Mother’s Day 2019

JonathanDavid

This past Mother’s Day was a different experience for me.  I had the pleasure and challenge of preaching at my parish, Church of the Holy Nativity.  It’s only the second time I’ve ever preached.  It’s humbling.  It’s challenging.  It leaves me filled with the reminders of God’s love and grace.

When my priest initially asked how I’d feel about preaching on Mother’s Day, I hadn’t looked at the lectionary and our conversation was more about what it might mean to be a mother preaching on Mother’s Day.  I didn’t have any reservations within that context and so, agreed.

The week after peaching the first time, late January, I finally got a look at the readings and my breath caught.  I would be preaching on Mother’s Day.  The scripture readings included the 23rd Psalm.  The same words written on my brother’s tombstone, the same brother, whom we named our own miracle after.  The one who has made me a mother.  I share this backstory with you because it’s important for me to share how God works our healing in mysterious, but deliberate ways.  Sometimes we don’t even know these are parts of us that are in need God’s guidance, grace, love and healing…but they are given whether we know the need or not.  I am humbled.  I am challenged.  I am filled with reminders of God’s love and grace.

THE READINGS

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-19
John 10:22-30 (The Gospel)

THE SERMON

The Lord is our strength and shield.  Holy Spirit, come.  Make your presence known to us through word and meditation.  Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I don’t know if anyone here feels the same, but Mother’s Day is actually kind of tricky for me.  How do we celebrate a day that on one hand brings our cups to overflowing and on the other, rips the scar tissue or maybe even a fresh scab off of a deep wound?

You see, though many are mothers in the traditional sense,  blessed to be able to witness first hand, God’s miracle of creation, there are many other mothers out there.

*The woman who has been trying to conceive for years – Yes.  She’s a mother too.

*The man who’s both mother and father, because he’s it – Yeah, he’s a mother too.

*The adoptive and honorary role models who take children under their wings – Yep, they’re moms too.

*The bereaved mother, who no longer has a child to hold in her arms – Let me tell you, she’s still very much a mother.

…and these are just a few examples of the other.

Added to that, where does this leave children like AJ Freund?  I don’t know how many of you have seen the recent DCFS audit in Illinois, but from 2015-2017, 102 children had prior contact with the system, but were left vulnerable and died.

In a time when so many of us feel powerless, isn’t it wonderful to be reminded of…to rediscover to beauty and power of the resurrection?

Are any of you familiar with the story of Horatio Spafford?  There’s a Chicago connection.  He was a successful lawyer who had invested significantly in property that was extensively damaged in the Great Chicago Fire.  In the hopes of finding a new life, the family planned to move to Europe.  Consequently, Mr. Spafford was delayed on business, so he sent his family on ahead of him.  While crossing the Atlantic, the ship his family was on sank after a collision with another vessel.  All 4 of his daughters died.  This added to a son the family had already lost previously, when he was 2 years old.  It was this man, who after significant personal trauma, wrote the lyrics to the well-known hymn, It is well with my soul.

Bear with me, for I very much think in song and lyric…but I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and hear the words (the original lyrics), which I believe are the essence of our readings this morning.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal,
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

As  I read and re-read our scriptures for this morning over and over – my own practice of meditation and reflection, I couldn’t help but be lifted by the Spirit and season of Easter.  We are a resurrection people.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

First we have God working a miracle through Peter – raising Tabitha from the dead.

Then we are given peace in the knowing our Shepherd always guides us towards life, in the Psalm.

He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways
for his name’s sake.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.

Followed by a beautiful picture of what the resurrection might look like –

God will shelter them.
They will hunger and thirst no more.
For the Lamb will be their Shepherd.
He will guide them to springs of the water of life.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

A world Unified – every nation, tribe, people and language –
made pure through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And finally in our Gospel, absolute assurance –

“My sheep hear my voice.
I know them.
They follow me.
I give them eternal Life.
They will never perish.”

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In his great mercy, we have been given a new birth into a living HOPE through the resurrection.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O grave, is your victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Or as Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019) put it:
“Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about.”

…which reminds me of a saying that goes something like this:
When you’re in a dark place, you tend to think you’ve been buried. But perhaps, like a seed or a bulb, you’ve been planted.  BLOOM!

…and so I say with Faith and Joy and Hope, Happy Mother’s Day!
To all moms: step-moms, honorary moms, adopted moms, foster moms, yearning moms, angel moms, grieving moms, grieving children, pet moms, expecting moms, new moms, mother-in-laws, Dad moms, anyone who has a mom or mother figure…Happy Mother’s Day!

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

JonathanJames

Me and my miracle boy, Jonathan on Mother’s Day.

What does Ministry look like?

Psalm 78:70-72 (NIV)

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his
people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he lead them.

**italics for my own depth of meaning

So I was asked recently what my ministry moving forward might look like.  Part of this conversation was also about tracing my past and looking for the nudges or signs that may be or may have been pointing me towards a call that though seemingly new, perhaps isn’t.  What moves me?  Why is there freedom for me in this call?

So, I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it.  The thing is, ministry has been my life for pretty much my entire life.  I feel like the decisions I’ve made and who I am are all because of ministry and living out my life as a child of God.  A Christian.

I need to go back and read my journals, because I would probably gain much insight in doing so, but without going there yet (since this would require unearthing them-I’ve been journaling since a very young age), it occurs to me that I’ve had leadership roles in ministry since I was a teenager.  I’ve never really considered this.

When I was a member of the Church of Christ, I was actually a teen leader, given the role of discipler (a Christian mentor of sorts) to others.  I attended church leadership meetings, prayed, went to Bible study, church services and youth group.  This was just all a part of my regular life.  I was 15-16 years old.

Later, when I became friends with Father Mike and started learning, studying and falling in love with the Roman tradition, I was lead to volunteering my time and talents as a musician.  Leading the music during the mass and later helping plan mass for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals as well as holidays was just part of my life.

Then, when I was asked to consider being a section leader for the choir at Union Church in Hinsdale (UCC denomination), I was again in a leadership role, serving the church through music.  Helping church members, family, friends and acquaintances with music and scripture for weddings and/or funerals became part of my normal life.  It was common for me to do 3-4 services a weekend at church.

Through nursing school and living in Michigan this continued.  Different parishes, but somehow I found myself doing the same ministry.  Somehow ministry in the church and ministry at the bedside intertwined quite well…naturally, even.  The first time I assisted a priest from prelude to recessional for a service, I was 20 years old.  I’ve been doing this ever since.  I find true joy and love in this work.  So, when I think about what ministry might look like as a priest, it looks like this…

Being with, teaching and sharing with those around me the joy and security I have found as a child of God and hopefully imparting some of this love, hope and faith to others.

It’s holding the hand of someone leaving this life and moving to the next, providing whatever solace and comfort I may – singing, holding or just being present. [Blessing]

It’s planning the funeral of that same person, beloved of God, with the faith that there is LIFE after death. [Blessing]

It’s meeting at the table every week, perhaps more, and sharing a sacred meal.  A reminder of the grace and life bestowed on us, through us and in us, because we are loved that much.

It’s sharing the joys of new life (pregnancy, birth, baptism) and sharing God in the midst of it all. [Blessing]

It’s skipping dinner because someone is hurt, broken or hurting and needs support.  It’s making sure we both get dinner afterwards.

I’ve only touched bits and pieces, but these ring loud and clear for me.  I think this is actually parish ministry, pastoral ministry, shepherding.  I’ve done some of this work in the ICU, in another house. But, if God can call David from the sheep pens to shepherd and lead his people…I suppose it’s not so far off for God to call a nurse from the hospital to minister in a parish.

With regards to this seeming freedom I have with this call.  I’m not as free as one might think.  I’ve struggled, cried, fought and asked God what on earth he was thinking?!?!  But, when it all comes down to it.  I love God with my entire being.  I trust this God more than anyone else.  I believe God has a plan, not to harm, but for hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

As the lyric comes quickly from A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee.

I’ve been singing this prayer for years now with my entire being.  Giving my life to God, who has given it to me, feels humbling…but also secure and natural.  I have always been his.

I’ll close with this hymn based on Psalm 5:8

Lead Me, Lord
Music by: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness,
make Thy way plain before my face.
For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord only,
that makest me to dwell in safety.

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy holiness,
teach me to love and trust in Thee.
Thou art our God, the God of our salvation,
all nations shall praise Thy holy name.

Lead Me

Blessings and Peace to you this day.  May you find hope, clarity and faith in your own journey today.

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.

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!

Why I March…

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Many of you know that we gave birth to this beautiful baby boy at 27 weeks last February.  This precious boy was 1 pound, 15 ounces at birth.  This picture is the first time I was finally able to see my little boy.  I was too sick to see him for the first 2 days.  He is 3 days old here.  Prematurity is near and dear to our hearts.  After spending 3 months in the NICU, we witnessed so much.  We were certainly blessed to have not only survived such an early birth, but to have thrived.  Many babies are surviving such young gestation because of the work of March of Dimes.  But, there are many that don’t and babies who struggle even more than my beloved boy.

In honor of these babies, I am marching in the March of Dimes walk to help raise money for babies who struggle with prematurity, babies born with birth defects, and to raise funds, awareness and research for early infant mortality.

I walk to honor my son.

I walk in memory of Baby Jesse Amandus.

I walk in Thanks to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and all of the hands who have played and continue to play a role in our journey.  They not only help us survive, but to thrive.  As always, a special shout out to CHN for all of the continued love and support.

If you or anyone you think may be interested in supporting our cause.  I invite you to visit our page (simply click on the link):

March for Babies

Thank You!!!

 

My little man is 9 months (6 months corrected age)!!!

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I can’t believe how time has flown!  Jonathan is now 9 months old/6 months corrected age for prematurity.  He is 26 inches long (23%) and weighs in at 15lb 3oz (6%)!  Hooray!  The pediatrician was impressed with Jonathan’s growth!

Jonathan is still hitting all of his targets for development.  We don’t visit the NEST clinic (developmental clinic) until December.  Then he’ll have an updated evaluation from all of the different therapies.  He rolls over.  Loves to babble and has just learned to blow raspberries.  He has a sweet, sweet laugh that I get to hear everyday.

I still haven’t had a first day back to work.  I officially left my full time position, but the hospital kept me on a casual status (relief).  This is great for me to keep my foot in the door.  Right now, I just can’t fathom being away from the baby for 14 hours at a time minimum.  It feels strange not to work, but being at home with a baby is probably the hardest work I’ve ever done….but the most rewarding too.  I would hate to miss seeing my little miracle grow.  Something new seems to happen every day.  Hope all is well in your worlds!  I try to keep everyone updated more frequently!

Jonathan’s 8 Months!

Wow!  I can’t believe how time flies!  Jonathan is 8 months (5 months corrected age) already!  He’s even on the grid for his height and weight (corrected age), 25th percentile for both!  He amazes me every day!

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Jonathan rolls around, army crawls and scoots across the bed and floor, and is quite vocal these days.  He even, most recently, cut his first tooth!

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As soon as I get a better picture, I’ll post it, but this is what I have for now!  At 5 months corrected, that’s pretty great!  He tried peaches most recently and really enjoyed those!  I love our food processor and Vitamix.  Making baby food is so easy with them!  Let me know if any of you need tips or recipes out there.

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Baseball is in the playoffs and we’re rooting for the Cubs!  Here we are showing off our duds!

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People say he looks a lot like me, but he’s got quite a bit of Daddy too!  Most recently they started a Mommy group in our building, which is great.  It’s nice to have other Moms to relate to the life of motherhood!  Here we are at our first get-together in our Park.

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I think I might be the “oldest” one in the group, ha ha! That’s a new one for me! I still feel so young!  On that note, I hope everyone’s having a great fall and enjoying the changing colors, if you’re in such a climate!  More posts to come soon.  I felt the struggle with going back to work deserved it’s own post.  It’s a difficult choice for any parent to make, but hard for me because of me little preemie miracle.  Have a great day friends!

October

6 Months – We’ve made it!

We’re celebrating!  Jonathan has been with us for 6 months!  It’s been a long road, but he is doing so well!  We went to the pediatrician this week and he is now weighing in at 11lb 8.5oz.  Still a little small for his corrected gestational age, but she was happy with his growth in between visits!

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He’s helping Dr. McCabe by hanging on to her stethoscope!  Besides growing, Jonathan is now teething!  I wasn’t sure at first, but it’s confirmed by his pediatrician.  He has the “all-clear” to begin eating food as soon as he’s ready.  He’s just about there. She thinks he’ll be ready before his next appointment.  I’m actually really looking forward to making his baby food!

We’ve also found that he just loves elephants.  It’s adorable.  He gets so happy when he sees one.  Here he is talking to one of his best buddies…ha ha ha.

We are blessed.

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