Thursday, January 29, 2009

in awe of the human spirit

I love our Hospice multi-disciplinary meetings. We go over the patients one by one and hear from the nurse, doctor, social worker and chaplain about how each patient is doing. I love this part because I don’t get a chance to work directly with patients, as my role comes in after the patient has passed and I connect and work with their families. Thus, it’s really neat to hear about the lives of patients from the other side.

The mood vacillates between joy and sorrow and we discuss the ups and downs of patient care and situations. As we discuss patients and each person offers a piece of information from their lens, I am able to glimpse into their lives as well. They are no longer just names on a census, names of which I will reference in difficult conversations with their families. They become real people in the midst of their stories, near the end of their stories, with full lives behind them.

-The story of the woman who was growing more and more tired and weary with each day. She had Alzheimer’s disease and has been confused for the last several months, unable to recognize friends or family. Last Tuesday, she awoke with her son sitting by her bed. She was completely clear-headed. She recognized her son and was overjoyed to see him and be in his presence. They were able to visit and catch up on lost time and say goodbye. She passed away an hour later.

-Or the story of the woman who was barely alive. She was eating next to nothing and sleeping most days. She wanted to see her son get married. She held on like this for a month and a half. She was able to see her son get married on Saturday and passed peacefully away on Sunday morning.

-And the story of the man who went through an invasive surgery a while back and had a vivid end of life experience in the hospital. He talked about a vision of light illuminating a door. He heard voices saying that he needed to make a choice. He could walk through the door or he could stay. He chose to stay-his wife needed him. He loved life and wasn’t ready to go. His body is weak, but he fights to live each day. The social worker was helping him process this and asked him, “what would you choose today if the door were to present itself again?” He said he would walk through the door.

It’s incredible the glimpses of life that I get to see. It’s the human spirit. I’m in awe. People are resilient. I’m learning that over and over every day. People know what they need to do and they make a choice to do it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We're All In This Together

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8

the road less traveled

I feel as though throughout life we are challenged to step out of our comfort zone. Those moments come at us like forks in the road in which we can choose the paved, well lit path where many have traveled before or we can choose the muddy path filled with brush and brier, the road less travelled.

I’ve definitely chosen the well lit path many a times in my life and the result was pleasant and all but also, boring. Who wants boring? No one I know that’s for sure. The few times that I’ve chosen the road less traveled, the result was adventure, heartache, joy, sorrow and the feeling of being alive. Not the most pleasant route, but it was never boring, not even for a moment. It was absolutely mad, in a good way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

snowy morning

(...from sunday, but I'm running late this week.)

How do you know when you’re ready to let go? Does the risk part ever go away? Why do my days always begin with big questions. I'll ponder that later. It’s snowing this morning. That was a surprise. I never dress appropriately for snow. Being that I didn’t realize it was snowing until I was running late and out the door sliding across the snow-covered sidewalk in sandals. It was too late to turn back. I thought about who I was working with and how they were probably already there, already making muffins, wondering where I was. I’m glad I remembered my Bible. I’m glad Court and I read some of our favorite verses the other night. I needed that. I needed a reminder of God’s promises. He keeps promises, while most, if not all of us break ours. “Promise not to promise anymore” I love that line of Ingrid’s song, and of course the other, “so glide away and so be healed”, which I had been singing as “so glide away on soapy heels”…which is a far more amusing visual scene, but definitely not the right lyrics. I hope nobody heard me sing that-how embarrassing…It’s a shame I can’t sing for the life of me, because if music is on, and I know the words (and I usually do) I can’t help myself. I sing my little heart out, off key and everything.

Only one person has come into the coffee shop. People are cozied up in their big warm beds, I bet. That’s where I would like to be. Well not their beds, which would be weird. It’s Sunday morning and the snow is a hindrance rather than a delight. Arctic Blast ’08 ruined it for people. Snow now translates into memories of cabin fever and being stuck and cold. Bah! The satellite radio is skipping. It’s so annoying. It’s been skipping every minute or so. The satellite is outside though, too much work to go all the way out there and adjust the thing. Skip…. skip. Fine…. got up and adjusted the thing, in the freezing cold. Hey…no more skips, yes! I’m a genius. That was a good idea. Why didn’t I do that a half hour ago? C’est la vie. There’s Robert. A regular. Customer number two, it’s almost 8am now, too. What a slow morning. It’s kind of nice though. I like to take my waking slow. Plus, the sun is beginning to appear, and the sun brightens the snow. I'm always thankful when the sun comes back. Everything is illuminated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama and Slumdog

Barack Obama is our president. I find that I can't help but smile as I type that and say it out loud. It's real. It's progress and I am proud of our country today. I am not throwing all my beans in the pot to say that one man will turn our entire country around, but I am clinging to the hope that he brings. I choose hope, too.

While talking with people about their experience of watching or listening to the inauguration today, I had goosebumps listening to teachers talk about watching it with their first grade class, or high schoolers shooshing their peers because this could be the most important day in our history. It seemed that everyone was near a television or a radio. People gathered in auditoriums, around projectors on big screens, around laptops, around computers in cubicles, in stores around televisions for sale. Everyone seemed to understand that something incredible was happening, is happening and it's impossible to not want to be a part of it. Just thinking about everyone pausing their days to pay attention and to experience this monumental day in history, I couldn't help but think again about the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

There is a scene in the movie where Jamal, a young man from the slums is back for the second half of the game show "Who wants to be a millionaire?" and ready to answer the question to win the big bucks. He's been accused of cheating after several correct answers that led him to the $500,000 prize, because everyone is thinking, how could a boy from the slums know the answers to all these questions? His story is tearing through all of India as everyone learns a boy from the slums could possibly win it all. This could be a monumental day. Jamal knows it, the show knows it, and every person in India knows it. People gathered around big screens in offices, in auditoriums, on the sidewalks, in living rooms, in hotels, anywhere there was a television to be found, people were gathered to be a part of this event, this monumental day in history.

This boy from the slums became part of their story. They hoped for him and were there to witness a day that would go down in history. Just as we as Americans witnessed a day that will go down in history. This is by no means the end of the journey. We must run with endurance the race that is set before us. We're all in this together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

slumdog millionaire

I am in love with the movie Slumdog Millionaire. I tend to make broad sweeping statements about things I love especially movies that I see. I’m not a real tough critic, unless the movie is over three hours long and then chances are I fell asleep and no longer have any desire to finish watching, ever (sad, but true).

Back to the movie, I loved it. I don’t want to give anything about it away (I might anyway, so be warned), but one scene that I found particularly touching is one where the main character Jamal, kisses the scar on Latika’s cheek. Latika is the love of his life. Throughout the movie, the two have experienced countless traumatic and tragic things. In this reunion of sorts, he kisses a scar on her cheek, a wound that has healed over, but the memory and reminder still remains for all to see. It was just so symbolic and meaningful and I know I get wrapped up in finding meaning in just about everything, but it was such a sweet moment. It was an acknowledgment of everything they had been through. Though she’s been hurt in the past, he will love her broken places and be gentle to her wounds.

Isn’t this what we all need? To love each other’s broken places.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bon Iver - Blood Bank

I cannot wait for his new EP to come out in a week, this song makes me happy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

salvation under my breath

Nights like these are intended for time spent around a fire with a good book and hot chocolate, but I find myself leaving the warmth inside for the chill outside. Heavy thoughts seemed to grow exponentially with each moment spent inside; I had to go outside as I feared the small space could no longer hold them. I could no longer hold them. I had to see them in the open air. They don’t seem so big out here.

I think about Ben Lee’s words about the city and how it’s living proof that people need to be together, how people leave their houses for the day, solely for the affirmation that they are not alone.

I think about kids who have been moved from foster home to foster home and never really experiencing the feeling of home.

I think about the woman I talked with who lost her husband to cancer, how she found out she had cancer a month before he died, but never told him.

I think about my nephew, Collin, who is celebrating his birthday today. I wish I could be there to watch him blow out his candles and hear him laugh and delight in a celebration and the feeling of being loved.

I think about the kids I dearly miss in Malawi, how their faces decorate my office and how often I find myself praying with all my heart to see them again.

I think about my friends, how they are all over the world now, doing amazing things with their unique giftings, how they inspire me and how I am better for knowing them.

I think about scars. A sign of the fight we’ve fought. A sign that though we’ve been hurt, we survive.

I think about the generosity of people and how a coffee shop community sent me to Africa to chase my dreams and listen to the tug of my heart.

I think about Christmas Eve, how my Uncle’s house (straight out of Christmas Vacation) is lit so other planets could see and how we all stand on the porch as the Christmas fire struck stops in front of the house playing carols on its loudspeaker.

I think about my grandmother, who was citizen of the year on our little island years ago, who walked in a parade on her 80th birthday, who is slowly drifting farther from us as she sleeps a little more and remembers a little less everyday.

I think about love and risk and pray that the desire to love would outweigh the risk it takes to love.

I thought about the barista who danced with that sweet old lady on the warm day right there in the middle of the coffee shop and the smile that stayed on her face long after the dance ended.

I think about insecurities and imperfections and how they consume us and spread like cracks in ice.

I think about the wars, conflict and injustices happening right now and wish it all to be over, for the heavy burdens to be lifted, for redemption.

I think about heaven and what it would look life if heaven spilled over the Earth.

I think about those broken souls that I am drawn to, with their broken pieces exposed and vulnerable, who’ve been dealt a bad hand but refuse to fold, the resilient ones who remind me that life is for living.

I think about this morning’s sermon and Luke’s prayer that we all fall broken upon the cornerstone (Luke 20:17-18) and recognize our need for a savior. As we lay in a million little pieces, we long for the one who can put our pieces together.

These thoughts are too big for my small apartment. They need to breathe. I need to breathe. I watch my breath rise in the night air and dance in the glow of streetlights and fog.

I find solace in the visual affirmation of life; salvation under my breath.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

a couple winners

I have a bazillion thoughts circling around and around and upside down in my head, and I'm not feeling up to the challenge of catching them and attempting to make sense of them just yet, so I'll leave you with a couple favorites. First, a poem by Billy Collins, whom I LOVE. His writing is gold.

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Also, a couple quotes from one of my favorite books, Simpler Living, Compassionate Life.

“Hardly anyone dares to face with open eyes the great delights of love.” –Andre Berton

“I think of my own stream of desires, how cautious I have become with love. It is a vulnerable enterprise to feel deeply and I may not survive my affections… If I choose not to become attached to nouns-a person, place, or thing-then when I refuse an intimate’s love or hoard my spirit, when a known landscape is bought, sold, and developed, chained or grazed to a stubble, or a hawk is shot and hung by its feet on a barbed wire fence, my heart cannot be broken because I never risked giving it away. “ –Terry Tempest Williams

(Note: This book is amazing in so many ways. It's a collection of essays on fundamental issues of life: time, money, food, sustainability, spirituality, and community. It provides an honest reflection on how we can live in the world but not of the world. I highly recommend it!)

Now for me...I'm heading back to my books, Healthcare Policy and Family of Origin Therapy here I come!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

If there isn't laughter; it's not for me.

“Laughing means people are enjoying each other. It brings a state of felicity, of delight. You feel glad to be alive and you think, this is it! You don’t need much more than this-a group of friends enjoying each other. But laughter is really an indicator of something more basic: of people accepting each other. You are valued because you are alive, not because of how much money you earn or how big your house is. When we have that sense of being valued, of being connected, we don’t live lives of consumerism and ambition. We don’t need to prove that we have worth.” –Cecile Andrews

I had so much fun with friends in Seattle and am just in awe of the amazing community that I am able to keep across state lines and oceans. All I wanted was to talk and laugh and be in their presence and it was wonderful. I was nourished by my dear friends and am so thankful for each and every one of them and how they each call me to more, bringing forth glory from my depths.

Seattle is beautiful. Of course, as I'm getting ready to drive back to Portland, Seattle pulls out all the stops and gives the most glorious day of sunshine and clouds. It almost made me want to stay, just a little bit longer. My deep love of the city was creeping back in and making me wonder why I moved away in the first place. This is the view from Carey Park, can you say heavenly day?!

As I drove away thinking Seattle is the most beautiful place on Earth and how lame is it that I live in Portland now and if only I could live in Seattle, I arrived in Portland and got to spend some time with an old high school friend, Kristin. And I was reminded as we walked along the river front that Portland is pretty wonderful, too. And for now, this is home...