“Parental Boundaries”

It has always been my bedtime routine—reading a book before turning out the light to go to sleep.  During my childhood, after settling in bed at night and doing some reading, my mother would come into my room about half an hour later, telling me that it’s time to turn out the light and kissing me goodnight.

Now, as an adult, I cannot rely on my mother to daily set boundaries for me, but there is One to Whom I can turn—the Lord.  He provides guidance and direction through the whispering of His Spirit.  He models my parameters for living through examples described in His Word.  Through encounters with others, He establishes boundaries that I cannot always identify alone.  Basically, walking with the Lord hand-in-hand is like that of a child with a parent

So, where do you observe boundaries in your life right now?  Where are you struggling to set them?  In those difficult moments, I encourage you to take the hand of Your Heavenly Parent, and seek discernment for personal protection physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Heavenly God, guide us in setting boundaries that not only enrich our lives but also the lives of those around us. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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“Putting Aside the Differences”

Several months ago, my husband and I made the long drive down to Georgia to bid our final good-byes to his mother.  Leah had been battling cancer for awhile, but a few days beforehand, the family received word that she had drastically declined in her condition.

Arriving to the nursing home, we stepped into the dark room that had only sunlight streaming through the single window and came across a woman wearing a sundress, resting under a handcrafted blanket.  Shortly after our arrival, the nurse gave us a medical update, explaining that recently Leah had been more awake at night.

After several hours of sitting vigil at her bedside with periodic breaks, more family arrived, and we all gathered together at this woman’s side.

Knowing that Jeff could sing, his sister Valerie asked him, “Do you know the words to ‘In the Garden?’”

Within a few moments, a chorus arose with us all singing the familiar hymn.

“What other songs did Mom like?” Valerie then asked.

With tears streaming down our faces as we sang some more songs in the midst of reflecting upon good memories, the night focused upon Leah and what she would desire.  Placing aside any differing thoughts and opinions, we united as a family to honor a woman for whom we all cared.

Setting aside our differences is what a medical team does to offer the best care for the patient.  We each approach every care plan with our own individual opinions.  However, we have to all step back and consider the primary goal of our care, that is, to acknowledge, respect, and carry out the patient’s wishes.  Thus, at that point, our differences no longer divide but unite us in delivering the same mission.

Lord, we acknowledge right now that we need to come together, and we ask that You guide us in this process with every one of our patients. Amen.

 

“The Success of Teamwork”

It was a difficult, long night in my high school career.  Having spent endless hours on researching and compiling my paper, the deadline was drawing to turn in my project the following morning.  Despite all the efforts in planning and completing this assignment so far, it was not enough, and I could not finish it on time alone.

Coming alongside me, two people helped me greatly in successfully completing this task on time—my parents.  While my mother guided me through the writing process, my father typed what we composed.  They did not have to assist me, but sacrificing their time, energy, and sleep, they supported their daughter in her achievement.

Teamwork is sometimes necessary in order to accomplish a task.  It involves one sacrificing his or her time, energy, and commitment.  As Henry Ford once described, “Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is a progress.  Working together is a success.”  Though teamwork may sometimes be a difficult process, may we continue to focus on the goal at hand in order to be a success.

Lord, in all the work we do, we ask that You team up with us, guiding and directing us to achieve success. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Mercy and Forgiveness…Once Again”

While pursuing their college education, a young couple met on a blind date and then began spending a number of their free hours together.  After having gone on several dates where it usually ended with the woman falling asleep due to exhaustion from her internship, the man declared, “That’s it!  I’m tired of you falling asleep on our dates.  If you do this one more time, I am done!”

So, on the next date, the couple had a wonderful evening filled with much laughter in the midst of great conversation.  At the end of the night, still chatting away, the guy drove the woman home.  After climbing out of the car, he walked around to the passenger side and discovered that she was sound asleep.

In this situation, my father demonstrated mercy to my mother.  Recognizing that in her humanness, she had tried her best to stay awake, he forgave her one more time.

This is similar to how our heavenly Father interacts with each of us. Knowing our human weaknesses, He continuously acknowledges our attempts to meet various expectations in life and grants us grace in doing so.  As His followers, may we also demonstrate this behavior in our daily interactions with others.

Lord, thank You for Your continued mercy, forgiveness, and grace that You offer us every day. As You offer this to us, may we do so to others.  We ask this in Your precious name, Amen.

“Things & Stuff”

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” –Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Many times growing up, I would be involved in an activity at home, and my mother would enter the room.  She would make herself comfortable, usually lying on my bed, and with a smile, say to me, “Tell me things and stuff.”

Things and stuff.  We all have “things and stuff” in our lives.  What is happening in your world, and how is it affecting you today?  With whom have you shared this?  Even though God knows what is occurring, He invites us to share with Him these “things and stuff.”  As Matthew 11:28-30 explains, He desires to accompany us in carrying these burdens and to support us every step of the way.

Lord as we share our “things and stuff” with You, help us to trust You in lightening our load along the way. In Your name we pray this, Amen.

“Coffee Chats with the Creator”

It is a ritual every Saturday for my mother and me. I pour my cup of coffee and then call my mother on the phone, and we chat for the next hour or two about the events of the last week, sharing the joys, sorrows, and concerns over what has happened in our lives.

Though we do this every Saturday morning, there is still One Whom I share with even more regularly and intimately—that is, our Lord. He invites us to share openly every moment of our lives. Though He already knows every unspoken action, word, or thought that comes to our minds, His shoulders are big enough to embrace and receive our expressions of these to Him.  He truly desires an everlasting bond with each of His children.

So, the next time your soul is stirring with a lack of peace, your mind is puzzled with confusion, or your emotions are playing tug-of-war, take a few minutes to “have coffee” with our Creator.  Share with Him, and rest in His presence, knowing He is always ready and willing to listen.

Gracious Creator, in times when we feel alone or are not sure what to do, help us to be assured that You are only a “call” away.  In Your holy name we pray, Amen.

“Getting Lost in the Adventure”

My family and I moved multiple times during my growing years, and every time this happened, my mother was pivotal in helping my brother and me in making the transition.  For instance, after recently moving, Andy and I were really bored this particular summer afternoon, so Mom said, “Come on; let’s go get lost!”  The three of us climbed into the van and drove off, cruising along streets unbeknownst to us in order to familiarize ourselves with our new surroundings.

Similarly, here in the hospital, we as associates observe many families being forced to “travel” through the foreign territory of hospitalization.  They are continuously confronted with new medical terminology and procedures along with facing difficult outcomes down the road.

What can make the difference in this journey for them?  It is our attitude in leading them.  While a person may be angry, in denial, or even defiant about the road ahead, we can assume my mother’s attitude—one of adventure and optimism, encouraging them—no matter what the circumstances.

So, will you join me in this journey with presenting my mom’s adventurous spirit?  “Come on; let’s go get lost” in the care of our patients and their families together!

Lord, no matter the journey we are on, guide us in demonstrating an encouraging, supportive perspective to those around us.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

“The Desires of Our Hearts”

Throughout college and grad school, many people I encountered prayed for my healing from my physical disability.  In one particular occasion, a woman asked me point-blank if she could do this.  

Having heard this question so many times, I looked her in the eye and said, “Fine.  You can pray for my healing, but God has already told me He is not going to do this.  He can use me more with my disability than without.”

This woman was so focused on her own wants and not my needs.  She concentrated too greatly on my physical “imperfections” that she could not see the perfection of God’s ministry through my current condition.  The reason why I know this?  I prayed this exact way for a short time in my life.  Through my communicating my heart’s desire with my heavenly Father, I was able to place it at His feet, trusting He understood my longings.  By doing this, I eventually, over time, became more at peace by slowly aligning my heart’s desire with His, observing Him working through me not just mentally and emotionally but also physically and spiritually.

No matter what you have faced, are facing, and will face in life, as you express your desires to the Lord, may You feel His comforting peace as He continues to journey alongside you every step of the way.

Gracious God, in everything that we pray, help our desires to be aligned with Yours, so we may see Your glory be revealed in, around, and through us at the end.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Lost but Found”

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”  –Psalm 32:8

Have you ever felt so lost that you never would find your way?  After spending a few hours at Eagle Creek Park one afternoon, my husband Jeff and I could not find our vehicle after searching for about an hour.  Upon taking a rest stop, while I was glancing over the park map, Jeff suddenly recognized our surroundings and led the way directly to our van.  It wasn’t until we took a break to regain our perspective that we could find it.

In many confusing situations, it only takes a moment of pausing for a person to refocus and then move forward productively through a dilemma.  Stop what you’re doing.  Breathe.  Pray—asking God to “instruct and teach you in the way you should go.”  Then, take your next step in the journey, trusting the Lord “will counsel and watch out for you” as He guides you in finding your way.

Lord, give us wisdom when we lack it, give us direction when we are lost, and help us to always find our way with You.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Dusting”

Years ago, my family and I were planning on having guests over to our home for an evening. In order to prepare for their arrival, I offered to help my mother with the cleaning, so she instructed me to dust the living room.

“Ugh!” I thought to myself as I began the chore, “There are so many knick-knacks in this room.”

Fifteen minutes later, I returned to my mother, announcing, “I am done!”

“You can’t be done yet!” Mom exclaimed.

Following her back into the living room, I watched my mom lift up one of the knick-knacks, revealing the dust beneath it.

“No, Mom!  I shouldn’t have to dust under all the objects.  Besides, the guests won’t lift them up anyway.”

At various stretches in our lives, we are faced with times of “dusting” the many experiences, memories, and challenges that we have accumulated over the years.  Having actually gone through these times is not as critical as how we handle these memories now and their impact upon us.  In our own human perspective, we as individuals can only cleanse ourselves on a surface level.  As we allow ourselves to undergo a thorough dusting of the pains, sorrows, and growing edges of our pasts, our merciful God can reveal the areas to which we are blind.   Then, through this time of dusting, we can allow the Spirit to touch all the different “knick-knack” areas, comforting us through all the difficulties, enriching us further in all our joyous times, and stretching us to fit the design God has crafted for each of our lives.

Lord, dust off each of our lives this day. Cleanse our bodies, minds, and spirits that we may draw closer to You and reach the greatest potential that You’ve called us to become. Amen.

“Impressions”

Throughout my growing years, my parents stimulated my brother’s and my understanding of historical events by taking us to the various locations where they occurred.  For instance, when I was around the age of eight years-old, I remember my parents taking Andy and me to Ford’s Theatre to see Charles Dickens’ play “A Christmas Carol.”  Hence, while observing where Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed, my father and mother thought we would enjoy a live production of a story with which we were familiar.

However, shortly into the first act, Andy became restless in his seat, and I echoed his boredom, declaring, “This is nothing like the movie!”

Due to my young age and unmet expectations of what I thought I would be watching, my first impressions were not positive.  As the years have passed, though, and my understanding has increased of my parents’ efforts to bring history to life, my impressions of this experience are now definitely different.

With many events in life, impressions vary over time.  Even though first ones may be unsatisfactory, remember that they can change, even within a matter of minutes or hours.  When we first have a negative perception, pause and consider, “What would God’s impression be?”  Though we do not possess His complete understanding of what is happening, we can better extend His grace and mercy during challenging circumstances.

God, help us to maintain Your impression in life, no matter what we are observing or feeling in that moment.  Amen. 

“Perceptions in Life”

Have you ever played the board game “The Game of Life” with a seven year-old?  For me, it definitely brought an interesting perception to how a child perceives what happens in life.  This young boy described the various life events as follows:

  • “Visit in-laws” means “the person becomes president.”
  • “Taxes due” allows the player to “receive money.”
  • “Go[ing] on your honeymoon refers to “going to a festival and looking at the moon.”
  • When “you don’t have enough money” for an expense, “you don’t have to pay.”

This situation is just one example of the portrayal of how perceptions affect us.  As I reflected on these comments, the image of a flashlight came to mind, shining only in the direction in which it is being aimed.  An individual’s perception is like that of a flashlight; the person may only observe and comprehend on what he or she is focused.  However, the more “flashlights” we add to the situation, the more perceptions and the bigger the spectrum with which we see, thus, the greater our focus when we concentrate in the same direction.

Lord, shine ahead of us on a daily basis, and bring greater clarity in every situation we face.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

“Recognizing the Call”

During an evening dinner banquet I attended, while the speaker was delivering his presentation to all of us, a cell phone suddenly began ringing.  Heads started turning, and upon the second ring, it was determined the sound was coming from my table.  People sitting around my table held up their phones one at a time, and by the third ring, my friend finally recognized the ring and responded to it.

This situation can resemble how the Lord calls each of us.  God can reach out to us in many ways—through people, music, readings, nature, etc.  However, if we are not aware or familiar with His “ring,” we may not recognize His voice.  Hence, the more we acknowledge and seek the Lord’s presence in our lives, the more we will recognize Him calling us and directing every step of our life journey.

Lord, at this moment, be with us, and encourage us to listen more closely to Your call.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Messages of Affirmation”

What is one memory from your past where someone showed great admiration towards you?

To this day, decades later, I recall my mother regularly packing my school lunch for me.  While doing so, she frequently would include handwritten notes, expressing support, encouragement, affirmation, and love.  These folded pieces of paper were sometimes the keys that made the difference in my day.

While it may not be notes in a lunch box, think about how we communicate encouraging messages to one another on a daily basis.  Smiles.  Hugs.  Words of affirmation.  Pats on the back.  Uplifting words via text or email.  No matter the method used to communicate it, even what seems to be the tiniest affirmation can carry another a long ways.

Lord, help us to communicate affirmatively to all those around us, so we can make a positive difference in their lives.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Interventions”

We had traveled down this stretch of highway multiple times.  Every few months or so, my family and I made the two-and-a-half hour drive from St. Louis up to Canton, Missouri, to visit my grandmother.  Within thirty minutes of reaching our destination, my younger brother and I would always see the familiar water tower ahead and know we would be reaching our destination soon.

Here, at the hospital, we as associates are always on the lookout for the “familiar signs” in our roles and know how to respond accordingly.  For physicians and nurses, they know routine procedures to perform when body parts are or are not functioning certain ways.  Respiratory therapists respond to symptoms of patients in respiratory distress.  Social workers and chaplains react in a similar fashion every time a family needs to be notified.  And the list goes on.

Similar to how each of us is familiar with the various components of our profession  and how to react accordingly, the Lord recognizes the symptoms that His people display in their various needs and, thus, responds to them in His own way.  For instance, He offers wisdom to those who are lost or confused (Proverbs 2:6).  He also gives peace during disturbing circumstances (John 14:27; John 16:33).  He further brings comfort to those who are hurting (Job 5:11; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  No matter the symptoms we present, God can always intervene.

Merciful Lord, intervene in our lives as You guide us in our interventions with others.  Amen. 

“Sacrificial Decisions”

When was the last time you faced a crossroads regarding a difficult decision?

I recently had to do so with my own family.  Due to personal circumstances, my husband and I faced the choice of whether we attend the wedding of one relative or be present after the birth of another.  Knowing we could not do both, we had to make a sacrificial decision—one that hopefully would make a greater long-term impact.

In the hospital, I witness families making sacrificial decisions on a regular basis.  I observe them going through the battle of their own desires versus another’s wishes.

Whether personally or professionally, what is significant about sacrificial decisions is not necessarily the immediate effect but the long-term impact on the person and his or her family.  Choices in themselves can be difficult, but how they may change our lives can prove even tougher at times.

Lord, guide Your people in the sacrificial choices we face every day.  Allow whatever decisions we make to ultimately glorify You.  Amen.

“Caring Beyond the Patients”

Several years ago, I recall waiting—what seemed like forever—in the family lounge of the local hospital near where my family lived.  My grandmother had just had surgery, and I was anxiously awaiting an update.  Minutes later, the door to the consultation room opened, and I saw my mother thanking the surgeon and then exiting the room with tears streaming down her face.

While my waiting period at that moment was short, many families and visitors literally “camp out” in the Trauma ICU family lounge for days at a time, wrestling with questions and concerns about their loved ones’ plans of care.  They develop connections with each other, especially during lengthy hospitalizations.  They sometimes rejoice together when patients reach milestones, but they also offer support and encouragement through the difficult days.  They share memories about their loved ones as well as dreams that may never be fulfilled.  Even though some of the trauma patients are not even aware nor recall our services to them, there is one group that does—their families.

Therefore, as we care for our trauma patients, let us also remember that there is another group of people needing additional support and care and for whom we can make a further difference.  The families are an extension of our patients—a part of our St. Vincent community residing right beyond the doors of the critical care unit.

Lord, as we gather today to unite as one team with the mission to enhance our care to our trauma patients and their loved ones, we ask that You guide us and bless our efforts in doing so.  I pray this in Your name, Amen.

“Look at Me!”

Author Wendy Blight once wrote about a situation that required “perspective shifting.”  She shared how a beggar born “‘lame at birth,’” asked for money, and instead of giving him money, one of the two men passing the lame man “commanded, ‘Look at us!’”  The author further explained that this move “demanded the lame man’s full attention to shift his focus … his perspective … from his immediate needs…[to something] beyond the visible and ordinary to the invisible and extraordinary” (Acts 3:1-11).

Similar to that of the beggar, I, too, required a perspective shift in my own life.  For many years, I concentrated on the negative aspects of my disability and even asked the Lord to heal me.  Though He did not heal me physically, He performed a work on me emotionally.  God changed my perspective to focusing on Him, thus, then seeing how He works through me physically.

By having arthrogryposis, I have spoken to parents of children with this same disability, offering them hope about the future.  With the visible scar of having had a trach, I have shared encouraging words of my own experience with families and patients who have or will require one themselves.  As one of the few chaplains with physical challenges, my personal testimony has educated others in how to interact with others experiencing physical challenges.  This has healed my loneliness, despair, and anger towards my disability and has allowed me to perceive the blessings within it.

So, when in your life have you had to do some “perspective shifting?”  What was the difference?  2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” May we fix our eyes on the Lord Who can change all circumstances.

Lord, change what needs to be changed in and around us.  Amen.

 

“Standing at the Crossroads”

It was a dreary day with rainfall steadily pouring from the gray clouds.  Packing up all the belongings, I carried the cardboard box out to my van.

“Lord, where do I go from here?” I thought to myself, “What is the next step to this journey to which You have called me?”

I had just completed my year-long residency in hospital chaplaincy and had no career possibilities.  I was completely lost with no specific direction in which to proceed.  Overwhelmed.  Fear.  Uncertainty.  These are real feelings that one experiences when journeying through a confusing period.

This is especially true for families of ICU patients.  Many family members come to the unit with “deer in the headlights” expressions, especially at the sight of their loved one lying motionless in bed attached to various machines.  Some individuals may silently enter the patient’s room as if they are walking on eggshells.  Others may begin to cry and hover at the bedside.  Still, some people may shoot a stream of questions at the nurses as they attempt to grasp their loved one’s situation.

The honorary factor, though, is that as participants on the medical team, we have the privilege of standing at the crossroads with these lost, confused souls, guiding and supporting them through this journey.  Consequently, no matter how we plan the way, ultimately it is the Lord Who will direct the steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Lord, as we stand with families at the crossroads, lead us in the way we should go.  Amen.

 

“Willingness”

Working in the Trauma Neuro ICU, we, as medical team members, discuss with family members (or whomever is supporting the patient) and encourage their participation in the patient’s long-term care, emphasizing the importance of everyone’s involvement.  I can personally testify to the significance of this as I, myself, have required long-term medical care and have benefitted from my entire family’s involvement in it.  With the physical challenges I live with, I require daily physical exercise to maintain the flexibility of my joints and the strength in my muscles, and this was very evident during my growing years.  Therefore, in order to maintain my mobility, my parents assisted me twice a day in performing a daily range of motion routine.

On one particular occasion, my younger brother, Andy, was anxious to play with me but knew my mother had to get my exercises done beforehand.  Therefore, in order to speed up the process, he quickly came to my side and, with all the might of a preschooler, began lifting my leg in the air and then lowering it, repeating this process a few times.
Hence, no matter the age of the person, he or she can participate in the patient’s care.  It is not necessarily one’s age that makes the difference; it is his or her willingness.

God, surround us with Your love and the love of others who are willing to move us more forward today than we were yesterday.  Amen.

“Walking the Extra Mile”

One morning, as a very young girl, my parents were holding me before another of one of my many surgeries.  Instead of an unfamiliar medical team whisking me away, the physician himself came to the holding area, took me from my parents’ arms, and carried me to the OR.  Ten years later, the same physician entered another holding area where my parents and I waited again and walked beside me, leading me again to another OR for an additional surgery.

What brought my parents and I comfort in these difficult situations?  Walking the extra mile.  Not only had this doctor given me proper medical treatment, he also tended to all of us emotionally by caring for our concerns before the actual procedure began.

So, it is not just functioning properly from one’s role that forms a rapport with others, but it is the tasks where we go the extra mile to attend to others’ needs.  In order to go the extra mile, all it takes is a few extra steps.  These extra steps can lead to a greater impact on another’s life, which can make all the difference.

Merciful God, as You continuously go the extra mile for and with us, help us to do so with others.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“A Beginner’s Mind”

Do you know what the word “shoshin” means? It means “a beginner’s mind,” referring to possessing “an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject just as a beginner would.”[1]

As the older sister, I did not always maintain shoshin with my younger brother Andy, especially when it came to him learning to play a musical instrument.  It became a standard routine for the first several months of him learning.  Coming home from school, Andy would go upstairs to his bedroom and practice playing his alto saxophone.  Rhythmically, the same, one note—being played over and over again—could be heard throughout our entire house.  Driving me crazy, I recall asking aloud, “Will he ever move to another note?”  As time passed, though, he moved onto other notes, becoming quite the musician of our family. Reflecting upon this experience, I realize that, during that period in my life, I wore blinders, focusing only on my own frustration with hearing the same note and not noticing the growth in my brother’s musical ability.

This is what can happen when we encounter new people both professionally and personally.  We put on blinders when we form opinions about others within moments of first encountering them, instead of over time.  Consequently, we do not always comprehend the reason for their behavior.  It is as if we only hear the few notes of their response instead of the tunes from their perspectives in life.

So, from now on, may each of us possess “a beginner’s mind,” maintaining a fresh, open perspective in every encounter with which we partake.

God, help us all have shoshin today and forever more.  Amen.

[1] Definition taken from Wikipedia.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin .

“Divine Highlights to Daily Blessings”

From September to June every year, almost every Friday night, I spend two hours with my teammates, playing power soccer.  Though I find much contentment spending time with these individuals and playing this sport, I have experienced even more joy recently after one particular practice.  

As one who loves serving others, I cherish helping my coach cleaning up after practice.  I usually assist in gathering the small, orange cones sitting at the four goal posts, but on this particular evening, I was struggling bending down to reach them.

Attempting to figure out a solution to this dilemma, an idea hit me.  Strolling over to my teammate and his service dog, I sought Scott’s permission to use his black, Labrador Retriever, named Preston, to help with this task as well as asked him for the command.

Then, taking hold of the leash, I led Preston over to the nearest cone and commanded, “Preston, get!”  

After a few seconds, Preston lowered his head to the cone, grasped it with his teeth, and raised the cone to near my hand where I could take it.  Not only did I accomplish the desired task of gathering all the cones, I also treasured these moments of personally working with a service dog.

It is interesting how certain experiences become extraordinary blessings in the midst of our daily blessings.  What incidents have occurred for you which have brought extreme pleasure in the midst of your daily contentment?  Experiencing these joyous moments is like observing a shooting star on a clear, starry night; it is as if the Lord is highlighting His continuous divine interventions in our lives.

Lord, help us to see Your highlights in the midst of daily blessings.  Amen.

“The Potter and the Clay”

“So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.   Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.’”  –Jeremiah 18:3-6

Recently, I had the opportunity to observe a woman do some pottery work.  From lumps of clay, she used a small bowl of water, a potter’s wheel, and some other tools to create some differently-shaped pots.  However, without these additional tools, she could not have molded the clay into the unique pieces she designed.

This is very contrary to the work of our Lord.  He is the Great Potter, and we are His lumps of clay.  He can mold any of us solely through His divine touch, creating us into finished products with endless possibilities.

Lord, You are the Great Potter.  We are Your clay.  Help each of us to be open to Your divine touch as You mold, shape, and form us into who we need to become this day.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.   

“The Dance of Trauma”

Every time a trauma code is called, I anxiously anticipate my cue to begin my actions.

Before the patient’s arrival, the cast of all the medical professionals are blocked in position, preparing to carry out their individual roles.  Then, after the EMS crew wheels the patient into the trauma bay and gives their report, the trauma team is prompted to begin their moves to bring healing support.  Several nurses and physicians of various specialties, situated at various points around the gurney, place the body in different positions in order to perform whatever tasks necessary to respond to the person’s needs.   Hovering near the head of the bed, respiratory therapy spirals around to reach the ventilator as they attend to the intubation needs.  Stationed near the med cart, pharmacy extends their hands with the drugs as needed.  At the bedside table by the entrance, paperwork is laid out where the scribe spots and records countless aspects of the entire patient’s care.  Outside the room, radiology waits in the wing by the portable X-ray, listening for the command to enter.  Also, with gloved hands, social work and I, as the chaplain, situate ourselves to collaborate in assisting with family notification and gathering personal belongings.  Overall, it appears as a choreographed dance; every team member moves according to his or her role, working in unison to provide the best care possible.

Finally, with this “dance,” there is always an audience.  It may be a few or many, depending on the situation.  However, there is always at least One—our Lord, our Master declaring to each team member, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things’” (Matthew 25:21).

Holy God, thank You for the blessings of the skills and wisdom You have given each of us, and may we always use them faithfully as we dance together to serve those in need.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Persevering through the Circumstances”

Years ago, while glancing through a menu as I sat with my family, a waitress approached our table to take our order.

“I would like your six-ounce steak dinner—medium rare, please,” I said.

Twenty minutes later, our meals arrived, and to my dismay, my steak was cooked medium well, not medium rare.

Since I don’t pronounce my “R” sound well, instead of sending the entrée back, I allowed this to be a learning opportunity; I now ask for my meat to be cooked medium, so it is always closer to the way I like it.  In this situation along with many others, adapting continuously to my circumstances has allowed me to persevere through whatever challenges lay before me.

We all face challenges on a daily basis—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ones.  The more trials through which we persevere, the more we can develop our inner strength and flexibility for future difficulties.

Lord, as we come across hurdles in our own lives, help us to continue running the race with perseverance, continuously keeping our eyes fixed upon You (Hebrews 12:1-2).  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“No Limits with the Limitless”

Awhile back, two trauma patients almost simultaneously were wheeled through the doors of our ED (Emergency Department), and in response to their arrivals, I assisted with notifying their loved ones.  While waiting for their families to come, I returned to the Trauma ICU to visit a few more patients and check on the staff.

Noticing that two ED patients would soon be coming to the ICU, one nurse asked me, “How severe are the traumas?”

I attempted to answer her question to my best ability with my limited medical terminology.

Overhearing our conversation, another nurse chimed in, “So, basically what you are saying is the major trauma has a large pool of blood and the lesser one, a smaller pool of blood?’

Laughing with these nurses, I confessed to them that the medical team in the trauma bays had been using terms with which I was unfamiliar, and I only truly comprehended what came across the trauma paging system.  In this case, I had to acknowledge my own limits. professionally, trusting others to better communicate and comprehend the medical dimensions.

Boundaries are very evident while working on the trauma team.  When a trauma patient comes our way, we all strive to offer the best care, operating in our specific job-related knowledge and skills.  However, with the Lord’s divine guidance and intervention, He brings limitless possibilities in the midst of our limitations.

Gracious God, when we face limits in what we can do, may we know You are limitless and always at work around and through us.  In Your holy name, Amen.

 

 

“Ministry at Its Simplest”

It was ministry in its simplest form.

After the medical team had waited a couple of hours for the family of a critical patient to arrive, the family finally showed up—one of them bringing along their baby.  It had been a difficult time the last few days as each relative had expressed at different times various perspectives on the patient’s future plan of care.  Upon meeting them, I learned that the mother of the baby had forgotten to bring along milk, which I generously offered to get her.

Finally, with everyone being present, we all gathered in one location to discuss and develop the next steps of action regarding the patient’s hospitalization.  However, in the midst of the conversation, the baby began wailing, requiring the mother to take her out of the room.  Realizing that the medical team needed the woman to be present in this decision-making process, I offered to care for the child, so she could return for the consultation.  After she accepted my offer, I began walking back and forth along the hallway, pushing the youngster in her stroller.  Within minutes, she started calming down, leaning back and relaxing in her seat.

Pushing a baby stroller is one example of ministering “outside the box” of our standard job duties, responding to whatever is needed at that time.  Ministering to others does not need to be a complicated task.  As the writer A.W. Tozer explains, it is “believing that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.”  No matter how great or small, may we see the Lord in every task we perform in every moment.

“Comfort in the Uncomfortable”

Awhile back, I responded to an overhead code for an elderly patient who was quickly declining in condition.  While I supported the family, the patient’s niece sat silently against the wall observing her aunt after she had been extubated.

“Would you like to move your chair closer to your aunt’s bedside and hold her hand?” I asked.

“No,” she responded, “I am fine here.  I know my comfort zone.”

Standing a few moments in silence at her side, I finally approached the patient’s bedside, placed my hand on her shoulder, and whispered prayers and blessings until she breathed her last.

As caregivers, one of the greatest challenges is being and bringing comfort in the uncomfortable.  We work in traumatic and sometimes tragic circumstances, serving as the bridge to offer some type of comfort to those enduring uncomfortable situations.

How then, as caregivers, can we ourselves find the necessary support?  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 explains, “Praise be to the God…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  We can trust that our Lord will comfort us when He calls us to comfort those around us.

Comforting God, no matter the trials we face today or in the days ahead, we ask that You give us what we need to deal appropriately with these challenges.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

“A Companion Through Life’s Journeys”

Recently, I was asked, “Why do you work as a hospital chaplain?”  For the longest time during my developing years, I questioned the Lord about why He had allowed me to be born with physical challenges.  What was His divine purpose in my numerous surgeries, hospitalizations, and medical needs in the midst of my daily living?  My purpose in life was not revealed to me until I entered hospital chaplaincy.

As a chaplain, I have journeyed alongside patients and their families dealing with medical challenges and the associates caring for them and, thus, am reminded of my own life’s journeys both in and out of the medical world.  Reflecting upon these, I become aware of how the Lord has been my companion through these different paths I traveled, providing me as well as my caregivers with care, wisdom, strength, and encouragement, especially through the darkest valleys.

With the Lord calling me to serve Him, hospital chaplaincy has allowed me to bring a glimmer of His companionship that He offers to His people who are all walking through various stages in life.  Because I can testify to God’s presence and intervention in my endeavors, I sense Him working through me to reveal Himself to others in whatever way they need it.  Thus, the reason I do what I do is to operate as a vessel of His supportive healing presence and loving care to those around me.

So, as you reflect on your own life, why do you do the work you do?  What events have led you to where you sit right now?  May the Lord guide you, in His timing, to the purpose for which He has created within you.

Lord, direct each of us in the work we do, revealing Your divine purpose for each of our lives and encouraging us to serve in the ways You have uniquely designed each of us to do.  We pray this in Your name, Amen.

“The Perspective of a Servant”

At change of shift one morning, the night chaplain informed me that the sister of a dying patient requested for me specifically to visit; she remembered me from when I supported her through the death of her mother.  Upon reuniting with this woman, I had the opportunity to listen to stories about her relationship with her brother as well as reminisce about the time with her mother.  At one point in our conversation, she spoke about the impact of my ministry, explaining that she only carries two business cards with her—one being mine that she received nine years ago!

This encounter emphasized to me the long-lasting impact that a single individual’s actions can have upon another.  A smile, a “hello,” and a touch on the arm are all examples of simple acts of service which we can provide to others.      

Mother Theresa is a modern-day example of what it means to live in servanthood, and she best described it by stating: “At the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, [and] how many great things we have done.  We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was naked, and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

No matter how complex or simple, what matters is the difference we make in their lives.  Unlike the encounter I had, though, we may not always be recognized for our efforts; what is most important, though, is the generous heart and attitude that we display before God to those whom we serve (Matthew 6:1-6; John 13:4-5).

Lord, in our ministry of serving others, give each of us Your heart, mind, and attitude in responding to the various needs all around us.  In Your name, Amen.

“Following Our Father’s Calling”

With a crinkled brow and a frown upon her face, my two year-old niece stood, clutching her fists and her back against the door.

“Bella, come on,” I called.

She grunted loudly in response.  As I drew near to encourage her along, she stomped her right foot, as would a bull, a couple of times and dashed in the opposite direction.

Smiling at the scene that had just unfolded, I thought, “Isn’t this how we behave towards God sometimes?”  We may hear Him calling us down one trail in life, but selfishly, we start down another.  Why do we do this when His long-term plans for us are for the good?  It is due to our own humanness, and as a child disregards an adult’s calling, we may ignore our Lord’s guidance, seeking momentary, immediate pleasure and not the long-term peace of walking with Him. Therefore, whether it be now or later, following God’s calling will bring us the ultimate contentment and peace because, in the bigger scheme according to Philippians 2:13, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

God, in our selfish moments, give us the strength to listen to You instead of giving in to our own desires.  As Your children, remind us that Your plan will bring us the greatest fulfillment in the long run.  In Your holy name, Amen.

“Footprints in Life”

The author A.A. Milne once wrote, “Winnie-the-Pooh had come to a sudden stop, and was bending over the tracks in a puzzled sort of way.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Piglet.

‘It’s a very funny thing,’ said Bear, ‘but there seem to be two animals now. This–whatever-it-was–has been joined by another–whatever-it-is–and the two of them are now proceeding in company.’”

Similar to that of Winnie the Pooh, when we feel alone, we are not.  When we experience isolation in carrying our burdens, we are not.  When we feel alone in the decisions we face every day, we are not.  We are joined by our heavenly Father in company.  The footprints of His presence are always with us; we just need to look for and acknowledge them as we walk through life.

Lord, we thank You for Your continued presence as we travel through life’s journey.  Please continue to make Your footprints very clearly, so we can recognize You.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

“Responding to the Message”

It was a difficult evening.  My husband was scheduled to perform a magic show, and we thought it was in Muncie, Indiana.  However, as we drove in that direction, the GPS kept directing us to get off of I-69.  Wondering why this was happening, we pulled over and discovered that our destination was not Muncie but was Marion, Indiana!

“Oh, no!” I exclaimed, “We have another hour to go!  We’re going to be late!”

Arriving only ten minutes late, my husband met the family for whom he was going to perform and began unloading his props.  While doing so, another gentleman approached the home and saw Jeff with his arms full.  They began conversing, and this guy introduced himself as also being the hired magician.

“I was hired as the magician, too,” Jeff remarked.

Within minutes, the family explained that the time of the party had been pushed back, and they had tried multiple times to contact Jeff about this but was unable to do so.  Therefore, they hired another magician.  Calmly, my husband Jeff apologized for the dilemmas he was having with his cell phone and gave the show opportunity to the other magician.

In this situation as with many occurrences every day, miscommunication happens.  When these exchanges do take place, it is not a matter of how you speak your own message but how we respond to the others’.

Lord, as we interact with all those around us, help us to speak less and listen more, doing so with calmness, kindness, and patience.  In Your name I pray, Amen.