T is for Trauma

(This post is part of my ongoing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

There are not many places you’ll still see a pager in 2018, but the hospital where I work is one of them. I have the small black beeper clipped to my lapel or in my pocket (if I’m lucky enough to find an outfit with pockets that day) at all times when on duty. The tones of my hospital pager are as familiar to me as . . . well, as any sound you’ve heard almost daily for over ten years. I always set mine to “Pleasing Alert” and that particular series of beeps is the most pleasing of all the options, it’s true. There are some times, though, when the Pleasing Alert is not what I hear. If the beeps instead are jarring, tapping out the same rhythm that in Morse Code means “S-O-S,” then I know that this is a trauma call. Continue reading “T is for Trauma”

Advertisements

This Body of Dust

If you ever feel like you don’t have enough insecurities about your body, try looking through some bridal magazines. And then go to a store and try on dresses like the ones in those magazines. Look in the mirror and notice that your body looks so different in the dresses from those women in the magazines that you might as well be two different species. Voilà! Instant body insecurities! It sure worked for me, anyway. It doesn’t help that while cleaning out my closet the other day, I came across a picture of me from the time just over a decade ago when, for about a year, I was as close as I will ever come to my ideal weight. That picture tortured me maybe even more than the pictures of models in magazines. My eyes filled with tears looking at it as I thought, That’s the body I want to get married in. Why couldn’t I have had my wedding then?! I obsessed about how much better that body would look in my wedding dress (and my wedding night lingerie) and in all the hundreds of photos that will be taken of me on that day. But instead, I will get hundreds of photos of this body I have now, the one that is regrettably far from ideal. Continue reading “This Body of Dust”

What Can We Do?

It has been a hard year so far, for a lot of us. When I read about what’s happening in the news so close to home, it breaks my heart. And I feel powerless to change anything. I don’t know of anything I can say that hasn’t been said, nothing that I can add to all the noise. I read again last night in Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. And I ask myself as one who claims to follow God, as one ordained to Christian ministry, what can I do to help those in trouble, those in need of refuge? I’m not a politician with the power to make policy decisions. I’m not a billionaire with the resources to provide for the physical needs of the multitudes of refugees fleeing danger. I’m not a celebrity with a worldwide platform for spreading the word. And if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re not either. Maybe you feel small and insignificant lately, like I do. Continue reading “What Can We Do?”

Waiting in Advent

A lot of waiting happens in hospitals. I get to be chaplain to people who are waiting for an organ transplant, waiting for a baby to arrive, waiting for their discharge orders to go home, waiting for test results, waiting for the medication to work, waiting for death, their own or a loved one’s. Often they don’t know how long they will have to wait, and that makes the waiting harder. And no matter what they’re waiting for, they know that things will be different when the waiting is over, in ways that they may not even be able to anticipate. 

Continue reading “Waiting in Advent”

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Like millions of other people, I’ve spent the past few months obsessed with the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with the play, it dramatizes the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, telling the story through modern American musical styles. It is brilliant and funny and moving. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it, and I still cry every time. Before he puts young Hamilton in charge of a battalion of soldiers to fight a crucial Revolutionary War battle, General George Washington sings words of paternal wisdom and caution: Continue reading “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

Q is for Quiet

(This post is part of my ongoing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

quiet shh

Working in a hospital is sometimes enough to make you superstitious (though, like Michael Scott, I try to be only a little stitious). Full moons really do seem to bring out more of the crazy stuff. If someone mentions that we haven’t had a gunshot wound all day, ER staff members would bet that one will arrive within the hour. And whatever you do, don’t say anything to the effect of, “It sure is quiet around here.” In my book, I tell the story of how I got on a nurse’s bad side by jinxing her shift with the Q word. Continue reading “Q is for Quiet”

L is for . . .

(This post is part of my continuing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

I’ve gone back and forth about which L word fits best with my experience as a chaplain. Most of the other letters were pretty straightforward; one word jumped quickly to mind. But with L, there were two. Part of me thought, it has to be Loss. That’s something I certainly see plenty of in the hospital. In one shift, I may see people lose a spouse, a child, a limb, the ability to walk or talk, the hopes and dreams they had for the future they were certain was theirs, the will to continue living. It isn’t easy to witness those things, and they do come. Continue reading “L is for . . .”

#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets

10672374_10152771515464365_6965352510395413_n

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I’m proud to be participating in this synchroblog to celebrate the launch of Sarah Lund’s new book, Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and ChurchI come from a family in which mental illness — especially depression and anxiety disorders — and addiction have had a huge impact. As a little girl, I remember the great lengths my family went to in order to protect the secret that my mother had been hospitalized for depression. I felt the shame of it, even before I understood what it meant. I was afraid other kids at school would laugh at us if they knew, and any time a group on the playground was whispering, I was sure it was about me and my family.  Continue reading “#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets”

ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible

Picture 2

I’m sure it’s not true everywhere, but since the hospital where I work is located pretty securely in the Bible Belt, we chaplains get a lot of requests to bring Bibles to patients. Our office also contains copies of other sacred texts — the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, and more — but rarely do we get a request for one of those. Instead, we regularly get calls from nurses whose patients say they left their Bibles at home when they were hospitalized and would like to borrow one. We have a steady supply of Gideon Bibles, so it’s okay that we almost never get them back. One patient told me not long ago, “I just can’t fall asleep without reading God’s word!” I wondered which parts she wasn’t reading, since I have found a lot in there over the years that would keep me awake nights.  Continue reading “ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible”

When Game of Thrones Came to Sunday School

 GoTpic

This was the second week of the Sunday School class I am teaching on Anne Lamott‘s book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. This week we finished discussing the “Help” chapter, and things got really interesting. Lamott writes about her past experiences of prayer, even as far back as her childhood, and in class we talked about our own prayer histories. One thing I love about the author is her honesty; she doesn’t sugar-coat the hard stuff. She admits that it is sometimes very difficult to connect in prayer with a God who is so mysterious, whom we can’t see or touch and whose descriptions in the Bible can be both comforting and troubling. That’s why, she says, God gave us imagination. It can sometimes lead us astray, but it can bring us closer to God, too, and she writes about how we can know the difference: Continue reading “When Game of Thrones Came to Sunday School”