The Thieves in Our Lives

It came at three o’clock one morning, awakening me from my sleep.  Like a thief in the night, it stole my remaining hours of rest.  After popping some prescribed pills to hopefully ease the aching in my hips and knees, I waited over an hour and finally gave up.  As with this usual cycle, this nagging annoyance refused to leave me alone.

Pain operates in this fashion—physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.  Similar to a pestering housefly, it pokes around sometimes during the most inconvenient times.  While I sometimes “swat” at it with much frustration, counting down the hours until my alarm clock will sound, I sometimes find myself assuming control over it by placing my time and energy elsewhere.  Reading my Bible or a good book.  Praying.  Pondering recent happenings in my life.  Instead of surrendering myself in agony or anxiousness to this unwelcome visitor, I switch my attention elsewhere, especially onto the Lord.

He knows the pains—both externally and internally—that we face on a daily basis.  Tensions in our relationships.  Financial burdens.  Medical challenges.  Dilemmas crashing upon us at work.  Emotions of all sorts continuously stirring within the recesses of our hearts.  As these hardships constantly knock upon our doors, taking a moment to rest at His feet in humility, the Lord will guide, comfort, carry, and strengthen us in these difficult times.

No matter the type of pain, it serves as an acknowledgement that we only face these tribulations temporarily.  Romans 8:18 reminds us of this by saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  As we continuously seek and rely upon the Lord, the “thieves” of today are only a breath compared to the eternal joy for what lies ahead.  Knowing this, the promise for the future is that today’s cries of weeping will become tomorrow’s songs of rejoicing!

 

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“Faith of a Mustard Seed”

“‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’”  –Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

One Saturday night, my family and I were going out for dinner. Along the drive to the restaurant, a noise developed at the rear end of my van and continued growing louder.  Puzzled by this since we had just had the car in the shop a few weeks beforehand, we took it back the following day to the same business which had done the most recent repairs. After a couple of hours of inspection, the auto mechanic called, saying a rear strut needed fixing, but they were unable to do the repair. Estimating now that the van needed about $500 in repairs, my husband and father then took the car to another shop, so the next mechanic could check it out the following morning.            Throughout this period, my family kept praying over this process.

Dad asked, “Lord, please let this repair get done quickly, and let it be done at a reasonable cost.”

Then, I added, “Yeah, like zero dollars.”

Dad then said, “Kristen, it won’t be zero dollars.”             The next day, after the shop called with a description of what needed to be done and a cost to the repair, we all began hoping and praying that it would be done by the end of the day.  Several hours passed, and since we had heard no further update, Jeff called the mechanic to determine where he was in the process.

The repairman explained that, as they began the repair, they determined that there was no damage to the van; it was only the lug nuts that needed to be tightened.

“Great! How much do we owe you now for that?” Jeff asked.

“Nothing,” the man replied on the other end of the phone line.

Though my earthly father echoed the reality of the financial situation we were facing, all it took was the “faith of a mustard seed” for our heavenly Father to make the impossible possible.

Lord, no matter the situation before us, may we have the “faith of a mustard seed” to acknowledge the divine possibilities. Amen.

 

“A Fresh Response”

Opening the door upon coming home from work one day, I immediately smelled the stench as I walked into the apartment.  After putting down my belongings, I began sniffing intensely, following the odor arising from the kitchen trash can.  I knew then it was time for the trash to be taken out.

Though, in this situation, the stinkiness could be removed, there are numerous stinky experiences where the source cannot be removed.  Family struggles.  Medical complications.  Financial difficulties.  Work-related stresses.  These are just a few dilemmas that have a lingering “stench” which can affect other areas of a person’s life.  While many nasty odors are dealt with through ignoring, covering, or even just accepting them, another efficient way to handle them is changing our own reactions.

Instead of being odor-causers, may we serve as air fresheners to all those around us.  As the philosopher Epictetus says, “It’s not what happens [around us], but how [we] react to it that matters.” We cannot always remove or even change the trashy dilemmas occurring around us, but we can freshen it up in our own ways of responding.  Like with one single spray of an air freshener, it only takes one single person’s reactions to freshen his or her surroundings.

Merciful God, guide each of us in responding to various situations with a freshening manner, so we may make a positive difference to those around us. In Your name we pray, Amen.

“The Longing for Desires”

We were sitting in a hotel lobby, having breakfast.  My husband and I had escaped the busy, city life for a slower-paced weekend.

After consuming our first course, while still sitting at our table, Jeff stared for a few moments in one particular direction of an empty spot along the buffet line.

“What are you staring at?” I asked.

“I want a cinnamon roll,” he answered.

“And staring at the empty bin will make one appear?”

“I was hoping so,” he replied, dejectedly.

During various times in our lives, individuals can focus on one desired item, one desired longing, one desired goal.  If they seek or strive enough for this one desire, they can believe they will obtain it.  But sometimes, without any explanation, it remains unobtainable, unfilled.

Unanswered prayers (or ones not answered in the way we hope) are like that void in the buffet.  Instead of focusing on these “voids” in our lives, take a step back, and look at the whole buffet of our life, acknowledging the line of the Lord’s blessings upon us.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Therefore, no matter what happens during these periods of longing, let us believe the Lord is at work in the moments of the unseen.

Lord, whether in moments of fulfillment or void, give us attitudes of gratitude. Amen.

“Bridging Perceptions”

After a couple of years of not having a family dog, my mother finally caved in one day to my brother’s and my requests to get another dog.  This led to a trip one afternoon to the Humane Society where Mom, Andy, and I surprised Dad by bringing home a white-haired, small, shitzu-mixed dog.

Within an hour of spending time with this new family member, I approached Dad, asking for his assistance in naming the dog.

“Sure,” my father responded.  “You know my mother raised several Schnauzers, naming each of them herself.  Do you have any ideas?”

“Yes!  Harry Jock,” I exclaimed proudly.

“What?!” Dad questioned, glancing puzzled to assure he heard me correctly.

“Harry Jock.  Harry after the movie Harry and the Hendersons, and Jock after our neighbor’s dog Jacques (pronounced “Sh-zzz-ock”), but that is too hard to say.”

Dad then threw his hands in the air and replied, “I can’t do any better than that!”

Though the name Harry Jock always brings about a humorous image, when I explain my mode of thinking as a ten year-old girl, people seem to understand my reasoning.  Allowing others an opportunity to explain themselves opens either the door for comprehension and brings a sense of unity, or it serves as the first step in bridging the gap of differing opinions.  Basically, explanations can combine various ways of thinking and empower movement forward to one consensus.

Lord, today and in the days ahead, open our ears and minds to listen and understand others’ perspectives, so we may eventually reach a point of agreement. Amen.

 

“Like Parent, Like Child”

One weekend afternoon, when I was only seven years-old, I entered the living room and noticed my mother playing a card game by herself.

“What are you playing?” I asked.

“Solitaire,” she said.

“Can I play?” I asked.

“Sure.”

I sat beside her on the couch with the coffee table in front of us.  After she shuffled the decks of cards, she handed me one, and I began mimicking her precise actions to setup the game as she explained the rules.  Over the next several minutes, I played the cards accordingly with Mom offering instruction throughout the game.

This incident models how our heavenly Father relates to His children through the game of life.  He journeys beside every one of us, demonstrating the way to proceed and offering guidance as we maneuver through unfamiliar territory.

Lord, continue to lead Your children, by action and word, through every situation we face.  In Your name we ask this, Amen.

“Lessons from the Crash”

On an overcast day many years ago, my mother, brother, and I were out for a drive.  Arriving at a red light, my mother applied the car brakes.  While sitting there for only a moment, a head-on collision involving two other vehicles unfolded before our eyes.  Suddenly, my mother put our car into park and dashed towards the scene, assuming her other role as a nurse.  Then, immediately, I also climbed out of our car, following and yelling after her.

At that point, my mother operated from dual roles by still focusing on the crisis before her and simultaneously hollering back at me, “Kristen, stay in the car!”

Reflecting on this experience, little did I know how, in that moment of time, God painted a picture of the future.  As one who would eventually become a trauma chaplain, I witnessed my first MVA (motor vehicle accident).  Also, alongside the “medical team,” I dashed in response to the crisis and observed various roles being played out as needed, which is how each member of the trauma team functions today.

What past events highlight your journey of who you have become today?  Even though we don’t always comprehend why incidents unfold around us at that point in time, the Lord utilizes these milestones for us to reflect on our past and see how He has molded and directed us for His purpose.

Lord, help us to trust You in all circumstances and know that You are molding and directing every step that we take to, in the end, bring You glory.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

“Perceptions from Pooh versus Eeyore”

Over the years, in my relationship with my husband, we have best described ourselves as Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore; hence, I am Pooh and him Eeyore.

An example of this occurred on a gorgeous, crisp morning where the sun had not yet risen.  As my husband began driving me to work so he could have the car for the day, I commented, “What a beautiful morning!”

His response: “Oh no! Winter is going to soon be coming.”

I shook my head and chuckled at this response, and along the short drive to the hospital, we chatted about the differences in our perspectives.  In this particular situation, I was admiring the beauty of our current temperature while he expressed dread with the future, bitter coldness.

Do you tend to reflect on the present or focus more on the future?  Do you possess Pooh’s optimistic perspective towards circumstances and situations or demonstrate Eeyore’s differing approach?

The writer of the Winnie the Pooh books, A.A. Milne, once wrote, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  This also holds true for one’s perception.  If you don’t like what you see, look at it from another angle, for the beauty of the Lord can be found even in the smallest amounts.

God, help us with our perceptions and to be able to see Your hand in all aspects of life.  In Your holy name, Amen.

 

“Healing Touch”

While making rounds one day, there was a gentleman who had not yet been visited by a chaplain.  I entered the room and saw him lying in bed with his eyes closed and connected to a ventilator.  Upon approaching his bedside, I gently placed my hand upon his, and he opened his eyes.  After introducing myself, I offered pastoral support, including prayer.  Through head movements, the patient declined my offer to pray with him but wanted me to keep him company for a few moments.

Just being there but not speaking a word.  Just standing at his bedside but not “fixing” something that is uncomfortable.  Just holding his hand but not asking the nurse to get medication for his pain.  While our healing touch can demonstrate care to another, it also allows us as caregivers to pause and be in the presence of the Greatest Healer of all.

Lord, help us to remember the power of touch; for as we touch those in our presence, may we, more so, feel Your touch upon each of us.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Taking Control”

It was a stressful, emotional time for everyone.  My best friend had just given birth to her first child and, thus, was dealing with postpartum blues.  At one point during my visit to meet her daughter, I recall both her and the baby crying simultaneously.  As my friend cried harder, so did the infant.

Finally, I instructed Carrie, “Hand me Sarah.”  She placed Sarah into my arms, and the infant quieted almost immediately.

Then, with us all sitting on the couch, I turned to Carrie, “Now, tell me what’s going on.”  At that moment, both mother and baby were receiving the necessary support, which, in turn, were calming their emotional stresses.

We face many challenging scenarios on a regular basis.  Instead of letting the difficult situations control us, we need to control them to our best ability.  For when we conquer the hurdles before us, they are no longer in charge.  The Chinese proverb best summarizes this by stating, “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”

God, we ask that You guide us in regaining control over various dilemmas we face by granting each of us the wisdom and discernment through the process.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Viewing Others with God’s Eyes”

It happens quite frequently and with great frustration.  As one who drives a specially-equipped vehicle that requires a good deal of space in which to enter and exit, I often utilize the handicap spaces with the lined areas to give myself plenty of room.  However, countless times, I have noticed vehicles illegally parked in these designated spots, or after having run my errand, I return to find someone parked in the lined area beside my van, blocking my path with which to load.  After venting my frustration to myself, I return my focus to the task before me and attempt to let go of my judgment towards that individual.

Through my many encounters of proceeding through this cycle, I began asking God, “What are You trying to teach me?”  I wish it were only to ignite my education to others when possible—thus, the reason for why my husband calls me, “the handicap police.”  With this repeated challenge, though, I have further acquired more patience, understanding, and forgiveness.  Additionally, I became aware of the judgmental perspective that I was holding and realized that I needed to view the person through God’s eyes.

Moral of this Story: Sometimes the biggest “thorns in our flesh” turn out to be the “roses” that improve our character.

Lord, change our perspectives, so we may see the roses in the midst of our thorns.  Amen.

“Weaving to the End”

In the book Soul Keeping, the author John Ortberg wrote, “When evangelist Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, died in 2007, she chose to have engraved on her gravestone words that had nothing to do with her remarkable achievements.  It had to do with the fact that as long as we are alive, God will be working on us, and then we will be free.  She had been driving one day along a highway through a construction site, and there were miles of detours and cautionary signs and machinery and equipment.  She finally came to the last one, and this final sign read, ‘End of construction.  Thank you for your patience.’  That’s what is written over Ruth Graham’s grave: ‘End of construction.  Thank you for your patience.’”[1]

Likewise, as patients and families weave through their experiences in the hospital, they may travel “miles of detours” with changes in their medical treatment.  With a variety of machines and equipment surrounding the beds, patients and their loved ones face “cautionary signs” with the various updates they hear from the members of the medical team and the consents they sign.  Upon reaching the end of the patients’ hospitalizations through various forms of discharge, we offer “thanks” by displaying a servant’s heart and continuously supporting them and their families with a holistic approach.

Father, continue to direct each of us in supporting patients and families through their hospitalization experiences.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

[1]  John Ortberg, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishers, 2014), 151.

“Divine Intercession”

Back in June, I traveled with my power soccer team to Boston for our national tournament.  After driving what felt like an eternal amount of time, we were involved in a MVA (motor vehicle accident) as we drew near to our destination.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

However, I do recall one driver appearing flustered and asking aloud, “Are we going to make it?!”

“Yes,” I responded, “We have God in our hands.  I mean we are in God’s hands.”

In spite of the difficult travel we encountered, we all believed that the Lord had His divine intervention on our path.  What is more ironic is that, upon texting my husband after the accident, I learned that he felt led to pray for us at the same moment it occurred.

God divinely leads.  God divinely inspires.  God divinely protects.  No matter the circumstances, God divinely intervenes even when we do not see, feel, hear, nor comprehend His ways.

Father, we place ourselves in Your hands today and ask that You divinely intercede in our lives as well as others.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“Wings of Hope”

I had visited them the day before—a patient and her grown children.  Returning per the daughter’s request, the patient seemed much more awake and alert, smiling upon my entrance.  However, as the conversation progressed, the patient began constantly staring in different directions of the room and finally admitted to being in pain and feeling confused.  Taking her hand, I calmly instructed her to close her eyes and picture herself being in a peaceful place; within seconds, she was resting comfortably.  Then, I strolled quietly out of the room with the daughter to speak further with her.

At one point earlier during this encounter as she was speaking to her mother, the daughter described me as being “like a butterfly,”—one who had come into their room, touched their lives through support and prayer, and then “fluttered on.”  Her description reminds me of the scene with the butterfly in the movie Patch Adams.  The character, Patch Adams, had endured some difficult times and eventually sought God’s help from atop a cliff, and God answered him as a butterfly.

The Lord comes in many forms, even operating through His followers.  We are His body, serving in a multitude of ways in response to the various cries from patients, families, visitors, and even fellow colleagues.  We are a kaleidoscope of His butterflies, fluttering in to bring hope where it is needed.

Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer once quoted, “Like the butterfly, I have the strength and the hope to believe, in time, I will emerge from my cocoon…transformed.”  As we are continuously transformed into the “butterflies” that the Father has designed in each of us, may we keep using our “wings” to transform the lives of those around us.

 

 

“A Personal Touch”

Medical staff have always been an integral part of my life.  A nurse fed me ice cream every night while I was hospitalized as a toddler.  A physical therapist chatted with my mother on a personal level while the three of us walked down a hallway.  An anesthesiologist whispered comforting words in my ear as she prepared me for surgery.  A student nurse placed a quilt on my hospital bed to make me feel more at home.  Just a few years ago, a surgeon sat next to me on the examination table, taking the time to answer all of my questions and discuss with me the implications of having a hip replacement done.

Each of these medical professionals displayed great skills and incredible medical expertise.  However, what made a deeper impact on my family and me was their personal touch that went beyond their professional care.  Despite the outcomes of our professional care as medical team members, may we strive to always offer a personal touch as to acknowledge them as individuals—their concerns, emotions, beliefs, and dreams.

Lord, we take this moment to acknowledge You as the Greatest Model in offering an ideal caring, healing presence.  I ask that You provide every medical staff member with the continuous wisdom and ability to always display a personal, empathetic presence to those in need.  I pray this in Your name, Amen.

“Caring for Ourselves”

It was a horrible day.  I was working simultaneously with two families of two critical, young patients with poor prognoses, and I was exhausted—physically and emotionally.  At one point in the day, I found myself wandering down the hallway of the Trauma ICU, thinking to myself, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”  Hitting the wall theoretically and no longer being able to continue onward, I finally stepped into my office to take a few minutes for myself—a few moments for myself, a few moments to regather my strength, energy, and focus on the task at hand.

In what situations have you “hit the wall?”  What situations or triggers have led to this?  When this does happen, it is crucial to meet your own needs.  Self-care is an essential component when caring for others.  If we don’t care for ourselves, each of us may potentially become the care receiver to another.  Caring for yourself will not just benefit you but all those around you.

God, help each of us to better care for ourselves, so we can better care for all of those You put in our path every day.  I pray this in Your name, Amen.

“Casting Together”

I recall one time, during my childhood, my father took me out to eat at a local pub.  While we were waiting on our food, we noticed a dart board on one wall with a set of darts.  Thinking this might be a fun activity to pass the time, my father offered instructions on the game and then gave me the opportunity to make the first throw.  However, since I cannot move my arms well near my head, this proved to be an unsuccessful task for me.  Therefore, instead of giving up on this, my father held his arm in position, allowing me to place my hand on his, and we cast the dart together.  Teamwork.  That’s all it took, and we were able to accomplish the goal.

Teamwork is required in so many areas of our lives in order to achieve success.  When we cast towards a goal together, not leaving each other behind, we can intertwine our knowledge and skills with a greater chance of accomplishing our mission.  Even when we are forced—for whatever reason—to cast solo towards a goal, be aware that there is always One present, whispering words of encouragement and guidance along the way.

Lord, no matter the circumstances we are facing, I ask that You “team” up with each of us in every way that is needed.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“A Child’s Perspective”

My husband Jeff and I were out shopping and came across a small, toy princess that rides a battery-operated horse, which we purchased for our seventeen month-old niece.  When we arrived home, Jeff exclaimed, “I want to play with the toy before we give it to her!”

A fifty-three year-old man wants to play with a toy designed for a two year-old?!

While this ironic event brings some laughter, it also reminds us that we are never too old to be in touch with the inner child in each of us.  The Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco once quoted, “The end of childhood is when things cease to astonish us.  When the world seems familiar,…one has become an adult.”  Therefore, if we do not acknowledge the child that resides within the core of our being, we will lose the newness of seeing the world with a fresh set of eyes.  When we do this, we cannot perceive the possible solutions to impossible dilemmas.

Lord, give us each a child’s perception, so You may bring revelations among us (Matthew 11:25).  I pray this according to Your name, Amen.

“One More Time”

In my work as a chaplain, I have heard, on many occasions, loved ones say, “I just want to see (or talk) to him (or her) one more time.”  Well, this wish came true for one family whom I encountered.

Remaining vigil at his bedside, the wife voiced the patient’s wishes for his care.  Therefore, as the family was all gathered in the room, the nurse and respiratory therapist removed the life support from the patient.  Seconds later, the man surprised all of us by opening his eyes; the loved ones then moved closer to him to see and speak to him one last time.

When was the last time you wanted to do something “one more time?”  What have you so deeply desired that made your heart ache?  In these moments of crying out, may we “cast all our anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 5:7a), trusting that we will see Him working in the midst of our difficulties.

God, no matter what circumstances we are facing, allow us to see You as One Who always provides a glimmer of hope.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“In a Moment’s Notice”

It was a long walk down the corridor of the hospital.  Mustering all the strength he had with his cancer-ravaged body, he strolled slowly alongside his daughter to meet his new granddaughter.

Suddenly, a physician quickly approached the new mother, discussing with her the details of her daughter’s physical circumstances.  Upon his leaving, the mother turned to her own father, saying, “Yes, Dad.  I’m sorry.  Your granddaughter was born with physical challenges.”  Upon hearing this, the grandfather’s joy immediately changed to sorrow as he began terribly weeping.

In a moment’s notice, life can really change.  In one single moment, we can speak words that utterly change someone’s life.   Peace to anxiety.  Joy to sorrow.  Hope to hopelessness.  All in a moment’s notice.  Let us learn to treasure those moments that we have, those moments that we stand on the higher end of ground before we face the lower ones.  Furthermore, may God work through us in a moment’s notice as He offers us words that can bless and encourage despite the circumstances.

Lord, in a moment’s notice, may we notice You working through us, You speaking to us and through us—words that offer hope and love despite how life-changing they may be.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

“Another Perspective”

She was a twenty-seven year-old, healthy woman.  Having recently given birth to her first child, she and her husband were overwhelmed by feelings of joy, sorrow, anxiety, confusion and fear since various medical professionals had listed a multitude of problems the child was now facing.  Serving as a nurse, this new mother never desired to care for orthopedic nor pediatric patients.  Now, she had to face these areas simultaneously on a personal level.  She even had to give away the booties she received to her supervisor, for their colleagues held a joint baby shower for them.  Her supervisor gave birth to a set of healthy twin girls, but her own daughter required daily changes in her castings of her feet.

Reflecting upon this situation after over thirty years from its occurrence, I never realized the variety of emotions and struggles my mother endured shortly after my birth.  Realizing the intensity of this period, a greater passion and respect has ignited within me for this dearly, beloved woman.

Have you ever truly stepped into another’s “shoes?”  Whenever you interact with another individual personally or professionally, take few moments to see a scenario the way the other person does, reflect on it from his her perspective, and feel the feelings that are being experienced.

Lord, as we interact with others on a daily basis, remove the blinders from our eyes, so we may gain a better glimpse of them—their bodies, minds, and spirits.  In Your name I ask this, Amen.

 

“The Small Difference”

He was a thirty-old man with the continuous thoughts of anticipated fatherhood milling through his mind.  Working hard as a high school math teacher, he took great pride in providing for his family.  Believing in his heart that he and his wife were going to have a daughter, he suggested the name “Kristen,”—a name he treasured for one of the swimmers on the team he coached.

The day finally came when he met his firstborn—a little girl, but with that meeting also came immense fear, dread, anxiety and anger.  His newborn entered this world with many challenges—dislocated hips, club feet, crossed eyes, a heart murmur, and the list goes on.  With each medical problem, this father went into fix-it mode.

“How can it be resolved?’ he would ask.

That is, until a physician approached him and said, “I think it is time that you realize you don’t have a problem with a child, but you have a child with a problem attached.”

This statement impacted my father not just that day but in all the years ahead.  One sentence, one phrase, one word, one gesture—sometimes that’s all it takes.

Lord, help us to make a difference, no matter how small we think it is.  In Your name, Amen.

“Heavenly Encounters”

One recent beautiful spring evening, I had some free time to catch up on my gardening chores at home.  As I worked with the dirt, transplanting flowers and planting new bulbs in window boxes, I suddenly heard loud chirps nearby.  Glancing all around for the source of this noise, I finally located it—a bird’s nest sitting atop a post above my head with babies peeking out and their mother feeding them.

“Wow!  This is amazing!” I thought to myself.

With this incident, it is interesting to reflect how God offered a sign of His incredible presence in the midst of me working on another task.  The Lord continuously presents Himself every day in those surprising moments.  A thought that crosses one’s mind.  A smile from a stranger that uplifts the room.  A word of encouragement during a hectic day.  A rainbow flashing across the sky after feeling exhausted from the day’s activities.  In these small, “heavenly” encounters, may we observe and acknowledge the Holy One drawing us to Him—the One Who gives us the wisdom, comfort, strength and perseverance that we need on a daily basis.

Lord, as we strive to find You amidst the chaos of daily living, open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to sense Your continuous embrace.  In Your Holy name I pray, Amen.

“Designed for His Purpose”

For the longest time in my life, I wanted to avoid my disability.  I wanted to deny having it, cover it up and push it aside.  I hated it and felt like that others only saw the disability and not the real me.

These feelings did not change until I accepted God’s leading of me into chaplaincy.  For the first time, my brokenness allowed me to connect with the broken.  Thus, I had to let go of who I thought I should be in order to be the real me.  It wasn’t until I accepted who God designed me to be that He could truly begin working through me.

Like the potter continuously molds the clay until it assumes the shape he needs, the Lord is always molding us for His glorious purpose.

Father, allow us to constantly feel Your gentle touch as You endlessly create in us who You desire us to become.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“The Pain of Suffering”

I watch him every day slowly walk across the room to reach his destination.  Observing the grimacing looks upon his face, he slowly puts on his shoes as to not stimulate any additional foot pain.  As we run various errands, I hear moans every so often beside me while we are strolling.  Sitting together, occasionally grunts from his lips erupt as a sudden, shooting pain pierces his feet.  In the evenings, groans burst forth from the bedroom as he removes his shoes for the final time that day.  I watch daily how my husband suffers with chronic foot pain, and as his wife, I suffer alongside him in how this impacts us as a couple—our routines, our lifestyle, our dreams, etc.—as well as our both growing weary in the battles with acquiring medical intervention.

Reflecting upon this chronic dilemma in my own life has made me consider that the loved ones of our patients may experience similar emotions and concerns.  While rounding on the unit, I find family members sitting vigil at the bedside.  They are reminded of the patient’s struggle from observing all the bedside equipment, possibly hearing moans rising from the lips and seeing looks of agony on the faces as well as in their body movements.  Updates are given by various medical team members, but questions remain unanswered.  With all of this in mind, the loved ones experience a chronic suffering—an emotional suffering of what is happening presently and of what is yet to come.

Father, as we work through our own sufferings as well as help others with theirs, replenish us with Your continued strength and comfort.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Assumptions”

I was born with arthrogryposis, meaning “stiff joints.”  Hence, the more physically flexible I can be, the better off I am.

One Friday night during my college years, I attended a prayer gathering.  At the end of our time together, unbeknownst to me, the pastor asked everyone to gather around and lay their hands upon me, and he began praying, “Lord, straighten her legs!”  Mentally, though, I exclaimed, “No, Lord!  No, Lord!”

From this experience, the power of one’s assumptions was revealed to me.  Not only do they project one’s own perspectives onto the situation, but it prevents comprehending the other’s point of view.  As the actor Alan Alda once quoted, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.”

Heavenly God, as we interact with others, help us to see with Your eyes the full picture of what is happening.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Motivation”

Motivation is derived from many sources in life, i.e. relationships, quotes, books, movies, etc.  Coach Lou Holtz once explained, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  So, what has truly motivated you?

When I was seven years-old, I observed my two year-old brother dressing himself while our mother still dressed me.  Upon realizing this, I proclaimed to Mom, “I want to learn how to dress myself.  If Andy is doing this, I want to, too.”  This observation and expressed desire led to an occupational therapist coming to my home every week for the next two years, which resulted in me learning the necessary skills to live more independently.

Motivation is inspiration that leads to change.  It is not driven solely by one’s ability but also by one’s attitude.  Ability, motivation, and attitude.  Together, ultimate change is possible.

Gracious God, motivate us in all that we do, especially when the lack of motivation surrounds us.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Advocating for Another”

Who has been your strongest advocate?  For me, it was my parents.

One example of this occurred during sixth grade; my class was preparing to go on a week-long, camp, and I was SO excited.  A couple of days before leaving, my teacher called my mother, requesting for a teacher conference.  Mrs. Stammer tried to talk Mom out of letting me attend, saying that I would be a burden and not be able to keep up with the other students.  However, knowing my heartfelt desire for this trip, my mother fought for me, saying she would not allow this to happen.  Due to Mom’s stance, by the end of that week, Mrs. Stammer held a whole different perspective on the situation after having interacted many times with me at camp.

When have you seen advocacy take place—whether for you or you for another?  Here in the medical world, an associate’s role can best be summarized by the author Wess Stafford’s statement: “I spend half my time comforting the afflicted, and the other half afflicting the comfortable.”  Hence, with advocacy, the unspoken is spoken, and the unheard is heard, making the impossible possible.

Father, as You advocate for us, help us to advocate for others.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“The Power of Your Presence”

“Did I make the right decision?”

With tears flowing down her cheeks, the wife of a patient reminisced about the events over the last few days and wrestled through her own role with the future of her loved one.

“My husband said to me yesterday, ‘Unplug me,’ and I have been going home every night, praying to God as I try to place my husband in His hands.  But the doctor keeps saying that he is making small improvements.  All I want is him to get better.”

Listening intently to this woman’s cries of agony and guilt, I respond calmly, “He will get better—either here physically or with his healing in heaven.  You are not making this decision.  Your husband expressed his wishes to you, and you are just serving as his voice by sharing these with the doctor.  It is out of your control, and it is now in God’s and your husband’s hands.”

Pondering briefly upon what I said and placing her hand over her heart, the wife commented, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.  That brings me such peace.”

Listening and reassuring.  These are sometimes the toughest responsibilities in my role as a chaplain, but they are some of the most powerful in that they empower families to continue trusting and following the medical team—with the Greatest Physician of all as their leader.

Lord, guide us in being a presence that supports others’ needs.  I ask this in Your name, Amen.

“Curves in the Journey”

Many years ago, I recall traveling to St. Louis for a youth church choir trip.  Our director led this caravan with three other vehicles in tow along the winding highways.  At one point, with us all being in the far left lane, the director realized we needed to take the next exit, thus, taking all four vehicles across three lanes of traffic.

There are numerous occasions where life throws us a curve.  Health issues.  Job stuff.  Family matters.  Financial stresses.  Spiritual moments.  We may find ourselves traveling along the smooth journey only then, within seconds, having to make a quick veering in a different direction.  With the situation moving beyond our control and when we become unsure of the road ahead, it is at this time that we need to take our foot off the accelerator, and let God place His there instead.

Lord, along every curve in this journey called life, we ask for Your direction and control.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Hopeful Intercession”

While I rounded through the ICU, I met the family member of a patient whom had not yet received a chaplain visit.  The son spoke about their faith background and their beliefs regarding prayer.  With his permission, I approached the bedside of the older gentleman, lying with his eyes closed and surrounded by various machines breathing life into him.  I led the son in prayer, and upon speaking “Amen,” the patient widely opened his eyes, staring into the distance for several moments.

“Wow!” the son spoke in awe.

“Has he not done this?” I asked.

“No,” he responded.

During this encounter, the son not only interacted with the heavenly Father but also shared a moment with his earthly one.  Thus, it is through divine intercession for big, miraculous moments that we can receive a small one of continued hope and encouragement.

O Divine One, in our moments with You, give us what we need—a sense of Your hope and presence no matter what lies ahead.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“Changing Circumstance”

I am a fix-it person when it comes to relational problems.  I want to fix the dilemma, and I want to do it right now.  However, as I continue to painfully discover, this is not always possible.  Some conflicts cannot be changed.  Therefore, as the psychiatrist Victor E. Frankl once stated, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” It is, in these difficult, unchangeable circumstances that we must transition from our solving it to our responding effectively to it.  In summary, if you can’t change the circumstance, allow the circumstance to change you.

Lord, change is hard—whether it be a situation or an individual.  In these moments, we ask for Your direction, support, and divine intervention.  In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Being at the Right Place at the Right Time”

The date: September 5, 2007.  The buzz was in the air with the renaming of St. Vincent Children’s Hospital, and word had spread that Peyton Manning was going to be there.  As one of his many supporters, I availed myself the opportunity to see him in person.  Riding my motorized scooter to the designated location in the hospital, I realized that there was no way I could see him with all the people standing in front of me.

When the ceremony began wrapping up, a man dressed in an outside security uniform asked those of us in the interior hall to move to the side.  Within a few minutes, Peyton Manning not only walked right beside me but also shook my hand!  As the phrase goes, I was “at the right place at the right time!”

“Being at the right place at the right time.”  This phrase involves both our patients and we as associates.  Our patients come through our hospital doors after critical incidents to receive our healing touch, and we offer service to them within only a moment’s notice.  So, as the Great Physician intervenes, trust that He places each of us where we need to be in His time.

O Great Healer, help us to follow You, so we may be in the right place at the right time.  In Your name I ask this, Amen.

“Blessed, Broken, and Shared”

Our Pastoral Care director sent an email to all the chaplains that included a saying by “Jeanette Martino from her poem entitled ‘Let Me Be Bread’: ‘Shape us, O Lord, into a loaf of bread that can be blessed, broken, and shared-so others may taste the goodness of Your Love risen and baked in me.’” “Blessed, broken, and shared.” This phrase so resonated with me as it offers a great description of my life. I was blessed by a loving family and an incredible medical team that has supported me throughout my life. I was born physically broken and have been able to share God’s love through my brokenness to inspire and encourage all those around me.

How has the Lord shaped you to be “blessed, broken and shared”? How has He shown Himself through you as a person and the roles that you carry out on a daily basis? No matter how blessed and/or broken you perceive yourself, God shares Himself through you to speak into the lives of others and, ultimately, bring Himself glory.

Father, as Jeanette Martino wrote, “‘Shape us, O Lord, into a loaf of bread that can be blessed, broken, and shared-so others may taste the goodness of Your Love risen and baked in me.” In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Seeing the Possible in the Impossible”

It was a bitterly cold morning, and I was preparing to go to work. After I climbed into my van, I pushed the button, which raised the ramp, but the door would not budge. Realizing I could not safely close the door due to my inability to balance on the ice-covered ground, I drove off with the side door wide open. Hence, I creatively made travel possible by looking beyond the impossibility of closing a door.

When in your life has the possible emerged from the impossible? I have discovered, from my own life experiences as well as others’, that hope can be found in every challenging situation, even if it is only through divine intervention. Whether it be directly through God’s hands or Him working through man’s hands, a glimmer of hope evolves when we examine all the “possible” options and allow the “impossible” to be less and less a part of our perspective.

Lord, You make all things possible. Help us to view all circumstances as You see them. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Waiting for Life’s Rides

            It was her first ride ever. My brother and sister-in-law took a position in one line at Disney World, carrying my eleven month-old niece to this new experience for her. Standing in line for several minutes, their turn finally arrived, and the youngster was sound asleep. The wait had been too long.

            What have you been waiting for in life? Have you felt it has been too long or that you somehow missed your chance? As an attendant takes charge of an amusement ride, the Lord attends to our needs and gives direction during every waiting period. Trust in Him in all your circumstances, for He has plans to offer everyone hope (Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11).

            Heavenly Father, in our times of waiting, encourage us to seek Your face as we strive to find Your hope. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Are You a Fake?”

            During an evening shift as the chaplain on duty, I strolled through the Trauma ICU, chatting with the nurses just as my voice prayed on the intercom overhead. Recognizing it and then seeing me in person, one of them jokingly asked, “Are you a fake?”

            Chuckling at the nurses’ response to the situation, I said, “Well, I guess the truth is out. The evening prayers are recorded.”

            When was the last time you were in an awkward situation with your fellow colleagues? What was your response? From my own experiences, I learned that humor not only eases the awkwardness but further draws others to you by revealing our real humanness to them.

            Father, thank You for the gift of laughter. In difficult times, help our use of it to bring a sense of unity. In Your name I pray, Amen.

“The Blessings of the Differently-Abled”

As a high schooler, my family attended a small church where Chad, the pastor’s son, maintained a mental age of 18 months no matter how he aged chronologically. Sometimes, waddle his father would be preaching a sermon, Chad would simultaneously respond with a “yeah” and a grin across his face, which would result in laughter erupting across the congregation. Despite his mental challenges and limited social skills, Chad blessed all of those around.

Through my interactions with Chad as well as many others in my lifetime who are differently-abled, I have discovered that, no matter the abilities that one has, he or she can make a difference. It involves focusing on the ways God can use us to bless others and not on our differences or weaknesses.

Lord, thank You for Your individual creation in each of us, and help us to use these differences to bring You glory. In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

“Divine Direction”

            Recently, while my husband preached at a church service, I noticed one elderly lady struggling to hear, so I made a hand gesture with an upward motion, signaling him to speak louder.

            Upon seeing this, he stopped mid-sentence, asking, “What?”

            “You need to speak louder, honey,” I explained.

            How many times have we stopped in the middle of what we were doing in order to bring clarification to the situation? We don’t just do this from a physical level but also from a spiritual sense. For when we pause to pray, we not only acknowledge the presence of the One truly in charge but also listen for His divine direction in how to proceed.

            O Father, at various moments when we pause throughout the day, help us to use those times to come before You to gain Your divine direction. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“A Simple Change”

As a chaplain, I constantly find myself reflecting upon the interactions I have had with others and exploring alternative methods in providing future ministry. For example, in many past encounters where families are grieving the death of their loved ones, I have offered emotional support, prayer, and end-of-life care. However, realizing I can offer more effective support to a group, I decided to finally try a different plan of care.

Paged to support one family gathered at the bedside of their loved one who had just died, I entered the room, observing and hearing the cries of mourning. After a few minutes of being present with the family, I finally said to the group, “I never had the opportunity to know your loved one. Can you tell me a little about him?” This single question opened the floodgate of memories, stories, and eventually to us all singing his favorite hymn.

            Consequently, it is truly amazing how one simple change can drastically impact the group dynamics. Whether it be interacting with others or solely in your own individual life, what simple changes can YOU make—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to bring improvement?

            Heavenly Father, whether it be interpersonally or just individually, guide us in making the necessary transitions in life, so we may better align ourselves with Your plan. In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Where Was Jesus Born?”

A classic memory of the Christmas season is still shared in my family, even after decades of time have passed. With me being only three years-old or so, my parents took me to church on a regular basis. One Sunday around this holiday season, during the children’s time, the pastor asked, “Where was Jesus born?”

Immediately knowing this, I answered excitedly, “In Bethle-heaven!”

While this is not the response one commonly hears, as I now reflect upon my childlike innocence, there is much truth here. Jesus was born in Bethlehem—God coming to us in the form of man—but has also always reigned in heaven, offering us direct access to the Father.

As we ponder the amazing gift that the Lord gave us through the birth of a baby, may we acknowledge how great the love He offered through the innocence of a child. Like the faith that a child holds, we can experience that same innocent belief this Christmas, no matter the hardships we may be currently facing. Even though the Child of God was born in Bethlehem so many years ago, He will always live in us through His heavenly presence.

“The Goliaths in Our Lives”

For a couple of years in my early childhood, I lived on a kid-friendly street where we, as kids, would continuously play together. One of my playmates had a father whom towered over us like a giant due to his height and huge body build. Ironically, while the kids ran from him out of fear, I always dashed towards him, saying gleefully, “Hi, Mr. Monaco!”

There are giants that we encounter every day—ones that we may want to avoid at all costs by running in the opposite direction. However, what could happen if we view our towering fears differently, facing and examining them as opportunities from God? For when we face our giants, we embrace new possibilities and expand our perceived boundaries.

Lord, like David from the Old Testament faced Goliath, help us to confidently approach and overcome the giants in our lives. In Your holy name I ask this, Amen.

“Difficult Blessings”

During my very early years of life, it took me a long time to finish a single meal. Then, after being enrolled into a special preschool where individuals with physical challenges learned independent living skills, my parents were informed at a parent-teacher conference that, at lunchtime, students were only given twenty minutes to eat.

“How is that possible?!” Dad asked her, “It usually takes Kristen a couple of hours to eat at home.”

Given the opportunity to observe a lunch period, my parents watched students sitting in chairs at the lunch table, socializing with their peers. As soon as the food trays were set before them, they suddenly could only hear the sounds of chewing. At the end of twenty minutes, the trays were whisked away, no matter whether or not the child had finished his or her meal.

While I’m sure this was a hard lesson for me to learn, I realize today that it was truly a beneficial one. Knowing that my pager could vibrate at any time with an emergent need, I still incorporate that skill of eating quickly, cherishing the few moments that I do have to savor my food.

What hard lessons from your past have proven to be blessings for you today? May the Lord use these discoveries as moments of gratitude to Him and those involved.

O Great Teacher, even in the midst of difficulty, may we see Your hand of intervention and blessing. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

“Picking Up”

I remember, over twenty years ago, sitting in my eighth grade science class in my assigned spot next to Matt Arnold, who was a football player as well as my friend. Positioned on the edge of my chair where I could comfortably take notes, during this particular hour, I was paired up with Matt to work on an experiment, and our teacher instructed one member of each group to retrieve our materials from the back of the room. Not noticing that our chair legs were intertwined, Matt slid his back swiftly, and suddenly, I found myself on the floor. Our teacher checked to assure I was not injured and then asked Matt to pick me up, which he did with great ease. I was back to my learning again.

This event highlights what frequently happens to our patients. They are usually living out their normal lives and suddenly experience a traumatic event or drastic health change. As the medical team, we come along, “pick” them up, and assist them in returning to a norm in life.

Lord, as we “pick” up those in need, I ask that You pick us up in our everyday needs. In Your precious name, Amen.

“Family Time”

            Thanksgiving is highly considered by many to be a “family” holiday. People travel to be with parents, siblings, children, and other relatives to spend the day together. They usually share in a meal full of traditional dishes while camping out in front of the television, playing games, resting, etc.

            One specific Thanksgiving several years ago, I recall spending the day with my family—not with the one of my origin but with the one here established from the close-knit ties of friendship. I arrived around noon that day, watching television and participating in conversations with those around me. Also, in between final preparations for the meal, my friends received phone calls from their family who all lived afar. While observing the snow falling and trying not to listen in on the conversations, I remember thinking that this is the true meaning of family.

             We all have some type of “family” that surrounds us with love and support—relatives, friends, and colleagues to possibly name a few. The family that we experience here on earth is only a small “slice” of our eternal family. Ephesians 1:4-6 states: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.” Can you imagine the Thanksgiving feast with which we will celebrate in eternity?! Knowing that the Lord has invited each of us to be a part of His one entire “family” is one of many blessings with which we can be thankful.

“A New Possibility”

I have always wanted to be a mother. While waiting on a friend one day, I went to the clothing section of the store Buy Buy Baby, asking myself, “Knowing that I struggle with buttons and snaps, what clothes would be available for me to independently dress my infant?” Thinking that velcro was my only option, I came across outfits that used magnetized fasteners. Shocked at this discovery, I realized that my parenting possibilities had just broadened.

Similarly, we encounter new possibilities in both our professional and personal worlds, such as new policies and procedures for all associates to follow, variations in the weekly schedule of a family member, improved equipment to enhance patient care, changes in financial options to meet our housing and transportation needs, etc., etc. Instead of feeling disgruntled that these changes are affecting our regular routines, may we embrace them as ways to enrich where God is leading.

God of all changes, guide us in perceiving life with Your eyes. Let us explore new options with eagerness and perseverance, knowing You will be at our sides always as we embark on new journeys. In Your name I pray, Amen.

“Living on the Edge”

Most of the time, due to my physical challenges, I sit on the edge of my chair with it pushed way out; this helps to assure that, when I am eating, my food will stay on my plate and not on my lap. I have been asked many times by those sitting around me, “Would you like me to scoot in your chair? You look like you’re going to fall off it at any moment.”

“No, thanks,” I respond, “I like living on the edge.”

When have you lived on the edge? What risks have you taken where you maintained complete self-confidence? Be assured that the same confidence you have in yourself is that which you can have in the Lord.

Lord, guide us in all the choices we make. Give us assurance and direction, especially when we find ourselves living on the edge. In Your almighty name I pray, Amen.

“Searching for the Miracle”

Sitting in despair at his infant daughter’s bedside, the new father kept hearing in his mind the echoing of the doctor’s words: “Your daughter may never be able to move her arms or legs. If she does ever walk, it probably won’t be until when she is eighteen years-old.” Watching intently and hoping for any sign of possibility, the dad just saw his only daughter lay lifeless before him. After much time had passed, it suddenly happened—a slight twitching of the baby’s arm. The father leapt from the bedside, and noticing his wife and the doctor talking at the end of the hallway, he dashed towards them, “She can move! She can move! I saw it! Kristen moved her arm!”

There are many occurrences where the care that we provide seems hopeless. Oftentimes, we find ourselves breaking the hearts of loved ones by sharing grim outlooks regarding the patients’ futures. Then, as we continue our care for them on the unit, we notice families sitting vigil at the bedside, praying and staring at the patient and bedside monitor, searching for just a glimmer of hope. Finally, that hope does arrive—one way or another—either through signs of recovery or the peace that eventually arises through the ending of suffering.

Lord of all Miracles, help us to acknowledge Your presence and intervention in all the care we provide to our patients and their loved ones, no matter the outcome. In Your name I pray, Amen

“The Chaos and the Calm”

One weekend, as my husband and I prepared for our guests, we worked hard to start making dinner and cleaning our home. With our preparations almost being done, my husband went to reach an object on the dining room table and, while doing so, accidentally knocked a houseplant down from the bookshelf causing dirt to go everywhere.

A day later, while Jeff and I were tidying up from the previous night’s dinner, one of the shelves on the bookcase suddenly came loose, and with objects flying off, one of the teacups broke as it crashed to the ground. Upon noticing the mess, we just glanced at each other, thinking, “Here we go again…another mess to clean up.”

The chaos of this particular weekend reminds me of the chaos we can experience sometimes here at the hospital. We admit a patient, getting him or her settled on our unit and stabilized medically, only then to take a breath and watch the next new patient come rolling through our doors. It is enduring these times of chaos, though, that lead us to a greater awareness and appreciation of the calm that follows.

Lord, You are always in the midst of both the chaos and calm. Help us always to focus on Your presence and direction in the midst of it all. In Your precious name I ask this, Amen.

Hope for Freedom

While attending the Indianapolis Mega Adoption Event at the state fairgrounds, I strolled up and down the aisles of various colors of balls of fur. Imagining myself in their paws, staring out beyond the wired fencing, I would watch numerous people continuously pass me in all directions. Every so often, someone might stop by to speak to me, poke his or her fingers in my cage for me to sniff, and even possibly give me a gentle rub. I would then get excited, thinking I might be released from my bondage, only to learn, a few moments later, I still am sitting in my prison. I even find myself growing sadder as I observe the doors of other cages around me being opened and my four-legged friends walking away with their new owners.

Like that of the animal awaiting its adoption, our patients may share similar experiences. They feel trapped in their beds, having lost much independence and relying on the medical team for all their needs—medications, bathroom, repositioning, etc. They may see people continuously walking by the rooms, hoping one might attend to their needs or even just give them a moment’s attention. Finally, an associate enters the room to complete a task but then quickly leaves, and this patient watches that person enter another’s room to respond to an alarm sounding. After much time has passed—what feels like an eternity, some patient grow very discouraged, sensing that there is no hope for the medical dilemmas they encounter.

Have you considered you may be the one who changes this patient’s perspective? Through your care, you may offer freedom from the bondage of the diagnosis and its effects. With your words or even just your presence, you can offer encouragement where there seems to be none. As Aaron and Hur, according to the Old Testament, held up Moses’ arms, encouraging Joshua’s perseverance in the battle with the Amalekites, you, as a member of the medical team, hold up the “arms” of the patients and their families, bringing them hope to—what appears to be—the hopeless battles they are fighting.