Lessons Learned in the ICU

Disclaimer:  I certainly recognize that many others have gone through more serious, long-term stays in hospitals.  These are just a few thoughts from my own personal experiences this week.  

Our oldest son, Gary, went to the ER with respiratory distress early Monday morning.  He was admitted to the ICU, sedated and paralyzed, and put on a ventilator.  My husband and I hopped on a plane and have been with him ever since.  While I wish Gary and his sweet wife, Chelsea, didn’t have to go through this, there are several reasons I feel blessed to have been here this week:

  • God’s Family has no geographical borders.  Our home is in Colorado.  Our son’s home is in Alabama.  We have been welcomed and helped by Christians here just as if we were one of their own.
  • Christians are second-milers.  Oh man, I don’t have enough word-count to share every kindness that’s been extended to us.  We’ve had visits and messages of encouragement.  We’ve been brought snacks, homemade bread, blankets, parking tokens, meals, a gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers to the hospital, a vehicle to borrow, and magazines.  We’ve only slept in the waiting room one night because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and local churches.  The kindnesses just keep coming!
  • Every prayer matters.  Within a couple of hours of our first morning here, we had four different area preachers come by and pray with us in the ICU.  Through the years Neal and I have circled up with folks for a prayer around a patient’s bed.  I never really knew how courage-bolstering that could be.  So many others have let us know they are praying.  Every single time, we feel comforted and grateful.
  • Things get put into perspective.  The world goes on outside these hospital walls but in here it feels like time stands still.  We are mostly focused on life, faith, and family.    Questions rise to the surface:  Does Gary know how much I love him and how proud  he makes me?  Do our Christian friends know how acutely we feel their concern and how much it means to us?  Through it all, we’ve been praying and contemplating.
  • Love is greater than fear.  It seems like every time my heart begins to worry, some kind gesture or word comes our way.  We are really seeing the Light this week.  Its warmth covers our cares.
  • Inside beauty is invaluable.  Oh, our sweet Chelsea.  She has helped Gary through things that weak stomachs won’t want to read about.  She works long hours and sleeps short nights in a hospital room but has yet to complain about a single thing.  Just now Gary asked her, “How are you holding up?”  She answered, “I’m fine, Hon.  You don’t have to worry about me!”  She is a cutie pie but more than that, her inner beauty has been a blessing to us all.  She is a worthy woman and we thank God for her.
  • Progress is worth celebrating.  Every little step on the road recovery causes rejoicing.  From big things (like coming off the ventilator) to little things (like sitting up for the first time), we smile and hug each other as we witness evidence of improvement.  I was never so excited to walk in and see someone eating applesauce.  When we share these good bits with others and they rejoice with us, it makes us smile all over again.  Consider how much more important spiritual progress is for new babes in Christ or for those making their way back from waywardness.  Every small step is a victory.  If we celebrate with them it can only encourage them to keep trying.
  • God is so good!

I was going to include a point about vanity.  It doesn’t matter that I only had five minutes to pack and left behind hair products and other beauty essentials (um, like tweezers).  Our first visitor was an old college friend we haven’t seen in over 26 years.  We’ve been meeting people for the first time and reuniting with family members this week.  I’m wearing sweats and have my hair pulled back in a ponytail.  I was going to include that point about vanity, but I do care.  I wish I looked better.  Ah well, I haven’t learned everything in the ICU.

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Getting Back to Hospitality

If getting back to homey hospitality is a desire of yours, then I understand how you feel.  When it comes to relationships, nothing compares to having someone in your home.  Yes, we can go out to eat and still get to know one another, but there’s something special about being in someone’s home.  Your smile is a little wider and warmer the next time you see each other.

So what’s the hangup?  We’re just busy, busy, busy.  Even “stay-at-home” moms are starting to feel like real time at home is a luxury.  How can we get back to the joys of hospitality?

Make It a Priority

We’re always trying to squeeze in oooooone more thing– exercise, a Bible study with someone, a child’s extracurricular activity.  But just like anything else, if hospitality is important to us, we’ll make it work.  If our life is too busy to have anyone over, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate our schedule.  Is there anything we’re doing that hospitality should take a priority over?  Some say they don’t want to take away from family time, but being hospitable can be a very good family activity.

Drop the Excuses

They’re easy to come up with.  It’s been a rough week.  We need some down time.  The house is a wreck.  I could name some women whose homes are always open to visitors, guest preachers, members, friends, and students.  Is it because they’re not as busy as I am?  Ha…most are even busier!  One family is experiencing painful hardships yet still opens their hearts by opening their home.  Excuses may make us feel better temporarily but the blessings of hospitality have a much longer and happier impact.

Remember What Hospitality Is

A beautifully set table and a home cooked meal are lovely, but hospitality is so much more than that.  It’s about serving others by making them feel loved.  It’s about building relationships by talking, laughing, and praying together.  It’s about being a good steward by using your home to bless others.  These goals of hospitality can be accomplished with simple sandwiches or a store bought pie and coffee.

Moms, being hospitable to your children’s friends counts.

Be Prepared

Regret comes when I know I should offer my home for a meal or a bed but I don’t because I’m just not ready.  With some forethought and a little effort, we can be prepared to seize opportunities to show Christ’s love.

  • Keep easy meals on hand, like spaghetti and sauce, cookie dough, etc.
  • Some clean sheets/ blankets nearby make it easy to offer a warm bed.
  • Store convenient cleaning wipes in the bathroom to shine things up real quick.
  • Pray for a heart that is willing to be inconvenienced.

Don’t Wait for a More Convenient Time

Just begin.  Here are some ideas.  See if any of them seem worth trying:

  • When your next gospel meeting, lectureship, ladies’ day, or whatever comes up, let the ones in charge know you’re willing to house speakers or visitors.
  • Commit one night every other week to having people over for dessert and coffee.
  • Invite different families over on Sunday nights for sandwiches and singing.
  • Challenge yourself to have enough food prepared for Sunday lunch so you can invite others to join you. What a thrill to be able to look around and find someone to invite into your home on Sunday!  It just enhances the idea that the very first day of the week is the Lord’s day.
  • Look through your church directory and see if there’s a demographic you don’t know as well (singles, elderly, young people, etc.).  If you’re having close friends over, invite others as well.
  • Be sure to include people that don’t like you, people that you’re having a hard time liking, or people with whom you have unpleasant history.  God can work wonders through hospitality and humility.
  • Don’t forget your neighbors and co-workers.

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).  “Be kindly affectionate to one another in brother love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…distributing to the needs of the saints, giving to hospitality” (Rom. 12:10-13).  It’s possible to get into the habit of hospitality!

Image credit:  Michael Hite
Image credit: Michael Hite