In My Dreams…Literally!!!

I was on call from yesterday at 8am to this morning at 8am.

That’s right…

The whole hospital…no wait…two whole hospitals (I can’t forget about the children’s hospital!) all to myself.

Quietness, peacefulness, serenity…

Yeah right!

I was busy and things were not quiet. I carry two pagers (one for regular calls and one for codes) and they both were quite active. Not to mention that both the adult and children’s hospitals are level 1 trauma centers. I tend to mention this fact frequently, and I apologize if anyone who has heard this before is annoyed that I mentioned it again. It just changes the whole dynamic of the hospital (it’s not your local community hospital) and the Emergency Center and Shock Trauma ICU (where all the really badly broken and injured people go) traffic pick up on the weekends, not that it really slows down during the week though. And you can hear the LifeFlight helicopters coming and going all day…AND all night…and you know that with each one someone, a person created by the triune God, is most probably in critical condition (or else LifeFlight wouldn’t have been called in the first place). Since the adult and children’s hospital are level 1 trauma centers, you don’t end up here for minor stuff. If you do end up here, it’s probably pretty serious. Our ICUs are large…in fact, it feels like the whole of both hospitals are one big ICU at times, with persons in multi-organ failure, near death, and all the crazy family dynamics you can imagine. (It has been my observation that if families have peer relational dynamics normally, the stress of a loved one in the hospital only magnifies these dynamic…and who gets called to ‘handle’ these cases…that’s right, the chaplain.)

All this is just to give some sort of a feel for what it’s like (anyone who might want to know first hand can take my last on call, I have just one more, I don’t mind at all). We have our hands full during the week when the rest of the staff chaplains and residents are here. To work both hospitals by oneself is just plain crazy!!! But I do it and by going to bed time I am wiped out physically, emotionally, and spiritually (even just hearing the helicopters all day wears me down). The problem is that most on calls, there isn’t really a going to bed time – just an everyone else going to bed time. This place doesn’t stop at 10pm, or midnight, or whenever your normal bedtime is. In fact from 8pm on till the early hours of the morning is the busiest time for the Emergency Center (and unfortunately they know how to get a hold of me). I get home after an on call often times having had a couple hours or no sleep.

So, it was quite pleasant when I lay down at around 2:30 this morning and didn’t receive any calls till 6:30 (aside from waking up every hour fearful I had missed a call). It wasn’t really good sleep, it wasn’t long sleep, but sleep nevertheless. And I had the oddest dream. You know how some dreams seem so realistic that it feels like you were really there, and not only that, but it affects you deeply emotionally. This was one of those sorts of dreams…

In my dream Christie (my wife, you may know her by C.C.), Damaris, and I were back in Abilene. I knew I was in A-town because we were driving down 1st street and we could see all the interesting, cool, weird(?), art pieces along the side of the road. Those from A-town will know what I’m talking about. Anyways, we were headed for Monks coffee shop where, get this, we were part of the leadership team meeting with Jerry (the pastor) and Kirk (who does the worship) for Crosspoint Fellowship (what we consider our home church and the church that ordained us). It seems that there was someone else supposed to be there (not sure who) and apparently my role was teaching pastor and ‘theologian-in-residence’. Hmmm, ‘theologian-in-residence’? I kinda like that! I suppose that if Ecclesia in Houston has an ‘artist-in-residence’ why can’t Crosspoint have a ‘theologian-in-residence? Makes sense to me (but then again, this is my dream). From there we went to my office at Logsdon Seminary. Yes, I had an office at Logsdon, and not only that…I was a professor at Logsdon. That’s right, a professor at Logsdon. And my office was right next to Dr. Dan Stiver’s (for those that don’t know I was Dr. Stiver’s graduate assistant for a time). I fetched my mail and it had a letter from a place (don’t know who or where) telling me that I had been approved for a grant to continue my doctoral research. I then noticed that I had all sorts of books and research materials strewn about my desk. There are several overseas doctoral university programs where one can write their dissertation stateside. I’m not sure which one – just for fun we’ll say Cambridge…after all it’s a dream so I might as well shoot high – but it seems that I was enrolled in one of these programs and in the process of writing my dissertation (hence the messy desk and the need for a research grant). After this, Christie (aka C.C.), Damaris, and I went for a walk around the HSU campus and enjoyed the cool, fall breeze. It seems that this was one of our favorite things to do, and even more remarkable perhaps…Christie had no need for her power chair or even her cane to help her get along.

Perhaps we can chalk this up to a bad chili cheese dog from the hospital cafeteria, but I think it’s more than that. Our family is at a very big transition and we face a huge amount of uncertainty of which way to go. Our chaplaincy residencies are coming to an end, which means, so is our income. The job market pretty much everywhere isn’t all that great and, even if we were looking (which we aren’t), chaplaincy jobs are not as abundant as we were led to believe when we got into this. Not to mention that the realization set in on me that around now is when I would be getting ready to start my first semester of PhD studies – which only serves to drive home the fact that I was summarily rejected by all the schools I applied at. I’m not gonna lie…it stings a lot!! But beyond that I am faced with the uncertainty of whether my family will be provided for. I know, I know…’have faith’ and ‘God will provide’ – and I believe these things. But we’re getting squeezed here in major way…know what I mean?

So, it is probably safe to say that this dream came from the depths of my anxiety. Ok, fair enough. But I still think there is more. I tend to be what some would call a dreamer – not simply the kind of dreams one has when they sleep – but in terms of having clear vision for where I would like to see myself in the future related to what I feel I am called to do. The thing is, I tend not to dream small. Right now though (whether it’s from that bad chili cheese dog or because I am simply exhausted) I am greatly discouraged.

My dream represents all the things that deep down I want most for not just my future, but the future of my family.

To come back to Abilene would be like coming home for me…for us. Houston is not the place for us. We have been extremely blessed by our time at Ecclesia Houston. Our pastor here, Chris Seay, demonstrates the deepest kind of love for Houston…a ‘called-by-God-to-be-here’ kind of love. While I love Ecclesia and I love all people I can’t say I have this kind of called by God kind of love for Houston. As I have reflected on it, I do feel this ‘called-by-God-to-be-here’ kind of love for Abilene.

Abilene is home!

And the opportunity to live more fully into the mission of the triune God with my Crosspoint Fellowship family would be a joy beyond description. And I don’t want to be perceived as grasping for leadership positions not mine, but my dream betrays me here. To have the opportunity to serve alongside Jerry and Kirk (and others) would be joy upon joy.

Crosspoint is home! (And if offered the title of ‘theological in residence’ I’d take it as it just sounds cool!)

As for being a professor at Logsdon (I’m sure Dr. Ellis is happy to hear that I’ve given myself a job) the chance to teach at my alma mater…to be next door to Dr. Stiver…to be a part of my Logsdon/HSU family…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t pass it up for anything.

Logsdon is home!

And it would be just icing to (somehow) get into a PhD program where we didn’t have to relocate from Abilene…from Crosspoint…from Logsdon. I have no idea what will happen here. Honestly my confidence is waning rather low right now. There are many stateside schools that would be great – Fuller, Baylor, Duke, Vanderbilt, and many others that are all great – and some of them offer stipends that come with being accepted. But the idea of not having to relocate is most appealing to me…the problem of course is paying for it (but of course that’s why I got a research grant in my dream!).

I would like to not have to leave home!

Honestly…sharing some of this feels rather silly. But I can still feel the effects of this dream. It was so real…and it was the last part that affects me most…that elicits feelings of hope and helplessness at the time. Our time in Houston has been so hard for Christie physically. We took walks together often while still in Abilene. But the heat mixed with humidity here has gradually taken its toll. It didn’t take long either. Within just a couple months it seemed the pain from her fibromyalgia had increased. After our first year here it had become more difficult but she was able to still walk unassisted. We had hoped that moving to a first floor (from a third floor) apartment would help things. But within the last year it started with the use of cane for her to get around. And then finally, the pain and fatigue were so great we had to arrange to get a power wheelchair for her to get around in. Without this chair she would not have been able to stay on in her residency.

I can think of no way to say this other than bluntly…being in Houston is killing my wife! This partly has to do with the stress of the chaplaincy/CPE mix. But it also has to do with the stress of living in Houston (this place is HUGE, there are lots and lots of people, and every time out on the freeway takes a year off your life). And, yes, it has to do the heat…but it also has to do with the humidity which NEVER lets up. The combination of the heat and humidity is brutal on any completely healthy person, for someone with fibro it is devastating – and the long term effects add up. We have had to add medications and increase dosages (and get a power wheelchair) to even help keep her functional. All this has drained what little savings we had or might have now. In fact, her rheumatologist has told us that it’s best if we don’t live in the area any longer. He advises that we move to where there is less humidity.

The image of Christie walking without her chair or cane haunts me. It elicits hope and helplessness at the same time. Christie needs time to rest. She needs a Sabbath. We both do, but especially Christie. Beyond any of my personal career, ministry, or life goals I want more than anything for my wife to just feel better. For this we are moving from Houston, hopefully to Abilene, but at this point there is tremendous uncertainty. Will I have a job that will enable her to stay home and get the rest she needs? We’ve got applications out but currently there is only a deafening silence. At this point the reality for us is that we aren’t even sure where we are going to live.

I’ll admit, most of this is very raw for me at the moment. My question is: will any of these dreams come to fruition? Each of these dreams represents a piece of who I am…each represents an element of not only what I’m called to do, but called to be as well. But I can’t make any of this happen. I need help. No…it’s even more drastic than that. All we have to rely on right now is the faithfulness of Christ. But perhaps this is the way it’s supposed to be…with Jesus as our everything. Thank you all for your prayers!

A Quick Update & Some (Urgent) Prayer Requests

Hello.

Knock, knock.

Is anybody there?

Its been a long time…I know. I haven’t been faithful like I had wanted to be with this blog.

I confess…

I admit it…

I had good intentions last summer. Really. I Did. But between packing, moving, and Christie having a surgery the blog just fell by the wayside. I thought, “Hey, I can pick it back up in the fall when things settle down.” But after my CPE/chaplaincy residency started last August, well, I found I seriously underestimated the time (and emotional) requirements involved. Its hard to explain, but the last two years (Christie did two years of residency) have both dragged on slowly (there were times I thought they would never end) and flown by quickly (its still yet hard to believe its almost over with). There’s a lot that could be said on both sides of the spectrum about both mine and Christie’s CPE experience (we’ve learned a lot but it hasn’t all been positive), but I won’t take up space for that here. The first most important thing to say is that neither of us are pursuing chaplaincy positions. Christie may do so in the future if it’s a God sort of thing but for now we both need a break. But the second most important thing to say in the moment is that it is almost over. August 31st is the last day for both Christie and I. After that we are done. No more. Finished.

A very important question then is, what are we doing after August 31st? This question, as it turns out, is the provocation for bringing this blog out of its deep slumber.

Let’s see…the only way I can think to put this is frankly. The practical reality is that after August 31st the paychecks stop. I really hate to condense everything down to finances but right now that is what’s staring us in the face. We started a while back peppering the city of Houston (and surrounding areas) with applications. The result has been just one nibble. Other than that…nothing…just deafening silence.

Add to this that the climate and humidity has not been kind to us. We believe it to be a primary factor in the downturn in Christie’s health. Most will remember that she has Fibromyalgia, which can be debilitating. I’ve got to tell everyone, my wife is my absolute hero. She has displayed faith and endurance, sitting with patients in dire suffering, and working often completely unreasonable on call schedules. And she has done it being in terrible pain most of the time. Yes, we worked with her doctor to treat the Fibro but, though not the only factor, the Houston climate seemed to counteract all the medications. The result…at first she just used a cane…but she now goes to work in a power wheelchair (thankfully paid for by insurance) because the amount of walking at the hospital is too much for her. And while both of us have previous history with migraines, these have also become much more severe for us (especially during the summertime). These health issues have also wiped out whatever financial cushion we had saved up.

So, we have been doing a lot of soul searching…and praying…to decide what to do next. This decision has been made more difficult because of the community and mission we have found in our church, Ecclesia, and our small group, the SLuGs. But, under the circumstances, we feel that our time in Houston is coming to a close. True, this is motivated in large part by a move to a dryer climate which will hopefully help Christie’s health, but we also feel that God is in this.

So, the upshot here is that we are six weeks from the end of our residencies (and paychecks), we don’t have jobs lined up yet, and oh yeah, the lease on our apartment is coming up and we had to give notice whether we were moving out or not. We told them we were moving (to not move out would mean to sign another at least six month lease). Where are we moving too? Well, that is not totally certain at this point. We have job applications out in San Angelo and Abilene, TX. Our preference is Abilene (we would love to come back home to Crosspoint Fellowship) but San Angelo would be good too and we have a plan Z just in case (but I’m not going there until we absolutely have too!).

So what am I asking for? Though it would be helpful (just being honest) its not money. When we moved to Houston God graciously provided for us through some dear friends in this way, without whom we would not have made it. And while we will probably need the help, this is between whomever and God. What we need most I think is prayer…lots and lots of prayer. What would we like prayer for? Here’s a short list of the basics:

Pray that God would move us to where He wants us (my first preference is Abilene) and that we have a place to live.

Pray that we would be able to pay rent.

Pray that we would be able to pay our car note.

Pray that Christie and I would be able to find jobs…quickly (we’ve got applications out).

Pray that we would be able to pay our bills (I told you I was including the basics).

Pray that we would be able to maintain health insurance for Christie.

Pray that we would be able to be involved missionally in a local church where our gifts can be put to use for God’s kingdom (again, we would love to be back home at Crosspoint). I can’t overstate the importance of this one and how passionately I feel about this.

Pray that we would be able to work out the proper schooling option for Damaris (we would like to homeschool her again).

Pray for healing to come to Christie’s body.

After what have been the most intense and stressful two years for us, where quite honestly we have been beaten up a bit, pray that we will both have time to rest and enjoy a Sabbath (preferably in the mountains).

Also, this may sound sort of strange, but pray for my ability to dream and to pursue those dreams. I applied to five PhD schools and received rejection letters from all of them. It would be easy now to give up on this but its something I firmly believe God wants me to do. Pray that God would keep this dream burning in my heart. Pray also that I would be able to pay for application fees for another round of applications and the fee to retake the GRE.

Pray also that I would have the discipline to keep writing on this blog. Its something that I feel I need to be doing (despite how boring it may seem to some). 🙂

So there it is. We are probably crazy, in fact, I’m sure we are. I’m just reminded of the last time we were in this position. About six weeks before we moved from Abilene to Houston we had given notice that we were moving out of seminary housing, had no jobs lined up, and at that point didn’t even know we would end up IN Houston. We had to rely on the faithfulness of God to get us through. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen but this sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it.

One final thing…while we are looking at Abilene and San Angelo we want to remain open to whatever God has lined up for us: Ft. Worth…Dallas…Austin…Lubbock…Amarillo…Colorado…wherever. So, if there is an opportunity we are missing or don’t know about let us know. In the meantime we appreciate the prayers on our behalf.