Friday, September 29, 2006

A Little Cheese With My Whine

Okay, the whining is over for now. I just had too much time alone to worry. I am on my way to another hospital where my mother's cousin is currently in surgery. If all goes well, this surgery will prolong her life expectancy from 3 months to 18 months. I will go and sit with her daughter, and be reminded of the many blessings I have and the smallness of my problems. Prayers for my cousin and for her great grandchild who will also be born today will be gratefully accepted.

The Belly Ache

As I approach another on-call shift, I find my belly aching more and more. I am fearful of what I might face. Will I know how to handle the situations that arise? At a Level I Trauma Hospital, there is no end to the variety and difficulty of situations that come up. I worry that I will freeze when faced with something new. My stomach knots with each buzz of the pager. I know that this fear is not healthy, nor is it a sign of faith. I am reminded of my own posting a few short weeks ago.

Lord I believe; help my unbelief! Amen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

God's people

Pink Shoes writes on a theme I've been contemplating this week. Her insights are helpful.

Like Pink Shoes, I am learning. One of the most difficult parts of CPE (and all hospital chaplaincy I think) is not seeing a family all the way through a crisis or the death of a family member. I often start caring for a family, but have to pass them on to the next chaplain when my shift ends. I know that I can't be there all the time, but I worry that they will feel abandoned when I leave.

Pink Shoes points out that these people aren't my families to care for. They belong to God. It is awfully presumptuous of me to believe that only I could provide the right pastoral care for them. If I live the faith I profess, I will be able to leave knowing they are in the care of the ultimate caregiver.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Five: Boo boo alert

It's time to play again at RevGalBlogPals .

Songbird writes: After a tumble in a parking lot the other day, I'm sporting a lovely abrasion on my leg--so attractive. It's the same leg I hurt when I fell off the same pair of sandals on the same sort of uneven pavement in Edinburgh last month. Will I ever learn to wear less dangerous shoes and/or pay attention to where I am going? As I drove home to take care of it I called my husband and said, "Boo boo alert!"

Here is our Friday Five on that subject.
1) Are you a baby about small injuries? Only if my dignity is what hurts the most.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself? I was volunteering at the "Mile Run Fitness Test" at manBoy's school. The students had to run two 1/2 mile laps around the school. I was stationed on the back side of the loop for safety and encouragement. When the last student who thought it was a one mile "amble" came by, I started walking with her. As I encouraged her to pick up speed, I tripped over the edge of the sidewalk, stumbled 2 or 3 steps and fell all the way down. Now I had to walk the 1/4 mile around to the front with two bloody knees. Miss Ambler didn't think much of my inspiration.

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child? I honestly don't remember. My mother was forever sticking our fingers to see if we were anemic. She would make bunny rabbit bandaids with whisps of cotton ball sticking out for the ears and faces drawn with a pen. This was of course long before fancy printed bandaids.

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos? Generally, I'm good in an emergency. I had to be when I worked with special needs children.

manBoy will tell you that I'm not the most sympathetic nurse if said injury is the result of stupid behavior, especially if it is the result of repeated stupid behavior.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room? I was in a head on car wreck in college. Fortunately, my injuries were relatively minor (concussion...) I was taken to the hospital on an ambulance stretcher in the back of a pick up, but that's another story. I was in shock but not unconscious. When I "came to" in the hospital, I asked my mother what had happened. Before she could answer, I said, "Wait, don't tell me!" I love a mystery you see. I remembered the other car coming toward us and put the pieces together.

The saddest part of this story is that I had two black eyes for my first semester of college. It's a good thing I was already dating Gifted and Talented.


I have made mistakes and I have failed in several ways in the almost four weeks since CPE began. This is to be expected when one does something so drastically new and complicated. I have also spent much time and energy regurgitating those mistakes and failures, thinking "woulda, shoulda, coulda."

Yesterday I was asked, "How much grace are you allowing yourself?" In other words, am I allowing myself to experience forgiveness? Today, my scripture readings include the theme of forgiveness.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet is commissioned to go forth in service to God, but first the seraph touches his lips with a hot coal and says, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Isaiah 6:7 Isaiah experience forgiveness before being sent as God's servant.

In Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2: 1-12, and Luke 5: 17-26 Jesus heals the paralytic. He tells him, "Your sins are forgiven," before he says "Get up, take your mat, and go home."

When we don't accept or experience forgiveness, we become like the paralytic, unable to get up and go. We limit the ways we can serve God because we are mired in the past. Like both the paralytic and Isaiah, we can go forth when we have been freed from guilt and sin.

I am beginning to see that when I keep rehashing past sins or mistakes, I am using mental and emotional energy that I could be spending on those I serve now. I wonder if the callousness of the last post is also related to the constant rehashing. Perhaps I don't respond to other's pain because I have drained my emotional resources.

Teach me Lord, to trust your loving forgiveness and to forgive myself, that I may better serve you. Amen.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


On the way home today, I wondered if in one short week I had gone from sappy to hardened. I don't hurt as much for those left behind when someone dies as I did a week ago. I wondered if I had become callous by growing calluses on my heart. I don't want to be hardened against the pain. I don't want to not feel.

Then I came home and caught up on RevGalBlogPals. I followed a link to the story of a family caught in two crises; a car wreck and concerns about their unborn child. I don't know these people. I haven't even read that particular blog until today. But still, I cry. I also pray.

Thank you Lord for keeping my feelings in tact. As I learn what to do with the pain of others, may I never come to the point of no feeling at all. Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Checking In

First solo on-call. Saturday night. One chaplain. Huge hospital. Big city. Survived, but exhausted. Recovering and working on verbatim. Will blog soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Life (and death) Lessons

I know some of you out there are like me and hate those sappy "send to 10 people" emails that remind you to hug your children and tell everyone you love them. This week I have a new awareness of the fragile state of life. I have seen very young people beset by life changing and life ending tragedies. In our lives we may know a few people who have suffered this kind of loss, but rarely do the majority of our aquaintances have tragedy in their life. At the hospital, almost everyone I meet is coping with major loss. Encountering so much pain in such a concentrated time and space has made me sappy. I make manBoy let me hug him. I cry at the sweet and the sad. I savor the mobility and ability I have. I am wary, wondering when our tragedy might come. Sappy or not, I say to you, "Hug those you love, savor each moment."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spider Webs

Job 8:13-15 Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. 14 What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider's web. 15 He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.

While Bildad the Shuhite wrongly suggested that Job had placed his trust in something other than God, these words still speak truth to us today. Leaning on our own abilities rather than on God is like leaning on a spider web. The question becomes how does one balance learning and self improvement with self dependence? How do we seek to grow our understanding with out leaning on it? I think we continue to grow and learn and improve while knowing our understanding will always be incomplete. The problem lies not in our spiritual and intellectual growth, but in believing that our growth has made us equal to God.

Prov. 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where I Was

This post is not about where I was at 8:47 EDT on Sept. 11, 2001, but rather where I was on Sept. 11, 2006. I was in a conference room milling about for juice and donuts, preparing to sit through many excruciatingly dry presentations of everything one must know to work in a hospital. There was no mention of the anniversary at the opening of the seminar, no discussion at lunch. It was as if 9-11 never happened. In truth, for many of us nothing has changed in the last five years. We live our lives sheltered from the pain and ugliness of the world beyond. I want to believe that something so catastrophic would make a difference in our lives, in our living, in our spirituality. Perhaps it is not the catastrophes that make changes in our lives, but our living that can make changes in catastrophe. Rev Abi has a great post on 9-11 and Ghandi. I can't improve on that.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Reflections on Death

Five short hours on call. What I saw:

Death is Holy.
Death is hard
when unexpected,
Death brings such pain
to the left behind.
Death can heal
wounded relationships, or
Death can break
them open wide.
Some die alone,
with just the angels,
Some die surrounded
by those they love.
Death is the color of sadness
sometimes tinted with shades of joy.
Death is Holy.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

CPE report: Spanish on the MP3

I can't believe it has been over a week since I've written. Where did the week go? To early morning pre-surgery prayers, and to cleaning before my m-i-l came for an over night, and to Algebra tutoring with manBoy, and to learning a little Spanish in the middle of all that.

I learned at 4 pm on Wednesday that I would be doing pre-surgery prayer rounds at 6 am on Thursday. Mild panic. This would be my first solo run, and when I had gone with someone else before, they knew how to speak Spanish and prayed with the Spanish speaking patients. In this hospital there are many patients who speak only Spanish. So here I was with 14 hours to prepare, and my toilets in need of cleaning.

I gathered my resources, a cheat sheet prepared by the pastoral care office and some help from a fellow resident who's native tongue is Spanish. I brought it all home and decided that I could learn enough to introduce myself in Spanish and offer to pray the "Our Father" (Lord's Prayer) in English while the patient prayed in Spanish.

Next, I went to my neighbor who is from Mexico and had him help with my script and record it into my MP3 player. After showering him with gratitude, I returned home ready to learn. I tucked the MP3 player on my belt, put the earbuds in my ears, set the player on repeat and set off to clean. By the end of the evening with some practice with manBoy, I was able to speak those few simple sentences.

I'm glad to report that each of the Spanish speaking patients I prayed with seem to appreciate my efforts to communicate with and pray for them. I readily showed them my 3"x5" notecard with the sum total of my Spanish written on it. They didn't seem to mind if I had to take a peek when I forgot what came next. The blending of the two languages as we prayed was beautiful. Each of those prayers was truly a holy moment for all involved.

Tonight, I shadow the on-call chaplain and in one week I do a solo on-call. I'll appreciate all of your prayers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: life in the fast lane

Big gentle hugs, soft pillows and heating pads to Will Smama, our resident matriarch and preacher/blogger/procrastinator who was involved in a bit of a fender-bender this week. We're very grateful she's OK, just a little shaken up...In lieu of flowers, I send this Friday Five out to her. Let's all be careful on those roadways.

Okay, I'm busted here. This one reveals all my worst habits and attitudes.

1. Driving: an enjoyable way to clear the mind? a means to an end? a chance to be quiet with one's thoughts? a necessary evil? the downfall of our planet and its fossil fuels? Discuss.

Since manBoy was old enough to talk, I have enjoyed our time together in the car. When he was little, he talked quite a bit. That 3-4 year old stage when he had continuous questions got a little old at times. I have to admit that after the third "Why?" in a series I would resort to "Because that is how God made it." But that same inquisitive nature is what led to his excited announcement on the way home from pre-school, "Today we played lungs. I was the carbon dioxide and the teacher breathed me out."

Now he's not as talkative, but I still get more out of him in the car than anywhere else. He can't escape, so he might as well talk.

2. Do you drive the speed limit? A little faster? Slower? Have you ever gotten a ticket?

Okay, truth time. I drive faster than the speed limit when I can find someone to follow. I like to get where I'm going faster, but I'm not willing to take the ticket.

3. Do you take public transportation? When? What's your opinion of the experience?

In order to do this, I would have to leave an hour earlier, drive more than half the distance to the hospital, and then get on a bus. The next burb over is on the bus line, but mine isn't. So, I don't take public transportation.

4. Complete this sentence: _the other drivers where ever I happen to be driving_ are the worst drivers I've ever experienced.

5. According to the Census Bureau, reverendmother's fair city has the 6th longest average commute in the United States at 29 minutes each way. How does your personal commute rate?

40 minutes door to door including parking in the garage and hiking across the street.

Bonus for the brutally honest: It has been said, and the MythBusters have confirmed, that cell phones can impede driving ability almost as much as drinking. Do you talk on a cell phone while driving?

Yes, I do. I use an earbud, so I'm hands free and can easily turn my head. I realize that doesn't take away the distractions. It does make the 40 minutes go faster.