Happy Independence Day!

I haven’t heard it sung like this in a long time.  There’s something about the soul put into our national anthem, that makes you believe in it.  Our “home of the brave.”  Happy Birthday United States of America!  I’m so glad I call you home.

Independence makes me think of many different things.  I was walking my dog on the 4th of July, and I came across a wedding taking place in a park nearby.  Strange, I thought, to get married on Independence Day.  I’m curious to know what “independence” means to all of you.  Would you find it strange to get married on Independence Day?

I suppose Love and Fireworks aren’t too far apart!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed your celebrations, whatever and wherever they brought you!  God Bless America!

Joy

6.25.2014

On this day at 12:54am in 1975, I was welcomed to the world.  The second daughter of proud parents.  My middle name:

JOY

I like to think my parents gave me the middle name Joy, not because I was such a joy to have, but because my mother wanted me to remember the joy of being Christ’s own.

June 25th has always been a day fraught with conflict for me.  Not only is this my birthday, but the day my baby brother Paul was buried.  Paul wasn’t sick.  He choked on the pit of a fruit at age 2, and they weren’t able to get him the help he needed in a country where EMS did not exist at the time.  No one was able to dislodge the pit from his throat.  I was 6, my other siblings 4 and 8.  In my adulthood, I still miss him.

I’ve recently heard the term “seared dates” from another blog, Ever Upward.  Thanks Justine.  This is one of those dates for me.  A day that at times is filled with joy and celebration, and yet one that my soul can’t help but feel sorrow and loss.  Conflict.  I am thankful for the people in my life that remind me of the joys and help me let go of the sorrows.

My husband and dog child, Freddie, are great at this!  For them, I will be eternally grateful to God.

Psalm 4: 5-8 (NIV)     Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.  Many are asking “who can show us any good?”  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.  You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

My comfort is in God.

My peace is in God.

My joy is in God.

Many of you know I recently lost 2 little ones to a miscarriage.  A little boy and a little girl.  I was 9 weeks along.  I can’t help but think of the song I once sang in recital written by my coach, Greg Walter.  One day, I will convert the old VHS to digital format so that you can hear the peace of it.  But for now, I leave you Greg’s lyrics:

Beyond the Blue  –  By:  Greg Walter

Way up there beyond the blue, a great big house, a wondrous view awaits my coming as did you.  By your side he’ll take me to.

And in that house, a room we’ll share.  Of ageless time we’re unaware.  Of years that passed our of your care.  I’m home at last with you for-ere.

And when I die, I’ll come to see your winged arms outstretched to me.  And in them weep so longingly.  No other place I’d rather be.

And when I die, I’ll come to see your winged arms outstretched to me.  No greater love I ever knew,  awaits me there, beyond the blue!

John 5:9-12 (NIV)     As the father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

JOY Complete.

I hope you feel loved today.

I must give you up to God…

Well, it’s official.  We are miscarrying.  I guess you’d call it impending fetal demise.  We went to the doctor on Thursday.  The fetal pole is smaller.  We could see cardiac activity on the ultrasound, but could no longer measure a heartbeat because it was so slow.  We have stopped all progesterones (life support for new life), and are waiting for things to progress naturally.  I will see my regular OB/GYN on Tuesday and see how things are looking/progressing.  Currently, my HCG is 18, 198.  We will be watching for this level to decrease as well.

We are heartbroken.

It has been a long journey just to achieve pregnancy, and now this is lost as well.  In my mind, I know there are reasons this happens.  It is God and nature’s way of protecting us.  In my mind, I know the positive is that we now know it is possible for me to achieve pregnancy.  In my mind, I know that in the end, all will be well.

But, my heart hurts at the loss.

We ask for your continued prayers for peace.

I am not a poet or a lyricist, but these words have come from my heart in this time and in this space:

Rock Me, Rock Me

Holy Spirit, God Divine

Come and hold this hand of mine.

Rock me, rock me in your peace,

Until my soul can find relief.

 

Holy Spirit guide and friend,

With a love that never ends.

Rock me, rock me from above,

Until I feel your endless love.

 

Holy Spirit, Father God,

Welcomes children from earth’s sod.

Rock me, rock me in your might,

Until I feel you hold me tight.

 

Holy Spirit’s boundless love

Fill my soul from up above.

Rock me, rock me in your grace,

Until my heart has found it’s faith.

Looking for Faith

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  ~Mathew 21:22

Faith:  Complete trust and confidence in someone or something.  Belief that is not based on proof.

You may wonder why I’m reflecting on faith.  I’ve had a difficult time being still enough in body, mind, and heart to write these last few weeks.  It’s been a whirlwind rollercoaster with ups and downs.

Good Friday, April 18, 2014, really was a good day for me.  I went to the doctor’s office in the morning to have my pregnancy test.  I took Freddie (my dog) out when I got home, and while coming in was told that I had a flower delivery.  Really?  I wondered who on earth would send me flowers.  I got the package and opened the note.  My friend Karin had sent them to me with a note that said:  “Just because I’m thinking of you.”  I promptly burst into tears.

It was at this point that I began to wonder if I was pregnant.  I’ve never cried over flowers.  Gotten excited and full of smiles, yes.  Cried non-stop, not so much.  The phone rang at 11:50am and caller ID said it was FCI.  I’d never received a call so early with any lab results, so my first thought was “Oh no!  They need to do a re-draw.  Something was wrong with the specimen.”  “Hello?”  The other voice replied, “Congratulations!”  “Who is this?”  “It’s Fran, you’re pregnant!”  Me, I was speechless, and of course I started crying again.  I got off of the phone and texted my husband the great news, who was waiting at work with bated breath.  This is my very first pregnancy.  Ever.

It was Good Friday, and I had work to do as well.  I was to chant the Passion at CHN, my church.  It’s a beautiful service that ends in darkness and candlelight as we venerate the cross.

Veneration of the Cross

I did chant the Passion that night, and here at the foot of the cross Thanked Jesus for giving me life.  As I cried, my priest put her arm around me and I whispered, “I’m pregnant.”….and so we both cried and held each other.  Blessed.

Saturday, April 19th, came and with it The Great Easter Vigil.  We had no deacon this year, and I was honored to be asked to sing the Exultet, an opening proclamation of sorts, at our service at CHN.  I would like to share the words, so you can conceive what this newly-found pregnant woman was singing…

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation for the victory of our King.  Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, bright with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.  Rejoice and be glad now, Mother church, and let your holy courts in radiant light resound with the praises of your people.  All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame, pray with me to God the Almighty for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light; through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever, Amen.

It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our whole heart and mind and voice to praise you, the invisible, almighty and eternal God, and your only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin, and by his blood delivered your faithful people.  This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and lead them through the Red Sea on dry land.  This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.  This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.  How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.  How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away.  It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn.  It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.  How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.  Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this candle in your honor.  May it shine continually to drive away all darkness.  May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it ever burning – he who gives light to all creation, and who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

All I can say about that is Thank You.

Fast forward to Wednesday, April 30th, our first ultrasound.  I was exactly 6 weeks to the day.

Twins!  One embryo had a definite yolk sac and the other did not.  I was to return for another ultrasound in 1 week.

The heartbreak began on our anniversary, Wednesday, May 7th.  I should tell you that my best friend’s mother-in-law who was on hospice had just passed away, and her funeral was scheduled for this day.  I pray she finds restful peace.

My husband had a deposition this morning and I had to be at FCI for my repeat ultrasound to check on progress.  Afterwards, we were to head to the Northern Suburbs to be with our close friends/family to honor Anita, and show our love and support as well.  So, we went our separate ways to start, but I thank God that my husband was made it in time for the ultrasound.  Baby A did have a heartbeat detected by ultrasound.  You could see the movement, however baby A was 1 week behind in measurements for gestational age.  Baby B was not making any progress and there was still no yolk sac.  I am exactly 7 weeks here.  The bright white spot is the heartbeat.

We were taken into a conference room and told to be “cautiously optimistic.”  We are both medical people, and in our world, that translates to; prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Has anyone ever said this to you before?  We had naught a moment to be excited about our baby’s heartbeat, and we were okay with one, but now taking in the news that our pregnancy might not be sustainable.  The goal has never been to have multiples, but to just have a baby.

So here we are, it’s our wedding anniversary, we are filled with fear and sorrow for our pregnancy, and now we are on our way to a funeral.  No time to take it all in.  Just keep moving.  Just keep going.  This is the heart of my silence.  I just want to be strong.  I don’t want to tell you I’m falling apart inside.

I was told to come and see the doctor the following day.  When I got there, she decided to check and see how things were looking and to do another ultrasound.  I was alone this time.  My husband was at work.  Baby A still had a heartbeat seen on ultrasound, but it was a little slower, 94.  I was told we were walking on a tight-rope.  The ultrasound tech was already giving me advice about what to do should I lose the baby.  I finally said, I’m not giving up.  As long as this baby has a heartbeat, I’m not giving up.  They assured me that they weren’t either.  I cried for the entire rest of the day, while my dog, Freddie, licked my tears.

So here I am, looking for faith.  In 2 days I will be 8 weeks, and 1 day.  I am scheduled for another ultrasound and a visit with the doctor.  I need optimism.  I need prayers.  I’m anxious.  I need faith.  In my heart, I know that all will be well, that I can rise above whatever this journey brings. But also in my heart, I hope for a child to tell stories, to sing songs, and to laugh with.  I still feel that this is a divine pregnancy.  God is with me now, just as he was when we walked together through Lent.

Dying or Being Born?

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I got a call the other day that my very dear friend.  Her mother-in-law is losing her battle with life, with Alzheimer’s.  No longer is it only her mind that is lost, but her body is failing now too.  How can we comfort those who have already lost so much, those for whom losing even more is imminent?  I found a poem written by Tim Garner who writes:

her-memory

Her Memory

The floor was her stage

when she moved to the music

now the floor, was her cage

mind and body arthritic

every decision she makes

made in hesitation

the words that once flowed

uttered in reservation

A mind full of memories

she can no longer grasp

like sand through the fingers

of hands that can’t clasp

color fades from her eyes

with the walls closing in

memories but ghosts

of things that had been

when the memory goes

time starts to slow

frustrated, confusion

it’s all they know

I question you God

what have you to gain

when the faith that we place

is rewarded in pain

When the weight of this life

drives our knees to the floor

do you lend us a hand

or pile on more

When I look in her face

does she know who I am

is the person I know

trapped deep within

When the disease gets a hold

the mourning begins

it’s death without dying

it’s loss without end.

~ Tim Garner

I wonder, is that how they’re feeling, those left behind?  If so, what about the lost, who can not express?  Where do we find healing?

Alzheimer’s Prayer

Father, free me from these walls

which imprison my mind.

Bring me from this place

into your arms and good grace.

Grant me wings to fly,

unto the sky with angels,

that from this horrid forgetfulness

I may emerge in heaven,

enter through the pearly gates,

stand by your side with

All who I ever loved

And be no more in this broken shell

where my masters are they who

know you nor me not.

Amen.

~ Terry Lynch

It occurs to me that in baptism we die to sin and are raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.  Isn’t it the same then, in death?  In liturgy we drape the coffin or urn in white, signaling the newly-baptized, new life with Christ Jesus.  Another birth.  This is our promise as Christians.  Death is not the end.

Revelation 7: 14-17

These are they who have come our of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  Never again will  they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

These are God’s promises to you, to me.  No longer will there be any pain, any suffering, or any tears.  He has cloaked those he loves with his great white light and gives them eternal life with him.  And one day, this light and life will guide you and me as well.  We will be with all of those whom we’ve loved in this life, in the next.

 

From Palms to the Cross

 

Palm Sunday at CHN

Palm Sunday at CHN

Holy week is now upon us.  This is one of my favorite times of the church, when we are asked to share in Christ’s love, joy, and sorrow.  Jesus comes to us humbly on a donkey.  You’ll see above and below, that CHN (my parish) starts it’s service outdoors with shouts of Hosanna! noise makers and the waving of Palms.

Palm4

Palm15

It’s a service that begins with joy and transitions right into the Passion story as the shouts change from Hosanna! to Crucify Him!  We had a guest preacher, The Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, who gave us a lovely homily.  Thank You.

Jesus comes to us on a donkey.  A humble animal, a working animal.  No one would call it magnificent or striking.  It’s a donkey.  An animal that carries heavy loads or gives rides to children, certainly not an animal any king would ride.  What do we learn here?  What to we see here?  Is it significant?  I think so.  Jesus is preparing to do his final work, the work he was sent here on earth to do.  To carry our very heavy loads.  Paraphrased, to carry our very heavy burdens.  This final work, so we can be free of them, our burdens, our heavy loads and we can experience joy and be filled with the light of Christ at Easter.

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.  One might say our sermon had the title, Stinky Feet.  Another reminder of Christ’s becoming a servant for us, that he brings himself to the ground to wash our feet.  I’ll be honest and say, I don’t usually partake in the washing of feet.  I’m usually singing in the choir as people receive this beautiful gift.  But as many of you know who have read this blog, it has been a challenging Lent for many at my parish.  The love and the humble service from my sisters and brothers at CHN has so moved me, so humbled me, that I felt I must take part.  I had to take the time with tear filled eyes, to take part, because I am a part of this community filled with so much hope, love, and compassion…and always the strength to overcome.  Strength that comes to us from knowing, that God is with us and God will take care of us.  God is showing us lessons of faith, experienced through the tangible, our life’s realities.  What a gift to know and experience this kind of Love.

MThurs2

Thinking of you T.J., with Love and Peace

As my dear friend prepares for her open heart surgery today, and fear and worry can’t be helped, I wanted to honor her and ask for your prayers that God will be with the surgeons and my faithful friend during this time.

Matthew 18: 19-20

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.

 

If you’re not familiar with Baylor University’s Christian Reflection, a series in faith and ethics, I highly recommend it.  T. J. introduced it to me when we served on the Christian Formation Committee together at CHN.  They publish a new series each month to reflect on.  These can be done in any order.  This month, for obvious reasons, I pulled out the series on Lent.  I want to share a song written by Eric Howell, a pastor from Day Spring Baptist Church in Waco, TX.

Come Near Today   ~  By: Eric Howell

The holy son of God descends

to human pain and need.

O Lord, to my assistance come.

Come quickly, Lord, to help me.

With love assured, your healing word,

the Spirit’s flame, your holy name.

Redeeming grace in this place –

come near today to help me.

Who is this man, the Great I Am,

who loves so fierce and free?

My Lord! You lived our suffering.

Come quickly, Lord, to be near me.

 

Refrain

The holy Son of God walks on

to darkened Calvary.

To bear his cross is now our path.

Come quickly, Lord, to lead me.

Refrain

Now may our prayer be joined with his

through life’s uncertainty.

O Lord, to my assistance come.

Come quickly, Lord, to save me.

 

Refrain

This was in my reflection this morning.  It comforts me to know that God finds a way to give words of comfort, hope, and peace.  A gentle reminder to come to him in our time of need.  May God, the healer, guide the hands of the surgeons this day and be with T.J.  Give her peace and calm as she awaits her surgery later today.  Be with P.G., that she feel the love and presence of God’s spirit, while she awaits word from the surgical team.  Be with C.J. Lord, as she tries to make it through classes.  Give her a clear mind and assurance that all will be well.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

 

It’s OK to cry…

Tears1

Today has been a rough day.  I’ve felt very emotional and out of sorts.  I’d even say, a bit anxious.  This morning, I couldn’t seem to stop crying, and the urge to still lingers.  The slightest thought seems to bring it about.  Why is that?

I’m on steroids and hormones.  Tomorrow is a very big day.  It’s the FET day.  The day I hope to become pregnant.

Where every day in this process I’ve felt mostly at peace, full of calm and hope…today I feel disjointed.  Sad.  Yet underneath it all, I also feel strong.  Talk about contradictions.  This is me.  This is where I am, and it’s OK.

Reverend Aimee gave me a blessing today after church.  I was anointed with oil and hands, loving hands, were placed on my shoulders.  A child crying in the background.  A stern talking to for bad behavior as the prayer started.  Excited dogs running around the kitchen.  Lunch half eaten at the table.  Can you picture it?  The craziness?  The madness?  Parenthood?  …and this I hope to fill my life with myself.  How appropriate.  I recall saying under my breath, “awesome”.

DogBlessed

And then, regrouping, we prayed.  Now four hands…loving hands, strong hands, comforting hands.  I was feeling so weak, but with the sudden quiet, the hands, even the dogs still and underneath my chair.  I felt blessed.  I felt loved.  Yes, I was blessed by 4 hands and 8 paws in a kitchen, amidst the chaos of life.  Beautiful.

David

That said, something tragic happened this week.  David Lamb, a boy I grew up with, a boy who played with my brother, my late brother, died.  This was a young man, his whole life ahead of him.  A husband, a son, a brother, and a friend to many.  How is it that this one family, at some point or another, have children who have all been affected by cancer at some point in their lives?  I remember when Michael (David’s older brother, who is my age) had leukemia as a teen.  I’m thankful and happy to say, he survived.  Now years later David, also with leukemia, has lost his battle.

I suppose in many ways it reminds me of my own family…our own losses.  I’ve lost 2 bothers at separate times, in separate places, from tragic accidents.  You wonder…I wonder…   All in one family?  Why?  Then there’s that ugly, awful doubt that comes at me from behind wondering if more heartache is yet to come.

Of course, the answer is YES.  Where there is joy, there is sadness and despair.  But then I remember the security I have KNOWING, that God is always there.  God is always with me.  And yes…You can…I can…We must get through it.  Always, through the darkness there is light, love, and promises of a better tomorrow.

Reaching for the Divine

 

While praying one day a woman asked,

“Who are you, God?”

He answered, “I am”.

But who is I am?

He replied, I am love,

I am peace, I am grace,

I am joy, I am strength,

I am safety, I am shelter,

I am power, I am the creator,

I am the comforter,

I am the beginning and the end,

I am the way, the truth, and the light.

With tears in her eyes,

she looked toward heaven and said,

“now I understand, but who am I?”

God tenderly wiped the tears

from her eyes and whispered,

“You are mine.”

 

~Author Unknown

So I’ve been browsing for different prayers, meditations, and guided spiritual practices for my own reflection. What keeps coming back to me is my own soul connected so tightly or closely to music. It is what at times has given me peace, allowed expression of joy and sorrow, and is a bridge for me to meander into different spaces that I might not otherwise be comfortable with or in. I believe it’s my soul’s language and allows me an openness and vulnerability that my own cognative mind won’t open on its own.   It’s funny, but as I flipped through the marked pages of my 4th Edition Maranatha! A music book of praise hymns and choruses, I noticed a distinct correlation to where I am and what kind of path I am on in my life. I should tell you these pages have been marked for years, simply because I find joy in them.   Today it’s different. It’s like I’ve been preparing for this time all these years, when I sit and play and find peace and comfort in these very simple songs.

As we seek your face,

may we know your heart,

feel your presence,

acceptance,

as we seek your face.

~Dave Bilbrough

Psalm 27:4

    Am I seeking?   Always.

I cast all my cares upon you,

I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.

And any time I don’t know what to do,

I will cast all my cares upon you.

~Kelly Willard

Psalm 55:22

    Have I intentionally left these burdens to God?  I’d like to say “yes”.  I can certainly say that I make it my intention every day and when I am tempted to fill my mind with fear and worry, I pray.  Prayer keeps me grounded. God’s presence when I tell him to help me let it go, grounds me.

You alone are my strength and shield.

To you alone may my spirit yield.

From As The Deer

~Martin Nystrom

Psalm 42:1

I have sung this phrase in many languages and different songs, and no matter what the piece, it always speaks to me. There is someone to be strong for me when I am weak; someone to shield me when I need comfort. This simple phrase, this song of many is always with me.

May God be with you and bless you as you walk your own journeys.