Hope in the Hopeless

It was gone, nowhere to be found. My husband Jeff and I had briskly tidied up the room, so we could take out the trash before running errands. However, in the midst of the cleanup, we must have accidentally tossed the prescription that he filled earlier that day. Not realizing it was missing until after a couple of hours passed, we desperately began searching the room—high and low—looking on shelves, under furniture, and under cushions. Without success, we then started checking in other rooms—opening the fridge, pantry, and cabinets; checking the washer and dryer; and even searching the laundry.

Jeff finally looked at me with a horrifying look of realization. “It is probably in the trash we took to the dumpster. I must have accidentally grabbed it when I cleared off the kitchen table.”

Frantically, we returned to the dumpster, and Jeff climbed into the trash compactor, tearing open bags that looked similar to ours in hopes we would recognize its contents.

Several minutes passed. With the pungent odor growing so strong, we finally ended the search. We never found that orange, plastic bottle full of pills we needed so desperately.

This wild chase of trying to “find a needle in a haystack” reminds me of how we as the medical team feels when the treatments and support we provide are not helping a patient with a mysterious diagnosis. In a panic mode, we seek various medications, procedures, and interventions—only to find no hope. It is in these times of darkness and despair that the Great Physician coerces us to turn to Him and trust in His own intervention—no matter the outcome.

Lord, in the bleakest moments, help us to grasp Your hand for assistance. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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“Unlocking Another’s World”

Shortly after my parents’ wedding, they opened their gifts and came across a set of four matching wooden rings. My father pulled them out of their packaging and began shuffling them around on the table, thinking they were a game. After trying awhile to figure out the “game,” my parents finally approached the person who gave them the gift to inquire about it. Upon hearing they thought it was a game, the individual laughed, explaining, “They are napkin rings!” Now, several years later, anytime my family sees napkin rings, this incident is remembered with much fondness.

            What objects bring a smile to your face? What items spark a positive memory for you? Maybe it’s your ID badge as the picture of yourself brings back the memory of when you first started serving here in the hospital. Or it could be the pen you are holding; for as you write out care plans for different patients, it is a gift that from a person who cared about you. The object might be a piece of jewelry you are wearing because it reminds you of a close relationship with whom you have beyond these walls.

            Various possessions in every person’s surroundings can serve as keys for us to further unlock their world. As the Lord examines and knows each of us, according to Psalm 139, may we further examine our surroundings in order to better know those with whom we are interacting.

            God, help each of us to slow down and take a moment to further understand the lives of others. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“A Personal Connection”

During one of my shifts, I was assigned to visit some patients in Peyton Manning’s Hospital. Upon entering one room, I observed what appeared to be a physical therapist, for she was wearing the dark teal scrubs and repeatedly moving the one year-old child’s legs in a bending motion. The little girl’s hands were curled inward toward her arms, and her elbows and legs appeared swollen and pretty well straight—what all appeared to be the same disability I have. Verifying this with the therapist who was currently working the child, I decided to make a follow-up visit when the family was there.

Later that day, when I saw others visiting, I met the family and offered them support. Near the end of this pastoral interaction, though, I asked the parents and grandparents, “Does she have arthrogryposis?”

Surprised by my correct recognition of this diagnosis, the mother responded hesitantly, “Yessss?”

“I thought so. That’s what I have,” I replied affirmatively.

Immediately, the family pulled up a chair, asking me questions about living with this disability and the medical complications I faced.

It is in these moments of personal connection with patients and families where we as associates can travel intimately alongside those facing a difficult journey, having a deeper understanding and appreciation of their perspective for the trials they are facing.

Gracious God, help us to connect better and truly empathize with those in our care. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

Divine Feeding

            It was Saturday morning—a great time to run errands. With the sun shining brightly through my sunroof, I drive steadily from Wal-Mart to Goodwill to Lowe’s. Suddenly, on my way to buy groceries at Kroger, the small, orange light pops on upon the dashboard, which means I need to give my van a “feeding”—yes, that’s right, the gas light.

            God gives us each these “lights” in our own bodies as warnings to care for our bodies—fatigue for rest, pains for food, dry mouth for water, etc. If we heed to these warnings in a timely manner, we not just care for ourselves but also better prepare for our interactions with others.

            Has your “God-light” flashed on recently? When have you heeded that spiritual warning to “feed” yourself with the Divine presence? Whether it be an hour of reading and meditating or just a few moments of listening to His whisper, I encourage you to replenish the “gas tank” that only He can refill on a daily basis.

            Father, I ask that You feed us not just in our moments of stillness but also in the times of busyness. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Future

            It was one of the hardest years I can remember. Moving from Virginia to Indiana and having no family nor friends here. Beginning my year-long training program in chaplaincy where I did not know any of the supervisors, staff, and other residents. Receiving my first assignment in the Pediatric ICU. Hearing an overhead page for an Adult Code One during my first COD shift and panicking in not knowing where to find that room. Working with a conflicting family through the terminal wean of one infant of a set of twins where the father physically abused the child. Writing down and reflecting on what seemed to be an endless number of patient/family interactions—so many the voices of critique played through my mind over various conversations I had way beyond the residency. Ministering to a teenager after watching the medical team code his brother in the same room; they both had a life-ending form of Muscular Dystrophy. Caring for a family continuously throughout the night as a set of parents watched their teenage daughter being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms to facing the amputation of at least three limbs and her eventual death within a twenty-four period. Participating in discussions with my resident peers where I felt exhausted from just exploring my feeling of exhaustion. Supporting a large group who gathered in the family waiting area to mourn over a teenager’s death via suicide. With these challenges as well as many others, it was a year full of hurdles coming from all directions.

            What do you remember from your time of training for your current position? How have you celebrated this journey? I encourage you to celebrate where God has led you—physically, mentally, and spiritually, and celebrate in that, as one of my supervisors shared, as you did “leap,…the net [did] appear.” No matter what happens from this day forward, always be mindful of the hope that the Great Physician proclaims in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in [Me] with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to [Me], and [I] will make your paths straight.”

Ministry in the Similarity

            Several years ago, after one of my many foot surgeries, I was working a weekend day shift as the chaplain on duty, driving my motorized scooter to get to various locations in the hospital. Preparing to visit a female patient on a medical-surgical unit, I slowly maneuvered my three-wheeled vehicle into the room, and through the expressions of shock and disbelief, an immediate connection existed! Both of our left legs were wrapped similarly in blue-layered plastering, forming a cast that went from below our knee down to our toes. Observing this physical similarity, this served as a starting point for our discussion.

            Whether it be with a patient, family member, or a colleague, these God-given, ice-breaking times in our lives offer opportunities where we can probe beyond the surfacy talk and relate on a more intimate level. I honestly believe that our Lord grants us these chances to view life from a similar perspective with a complete stranger. It also knits the members of His family together, intertwining our journeys as a reminder we are never alone in what we are encountering.

            Father, in the moments where we feel so alone or interact with other lonely souls, encourage us to seek out others who are traveling similar roads. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

“Searching through the Simplicity”

I recently was driving along in my van with my husband Jeff and glanced down at the odometer.

“Jeff,” I reflected, “Look, we have 79,995 miles on our van. This reminds me of the time when my parents, my brother, and I were taking a ride in Dad’s white Ciera. It had 99,999 miles on it, and Dad was driving us through the neighborhood just to watch the odometer turn back to all zeroes.”

As we chuckled over this incident, Jeff responded, “I can’t even imagine doing that. My family was never like that.”

We as associates may embark on conversations with our patients and all involved in their care. As we truly engage with each other, it is in these moments that we can find significant unity—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By digging deeper into the lives of each other and better understanding others’ backgrounds and experiences, we not only support and encourage each other but also see how the Divine is working around and through us.

Lord, help us to take the time to truly journey alongside all those whom we encounter every day. In Your name I pray, Amen.

The Difference to the Future

            Sometimes, it takes a little time before we realize that someone has made a major difference in our lives.

            Just another ordinary day, a mother doting on her daughter while she is changing her precious one’s diaper, her father was calmly talking to his wife and watching his child with joyful admiration. Suddenly, Mom saw their infant turn blue; she feverishly began CPR as the desperate dad dashed to the phone. Overwhelmed by his anxiety, he fumbled three times before he could dial three simple digits—911. This story is true, and it has a happy ending because I am the child that was in this perilous moment. I can tell you without a doubt I am very relieved that my parents acted as quickly as they did, and I am forever grateful to them for their life-saving actions. It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized the difference that they had made in my life.

            Who has made a difference in your life? Have you ever expressed a word of thanks to that person? Through these expressions of gratefulness, not only do we acknowledge the blessing but the difference that the individual made.

            Lord, in all that we do, help us to know that a difference has been made to the person’s future. In Your name I pray, Amen.

The GPS

            Years ago, my family was driving from southern Kentucky near Paducah to Owensboro, in the northern part of the state, while returning from a quilt show. Although my aunt is an excellent quilter, navigation is not one of her gifts. This became glaringly apparent when she declared, “I am excellent at navigating!” Upon her proud proclamation she was immediately promoted to the front seat beside the driver—after all, that’s where navigators are supposed to sit. Intently focusing her gaze upon the maps, she began leading my father down the highway with the rest of us in tow. About half an hour later, we passed a sign that read, “Welcome to Tennessee.” Immediately upon seeing this, Dad suddenly pulled over, commanding my mother to take over the navigation, and thus, my aunt was demoted and relegated to a lowly position in the back seat. Although my mom is a great navigator, don’t get me wrong, a GPS would have really come in handy in that moment. Oh, for the confident tones of the lady telling you exactly when and where to turn, a voice like that creates such a confident feeling that at least someone in the car knows exactly where we are going.

            Who has served as your GPS, helping you to find your way when you get lost in your journey along the roadway of life? Although though we often get lost, Proverbs 3:5-6 serves as a wonderful direction finder, for the Lord encourages us to simply trust and submit to Him, when we do “He will direct [our] path[s].”

            God, we ask that You be our GPS in all circumstances of life. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Grace beyond the Flaws

On the way home from a social event, my husband Jeff shared with me about a discussion he had there: “A couple of guys and I were comparing stories of not remembering people’s names. I shared how you and I recently went to the play which our colleague Rita helped produce and how I kept calling her Jan.”

Chuckling at this, I glanced over briefly at him and said, “You mean Kate?”

When you interact with someone closely and on a regular basis, as I do with Jeff, you become aware—and possibly irritated—with the person’s weaknesses. You may even think to yourself something like “Why can’t he get it right?” or “I don’t know why she can’t figure this out.” While considering these irritations, have you ever taken the time to pause and reflect on your own flaws that may be frustrating others? When we do this, we can better extend grace to others in their moments of weakness while residing in our own. This can give us the freedom to allow God to mold us into what He has designed within each of us.

Loving God, help us to extend the type of grace You do as we look beyond the flaws of others. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

The Identity Behind the Badge

As I begin every shift, I clip my ID badge to my lab coat. This piece of plastic provides a mere glimpse of my identity. From this insignia hanging from my body, can you determine my work ethic, what I believe, how I treat others, my lifestyle choices, etc., etc.? From just a glance at my badge, how can you know who I really am? It is only from series of rich interpersonal encounters that you can begin to understand the constellation of what makes me, me.

When I unclip this mere piece of plastic displaying my primary role of chaplain and walk out the doors of this place after each shift, did you know that I portray so many other roles in this play called life? How, from a glimpse, could you know that I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, etc., that loves to travel, play power soccer, read, spend time with family, and play games? Does this badge truly define me? No, my true identity stems from my authentic character, beliefs, values, and attitude that I live out within and beyond these walls.

So, what is the purpose of the badge? It is like the cover of a book. It places a label on the outside of something that can only be known by digging into what lies within.   Although we are extraordinarily involved in our roles as healthcare providers, if we possibly take a moment to look beyond the badge, we can discover a wonderful array of people who can and will enrich our lives, and from these encounters, they will be enriched as well.  

Lord, I ask that You guide us in finding ways to show our true identity that You have created in each of us. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Driven by the Pager

I usually start my day near the early hour of 7:00 a.m. I walk through the hospital doors, head to my office, put on my lab coat, and grab the most essential element to jump start my day— coffee. In the midst of this daily routine, there is one item attached to my hip that changes my direction in a moment’s notice—my pager.

This small electronic device primarily drives my day within the walls of this building. It amazes me how a little black piece of plastic can create major course changes in just a single moment. It lets me know when and where I am needed most, and in that instant, I am fully aware that the traumatic is occurring or about to occur.

However, even though the vibration of my pager alerts and lets me know that others need my presence, it is the “pages” I receive from the Lord that foremost grab my attention. It is through His presence revealed in His written Word that guides me and opens my eyes to the subtle changes that I observe in my surroundings. When I engage with the Divine, I gain a greater awareness of the encounters I participate in with those around me.

What is driving you today, and how may God be paging you? When He does—and He will, be careful not to miss the subtle vibrations where He may calling you to engage with Him and, from these encounters, gain a greater clarity toward the life He has called you to live.

Gracious God, help us understand when and to where You are driving us through Your “pages.” In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

The Power of the Post-It Note

Have you ever walked into someone’s office and observed notes posted everywhere? I recently had this experience when I was checking in on a manager. Commenting on the scene before me, she shared how she has always used post-it notes—especially the colorful notes—throughout her career as small reminders of what needs to be done.

So, what post-it notes has the Lord left upon your mind today? With what different experiences and encounters has He given you to color your mind and heart and offer you direction? Besides my ministry and fellowship with others, the Lord leaves “post-its” for guidance in my journey in various ways, including through the Scriptures, nature, and music. The words on the page, the signs of life and change found within nature, and the lyrics and melodies of a variety of songs all remind me of God’s continued, comforting presence in all aspects of life. No matter how you experience God’s presence, may you also notice the “post-its” of encouragement and support that He leaves around you—here in the hospital and beyond these walls.

God, thank You for the “post-its” You offer all around us. Help us to observe and acknowledge Your work in our lives on a daily basis. In Your name I pray, Amen

The Difference in One Choice

Consider a time when you regretted a decision you had made but, later, were thankful you had done it.

About ten years ago, while pursuing my Masters degree, I was required to do an internship by starting my training in chaplaincy. Simultaneously, in the midst of the training period, my parents had arranged months beforehand a family cruise at this exact timeframe. Facing the decision of how to handle this conflict, I finally approached my parents, explained the situation, and turned down the opportunity of the cruise. Even though I mourned this choice at first, looking back now, not only did I make the right decision but I made a life-changing one—one that totally directed my career path. Even though this particular choice proved to be a good one in my life for the long run, there are some decisions I would make differently now. This is true for all of us.  

Good choice or poor choice—no matter what it is, it is more important to consider how we let the choices we make impact the rest of our lives. The American psychologist, Wayne Dyner, once said, “Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made.” However, the sum of our lives does not have to reflect our poor choices; it can reflect positively through our responses and attitude toward these choices.

Lord, guide us in finding Your blessings in all the choices we make. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Fabrics of the Quilt

My brother and I had never met this woman before—my father’s sister whom we call Aunt Vicki. She traveled to our home in order to stay with us one weekend while participating in a quilt show. During this event, my family and I saw not only her pieces but hundreds of others, varying in colors, sizes, and designs.

Remembering the various fabrics I saw that day, a quilt can represent the intertwining of our individual roles on the healthcare team. We each are a single section of the quilt, bringing various backgrounds, experiences, skills, beliefs, and passions. As individual parts, we can stitch together as one team, placing a wholesome healing experience to cover the body, mind, and spirit of the patient and family.

Lord, as You continue working through the various fabrics represented here today, we ask that You stitch us together to create the quilt of Your healing for all those in our care. In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

Pushing Pause

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

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

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

Establishing Trust

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

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

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

“Never Do That Again”

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

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

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

A Breath in the Transition

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

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

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

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

Sacred Silence

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

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

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

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

Traditions

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

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

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

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

The Fragility of Life

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Forks in Life”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrying the Load

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

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

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

Standing Out

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

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

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

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

Sharing Your Story

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

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

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

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

The Impact You Have

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing Paths

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

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

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

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

Creatively Going the Distance

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

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

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

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

Wiggling through the Uncertainty

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

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

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

Serving in God’s Hospital

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

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

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

Pressing on with Unity

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

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

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

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

The Biker

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

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

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

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

“Huh?” my mother questioned, confused.

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

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

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

Interpretation in the Medical World

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

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

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

Multitasking: A Technique to Slow the Chaos

“Adult code one, ICU team four!”

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

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

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

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

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

Boundless in the Boundaries

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

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

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

Misunderstanding the Truth

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

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

“Green cheese!” I replied with much confidence.

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

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

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

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

When Faith and Medicine Collide

What happens when the worlds of faith and medicine collide?

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

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

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

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

Expecting the Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

Noises from the Father

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

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

Let us pray:

Father,

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

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Small Acts, Big Differences

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

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

Let us pray:

Lord,

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

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Remembering the Entrance of Love

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

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

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

Lord,

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

In Your precious name we pray,

Amen

Spinning Control into Your Mobiles

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing with God’s Provision

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

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

Let us pray:

Lord,

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

In Your name I pray,

Amen

The Future of the Pee Box

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

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

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

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

As you reflect on these, let us pray:

Lord,

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

In Your name I pray,

Amen

The Journey to Bethlehem

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

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

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

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

 

Beatitudes

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

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

Let us pray:

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

In Your name I pray,

Amen

Plugging In

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

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

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

Let us pray:

Lord,

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

In Your holy name I pray,

Amen

Small Blessings

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

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

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

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

Standing Firm in Our Decisions

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

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

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

“Yes,” I answered, nodding my head.

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

I shook my head.

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

I started sobbing again.

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

Let us pray:

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

In Your name I pray,

 

Amen