Worship Amidst a Pandemic and other thoughts…

Where to begin friends….

Many of us have been stuck at home or working from home for the past 4 months. Those of use who are essential workers, have continued to go to work each day, so day to day hasn’t changed much. At least for me, my day to day, didn’t change much except just staying home when I got home from work.

No more gym friends.

No more coffee dates.

No more date nights out to explore our city.

Instead we go more Netflix, more time together as a couple. Honestly, it’s the most time we’ve had the chance to spend together in our 3 years of marriage. But it’s all different.

And that doesn’t even really being to explain the pivot that changed at church. For churches around the county, and the world, there are new ways to worship that are emerging before our very eyes. I’m sure you’ve seen, many churches going live, sharing videos of worship, or mid-day/mid-week formations. Maybe that’s just me? (pastor’s wife/clergy friend problems?). And while all of this is so great, we still gain some sense of community. But it’s all so very different than what we could have ever imagined. Here we are, on Sunday March 8th, 2020. We didn’t know this would be the last Sunday in the church for 4 months…

Our congregation is mostly older adults, and those who are at high risk. So we went all online for worshiping starting on March 15th. The way I have watched my husband pivot to online so quickly, learning to use Zoom more than we ever thought we would before (why didn’t we put stock in Zoom??), and learning how to do correct lighting in our home, edit videos, and create worship packets for those in our congregation who do not have internet access. And more. I have watched all my clergy friends in awe, amazement, and also feeling worried and burdened for them. This work is not easy without a pandemic. But their willingness to pivot, their continuous calls to this work, and the way they are sharing love and hope even during these dark times is to be commended. To any of my clergy friends reading: you are a blessing. I am grateful for you.

Worshiping online, at home, with more distractions is more than many of us are used to. A typical Sunday morning (pre-pandemic) for us looks like this:

-My husband wakes up early and gets to church around 7:30 am to practice his sermon, set-up for worship, and pray (and insert other pastoral duties here..)

-I go to a Lutheran church at 8 am, because I still need to be spiritually fed and be reminded of my roots

-I go home around 9:15 am to do some quick chores before worship

-I get to our church around 10:15 am for worship at 10:30 am

-Home around 12 pm for lunch and the afternoon at home (or running errands, etc.).

*During the pandemic, here’s what worship has looked like:

-sit around (well I get used to sleeping in a little) and then we got a dog to walk and cuddle with along with our cat, and twiddle our thumbs until about 10:15 when we open the zoom for worship (and repeat x 4 months). Oh and finally get the chance to worship with some of our clergy friends (biggest blessing of online worship).

On Sunday July 5th, my husband, along with his team from church, decided to return to in-person worship. I was a little nervous (and I still am) but I am proud of our congregation for forming a team, making a plan, and laying out guidelines for what in-person worship looks like. So with a lot of things in place like no singing, masks for every who attends, only one way in and out of the building, dismissing members by rows, and chairs set up in pairs 6 feet part, worship has begun.

Here’s the first time I was in the church since March, and it felt weird… I’m not used to seeing the church so empty. After 5 years of seeing my husband in ministry, I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen a sanctuary this empty. Then there are the chairs set up in pairs all measured 6 feet apart to keep social distance, which means our sanctuary is now holding about half capacity of what we would before the pandemic. We normally have more chairs than this set out, so it all looks weird, and it feels weird.

Now for me personally, I have not returned to worship, and that’s my choice. Given the setting I work in (skilled nursing), I’m still staying extra careful. I don’t feel comfortable returning to in-person worship yet. My building has been through a lot throughout this whole pandemic, and I’m not taking that lightly. So whatever I can do to keep myself safe I’m doing, and right now, that includes not going back to worship. So how in the world does an OT think that all of this worship from home during a pandemic is related to the world of OT?

Well, for many, this time of pandemic/stay at home orders/work from home/life is not as usual has been a time of occupational deprivation. Occupational deprivation is defined as β€œprolonged restriction from participation in necessary or meaningful activities due to circumstances outside the individual’s control.” (theothub.com, 2020). AKA, occupational deprivation is a prolonged time spent at home with restrictions from social outings, gatherings, and anything fun except essential trips brought on by something outside of our control, the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, one of my most meaningful occupations is going to worship each Sunday. So my Sunday morning routine from earlier, is all wrong. I have been out of my habits and routines for 4 months (as all of us have).

For you, your occupational deprivation may not even include the slightest hint of worship/church and that’s okay. Maybe your occupational deprivation is the Friday nights out with friends/work friends, taking a lunch break at a new restaurant by your work, spending a weekend away with friends, flying to travel across the county or the world, or participate in marathons/5Ks, etc. You get the point right? We have all had something taken away from us that is outside of our control. And it sucks. Let those feelings play out. Whether you are still working right now (like me and other essential workers) it sucks because of the politics of debates about masks and having feeling jealousy of all your friends who get to work from home and find more time for themselves (maybe that’s just me, and that’s okay too). Or if you are stuck at home, maybe alone, that also sucks. You may be jealous of friends who are married, have roommates, or living with families. Maybe you even decided to go back to live with your parents for a time for your own mental health. All of that is okay.

But what the heck do we do about all this now?? Well, isn’t that the eternal question of this pandemic? With tensions running high from local, state, and federal levels about mask wearing, schools reopening (or not), and the racism that is finally coming to the forefront of many people’s minds in our country. A freaking pandemic in some senses seems like the least of our worries? Well, not for me. It’s still top in my mind. But all of these things are related. There is a lot of fear being spread across any and all forms of media you consume. And it’s okay to take a break.

It’s okay to delete your fFcebook/Instagram/twitter account to spend time on yourself.

It’s okay to not be reading books about anti-racist work if you are not in a safe, or healthy space to do it.

It’s okay to have strong desires to see your friends (and sometimes see them in socially-distanced ways or zoom dinner dates).

It’s okay to feel sad that your work made hard choices that impacted you significiantly.

It’s okay to feel scared about what your work could do that could impact your job significantly.

It’s okay to be scared about starting your career during a pandemic.

But it’s also okay to be grateful for what you have: more time at home, reconnecting with friends and loved ones, spending more time outside to enjoy the beauty of creation around you, and so much more.

I know this was a long one (it’s been a while guys). But I hope I can leave you with some home. I hope you take some time to reflect on your own story, your own journey during these past 4 months and find some good.

There is still room to grow, still room for hope, still room for love.

All my hopes and love to you,

An OT working during a pandemic with lots of feelings

My privilege

How can I, as a white, middle-class, privileged female, respond to what is happening in our world to friends in the African American community? How can I respond to all those minorities who feel scared, discouraged, and afraid for their lives, each and every day in ways I cannot even begin to fathom.

I have no words really, for the destruction, pain, agony, loss, and grief in the families of those who have been killed. For their neighborhoods which are being destroyed. For their communities filled with so much grief.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a responsibility to speak out. As an occupational therapist, I work with clients who do not look like me. I have worked with clients who don’t speak English as their first language, clients who do not have the same skin color or identity as me. I still work with them to give them the best care. But I’ve also had to check my bias a the door for some clients. It is hard work. I never used to think about it as much as I do now.

So, for this post, I’m going to share something I wrote in a writing circle I am a part of shortly after Ahmaud Aubrey was killed. After Ahmaud’s case was made more public, my husband and I ran 2.23 miles for the date he was killed. I don’t like to run, but I didn’t stop. Something about this was different for me. Something about this made me more angry than others before. I’m sorry, to all my African American friends for what is happening and I’m sorry it has taken me this long to find the right words to say. These words are mine, raw, and still learning. These words are for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, and so many others who have gone before and for my friends now who live in more fear than ever before.

Hard it must be, to no look like me.

To know anywhere you may look, you may be met with hateful stares. Hurtful words.

Slang, that like a bee sting, sting you to your very soul.

How hard it must be, to not look like me.

What can I do?

What can I say?

I cannot apologize the hurt away.

I cannot erase all the years of hate, the tears of hurt souls, the heartaches from lives lost too soon.

I cannot even begin to imagine how life must be like. I cannot fathom what all it means to look and be seen as different.

But I’m doing my best to love, to show support.

Solidarity.

Dignitiy.

And grace, so much grace.

Grace to myself, grace to my friends.

Grace to my heart.

I am privledged. I never used to think or feel that all the time until now.

Now when I look at my friends, my work, my church, my neighborhood. They all look like me.

But why do I still feel fear? When I see someone who doesn’t look like me.

I claim to be love, to know love, to accept all.

And yet, and yet this little voice speaks through “You don’t know what they’re going to do.”

But why is fear here? Is there really any need?

Is there any place for fear to be?

Who has the final say?

Fear or love.

My vote is for love.

An Easter Blessing

Hi friends! It does not even seem real that Easter Sunday is tomorrow morning. During this crazy time, worship has looked so different. I wanted to write to you today, to share an Easter blessing with a written liturgy from a book we have in our home.

First, I wanted to share what church has looked like for us from home. Bread and wine (or grape juice), a candle to be reminded of God’s love for us in this dark world, and church members on Zoom. This looks crazy, different, and feels weird. The lines between church and work are blending even farther than normal due to my husband working from home. So I am trying to take the time to slow down and sit in the moments that are quiet and free.

So here’s what I really wanted to share since I came across it. It’s from a book called Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey. I wanted to leave you with this Easter blessing from this book titled A liturgy for Medical Providers. (any bold places are my own emphasis). I know that there may be some of you reading who may not believe at all, and know that that is okay from me. No judgement here, just love. I know that this liturgy can speak to and work for all of my medical professional friends; nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, staff at hospitals or nursing homes, and so many more. Whether you are an essential worker or not, if you are feeling over-worked and overwhelmed, or just trying to figure out a new normal at work and at home. This is for you, this is for me, this is for all of us. I hope you enjoy.

A Liturgy for Medical Providers

“O Christ our Healer, There is no end to malady, sickness, injury and disease in this broken world, so there is no end to the line of hurting people who daily need my tending. Therefore, give me grace, O God, that I might be generous with my kindness, and that in this healing and care-taking vocation my hands might become an extension of your hands, and my service a conduit for your mercy.

For it is so often not an easy place to be– so near to suffering, to injury, to pain, to emergency and fear and confusion, and sometimes even to dying and death and grief–but I believe it is exaclty the sort of place you would be, O Lord, amongst those who hurt. So let my practice of medicine be centered in an understanding of your heart.

Let me practice medicine because you are a healing God who feels compassion and extends mercy. Let me practice medicine because you are near to those who are in need, to those who face grief and loss. Let me practice medicine as a willing servant of your redemption, pushing back–by means of my vocation–the effects of the fall. Let my presence in this place lend a human face to your compassion.

Even when my schedule is crammed with appointments, rounds, or duties, let me never view my patients as mere tasks on a to-do list. Give me grace instead to be always–even in our brief encounters–attentive and responsive to the hearts of human beings made in your image. Let me extend kindness and mercy even to those who are too angry, frightened, bitter, or in pain to respond with anything but venom. Let me especially love them, for they suffer–even more than from physical ailment–from a lack of understanding or experience of your overwhelming grace and mercy and love. Let their time with me be to them a taste that might awaken a hopeful hunger in their hearts.

I can do none of these things on my own. Apart from your grace, I have no grace to give. So give me your grace in greater measure, O Lord. Let me find also, in the midst of such constant need, a rhythm of service and rest that will enable my own soul to be tended and nourished–that in the time I spend with patients I will have a deeper repository of patience and kindness to share with them. Teach me how to better balance my duties and my days, so that this would would not make me absent from the lives of my family and friends and church. Let me be well-woven into these communities and relationships, enjoying ample time with them, being available to them, and caring for their needs even as I allow them to care for mine. Let me never be so consumed by my vocation that those closest to me suffer negligence.

I would not just be a doctor or a nurse or a medical provider, O God. I would be a minister of your healing and compassion at work in your world. I would be a living witness of your love expressed in a practical care of people. I would be your disciple in this place, at this time, among these people. So give grace, Lord Christ. Give me grace this day and all days, that I might serve you well by loving and serving others in this healing trade, ever laboring in view of that day when your kingdom will be fully realized, at the greater mending of the world, at the great ending of all ills. Let me play a small part in that great work, today. Amen.”

May it be so friends. May this fine you with peace, love, and care during these trying times.

Love and peace to you,

Lauren

Holy Week

Happy Sunday friends! It’s a different week in the life of the church. For those of you who are either not of the Christian faith tradition, or who don’t follow any faith tradition at all, I thought I would say what this week is and how it’s different worshiping from home than being at church (thanks Sarah!).

I’m going to preface this explanation by saying I am not ordained, I did not attend seminary, and I am still learning more and more about my holy religious traditions. This is based on my own experience as a woman who grew up Lutheran, who still believes and attends a Lutheran church, and who is married to a Methodist pastor. I am someone who also believes and attends a Methodist church as well. Another post about how all this happened, but that’s for another day.

This week is Holy Week. Let me back up for minute. The past 6 weeks (excluding Sundays) we have been celebrating the season of Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (which this year was on February 26th) and is the 40 days (roughly six weeks) excluding Sunday’s that leads us to Easter. Lent is traditionally a time to remember our sins and usually followers of Christ will “give something up” for Lent. Whether that’s a food group (sweets) or social media (like Facebook). On Ash Wednesday, when you attend an Ash Wednesday service, you are marked with a cross made of ashes (these ashes I have learned since being married to a pastor are the burnt palms from palm Sunday the previous year) and as the pastor places them in the shape of the cross on your forehead they say “remember from dust you were, and to dust you will return”. Quite a grim reminder of how precious life is. And looking back now, it feels right and fitting that this was one of the last in person worship services I attended before COVID-19.

So, Lent is a tough season for many reasons. It is long, longer than the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas, but there is so much sweetness in the resurrection. Now, before I get to ahead of myself, let me say that this week, beginning today, on April 5, 2020, is Palm Sunday. This begins the week of what we in the church call Holy Week. Holy week is the week between Lent ending and Easter Sunday, which will be next Sunday, April 12, 2020. *see this picture from my husband and I last Easter*

The last Sunday we worshiped in our church building was on Sunday March 8th, 2020. This was the last Sunday before our state governor had made social distancing and no social gatherings. So let’s talk about church for a minute as an occupation. I want to think about it in terms of the P-E-O model. This model stands for Person, Environment, Occupation model. As I’ve said in an earlier post, religious and spiritual practices is listed as an occupation in our Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, so this model is appropriate. I like this model a lot for my everyday practice as an OT because it’s easy to understand and it helps me really identify what specific things I should consider for the person, the environment, and their occupation which they are engaging in.

On a typical Sunday at church, the person is myself, and all our church members who attend worship. At our church, that includes mostly older adults. We love them dearly. They bring wisdom, light, and life to our lives. We have time to greet one another before, during, and even after the service.

The environment is our church building. Our church is a one story building with no steps, so easy for all of our members to get in and out. It’s a smaller church, but that makes it feel more life family and more like home.

The occupation is worship. For us, that includes a gathering songs, announcements, scripture readings, a children’s moment, a sermon from my husband, offering, prayer, and then closing songs.

Flash forward to now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I blogged about my feelings last week. Now here I am, talking about how church is impacted by this. Many churches in our area already have been or have the capability to live stream their worship services. Many of those churches still are (under the guidelines with less than 10 people in the building). I am grateful to be able to see more of our own clergy friends and worship with them through this online media (because we wouldn’t normally be able to worship with them on a Sunday morning because we are worshiping with our church family).

Our church does not have the capabilities to do live streaming from our church. We are a smaller church full of older adults, so our technology is a little behind. So my husband has had to get creative on how he delivers his sermons and worship experience. The first Sunday we worshipped from home, he just recorded his sermon and posted it on our church’s Facebook page. The next Sunday, we recorded a worship experience from our kitchen table on Saturday night live on Facebook and recorded it so that it could be published the next day on our churches Facebook page (*it took all the devices in our house to pull this one off!)

To say this is an adjustment is almost an understatement. My husband is learning and navigating how to worship to our older members via online-worship and Zoom meetings. They have met us with grace, love, and a willingness to learn and grow with us. I am so thankful for a group of people who are willing to grow and learn on this huge learning curve that is online worship.

So where does that leave us on Sunday mornings? Well now, instead of driving to our church building, I just walk to my kitchen. Many others still go to church to record. Others who are worshiping from home sit on the couch in comfy clothes with their pets near by. It’s a weird feeling. I miss my church people. I miss our greeting times and our singing all together. I miss watching my husband preach from the stage instead of just at our kitchen table.

But this morning, when I was doing my Palm Sunday reading, I was struck in awe and reminded that this feels a lot like the early church. The disciples who followed Jesus, they followed him to the city. They got him a colt (a young donkey) because Jesus asked them too. And Jesus road in through the streets, people laid down their clocks and waved palm branches, or perhaps even their hands if they didn’t have palm branches. They wanted to see Jesus. They thought Jesus was the kind of king that could save them with weapons and harsh words. Instead, Jesus saved them, and all of us, with his kindness and the upside-down way he viewed the world. Always looking out for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the marginalized.

Today I was reminded, that like the early Christians, we are not worshiping in buildings. And, like them, we don’t really know what is coming next. As Christians, we know this week ends in darkness, death, and despair, but we also know there is light in Easter morning. What we don’t know, is how COVID-19 will play out. We don’t know when we’ll get back to church. But we do know that Jesus love us, Jesus has seen death, destruction, and pain, and Jesus will be with us through this.

Whether you believe anything, some, or none of what I said, that’s okay with me. I am here to share my story and how I see God moving in the world through my place and role as a pastor’s spouse and an occupational therapist. I want you to know that you are loved. You are cared for. You are important. Whatever role you may be playing right now, an essential worker, a parent leaning how to home school, someone adjusting to working from home, or just doing your part to stay home to help flatten the curve; I see you. I appreciate you. I love you.

May you use this week to see the good things coming. The signs of sping in buds on a tree, a nice walk outside in the sunshine, the smile of a loved ones face, the gratitude for your job or extra time at home.

May you be well. May you stay safe. Wash your hands.

Love and peace from this occupational therapist to you and yours.

~Lauren

Grief during this pandemic world

Hi friends. It’s been a while. I’m sorry to say that life got the better of me, and I wasn’t feeling inspired. I had started a blog post last week, but that one didn’t feel quite right either. But last night, I was on a Zoom call with some amazing OT practitioners and students and I felt inspired again. So here we go.

Let’s back up to when life felt “normal”. Three weeks ago, at the beginning of March, was Christmas for my husband and I. This year for Christmas, we had each decided to gift one another an experience to spend time together at a later time than just one gift on Christmas. Three weeks ago, that was when our gifts came to fruition. For me, it was seeing my all time favorite author Jodi Picoult, in person! I was such a fan girl!! She signed two of my books!! *see picture of my excitement!* I have read every single one of her books. She spoke about her writing process for her two most recent books, which I adore and highly recommend (Small Great Things, and A Spark of Light).

Then that same weekend, on Sunday, I took my husband and I to go to see our favorite band Rend Collective in concert *again, cue the fan-girl moments! It was a late night, and made for a rough Monday morning at work, but it was totally worth it!

Now, during both of these events, the epidemic with COVID1-9 was going on, it just wasn’t on everyone’s radar like it is now. I mean, it was but it wasn’t. During the event with Jodi Picoult, she mentioned that all of her author friends were asking about what their protocol was while they were out speaking (meaning no hand shakes or hugs). Talk about disappointment a little when I knew I would not be able to touch my favorite author for a hand shake. And when we went to that concert, we weren’t really aware of the impact that COVID-19 was having in the US or would have. It seems crazy to think that just three weeks ago, life was okay. We could go out to get ice cream, we could meet up with friends, and invite people over, and on and on. I was planning to go on a trip to Boston for a conference full of OT’s that I know and love through meeting online that I was going to meet in real life! Then the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference got cancelled.

And then everything seemed to change at once. I don’t think right now I can accurately put into words all the changes that have occurred in order (because all the days are blurring together), but I’ll share a little of my experience. I work in a skilled nursing facility, so I work with the most vulnerable population that could be affected by this virus. So about 2 weeks ago, we had a visitor limitation policy, not super strict, but not easy either. Now, we have a strict no visitor policy. No outside family or people entering the building. I have been heartbroken to see family members standing outside loved ones windows to talk to them. As for employees, we have had to fill out a screen form and get our temperatures taken every day when we enter for the better part of the last 2 weeks. Recently, we have had to have our temperatures taken when we leave the building as well. Let me tell you how nerve wracking that is. As the only OT in the building, if I were to have my temperature be 100.4 or above, who would take care of my patients? And then on the flip side, this small voice in my head says “what if I’m a carrier?”. I can’t know for sure. I may not ever know. And I wash my hands like crazy, both at work and at home. And wiping down surfaces, both at work and at home. I have always taken hand washing pretty seriously, but now I’m on overdrive. Like we all are. But really, does anyone else stop and wonder, when you see empty aisle’s of soap and hand sanitizer “was no one washing their hands before this?!” That’s what I’m thinking!

Why is it that when something bad happens, then we change our ways? Why is it that we wait until the last possible second to go “maybe I should do something differently?”. I can’t answer that, but it’s something to think about. Something to ponder, and something I have been wondering.

Now, let’s get to the spiritual stuff. I mean, this is OT and church, right? If you have made it this far, I commend you. And I hope you’ll keep reading with me for a bit. So 3 weeks ago, we worshiped in our own church. Then our governor in Ohio said that no gathering of 100 (I think that was first) but then it shrunk to 50 (about how many we have at our church on a Sunday) and then down to no more than 10. So my husband, and many other pastors we know in our state and around the country, had to switch the way they do ministry very quickly. Our church, well our church isn’t set up for online worship. We don’t normally live stream our services on Sunday mornings like a larger church, and we don’t have online giving. So my husband has had to adapt quickly to recording and posting his sermon, to a Facebook live of a service from our kitchen table. Talk about change! We have a Zoom account for the church to host meetings, prayer, and small groups and have been working on online giving. Just small steps in this movement. It makes me feel more like the early church, meeting in “secret”, or meeting just in homes to surround each other with love and care. But it feels so hard to that do from a distance. How can we really be community to one another when we can’t meet in person? How can we share our gifts and talents when we don’t meet in the same building? That’s what we are all figuring out right now. I have been blessed and amazed by the way people have been using their gifts for good in this world despite not worshiping together in the same building.

I say all this to say, I am grieving. I am grieving the loss of not being able to connect with my friends. Grieving the loss of not being able to attend the AOTA conference and meet up with some amazing OT’s. To learn and grow as new practitioner. And so much more that is so hard to put into wards right now.

Grief. We are all feeling it right now, whether it’s the loss of job, the decrease in hours, the uncertainty of the future, loneliness from not being to meet up with friends. And we have all had to go through these stages of grief super quickly. Like, we don’t even have time to think about it. I was listening to a podcast yesterday and the guest was saying it’s important to check in with ourselves. Now, my personality type is wired to help others before I help myself. This leads to burnout, stress, and many tears (which I’ve had a few during this time). But I am finding more and more that I need to check in with myself. So I’m going to offer something easy you can do.

Turn inward, take a deep breath, and ask yourself “how are you doing?”. Once you have identified that feeling, take another deep breath in and out, and ask yourself, “where do I feel this in my body?”. This is what gets me! Once I can say where I feel it in my body, it makes it more tangible and real. It means that I can place my hand on that part of my body and breath into that space. It allows me space to breath and begin to heal. Now this is not perfect, but it’s a start. A start towards healing of self, of feeling a little more whole again. Of just allowing ourselves the chance to breathe, to feel our emotions, and know that it’s okay to have these feelings. You are not a bad person if you feel this way. You are not a bad health care professional if you come home exhausted and tired from helping others all day. You are not a bad person if you are grieving because you lost your job. You are allowed and need to feel these feelings to begin to heal, even if it’s just for one breath a day.

I want to leave with you with a few quotes to help you get through this crazy time. The first is a verse from scripture. I am not one of those people who use scripture as the end all, be all answer. I offer it in a state of love, hope, and light. This is a dark time, so we all need a little bit more light in our hearts and minds.

Romans 8:38-39 (the NIV translation)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

May you know that there is love here in this dark world. Know that you can, and are, a place of love and light right now, wherever you find yourself: at work or sheltering in place. Love can help calm our fears and worries.

And here’s one more from a book I am reading (Untamed by Glennon Doyle), I think I’m going to make a sign of this for my house. “No fear in. No fear out. Only love in. Only love out.”

May you go out in love, wherever you work, whether it’s a home or on the front lines (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, truck drivers, grocery store workers, restaurant carry-out workers, custodians and janitorial staff in these buildings and more), may you go out knowing you are loved and you are sharing love.

All my love, peace, and hand washing grace to you.

Lauren πŸ™‚

-one of many who are working and figuring out this new normal.

What does spirituality have to do with Occupational Therapy?

I wanted to address why this topic is so important to me and how I see the tie between occupational therapy and the church. Also, this is something I am seriously passionate about. And what else can I do but share what I love?

First, I need to share how it fits into OT and then I’ll talk some more about what this means to me.

This book is called the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process. Also known as, the OT bible (well at least that’s the way I think of it). This is the book that you learn inside and out in your first year of OT school (at least we did in my program). Because before you can really understand OT, you must understand the basics of what OT is all about, which is all in this book. This book is broken up into 9 different tables, so today I’m going to tell you about the parts of this book that talk about spirituality.

Did you know that religious and spiritual activities and expressions is an occupation? I had to check that! It is a part of table 1 in the Occupational therapy practice framework. Religious and spiritual activities and expressions is defined for us as: “participating in religion ‘an organized system of beliefs, practices, rituals and symbols designed to facilitate closeness to the sacred or transcendent’ (Moriera-Almeida &Koenig, 2006, p 844) and engaging in activities that allow a sense of connectedness to something larger than oneself or that especially meaningful, such as taking time out to play with a child engaging in activities in nature, and helping others in need” (Spenser, Davidson & White, 1997).*

Now, this is a lot to take in, I know. But values, beliefs, and spirituality are also a part of the second table in the practice framework as a part of what makes us each unique as people and as clients in occupational therapy. I know this is a lot of OT lingo, but bear with me.

The point to me is, there is a direct link between religion and OT. And I mean this as any religion you identify with, or don’t identify with. Maybe for you, religion is just spending quality time with your family, time in nature, yoga, meditation, etc. The list could go on, because the point is that each of these unique expressions of our own religion and spirituality make us who we are. And that for me, is the beauty of humanity and the beauty in the world I love to call OT.

For all my church friends, this is important for us because I, as a registered and licensed occupational therapist, have something to bring to the table on church committees, in worship meetings, and helping you and the church address accessibility needs in your church building. But it also means I have something to bring to the table to help identify ways we can better serve those who are marginalized, mistreated, or underrepresented in our world and in the church. This is the most important part to me and where my passion really shines (just ask my husband about all the passionate monologues and talking with my hands I do on this subject). Because, I believe that everyone has goals and dreams, everyone has something deep inside them that brings them connection and joy. My job as an OT, is to help light that fire within them to enjoy and engage in their own occupations, whether that be within the church or outside of the church.

So I want to end with this, whether you liked this post or not, whether or not you got anything out of this post or not. This is my way to share with the world my passion and my unique OT lense. Becuase I have a lot to offer this world, in and outside the church. Every day as an OT I feel more and more led into my calling as an OT and that I am the hands and feet of Jesus to my patients, whether or not they believe the same way as I do or not.

Because everyone deserves to be loved.

Everyone deserves to feel excited about what brings them joy in life.

Because everyone is unique and has a lot to offer this world.

I’m just here to help fill in the gaps and help others that I treat, evaluate, and care for each day, see their own potential and joy in their life, no matter where life has brought them thus far.

All my love,

Lauren

*American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational
therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.).
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–
S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006

Notes from an OT practitioner

Hello friends!

It’s been awhile! I would apologize, but I just feel like I should say that I had great intentions to post on a regular schedule, but creativity and true OT passion, just doesn’t fit into that. And also, I’m still adjusting to working as an OT practitioner every day.

And can I just say how much I LOVE it!! Because I do! Each day is a new day, even if I see the same patients every day, every day is a new day to problem solve, try new things, and new challenges in what their goals are. Because, they are all people, so each day is different, each days goals are different, and health care is well…health care! So each day is new, each patient is new each day, and I think there is truly something good and God-like to be said about that.

So here’s what’s exciting guys! I got to have a collaborative session with an AMAZING OT, mom, and friend named Danielle. She’s so great on instagram as @mornings.with.an.ot.mom where she shares all her knowledge about early intervention and advocating for all children in all stages! She’s been practicing as an OT for 20 years and I learned a ton!

But you know what else, she learned from me! I currently work with older adults, a population that Danielle does not get to work with all the time, so while I got so share some of my health care struggles and she got to share some of her struggles, our core values are the same. To be the best we can be, to advocate for the best care for our clients and to continue to learn and grow.

And I shared with her my dream for this blog, to share how OT can fit inside the church. Because it does. Because not only are we all loved, we all desire to be able to fit into the space in whatever form we take. Everyone deserves to know their wheelchair will fit through the doors, that a handicap bathroom stall with actually be handicap accessible, where they don’t to worry about not being able to see the screen, or where a family knows their child will be welcomed and have a safe and quiet space if they need it. I’m really just scratching the surface here, because I’ve been in a lot of churches and worked with a lot of churches in their children’s ministry and I know that we can do better.

I know that as a practicing occupational therapist, I have a voice, a new perspective, and a call to help the outcast and the lonely find refuge. Isn’t that what Jesus taught? He healed the sick, made the blind man see, and sought out all those who were looked over.

That’s what I want to do. To be a voice, to advocate, and to bring a prespective to the church about who we are missing because they deserve to know they have a safe space. They deserve to know that they are actually welcomed and not just “fit in” to this 100 year old building with a jank elevator and 1 bathroom stall. Everyone deserves a safe space. Everyone deserves to be loved.

So here I am, shouting the worth for all the people with different abilities, different thoughts, different ideas, and all the people who feel like they are alone. I want to show them they are not alone and can count on me to be a voice in a big scary world called church.

And for all my church folks out there, I’m not saying the way we have been doing things is wrong, I’m just here to bring into light the ways where we could better serve our neighbors. I’m here to educate on what an ADA standards are, to help you know some questions to ask if a family member says “they are coming back with a wheelchair” or “my child just got diagnosed with ___(fill in the blank) how can they fit in Sunday school? What space do you have that could be quiet?” And so much more.

I’m here to help, that’s my biggest drive. And if all I get is this one blog to share it, that’s it. But what I’m dreaming of….oh man, the places I will go, the people I will impact, and the love that will be shared.

You’re not a new grad anymore OT friend,

Lauren OTR/L

she/her

New Beginnings

I started at an occupational therapy (OT) job this week!! I am working PRN (which stands for as needed) at one skilled nursing facility and accepted a full time job at another skilled nursing facility near by. And my husband passed his district interview to move him on towards the process of commissioning/ordination. (For those who don’t know, in the United Methodist Church, you have to pass the district and whole conference interview to be commissioned/ordained as an elder in the church). For my husband, this is step one toward’s getting able to walk across that stage at our annual conference. So keep praying! But, it’s been a big week in our house!

So I’m writing a few days later, but I have some things to say.

  1. Moving from a graduate student/field work student to a licensed practitioner is not easy. I do NOT have enough grace with myself in this learning process (I’m working on it). I am in a new setting, new documentation system, new population of patients, so many new things! So it’s learning to take it one day at a time, remembering I am my own OT (I don’t HAVE to be following around another OT all day), and to keep learning.
  2. Change is hard! If you know me, you know I do not love change. Changing routines, getting up earlier, and learning new documentation skills, patients, and a role at work.
  3. There is still room for grace. Something I have already been given, but also something I need to have with myself. With my own changes, I know that I am not perfect, but getting that little voice out of my head, that I need to be good enough, or that I have to know everything. So that for me has been the biggest struggle.

I’m sure I have more thoughts to say, but I’m still processing what my first week has been and what this week will look like. We have a big change coming next week to all skilled nursing facilities, so it will be a crazy few weeks. But I am resting and ready for the challenge.

Now if you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering, how does this relate to the church? Well, the church is going through some big changes too. And there are many who feel like the church is a bad place or there is no room for them. I know that I want to be part of a change in the church, but also from my own context.

So I want you to think about in your church setting how you make space for those who have different abilities than you do?

For someone who is deaf?

For someone in a power wheelchair?

For someone with sensory issues?

I hope to talk about each of these and others. Ways that I, as an OT can help you and your church think about how to make others feel loved and included. Because isn’t that the role of the church? To be welcoming, make someone feel loved and seen?

That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of. And I want to help others do the same.

Blessings,

Lauren

Making room

I just finished this book by Heather Avis called Scoot over and make some room. Her first book is called The Lucky Few. Her first book describes their adoption journey. All of her children are adopted, two with Down’s Syndrome, and one who is ethnically different than she and her husband. Give this lovely family a follow on Instagram @theluckyfewoffical, it will make your heart smile! I will also link to both of her books so you can get them for yourself (or borrow them from the library).

I say all of this because 1. I am a book worm, and 2. it sparked a passion in me for making room for others, something I seek to do every day in my profession as a occupational therapist (OT) and within the church. Now any of you who have been in this church thing for awhile know that making room for “others” in the church is a whole other topic that I could harshly discuss, but instead I’m choosing love, joy, and humble thoughts on how we as a church can learn to scoot over and make some room.

This quote is what really made me stop and think.

“We need to enter into dialogues and relationships with people who are different from us and allow tension to make us stronger and more loving“–bold is my own emphasis added.

For me, as an OT, I enter into situations, dialogues and relationships with any number of clients and families who are different than my own. That could be based on race, primary language spoken at home, sexual orientation, or just beliefs on what activities they engage in for fun or leisure time. I say this because that does not mean I have to to judge them. Actually, I believe it’s not my place to judge. I am there as an advocate, as a confidant in some cases, and as a professional. I have the ability to lean into the hard spaces, to find where the person feels left out or less than they did before whatever brings them to my OT services.

When I was on my second field work, I worked with clients with severe persistent mental illness, so client’s with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder. Now without getting onto a whole other soap box about mental illness, for me, no it was not scary to work with them. I repeat, it was not scary to work with them. I will be the first to admit that I was very nervous to work with these clients. And here’s why: because I had never before been in relationships or known anyone with these disorders. So was I scared, nervous, and unsure what to think? Well yes. But as I got to know each one of my client’s, my heart was opened and I know that I saw what God sees in each of them, a beloved child of God. And that’s when it clicked for me, each client I work with is a beloved child of God.

For me, that makes it divine. For me, this is a calling. And for me, I need to scoot over and make some room in my own heart for people who are different than me. I’ll say it again for the people in the back I need to scoot over and make some room in my own heart for people who are different than me. And I believe, that God created us to scoot over and make some room for others too. To ask hard questions like, “how can I make sure everyone is included in this conversation?” or “how can I make sure someone has a seat at this table”.

It’s my time to make sure that everyone has a room at God’s table. It’s my time to share what I know about those who are different than me, so I can educate others and encourage us all to make some room. I have many things to learn, many people to talk to, and much more to learn. So I am by no means an expert, and I don’t intend to be. I just hope to be humble enough to listen to God’s still small voice in my life. And to use my God given gifts, talents, and space as an OT, to help those leaders I know in the church, and others, to make some extra room. We all belong. We are all children of God. So even if it’s uncomfortable, I’m ready to scoot over and make some room in my heart and in my own life. I hope you are too.

Blessings,

Lauren

Why OT?

Occupational therapy (OT), not to be confused with Old Testament (my husband’s seminary friends will appreciate that one!). I began this journey to become an OT when I was a freshman in college…just trying to figure out what career path to take. I’m a total science nerd, so I knew that I wanted something involved with science. I remember talking to a professor who asked if I liked to work with people, and of course I said “yes” and she mentioned occupational therapy.

What I loved most about OT at that time, was that it brought my two loves together, science–more specifically anatomy and the workings of the human body–and creativity when adapting or changing a person’s way of doing something. Cue a few years where my sweet grandma, one of the most stubborn people I know, had OT at her home. I was fascinated and loved what the OT suggested to help my grandma live an independent life (now what my grandma followed through with was minimal..) but nonetheless, I was hooked!

What I have learned through this grueling OT school journey, is that occupational therapy is all about helping others, and we have a unique lens through which we see. We see a person holistically, meaning we want to know what your home looks like, what roles you play in your family, what support you have, and what you like to do for fun. All of these things, along with getting dressed and going to the bathroom, make up your occupations that make you, well you. And that to me, is the most fun of all.

Now a little bit of church. I don’t want this blog to be pushy, or to make you feel like you have to follow Jesus, because that’s not my job. My goal is to help us see that these two worlds that I love and hold so close to me, can be meshed together in some small way. So, I thought a blog was a good place to start.

I was involved in church from a young age, and continued that pattern throughout college. I joined my religious life staff, had the best chaplain guiding me, and was enjoying my life. Church was always going to be apart of what I wanted in my life, I just wasn’t sure how. Enter…my now husband, who is a pastor. When we first began dating, he told me he wanted to be a pastor, and I said okay, thinking it would be a year or so until this gig started. About 5 months later…he began serving his first church. Needless to say, church has become a central part of the DNA of our household. I love being married to my husband, I love the work and calling his has on his life. And I am happy to share wisdom (minimal maybe), science, and some OT into his lovely life, just like he shares ministry in mine.

Some ideas I would like to talk about here are:

  • How church buildings can be accessible
  • Some laws that are currently out that share how buildings can be accessible (more on how church fits into that later)
  • How to help create spaces for those with sensory issues
  • what are sensory issues?
  • How can you help older adults in your congregation get the most out of worship?
  • What kinds of tools can an OT brain bring or think to help make your church safer or more inclusive to any of the above

And more as I think of them or as you have questions.

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for joining me on this journey. I hope you learned a little more about me. I have a voice, and I want to advocate for OT and for the church. We need to know we are all loved. As an occupational therapist, I see beauty in what makes us all unique, what makes us children of God. I hope you join my musings while I look at some things on my heart and advocate for the profession I love so dearly.

Much love,

Lauren

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