January 28, 2012

we walked into her room. she was lying there, in her bed. her breathing was heavy and labored, the sound of it rising above the classical music coming from the small cd player in the corner. her eyes were open, unmoving, seemingly fixated on the wall opposite her. i sat beside her, as the others talked about practical matters such as morphine doses, death certificates, and autopsies. i sat beside her and placed my hand on her head. gently rubbing her aged forehead with my thumb i silently spoke. i’m not entirely sure to whom or what i was speaking, but i suppose it was both to her and my God.

be well.

please comfort.

you’re not alone.

may you find peace.

bring your peace.

not uttering them aloud these short phrases cycled through my mind and heart. i watched her chest rise and fall quickly with each gasping breath. i closed my eyes and words kept speaking themselves from somewhere inside me.







hospice refers to this phase as “actively dying.” it is during this phase that families prepare for actual death. affairs are put into order.  loved ones say their farewells in their own ways. comfort measures are followed for the individual “actively dying.” and many of the hours are spent waiting. waiting for something to change. waiting for a life to end.

hours later,  she passed from this world. where she journeyed on to from that moment i cannot know, and frankly, i’m not concerned with today. her body was collected. the death certificate arrived at our office, cause of death listed as “failure to thrive.”

as an intelligent woman i am aware that the career i’m hopefully heading into will include it’s fair [or not so fair] share of physical death. my heart aches at that truth and i wish it weren’t the case, but i know it will be. i know i will sit next to beds and do my best to honor someone as they “actively die.” i will probably see too many death certificates reading “failure to thrive.” my prayer is that i will also see healing. that i will also be a part of health and wellness restored. that i will be a woman who chooses to honor life in all it’s phases.

it’s been a few days now since i sat next to her bed. a few days since she passed from this world.

today i am sitting in a coffee shop grateful for the ways in which God is choosing to use this place i am in, these new experiences i am having, to teach me and speak to me and reveal more of his heart and his story in this world.

actively dying and failure to thrive do not only exist in the physical realm. there are people all around me, all around you, who are spiritually gasping to breathe. people, so many people, are spiritually wounded and in need of healing. lives are defined by chronic spiritual depression and anxiety. people find themselves outside the system, spiritually longing for care and unable to access it.  this world is filled with people who don’t even know about the tumors growing in our spirits spreading sickness throughout the rest of our being. we have learned how to function within our spiritual diseases. often overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, or angry we accept a spiritual failure to thrive. people give up. people stop fighting. active death is all around me…and within me at times too.

i keep thinking of the well-known words of Jesus: “i have come that they may have life.” and i keep thinking that i am called and compelled to share that particular part of his story with the world. in every way.

as a child of God, my prayer is that my life, within whatever vocational context i find myself, will be a part of spiritual health and wellness restored. that i will see God’s healing in people’s lives. that i will choose to be a woman who honors spiritual life in all it’s phases. i pray the ways i use my hands and feet and mind and body are ways God will use to share his story with the broken and wounded spirits in this world. i find it hard to imagine anything more holy.


stuck in transition.

January 5, 2012

i took this photo as lyle and i walked home from the grocery store the other night. it was one of those rare, especially these days, afternoons in which i came home from work and decided to feed two birds with one crumb: walk lyle and get a few groceries for myself. as we walked toward home the day began to fade and the night approached eagerly. it was chilly and as we approached the corner of cornwall & sunset i was struck by the light and colors provided by this street lamp, tree, and sky. pulling out my trusty iphone i snapped a photo and obviously began browsing filters in order to post it on instagram, providing the caption: “i love this time of day. when the sun fades & the street lamps slowly begin to glow.” i continued walking, obviously making it home to finish out my evening of cooking dinner, doing dishes, browsing the internet, maybe reading a bit, and finally crawling into bed.

i do like that time of day. to me it is a calming time. an aesthetically pleasing time. a quiet moment in a long string of busyness. and there is the comfort of knowing  that it won’t be too long before the night fades and the street lamps go dark.  things will go back to the way they were before.

this scene i took notice of on an ordinary walk home from the grocery store seems to be a rather striking image of where i feel myself to be in the greater journey of my life. certain things that once were are fading and other ideas & hopes that have not been are beginning to glow. there is a certain beauty to it, yes. but unlike the photo, unlike the moment on the street corner, i must confess it does not always feel very calming. i would say that rather than calm i feel stirred. shaken. maybe both.

i was reading the other night out of a book written by Richard Dahlstrom. i came across, in a chapter titled “journey” these words: “Every encounter with God in the Bible was an invitation to leave the present behind and move into a different future… …Every case included a transformation. But just as importantly, every journey was disruptive to the sojourner’s comfort zone and status quo… …Another reason we cling to the present is that we fear the unknown chasm that any change will bring to our future. We know that God is calling us to a vocational move, or to speak truth or forgiveness into a relationship, or to live more generously, or to get involved in crossing the social and racial barriers that are all around us. But to do any of these things requires a letting go of status quo. The paradigm of the change-resistant personality is, ‘I may not like the present, but it’s all I’ve got,’ which is a way of saying that I’ll choose a mediocre life that’s a known entity over the risk of an unknown future. After all, to let go of the present might lead to a future that is worse than my predictable yet seemingly boring present.”

the words that stuck out to me: disruptive. fear. worse. unknown. and…God is calling.

in the spring of 2009 i knew i had one year left at the inn. in the summer of 2010 my time there ended. what followed was a year-long process of grieving and a re-entrance into the world of school…as a thirty-something. this year has been a lot of waiting. and through it all friendships have changed – many in sad and strange ways, a few in healthy and hopeful ways, ideas of identity have shifted, questions of purpose have surfaced, ideas regarding faith have been born [or reborn], and transformations have occurred within me that i have yet to share. in short, it seems i have been in transition for, literally, years. and quite frankly, i’m exhausted. what makes it even more exhausting is that i don’t yet see an end. i feel stuck in the moment captured by the photo i took. the day hasn’t fully vanished and the street lamp is not all the way on.

it seems all that is fading is bellingham, professional ministry, understood purpose, known identity, the feeling of being settled, and familial community.

it seems all that is beginning to glow is seattle, nursing school, solitude, the notion of being unsettled, and unknown community.

and unlike the 24-hour day cycle…if i choose to move, if i choose to let one fade and other burn bright, there is no promise that things will go back to the way they were before.

as i read on in Dahlstrom’s book i was confronted with these words: “No growth, no transformation, no fulfillment of the destiny for which we were created is possible without movement.”

well, i suppose this is better than a promise of things going back to the way they were.

so…i’’ll keep filling out those applications, and i’ll keep taking the tiny steps i know how to take. and someday…maybe without even noticing that it has happened…i’ll be unstuck. and i’ll look back and this moment, and in hindsight, it will be as beautiful as the moment i captured with my iphone on the corner of cornwall and sunset.