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May 23, 2007

Survived First Day of Hospital Volunteering

Thanks for all the encouragement in the comments - I made it through my first morning of visiting patients at the local hospital. I thought it went quite well, although I was exhausted near the end of the three hours. This may be because smiling non-stop or giving enthusiastic or empathetic facial expressions constantly for that length of time is tiring. It may be because of the intense listening and looking into people's eyes and giving them my full attention, and introducing myself so many times, not knowing whether the patients wanted company or not. Or it may be more as a result of going to bed after 1am last night. Oops. Not the best preparation. However, I had to get plans firmed up for our little trip to the Alps this weekend - Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. happens to be a holiday here in the U.K. as well (just called Late May Bank Holiday, not for any particular reason).

Husband is calling me to bed - I always like to answer that call, and especially tonight given last night's anomaly. Off I go!

May 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2007

God had Gill stay

On the way to Heathrow airport yesterday in the car, David and I prayed that God would send us to the perfect person to help us with our airline bookings.

We had a very complex set of things to accomplish regarding our summer plans, involving four travellers (only two of whom would be together the whole time), a travel voucher, a child rate, a separate booking to be reimbursed by David's employer for two legs, an upgrade with miles for one person's 11-hour leg alone, an unaccompanied minor on two legs, and multiple destinations to visit both grandmothers and some old friends on opposite sides of the U.S. The rate desk (over the phone) didn't know what to do with us.

There was no line at the ticketing desk and we walked straight up. A very kind and sincere airline employee stared at our plans for a few minutes, and then made a phone call. Down came Gill (pronounced Jill), who we found out has been working for United airlines for 40 years and "knows everything" (as her colleague told us). She had been working since 5am that morning, and it was now 3:15pm, over ten hours later. She had been debating to herself whether to stay late, since they were running short of employees for some reason. She stayed. Not only long enough to begin helping us, but she stayed half an hour past the closing time of the ticketing desk, until 4:45pm, to finish with all our travel needs.

God answers prayer. He is kind, even in most trivial matters.

May 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 18, 2007

Persevere to Volunteer

I am trying to volunteer some time weekly to help at a local hospital.

I say "trying" because it's quite a process to get to the point of actually going in and starting.

First I prayed and asked God to guide me to the right place (nursing home or hospital? Which one?).

I went for an interview at a local hospital, with the Director of Voluntary Services.

I filled out forms, and got two friends to write recommendation emails for me.

I went to meet the Ward Manager and see the ward I might work on.

I went to the hospital's Occupational Health office to be checked out to see if I were fit to work without doing myself any harm.

I drove 40 minutes to another, bigger, sister hospital to get my photo taken and made into a volunteer name badge.

I waited for a volunteer uniform to arrive in the post.

I thought I was set to begin next Wednesday. I was getting anxious thoughts about how I would do in trying to cheer some patients up, listen to them, maybe read to them. Would they even want me to talk to them? Would they be hostile? Who am I anyway?

Then I got another phone call from the Director of Voluntary Services, who is coordinating all this. It turns out I can't volunteer on the respiratory problems ward without having had a tuberculosis vaccine (which can ooze pus and apparently leaves a scar). I had signed a waiver about the TB vaccine at the occupational health office and the person there had said it was okay. But the ward manager disagreed. I can understand that.

So now they are looking into alternate wards for me, but it's not looking good. They don't want to be responsible for endangering my health. So I may have to either get the TB vaccine (I'm not wild about that) or give up the hospital volunteering idea.

Persevere to volunteer? I've already been vaccinated against tetanus, polio, diphtheria, measles, rubella, yellow fever, smallpox and pertussis. Should I add another new one to the list at age 35? Apparently babies in the UK are routinely vaccinated against TB at birth. I missed that one, being born in the U.S. I have no "BCG scar" to show. Decisions, decisions.

Update later that same day: They seem to have found a ward where I could volunteer without a TB vaccination. It's either a cardiac or stroke ward, not sure which. They still want me! Thanks, and keep leading, Lord!

May 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 09, 2007

Encouraging Day

Well, as soon as I typed that last post, I got that serious emotion out of my system and felt better.

Today a lot of positive things happened, e.g.

- I sent out an email as 7B Room Parent for our school, appealing for three volunteers to bring food or help at the Staff Appreciation Luncheon next week, and by the end of the afternoon, all three spots were filled.

- The Volunteer Coordinator at the local hospital called me and said she'd received the reference letters for me and wanted to make an appointment for next week to introduce me to the head of the ward I'll be volunteering in (God willing, if it is a fit for both sides). Progress in the long process...next I have to fill out a Criminal Records Bureau form (fortunately I'm already familiar with those since I did it for the school earlier in the year).

- Someone who saw the "Moms in Touch prayer group" flyer I put up in the school lobby called me! Eight of the ten tabs with my contact information have been torn off, but not a single person had called or emailed until today. She'd like to join us for our weekly hour of corporate prayer for our kids and the school and staff. We've only had two or three people usually lately, but yesterday we had a little surge to five.

- The Head of School asked my first name (again) and said she finds my smile "welcoming" in the mornings as I drop off my kids (as she welcomes the arriving families).

- An acquaintance at school mentioned out of the blue that she's looking forward to coming to our next dance evening (which is not until June 9th, a month away!).

- Another neighbour volunteered for the first time to host the next coffee for ladies on our street. This will be our fifth monthly meeting, and the networking has been great. There are fifteen ladies involved now - I've never known so many people by name in my neighborhood in any of the ten places I've lived. Hurrah for the email age for getting these coffee RSVPs flying (so that we can actually get together face to face once a month!).

- I had a nice talk with my 12-year-old son in the car this morning before dropping him off. One of those active listening sessions during which I looked straight in his eyes while he was talking, and mostly replied with "hmmm" or "oh..." and let him continue, occasionally interjecting, "So it sounds like you feel xyz..." It is so great to connect with one's pre-teen, practicing for the now and the not yet. It's amazing how helpful expressing one's feelings is, even if no solution is offered.

- After my 9-year-old daughter freaked out over her upcoming piano recital (with comments like "I want to quit piano"), I called her teacher and asked for a reduction in the number of pieces she would be required to play (with specific ones deleted from the program, ones Emily doesn't want to play). The teacher was more than accommodating, immediately striking them from the program, and saying that she had been going to call us, as the concert was going to be too long as planned. Emily was thrilled.

A "quite good" day, as the British would say (meaning excellent!).

May 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 08, 2007

Choking Up at His Kindness

I am in a state of near tearing up as I go about my business this morning, grocery shopping, tidying, laundry and all...in a bittersweet sea of emotion over the end of the truly kind visit of my mother these past 12 days. I see the grace of God in her constant giving and vibrant joy, in her determination and thoughtfulness and energy, in her care and creativity.

Thank you, Mom, most of all for sending David and me off for four blessed nights of marital peace and joy, knowing that Emily was having a blast in your safe and skilled care.

Thank you, too, for all the other innumerable acts of mercy you bestowed. A few particularly salient ones:
- Emily's hutch finally built after a couple of years of leaning against the wall in a cardboard box. Wow. I was going to get around to it someday.
- The kitchen windowsill cleared of the clutter...what a difference.
- My birthday dream salad bar. Have you recovered from the chopping yet?
- Providing a very talented and instructive fourth for bridge. What fun. Wish we could do that every night. Wouldn't it be fun to be driving distance from each other? In our dreams, right?
- Your strong foundation on Jesus, solid in faith and prayer and the Word. What a heritage you pass along to me.

God reminded me this morning of the bit I read to you this week out of my diary from freshman year in college, when I was missing you and Dad so much. The part reminding me that all the wisdom in you (more and more as you get older), all the knowledge in you, all your experience and good judgment, all your skills and insight, and indeed every good thing about you - God gave it to you. God planted all these seeds in you and watered them and made them grow throughout your life. And He gave you to me. And though you have left me, boarding an airplane to take you to another country not even connected by land to this one, God remains, and holds all that I find so attractive and encouraging in you - and so much more. This is comforting to me as I say goodbye and let you go in His care. I thank Him for letting me know you, and for the fabulous time we were allowed to spend together. I thank Him for my incredible husband and children, and my blessed home here, and for knowing the exact times and places where everyone should live (including you and me).

Thank you, God, for remaining with me 24/7, 365 days a year, and for being my All in All, for containing great depths of every kind of Goodness I could ever want to be near and bask in. Thank you for lending my mom to me. Bless her and keep her, watch over her ways and comings and goings.

May 8, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack