Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Glimpse at Why I Love My Job

A room in the back corner of a basement of a physicians clinic. Computers on tables with lots of wires lining the four walls of the room. Four long banquet tables pushed together 2x2 to make a rectangle in the center of the room. Sixteen clinicians sitting around the table, each with a laptop in front of them. Wires connecting the laptops to the wall--to electricity and to networks. Papers scattered on the table. The click click click of keyboard keys, various musical rings of cellphones, and an occasional overhead page. The confused delay in the conversation over the speakerphone connecting clinicians 40 miles away.

The report of how recently bereaved families are doing. The silent recitation of recent deaths. Discussion case-by-case of the 33 hospice patients the team I'm part of--Team 3--is responsible for. Concern about cares, or lack thereof, being delivered by caregivers. Problem-solving about something new ("anyone have any ideas?") that may take care of nausea not touched by any other med thus far. Other options for treating anxiety since the patient is allergic to the usual first line of treatment. Sharing of information learned at a recent conference about a new way to address a dry tickle cough in chronic COPD patients. Concern about a family's coping and the constant tears they shed. Rejoicing over a recent reconciliation of a patient to an estranged family member. Brainstorming about a patient and family not wanting to engage in any conversation about disease process or decline, despite the decline occurring. Pointing out a patient's estrangement from their faith background to keep an ear out lest there is increased anxiety/fear nearer to death. This person needs a volunteer to assist with attending a last-time fishing trip. That person needs a CNA to assist with her laundry.

We have to record this, sign that, document, document, document. But we play "the game" because it allows us to be present with families as their loved ones die. To make them more comfortable. So they don't feel alone. To answer their questions and teach them what to do.

To be present in the sacredness of the grieving of others heretofore strangers, but strangers no more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Remember that movie?? With Lily Tomlin? Am I aging myself? It's a movie about a woman who....well.....shrinks. Physically. As in shorter and shorter and smaller and smaller. So hold on to that image....

Today in our church liturgy we remember the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The gospel reading about his execution is Mark 6: 17-29. A meditation I read quoted John the Baptist from John 3:30:

"He must increase, but I must decrease."

So this morning when I read that, I thought, "I want to be the incredible shrinking woman where I decrease, but God increases." And I thought that I would try to practice that today. Here's how it went.....

While drinking my coffee, my son was preparing his breakfast. "Mama, can you help me pour the milk?" I was comfy on the couch. ((He must increase, but I must decrease)) "Ok, honey." I got my butt off of the couch. I shrank a little

Having just wiped up the mud dragged into the mudroom by children yesterday, same children ask "Can we go outside to play?" It's still muddy outside, and I want the clean floor to last at least an hour. ((He must increase, but I must decrease)) "No. Not right now. Stay in for a while and find something else to do." I got bigger.

Looking at the piles (and I mean PILES) of laundry, I pondered whether to try to get it caught up or leave it for another day, also considering a conversation with my husband recently about how one of the ways he feels loved is to come home to a house in order. ((He must increase, but I must decrease)) I did the laundry. I shrank a little.

Getting close to supper time, I was playing on the computer. My husband got home from work and I thought to myself that I should get supper ready. I also thought to myself that I had worked all day and deserved a little time to relax, no matter hubbie hadn't had any of that time yet. ((He must increase, but I must decrease)) I chose to stay planted in front of the computer. I got bigger.

Needless to say, I'm the same size now that I was this morning. Sigh. Tomorrow's another practice day. Maybe one of these days I'll succeed and be smaller at the end of the day than when I started the day.

I'll end with a quote related to this theme: "We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves."--Pope Benedict XVI

Lord, set me free from myself!!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Backseat Conversation

I'm supposed to be exercising. But the pool cancelled the deepwater aquacise because of thunderstorms, so I was going to use the weight room....only halfway into the locker room I realized that as I had planned to be in the pool, I didn't have my tennies. So I drove home thinking I would do a workout video at home. I turned on the light to the tv room only to find the floor completely covered with toys and legos--no room to work out. Sigh. I feel like a slug. I mentally need a workout, but will have to wait until tomorrow. Sooo......

wanted to share a conversation overheard in my backseat today. One of the children was mine (name will be held), and the other child belongs to a friend (name will be held). It went something like this:

"Na-ah. You don't know God's secrets!"
"Uh huh! I do!"
"No. How can you know the secrets of GOD!?"
"I do!"
"No! No one can know God's secrets."
"Uh huh!"
"I do cuz God lives in my heart and he tells me them!"
(no response)

Really. How do you argue with that?

I'm sure these children had a more meaningful conversation today than many adults.

Continue to grow their faith, God!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rejection of a money tree

I had a conversation with a terminally ill man and his family today. Before I left the house, I asked if there was anything else they needed. The man responded with a twinkle in his eye, "a body overhaul." I smiled and said that usually people asked me for a money tree. His response: "Well, that's stupid. Why would anyone want more money?"

My first thought was that this man knew his priorities. And my second thought was that it is easy for us in America to decline a money tree.

He still has his priorities right. He is dying. What use does he have now for more money?

A woman on an online board I'm part of just posted to please pray--that her husband might not make it through the night. He has terminal cancer. They have young children. They only found out about his diagnosis about a month ago. They learned of his prognosis only days ago.

I remember a childhood prayer I said every night. "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

And if he were to take my soul tonight, would I say I had my priorities in line? Today, I would say yes.

I pray tomorrow and the next day and the next, that I still say yes.

Constant diligence and vigilance. "For we know not the hour....."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Resolutions I relate to

I've said I'm reading a book called "The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur". Her heart so resonates with mine, and I thought today's post would be the section from her diary I read this morning. This is a bit long, so I apologize, as I've been trying to keep my posts short and sweet. This is more for my benefit, as much of it about loving others hit home to me today.

My resolutions: to love despite the disappointment, rejection, and misunderstandings. To keep my heart soft.

Here's her entry from October 7, 1905:

"Firmer resolution to have deep inner stability, and to accept as a trial that does not touch the depths this assault of troubles, agitations, and confusions that, to be sure, have their cause in my health, and also the painful disappointments caused by certain persons. To love those who have betrayed my confidence and made me suffer, or at least to pardon them fully. Not to assign to others my own faults, but to accept the humiliation of having given my confidence too quickly and of having committed these faults. For the future, without discouragement or bitterness, to practice great prudence in regard to work and new connections, and in all things to observe the greatest moderation. To give myself to everyone in charity, but not to let everyone enter into my heart, which I must not open too lightly. To welcome an affection only when I have solidly proved its value, and yet to have kindness for all. Never to compromise with ideas and principles, and yet to be full of indulgence for those who differ most widely from me in their point of view. To maintain, by prayer and daily effort, integrity of will and moral energy in spite of the oppression and failure caused by ill-health. It was, I think, Bichat who said, 'The soul makes its body.' And when God dwells in the soul, how shall it not be stronger than the very evil that acts upon its body and sometimes overwhelms it?"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Naked Skin

(I'll bet that title caught your attention!!)

Do we become less modest as we grow older, or just more comfortable with our bodies? I still need to change behind a curtain at the pool, and take my shower behind a wall.

But there are older women in much different shape than I am who stand buck naked in the open shower with their eyes closed shampooing their hair. There are older women who walk naked into the sauna where I am sitting and proceed to talk to me and apply lotion to their limbs. Still buck naked. How do you talk to someone like that? I tell you how--with your eyes to the ground or on your own feet. Or I suddenly feel the need to get busy applying lotion to myself so I have something else to focus on.

So why does that nakedness bother me? I can place a pillow between the knees of a frail man with terminal illness wasting away in his bed. He can be naked from the waste down and have a catheter in place. He can mumble a request to position the pillow a bit differently for comfort and I gladly assist. And that nakedness doesn't bother me. Somehow in that setting his personhood transcends his wasting shell.

Is there a certain point in life where the perspective changes, or is it a gradual process?--Where what we look like isn't so much a part of who we are any longer?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Time for Bed

I have scratchy eyes. My mouth feels pasty (yuk!). It is sticky and muggy. But a cool breeze is filtering in through the patio doors and the only sounds in the background are the refrigerator running (I know, I know....some of you are saying, "Well then you better go catch it!" :::snort::: ) and the frogs outside singing at the tops of their lungs.

My head gets to hit a down pillow with worn-in soft cotton sheets. I get to hear my husband breathing softly next to me. And my sidetrip to the boys' room before bed will yield kisses on their faces as I observe in the shadows their ever-more-sprawling bodies.

And how far is heaven? It seems a bit nearer tonight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not wise or exciting

I almost didn't post today. I'm not feeling particularly wise. Well, I really never feel wise. Maybe what I mean to say is I don't feel I have anything particularly interesting to post. I didn't encounter any interesting strangers, or have any huge epiphanies.

I guess today is what you'd call a mundane day. I don't mean boring--I mean mundane. I know there is a difference because I looked it up in the dictionary! mun.dane adj. Typical of or concerned with the ordinary.

I had prayertime. I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher. I did 4 loads of laundry. I scrubbed my mudroom. I poked on the computer. I cared for 3 children besides my own. I went to the library and the post office. I made pork chops for dinner. I cleaned up the kitchen. I told my dog to "shut up" when she wouldn't stop barking. I exercised tonight.

It was a typical day, and I was concerned with all of my duties, so it fits the definition!

But I feel good about my day. I feel like I served God even in my mundaneness (which it seems 80% of life really is), and fulfilled my duties without grumbling (except when I hollered at my dog).

I'm reading a book called The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur. I don't feel like describing it now--suffice it to say she is an inspiration to me by her faith. Anyhow, in the introduction to the book there is a quote that describes her:

".....who feels she never did more for God than on the day when to ignorant eyes she did nothing."

I want that to be me all of the time. But I'll settle for today for starters.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My 93-Year-Old Teacher

Things I was reminded of today:

You can still see without your eyesight. You just see different things.

A half hour of focused attention and listening reduces the lonliness in a human heart.

Our God-given desires to love and be loved do not diminish even in older age.

We are not our bodies solely. But they are our vessels on this earth, and we are subject to their limitations. And we don't have to like it.

Everyday we have opportunity to submit to God's will. 93-year-olds get more practice at this. And it may still be a struggle.

Our quest to determine the meaning and purpose and impact of our lives does not fade with age.

I feel an envy for a 93-year-old with a terminal illness because as far as I know, she gets to see Jesus face to face before I do.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why does God allow suffering?

Why, indeed?

Except that He loves us. More than we can even imagine.

And that He has in mind what is in our best interest for eternity. For our souls. Not just for our emotional or physical comfort here on earth.

He is constantly shaping us into the masterpiece He originally intended us to be. Before original sin distorted his artwork.

And having sharp corners removed from ourselves is not comfortable.

But are we seeking comfort, or are we seeking to be more like Him???

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why It Matters

We all need to remind ourselves of the epic story of the God of the universe and his love for us. Sometimes we forget, you know? Well, I don't forget, really. Just sometimes the storyline ends up more like background music in my life rather than a crescendo.

This song by Sara Groves always reminds me of that. And our need to tell each other the story. Over and over. Put your poet hats on. I'll try to change the music playing in my blog for a couple of days so you can appreciate it fully, too.

"Why It Matters"

Sit with me and tell me once again of the story that's been told us,
Of the power that will hold us,
Of the beauty, of the beauty.....
Why it matters.

Speak to me until I understand why our thinking and creating,
And why our efforts of narrating about the beauty, of the beauty.....
Why it matters.

Like a statue in the park of this war-torn town,
And it's protest of the darkness and this chaos all around,
With its beauty.....
How it matters, how it matters.

Show me a love that never fails--
Some compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissension--
Like small ramparts for the soul.....
How it matters.

Like a single cup of water.....
How it matters.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hit me on the head with a frying pan

Anyone else struggle with a battle of the wills? With yourself, that is? Sometimes I get tired of the strength of my will wanting something that I shouldn't have or can't have. Grrrrr. What does St. Paul say?--"No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:27)

(whiny voice here:) but it's sooooo much work! Whhhhyyyy do I have to do this alllllll of the tiiiiiiime?? I'm tiiiiiiired. Can't I have this just this once?? But I wan't it nowwww! (Remember Veruca from Willie Wonka??)

Sigh. Sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh.

But I don't want to be disqualified from the race. So as tempting as a side course is, I press on to the finish. Grumbling as I go, maybe, but still pressing on with the desire to hear at the end, "Well done good and faithful servant."

And if I can press on, so can you.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stranger Encounters

2 strangers today.

The first one I thought of off and on all day. I prayed for his day. I prayed for his family. I wondered about who he is and where he lives and what is his story. I slowed down in town today to go around a utility truck. And as I passed, he shot me a glance and a smile through the windshield--not a glance that made me uncomfortable. More a glance like, "Well good morning, ma'am. Have a nice day." So what in tarnation is so exceptional about that, you ask? I'm right there with you. I'm not really sure why he lifted my mood. Maybe because in our culture of cubicles and 15-minute time slots and cell phones and e-mails (and blogs!) and running hither tither far and yon, we've forgotten the common courtesy and personal touch of eye contact with strangers--other human beings going about their day as we do ours.

The second one made me stand straighter. I went shopping for new running shoes. I sorta mumbled with some embarrassment to the owner of the store about my running injury when he asked about my running particularities. Ten minutes later a lithe, blonde woman older than me marched in standing tall and anounced loudly that she needed new running shoes because she's training for a marathon and "I have injuries here and here" (pointing to her arch and her hamstrings.) She wore her injuries with pride. Like they were her battle wounds. Like they were part of her. Part of her story.

I limped out standing taller.

Ok. I guess I'm a bit syrupy today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unconditional Love

I'm called to love like Jesus did. And he loved me all the way to the cross. Yet how often do I truly love others with absolutely no strings attached? I mean, I don't tally it up or anything, but my feeling is that my love for others is completely pure less often than it is more.

The desire for a pure heart and the ability to love others well has been the persistent prayer of my heart for the last 4 years. God, change me! Why are you taking so long???

I want to love and care for others no matter what I do/do not receive in return. I want to love even if it's never returned, or if it's not returned in a way that makes me feel loved. I don't want to demand anything from those who love me. I don't want to pull for compliments or affirmations, I don't want to do things in order to be paid back. I want to be able to absorb unintentional hurt without reacting by withdrawing or shutting down my heart.

I'm made in God's image. God is love. I'm made to love. Like He does.

God, help me!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Intentional Presence"

At mass tonight, Fr. Dave was talking about how God is an intentional presence in our lives. And it got me to thinking about all of the other "intentional presences" in my life. And am I an intentional presence in others' lives??

I confided in a chaplain coworker of mine 14 years ago as a new hospice social worker that I didn't feel like I was making a difference in any of the lives of the patients I had seen. I felt awkward at times, didn't know what to do, or what to say to make it better. Not only did he remind me that we cannot take others' pain from them, he said, "never underestimate the power of your presence." Hmmm. I often return to that advice when I cannot see the impact of my life on others' lives.

Be an intentional presence.

I DID IT!!!!

I've entered the blogging world. This template makes it easy, but it took me three days and the assistance of my b-i-l Dave (thanks, Dave!) to figure out how to embed music. I love this song. Read about why I chose it on the left.

I've been thinking a lot today about how God leads us through life. I have a friend whose life has changed course today, and you can see God's hand all over her exciting new adventure!

But it's that way for all of us though, isn't it? At times I feel insignificant. I mean, there are billions of people in this world, who knows how many in heaven, and yet I'm to believe the God of the universe is the lover of my soul and cares about me? It's mind boggling. I can't grasp it. Yet I know, should I die someday unknown and forgotten, or leaving a lasting legacy, I will have been in the spot He made for me to be in.