“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.

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.

“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.