Thursday, September 29, 2011

“Sophie, Pay Attention (Rhoda, You Too)” Is Perfect for Your Child’s Kindle

Kindle, an e-reader, is fast becoming a favorite gift to give children, or at least to pass down to them when a newer Kindle is acquired. It encourages reading, while providing a variety of books that aren’t heavy, expensive or requiring a return trip to the library. Some versions will also read the book aloud. But now that giving Kindles to kids is all the rage, the question becomes what books to download on them. Finding books is easy, but finding books that are appropriate for your child’s age, reading level and lifestyle is another matter. And of course, the book has to hold your child’s attention! So it was with great delight that I discovered a new Kindle book especially for children that fits all the criteria: “Sophie, Pay Attention (You Too, Rhoda),” by Susan Braun, a blogging friend of mine.

 “Sophie, Pay Attention (You Too, Rhoda)” is a charming chapter book about a little girl learning to to do what’s right. The book tells an entertaining story incorporating a Christian message, yet it manages to avoid being preachy, sugary, or inappropriate. Sophie comes across as a real little girl, with realistic problems of growing up. Through the help of the Sunday School teacher we all wish we’d had, Sophie learns about a girl in the Bible named Rhoda who struggles with the same problems Sophie has. Inspired, Sophie begins to take responsibility for herself, and finds that doing the right thing brings its own rewards.

How refreshing to encounter a stable family unit, not perfect, but supportive; children that obey their parents without bad attitudes, deceit or manipulation; parents who take the time to love and discipline their children appropriately; and teachers that teach children rather than subjects. I especially appreciated the way the girl’s faith was handled, as a natural part of her life, with Scripture being a viable way to learn and grow. All this in a delightful story, perfect for beginning readers as well as those who enjoy being read to.

This book is available on Kindle, and can be easily downloaded from Amazon, for $2.99. The book is billed as appropriate for ages 6-9, but I think younger children would really enjoy it, particularly if they have a Kindle that will read to them; and older girls of 10, 11 and 12 would love reading it as well, especially since Sophie has an older sister. I look forward to more Sophie books from Susan Braun, this talented new author of “Sophie, Pay Attention (You Too, Rhoda).”

Source: PDF version of Sophie, Pay Attention (You Too, Rhoda), provided by the author.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Caring for Caregivers: Hospital Ministry When You Are the Patient

I wanted to say that I am now answering comments with comments of my own; I know a lot of you do this, but I never have before, so I'm trying it out. I like the conversation aspect of it. Also, I wanted to share the hospital philosophy that God has shown me, so I'm sharing (below) an article I wrote about my hospital ministry when I am a patient:

“Please, Lord,” I prayed, “don’t let me so self-absorbed that I miss the people you’ve put me in here to minister to.” I was lying in the emergency room of a local hospital, after having been brought in by ambulance because of chest pain. The doctor had just been in to say they were admitting me, so I knew it was time once again for my hospital ministry.

I have been hospitalized more than the average bear, and like most people who are sick and in pain, I had sometimes felt a sort of “me against them” mentality toward the people upon whom I was completely dependent. But then one time, years ago, the Lord opened my eyes to the needs of the caregivers, and a hospital ministry was born.

Now, whenever I am hospitalized, I ask for God’s help to focus on the nurses, doctors, techs, CNA’s, and anyone else I come in contact with while a patient. I pray that God will give me the words to say to minister to these souls who spend all their days ministering to others. This has completely changed the way I feel when I am hospitalized, benefitting me as well as the people I am there to bless.

Realize that the caregivers are human beings with needs of their own

The caregivers in a hospital are not like personnel in any other business. In the course of their daily jobs, they give so much, doing things for complete strangers that absolutely humbles me, and so often they do it with aching backs and sweet smiles. They give and serve and help and assist, but who is taking care of them? I’ve found that when I focus on them and ask how they are doing, or about their family, or their feelings about their job - they look startled, and then pour out their own particular woes to a sympathetic ear.

I figure it’s the least I can do, considering all they are doing for me, and yet this is not as selfless as it sounds, because like all of the things of God that seem counterintuitive to us when we are being self centered, this strategy actually makes me feel much better. When I take my eyes off me, and fix them on Him, I stop feeling scared, miserable and like a victim whose life is out of her control. Instead, I feel almost like a missionary in a foreign land. Missionaries face danger and uncertainty, let alone inconvenience and discomfort, but they know they have a job to do in service to their Savior, and I  likewise have a job to do in my hospital ministry.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

It is easy when I am frightened and vulnerable to only notice when someone does something wrong. The things that inconvenience me or cause me pain seem to loom large. But when I focus on ministering to the staff at the hospital, I begin to really notice the myriad things they do that also ministers to me.

Once I begin to notice what they do for me, it is easy to feel gratitude for their service. But I make a point to take it further. First, I try to say “thank you” a lot. I also praise them to their superiors if possible. Secondly, I try to offer a friendly smile. And lastly I try to remember to say and not just think the positive things I notice about them.

This time, for instance, I thanked the girl bringing the meal tray for being a bright spot in my day, and then after my meal, which included a superb soup, I wrote a note saying how delicious the soup was, and left it on the tray. When I woke one night to a vision of loveliness in the form of a beautiful young woman, I told her that she was so lovely I thought I had dreamed her. Anyone who was able to draw blood with out causing agony received special praise! Staff in a hospital are used to working with fretful, hurting people, and a little appreciation goes a long way in ministering to them.

Notice the human being, and not just their impact on you.

When I am intent on hospital ministry even though I am the patient, I try to pay attention to whomever looks tired, worried, happy, or anything I can ask about without being intrusive. That way they can tell me what they choose. The next day, when that person comes on duty, I can ask how their sick sister is doing, or whether their birthday party was as much fun as they had anticipated. Sometimes, I ask a family member to bring a little dish of mints or gum that I can offer the staff. Just little kindnesses that lets them know someone cares about them and that they don’t always have to be the servant.

Pray for the people you come in contact with.

When I am lying around in the hospital, I have extra time to pray, and the people I am ministering to are often in need of prayer. Sometimes, I tell them I am praying for them and sometimes not, as I feel led. I don’t always overtly witness, but to paraphrase St. Francis of Assisi, I try to always preach the gospel even when I don’t always use words. God leads as to who is open to more, and in our conversations I certainly talk the way I always do, which is full of references to prayer, blessings, God’s care and provision, and all the things I just naturally talk about, but I don’t force it, or expect a response from them. God knows what they need, and I ask Him to provide it. I do make sure to ask Him to let me know if He wants to provide more of an overt witness through me.

Be forgiving and merciful about mistakes.

This one can be the toughest part of a hospital ministry when I am the patient, because sometimes the mistakes cause me a great deal of pain, trouble, inconvenience or discomfort. When they have a hard time remembering to come to my room to help me get on or off a bedpan, for instance, it is very hard to be gracious. When they really hurt me putting in an i.v. or forget to give me my medicine on time, or leave me stranded without my call button in a precarious situation, fear or distress can make me forget that they are busy human beings, not malicious or lazy. This takes practice and prayer, and I’ve found the absolute best thing is to remember that my life and well being are not in their hands, but in God’s Who knows all things including my needs, and will supply them. It’s not out of line to ask Him for help and relief, or endurance, and the Savior Who died on the cross while forgiving those who put Him there gives me the grace I need to serve Him.

I never know when God will call me to my hospital ministry, but every time I am a patient, I know there is a purpose for it, and I try to be a servant of the living God, and “bloom where I’m planted.” This time, along with discovering that a major artery in my heart was 99% blocked and putting a stent in it, I also had another opportunity to engage in a hospital ministry when I was a patient.

Source: personal experience

Monday, September 19, 2011

Be Still, My Foolish Heart

My apologies for my absence recently. Unfortunately, I have a really good excuse. I began having chest pains again and on Labor Day found myself once again in an ambulance on my way to the Emergency Room. Another week in the hospital, another round of tests, including for pulmonary blood clots, another heart catheterization and once again, my heart was blocked in the same spot - so another stent; the third in the same place in six months.

Evidently my heart does not like metal stents very much. A bypass is looming, but hopefully (prayerfully) this stent will be the solution. The first time, I thought, "Whew, dodged a bullet! But now I'm fixed and all's well that end's well." Except it wasn't ended, after all. A few short months later I was back in getting a different kind of stent inside the first one. But the first one was a bare metal stent, and there was a 20% chance of restenosis - my heart had quickly formed extreme scar tissue - so they put in a drug-eluting stent. Only 5% chance of this one ever reblocking. But two months later, it did.

So now I "get it." I have an ongoing problem and they can't just fix it. They did tell me, however, that it was not my fault and that helped some. I have been doing everything I am supposed to. I actually crave vegetables now. Never saw that coming. I fix salads with spinach, radishes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, red cabbage, green cabbage, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, precisely 3 olives and sometimes a bit of chicken. That's probably more veggies in one salad than I used to eat in a year! And I like it. Very much. I don't even think of unhealthy foods as "real" food anymore. I've lost 30 pounds so far.

The exercise is a bit trickier, because every time this happens it sets me back to square one. I had just gotten to where I could exercise 30 minutes daily again. Now they tell me that in a few weeks, I can set the timer for 5 minutes and walk around inside my house, as long as I don't hurt and my heart rate doesn't go too high. Once I can tolerate that, I can add one minute every other day. I thought this was a major over reaction, so I tried it after one week. Turns out they were quite serious. I had chest pain for 3 days afterwards.

The medicines aren't much fun either. The slow release nitro pills gave me an excruciating headache for hours every day. But when I quit taking them I had chest pain. So I'm back on them. I chose headaches over chest pain, but this time the headaches aren't nearly so bad, so maybe I've adjusted, hallelujah!

All of this heart nonsense makes me think of my mortality. As a Christian, God has blessed me with peace, contentment and joy in this life. I love my life! But I have eternal life as well. This life is just the journey. Heaven is the destination, and the reward. I mean, really, even if you are having a great time on the ride, you still aren't sorry to arrive at Disney World, right? I am loving the journey, and I am looking forward to the destination. May God help me bloom where I'm planted, and glorify Him in whatever circumstances I find myself.
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