Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Secret Keeper.

Ever feel like your head and heart are just so full of stories and secrets that it feels impossible to let anymore information in?

Oh, just me?.....haha, I know I'm not alone in the overwhelmed feeling.

Jillien gave me a beautiful leatherbound book for my birthday (it smells wonderful...mmm...alright done with that small tangent) and told me that it would be my place to write down the stories and let them go.

You cannot imagine how amazing it feels to write the pain, the unknowns, the worries unto those pages.  I had previously been infiltrating my journal with these images but felt wrong about bulking up my journal with feelings that were not my own.

Stories live on, but they are held inside that book and stay there.  I need them to stay there in the book instead of soaking up all the emotions inside of me and letting them reside there.

I'm glad to have people to listen to my stories after my long days and grateful for all of you readers who supposedly enjoy my writings.

Appreciative of the great, big, everlasting hug that connects us all--the love of God (to quote one of my Dad's songs).

The Greatest of These is Love.

This is a reflection I wrote for the weekly worship at Nationwide Children's Hospital.  I had originally tried writing it in a Word document and then realized that I write so much better when I pretend that I'm blogging it, so I wrote it in Blogger.  Therefore it makes sense to share it with you all. :)

1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I've been thinking lately about love as the deepest emotion that grows and multiplies into different facets of itself. This is quite useful when encountering people that might not seem like they are showing any type of love.  Which is odd, because if love isn't just a lovey-dovey paradise, what does love look like? Sometimes you have to look for the love that lies hidden behind the surface.
 Love looks like the indents that a father made when he punched his angry, grieving fists through a wall.
 Love looks like clenched, white knuckles in a mother's hand as she watches her child struggle to breathe.
Love is a nurse carefully placing a soft puppy in the arms of an injured and scared child.  Love is a teenage girl shouting insults from her hospital bed in a struggle for attention.
 We are all fighting for love, whether we need love for ourselves or are in a whirlwind of worry and fear for the people we adore.

It is easy to watch all of the pain in this world and want to shrink away from love.  Why connect with other people when there is the potential of anger that blinds us, grief that paralyzes us, and fear that spins our hearts much too fast?  The fear and agony of grief stings too much for us to bear, and we long to curl up in our comfort zone and hold fast to our wordly bearings.

Yet, we are entangled too closely to love to fully comprehend how much it saturates our being.  There is love in our ability to push back against it. To paraphrase Corinthians, when we were young, we reasoned in childish ways, and resisted the love that we were given. That resistance is not the end of the love that God gives.  This is because we are not the ones holding the true Light; God was, is, and will be the love that shines throughout our lives.

Using Paul's words, as we reason like children, the childish act that we fall into is denying the deep connection that we have with each other as sacred beings.  We spend time attempting to figure out life by gazing at ourselves in a mirror, though we are called to understand life and love by encountering each other face to face.  Together, we are whole in our brokenness.
When we bare ourselves, flaws and strengths all together, to one another and look truly into the pain and joy of another person, we learn once more how to love.  We practice this over and over again because we stumble and even flee from this mission.  In our struggle towards perfection, we forget that we are beautiful and whole, including our sins and sharp edges. The setbacks and misery that seem to crop up in this calling to love are just as much a part of this journey as the merciful and passionate moments.  God is holding us in love throughout all of our time in darkness, even when we feel most alone.  God is constantly pulling us towards one another, in order that we might grow with each other and be forever changed.
In this hospital, we are surrounded by new faces every day.  We could be a patient or a family member that spends a days or months here.  We could be a staff member who spends years here.  I am a student that will spend merely weeks here.  We all encounter an endless stream of faces, names, and unique stories that bring a new perspective to our lives.  I sit down with many different people who speak the truth of their experience and the weight of the details overwhelms me at points.

But each of these stories adds to the current of emotions that I see flowing through this hospital and beyond.  The faces blur, not because I remember them less, but because they are all jumbled together into a kaleidoscope of love.  Each day, we face each other with deep emotions and vulnerabilities: anger, fear, despair, joy, grief, and relief.  And the undercurrent of all these is love.

Today and every day we come to one another with love. Paul says that we find ourselves looking into a mirror dimly; we at first are searching out for our role in this world by focusing only on ourselves. The real treasure is turning from ourselves to look at another person's face. When we connect with another person, we are picking up the broken pieces of humanity and together creating a community.

 Love can show itself in many different ways; we are called to give Light to all of the  facets of love.  We are called to strip ourselves and embrace the emotions that we hide or run from.  When we strip ourselves down to the core of our being, we find Light.  God calls us to see the Light in ourselves and in others.  That Light includes the rawness and pain of exposure and grief.  We come into this hospital and see so many people each day.  New faces but the same emotions.  The same beautiful loving Light of God. We are called to recognize the Light in others and to be the embodiment of light for people in pain.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Having finished 5 weeks of being a clinical pastoral education student aka a chaplain intern, I've learned that most of my conversations with people involve me having one goal and one goal only.

If you think that it's to convert all people so that they are saved by Jesus, you would be....CORRECT! That's what all good Christian chaplains should want to do in order to get into heaven.

Ok let me stifle the vomit that is wanting to come out because of my poor taste in jokes.

As a chaplain, I encounter people at a time in their lives in which they feel helpless and scared.  These feelings move straight into reactions, such as anger or tears or withdrawal.  My purpose is to support these people by giving them a space to breathe in the emotions that are coursing through their veins.  My job is to be a mirror for these people that interprets the emotions behind the words of their stories so that their response to what I have said is along the lines of "Exactly!" or "Oooh yes" or "Definitely!"

As a chaplain, I don't want people to remember my name or think of me as someone important in their lives, but rather come face to face with their emotions and feel as if they can understand themselves better because someone out there was listening and empathizing with their story.  I have the privilege of being with people in the terrifying moments; the bits of time that blur in our heads because our hearts fill up with fear.  I see my job as being a reflector of emotions so that people can pulse through the fear and be able to move back into a balance of their heart and head.

I find myself 5 weeks into CPE and it is heart wrenching to be doing such personal growth work in verbatims, interpersonal group time, and supervisory sessions.  Yet there is this wonderful balance in which I get to experience precious moments of raw emotions in myself, peers, and patients/families/staff that I encounter.  I breathe empathy; it pours out of me when I am with patients and their family members.  It isn't difficult for me to pinpoint emotions and reflect them back.  I know that this gift is not mine; God holds it in my heart and keeps it there for me to be able to best support others.  I am grateful and proud to be a messenger of love, grace, and peace.  I have my own judgements, insecurities, and pain that can keep me from being a messenger sometimes and I will be working on my growing edges. But the time is now to bask in my gifts because here is my calling.  I am meant to do this work.

5 weeks ago, I would fight myself to get my body into that hospital because I felt so terrible about being there.  I dreaded walking into the rooms of patients and baring my soul and vulnerabilities while presenting a verbatim (discussion on a pastoral care conversation that I have had with a patient/family member).  After that first week, I feel as if I have blossomed.  I love walking into Nationwide Children's and I treasure the moments I have with the people that enter that place as staff, patients, or loved ones.  I have gifts of ministry that I utilize every day whether I am aware of those gifts or not.  I am doing the work that I am being shaped to do.

Right now, I feel my calling in my bones.  I didn't realize how much I had lost that feeling while studying in seminary this year.  That loss of feeling my call had been terrifying me and leaving me feeling empty a lot of days (also something I didn't know until I felt it again).  My soul is affirmed.  I am here to go out into the world with my heart, hands, and mouth to be with others.

Which is why I spend a chunk of my days introducing myself to strangers: "Hello, my name is Kaitlin and I am here as a chaplain to be an emotional and spiritual support.  I am here to hear how things are doing for you." Words and/or silence is exchanged, and those words that remind me of why I am there are beckoning to be blurted out by that other person's mouth: "Exactly. Oooh yes. Definitely."

And that makes me feel quite fulfilled. :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

So, you've had a bad day.

So, maybe it's been an terrible, awful, no-good, horribly rotten day (as per that book/movie with the character named Alexander).

My day? It was pretty standard for CPE, meaning that I felt vulnerable, tired, content, tearful, useful.  This empathetic listening really is for me; I enjoy connecting with people on a daily basis (too bad it means that for these people, something scary/unexpected/tragic had to happen to land them inside Nationwide Children's).  At the end of today, I feel peaceful and lighthearted.  Some days, peaceful is the last thing I feel or could ever imagine feeling again.  Which is why I made a list.

Here's a list of things I made for myself to remind myself that a bad day doesn't have the final say:

1. Remember--you are truly loved by God (the Great Spirit), your family, and friends.
2. Even when feeling awkward, your true love and care for others is present and visible.
3. Your body is beautiful and useful. SACRED.
4. When you feel like you don't deserve it, God loves all of you.
5. Be open--there is immense possibility for growth in vulnerability.
6. Give yourself 5 deep breathes. Stretch.
7. Take a few minutes outside. Pause.
8. Make time to balance a hard day or situation with a time to bask in love and friendship or solitude.
9. Treat yourself to something small. (macchiato?)
10. Take a walk or bike ride. Run.
11. Wear a dress. Twirl.
12. Say fuck. It's allowed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ants in the Pants.

This past week, every other thought in my head usually begins with, "When I'm back in Berkeley..."  Most of these thoughts have included yearning for a macchiato, because apparently any coffee shops within a 5 mile radius of where I live and work are not aware of how properly steam milk.  And yes, I am an old curmudgeon (or a snob, but curmudgeon is just so much more fun to type or say).

Whenever I'm biking up a hill (and by hill, I mean a tiny incline that you wouldn't be able to notice unless you were huffing up it on a bike), I think about the Berkeley Hills and how much I desperately want to conquer them.  I want to know I can do it. That being said, I am very glad for the training session that this summer has been--my calves are starting too look a tiny bit like the infamous, defined Bay Area calves (what up!).

I keep reminding myself to breathe. Where am I now?  This is the here. Ohio is the now.  Yes, there is plenty to do out there in the West, but there is also so much to do here.

Like figure out who the hell I am.  And maybe shed this people pleasing thing I have going on.  And stand up for who I am.  And who I am is an amazingly strong, brave, passionate individual who happens to be a woman.  Where other people turn around and find a hiding place, I run right in because I don't realize how scary the obstacle is.  Some days I call that naivety/stupidity/stubbornness, but mostly it's brave.  I often tell myself the worst things and I really don't deserve that--no one does.

I guess where I'm going with this is that the journey is not done now or here.  The journey is still working it's way through and I have 6 weeks here in Ohio.  No more, no less.  6 weeks of precious time that will be full of interactions, bike rides, perseverance, laughs, hugs, tears (oh so many tears...), and change.  I'll be a better Kaitlin because of these next 6 weeks and all it takes is breathing the humid Ohio air in and being here. Here in the now.

Yesterday, I biked to Three Creeks Park and plopped my sweat-slicked body on a bench in the greenery.  The birds were chirping.  The breeze was rolling through the trees and the leaves rustled continuously--the beautiful song of time.  Right now, I'm sitting by a bay window and the sun's rays are warming my toes.  Outside I see five shades of brilliant green that lighten my soul.

Ohio. Columbus. here. now. me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


It's a holiday and all I can think about are all the mishaps that will occur with flammable things and/or alcohol related incidents that will land quite a few people in the hospital tonight. While everyone woke up today with big or little plans of how they would spend this day celebrating, some of those people will not wake up for another tomorrow.  Or they will wake up with lots of stitches or a broken leg or burns. The list of scenarios in my head goes on and on.

And this is how four weeks of hospital work has impacted my thoughts.

But maybe I was always like this- thinking about this odd circle of life and death. Ever since I was little, I would pray whenever an ambulance or fire truck go by.  I would pray for the family whose life had been turned upside down in that crucial moment. That pain, the shock, the unknown. Fear. This is life but we don't have to openly face it every day so we hide from it.

 I'm glad that my job is to be present in that terrifying place of fear because its much too difficult to be in that place alone. Is it hard? Yes. Does it feel weird? Yes. Is it fulfilling and life giving? Oh yes yes yes.