mother for the first time at the bedside and offered support.  During my visit, she shared details regarding the patient’s background—details about the limited use of his left arm and hand and his questioning of “Why, God?” towards his disability.  As she shared, I noticed her glancing a couple of times at my left upper extremities, becoming aware in the connection of our stories.

Even though I never verbally spoke a word about my struggles, it was in the silence that I was able to share my story, empathizing with her son’s physical and spiritual grievances.  The author Iyanla Vanzant quotes, “When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you, and your story will heal somebody else.”  Thus, each of us has a story to tell; whether or not it is through verbal cues, our journeys are imparted to others through our actions, emotions, and other creative methods in which the Lord has given us.  What is your story, and how have you or can you share with others?

Lord, You have taken each of us on our own journey for a reason.  Help us each to utilize these experiences to glorify You—Your strength, love, perseverance, courage, grace, and faithfulness.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

The Impact You Have

Whether you intentionally do so or not, you impact the lives of those around you.

I was reminded of this one day when my pager went off near the end of my shift. A colleague wanted to update me on her life since her training here at the hospital. As we sat on the window sill in the hallway and conversed about her progress, she stated, “You know, it was you who helped me get to where I am today.” She further explained that it was through my listening and my role-modeling in which she also grasped a passion for chaplaincy.

Even though you each may not always receive this kind of feedback as you operate in your role, you make a difference in those around you. It is through your actions—your smile, your eye contact, your physical presence. It is in the words you speak, such as “I will be caring for you today” or “Let me help you with that.” It is in your attitude—one of compassion, empathy, helpfulness, perseverance.

Let us reflect on those whom we have or may have impacted as we go now before the Lord:

O God, as we reflect on the impact we’ve had with others, we also thank You for how You’ve impacted us. Help us to continue to reflect You and Your ways in all we do. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Crossing Paths

Recently, I was availed the opportunity to hear a patient’s story about her recovery.  Sitting upright in a chair less than twenty-four hours after surgery, she shared her struggles with getting out of bed that morning.  The nurse had instructed her that she was going to sit in a chair that morning; the patient expressed how she was comfortable and wanted to remain in bed but eventually followed the nurse’s instructions.

As this woman described her experience, my memory bank churned to previous images of my own numerous surgical recoveries that I endured.  I recalled not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed, not wanting to undergo the physical agony of rehabilitation, and not wanting to reposition even an inch due to the realization of the pain that would follow.  I specifically remember the night I spent in an ICU-like recovery room where the nurse would awaken me every hour by slapping my hand.  After several hours of this, my body internally screamed, “Leave me alone!!!”

Shortly after my visit with the female patient, I became aware of the irony of this situation.  From the patient’s viewpoint, the healing process to any illness can prove difficult—one full of many ups and downs that requires continued perseverance despite the endless hurdles, disappointments, painful moments, and heartaches one faces.  It sometimes takes the strength and direction of the medical team to start the engine of the healing process.  This is where the medical team proves extremely beneficial in providing the endless motivation and encouragement throughout the healing journey, thus, fulfilling their own goal in transitioning the patient beyond the necessary care within these walls.

As one who has been a patient multiple times and continues to serve as a caregiver on the medical team, I have the advantage of comprehending both sides of this picture, which further permits me to support them each in their viewpoints.  Have you ever observed the crossing of your professional and personal paths?  What events have happened in your life where the Lord has used them later in as you relate to another person?  Desired or not, God has a plan for each of lives and allows others to cross our paths—either to give us support or receive our individual words of inspiration if they are open to them.

Creatively Going the Distance

Think about a time when you went to the store to purchase a specific item only to find it in a location beyond your reach.  What thoughts immediately went through your mind upon this discovery?  How did you resolve this conflict?

Personally, I experience this challenge on a frequent basis.  My famous quote is, “I’m flexible—just not physically.”  Due to my limited physical flexibility and strength, I am constantly having to find unique ways in reaching desired items.  For example, I recently wanted a specific box of envelopes that were on the top shelf of a grocery store.  Unable to reach them by hand and with no individual nearby to assist me, I grabbed a mop, using its handle to sweep the boxes from the shelf, and eventually caught one after several landed on the floor.

It takes creativity to go the distance.  This statement holds especially true in our work here on the trauma team.  We daily encounter persons who have experienced traumatic experiences, and we are forced to creatively care for them and their loved ones since every individual brings a unique set of circumstances.  May the Lord continue to inspire us to creatively journey together in reaching the common goal of providing the best interdisciplinary care to all those in need.

Lord, help us to always remember the inspiring saying from my colleague, Chaplain Greg Tatum: “Blessed are those who are flexible, for they are never bent out of shape.”  We ask that You guide us implementing the creative gifts You gave us to reach the unreachable.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Wiggling through the Uncertainty

About five weeks ago, I traveled to Salisbury, Maryland, where I met my six week-old niece for the very first time. During my moments of holding Isabella, she mostly laid still in my arms—sleeping, sucking on the nipple of a bottle, or staring aimlessly in different directions. When she was more awake, I had to grasp her a little tighter as she wiggled to become more comfortable.

Similar to that of a cradling baby, we as caregivers can become comfortable in the roles we perform on a regular basis. However, there are events that occur which cause us to wiggle in the uncertainty. It is, in these moments, where we may sense a stronger spiritual hold on us, one where the Lord’s hands grips us as He provides reassurance and comfort.

God, may we always remember that You walk beside through every experience that we have at every moment of the day. When we endure the difficult circumstances that cause us to wiggle, help us to know that You will never let us go but always give us further direction and strength in the uncertainty. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Serving in God’s Hospital

Recently, I ministered to the wife of a patient who was wrestling with the hospitalization process. As I listened to her story, she talked about her family support, especially how her granddaughter—a very spiritually-attuned girl—grieved over her grandfather needing medical treatment. To offer comfort and reassurance to this child, the wife shared how one family member explained to the girl that her grandfather is in “God’s hospital.”

God’s hospital. This is the place where we serve. We do not always have the outcomes that we desire, but as my director, Matt Hayes, says, our patients are “ultimately in God’s hands.” The Lord works through us to care for His children, but sometimes, He chooses a road beyond our human limitations—taking them to a place that we cannot yet enter.

Lord, this is Your hospital, and we are here as Your servants to care and comfort those in need. Continue to support us in this calling, and give us reassurance and peace when things do not go as we planned. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Pressing on with Unity

When you think about teaching a child how to walk, what comes to mind? Possibly holding the child’s hands and guiding his or her steps? Or sending the child across the room from one parent to another? At some point, though, the youngster must attempt this endeavor on his or her own, persevering through the uneasiness and many falls.

What happens, though, when you cannot reach this goal through your own perseverance? May need a little help, eh? Shortly after my own birth, one doctor informed my parents that I would never walk, or at least not until the age of eighteen. However, another offered a whole different perspective by stating that, with much physical therapy, casting, and surgery, I would walk by the age of two. Standing upon this newfound encouragement, my parents realized, to reach this goal, they would need to team up with some additional resources. Dr. Shoenecker, the proposer of this new aim, headed up the necessary surgeries on my hips and feet to make this possible. Marty worked with me for at least a year in physical therapy, holding my feet in position on the floor as I cried out in agony. My parents exercised me three times a day, stretching my muscles and loosening my joints.

Then, one day, it happened. Close to my second birthday, Mom, Marty, and I were walking down the hallway with the grip of Marty’s hand on me as usual. As the women grew more immersed into their conversation, Marty let go of me, turning her entire attention to my mother. Suddenly, a few moments later, realizing what was happening, Mom and Marty watched in awe as I pushed my walker and strolled slowly down the hall for the first time on my own. With the Lord’s hand upon my life, I know I would have never succeeded in reaching this dream if it had not been for the continuous perseverance and unity of these individuals involved.
Persevering during times of struggle not only allows us to reach the unreachable but brings unity as we strive for the commonality of one goal. Further, as James 1:12 states, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

O Holy One, we ask for Your presence to be with us this day. Bring to each of us a spirit of truth, kindness, and respect. Help us to set aside our fears by wrapping Your comforting arms around us. Open our minds, eyes, ears, and hearts, so we may listen to each other and accept their words with loving kindness. Teach us how to each take responsibility for our own behavior but grow together in Your love. Take control of this day, Lord. Guide us, and go before us now. In Your precious name, Amen.

The Biker

It was one of my first times behind the wheel. With my driving instructor at my side and my mother in the back, I slowly turned the vehicle onto a side street of our small town.

“Watch out!” my mother hollered. Oblivious to my surroundings, I nearly missed a biker approaching from the opposite direction.

Later that afternoon, my mother and I attended a doctor’s appointment, and a staff member approached us in the office.

“A little scared earlier today, Linda?” the woman asked my mother. “I saw your hands covering your face.”

“Huh?” my mother questioned, confused.

Chuckling, the woman explained, “I was the biker that Kristen almost hit.”

While this story, several years later, continues to brings laughter between my mother and me, it also paints a great illustration of what new associates encounter as they join our work team. They can be overwhelmed with the entire hospital environment, finding general locations, such as the bathroom and cafeteria, remembering their fellow colleagues’ names, etc. Meanwhile, they also encounter learning various unit-specific policies and procedures, completing certain administrative tasks, and responding to orders in a timely-fashion.

What do you recall about your first few weeks of working in this environment? What were your most difficult challenges? May these memories assist us in offering a smooth transition for our new colleagues. Let us journey alongside them in helping them notice the “biker” that may be approaching them, being their guide, not their critic.

Interpretation in the Medical World

During a recent encounter with a Spanish-speaking family, the hospice coordinator, the interpreter, and I met with these loved ones in order to arrange the most appropriate plan of care that would best meet the patient’s wishes. As we dialogued about various treatment plans, I found myself becoming lost with the conversation occurring between the family and interpreter and focusing more on the non-verbal cues, thus, trying to determine the family’s wishes without comprehending their language.

Reflecting upon this experience, I became keenly aware of what many families face in the medical world today as they must make difficult healthcare decisions. Many loved ones enter through our hospital doors—clueless to how the medical world functions and feeling overwhelmed in tackling the choices that may drastically affect the patient’s well-being. This becomes an even greater challenge when a language barrier exists. Therefore, like I did with this family, loved ones seek areas of “connection” from us as medical team members—whether it be through our verbal explanations, compassionate voice tones, friendly facial expressions, or our willingness to provide extra assistance. They rely on our expertise as a guiding force through the complexities of the healthcare system, and as Jesus modeled through the washing of the disciples’ feet, we are encouraged to continue this demonstration of servanthood in our interactions with these family members.

Lord, help us to bring clarity to the chaos, especially to those whom we serve. Guide us in our words and actions, so we may bring peace to those facing difficult decisions. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Multitasking: A Technique to Slow the Chaos

“Adult code one, ICU team four!”

Hearing the overhead call, I began racing to that location. Suddenly, the intercom blares, “Adult code one, ICU Team Four one times two!”

Upon arriving to the ICU, I realize the medical staff are simultaneously coding two different patients on the same team. Jumping into the chaos, I notified the emergency contact for each family and then hollered out from the entrance of each room to the medical staff, stating family had been called and were on their way.

“The easy part has been done,” I thought to myself, “Now, shuffling between the two rooms to support the families may be another ball of wax.” Fortunately, God truly intervened by spacing their arrivals enough in which I could truly support them.

Multitasking can definitely be difficult, but doing it in the midst of a crisis proves to be even more challenging. It involves slowing down the chaos of that moment in order to achieve the proper results.

Lord, in the midst of chaotic times, guide us through the tasks at hand, so we may appropriately handle them. Be with us always through the calm and chaos. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Boundless in the Boundaries

            “Trauma Code One” appeared on my pager, and within five minutes of dashing to room thirty-two and signing in, I observed the EMS crew rolling in the patient as they were actively performing CPR on him.  Over the next few hours, the ED social worker and I worked closely with several members of the police department, assisting them in notifying the family about the patient’s death and supporting the loved ones in viewing the body—always under the supervision of an officer.

            During this event, not only were the medical responders bounded by the physical limitations of medicine, the other support staff were also inhibited in their care due to the intense police involvement.  It is in these moments that we must face our boundaries as humans but trust in the boundless support from God.

            O God of no boundaries, help us bring possibility to the impossible and hope to the hopeless.  May we always know that, even when we encounter various boundaries, You can offer boundless opportunities to those whom we serve.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Misunderstanding the Truth

Through my childhood, I relished in my father’s wisdom—both humorous and serious—and believed every word spoken from his lips.  One example of this is the statement he frequently made: “The moon is made out of green cheese.”

Around the age of eight or nine years, the “truth” of his messages burst right before my eyes.  In the middle of one science class, my school teacher asked the students, “What is the moon made out of?”

“Green cheese!” I replied with much confidence.

“Sorry, Kristen, that is not correct,” the teacher instructed.

“The moon IS made out of green cheese!” I stated again firmly.  “My dad told me so!”

That day, I learned a very tough lesson; due to misperceiving my father’s sense of humor, I miscomprehended his guidance.  Whether being funny or not, he is not always correct.

Today, though, I know there is one Dad Who is always right and Who always offers wisdom in unique ways, no matter whether it is sought or not.  He always remains present at our side and provides guidance in good and bad times.  This Dad is our Heavenly One!

When Faith and Medicine Collide

What happens when the worlds of faith and medicine collide?

One possible answer to this questioned occurred recently.  About a couple of weeks ago, a victim of a hit-and-run incident entered through the doors of our emergency room, and the trauma team worked feverishly to stabilize the individual.  At the same time, the ED social worker located and notified family, and upon their arrival, she and I offered them much care.

While supporting the family in the immediacy of the crisis, the dependency on their faith became very apparent to me.  They continued hanging onto that thread of “hope,” never releasing it—no matter how grim the prognosis.

So, what happens when the worlds of faith and medicine collide?  It provides an opportunity where we, too, can incorporate spirituality into all the disciplines and steer our own practices from a faith perspective—through our presence, words, and actions.

 Lord, may You always be the rudder of our trauma team.  No matter the patients nor families whom we serve, please guide us in our practices, encouraging us to always acknowledge Your authority in every situation.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Expecting the Unexpected

A couple days after having undergone surgery on both feet as a child, the doctor escorted my parents into the consultation room to further discuss my recovery.  He explained that I would experience much my pain for awhile and would not walk for at least a few weeks.  Suddenly, my father broke into laughter.

            The doctor then questioned him, “Mr. Larson, do you think what I am saying is funny?”

“No, sir,” my father responded, “but Kristen just walked down the hallway.”

This illustration feeds directly into my philosophy that I have shared with various individuals: “Expect the unexpected!”  Whether it be through life or death, faith or medicine or even a combination, God still performs miracles today—bringing hope in the midst of hopelessness.  He does this through the skills and knowledge he has provided us—individually and as a team—in order to carry out His plan.

Almighty God, thank You for all You have done in us, through us, and with us.  Continue to use us as Your instruments which bring hope, no matter how hopeless the situation.  Be with us today and forever more.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Noises from the Father

During my teen years, I had an extreme fondness to listening to music.  I would constantly be blaring my stereo—night and day.  However, simultaneously, my father would sometimes be pursuing his hobby with amateur radio, and thus, Morse code signals sometimes beeped loudly through my radio.  Even though this hindrance would frustrate me, I would always know, at that minute, where I could find him and then would head in his direction.

Similarly, have you ever sensed the Father trying to get your attention when your focus is elsewhere?  Have you ever been attempting to listen to one message when it seems like He is interrupting this?  How do you respond?  May these “noises” in life offer you a sense of His presence, involvement, and direction for your daily activities.

Let us pray:

Father,

We approach You now to acknowledge with gratitude the noises You make around us on a daily basis.  Continue to stir our hearts in ways that bring us closer to You.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Small Acts, Big Differences

One of my favorite memories during this time of year involves singing Christmas carols. I recall, as a child, going with my church to different nursing homes, roaming the hallways as a group in melodious harmony. As we passed the residents and staff, making random eye contact with them and offering smiles, I observed many faces aglow in moments of contentment.

In this new year, what are some small acts that you can continue or start doing which may make a great difference–whether here or outside these walls?  What can you do to bring yourself and/or others contentment?  Remember, it is sometimes the smallest acts that can bring the biggest differences.

Let us pray:

Lord,

As You bring us contentment on a daily basis, encourage us to act and speak in ways that offer contentment to those around us.  Bless us and help us to be a blessing in this upcoming New Year.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Remembering the Entrance of Love

I received the phone call early Sunday morning; my sister-in-law was in labor.  Over the next several hours, it became a time of intense waiting and preparation.  With them living in Maryland, I carried my phone at my side, receiving updates via texts and calls.  I heard about all the different tasks done by the medical team and various family members.  Finally, the baby made its entrance into the world.

Was this similar to what it was like on that very first Christmas Eve so long ago?  Joseph and Mary journeyed the long distance to Bethlehem.  They searched desperately for an inn to only find them full.  They then took shelter where cattle lay, and Mary gave birth to a son and placed Him in a manger.

As we pray, take a moment now to reflect on how recent events in your life may serve as a reminder of what happened so long ago.

Lord,

We come before You on this Christmas Eve.  We ask that You fill us with a sense of peace and hope during this time of year.  Continue to please give us signs of Your love as You did so long ago.

In Your precious name we pray,

Amen

Spinning Control into Your Mobiles

 

Have you ever felt that you were spinning out of control?

As a child, I recall my mother delicately laying out our Christmas decorations according to the room in which she wanted them displayed.  One year, I saw a mobile—an aged one with very thin strings—that was going to be hung in my bedroom.  In a mischievous, fun-filled, crazy moment, I grabbed the mobile and spun it around quickly several times for a few moments.  When I finally stopped spinning it, the strings were jumbled, twisted, and tangled beyond repair. After desperately attempting to undo my dastardly deed, I came to the conclusion my situation was hopeless, and my only resolve was to reluctantly approach my mother, seeking forgiveness for my thoughtless act.  With grace and mercy, my mom offered forgiveness, and we were we able to move beyond this colorful event—now only to remember it with humoristic fondness.

During these times of loss of control, we basically have two options in regaining it.  We can either work through our consequences in striving to gain some stability, or we can make efforts to move beyond these choices, proceeding forward in life.

With the choices you have made this year, I encourage you to look to the wisdom Rafiki (from The Lion King) who proclaims, “’Run from or learn from’ them!”  In the spiritual dimension, what decisions have you made in which you need to “let go, let God?”  The apostle Paul reminds us to forget what is behind us and strain toward what lies ahead; when we do this, we can reach our goal and win the prize that God has set before us. It is time to spin these “mobiles” from your past and tread forward with more care and insights into what lays ahead for you this New Year.

May the Lord offer His forgiveness and grace for your past,

give you the strength at this present moment to push forward, and

the wisdom of Solomon in handling difficult circumstances that you will encounter in the future.

Standing with God’s Provision

Do you recall putting up your first Christmas tree?  For me, it was about ten years ago when I put up my four foot artificial tree. Having never really observed the set up of an artificial tree, I purchased a Christmas tree stand and worked for 45 minutes to set it up…but was unsuccessful.  Finally, my friend, now husband, Jeff showed up at my apartment, and chuckling at my efforts, he told me that artificial trees come with their own stands!

Reflecting on this event many times, it is interesting to note how this event symbolizes what happens so frequently. We as humans perceive and struggle through dilemmas without noticing the details of the tools that God has provided us. Whether it be a situation involving your personal or professional life, take a moment to look at the tools you have and ask God for wisdom on how to use them.

Let us pray:

Lord,

In the midst of difficult circumstances, open our eyes to Your provisions and give us the necessary discernment, including relying on each other.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

The Future of the Pee Box

About twenty years ago, I served as a candy striper at a local hospital, and one of my responsibilities involved delivering fresh pitchers of ice and water as well as cups to the patients on the floor.  During one particular visit, when I made my delivery, the patient hollered out, “I need to use the pee box.”

I approached the assigned nurse to this patient, questioning her about the situation and then returned to gently remind the patient that she has a catheter and offered her words of reassurance.

Today, as a staff chaplain, I continue performing these tasks as needed, along with many other duties, to our patients and their loved ones.  Reflecting on my time as a volunteer, it is interesting to notice how the Lord was using that period as a time of preparation for my current ministry.

What past events inspired or led you to the position that you hold today?

As you reflect on these, let us pray:

Lord,

Thank You for Your divine intervention in all of our lives.  You mold and shape us into whom we have become, and I ask that You continue to do so as You guide each of us in the future.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

The Journey to Bethlehem

Holidays are usually perceived as very positive, family-based, life-enriching, and even humorous times. In reality, though, they may serve as greatly difficult, troubling, and depressing times for some individuals.

As one who absolutely loves Christmas and all its preparations and gatherings, I thoroughly cherish this season and look forward to traveling to Maryland to see my family. However, this year is different. With this being my first Christmas as a married woman and with my brother and his wife having their first child at the beginning of the new year, my husband and I had to make the challenging but cost-cutting choice not to journey there for Christmas but, at the end of January instead, after our niece is born.

While I have wrestled through this entire situation, there is one image that has offered me much comfort and peace—the image of a couple traveling to Bethlehem. This couple traveled a long distance—only to find no room at an inn. Then, while staying in a barn-like structure, the woman gave birth to a baby, wrapping him in cloths and placing him in a manager. For this entire world-changing event, the couple “celebrated” in the company of complete strangers. Reminded of this first Christmas, I discovered how the Lord may be similarly calling my husband and me away from my familiar surroundings to a journey of our own—where we may worship and serve Him in the presence of friends, colleagues, and even strangers.

What challenging decisions are you facing this holiday season? In what direction is the Lord nudging you? Whether it be a typical route or one surrounded by strangers, may you experience a sense of joy and peace, trusting that God’s familiar presence will always accompany you wherever He leads. It does not ultimately matter with whom you are journeying to “Bethlehem” but for what your primary reason is for going there.

 

Beatitudes

As we prepare for the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving, let us remember what the Lord said so long ago:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
  Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
  Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
  Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
  Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
   Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Let us pray:

God, give us a sense of gratitude especially during this time of year.  Thank You for all You have given us…positions of service here at St. Vincent, our friends and loved ones, our wisdom and health, and even for the struggles we encounter that draw us closer to You.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Plugging In

Recently, I received a referral from a Trauma ICU nurse, requesting my assistance in helping a patient make arrangements to charge his cell phone.  After meeting with the patient, I found myself, thirty minutes later, sitting in the lobby of the ED, keeping watch over his cell phone while it was plugged in at the charging station.

“Is this truly considered to be pastoral care?” I thought to myself.  “It is not offering care from the spiritual or emotional perspective, but it does address a concern of this patient as well as takes the burden from the backs of my other colleagues.”

As we each reflect on the various roles and responsibilities represented here in this room, we may hold specific ideas on how we influence the care of patients and their families.  However, from this incident as well as many others, I have discovered that “plugging in” to others’ struggles sometimes involves extending ourselves beyond our defined roles in order to address the expressed needs and desires of others.  Thus, this does not only show our diligence to our ministry to those in our care, but it further demonstrates our dedication to work as a team by serving each other.

Let us pray:

Lord,

As is reflected in St. Vincent’s logo of the three doves, I ask that You guide us in not just “plugging in” to the issues regarding the body, mind, and spirit of those who approach us for care but also to the burdens that our colleagues carry daily as they journey alongside us.

In Your holy name I pray,

Amen

Small Blessings

Several years ago, in the midst of one of her sessions of using her walker and leg braces, a two year-old girl was slowly walking down a hallway with the assistance of her physical therapist and her mother at her side.  During the stroll, the therapist became so deeply involved in conversation with the child’s mother, releasing her grasp upon the toddler.  However, the girl continued progressing down the tiled floor with her walker.  A few minutes later, the therapist realized what she had done, and she and the mother observed with great amazement and joy in watching the child take her first steps alone.

Despite this wonderful outcome, the journey to these first steps was not an easy one.  With I being the little girl, I have heard the numerous stories of sorrow and pain—both physically and emotionally—that my parents, the therapist Marty, and I all experienced.  It began with, shortly after my birth, a doctor telling my parents that I would never walk, and if I did, it would not occur until after the age of eighteen years.  My parents then met another physician who offered a ray of hope—stating I would walk by the age of two years, but I had to first endure foot and hip surgeries, numerous castings, and a progression through a plethora of braces.  Meanwhile, Marty became my therapist, spending hours and hours stretching and exercising my muscles and joints as well as placing me in a standing position over and over again while I cried out in much pain.

Even though that time in life was arduous and filled with much agony, my parents, Marty, and I have reflected upon it on many occasions, commenting on how the Lord intervened through it all.  My parents and I have discussed the physical and emotional battles that we encountered during that season but also shared in the blessing of the second physician’s encouraging words along with Marty’s dedication and determination.  Without the smaller blessings in overcoming the various emotional and physical hurdles, I would never have stepped into the Father’s greater miracle of walking.

Blessings do not always come in a large, singular package but sometimes in smaller ones where we can sometimes see the Lord directing our paths to the greater ones.  What small blessings has He offered you personally which have guided you to opening doors of greater ones?  Psalm 9:1 encourages each of us to “give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart” and to “tell of all Your wonderful deeds.”  So, during this Thanksgiving season, may we acknowledge and thank the Lord for all His blessings—great and small.

Standing Firm in Our Decisions

Throughout my life, I have had to receive physical therapy in order to develop the skills, balance, and flexibility I need to function.  During one of sessions very early in my childhood, my mother walked in only to find me sitting in the corner.

“What’s going on?” my mother asked my physical therapist Marty.

“Watch,” Marty replied as she walked over to me.  “Kristen, do you want to get out of the corner?”

“Yes,” I answered, nodding my head.

“Are you going to do what am I asking of you?”

I shook my head.

“Okay.  Then, you have to stay in the corner.”

I started sobbing again.

Today, as I reflect on this incident, I am very thankful to Marty for her determination in not backing down on what was best for my care.  Here, as a medical team, we are forced to make decisions that go against the patients’ and families’ wishes.  Even though these are difficult moments, I encourage you to remain ethical in your choices, trusting in the Lord’s guidance as you strive wholeheartedly to best serve the needs of the patients and their loved ones.

Let us pray:

God, guide each of us in the practices of our various disciplines, so we can positively minister to others in body, mind, and spirit.

In Your name I pray,

 

Amen

Dancing in the Rain

Holidays are some of my favorite times of the year, especially the ones approaching the next couple of months.  They bring times of laughter, fellowship, and fun.  However, I am keenly aware that these days may also bring times of stress and struggle for some individuals.

Several years ago, I was arduously searching for employment during what was supposed to be a very festive time of the year. I recall the feelings of discouragement and grief over opportunities not opening up for me and confusion as to how the Lord would intervene.  Further, I felt helpless because I could not afford gifts for those whom I loved.

As time ticked through the holidays, I found the Lord revealing to me that it is more important to present whoYOU are rather than what you can provide.  Instead of buying gifts, I spent time making them for my family and friends, reflecting on their talents and interests, and then I implemented my creative skills, crafting collages that centered on the uniqueness of their personhood.  Moreover, as I delivered these creative expressions, I devoted quality time with each individual—decorating, storytelling, laughing, and expressing various forms of love.  To this day, that specific holiday season remains one of the most memorable and treasured (and probably for them as well), discovering how to move effectively and creatively through a very rainy season in my life.

It is apparent that we are entering into a rainy season as we face the ensuing transitions of our morphing healthcare.  Whether we like it or not, we are being forced to modify how we perform our duties as our country encounters an unknown future.  One associate shared how she is coping with all that is happening by quoting the author Vivian Greene: “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass… It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

So, how are you going to “dance in the rain,” especially with the upcoming holidays?  What battles are you facing at this moment where you may have to force yourself to dance, even if it involves only swaying to the music of current obstacles?  Psalm 30:10-12 offers encouraging guidance in these times of effort: “Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.  You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  Lord, my God, I will praise you forever.”  Thus, call upon the Lord and allow Him to transform your “wailing into dancing”—no matter what you are experiencing.

Doubt, but Don’t Force God Out

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to journey alongside a trauma patient who not just lost his wife but also his granddaughter within a period of forty-eight hours.  I listened to his story; I mourned with him in his grief.  I held his hand as he asked, Why, God?”  However, even in the midst of this great spiritual struggle, he kept repeating, “I will keep my faith.”

There have been several occasions where we wrestle with our patients’ medical outcomes, coping mechanisms, and support systems.  We may experience a variety of feelings—sadness, anger, relief, or possibly guilt.  We may even find ourselves grappling in our own beliefs about God and His responses to these difficult circumstances.  Like this particular gentleman demonstrated, though, it is okay to doubt God in how He is intervening in a situation, but I encourage you not to set Him aside from the situation.  Since He already knows our every thought, He can embrace our authenticity with Him with these feelings and troublesome thoughts and, thus, guide and carry us through them.  So, why not let them go before God and let Him respond from His omnipotent, omniscient presence?

Shall we pray:

O God of strength,

Support and strengthen us as we continue to serve those whom You place in our care, and help us to hold fast to our faith, even in times of doubt.  As described in the story “Footprints,” carry us when we can no longer walk through the difficult circumstances of life.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Forgetting but Not Forsaking

Have you ever forgotten something?  Or someone?

Recently, while sitting in my office here at the hospital one late afternoon, I continuously glanced at the time on my telephone, wondering, “When is he coming?”

A few minutes later, I received a call from my husband Jeff, asking “Where are you?”

“I’m in my office,” I responded.

“What are you doing there?” he then asked.

“Waiting for you to pick me up.”

“Oh, my gosh!” he exclaimed.  “I forgot you! I’m already at home!”

While this has brought much laughter to my home, it also demonstrates how even the most significant relationships can be forgotten.  There is no blame here; accidentally neglecting someone does happen.  Likewise, it can happen here in our work environment.  When it does, though, let us not be the first to cast judgment but to extend the grace and mercy of the Lord, remembering to treat others as we would want ourselves.

Let us pray:

O God,

You remember us always, never forgetting nor forsaking us.  Help us to be mindful of others, acting as You would with love.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Unity in the Differences

I work very closely with two other colleagues who share my love of various sports.  Regarding major league baseball, one of them, like me, is a strong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals; however, the one colleague has a deep heart for the Chicago Cubs—the Cardinals’ biggest rival.  Despite the fun bantering that stirs amongst us, we work very well together, striving as a team to meet the various needs and desires with whom we interact.

In all of our professional arenas, we encounter this type of strife on a daily basis.  We all want what is best for the care of the patient but may disagree on the path to that outcome.  Despite our sometimes differing approaches, let us remembers, as the Scottish philosopher David Hume said, “It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place.”  May we offer a greater healing presence to all our patients and families by working in unity and not just individually.

Let us pray:

Lord,

Bring us together in our different skills, abilities, and gifts, so we may offer a unified, healing presence to all whom we serve.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Without You…

Last week, I journeyed alongside a man who was watching his wife go through the dying process.  During my final time of ministry to them before they traveled home, the husband commented to me, “Thank you for all you have done.  Without you here, these difficult days would have been much darker.”

So, as with this gentleman, I want you to know that you do make a difference around here.  In all the different disciplines that you represent, you are greatly appreciated.  You make a difference around here through your actions and words, providing both direct and indirect care to our patients and their loved ones.  Without each of you here, serving in your unique role, the trauma department would not be able to impact those experiencing difficult, dark days the way it does currently.

Let us pray:

Lord,

Thank You for allowing us to serve as Your instruments of healing, bringing our gifts and knowledge to every situation we encounter.  Help us continue to be a light in through the dark times.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Don’t Forget Your Shoes!

Last week, an associate shared about an interesting call he received at work, which he gave me permission to share.  His wife called him, frantically speaking, “Honey, you will not believe what happened!”

“What?” he inquired.

“After you left for work, our child and I finished breakfast and got ready to go on this field trip together.  When we arrived at school, I felt something weird below.  I, then, looked down and discovered my shoes were missing!”

“Your shoes?!” he asked inquisitively.

“Yes, I forgot to put on my shoes,” she responded, “I am now driving home, like a mad woman, to get my shoes and then have to get back to the school—hopefully in time!”

As caregivers in different capacities, we have a variety of roles in meeting the needs of our patients and families.  However, one of the first concepts that all caregivers should know is self-care, for we are no good to others if our own needs haven’t been met, and this does include your shoes!

Let us pray:

God, You are the Great Caregiver of all.  I ask that You help us to remember our own needs—the “shoes” of food, shelter, water, and restoration—so we may best serve those in our care.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Where are the Lamps?

During some moments of quiet reflection, I ran across the following illustration:

“In a certain mountain village in Europe several centuries ago (so the story goes), a nobleman wondered what legacy to leave his townspeople.  At last he decided to build them a church.

Nobody saw the complete plans until the church was finished.  When the people gathered, they marveled at its beauty.  But one noticed an incompleteness.  ‘Where are the lamps?’ he asked.  ‘How will the church be lighted?’

The nobleman smiled.  Then, he gave each family a lamp.  ‘Each time you are here, the area in which you sit will be lighted.  But when you are not here, some part of God’s house will be dark.’”

So, how will this place be lit today?  By who each of you are and what you bring to the care of our patients and families.

Let us pray:

Lord,

Guide us today and every day in bringing Your light to those who are encountering times of darkness.

In Your name I pray,

Amen.

Hearing the Call

A few years ago, during one of my phone conversations with my parents, shortly after they returned home to Maryland, I learned that their toy poodle, Muffin, was lying nearby, so I requested my father to put me on the speaker phone. Sensing the audible changes in our voices, I asked with an exaggerated tone, “Where’s my Muffin?” Laughing at her behavior, my father explained that Muffin was wagging her tail excitedly and glancing throughout the room, recognizing the call and seeking me.

There are many times when we as God’s children act like Muffin did in those moments. We may hear and recognize the Lord’s voice speaking to us, but we do not sense in His presence. We search all around for Him but are unable to find Him anywhere. It is, during these periods in life, that all we can do is trust in His presence spiritually and know that He is in control, even if we don’t see Him actively working in our lives.

Let us pray:

Lord, in the times when we can only hear Your voice but do not see You actively involved around us, let us remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah, taken from chapter 17 of his book, verses 7 and 8: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

In Your name we pray,

Amen

Speak Little, Listen Much

Recently, a patient, whose prognosis was very poor, came into the Trauma ICU, and the medical team knew he was not going to survive. Therefore, following up from the night chaplain’s visit, I met the family and offered both emotional and spiritual support to them. During our discussion, they made me aware that they were connected with the religion of Jainism. Having never heard of this faith tradition and even after some research, I quickly realized that I was ill-equipped to respond to any of their specific spiritual needs; fortunately, they had already contacted their religious leader to address these. However, I did observe, in my time with them, the importance of a supportive, listening presence.

Whether it be terminal weans, difficult situations with patients and their families, or just interactions with other colleagues, the impact of one’s supportive presence can speak louder than any words. In the book of James, chapter one, verse nineteen, it states “everyone should be quick to listen [and] slow to speak.” Sometimes it is better to be the quiet companion journeying alongside someone through his or her trials. Thus, the next time we work with a patient, family, or another associate, may we keep in mind the quote of President Abraham Lincoln:
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Let us pray:

Gracious God, be our voice in all circumstances. Guide us in our conversations, so we may bring peace and comfort to others.

Amen.

Hope in the Hopeless

The score was 0-0. My soccer team had been fighting so hard offensively to score a goal. We made some great corner kicks and continuously passed the ball around amongst my team members, but we just could not seem to kick the ball beyond the opposing goalie. It appeared very hopeless. Then, a breakthrough. Starting the play, I saw a direct opening within the opposing team and even beyond into the goal area. Thus, I made a hard and fast kick straight for the goal and…SCORE!!!

In this situation, my team was able to find hope in the hopeless. However, there are many times in our lives—personally and professionally—when hope cannot be found. What do we do then?

It reminds me of a set of events that occurred several years ago. While attending graduate school to obtain my masters degree, a few of my peers questioned me about seeking God for my physical healing and even began to pray accordingly. Having wrestled with the Lord regarding His plan with my disability and having prayed this prayer before on my own, I allowed these students to pray for this miracle, but deep in my heart and with much disappointment, I knew that the Lord would not grant this desire—for He had other plans.

One of these plans unfolded at the beginning of my chaplaincy training when I ministered to a mother of a baby that had both physical and mental challenges. After having established a relationship with this mother through a multitude of visits, she shared how her child was born with club feet.

Standing before her, I remarked, “I was born with club feet.”

“Really?!” she replied with excitement, “And you can even walk, too!”

“Yes,” I said, “Through surgery and physical therapy, I did learn how to walk by the age of two.”

Reflecting on this, if I had received my original wish for ultimate healing, I may not have connected with this woman as well as I did, offering a glimmer of hope for her baby’s future. Thus, when I journey through moments of my perception of hopelessness, I have to trust that I will find hope in the Lord in all circumstances, no matter the outcome and when it happens.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Identity in the Lord

On a recent occasion, my husband and I attended a community meeting at a local church. With him dropping me off at the curb, I headed to the main entrance, and a man ahead held the door open for me.

“Are you here for the Boy Scouts’ meeting?” he asked.

Shaking my head and chuckling to myself, I start pondering, “Oh my! That sounds familiar. Person #562 who thinks I’m a boy.”

Have you ever been misidentified…either by name, age, profession, etc.? Unfortunately, misidentification happens all the time, especially here at the hospital. We strive continuously to identify others properly or possibly to make ourselves clearly known to visitors, but despite wearing badges and specific clothing, families and visitors, who are especially in crisis, can easily become overwhelmed and confused with all the members of the medical team. In these moments of reminding families and visitors of our names and roles with a calming and patient presence, may we use these times to also remind ourselves of our greater identity and role as servants to the Lord.

Let us pray:

Gracious God,

As we serve those who enter through the doors of our hospital, may we not just operate in our roles but also identify ourselves with You through our actions and words.

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Transforming Moments

Lying in my bed at Shriners’ Hospital recovering from a major hip surgery, I recall observing one of my roommates continuously crying.  Despite the nurse’s attempts, nothing would console her.  Finally, after listening to her sobs for several minutes, I mustered up the courage of a ten year-old and said, “Hi, there.  My name is Kristen.  What’s your name?… (pause) … It’s going to be okay.”  Even though the girl never returned my acknowledgement and continued crying, for those couple of moments, I was able to turn away from my issues and my pain and to focus on someone else’s needs.  It provided me such freedom.

We all come to our work on a regular basis, carrying our own issues and pains.  Grief.  Guilt.  Loneliness.  Stresses.  Family issues.  Personal issues.  It is in our time of service here that we can avail ourselves opportunities—even if only brief ones—to set aside our own “baggage” and to step away from it.  Henry David Thoreau once quoted, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”  May these miraculous instants not only transform others but also transform us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Shall we pray:

Lord,

You are the miracle worker in all of our lives.  You can transform us and our lives instantly.  May we embrace these moments personally as well as when we care for others.

In Your name I pray this,

 

Amen

Extending One’s Boundaries

A few months ago, Jeff and I went on our honeymoon, flying to Branson, Missouri, and renting a newer vehicle upon our arrival.  On our first evening out, we ate at a local restaurant.  Upon returning to the car from our meal, I heard a low rumbling.

“Did you leave the car running?” I asked my husband.

“Oh, my gosh!” he exclaimed, realizing what he had done, “Yes, I did.”

With much laughter, we quickly became aware that we were not as familiar with this vehicle as we should have been, discovering that it did not require a key to run it and only required the push of a button to turn off the engine.  Throughout the week, we reminded each other to push the button, slowly adjusting to this difference.

Here at the hospital, we as associates experience learning moments on a daily—and sometimes even an hourly—basis.  It is in these moments we are stretched beyond our perceived limits, stretching our boundaries medically, physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually.  We strive desperately not to act with errors but acknowledge that, as humans, we do so.  In response to these errors, Albert Einstein offers the following encouraging statement: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Let us pray:

Lord, give us wisdom as we continue to learn from our mistakes.  Expand our perceived boundaries, so we can become more like You.

In Your name I pray, Amen

 

Am I Going to Die?

As a teen, for a couple of summers, I spent some time at a camp designed for individuals with muscular dystrophy.  Following these sessions, I received newsletters with updates on the association, various treatments, and sometimes an obituary of one of the campers.  When I saw an article on someone whom I knew personally, I became terrified and asked my mother, “Am I going to die?”

Despite their hopefulness, we encounter many families who “camp out” in our waiting area, wrestling with same question about their loved one.  No matter what age nor experiences you have had with death, it is still difficult to acknowledge.  Death never comes knocking at a time in which we are prepared.  The only hope we can hold is that the peace of the Lord may rest upon them for eternity.

As we take a moment to embrace the Lord’s presence, let us reflect upon the patients who died on our unit and their loved ones who continue to possibly grieve.

Shall we pray:

Lord, as stated in Ephesians, we know there is a time for everything—a time for living and a time for dying.  This is never easy for the families, and sometimes it is difficult for us as caregivers.  I ask that You embrace us with Your love and peace whenever we must face death.  Guide our steps in continuing forward with the care we can offer today and forever more.

 

In Your name I pray,

 

Amen

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Has there ever been a time when you were trying to function in chaos but eventually had to rely on another person to gain stability?

A few years ago, I had hip replacement surgery.  I consumed a variety of medications during my time in rehabilitation to manage my pain and other medical issues.  By day three or four, I had become quite confused.

One evening, in the midst of one of my future husband Jeff’s visits, I became extremely agitated and initiated a heated but comedic discussion with him.

“Why don’t you take your car to Lens Crafters?!  You know you’re struggling financially!” I asked frustratingly.

“Huh?  Why?” Jeff questioned, quizzically.

“They will give you money for it!”  I responded with much irritation.

“What?!  Can you say that again?” he answered, laughing and realizing that the drugs were probably causing this confusion.

There are many occasions in our daily practices when we bring stability and peace to times of confusion.  However, sometimes our own worlds turn upside down, and we need to turn elsewhere to regain balance.  Colleagues.  Friends.  Family.  Pastors.  Counselors.  Where can you go, though, when you have no person available to approach?  Implement your own resources, and seek hope in your faith, trusting that the Lord will always provide—in His own way and not always in the ones we desire.  Keep in mind the Lord’s statement from the scripture Isaiah 42:16:

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.