Category Archives: Learning Material

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.

Effective Personal Coping Resources During A Medical Crisis

Each of us is responsible for developing the innate characteristics that have been provided by our Creator.  Some areas that may be most useful to focus on are listed below.

  1. Spirituality.  The development of our spiritual dimension is unquestionably the single greatest determinant of pastoral effectiveness.  As one deeply spiritual chaplain has said, “I want everything I come in contact with to be affected by the presence of God in my life.”  This statement lies at the core of the pastoral relationship, especially when interacting with those in crisis and loss.
  2. Religion.  How we connect our spiritual dimension to our religious tradition is another key component of effective coping with the crises that come our way.  Religious practices and community can be sustaining during these times.
  3. Family.  Those who have the blessing of a strong nuclear and extended family will be able to draw on these bonds during times of disruption.
  4. Personal Foundation.  One recognized school (Coach University) that trains personal coaches emphasizes the need to develop (in advance) a strong personal foundation.  “One can go further with greater ease if one first takes the time to build a strong personal foundation.”  In coaching language a personal foundation includes the following.
  5. Life experience.  There is no substitute for having experienced the realities of life’s ups and downs.  The more one has experienced in the past, the more one can trust that the current situation will work itself out.  Trust generates peace.  In Christian terms, if we know God has been with us in the past we can more easily trust that He will be with us in the present and in the future.  Philip Yancey has said, “Faith is believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.”

Resources for Effective Personal Coping During A Medical Crisis

Each of us is responsible for developing the innate characteristics that have been provided by our Creator.  Some areas that may be most useful to focus on are listed below.

  1. Spirituality.  The development of our spiritual dimension is unquestionably the single greatest determinant of pastoral effectiveness.  As one deeply spiritual chaplain has said, “I want everything I come in contact with to be affected by the presence of God in my life.”  This statement lies at the core of the pastoral relationship, especially when interacting with those in crisis and loss.
  2. Religion.  How we connect our spiritual dimension to our religious tradition is another key component of effective coping with the crises that come our way.  Religious practices and community can be sustaining during these times.
  3. Family.  Those who have the blessing of a strong nuclear and extended family will be able to draw on these bonds during times of disruption.
  4. Personal Foundation.  One recognized school (Coach University) that trains personal coaches emphasizes the need to develop (in advance) a strong personal foundation.  “One can go further with greater ease if one first takes the time to build a strong personal foundation.”
  5. Life experience.  There is no substitute for having experienced the realities of life’s ups and downs.  The more one has experienced in the past, the more one can trust that the current situation will work itself out.  Trust generates peace.  In Christian terms, if we know God has been with us in the past we can more easily trust that He will be with us in the present and in the future.  Philip Yancey has said, “Faith is believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.”

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?

Self-Care for Caregivers

Listen to this 30 minute Pod Cast: Self-care for caregivers featuring licensed counselor Jennifer Christian interviewing Dr. Virgil Fry. Virgil podcast