Category Archives: Intern’s Reflections

You’re a Star

by McKayla Dawn Rosen
McKayla

“Are you confident?”

As I was exiting a hospital unit, I heard a nurse utter these words… I have no idea the context, but in that moment, I was tempted to audibly answer the question that hadn’t been meant for me. Overwhelmingly, I felt like shouting back, “Yes.”

Had I been unintentionally posed this question earlier this summer, my answer would have been quite the opposite. Why? Resilience. This summer, I’ve been expanded.

I began the summer literally and metaphorically overwhelmed with the baby hairs and frizzies on my head. I was to dress business casually each day, meaning I shouldn’t permit my hair its traditional unruliness. So I fought to pin down the baby hairs and smooth over the frizzies to force my hair into submission. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer feeling like so much of who I am and what I look like clashes brutally with the sterile hospital environment.

I’m trying to improve my drawing skills (I want to create a comic book of sorts soon), so I follow a few illustrators on Instagram. I saw a cute drawing that exemplified resilience with drawings of bodies of water (and I love bodies of water). There are 3 pools that grow larger as they proceed down the page with the words, “I swam across this,” written beneath each of them. Then, beneath all of them, is a larger body of water, like a lake, with the words, “I can swim across this,” written beneath it.

It’s taken me a while, but I think I’m finally realizing that I’m a star, we all are— and we’re meant to shine.

The best band in the world, Brand New, has a lyric that goes, “So I’m asking you to shine it on and stick around.”

In Confessions St. Augustine writes, “Grant my prayer, O Lord, and do not allow my soul to wilt under the discipline which you prescribe. Let me not tire of thanking you for your mercy in rescuing me from all my wicked ways, so that you may be sweeter to me than all the joys which used to tempt me; so that I may love you most intensely and clasp your hand with all the power of my devotion; so that you may save me from all temptation until the end of my days.”

It seems to me that St. Augustine and Brand New are urging the same thing. And it seems that this summer, I learned the merit of each’s words.

There’s this belief that keeps entering into my being during times when I start to self-deprecate… it’s this belief that I can. I can go talk to that person (whatever the context may be). They are worthy of my time, but I’m also worthy of theirs. Instead of waiting out the perfect conditions, instead of waiting until I feel good and ready enough, I should act. Maybe in order for those conditions to be perfect, I just have to go and start creating.

At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t get out of the hospital faster. Now, I find myself staying late. I open each patient’s door to join in with what I believe God has already been doing in there, but I see now that God has a very specific role for me in that, should I choose to accept. I’ve learned that nothing I do or don’t do can thwart God’s plans and acts of reconciliation for the world. I have also learned that guilt is not a credible guide and have started refusing it power over me. Should I allow laziness or fear to keep me from saying or doing what I feel I need to, I believe God will appoint someone else to deliver what is needed. But how much more wonderful is it to RSVP on time to the party God has invited you to?

I’ve had the sweet privilege of serving as Chick-fil-A’s cow mascot this summer. I’ve been a mascot in different contexts for the past 8 years (hahaha). It’s something I love, feel called to and feel I’m good at. I see mascotting as an art and as ministry— as a way to spread joy and love to people, helping them recognize beauty. This week as the cow, I approached a customer who almost immediately started laughing receptively and welcomingly. I turned up the funny and even picked up her fork and fed her a bite of the mac & cheese resting on her tray. She started laughing even more vibrantly. She said through smiles, “You must have known I had a bad day! I was sitting here about to start crying and then you came over. You just made my day, cow, thank you.”

Similarly, this week a patient I visited said to me, “I thank you so much for coming! I am grateful for our conversation; this made my day.” It seems that what I do as the mascot (something I’ve been so comfortable with for years) is not so different from what I have been doing as a hospital chaplain (something I’ve been quite uncomfortable with for most of the summer). I went through so many days this summer thinking there was no way I could be good at being a hospital chaplain.

I’m amazed and pleased to say that I can. When God calls and empowers you to do something, you can. I can’t wait to see what I learn I can do next.

The baby hairs from the beginning of the summer have grown out now. I still have some other baby hairs springing up, and I certainly have some frizzies, but I’m far better at managing them now.

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Little Did I Know

A Short Story based on a True Story by Tori Treat

Tori

As I stuff this pillow, I begin to pray. I wonder where this pillow will go? Who will receive it? As I sew the last stitch, I cannot help but think that God will use this pillow for a greater purpose than I could even imagine. I put the pillow in a bag with the rest, trusting that it will fall into the right hands.

Little did I know, one of my pillows went to a young man dying of cancer. Through his tear stained eyes, he clutched his new pillow as a token of hope in his hopeless situation. Another one of my pillows went to a cynical homeless woman suffering from severe back pain. As she placed her new pillow under her back, the relief it brought her made her smile for the first time in a while. She cherished her new little pillow for it was now one of her only possessions. Yet another pillow went to an elderly woman who was only alive because of the machine pumping air into her lungs. Unconscious and unaware, the small pillow was placed under her hand. Though she cannot see or understand what is happening, this pillow makes her cold, hard bed a little bit softer.

Another week passes and it’s time to go back to sew more pillows. As I pack my supplies into my car, I suddenly feel a sharp pain in my chest. The pain becomes stronger, and I become weaker. My husband comes running, and everything goes dark.

As I slowly open my eyes, I see this white ceiling of my new hospital room. The doctor explains what a heart attack is, but I cannot even comprehend what he is saying. All I could think about is why? Why me? How? How can I survive this? How will I pay for this? Is this what I deserve? Am I going to live?

The doctor leaves and I lay agonizing in my bed. My health, my future, my life; It all changed in an instant. I hear a tap on the door. A young woman asked if she could visit. She was so beautiful that I swore she was an angel. I told her of my pain and struggles, and she just listened. She did not try to advise me, or inform me, but with each nod of her head, my emotions lifted lighter. She prayed for me, pleading to God on my behalf. As I opened my eyes, she reached into her bag. She pulled out a small little pillow. She told me that kind people from the local churches made these pillows and prayed over them. I began weeping and hugged the pillow tight to my chest.

Little did she know, I made this pillow last week and prayed for whoever would receive it. How could I have known that I would be praying for myself?

After she left, I laid peacefully in my bed. My room did not seem as cold anymore. Though my situation was still dreadful, heavy, and pressing, it did not intimidate me anymore. Holding tight to my new little pillow, I remember that God is right here by my side, sending me exactly what I need right when I need it.

Why My Job Isn’t “Fun” and I Love It!

By Madisen Sallaz Lifeline Houston Summer Intern

MadisenSomething I get asked daily by family, friends and even strangers is, “is your job fun?” My job is not “fun.” My work is with the sick and dying, and let me tell you that there is nothing fun about that. I talk to people who feel hopeless and lost. I work with those who can not even remember a day without pain. I console grieving mothers who have lost babies that they shouldn’t of. I work with people who have been abused or hurt, by people they thought they loved and that they thought loved them. My work is with people born into a death sentence, like AIDS, knowing that the only way to escape the pain is often death, which also usually comes too young. My job is not “ fun.”

However, I love my job. My patients bring me hope. My work allows me to see miracles I never thought could happen. My job lets me see the sick and dying recover. My job brings healing. My work brings me hope. My work allows me to see hope and light in the dimmest and darkest situations. My job allows me to see love, a love someone has for a child that they had never even met. My job allows me to see strength, a supernatural strength like no other. A strength that inspires even the worst forecasts to seem like bright and sunny days. I get to see joy in my work. Joy despite any situation or pain, joy that surpasses every earthly thing.

My job is unique. It allows me to see so many different types of people and in so many different situations, situations that seem hopeless. But everyday, my patients show me hope and life. They show me that in even just a simple prayer or conversation, transformation can happen and real healing can begin. My job is not easy, it is hard, heart wrenching and sometimes downright impossible. It has made me clutch my steering wheel harder and harder everyday. It has me look in the mirror at my tear stained face wondering why God allows such pain. However, my job has revealed to me more about God and the love of Christ more than a class, sermon or book ever could. My work has inspired me to love and love hard. It has inspired to me to be intentional and hopeful. My job isn’t “fun” but I love it.

 

Confessions of a Chaplain

Reflection by Tori Treat, 2017 Tarrant County intern.
Tori
I am not God. I cannot heal your diagnosis. I cannot speed up your recovery. I cannot change your age old family dynamics. I cannot even understand them. I cannot make your nurse be nice. I cannot make the doctor be more gentle. I cannot lift your financial burdens. I cannot take away the pain of your childhood. I cannot make your pain stop. I
cannot make your parents love each other. I cannot make your siblings visit. I cannot make your wife speak kinder. I cannot make your husband stay. I cannot take away your confusion. I cannot rescue you from your guilt. I cannot take away the pain in your heart.
With God, all of these things are possible. But in case you haven’t noticed, I am not God.
But I am human. I am capable of compassion. I can greet you with a smile. I can ask you what’s going on. I can sympathize. I can validate your feelings. By validating your feelings, I tell you that I hear you and I care, and that you are justified to feel the way you do. I can connect with you. I can be a vessel sending you to God, who can heal in ways that neither of us can understand. And even when I leave the room, He will not. God has been with you before me and He will be with you after me. Because it’s not about me, and what I can and cannot do. It is, and has always been about God.

Reflecting back on grief at age 10

First Summer reflection from Kate Herring – Abilene Christian University student

Kate

I have some new shoes, a new outfit, a new bow, new teachers, new classmates, new schedule, new normal. The first day of school no matter what year of school it is always a frightening time, but that was the least of my worries. The first day of fifth grade was spent clinging on to the hope that my uncle would wake up. My little mind sits silently in the waiting room of the ICU because I am too young to go back and see him. I pray and plead with God for Him not to take my uncle away. I sing and promise that if God does this for me I will spend the rest of my life serving him and doing the work of the Lord. I am only 10 years old and my uncle is the one that tells me I am beautiful, makes me laugh with his silly jokes, and is a father figure to my cousins who needs one. My little family needs him. The nurse gave clearance for us to go back to his room clinging to the hands of my loved ones we sang “it is well” as a family around his bed. But, it was not well with my soul. I need him. My family needs him. But, a couple moments later God took him from me. When my mom told me he passed, I did not cry nor let out a scream. I just stood in disbelief. My precious Uncle left this earth and now is with Jesus, probably singing off key. I don’t understand this, and I don’t know what to think. My ten year old brain is going insane. He is gone. His body is dead. We won’t see him on earth, but we will see him again. It wasn’t until eight years later, I came to terms with my uncle’s death.

I never thought about God weeping. I never thought about how He comes and hurts alongside of us. In John 11:35, Jesus’ friend has passed and “He wept.” Jesus came and broke down just like I did when my uncle passed. But earlier in the passage in John 11: 25-26, Jesus is comforting his friend’s (Lazarus) sister and he makes a promise,  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

As I read this, the song ‘It is Well’ popped into my head and the memory of my uncle. Form this learned: it is okay to weep, it is okay to mourn, but it is not okay to forget the promise. Jesus resurrected my uncle from his sins, so death is not the end of his life… but maybe just the beginning. Jesus has resurrected me from my sins, so that I may live after death and one day see my uncle again.

Until then, I am stuck in a broken world that can foster pain. In this pain it is okay to weep, it is okay to grieve, because this world is only the beginning  and it is not my home. So with a longing in my heart to see him again, I patiently wait on this earth clinging on to the promise that Jesus is the resurrection and life… So, death where is your sting?

Pay it forward

This thank you note and photo was sent from Paul Figel one of our 2015 interns to David Martin our Spiritual Care Director – Tarrant County. We are so proud of Paul and all he is accomplishing in His name.  As you read this note, you’ll hear the impact that the Lifeline Chaplaincy internship continues to have on him.

Dear David,

Thank you so much for your contribution to our medical mission trip through your donation as well as your prayers. God did amazing things thru us as we made ourselves available to Him. We strive to bring quality holistic care to the poorest of Honduras, not focusing on the number of patients but instead on allowing the Spirit to lead each visit and conversation. God came through and allowed us to do more than I ever could’ve imagined! [Eph 3:20 – Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us]

We were able to reach, treat, and pray either over 1000 patients, all of whom will continue to be served and encouraged by fellow believers living in Honduras long term through Sparrow Missions. I gained great medical experience interviewing, examining patients and collaborating with Physicians on diagnosis and treatment plans.

More importantly, the spirit showed me several valuable experiences and lessons to take away form the trip. I learned that though medicine is a wonderful service, it has an end as there’s only so much you can do and its healing is temporary. The relationships, trust and conversations however provide opportunity for the spirit to work through believers, bearing fruit that will never perish. I pray to keep an eternal focus throughout my journey and to trust God rather than myself or medicine. [Psalm 20:7 – Some Boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.]

Thank you David!

Love, Paul

Photo (Paul Figel – 2015 Lifeline Chaplaincy intern and patient from Hondurasintern Paul Fiegl

Meeting Fellow Journeyers

Note: Laura Ellis served as an intern at Lifeline Chaplaincy Houston in summer, 2016.

file000154881313I truly love my job this summer. I get be a part of something beautiful. I am often invited in on the most intimate moments of people’s lives. I get to share in their vulnerability, pain, frustration, joy, and hope. I get to meet people from all different walks of lives and hear a part of their story. These moments are precious, and they are sacred.

Sometimes however people are less than willing to open up even after they are handed the talking stick. I have to be honest, not every person I visit feels the urge to reach for the boxes of tissues, because they are so touched by the incredible conversation that we had. Some people invite me in, and then we interact in a few moments of uncomfortable small talk until it is evident that my time to leave has come. Patients are constantly bombarded by people who storm into their not so private space at any and all hours, and some do not want a chaplain added to that list. Some patients are in the hospital for  quick check ups, and do not need spiritual guidance in their less than dire hour of need. Most all of these patients however are polite.

There have been a few patients though, who were not so cordial. I was doing rounds on my normal floor, following the normal protocol of what rooms to visit first. It was a routine day. I had seen a couple people already when I walked into her room. I have a bit of a litany of an introduction, one that includes the words, “I Sacred Spaces:  Encountering God in the Unexpected am one of the chaplains here.” Once I said these words however, the reaction of this particular patient was far from anything I was used to.

Before this summer I got my hair cut for the sole reason that I thought shorter hair makes you look older. As it is I look like I am 15. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I used to work in a middle school, and one day a teacher stopped me in the hall and asked what class I was supposed to be in. So I was really hoping the haircut would at least make me appear that I legally drove myself to the hospital. For someone who was planning on playing the role of spiritual caregiver to people usually much older than myself, I could take all the help I could get. Sadly this haircut had the opposite effect that I was hoping for. I went from being 15 to 12 in a matter of a few quick snips. It is possible that I am being mildly dramatic, but not by much.

Some of the people I visit are acutely aware of my youth. Some of them even comment on it. Many are excited that someone so young is interested in hospital ministry. Some seem a little skeptical. But almost everyone comes around in the end. My age is something essential to my being that I do not have much control over, and I had grown accustom to people asking about it. For some people, there was another elephant in the room about an aspect of myself that they do not like to see in a minister. Most people do not mind it, but on that routine day I met someone who did.

I entered the room and introduced myself as a chaplain to the elderly white haired woman in the bed. She sat up abruptly, furrowed her brow, and snarled her upper lip into a face. “You’re what?” she spat out. I moved closer to her bed and explained again who I was and why I was there. I thought maybe she did not understand or hear clearly what I said the first time. “No. You’re not a chaplain,” she said with wide eyes. This was a new one for me. I was unsure of what to say in response. Fortunately, or unfortunately as it was, the woman filled the empty quiet space for me. She spent the next 5 minutes informing that I could not be a chaplain because I was a woman. She told me that she knew the church was changing, but she did not know it had fallen so far. She was very clear of her disgust on the subject. She was even generous enough to back up her belief with Bible verses, which I found very thoughtful of her to really go the extra mile.

The only comfort she took in our visit, was finding out that I did not preach sermons or lead my own church. Even though she became slightly less hostile, I honestly was still pretty eager to get out of room. I asked my typical parting question about whether there was anything I could do for her. In my panic, I made the terrible mistake of mentioning prayer. “You cannot pray for me,” she said with a laugh as if I had told the world’s funniest knock knock joke.

This was an incredibly alarming visit for me. As a religion major, I am used to being in the all-boys club. Up until this point however, my arguments for women in ministry against someone who believed differently were always theoretical. The person I was debating was not attacking me, but an idea. This encounter however was a personal rejection, and I have to say I did not enjoy the way it felt.

Even though every fiber of my defensive self screamed to fight back, and to insist to this 70 year old woman that my beliefs were right and hers were wrong, I knew that debating would be incredibly harmful to the visit. More importantly, it might have been harmful for her relationship with God. Rejection sucks. I’m certainly not pretending that it doesn’t. I am slightly disappointed by the fact that I was not able to have a meaningful conversation with her. And I am incredibly annoyed by the fact that if I were male, that conversation might have happened.

But here’s the slightly hard to swallow truth. The truth is that her understanding of a woman’s role in the church went against my belief system. The truth is that I wanted nothing more than to offer my well-rehearsed counter argument. The truth is that herwords personally offended me a little bit. But the truth is that her beliefs did not harm her relationship with God. And the truth is that my belief system did not really matter in the situation, because ministry is not about me.

During training, we were taught to come alongside and meet someone where they are. This stranger and I were not in the same place. But as I stood in that dimly lit cookie cutter hospital room trying to pick my mouth up off the ground at her blatant rejection of my well-meaning attempts to care for her, I was reminded of why I was there. It was my job to meet her where she was in her journey. As much as I wanted to drag her over to where I was on my personal path, I realized that desire would only appease what I wanted. The difficulty, yet beauty of our calling to genuinely love others, is that it is selfless. Or at least it is supposed to be. May we embrace the people we encounter by meeting them exactly where they are on their unique life journey. Not to judge, or to correct, or to pull them over to our own shiny path, but to meet them where they are as a fellow journeyer and to ask, “Can I walk with you for a bit?” And let God do the rest.