Come and Follow Me

Well, I was just starting to get comfortable and calm and wonder if all of the dreams and restlessness were really just a part of going through this journey called life with others around me.  Then, I went to church on Sunday and just as I knelt for communion…the music started.

Will you come and follow me
arr: John L Bell
Tune: Kelvingrove

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ner free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen
and admit to what I mean In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow In you and you in me.

I started sobbing at the table where I was about to receive Christ.

Here I am, with my reverent little boy waiting for Christ and I look at him and see Christ.  I see love.  I see forgiveness.  I see hope.  I see joy.  I see a life that may that may never be the same… and in my tears, I smile at this child, this beautiful gift of mine from God and I can not deny.  I can never turn my back and I then open myself to receive.

I don’t even know what I’m saying yes to.  I only know that I am God’s and he is mine.  I will go where he leads me.  I must.  This God, who has never turned away from me, can receive nothing less from me but everything I am and everything I will be.

All of this flowing through me was followed by a passage I read this morning in the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It reads:

Wait quietly in my presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being.  Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound.  I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make My humble home in your heart.  It is there where you know Me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers.  Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still small voice within you.  I am speaking to you continually: words of Life…Peace…Love.  Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessing.  Lay your requests before Me, and wait in expectation.

It made me reflect on something else I read this week from the book the Fire and the Clay where George Guiver writes, if being with Christ is a somewhat disconcerting experience, even more disconcerting must be the prospect of Christ being formed in us.

This morning I read a passage from 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing, Elijah?”

I find in this passage this truth; It is in the silence that we can hear.  It is often also in the silence that we can just be.  George Guiver also wrote in the Fire and the Clay, If we can not face silence, that means that we can not face ourselves, and something is needing attention.  I find true wisdom in those words and they are a great reminder to me to cultivate those quiet moments and in silence I may be having the most profound conversation.

I’ll end with a passage that I keep coming back to these last few days:

Psalm 5 (NRSV)

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

For you are not a God who delights
in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who
love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as a shield.

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Daydreams

I need to tell you a story.  It’s been persistently on my mind.  I’m uncertain of it’s meaning, but continue to roll it around in my head.  Any insight is welcome.

Some of you may know my second cousin, Christi, passed away last month.  It’s devastating, as she leaves behind a husband and 2 beautiful school-aged children.  Cancer took her from us.  Quickly.  Unexpectedly.

Christi

I couldn’t sleep the night I received the news.  More than a relative, Christi, had been my friend.  She was a great support to me while I journeyed through infertility, cheering me on.  She was also a great support and encouraged us as we journeyed through having a micropreemie.  She walked with us.  Kept tabs.  Checked in.  Now, in the blink of an eye, she’s gone.  Wife.  Mother.  Friend.  Gone.

Though I always said, Thank You, in the way one does when someone does something nice or kind for you, I never did tell her what her presence, hope and the walking with me, meant to me.  I believe as her spirit lives and we continue to share our stories, she hears and she knows she made a impact.  This reminds me to remember to speak up, share memories, tell stories, share joys, and trials too with those around us.  Tell people what it means to have their presence, their listening ears and their love in our lives.

So, I was thinking about Christi while getting ready the next morning and I had this “daydream?”.  I’m not sure what to call it, because I was awake, but it definitely came from a subconscious part of me or somewhere else.  Something else.  It was almost trance-like.  But, I had this whole conversation with myself or with this other entity about whether or not I should wear a collar to her memorial service.  Then, finally, I kind of came out of it and thought; “Why are you even having this conversation?  You’re not a priest or a deacon, who has a collar.  You don’t have to worry about this or think about it.”  Then I thought, “What on earth was that?”  I just had an entire conversation about when asked “should I wear a collar?” to the point of answering, no.  It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to wear a collar because I was attending the service as her family, to be supportive of the rest of the family.  Christi and Massimo were not religious people and may be uncomfortable and not supported with a collar.

Then it came again.  “What just happened?”  “What was that?”  It left me feeling unsettled and nervous.  Then I thought, well it’s no wonder I’m dreaming of collars since I’m working with a 3rd discernment group of someone discerning if there is a call to the  ordained ministry of the priesthood.  Maybe I’ve been discerning so much, my own mind is just there, present and in that space thinking about what it means to be a deacon or a priest.  I don’t know. I’m not sure.  This is so strange.

On a side note, I had begun to finally look into participating in EfM (Education for Ministry).  Feel free to click on the link if you’re not sure what that is.  Reverend Aimee, our previous rector, had mentioned EfM to me years ago, but there was a scheduling conflict for me, so it wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to commit to, until now.  As it doesn’t work well for me to drive out to CHN (Church of the Holy Nativity) during rush hour, I looked into trying to find a group in the city.  I was directed to a man named Timm, who leads the group at St James Cathedral.  We had lunch so that I could learn more about it.  I found out Timm is a retired physician, so we had something in common almost immediately.  He then told me he was actually in discernment trying to discern whether or not he had a call to the diaconate; was I familiar with the process?  Of course, I smiled and said, actually, I’m currently working with a third discernment group right now with someone discerning a possible call to the priesthood.  (My heart is now racing and I’m thinking, what on earth is going on?)  So, we talked a little about his process and that he’d also been a part of another group prior to his own, discerning the priesthood with someone.  We had a very nice lunch and are looking forward to delving into EfM together.

Now I’m really starting to think, so I send a text to a friend who also happens to be a priest, hoping she can calm my panic.  I asked if she might have time for a chat and surprisingly, she was able to respond right away with a  yes, she was actually on her lunch.  I told her the story.  Her response was not at all what I expected.  She said, “well, if I was your priest, I would guard my words more carefully, but since I’m not your priest, as your friend, I can tell you that most of the discerning that I’ve done with people are those with a call to the diaconate, not the priesthood.  (palpitations are starting now)  I can tell you, it takes someone who… (with the pounding in my ears, I can’t remember the exact words she used when talking about the personal qualities it takes to be a priest, but I remember what came next…) …and you have those qualities.  Those are the qualities of a priest.”

I’m now stunned.  Sitting there nervous, mouth dry and thinking, “You can’t be serious?!?”  In my mind, I might possibly handle the thought of a deacon, but priest?  Seriously?  Could I honestly be entrusted with that?

This is the first time “priest” (or any ordained ministry for that matter) has even flittered across my mind or thoughts.  I’ve never, in my wildest imaginings, thought of myself as priest.  The responsibility, the education…the teaching–maybe, but I can teach in many different capacities.  The preaching–I don’t know.  Maybe…it might not be so different as what I do and feel when I sing.  But to be entrusted with all that it means to be a priest?  It’s scary.  It’s alarming.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know…

Well, then the memorial that started all of this was now upon us.  I’d had a few days to just sit and be with everything that was floating around in my head and around me.  My mom had just flown in from Florida to be at the service.  Lola (Grandma in the Philippine language) brought gifts for her beloved grandson.  He was happy Lola was here and really enjoying the new toys.  Then she says to me, I have something for you too!  I said, really?  Thank You!  You didn’t have to do that.

Spoons

Now I will tell you that my mother is a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist.  Feel free to click on the link if you don’t know what that is or means, but needless to say, the crucifix is often a point of contention, in its use.  Regardless, she presented me with these.

Faith     Love     Hope    Joy

They’re lovely, and of course, I said “Thank You!”  I also asked where on earth she found them.  She said she saw them at the airport and they made her think of me.  I said, “Really?  You saw crucifix measuring spoons and they made you think of me?”  She said, “Well, I thought you’d enjoy them.”  I said, “They’re beautiful, Thank You.”  As the baker of the family, this sort of made sense.  As someone who was is palpitating at the thought of ordained ministry that others might possibly see in my future and someone who is trying to find out what on earth God is telling me…These spoons at the airport?  Really?

Ok God, you sent me some spoons… what are you trying to tell me?

A week or so later, I got an email from our music director at CHN asking if I was available to sing the anthem on August 5th because she would be out of town and Bill, another church member would be playing the organ that Sunday.  After looking at the calendar I responded yes, that would work.  I just need to take a look at the readings for that Sunday and get back to her with some music.  So, I looked up the readings for August 5th on the lectionary page and was drawn to the Epistle (Ephesians 4:1-16) and the Gospel (John 6:24-35).  I started looking through music and found this because it moved me so much.

At one point with my mind just circling around it all while singing, I just broke down and sobbed.  I want to break down the lyric for you…

Hard as it seems,
Standing in dreams,
Where is the dreamer now?
Wonder if I,
Wanted to try,
Would I remember how?

I don’t know the way to go from here,
but I know that I have made my choice.
And this is where I stand,
until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

It strikes a chord with me.  It all started with a kind of a daydream– but do I know or imagine beyond that?  It’s difficult.  It’s scary.  It’s troublesome.  Clearly, my life is in a period of transition.  I’m between churches.  Still at CHN, but often attending the cathedral because it’s closer to home and more accessible to me.  In transition of career as I haven’t “practiced” nursing in 2 years, after the birth of our micropreemie caused us to reevaluate the need to have me working outside of the home.  In transition with a possible move to Florida in our future as our families are living there.

Who knows what the future holds?

However, in our baptismal vows, we’ve already made a promise, a choice:  “…to put our whole trust in God’s love and grace (BCP p.302) …to obey and follow God (BCP p.303)”

The song continues…

This is the faith;
patience to wait when there is nothing clear.
Nothing to see, still we believe
Jesus is very near.

I can not imagine what will come,
but I’ve already made my choice,
and this is where I stand until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

Could it be that he is only
waiting there to see
If I will learn to love the dreams
that he has dreamed for me?

I can’t imagine what the future holds,
but I’ve already made my choice,
and this is where I stand until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

Faith.  I’ve talked about faith before.  I do believe what is currently mush will become crystal clear in God’s time and when I am ready.

Clearly, God is trying to tell me something.  I’m still not at all sure what God has in store for me, but I do believe in his love and his grace.  He has a dream for me and he’s just now starting to see if I can see and put my faith in his dream; learn his dream and in doing so live in to the life he’s dreamed for me since birth.

I’ll close with this:  Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full cloak of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Who’s calling? God.

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In your mercy, Lord, you called me,
taught my sin-filled heart and mind,
else this world had still enthralled me,
and to glory kept me blind.

Lord, I did not freely choose you
till by grace you set me free;
for my heart would still refuse you
had your love not chosen me.

Now my heart sets none above you,
for your grace alone I thirst,
knowing well, that if I love you,
you, O Lord, have loved me first.

from The Hymnal 1982
Words: Josiah Conder (1789-1855); alt. Charles P. Price (b.1920)
Music: Halton Holgate, William Boyce (1711-1779)

I think I have a new favorite hymn!  I’ve been humming, playing and singing this since Sunday.  It’s new to me.  We sang it as one of our communion hymns.

One of these days, I will have to record someone, maybe even myself…singing it.

Have you ever felt called?  To what?  How did you respond?

I was talking to a dear friend not too long ago about how she is doing spiritual work and education as she progresses in her postulancy to the deaconate.  We talked about how as she is doing more of the “work” during church services it feels more like a job and less like church is feeding her soul.  How do you find God in this space of “work”?

This is as tough as it is simple.  Then I thought, well, How you do find God?  That might be the only question.  But, it’s not so simple, and I wanted the time to just rest with it and think on it, as millions of thoughts were going through my mind.

Is it the same is my own ministry of being in the ICU as a nurse all these years?  Where I’d just GO, GO, GO and crazy things would happen and suddenly I would just KNOW that God was taking over where I could only do so much?  Is it like when I take an early morning drive, see a sunrise and feel God saying, “Good Morning!”?  Maybe it’s more like trying to find God, while doing the laundry.  How do we find him there?  In the mundane, regular acts of daily life.  Will we just know or do we have to look?

Then I thought, as a Eucharistic Minister, who gives the gift of sacrament to people, made in the image of God, can you find him there?  If the face of 80 or 90 year old that may or may not make it up to the altar.  In the face of the mom and dad wrangling their children, full of energy, to get to the table.  In the face of the 2 year old who may or may not understand, but wants to be loved and accepted at Christ’s table as well.  In the face of the businessman who makes it to church, but never says very much.  Can you find God, not in the work, but in the images, the faces, and the stories that come to the table every week hungry and thirsty for God?

I would love to hear your stories, your thoughts.  Please comment if you are moved to do so.  Blessings and Peace to you today.

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Amanda Needs Your Prayers

Amanda

This is Amanda.  Amanda is 27 years old and has been battling breast cancer.  She is a wife and mother of 2 little girls.  She went to the hospital because she was feeling dizzy and found out she has a large brain tumor.  Residing in Michigan, she took the trip with her husband, parents and parents-in-laws to Mayo Clinic and is even as I write, is undergoing brain surgery.  She’s in critical condition and has been in surgery a long time.  Please take a moment and say a prayer for her and her family.  Thank You.  I will try to post an update as I receive them.  Blessings to you and yours.

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This is Amanda and her 2 beautiful girls.

Why we walk…

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Right now, babies need all the help they can get. Premature birth affects approximately 380,000 in the United States.  Many of you know, my own life has been affected by the birth of our son, Jonathan, at 27 weeks.  He is a survivor and a miracle.  He is our Jonathan; our “Gift from God.”

Unfortunately, there are also many others who don’t survive.  Also, many who survive, are in need of constant care and support as their babies grow and hopefully, thrive.

In a week, we will be joining the March for Babies here in the Chicago suburbs and walking alongside those who cared for our precious son, The AMITA NICU Warriors.

I walk for my own son, but I also walk for those who don’t survive prematurity and/or the birth defects they are born with.  We need more research to help babies survive and thrive.  Already, more babies are surviving and thriving that wouldn’t have 10 years ago.  Jonathan is the perfect example of this, and yet, there is much more to learn.  If you’d like to help, please make a secure donation or walk with us!  Together, we can help March of Dimes, so more babies can get the strongest start possible.

We honor Jonathan with this walk.  Look at this guy and his NICU team!  IMG_2564

We walk in memory of Jesse Amandus, who fought an amazing fight after his birth at 24 weeks, but could only be with us for 13 days.  IMG_6413

We walk in thanks for the care received in the NICU at AMITA Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, and all of the hands that have helped and continue to help us walk through this journey.  IMG_7561
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Please click here if you’d like to make a DONATION.  Thank You for all of your support, love and prayers!

A not so fun First…Hospitalization

Well, after having upper respiratory symptoms for about a week and fevers for 4 days, we thought it might be time for Jonathan’s pediatrician to have a look as well, specially as it had gotten to the point where I had to start giving nebs at home, which I’ve never had to do.

We were only 2 hours away from his pediatrician appointment and things got a little too uncomfortable to stay at home.  Jonathan would hold his breath to cough and his lips started turning blue.  I also went to change a diaper and he became ruddy in complexion and starting flailing in panic because he couldn’t breathe.  Off to the ER we went.

Thankfully, we were taken back fairly quickly.  In triage, we were doing pretty well with all of our numbers.  Unfortunately, it took over an hour for a nurse to come and assess him in our room and when they did as I suspected with his ruddy lips, his oxygen levels were a little lower than the desired level, 87%.  Oops.  Quickly though, Jonathan at that point was placed on oxygen.

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Our next step was for a Chest X-Ray.  I know no one ever likes to give a child radiation, but when trying to determine if you are dealing with pneumonia or not, it’s pretty much the only conclusive way to go.  Thankfully he did not have pneumonia, unfortunately though we were pretty sure we were dealing with a viral illness, he needed oxygen for hypoxia.  This was not something we were going to be able to manage at home at this point.  We don’t have oxygen or the monitoring capability at home.  So, we had our first overnight in the hospital since our discharge from the NICU.

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Much more comfortable in his room and with an efficient, sweet nurse who helped me, we were able to suction Jonathan to help him breathe better and then this happened! img_2965
Oxygen levels of 97% on Room Air (without oxygen)!  The bulb suction I have at home just wasn’t going deep enough or strong enough to clear out these super thick secretions to help him breathe better.  What a relief!  We kept the oxygen tubing on overnight just in case we needed to hook him back up, but for the first time in days, he got some good sleep.  img_2968
His numbers stayed up and he slept with a minimal incline on the bed.

Fast forward to morning, we found out he tested positive for RSV, which was not a surprise.  Thankfully, as he was able to keep his levels normal and did not require oxygen throughout the night, we were all comfortable going home yesterday.img_2976
The next morning.

View from his room.  Lurie Children’s Hospital.


When you start cleaning the cabinets with your Boogie Wipes, it’s definitely time to go!

and…He’s 2!!!

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Yes, you read it right! Jonathan is 2!  I can hardly believe it myself!  It seems like he was just born and we’re on the 2nd Birthday already.  My micropreemie is no longer a little baby…official Toddlerhood is upon us!

Currently, Jonathan’s favorite things are TRAINS and CLEANING!  Vacuums, dust pans, swiffers, mops…you name it, he’s in to it!  His activities include swimming, gymnastics, sing-a-long, and Mom Pop Tot interaction.  He also really enjoys going to church and singing and listening to the organ.  Here are some pictures from his Birthday Party…

Yes, his girlfriends are feeding him cake! Ha Ha Ha.

Jonathan with his Godfather, Uncle Mike

Playing with his friends.

His current stats are:

Height 32.28″
Weight 11.57KG/25lbs, 8oz
Head Circumference 19.65″

We are feeling so blessed and proud to be his parents!

I’m still here!

Hi Friends!

I’m still here, with nary a moment to write most days, but I try to read late at night before I pass out from chasing my growing beautiful boy.

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Jonathan is becoming a little boy.  He is in Swim on Mondays, Gymnastics on Thursdays and a Mom Pop Tot Class (learning through play) on Fridays!  I can barely keep up!  We are still getting some nice weather here in Chicago.

Certainly enough that Jonathan got to work on digging some dirt the other day and had so much fun with cousin Charlie!

Most recently, we had a visit from Lola (grandma in Tagalog-a Philippine dialect), and J really just loves her!  We’re wishing they still lived here in Chicago and they’re wishing we’d hurry up and move to Florida!

Can I get a “Go Cubs Go!” out of it?!?!  YES!!!! We’re going to the World Series!!!!!

Of note, J had to graduate to a Toddler Bed. He’s learned to swing his leg over a bar and spin in Gymnastics and decided to try that out on his crib!  Oh, the joys of toddler-hood!!!  I was hoping to keep the crib until he was 2, but what can I say?  My micropreemie is catching up to his actual age in gross motor skills and has other ideas!

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Good thing once he’s out, he’s OUT!  Blessings to you and yours!  I’ll try to do better at updating!