On Being a Chaplain

Yesterday I received some amazing news. In the mail I received my ordination certificate and badge as a Senior Chaplain. So excited! Over the past several years, I have spent hundreds of hours studying trauma and how to care for people who have experienced trauma. (FYI…nearly ALL of us have experienced trauma.) I have been in classes around abuse, suicide prevention, coaching, body trauma, self care…anything I could attend to help me process my own story and help others process theirs. The challenge was trying to figure out how to tie all these pieces together! Then God brought me into a Chaplain program.

When I first started going down the road of becoming a chaplain, I wasn’t really sure what they did. Boy was I supposed to find the wide variety of tasks and focuses for chaplains! Depending on which branch (police, fire, military, community support, medical, etc) you choose, you can do anything from marriage counseling to serving a death notification. The range of work is really quite wide. For me, I chose community support because that is where my heart lands. I do volunteer work in our local homeless community and am wanting to expand my work. Being a community support chaplain is the best fit.

Jesus has placed an Isaiah 61 call on my life. I know that my call is to help bring healing to people by binding up the brokenhearted and showing those held captive that there is freedom! Being a chaplain allows me to do this in a way that is not specific to any one denomination and that is better for how I believe. It allows me to represent the God of Bible in a way that crosses denominational lines and that makes my heart soar! I get to simply love people with the love of Jesus while their lives are in turmoil because of a traumatic event happening now, or because of a traumatic event that happened in the past and they are now engaging the pain.

When I was sitting in the chaplain training, feeling overwhelmed at the scope of the work and wondering why I was even there, God whispered into my ear, “This is what I have created you to do. This is how you follow me now.” I’ll tell you what, I started crying in my seat. I have been asking God for years to show me what I’m supposed to do in life and each time I ask, He just says “follow me”. So, with no big vision other than the cross in front of me, I have followed Jesus to the best of my ability. I fail, I fall and I get back up. In one moment in that classroom, I saw all of these seemingly random pieces come together into the call on my life. Beautiful! I understood that God needed me to not focus in the task and instead focus on the Cross first, then He would give me the task. He really does have a good and perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

So, now I pray a different prayer: Holy Spirit, guide me and show me how to use this ordination well to bring Your healing and Your glory to the world around me. I don’t dream of a big stage, I dream of helping people engage their story, mitigate the long term effects of trauma, and find freedom. I feel honored and humbled that this is my call.

Shalom,

Chaplain Kellyann

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Sliding

I don’t know about you, but I find that most people don’t jump into depression, we slide. We can be going along just fine and something happens to knock us off course a little. We recover and feel back to “normal” because we don’t notice the small step backward. A few more bumps and a few more steps backwards and then it becomes clear that we aren’t functioning as usual at all. The sky is a little darker, the clouds a little thicker and when we look around, we see that we have been sliding into depression.

Now, I realize that there are lots of people who can get knocked down over and over and never find it hard to get up. Their biology has something in it that makes depression a non-issue. They aren’t luckier or more blessed, they are just different. They process differently and they have their own way that life’s toll creates impact. I’m not one of those people. My biology craves addiction, walks closely with anxiety, and when I’m not paying attention well enough, slides into depression. That’s where I am now, in depression. Over the years I’ve learned lots of tools for myself as I’ve learned tools to help others, so I’m well aware of the triggers for myself. That said, even the most aware people lose awareness sometimes.

I woke up the other morning after sleeping around 11 hours and instead of feeling great and well-rested, I felt good but still tired. I usually wake up excited for the day to start! What got me curious was the lack of excitement at getting up, not the extra sleep. I’ve been battling a virus so I know my body needed some extra sleep. So I started praying and looking back over the past few months.

It didn’t take long to see what has happened and how the slide occurred. I didn’t move to NYC as planned. Slide. I took a demotion and pay cut at work for a few months. Slide. A very close friend died suddenly. Slide. My daughter in all her budding adulthood glory got herself a job and is more independent. Slide. I got a new job where I work from home. Slide. Before my new job I had to get some financial help to cover bills. Slide. I’m realizing that in less than two years my daughter will launch brilliantly well and I will be the most alone I’ve ever been. Slide.

Not everything that brought the sliding could be labeled negative. It’s important to know that sometimes the positive things in life bring a slide into depression. That can happen when things change and it is just simply a by product of life. What’s important is to stay self aware so that I can monitor myself.

So now that I know, now that I’m waking up less excited, I need to enter a space of increased self care. I’m in a new recovery group. I’m making plans to get out of the house more. I’m praying for God to help me learn how to live well alone. I’m staying far away from self-judgment and clinging to self-acceptance. I’m naming those things that I’ve been keeping under wraps. Basically, I’m moving with more intention and a spirit of healing so that I start to climb out of the depression better equipped and more authentic. There are things to learn here and I don’t want to miss them. Just because I’m a caregiver by nature doesn’t mean I never need care. I’m not weak, I’m human.

I’m praying that we all are able to see when we are sliding into and operating out of depression or whatever is less than optimal from our natural state. No judgment, just acceptance.

Shalom,

KA

Careful with Your Impact

Impact: to have a strong effect on someone or something. We all have an ability to impact the world around us. Are you being careful with your impact?

As I was leaving home one morning, I looked down to see this sweet little snail. It was slowing making its way across the step and I’m surprised it caught my eye. And actually, what first caught my attention was the screeching of a nearby crow excited for breakfast. In the moment that I sensed danger for my snail friend, I impacted its life by picking it up and moving it to what I considered safety. Here’s the problem: I made an impact based on a judgment and not a Truth.

Initially, my heart felt all warm and fuzzy because I had heroically rode into the situation and placed the snail into a safer space. Ahhh, good for me, I lived out the desired of doing no harm. The truth is, however, I did do harm! Staying focused on the snail, I’m certain I terrorized it by picking it up. Seriously, I’m probably 1,000 times larger than the snail! The entire process of moving it likely sent waves of terror throughout its system. And, while the immediate need for rescue may have been met, I don’t know what I don’t know, meaning, perhaps where I placed it was actually of greater risk because I wasn’t exactly doing a study in the ecosystem to determine the risk of the resting space. For the crow, I took away breakfast with no consideration for him/her at all. If crows are known to remember when someone is kind to them (which they are by the way), then I can presume this one will remember me as unkind. I placed greater value on the life of the snail. So, for someone trying to do no harm, I blew it!

Now, do I think I should hold shame over my misguided, albeit love-intended, intrusion into the relationship between the snail and the crow? No. I do, however, want to see the larger application. Many of us go about with a desire to fix people and situations and, while so lovely at its core, we simply must be sure we understand all that is at play in the situation and strive to do no harm for all involved. We will always have the potential for doing harm and, wouldn’t it be great if we could mitigate the amount of harm by being more intentional with how we make an impact.

Things aren’t as black-and-white as they seem. There is truth (small t) and Truth (capital T) and sometimes our understanding of the truth gets in the way of us seeing the Truth and we move in haste making a negative impact where at the very least, we could have made no impact. You see, there was a natural course, a natural order to the relationship between the snail and the crow and I interfered. My best move would have been to do nothing and, knowing me, pray for the snail to make it to safety and for the crow to find breakfast elsewhere. I made a judgment in which one life had more value and then, impacted both lives. Not out of malice, out of ignorance.

I see this playing out on so many levels in our world right now and it is heartbreaking. We are devastating people because they are different and we’ve placed an arbitrary value on them that is less than the Truth. We’ve stepped into their ecosystem and laid waste to all involved and we have done great harm. So, for my part, I’m learning to do nothing until I am able to determine the best path for me that is most honoring to all involved. I’m learning to listen more and speak less. I’m learning to hold both failure and success equally, and lightly, because the Truth is they both have value.

Jesus told us to go, and as we are going, show people what it looks like to follow Him so that they may desire to follow Him also. That’s impact by being, not action, and we must move with intention and care. So, the question today is, are you being careful with your impact?

Shalom,

KA