About me...

Pop the lid on my Mason Jar and meet my family. Jim {Jimma} and I have four kids, Creston (Ashley), Jami (Matt), Brandon and Chance. Our grandkids, Cade, Kirby, Eisley, Beck and Reed bring us more joy than any Mason Jar could ever hold. I am counting my blessings over and over and thanking God for His amazing love and grace.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out of my Comfort Zone

Several weeks ago a close friend of mine called and told me of a ministry she thought I might be interested in. Someone asked her to visit a lady who is in a local hospital. This mom of two had been in a horrific automobile accident, leaving her a quadriplegic on a ventilator. It seems her family lives out of town, so visitors were few and far apart. Vicki had started visiting Tammy and asked if I would go with her one day. I was hesitant, but told Vicki to call me the next time she was going and I would go.

Shortly after the phone call with Vicki, another friend called to chat with me. I told her that I had just made a commitment to do something I did not want to do. I went through all my reasons why this was not a good thing for me to get involved in. It helped soothe my guilty conscience that this friend completely understood my reasons and she suggested I share my reasons with Vicki.

Suffice to say, this hesitancy to visit a quadriplegic in the hospital struck a raw nerve in me. I have a heart of compassion and find it meaningful to be an encourager and supporter to someone going through a difficult time. I struggled to understand my feelings and figure out what was holding me back in not wanting to visit Tammy. It was equally as hard to justify my feelings since the hospital is less than three blocks from my house, easily accessible with a five minute walk.

The reasons resounded in my head. I don’t like hospitals. I’ve never been around a quadriplegic and felt uncomfortable thinking about it. What hope can I give someone who is paralyzed from the neck down? What if she tries to communicate and I can’t understand her? How upsetting will that be? How uncomfortable will it be to see someone like this? What should I talk about? What if I say the wrong thing? Will I know if I say something that’s upsetting to her? Just what do you do when you visit someone in Tammy’s situation? All my reasoning convinced me that I wasn’t the “perfect” person for the job. Plain and simple, I did not want to be around someone in Tammy’s condition.

Vicki called when she was on her way to the hospital to see if I was available to go with her. I had been going over all my reasons why I didn’t want to go and was ready to bail on my commitment. I begin sharing my hesitations, and true to Vicki’s kind, sweet nature she didn’t argue with me. She just listened and said it was all right, that she knew it would be hard. Vicki’s understanding made it that much harder to say “no,” so I caved in and told her to come pick me up. Then I ask if she had told Tammy I would be a regular visitor because “the last thing this lady needs is to get her hopes up only to have them shattered.” This was a polite way of letting Vicki know this would be a one time visit for me.

When we walked in Tammy’s room, she was asleep. Vicki softly spoke to Tammy letting her know we were there and Tammy barely opened her eyes. Our visit lasted all of about three minutes. I was relieved, the visit was over and I had fulfilled my obligation. On the way home Vicki and I talked briefly. Not really wanting to, I committed to yet another visit. I made it clear that I would only go with her, since I did not feel comfortable going by myself.

For the next visit I met Vicki at the hospital. I can’t remember why, but we weren’t able to go in to visit with Tammy. Sweet relief. I had fulfilled my obligation and could go on my merry little way. Yet something was stirring in me and I was confused as to why I was feeling the way I did. Even though I had tried to pull away, something inside me had been awakened. As much as I wanted to, I could not just put my thoughts on a shelf, walk away and forget about Tammy.

About a week later I found myself walking past the hospital on my morning walk. I felt compelled to go in and see Tammy even though I was by myself, and didn’t have a clue what to say or do. I walked in and Tammy was barely awake. I spoke to her and told her who I was. She opened her eyes and looked at me then closed them again. I softly said “good bye” and walked out relieved that Tammy wasn’t alert. A few days later I had a desire to go visit Tammy again. This time she was asleep. The nurse said to speak quietly and see if she would wake up, but not to try to wake her. That was good enough for me. I spoke, no response and I hurried out the door.

Something interesting started happening. I found myself missing Tammy and felt drawn to go back and visit her. A couple of days later I walked down for a visit and she was awake and alert. How awkward can this be I wondered? Not knowing what to say, I asked if she would like for me to tell her about my life. She nodded as best as she could and I started sharing different aspects of my life with her. I enjoyed the visit and much to my surprise, I promised Tammy that I would come back to see her.

That visit was a turning point for me. I realized the visits with Tammy were brightening my day. I needed those visits as much, if not more than Tammy did. Now I try to go every day and visit with her. I’m learning things that make her smile, such as holding a photo album up and flipping through it so she can see pictures of her family. She likes to have her hair combed and a moisturizer put on her dry, parched lips. Tammy likes for me to read to her, share my favorite Bible verses and pray with her. I talk to her about Heaven and how one day we’ll be there together. I can envision her with a new body, one that is whole and complete. I like to think that she’ll be jumping up and down, running and singing all over Heaven. She’ll remember me as one of the people who cared enough to come and visit her.

I never leave the hospital that I don’t think about Tammy and the situation she is in. I cannot imagine being trapped in my body, not able to move or speak, and to have lost the ability to openly communicate my thoughts, feeling and needs. At best Tammy can slowly mouth a few words. She is completely at the mercy of the people taking care of her and the few visitors who stop in to see her. The scenery in her world never changes, it’s the same four walls day after day, night after night. The things that are so commonplace to us, such as taking a shower, going for a walk or eating are our favorite foods are no longer an option for Tammy. I can’t begin to fathom what she is going through and what she is thinking. I am more aware than ever that at any given moment that could be me, or someone I love in her situation.

I have gone from making every excuse in the world as to why I can’t visit Tammy to taking every opportunity I can to go visit with her. I am in awe at the transformation that has taken place in my heart and I’m loving it! When I walk into the doors of the hospital, I never know if Tammy is going to be alert or unresponsive to me. No longer do I hope that she’s asleep. I want her wide awake so that I can talk with her and let her know what an inspiration she is to me.

In the beginning I could not understand how Vicki could be so compassionate over someone she had just met, especially someone who could barely communicate with her. When she talked about Tammy, she had tears in her eyes. I just didn’t get “it.” Well, now I do and more often than not, there are tears in my eyes when I talk about Tammy. I’m so thankful that I listened to that still, small voice that urged me to visit Tammy. I’m learning one of life’s invaluable lessons, that it is in giving of one’s self that we are so richly blessed. Stepping out of my comfort zone has taken me on a journey of self discovery, which for me has been a good place to be.

“So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen in eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

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