Sunday, November 17, 2013

On getting older...part 3.

I can't watch the show Hoarders, it's too sad.  I've seen several episodes and what interests me most is why people live that way.  How in the world?  For the most part, each story is the same.  Something happens to them, usually a loss, and in their efforts to try to comfort themselves they begin to accumulate things.  They shop, they buy, they stuff...trying to fill the hole that their loss has left.  Nothing works, and in their efforts and their grief they lose touch with reality.  They stop smelling the stench, they stop seeing the mess.  It starts out slowly, and seemingly harmlessly until over time they discover they have buried themselves and it is so enormous that it becomes unmanageable.  Or worse yet, it becomes normal.

I watch it and it seems unreal to can they do that to themselves?  It's easy to judge.  Until I realize that we are all capable of doing the same thing.  Maybe not physically, but we can become hoarders emotionally.  Holding on to hurts, bitterness, and loss.  Refusing to let go of the injustices, the what-ifs, the if-onlys.  We all have them, and if they are not dealt with and placed at the foot of the cross, they will accumulate slowly over time until one day we find ourselves buried.  Buried in the stench of an unforgiving heart.  Buried in the filth of bitterness that literally suffocates.  And it blinds us until we are unable to see through it all enough to see the light from Heaven that offers forgiveness, and purpose, and hope.

I see this in some of the elderly.  Those who have lived their lives hoarding emotional wounds and now find themselves at the end of their lives, reaping what they have sown.  There are no amount of activities, no amount of decorating to make the place feel "homey", no amount of visitors and volunteers and special dinners that will clear all this junk out of their hearts.  It holds them prisoner more than their failing health ever could, and keeps them from experiencing the peace and security and joy that should accompany each of us in our golden years.  It should be a time of remembrance and rest.  And for some it is.  Those are the people that everyone enjoys talking to.  They have a joyful heart, a story to tell, and a smile to share.  But the crabby ones, the complainers, the ones that strike out or lash out verbally, or worst of all...just sit there and refuse to talk to anyone.  It's a little harder with them.  Whether we see them at work or at church or in a restaurant or on the street corner begging for money.  They make us uncomfortable, fearful even and sometimes we avoid them altogether.    But they are the ones that Jesus reached out to, and He wants us to as well.  Anger masks hurt.  Complaining hides disappointment and emptiness of heart.  Loneliness manifests itself in silence. 

So, in this new mission field God has placed me in, I am eager to do something about it.  I want so badly to save everyone!  If I didn't have so much paperwork to do, I think I would go around and spend my days talking to people.  Holding their hands, praying with them, singing to them, talking and encouraging and loving them.  That's where my heart is, but time and my other responsibilities don't allow it nearly as often as I'd like.  But I do as much as I can, and one thing I've discovered is how easy it is to brighten someone's day.  Even on my way to a meeting, I can take a few minutes or even a few seconds to smile, talk, touch someone and lift their spirits.  They matter, those moments we are given to touch the life of another, and we are presented with them daily.  Do they change eternity?  Do they save the unsaved?  Maybe not in that moment, but they are opportunities to give them a glimpse of the Savior that they are desperate to know.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On getting older...part 2

So, as I sat through meeting after meeting in those first several weeks at my job and listened to the nurses talk about all the medical issues that people were dealing with and how to best treat each one, I began to decipher all the medical lingo.  While that was a relief (to finally understand what everyone was talking about) I couldn't understand why all these people had so many problems!  And everyone was talking about it like it was normal.  Infections, wounds, inability to walk and feed themselves and even swallow...and the cognitive issues.  Depression, confusion, dementia.  What in the world was going on?  Is this what happens when we age?  To all of us, or just some?  This can't be normal...or is it?

The principle of sowing and reaping is mentioned throughout the bible.  God has been teaching me a lot lately about this principle.  It has to do with the choices we make and the consequences of them.  There are always consequences...

"Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit."
Galatians 6:7-8

I used to be confused by this.  As Christians, I thought that accepting Jesus meant that He would save us from the consequences of our choices.  He would come in with his big eraser and take care of everything that I screwed up in my life.  I'm learning that is not entirely true.  While He paid the penalty for our sin in order to restore our relationship with God, and He offers TOTAL forgiveness, there are still consequences to our choices that we may have to live with on earth.  It isn't God's will, but in the areas that we don't surrender to Him, He does not always spare us from our choices.  From ourselves. 


Nowhere has this principle been shown to me so clearly as it has in the past few months.  The choices related to our physical health, I can understand.  How we take care of our bodies and invest in our health when we are young has a direct effect on our quality of life as we age.  Now there's a wake up call for me!  Hello!!  But as a social worker I am more focused on the mental, spiritual and emotional quality of peoples lives, and God is showing me that this principle very much applies to those areas  as well.  Everyday I see people living out the final years of their lives, reaping what they have sown...before their health, their independence and sometimes their minds have been stolen from them, or have simply slipped away.  While it's not true for everyone, far too many are overcome with loneliness.  Emptiness.  Hopelessness.    People who have lived their whole lives for themselves, pursuing their dreams, working hard, raising their families, placing their value and worth on the things they were able to do and accomplish and attain.  Now, as one by one those things have been stripped away from them, even in some cases their very dignity as they depend on others to do even the simplest of things for them, what are they left with? 

Without Christ, it's very simple.  They are left with nothing

Nothing to live for.  Nothing to pursue.  Nothing to value.  Nothing to hope for.  So they sit the days away and implode. Hopelessness is like a blanket that is draped over their souls and they have stopped trying.  Stopped living long before their lives are truly over.   It is nothing short of heartbreaking to me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On getting older...part 1

It has been three months since I started my new job as a nursing home social worker.  It's something I've wanted to do on & off for years, ever since my sister fulfilled that role at the small town nursing home she worked at years ago.  Now here I am, 20+ years into my career and it was time for a change.  I've had a few changes, so this wasn't the first, but it is definitely one of the most significant.  My first social worky job out of college was working with adults with developmental disabilities and I was in that field for 15 years.  I loved it, but after that amount of time I was ready for a change.  My next venture for the following 5 years was working with children with autism.  Loved that as well.  It was HARD work tho, very physical and I finally decided when I began having trouble with my knees that maybe I was getting too old to be sitting on toddler chairs and running (yes running) around after kids all day.  Last year I took a position at the middle school as a para...not exactly my field but I did it for a couple of reasons.  I wanted the opportunity to work with adolescents, wanted to be in Winona (I had been commuting to Rochester for 2 years) and I wanted to have the same schedule as our kids.   It was a great experience!  One I intended to continue (I was secretly hoping it would give me an "in" in the school district which may lead to a school social work position at some point).  But when this opportunity arose last summer I definitely felt called to accept.

So here I first experience in the medical field and it's very different.  It's like they are speaking a different language, those nurses.  My first several weeks there I would sit through meetings and take notes, not having a clue what the heck they were talking about a majority of the time until I started asking more questions and figuring out all the medical lingo (I bet you don't know what EA of 1 means, or SOB or mechanical soft).  Google comes in really handy for things like that!  I won't lie, it was pretty overwhelming at first.  But now that I'm a few months into this I feel like I can take a deep breath and say "ok, I am beginning to get this now".  

I look at this, and every job I've had, as a ministry.  This is where God has placed me to make a difference.  In the lives of these people.  Right now.  I have prayed a lot about my role there and wanting to have an impact.  I am so thankful that I work for a place that values spirituality and embraces it even.  It is not unusual or questioned if anyone wants to pray with someone or talk about things of faith.  I realize what a blessing that is as a Christian, because so many places that is not accepted or even allowed.