Hello All. No sermon or reflection here, just a quick snapshot of the last few weeks.
We are moving to Washington state (#Siburgsonthemove). I am starting my pastoral internship in Vancouver, WA on September 1st. We leave Saturday. People keep telling me, “Goodbye” and, “Don’t leave!” but one of my Minnesota mentors said “Why don’t we just say, ‘See you later’?” Then she laughed at me, as she does. For my first call/first job and Timothy’s first call/first job after approval in a year, who knows where we’ll be in the country (in the world?). But for sure, for the next year we’ll be in Washington. What my Dad humbly refers to as “God’s country.”
But I have to tell you. The last couple weeks have been — let me just show you in pictures.
In July we were lucky enough to attend back to back Twins vs. Mariners games at Target Field. The M’s won + Friday fireworks with the hubs. The first game was an alma mater PLU MN connections council meet-up with to-be Lutes in the Fall!! THEY WERE SO AWESOME. I am so pumped for them. Yea SEA represent in MSP! Also it was my last on-call at the hospital for CPE. So I was constantly checking my pager. I had fun but felt lame because I was at a baseball game instead of the hospital helping hundreds of people at one time. I know, I have high expectations of myself.
Timothy’s co-worker has season tickets and sold them to Timothy so Timothy could take me out on a date. Day two of Twins vs. Mariners. No more on-call. Celebration of no more on-call. Celebration of last week of “normal weekly CPE schedule & next week is final evaluation.”
Four days previous, I learned that I had had three weeks of intense visits. Just by dumb luck. On-call at night and during the day. In it, it felt like “par for the course” but Timothy, my small group, and my supervisor were all like “…what is up?” So I recounted. Deaths. Accused murderers. Rape. Cheating. Dead babies. Burned houses. Suicides. Repeat families/patients. Daily “regular” visits became daunting and harder. It was because I had been building up a protective wall because this swath of encounters took a huge emotional toil on me. That wall carried into home, family, and work. It was awful. No wonder I felt like crap.
So my supervisor asked what I needed the morning following this “learning” (breakdown, spiritual awakening, whatever you want to call it). I said I needed to go home. So I drove to Timothy and slept in his co-worker’s office. Yes, co-worker came in but I didn’t care. I needed rest. So I did nothing. I walked. Slept. Slept some more. Slept the next morning, late-morning to a sun-drenched living room with my friends serenading me, Nickel Creek, Chris Thile, and Jack Savoretti. Cat nearby. It was the most peace I have found in months. I finally found the reason why I cut my hair this way – walking by a windy lake in the sun during the heat of the day. After CPE weekdays and summer wedding/birthday/gathering-filled weekends (which I felt grateful to be invited to), I took a Sabbath.
Twenty-four hours later, I came back to work and we played frisbee with a fellow chaplain’s indoor frisbee. I highly recommend it. The rest of our floor (administrative offices) doesn’t like it but I don’t really care (oops). A life (work life) without play just doesn’t make sense to me.
Then this happened. My birthday was in April and for my birthday Timothy purchased tickets to a Pentatonix and Kelly Clarkson (with Eric Hutchinson) concert. Yes, Pentatonix who did this and Kelly Clarkson who did this while America, me and my mother watched and cheered to our TV when I was in high school. We didn’t know we would be moving, in CPE, and Timothy flying to WA for his AIM approval interview 8 hours after the concert – who cares! We went anyway. Oh shoot did we. Concert-Allison is not normal-Allison (or maybe she is?). The music, the people around me (polite Minnesotans who thought I was nuts), the crowd, it’s just awful. I am a hot mess. I cried before we even got in the arena. I cried during a piano version of Kelly’s (yes we’re on a first-name basis now) “Piece by Piece” (mom get the kleenex), I danced during the Daft Punk medly by Pentatonix and pretty much the whole giant Kelly production. Darn does she know how to put on a show. Timothy had no idea what he was getting into, but we’re still on speaking terms and it’s been a couple weeks so I think he was ok with it. And for the record he jumped up and danced to “Stronger.” Best. Moment. Ever.
This is us after the concert, running to the car, to run to sleep, to run to the airport. I might have just ran to the car by Cossetta’s with my mouth open, omitting noise, because I was so excited. Literally. Life high. Sorry parking garage attendant for my poor singing.
Then we had goodbyes at Abbott. Here’s my spot during morning rounds as a chaplain on a medical/surgical wingin the main hospital. This is the room where I got confused by so many medical terms and got encouragement that it mattered I was there, listening for the “human connections” as we reviewed patients’ charts together each morning. The social worker & care coordinator got me donuts and a nice group card. It was the last day of looking at my patient list & making notes. Gosh. I miss it already.
This is me and the other clinical pastoral education chaplain interns this summer. We were each assigned different wings/unit just like the regular staff chaplains. We each took about 12 24/7 all-hospital on-call assignments throughout the summer. I am so proud of this group. Many are in Master of Divinity programs, or just dipping toes in potential on-going chaplain work; from Luther Sem, Bethel Sem, Seattle School & United Sem. Our supervisor is the strange man in the back. He is so strange and in love with the theme song “Welcome Back Kotter” which we serenaded to him on our last day last week. His spirit of humor and warmth helped me trust him and his trust in me created a really rich space to grow and learn, about others, but mostly about me. Yes, it sounds self-centered, but if we don’t know who we are, how do we know anyone else?
On my last day at my hospital unit during morning rounds, where I was the consistent presence from the Spiritual Care team of the hospital, our care coordinator told each rounding physician, “It’s chaplain’s last day.” She didn’t say “the chaplain” or “Allison,” she just said “chaplain.” That was my name. I know part of me cringes because I’m a unique child of God, and that’s expressed through my name, “Allison,” but something about the way she said it made me feel so proud. I knew who I was there for the most part, but it was in the “being known” that I truly learned who I was. What a radical summer.
So I know this was a totally self-indulgent post, but I had to share this with you, people I care for.
One more thing: When we pray in church “for all those in need…” I think that’s bologna. We all have needs. There aren’t just a few people who have needs. We all need something. We all want something. What do you need? What do you want? Might as well name it instead of beating around the bush. I’ll say mine: I needed to write this. I want to share my story so that someone out there might not feel so lonely in their’s. So that’s all I have for today. Thank you for all your prayers, love, play, and good vibes. I can feel them here. Washington, here we come. Days. Oh man! And like how I finished every written reflection, dialogue or practice in CPE (my final evaluation contains one, turn your speakers up, Northwest Washington candidacy committee!), here is a musical reflection of my FEELINGS! Oh feelings.