A few of you may remember that before I started blogging, I would write a note on Facebook every year on the day before my birthday.  It was a way to look back at what I had done for the year and look forward a little to what I hoped to do in the next year of my life.  I don’t think I’ve done that since I started blogging.

I had no idea what 39 would look like.  It started only about a month after moving to Indiana and I still felt like we were getting settled into our new lives.  I had just started teaching at the college (then IPFW, now just PFW) and had just been hired at Parkview.  Quite honestly, I had no idea what I was doing either place.  I have now taught two semesters of Education 346 – Discipline and Parenting of Young Children, and I think I have been pretty successful based on the comments on the student reviews at the end of the semesters. 

Being a chaplain at Parkview…now that has been an eye-opening experience!  It has been so good in so many ways, but not without a lot of spiritual and emotional growth.  If I had to guess, I would say I have been in attendance at the time or shortly after somewhere between 60-75 deaths this year.  I have called dozens of families in the middle of the night to say that their loved ones were in the emergency room or that a patient’s health had just taken an unexpected turn and the families needed to come in ASAP.  I have baptized stillborn babies.  I have prayed with families at the hospital, and for them from my home.  I never would have guessed while in seminary that any of this would be my future.  I also would not have guessed how much I would love this work.

So what else did I do while 39?  Well, I travelled.  We went to Washington (state) in October for my brother in-law’s wedding.  Michael and I went to Disney World for our anniversary.  We went back to Frankfort in April for my ordination.  We went to Michigan to meet up with friends for a weekend.  We spent a week in Gatlinburg.  We made many trips to Crawfordsville.  Not all of it was glamorous or exciting, but it was all good.

I volunteered at the girls’ schools.  I went to classroom parties, made food, and contributed supplies.  I went on field trips as a chaperone.  I helped at a Christmas shop.  It was great to be in their schools.

I made some new friends, said goodbye to people who were no longer friends, and reconnected with old friends.

I read…a lot!  I think I read for fun more this last year than at any other time.

I started writing again, basically for the first time since finishing seminary.

I had an air cast, a walking boot, a fiberglass cast, physical therapy, surgery, and more physical therapy…all for the same ankle.

I was stretched and did not break.  I grew.

So here I am, staring 40 in the face.  I never thought I would be excited about turning 40, but I truly am!  It’s so adult, and I’m pretty ready for that.  I feel settled and content, and I really love where I am right now.  I did not think I would say that after leaving Kentucky, but this is a great place to be.

What will 40 look like?  I don’t really know.  I know I’ll be celebrating with some of the closest people in my world.  Michael and I will go to West Lafayette to meet up with my brother for a football game the next day.  I know I will be officiating a wedding in October.  I hope to exercise more (ankle, don’t fail me now!), lose a little weight, and just feel better in my own skin.  I hope to read more, write more, and learn more.  I hope to find new, creative ways to grow in my jobs.  And of course I’m looking forward to new experiences with my family. 

Thanks for the experiences, growth, and love, 39. 

Bring on 40!!!

The Man with Two Birthdays

(Hey Mom, if you are reading this, go ahead and get a tissue.  We’ll wait.)

Today would have been my Grandpa Vaught’s 98th birthday.  Actually, yesterday also would have been his 98th birthday.

Two birthdays?  Yes.  Because my grandpa was just that awesome.

Wallace Junior Vaught had a peculiar beginning.  For one thing, his middle name somehow ended up as Junior, which I’m pretty sure was not my great-grandmother’s intention.  I think he was just supposed to be Wallace Vaught, Jr.  He was also the third son, so it was interesting that he should end up as the “junior”.  I’ve always rather marveled at that.

But two birthdays.  That was the kicker.  His birthday certificate said he was born on August 20, 1920.  His mother, however, swore that he was born on August 19, 1920, and that she should know because she was there.  So my grandpa had two birthdays, and there were certainly times when he played that up.

He was the third of 14 children – all sons – born to a poor family in a small town at height of The Great Depression.  He and a couple of his other brothers were sent to live with other family members or friends of the family, and so he was actually as close to the Quinleys as he was to his own family, or so I’m led to believe.  I guess that was just what you did back then when you had 14 mouths to feed.

Grandpa Vaught was a World War II veteran.  He was stationed stateside, though, which I know was one of his biggest regrets in life.  While 7 of his brothers went off to fight in Europe and Asia, Grandpa was at an airfield in Kentucky where he led a crew that repaired the military planes that came home.  He earned an amazing story from it, though: he got to fly in a plane with Charles Lindbergh.  Lindy came through for an inspection and asked if a certain airplane was ready to go.  Grandpa told him it was, so Lindbergh said they were going up together.  The airplane was cleared, but Lindbergh told him the wrench needed to be removed from the landing gear (or wherever he heard that wrench clanking around).

My grandpa was a self-made man.  He rose up from his humble beginnings and made enormous financial gains for himself and his family.  He took some accounting classes in his younger years that helped him learn how to earn money for his employer (a local printing factory), and he decided that if he could make money for his employer, then he could do the same for himself.  And he certainly did.  He had a knack for investing money, and in later years he couldn’t get rid of money even when he tried.

He was exceedingly generous with his money.  He set aside CD’s with enough money in them that all of his grandchildren had a considerable sum for starting college.  Because of his planning (and support from my parents, of course), I finished my BA debt-free.  It was a gift that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, but I absolutely do now.

He has been gone two and a half years, but I remember so many little things about him.  I cleaned his house every week for a few years, and he nearly always left with the television and/or radio on.  He kept the rose-scented air freshener from my grandmother’s bathroom for decades after her death.  He loved Cadillacs, Ronald Reagan, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  He loved that I named my first daughter Emma, and always told me that was one of his favorite names.  He always had a smile for me when I visited from wherever I was living.

My Grandpa Vaught wasn’t perfect, but he was a good man.  So this evening, I’ll split a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon with my husband (because Lord knows I can’t choke down an entire one on my own), and we’ll drink to our good fortune of having Grandpa in our lives for so many years.

Happy birthday, Grandpa.

Bucket List

This  adapted post was originally meant to be a reflection/devotion for our staff meeting at the hospital earlier this month.  I was usurped by interns, though, which would be irritating if I didn’t like those two an awful lot.

Image result for bucket list

Earlier this spring, the chaplaincy department had our check-in with the department heads.  It was along the lines of a yearly review, but not.  Instead of being asked to evaluate our performances, we were instructed to finished the sentence, “Some day I want to…” in three different ways.  Easy enough.

Except it wasn’t.  I’m not a terribly ambitious person.  It’s not that I don’t want to do things, I’ve just personally never been a goal-setter or someone who really looked much to the future.  So coming up with three ways to finish that statement was really difficult for me.  I told my bosses that I thought about outsourcing the project to Facebook and asking my friends how they thought I should answer.  I’m not even joking. 

Eventually I came up with three answers, and by that time I felt inspired.  I started making a list.  Originally the thought was, “Shoot, if I’m going to have to do this every year, then I better come up with a few more and write them down, too!”  But then it turned into something more.  Inspired by my upcoming birthday, I decided to make a bucket list. 

I’ll be 40 later this month.  It’s a big one.  I’m not stressing about it so far like I did for some of the others, like 23 and 35.  And that’s the thing about the big, milestone birthdays: they can become stressful, particularly when we use them to think about what we haven’t done yet. 

When we are younger, we might single out things we haven’t done, like found the right career path, gotten married, bought a house, or had children.  When we are older, we might use birthdays to lament not being able to retire yet, not having many family and friends left, or not having much time left.

I don’t want my bucket list to work like that.  I don’t want it to be a reminder of what I haven’t done, but rather a list of things I would like to do if possible.  When I do one of them, I want to celebrate as I cross it off.  I want to look at it as an accomplishment, but a voluntary one.  I want to look at it as a gift from God. 

Proverbs 20:24 tells us that, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand their own way?”

We don’t always understand in the moment what God is doing.  We may not understand why he has closed a door we wanted to walk through.  We may not understand why he did or did not take away an illness or physical ailment we have to battle.  We may not understand why he allows some to be healed and others to be taken home.  That’s part of what makes our job as hospital chaplains so difficult.  We walk with others through what we do not understand ourselves. 

What we do understand, though, is this: God promised never to leave us or forsake us.  It was Moses’ promise to Joshua, and it was repeated in the letter to the Hebrews.  It is God’s promise to us, and a hope we offer to others.

I’m not done with my bucket list, and I am sure that I will not accomplish everything on it.  I probably won’t even do all three of the things I told my bosses, and maybe the other chaplains won’t either.  God may direct our steps toward one thing or away from something else, and we might feel lost in our way.  But at least we know that God goes with us, directing us, without leaving or forsaking us.