It's All About the Number, And I'm Okay With That

   
 I don’t like to focus on numbers, but this time of year it’s inevitable. This may surprise you, but even hospices obsess over numbers. Is the census growing? Can we remain a viable hospice? Most of the time, I do a pretty good job keeping first things first. After all, this number isn’t a dollar amount or quantity sold—It’s a human life. Every time our number goes up, another family is facing a heartbreaking new reality. Still, I have a year-end goal to achieve.
     As I lay in bed this morning, pondering my number—the corporate-set mark, discouragement seeps in and I become disgusted with myself. I don’t want to be this ambitious person fixated on a target. The old saying comes to mind. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” I understand the proverbial quote is encouraging us not to lose sight of the whole by fixating on the details. But maybe, at least in this situation, it’s backward.  I should focus on the individual, not overall number. I can’t see the trees for the forest! But the tree is what’s important!  Especially when this tree has a name. It’s a person—a person with a story. 
     I smile as my church’s philosophy comes to mind. NewSpring often faces criticism for being a mega church focused on numbers. Addressing the accusation, Pastor P unashamedly says, “Yes, we focus on growth and numbers, because every number has a name. Every name has a story, and every story matters to God.” Oh, how I love these words!
     I close my eyes as I release the pressure and let the words apply to hospice and my goal. I realize it’s not about being successful through achieving a magic number. It’s about being part of someone’s story. 
     So today, I’m okay with being all about the numbers. Because every number has a name. Every name has a story, and every story matters to God. What a privilege for our hospice team to walk alongside people as they write their final chapter. 
     As the year comes to a close, what are you focused on? I pray you find a way to let go of the stress and find rest. The Author of our life story longs to fill us with peace. I pray you experience His love during Christmas--the season where the number One is all that matters. One babe in a manger, One Savior of the world. One who came to earth so our story can be neverending, because just when the world types "The End", He whispers, "This is only the beginning."

Eternal Beginnings

     Air gushes into Marie’s lungs, and she breathes in deeply for the first time in months. She exhales fully with no pain. No coughing. Where did the oxygen mask go? A clean fragrance of lavender fills the hospice room as her eyes peep open. She stares at a prism of light slowly dancing across the popcorn ceiling. It stops just above her head where the mesmerizing beam grows until it covers the room.
     Warmth fills Marie’s belly and travels through her, consuming her. Her contracted legs straighten, and as she effortlessly points her toes, she giggles like a dreamy girl trying on her first ballet slippers. Swinging her legs over the side of the hospital bed, she sits up with ease. Marie waves a graceful hand through the air as she stretches long, feminine fingers. She flexes her wrist to admire freshly manicured nails, shiny with a hint of pink—just the way she likes them. No, wait. That was when she was young, long before the pull of drugs and prostitution.
     Marie runs the back of her hand down her cheek—a cheek that is no longer sagging with the creases of abuse. Her skin is as soft as velvet. She inhales as much air as possible, and like a playful toddler, her cheeks swell like a blowfish. She holds the breath captive as she looks down at her shimmering, pale pink gown. Marie frees the air and it escapes in boisterous laughter. Pure euphoria!
     Giggles pour out unbridled as Marie stands. She extends strong arms toward the ceiling. Transparent glass slowly replaces the popcorn plaster. She stretches her neck and arches her back, eyes fixed above. She begins floating upward.
     A breeze teases her silky gown against her legs, and it blows around her ankles. Marie wonders how she will pass through, but there is no fear—only fascination. When she is but inches away, the glass ceiling shatters into soft translucent flakes. Marie catches several on her fingertip and looks closer. They are like snowflakes—each one uniquely beautiful. "Diamond flakes," she whispers.
     Marie gazes into the expansive sky as she glides upward. The sound of friendly whisperings grows louder and builds into a crescendo of victorious singing. A flute, violin and other stringed instruments join the symphony. One voice reveals itself, echoing loud above the others. "Sweet Nana!" Marie greets her warmly. 
     Nana beams like an angel. “You finally made it! I told you I would see you just over the horizon.” Nana is young and beautiful—absolute perfection. How is it possible to contain such pure happiness? People are toasting, singing, and dancing as they take turns hugging Marie. 
     Suddenly, everything is hushed. The sound of footsteps becomes clear. The crowd parts and Marie stands in awe as the epitome of Righteousness approaches, but there is no reproach. Marie feels no fear. No shame. The Creator casts all-seeing, forever-loving eyes upon her. She inhales the fragrance of Love and realizes how it feels to be adored. She falls to her knees in gratitude, but He gently lifts her in one arm as He sweeps the other through the air releasing pastels of yellow, blue, purple, and pink. Marie snuggles against his chest as Comfort fills her. She turns her head to watch the bursting colors twirl and dance—the dance of new beginnings. Her Father looks into Marie’s eyes, smiles and kisses her lightly on the head. He turns and nods lovingly at the crowd. The party erupts with applause as the Artist paints an exquisite sunrise to welcome Marie into her forever.

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of Sunlit Shadows, the sequel to Just Over the Horizon.

Sacred Space


For all the nursing assistants who show up uninvited to care for the dying.


Uninvited

You enter sacred space uninvited.
These are my last days and
I don't need your help.
You will push and pry,
and strip me of my dignity.
You will uncover and undress,
stealing my modesty.
My journey is almost over.
Just let me be.
You're not welcome. Not now.

You enter sacred space uninvited.
You ask to raise my blinds,
seeking the sun to cheer me.
I hear you hum a familiar hymn as
you bathe my worn-out body.
Your gentle hands caress me,
and I feel your warmth—your love.
As you brush my thinning hair,
you remind me of happier days
when my mom did the same.
Tenderly massaging my aching limbs,
you ask about my life.
You're genuinely interested in my story.
Reminiscing brings a needed release.

You entered sacred space uninvited, but now?
Now I welcome you to walk with me.
I ask you to care for me—to love me.
My journey is over and I seek rest.
Your presence gives reassurance.
I know it's okay to cross over.
I can let go.

You entered sacred space uninvited, but now?
In this moment, I trust you—I love you.
You are welcomed in my sacred space
as I say my last good-bye.