Reflections on Rehab

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Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar, via Wylio

I blogged recently about my feat of great UNcoordination, and tearing my medial meniscus. How I learned to stop trying to “walk it off” and actually get medical attention.

I know. Radical.

Well, the lesson has been a slow (and yes, painful) process of learning to listen.

Listen to my body.
Listen to my pain threshold.
Listen to the instructions on when to take my medications.
Listen to the Spirit as I make decisions about when and where I will spend my energy and my time.

I’ve had to keep my sense of humor. Me and my #achybreakyknee are making progress as I follow through on my home exercises. (And a HUGE shout out to Sport and Spine Rehab of Rockville for caring about my rehab and treatment as much as their care of pro athletes and fitness buffs!)

But there’s something else I’ve realized in a personal way, a reality that anyone with a chronic health condition already knows. (And I’ve been slow on the uptake!) It’s simply this: Being healthy is a lot cheaper than being sick. Doctor’s appointments, co-pays, medical equipment, prescriptions, procedures… it all adds up!

I am grateful for good health insurance that covers a lot of the cost of my care. But it is expensive. It eats into the little bits of extra cash that we might spend on “fun” things. An office visit co-pay is the cost of going out for dinner (a cheap dinner, mind you.) The cost of a prescription would fill my car with gasoline. And so it goes.

People with chronic illnesses have to count the cost, in every way: in time, money, physical activity and emotional energy. We lose patience with people who offer platitudes. (Seriously. “I’m praying for you” means nothing unless your prayers are sincere and tuned in to my current state.) It bears repeating that chronic illnesses are not  usually the fault of the person who has them. Genes, environmental factors, access to care, and sometimes, dumb luck may mean that one person has a chronic condition, and one person does not. A simple tumble on my patio resulted in my injury. Imagine what I might be going through if the incident had been a car accident or on-the-job injury!

In the midst of all of my personal challenges, which are minimal compared to the issues that many of my patients and their families face, I know God is present. I know the love of the Divine. I know the gifts of humor, of self-care, of compassionate Presence, of close friends and advisors who ‘get me’. I feel God’s mercy every day.

And I also know that there are many who struggle alone. And if I were Empress of the Universe, I’d fix that.

For now, I’ll settle for electing officials who want every citizen to receive high quality and affordable health care. That means I’m a caring person who would not wish others to suffer when there are treatments, physicians, therapists, prescriptions, and rehab options available to them — if only they had access through affordable and comprehensive health insurance.

I’ll keep advocating for all of us. Because — you are beloved. And so am I. And we are worth it.

A heart to heart talk

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I asked my patient,
“How are you, my friend?”
As his tired hand rested in mine.
We have a history of many visits,
Many hours,
Many thoughtful words…

“I’m dying, you know,” he said softly,
His voice rough with the years
Of hard work and prayer.
“But it’s Ok. It’s Ok.”

We sat in a quiet and friendly silence
As we listened to the birds outside,
The hum of the electric fan oscillating back and forth
In a buzzy counterpoint.

I hummed a quiet hymn or two,
Letting my voice wrap him in the sounds of his faith.
He dozed in the soft, fading light,
Then stirred and asked,
“Can you read to me from the Good Book?
Where we left off?”
And so I did, holding his hand,
Reading in Matthew 5
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

“My daughter,” he said,
Her spirits is pretty poor.
She’s closer to Heaven than I am.”

I looked at him, emaciated, wheezing slightly,
Leaning back in his easy chair,
Content and at peace.

“Aren’t we all needing Heaven the most
When our hearts are hurting and our spirits are low?”

He nodded sagely, smiled at me, and closed his eyes.
Then he drifted off, both of us contented and comforted
From our heart to heart talk.

 

 

Photo credit: Photo Credit: “I Do!”, © 2010 Yogendra Joshi, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Bunnies and Coloring and Hymns of the Heart

Knitted bunnies made for our hospice patients

 

Last Sunday, I preached from the book of Amos, and talked about the unlikely messengers who bring us hard words from God. I reminded the congregation that if we only dwelled in the message bearer, we could miss God’s Words to us.

In a fit of honestly, I admitted I often look at the appearance of someone first… and then I decide if I will listen to them. And that if we are all honest, we all do this. I challenged my church to look for God’s unexpected messengers this week…

And this week, I heard God speak to me through knitted toy bunnies, coloring, and singing the same hymn over and over and over. It wasn’t what could or couldn’t be said to me. It was seeing the faithful, caregivers, the kind responses to the same questions, the calm words of reassurance, all to bring comfort to a patient.

That’s God talking. I pray that I listened well.

Healthcare: Who will pay?

mhBLxSaOver at RevGalBlogPals I wrote a thing… you can find it here (but here’s a sample…)

Without subsidies, they will not be able to afford to keep him at home. His daughter shrugged and said that it will end up costing the government more to put him in a nursing home, because he has no financial resources. “What’s the sense in that?” she asks me. “If we keep him at home, it will cost one-third to a half of the monthly cost of a facility.”

I appreciate your taking the time to read and reflect on this with me.

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.

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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!