Since our puppy, Penny, joined our family this Spring, I've taken a lot of walks. A lot. Oftentimes I use our morning walk to listen to audiobooks that grow or stretch my faith. My recently played books include titles by Rob Bell, Glennon Doyle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Austin Channing Brown, Eckhart Tolle, and Jen Hatmaker. Through these recent (and yes, varied) listens I've been inspired to practice kindness with my neighbors, smile more often (I don't mean to always look so serious), slow it down, face my fears, realize everything really is spiritual, and truly strive to practice presence.
And while books and knowledge fuel, me, I don't always read and walk. Sometimes I pray when I walk, sometimes I listen to a favorite playlist, and sometimes I simply have to stay focused on training (AKA wrangling) our new puppy.
Walking has become a habit for me - twice a day, every day. I'm not quite ready for the Tennessee winters but I don't think Penny will let me break this habit. She loves walking, it's an automatic response to the start of her day. It took some practice for me to get on her plan but quickly it became a habit. I then realized our habit was becoming routine and at moments I dreaded it. Maybe like me, you often walk on auto-pilot. Do you ever wonder... How did I get to the other side of the house? Why is my face always in my phone? Or... What was I doing on my way to the mailbox?
Our minds wander and so having a focused purpose helps me stay present in my walks and break the cycle of worry (which I've carried my fair share of lately). Presence keeps us present! But we don't always need a book or music in our ears to practice presence. We can use our own bodies and breath to practice awareness with a purposeful walking meditation.
The first time I practiced walking meditation was on a retreat with a group of teens. It wasn't easy but it stretched us all and we learned a lot about ourselves. To start, I suggest practicing in your back yard or even at home if you can't get outside. It's nice to have some privacy to allow yourself full presence so you're not worried about being distracted or even stepping out in front of a car. Yep, that happens. Practicing alone gives you more confidence to start, then you can practice walking reverently throughout your day. Walking meditation isn't about exercising yourself or your pet but it is about healing, it is about being fully and completely present in your body.
In walking meditation you feel your feet hit the ground, each and every step. You notice how mindfulness in your body can bring you into the moment. You go slow on purpose. You walk and breathe in sync and allow your body the space to be fully present. While being present in this way is not easy, it is indeed transformational.
Ready to try it? Need some help in discovering presence with a short mindful walk? Listen to the Walking Meditation podcast below. Then use some of what you learn to begin incorporating presence and breath in all of your walking - about the house, to the car, or around the block.
Walking has become a natural way for me to destress and unplug. I have a long way to grow my mindfulness while walking (especially with a puppy in tow) but I'm glad to keep practicing.
How do you practice mindful presence while walking?
Will you take a walk with me?
How's your focus and attention these days? Believe it or not, mine has found a renewed sense of clarity in the season of this pandemic. While there is plenty to overwhelm my body and my spirit (the hurts of our world, the effects of a mysterious virus, the longing to end racism) there is a new pace that helps me be more mindful and present.
Slowing down came naturally to me after my stroke and brain surgery 15 years ago. Honestly, I didn't have a choice. My ability to multitask ceased and life as I knew it shifted drastically. Not that long ago, I reflected and lamented with a friend about this longing to again juggle too many balls in the air. As she listened, she told me, "what a gift this experience of forced slowing down was for you!" And, I realized she was right. I am re-opening this gift of slowing down. Will you join me?
How are you intentionally slowing down in this season? What gifts are you discovering in the midst of a pandemic?
The Lenten season is a symbolic journey toward the Cross. For many today, that journey has become an opportunity to let go of certain foods, activities, or habits that distract us along the path. For others, it is a time to cling to disciplines that give life and draw us closer to our God. You may have given up chocolate or let go of your grasp on Facebook, yet this invitation is much more than cocoa or status updates (both of which I cling to often). No matter your plans for Lent, I invite you to consider this a season of receiving God’s healing and wholeness offered us through the gift of his son, Jesus.
For over a decade of my young adult years, I was plagued with chronic health problems. During an appointment one day, a practitioner asked me a profound (and what I honestly thought at the time to be rude) question. She asked, “Whitney, do you believe you can be well?” My response was silence. She shocked me and I couldn't believe she would ask me such a blunt and obvious question. Of course, I wanted to be well; I had taken the time to make an appointment to prioritize my health! My efforts proved I was working hard at it by investing time, energy, and plenty of resources.
But guess what? After my initial shock wore off, I realized I wanted to be well but didn’t believe I could be. It did not seem possible that I could live a life free from the pain that plagued me. And suddenly, as that truth sank in, I began to believe I could be well in a much broader sense than she could have understood. Her words slowly and steadily seeped into my soul.
Since that question, I have changed my thinking. I don’t believe I will always be physically well on this earth, but I will always be whole in Christ. There is nothing wrong with seeking guidance for health and wellness from wise practitioners (as a matter of fact, I recommend it), yet we can only seek true healing and wholeness within from our God. My practitioner knew this fact and planted that seed in my heart.
What is wholeness?
In order to live whole lives, we need to put to death thoughts that are not life giving. When putting to death old ways and embracing life-giving alternatives, my biggest barrier is often myself. Scripture tells us, “in Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10, NASB). Did you catch that? God has already completed us. He has made us whole. It is not about stripping away; it’s about receiving that promise. That is what we are moving toward this Easter season—wholeness. And we must believe it is possible.
What’s your story? Do you long to be whole? Do you believe it is even possible? No matter your story, God is offering you healing and wholeness this season.
While there is no one answer for each of us regarding what wholeness looks like, there is one response: say yes. Yes, I want to be made whole. And trust me, you can say yes before you understand how it may even be possible. What are you afraid of? What might happen if you let go of the old patterns of unbelief this Lenten season and embrace God’s promise of wholeness?
How can I embrace God’s wholeness?
Read the following Scripture, slowly, three times. Ask yourself if there are any words or phrases that stand out to you as you read. You may even choose to read aloud or listen to an audio version of this passage. However you listen, truly hear the words Jesus spoke, as if they are spoken aloud to you today:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:1–9, NIV)
Do you want to be made whole?
Do you believe you have already been made whole through Jesus’ gift to you? Do you believe you can be well? How many years have you been sitting at the pool’s edge of healing waters? Are you just sticking your toes in the water? Who or what are you waiting for? Grab your mat and walk toward Jesus this Easter season.
Giving something up is thematic for many people across Christian tradition during the Lenten season. Yet for me, giving up has been less of my focus over the years. Traditionally, I have been more likely to add a spiritual practice during the season of Lent rather than take something away. And I now realize how much I have added over the years and how "doing it all" often blurs my ability to open my heart and soul. Let's be honest, fasting is hard.
Yet sometimes we need to strip away, let go, fast. Recently I have been in a season of "letting go" in regards to my sugar addiction. I now have a new perspective on giving up and am embracing it in the kitchen. I've been on a whole foods (Whole30) plan for the past several weeks that has stripped away many of the unnecessary extras that cause my body to experience brain fog, fatigue, and anxiety. It has taken several weeks to see the fruits of my work but my body (and my soul) are thanking me for the new found clarity. And I must admit, it has taken me two rounds of this process to truly find the beauty in the letting go of my beloved sugar for a season!
I read the poem below this morning and in my reflection realized quickly that as I've let go of the extra sweeteners and not-so-natural flavorings (as well as the junk I had been feeding my body) my tastebuds can truly experience the flavor of food in new ways. We chew, we eat, we swallow. But, do we take the time to truly savor and taste? If we did, how could that change us? When we fast (not simply from food) we are invited to taste/feel/experience more deeply.
The poem is from St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican nun, mystic and poet from Italy, who lived from 1347-1380. Her words speak to me on this journey of wellness, they remind me that God gave us the gift of food as more than nourishment, that we can see God in all things/people/situations, that our hearts and souls really do need to be fed. I hope her words offer your heart encouragement as well this Lenten season.
How will you feed your soul this season? How could "giving up" actually give your heart more strength? Are you letting go of any specific foods or activities for Lent? How are you hoping to taste, smell, experience God?
Give the Heart More Strength
(from Love Poems from God)
Herbs can help the body and give
the heart more strength
When my sight became clearer,
I could see auras around different foods.
and I now know — should I say this? --
that everything can sing.
The songs of fruits and grains will calm,
why not put them into yourself,
a new language you
And just from touching life’s requirements
close to their source
will add grace to your
More generous eyes we need.
The songs of light
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.
The cold weather has wreaked havoc with my skin. It feels dry and craves hydration. But, if I’m being honest, my spirit has been feeling a bit dry this week as well. I found myself asking what happened to cause this dry spell?
Recently, I had stitches in an awkward spot due to a mole removal, over-exerted my knee, and some long-lingering hip pain began to flair - all at the same time. Although I'm sparing you most of the details, maybe that's still too much information. But, guess what happened? I turned into a grump, quickly!
It is true that when my physical body doesn’t allow for my current routine of movement and physical exercise, more than my body suffers. My family suffered. My attitude suffered. My spirit suffered. I became frustrated and felt a tiny bit (okay, more than a tiny bit) sorry for myself.
Yet, I began to hear a gentle reminder whispered from God. He reminded me that I am loved. He reminded me to rest. He reminded me that my soul can be healthy and restored even when my physical body is not able to cooperate.
Shortly after God's whispers became audible to my ears, I received a text from a friend. I had shared with her that I felt a bit tender inside and out. Her response said this, “Rest in Him, sister! He is the balm.”
Maybe you need a little extra salve in this season too? Maybe you need God to slather you and hold you and heal the cracks of a long winter? For we can search far and wide for perfect solutions. However, the only balm that heals is our God alone.
The Lord will guide you continually
and provide for you, even in parched places.
He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
- Isaiah 58:11 CEB
If you're in a parched place, grab some balm. Take time to slather yourself in Him this weekend. Find time to connect with the one who is your healer. Listen when God speaks through others around you. I'm so very thankful there is an unlimited supply of his healing balm and am feeling the relief already.
After my stroke in 2005 (and lots and lots and lots of doctor's appointments that didn't include a lot of answers for my residual pain), I was finally prescribed yoga by a physician. She created a plan for me for recovery. She sent me to a knowledgeable local instructor and said "go for it!"
I showed up to my private lesson the first time wearing sandals I refused to take off. I informed my instructor she couldn't make me take off my shoes because my feet hurt when I was barefoot. I wore shoes on my sticky mat (not really the point). I told her I was going to try to follow the plan before me but I wasn't so sure it would work. I was skeptical and I was afraid. I did not trust my body. After all, it had failed me a lot in those years. I wasn't fully invested in this yoga plan. I didn't have a clue this prescription would change my life.
Fast forward almost two years and here is part of a testimony I wrote for my first instructor:
Yoga has literally changed my life! At the age of 31, I had a stroke that took me and my family by surprise and left me struggling to control the left side of my body. I had followed a diet and exercise program for several years prior to the unexplainable stroke and was in decent shape. After just a few weeks in the hospital and rehabilitation, I was released and sent home with a wonderful physical and occupational therapist. My doctors said I was very fortunate to recover the use of my left side so quickly. And, although I made great progress both physically and mentally, a year after the stroke, I still struggled with residual pain. After working with a variety of medical professionals, it was suggested I give yoga a try. At first, I was very hesitant and quite nervous about my body being able keep up. But, after just a month of classes, I noticed a drastic decrease in my pain. Today, (two years after my stroke) I can't go a week without yoga class or I notice signs of stiffness and the start of my pain returning in my leg and hip...
Yes, my yoga journey began slow and unsteady. The original goal was to literally get on my feet again. It worked. After practicing for two years, I craved my "weekly" class. Today, I crave my daily yoga fix. Here is part of what I have learned, our bodies have an amazing power to heal. BUT, we have to give them the space (physically and mentally) for the process to work. The physical and mental aspects of a regular yoga and Christian meditation practice changed my life. They were the first baby steps I took toward authentic healing and wholeness on this journey.
Today, I'm a barefoot yogi. I'm not nearly as far along in my practice as I hope to someday be. No, I have not mastered the headstands and intimidating balancing poses. Heck, some days I can barely touch my toes. But, I no longer (at least most of the time) tell myself new things are impossible. The difference is, I have taken off my sandals. I'm letting go of the fear. I am letting go of the "I CAN'T" mentality I once brought to my mat. This yogi is practicing barefoot and enjoying the journey as it unfolds.
Yoga really can be for every BODY.
Healing really is available for EVERY body.
Even if you refuse to take off your shoes to start.
Just never refuse to open your heart and mind (on or off the mat).
The hours tick slowly between the time the doctor removes the “mysterious” mass from your body and the results return. Then, if you are fortunate enough to get “good” results from the kind doctor or nurse there is plenty more to process. With a giant smile on his/her face you may hear they got it all and you are all clear. And, if they are the praying type they may even toss in a “Praise the Lord” at the end (especially here in the South). You should be jumping up and down from the good news but instead you may feel more empty and confused.
Each of us are on a journey to health and wholeness in this life, we are all in some mode of recovery. Those of us who are recovering from physically life-threatening situations often hear words like "Praise the Lord" and instead of feeling comfort, we are left feeling alone, especially when you expect us to be celebrating the outcome of the biopsy or test. We are considered healthy again, right?
It is as simple as that added “Praise the Lord.” Trust me, survivors want to praise the Lord. We do. But, there is something about having growing tumors or cancerous cells taken from you that requires a time of mourning as well.
If you've heard my story, you know I’m a survivor of melanoma skin cancer, brain surgery, and stroke (among a few other autoimmune disorders and losses that my body has had to process over my relatively short 38 years). Recently, I had what was considered minor surgery to remove a small benign mass growing in my chin. At first, we thought it may have been an extra tooth and that seemed somewhat okay but after experiencing some pretty invasive oral surgery I was told we don't really know what it was or why it was growing inside my body. The words benign came from the surgeon and then the “Praise the Lords" started flowing in from those who care about me and my health. This experience reminded me of all the “Praise the Lords” that flowed freely after my brain surgery. Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful “whatever it was” is gone but if that's your only response, I don't think you've had anything foreign removed from your body. Please don’t be offended if these are the first words that come out of your mouth when someone announces their cancer or biopsy was benign (I’ve said it myself). In the future, just consider following it up with a “how are you?” Here is why…
Many years later, I now understand I am not the only one who has experienced the “Praise the Lord...leaves me feeling empty” syndrome. It's pretty common. I’ve journeyed with patients who are struggling to find emotional freedom in the “good news” and it is true for many of us. A best friend confided in me that those words are hard to process. This is one of those friends who showed up on my doorstep to feed my family, drive me to the store, and do chores around my house during one of my toughest times of my recovery. She recently faced her own life-threatening health challenge (so while she has seen me raw and real, she personally gets it now too because, unfortunately, she recently joined the club as a melanoma survivor). This week she told me about hearing the "Praise The Lord" response after her lymph nodes were removed and given the all-clear. It may sound sacrilegious, but hearing “Praise The Lord” is not what you want to hear when you've been cut on and dug in so recently.
What you want to also hear is what the HECK Lord (and that is being kind). What you want to scream is, what was growing in my body and why? When did it pop up and how long had it been there? Will it come back? What if I hadn't taken care of it? Now what do I do about this scar that everyone is asking about and I just want to forget? And, what do I do without lymph nodes? Do I see a therapist to process this all (by the way, the answer to that one is most likely yes). Am I horrible because the last thing I want to do is “Praise The Lord?” Will I ever forget this?
And the answer to the last question is no. No, you will never forget this experience because it's part of you now. Your recovery may seem like it is tearing you apart but really it is making you whole again. And, praising the Lord may seem like the only appropriate response for those who don't live with the side effects of whatever you've gone through. But, thanking the Lord for another day on this earth may be a great place to start. Thanking the Lord for an opportunity to hear the birds sing, watch the water flow, and see the little ones grow, that is why we praise the Lord.
Here is my point - it's perfectly okay to know and understand that your life will never be the same after health crisis. Your life will be forever changed by the scar, or the side effects, or the limp, or the pain that no one else can feel or maybe even see. The memories and fears that no one else will have experienced may not be understood by another earthly being but the comfort is that they are understood by your God. He has been with you every step of the way. This is your journey. So, while we may cringe when we are encouraged to show praise, we can start with a tiny show of our thanks the Lord. It's a great place to start.
For every survivor who lives through cancer, stroke, or brain surgery. For every survivor who faces chronic pain or debilitating disease. For every survivor, this reminder to “Praise the Lord” by those well-meaning encouragers is not meant to take away from your healing experience it is meant to add hope to it by encouraging us to "Thank the Lord."
So, how are you?
Encouraging verses for physical healing and recovery:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 NIV
"We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5 CEB
When You Struggle to "Praise The Lord” is Part 1 in a series for those exploring peace during physical recovery. Part 2: What To Do (when someone you know faces health crisis) coming soon.
My role at Gallatin CARES Worship Center is very humbling. I am program coordinator for Spiritual Formation. Basically, I plan and create opportunities for the "members" of our mission congregation to receive spiritual care, love and learning. I also invite others into the doors of our "church" to give back and in turn receive as well. I get to love on God's people and sweep floors too. My job might be to help others but each and every day at CARES is a lesson for me and an opportunity to see God at work. God shows up.
It humbles me to go to work every single time I unlock the doors. God never ceases to amaze me. I've been told I'm fortunate to have such a great place to give back. But, as I think about it, it seems God is giving to me much more than I could ever give to his people. And, I am figuring out God has to make things really obvious for me. He gives me BIG examples at Gallatin CARES to remind me of his activity and that makes me never want to miss a moment of his amazing presence in that place. God shows up at CARES and I'm not the only one who has noticed it. This was told to me early on by a friend who used to attend a large congregation down the road from our little mission church but now regularly attends CARES Worship. When I asked him if he attended both churches, he replied no and confidently explained. He said, "I"m certain that when Jesus returns, he'll come to Gallatin CARES before he would visit my previous congregation and so this (CARES) is where I want to be too."
Jesus may not have physically walked through the doors just yet, but God shows up every time those doors are open! There was the time that Jane, our pastor, and I were arranging chairs on a Tuesday afternoon. We had two very long pews and a bunch of mis-matched chairs to seat our congregants. They worked just fine, but we couldn't get the sanctuary seats turned the way we wanted and just threw our hands up and said we'd try another day. We left frustrated. The VERY NEXT morning, we received a tap on the door. The stranger asked if we could come to his church and pick up about 15 or 20 pews and use them in our church. His church was moving and they had tried to sell them, but no one was responding. He looked through the windows after driving by and saw our chairs. He wanted to GIVE us his church's pews! Needless to say, we picked up the pews and they look like they were made to fit our little church! God shows up at Gallatin CARES.
Then, there was the day just a few weeks ago that I was humbly reminded to keep my focus before the day barely began. I arrived that morning and when I looked down, I had on my black canvas tennis shoes. Oops! I was wearing blue and was supposed to have slipped on my blue canvas tennis shoes. My TOMS are my favorite "go to" slip-on shoe and I own pairs in a few colors. They aren't the most supportive, but they are comfortable, and they also give back so I love the concept of the company. I momentarily got frustrated with myself about wearing the wrong color shoes but went on about my day. Within an hour, one of my friends from church walked in. He lives a couple of miles away and doesn't have a car. He walks to work, to the grocery, to church. He is in recovery - physically, mentally, and spiritually. My friend asked me for a PAIR OF SHOES. Turns out he has only one pair of tennis shoes. All the walking he does around town had worn his out and he just wanted a "new to him" but used pair of shoes. We walked across the street together to the Gallatin CARES Thrift Store to find a pair of shoes for my friend (he didn't even care what color they were). I wore my perfectly fine pair of shoes (that didn't match my outfit) as I walked alongside my friend. There aren't really words for that walk but it was indeed a humbling moment.
God is showing up my friends, God is showing up. Have you seen him? Is he in your neighbor's shoes? Where can you look for him today?
“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
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC