Recently, we shared a meal with new friends. It was one of those fruitful times of conversation that linked lunch to dinner. By the time we got up from the table, we were due another meal. That is meeting at the table - literally.
In the past couple of weeks, "lay it all out on the table” conversations have popped up with other friends in my life. And several of them expressed how challenging and lonely this world feels at times. It is ironic that in a society that is "connected" more than ever, many of us experience feelings of loneliness or isolation that often lead to depression. These feelings are more real than rare.
My own periods of depression have stemmed from various chronic health conditions. The first of which began when I was 18 years old. I had Graves Disease, a thyroid disorder. To treat an overactive thyroid (one that made my heart and my head race) my thyroid was literally zapped. Today I no longer have a functioning thyroid. A little colorful pill awaits me every single morning. But those levels can be hard to regulate and fatigue and depression take center stage. And while these side effects that have come and gone over the last 20 years are real, this post is not about my health struggles.
This is an invitation to come to the table with your struggles and hard work, to embrace God's activity in your story. Meeting at the table means you pull up a chair and tell that story. Meeting at the table means speaking truth. Meeting at the table means inviting others to join you there because you are not alone and they feel less alone in the process.
Here is the thing, we all have something in our life that requires our hard work. My body just happens to need a lot of care and regular "maintenance." Any person with chronic health problems or autoimmune disorders will understand that statement. It requires commitment and sacrifices. And if you review our family’s budget, you’ll notice we spend far more on vitamins and vegetables than we do on cable or clothes.
But let’s say your health is stellar and you don’t have to follow a regimen other than caring for the basics: you move, breathe, sleep, and eat. You don't need a crisis, everybody has something and you have a story to tell! Yep, you sure do. I think that’s where we miss out sometimes. We know God is in the sunsets, the miracles, the sounds of the ocean, and the birth of a new child and we're happy to talk about those. Yet we struggle to see God in the crises, the catastrophes, the losses, and even the hard work of every day life. Once we do recognize God in those places, we often don't want to talk about them. And when we don't talk about them (with God or with community), we're opting to journey alone. This life was not designed to be journeyed solo.
Friends, we are not alone. God is amidst every single day, the hard ones and the less hard ones. Even the mundane ones. Anyone ever have a mundane day? If not, you can come do my laundry because there are baskets surrounding me most days. Laundry is mundane. There is a shirt in my dirty laundry that says "life is good" and I would agree with that statement but it is not easy.
Both counseling and spiritual direction have helped me cope (with others, with myself, and with God) during very tough times on this journey. Meeting at the table means we are not alone. We are invited to no longer simply cope with life challenges but to truly acknowledge God's activity there.
We EACH have a place at the table as we encourage and support one another on this journey. Start with being honest with yourself. Uncover your story, friends. Tell it. And while you're at it, listen to another story in the process. That is community.
Will you meet me at the table? Pull up a chair. Bring your baggage and your junk, you're definitely not alone.
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” ― Mother Teresa
One thing that I’ve been reminded of a lot recently (in life and in ministry) is that dreams do not come to fruition overnight. It seems I meet dreamers who think their dreams will never come true or that their dream will not matter or help another person as they envision. I am guilty of not always acting on my dreams and letting them fade into the morning sun. But, I’m learning to pay better attention and to partner with God’s nudges to “do something” about them more often. Instead of letting these dreams and ideas we may not fully understand fade, maybe we just need to do something about them and let God decide if they are reality. Recently, I’ve seen one of my dreams collide with another dream at a local non-profit and it’s been an exciting and confirming experience.
For most of us, our dreams begin as nudges or feelings in the pit of our stomach to "do something." What began as an urge to "do something" in one community five years ago has turned into a dream not only for the dreamers but also for those locals without reliable health care.
A group of individuals began meeting to dream about providing health care for those in Wilson County who were working but did not have health insurance. This small group began researching local health clinics, recruiting volunteers and within a short period of time was offering basic health care for a very small fee in a local office building. What began as a dream, quickly turned into a 501(c)3 non-profit, Charis Health Center. Thanks to the hard work, passion, and vision of the volunteers, the center continues to grow.
In 2010, Charis added a part-time nurse practitioner as the first staff member thanks to grant funding. In 2012, they hired a part-time Executive Director, Karen Rudzinski, to continue dreaming alongside the Board of Directors and office volunteers to manage grants, funding, and volunteers. Just months ago, this booming non-profit closed the doors of that original office building and moved into a much larger and spacious vacated physician's office. No longer are the volunteers just getting by with available space, but they now have dedicated medical space to offer quality health care and a prayer room for spiritual care as well. The prayer room has been made available for patients, volunteers, and the community. Charis was founded on the belief that wellness incorporates body, mind, and spirit. This faith based clinic from the beginning wanted to offer space for both health care and spiritual care for their patients.
This is where my dream fits into the picture. My dream to "do something" began after years of personal health crises (one crisis after another including cancer, stroke, and brain surgery occurred in my 20's and 30's). God nudged me during my own healing to begin walking with others in 2010. The calling was to reach out and help others find healing and wholeness through spiritual care by offering spiritual direction and retreat leadership. Charis opened their doors for my practicum coursework and we are now partnering to offer spiritual care alongside primary health care for interested patients. Studies show that patients show greater motivation to complete the task of healing when their spiritual needs are met and that spiritual care may even help improve pain management.
The vision from just a few is now helping so many. It really is amazing how God can begin working on our hearts without the full details. Just this month, a local physician, Dr. Joseph Ozenne announced he is now volunteering as the clinic's medical director. According to Dr. Ozenne, the opportunity to more fully incorporate his faith into his medical practice has been a dream of his for some time. Without following that nudge from the Holy Spirit to do something, there would be no Charis Health Center for the patients, staff or volunteers. Since opening the doors in January 2008, Charis staff and volunteers have served more than 2,800 patients and provided over 7,800 office visits. I’d say that is doing something!
We often think our dreams are unlikely, improbable, and impossible. We think we can't make a difference by starting out with just one person in need or one part of a community. We get scared off by the big picture. In reality, only God can fulfill the dreams he places on our hearts. Have a dream? Like that amazing group of people who had a dream and a vision for starting Charis Health Center, maybe you should do something about yours.
What is your dream? Who will you share and invite into your dream?
Posted originally at MinistryMatters.com. Ministry Matters supports ministry leaders with resources, community, and inspiration. Follow them: @ministrymatters on Twitter | ministrymatters on Facebook
Our seven year old experienced his first trip to Disney World on New Year’s Eve. We went to visit family in Florida after Christmas and made a quick trip to Orlando to meet Mickey and his friends. If we had realized before we set out on this journey that it was one of the busiest days of the year at The Magic Kingdom, we may have changed our minds! However, we were determined to take advantage of being close enough for a visit and set off for a long day in the park. The morning came early and we were all fighting cold and sinus issues. However, the adrenaline kept us going and the early morning hours were a success! It was an exciting morning with short lines and fun rides. Everyone employed by Disney was extraordinarily helpful and pleasant, even at the crack of dawn. It was nice seeing the morning come to life behind Cinderella’s castle.
When our family rode, “It’s a Small World” before lunch, I specifically noticed a gentleman riding solo in front of us. My heart was saddened for him because he didn’t have anyone to share his ride with that day and I was thankful for our time together. Around lunchtime, the crowds starting picking up and we were starting to wonder if our decision to brave the crowd had been a wise one.
That’s when the true magic happened. I heard my name called across the park. I looked up and spotted some long time friends from our small group. Amazingly, out of all the people and all the parks, we were standing within feet of people that we’ve shared life with. People we’ve shared joys and tears with over the years. Our kids were ecstatic finding friends at Disney. These were friends that we didn’t realize were there at the same time as us. We would never have been able to track down this family amongst the crowd if we had been looking for them. That is when the magic came in to the kingdom for our families.
We rode rides together and sat together and watched two parades and a street party. We all agreed that this surprise encounter made Disney truly magical for our families. As I reflect upon the characters in those parades and see Mickey and Minnie, Goofy and Donald, the Dwarfs and the Princesses, I am reminded that even they have one another. They have companions to share the journey. Truly, living this life fully includes relationships. We can ride the rides solo, but if there is not anyone around to enjoy the ride with us, it seems a little pointless, doesn't it? Who do you share the journey with? Are you in a small group? Have a spiritual director? Participate in bible study? Have an accountability partner or spiritual friends to share life with? If not, let this be the year you open yourself up to share with others. You'll be blessed and you will likely be a blessing. Here’s to making this year magical!
Whitney R. Simpson
• on a journey of #ExploringPeace
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Whitney R. Simpson,
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