It’s not my story to tell…

hush! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Pixel Addict, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I have learned a difficult lesson in  my work as a chaplain. It is one borne out of walking with others who are hurting or have hurt others… and there are times I would love to share the lessons learned, or the take-aways for me, personally.

But, the problem is, it’s not MY story to tell!

This isn’t because of HIPAA or “privacy” laws. This isn’t because the stories are boring (there are some incredible stories of healing and mercy!) It isn’t because I don’t have permission (there are many who urge me to share what they have learned.)

It is because it is, simply, gossip.

Not in the magazine trade, nasty rumors, oh-no-she-dih-unt! kind of talk. But it is the uncensored and oversharing of someone else’s business.

This week at my hospice, there were a number of patient deaths… some people whom I have followed for many months. By Thursday afternoon, my heart was tired and broken. So much loss. So much sadness. So much unknown.

As time goes by, I will have larger lessons from the collected experiences. But for now… it’s not my story to tell.

Crossposting: Why I Need RevGalBlogPals

Note: This is a reposting and expanded version of a Facebook post on a private page. It retells some of my own story to ordained ministry. (If you’re a regular blog reader, you can move on now…) I share this story because RevGalBlogPals is a small, grassroots 501(c)(3) organization and can use your support.

Why do I need RevGalBlogPals?

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Our book: There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

I was ordained later in life. Even though I originally went to seminary in the 1980s, I did not complete more than a semester of classes. In the conservative congregation where I was leading ministries and worshipping, women didn’t “do” that. I was told that “good Christian women” don’t become pastors. Something inside me yearned and burned. But I didn’t know any women pastors. So I quit.

Fast-forward 20 years. I’m continuing to serve in my local church. I’m reading Gilbert Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family. And I meet my first women clergy at a Walk to Emmaus retreat. Privately and individually, they each said to me, “Why aren’t you going to seminary? Why aren’t you a pastor?”

I was thrilled. And terrified.

As I started seminary, I searched online for “women clergy” and found the fledgling RevGal bloggers. I joined their collective voices on-line. They were patient as I found my feet in ministry, asked my clueless questions, and challenged my tightly held assumptions about gender roles in the church, my patriarchal-brewed theologies, and my limited view of the world. They helped me laugh at myself. They freely offered resources. They cheered me on as I was ordained and began chaplaincy training.

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My friends and co-laborers from RevGalBlogPals

While I’ve gained professionally from their blog posts, I’ve also benefited personally. Ministry is at times a lonely calling. The outside voices of criticism frequently drown out the Call of the Spirit. And now there are cultural forces at work that demean women in general, and progressive Christians in particular. I could not do my work without a local group of RevGals who are my sisters in ministry and my friends. We ponder, wonder and cry together. We went to Princeton Seminary’s Engle Preaching Institute and continue to study and learn together. We “found” each other because of RevGals!

There’s something else I’ve learned from being a RevGal. It’s OK to not have my stuff together. It’s OK to mess up. It’s OK to work on caring for and preparing my parishioners for Advent, and not have a stick of decoration up in my own home. It’s OK to cry out to God with my hurts as I listen to others do the same. And it’s more than OK to be intellectually and emotionally honest in my spiritual journey. There’s no “fourth wall” in ministry: I am  Called as I am, warts and bruises and all, to serve God. Nothing miraculous. Just a real woman, serving an amazing God.

img_3176As a monthly supporter of RevGals, I receive back so much more than I can give. I write for the blog. I enjoy the books they write. I use their liturgies in worship. I pray for their families as they pray for mine. And I know, without a doubt, that we are bringing diverse, compassionate voices to a world that so desperately needs them.

Join me in supporting RevGalBlogPals. Together we do make a difference in our devotion and our ministries. And if you have a woman pastor, chaplain or clergy member, send them our way! We will join forces for the greater Good!

It’s a Wrap.

TEETH
THE CUISINE! Clockwise from left: Nutella peanut butter banana shake; lunch quartet (applesauce, rhubarb and pudding); milk toast; scrambled eggs; mashed potatoes.

It’s a wrap. Not my first choice, but a necessity. My wisdom teeth are gone, and my mouth is beginning to forgive me. At least I can eat real food now! Carefully, mind you. And nothing too chewy.

I realized mid-week that there were some lessons in this for me. I work with critically ill and imminently dying patients every day. What could I learn as I coped with recuperation, physical discomfort, instructions and medications from my dentist, and patience with the healing process? Where did I gain some insight into my work as a chaplain?

Here’s what I learned about myself as a patient:

  • I really don’t like being sick. (I’ve had patients who seem to glory in being ill.)
  • I appreciate help, but not smothering. Two thumbs up to my family. 😉
  • I have a limit on how much soft stuff I can eat. Texture, smell, CRUNCH are important aspects of my diet. I have a much greater empathy for patients on restricted diets!!
  • Prayers and reassurance make all the difference. I am so grateful for my family, friends, and church family.
  • I’m looking forward to fresh vegetables, salads and chewing!
  • I am fortunate to have health insurance and sick days.
  • I don’t want to take my health for granted. Ever.

Here’s to learning in every situation… and being grateful.

P.S. In case you wondered: The chaplain is a chicken. I had all kinds of dread and angst. I am SOOOOO glad it’s almost over!

 

I have no words…

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I have
no words
to share
what’s on my heart.
I have only
tears
and prayers,
and the promise
that You, O Lord,
will walk through this valley
with me.

I have
no wisdom
to give
in this place of grief.
I have only
hugs
and tissues,
and the blessing
of knowing Your peace,
as our hearts
are in pieces.

I have
no tears
to cry
because (quite honestly) my well is dry.
I have only
the promise
of the resurrection
and that You, O Lord,
watch our laboring steps
and shower us
with Love.

Rev. Deb Vaughn
June 26, 2016

I Will Hold Your Story

In my work as a chaplain, I am privileged to listen and reflect with those who are brought into my circle of care. I am not the only one who listens to these patients. Nurses. Social workers. Physicians. Nursing assistants. Even the food service and environmental service staff! We all are part of the patient’s journey towards wellness. We provide services, relieve pain and pressure, and make sure the patient’s and family’s needs are heard and met.

Sometimes in hospice work, however, we do not have tasks we can do. We provide the gift of Presence. Of listening. Of hearing and holding stories. It is a privilege and a blessing.

 

Patient
© 2011 Medill DC, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When the Time Comes

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will listen to the words you do not say.
I will honor the memories that spring to mind,
suddenly, wildly, impetuously,
as if they must be remembered.
They must be said aloud or be forgotten forever.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will laugh with you
(even though it hurts to laugh)
until the tears rolls down our cheeks,
and we gasp for breath,
As if you will never laugh again.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will hold mementos and souvenirs.
I will cherish photos with you.
I will look at faces from your youth,
faded on paper, but not in your heart.
I will help you speak their names.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will honor your faith.
I will celebrate the loves of your life.
I will clean my cheeks with my tears.
I will lift a glass in memory of your life.
I will remember…
And then some day,
Someone will hold my story, too.

When the time comes…

Rev. Deb Vaughn, 6.8.2016

Enough

My week started out taxing and frustrating, and ended with a sense of Divine forgiveness and intervention. The frustration came from within, feeling inadequate to handle the tasks and problems in front of me. The Divine forgiveness and intervention was part of experiencing a fellowship meal, Communion and a time of reflection on Maundy Thursday.

At one point in my workday, I took a break. I needed to find inspiration and beauty. The faces I saw were full of anger and hurt and pain… There were issues I could only bear witness to, and offer my ministry of presence. A helpless feeling, that.

I sat with God a while… I felt unequal to the work I was tasked to do…

But I was reminded that it was “enough.” I am enough. God’s Spirit bearing witness in my presence is enough. Sitting in silence and in prayer is enough. Holding a limp hand in the face of death is enough. Crying out my own frustration as I drove from one family to the next is enough. Just BEING is enough!

This runs counter to the way our world sees things. For there are never enough clothes  in your closet, enough food on your table, a fancy enough car. Driven to buy, use and buy again, we forget the essence of “enough.”

On Maundy Thursday, we sat together and remembered the One who gave Enough love for the whole world. A gift that can never be matched or expressed in my limited capacity as a Christ-follower. It was a holy moment as we sang…

Were you there as they crucified my Lord…
Were you there as they crucified my Lord…
Ohhhh, sometimes it causes me to tremble…

It was enough. It is enough. And it is all God.

Running on empty

Empty from Flickr via Wylio

My parents had some pretty clear rules. One of them was inviolable… NEVER EVER leave the car gas tank at less than 1/4 tank.

This was especially true when one drove one of the family cars. The next driver would not appreciate driving on fumes. And since my parents were generous with gas money whenever we needed it, there really was no excuse!

Growing up in Rock Hill, SC, there was a gas station that kept a running tab for all of the teen drivers. The owner would settle up with my dad whenever he came by for a fill-up. We lived outside the city limits and, at the time, there weren’t any gas stations close by. (Times have changed! I checked out the old neighborhood and there’s been a lot of new developments!)

You’d think, hearing the pointed reminders at the dinner table that I would not forget to keep my car gassed up. And you would be… wrong!

Last week I was running here and there, busy with tasks for work, home and church. The “low fuel” light came on as I was headed home from a big church event. “I’ll fill up on my way to church in the morning,” I thought.

I ran late on my way to church on Sunday… so I figured I would just stop on my way home. And then forgot. And didn’t fill up on my way to work on Monday morning… And you can guess what happened. I realized in a panic that I was cutting it a little too close when I coasted to a stop at the gas pump, just as the engine cut out.

Whew. (I can hear my dad chuckling…) 

I found out that my car’s 19.2 gallon tank holds 18.55 useable gallons of gas. I didn’t really need to know that bit of trivia.

All’s well that ends well… except… It is a cautionary tale. Beyond the obvious common sense not to run your tank dry, of course.

Whatever the reason, no matter how good it is, there is nothing that should keep us from taking time to refuel. To rest. To heed the warning that we are low on energy. To find ways to rejuvenate that are more than just a pit stop. IMG_0883

In fact, it wouldn’t hurt any of us to just simply stop. Find a moment of beauty, of peace, of tranquility. Celebrate the renewal of the earth, the first flowers of spring, the giddy romp of the rabbits in the back yard.

Too often I push myself past the limits of my energies and emotions. I wear down. I get tired and careless. I lose patience. I don’t have the perspective that I need to solve a problem.

I’m counting the daffodils as they bloom in our yard (so far there’s five!) and remembering I was made to work, create and worship, yes. But also to rest. Refuel. And remember Who created me.

Selah…