The Great Lakes are the Ocean of the Midwest

We spent one family vacation on the Delaware beach. It was restful to walk the beach listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing on the beach. The ocean is God’s grand creation.

More often we spend time near  the  Great  Lakes  of Michigan.  Lake   Superior in Upper Michigan has a rugged beauty. We have some favorite family parks along the coast of this glorious Great Lake.

Lake Superior

Lake Michigan has lovely beaches. A few years ago I wrote about a writing conference that I attended. The conference center was within walking distance of Lake Michigan.

September 2012. My day started early.   I left my house at 6:00 am and pointed the car towards Michigan. I was on my way to the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference.

The sun was shining when Tim Burns, conference director gave opening remarks. He pointed us to Habakkuk 2:2   Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.In other words, write with purpose and clarity.

The conference began with messages that encouraged us to examine our motives for writing. Or to use Cecil Murphy’s term, are we paying attention to the palace guards? Are we listening to guidance from the Holy Spirit?

As the conference moved into the second day we heard from authors and editors about the changing publishing industry. The fiction writers’ panel was insightful.

Each afternoon provided an hour of free time.On the first day I chose to walk to the beach of Lake Michigan– just a couple blocks away. I have a deep appreciation for the Great Lakes. As I walked the wind was whipping my hair across my face. I could hear the roar of the waves from a distance.

On the beach, the waves were crashing and washed over any other sound.Lake Michigan

The seagulls were gathered in groups. As a line of gulls tip-toed into the water and then scurried back from a wave, laughter bubbled in my throat. I was amazed as the gulls soared and then flew sideways as the air currents carried them.

Standing on the beach I was in tune with the words of the Psalmist.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;                                                                          let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Psalm 96:11

It is good to take time to pause. Is there some facet of God’s creation that can give you joy today?

Please visit the community of writers at Five Minute Friday. Each week Kate Motaung provides a word that inspires us to write. The one word prompt today is: OCEAN

Joy Restored

Childbirth practices had changed since I began my career as a labor and delivery nurse. The use of pitocin to hasten birth had become common. The rate of cesarean section had risen from 15% to 30%. I saw a full term infant die after inappropriate use of pitocin. I didn’t like my role as nurse, and I told my husband that I wasn’t sure that I could continue.

I was aware of a group of doctors and midwives that attended homebirth. I interviewed with them and chose to take a cut in pay to work with them. It was refreshing to attend women in their homes, supporting them as they labored.

Women were more relaxed, and the family was often involved. I saw that God had given women the ability to give birth. I saw the strength of women. Sometimes intervention was necessary. Hospitals are important and are equipped to handle complications. We transferred about 5 to 10% of the women to the hospital.

The four years that I participated in home birth restored my joy as a nurse. When we are burdened and lose our joy, we may need a new perspective. I am thankful that God led me to take the home birth position (something that I never dreamed I would do).

This lesson stays with me. I need to step back from hard situations and ask God to give me a new perspective. He will restore our joy and renew us in the roles he has given us.

How about you? Could you benefit from a new perspective?

I am joining  the Five Minute Friday community of writers. Our one word prompt this week is: RESTORE

Flying to Finland to visit my Grandmother’s birthplace

In July of last year my husband and I flew to Finland to visit my grandmother’s birthplace and to attend a family reunion. We had a nonstop flight on Finnair from Chicago to Helsinki Finland. Relatives met us at the airport.

My grandmother’s travel to the United States was much more arduous. She traveled by boat from Oulu, Finland to the port city Hanko. From Hanko she took another boat to Hull, England, then a train from Hull to Liverpool. As far as I know she traveled alone in 1903.

In Liverpool she boarded the Ultonia (a former livestock carrier). She traveled third class in steerage. She had a bunk, along with many other immigrants, in the hold of the ship. This crowded space had inadequate sanitation, and many of the passengers were seasick. I can’t imagine what she endured.

She arrived in Boston and was directed to a train  that  took  her  to  Chicago.    From Chicago she took a train to  the  Upper  Peninsula  of  Michigan where she was met by two of her brothers.

My grandmother had told family members that she planned to go back to Finland to visit one day. But after completing her journey to Michigan, she decided that she could never make such a difficult journey again. Instead she asked her daughters to promise that they would one day visit Finland.

Vuostimo Finland
House that neighbored my grandmother’s girlhood home (now gone).

My mother, my aunt and my sisters have all made the trip. We are blessed by the ease of air travel.

Linking with the Five Minute Friday Community. Today’s prompt is: FLY

The blooms in my garden remind me . . .

The tulips have faded and the lilacs have come and gone. Now the irises are blooming.

Bloom in my garden

Blooms in my garden

The peonies delight me with their layers of petals. Spring has come again.

Blooms in my garden

Blooms in my garden

The rhythm of seasons and immense variety of plants and flowers point to our Creator and his promises.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

God’s word also promises that Jesus will return.

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call,  and  they  will  gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:30-31

It is good to keep Jesus’ return in mind.

I am joining Five Minute Friday with this week’s prompt: RETURN

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Crisis & Prayer

Today I am joining a community that is writing on the prompt: PAUSE

Life has been on pause.

No, that is not quite right. The nonessentials of life have been on pause.

A week ago my grandson developed a critical illness and has been in a pediatric ICU. My daughter has been at his bedside. My husband and I have been taking care of the other children.

We have been learning their daily patterns, seeing more of their school projects. It has been an intense week. Grandpa has earned the title of Grand Nap Master for his ability to coax the toddler to take a nap.

The days have been stressful but touched with little blessings. We are thankful for the prayers on behalf of our family. A dear friend sent me scripture verses. This one has encouraged me:

Psalm 62:5-6  Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

The evening before major surgery my grandson’s youth group held a prayer meeting. About fifty people, many of his friends, showed up to pray.

We are blessed by God’s love being displayed by faithful friends.

UPDATE: Our grandson is recovering after two surgeries for a bleeding brain aneurysm. We praise God for answered prayer. We are grateful for the skill of the medical team and the advances in medical technology.

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Supporting Mothers: The Hike for Life

Over the years I have often participated in the Hike for Life on Mother’s Day weekend. It has been a family event, children included.

In the 1990s we hiked along the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. Yesterday my daughter reminded me of her first hike. It was the beginning of her concern for mothers and their infants. The years that we hiked together have now been passed along to the next generation.

Hike for Life

Now my grandchildren participate in the Hike for Life. A couple years ago we all went together.

Mother's Day Weekend

This year they will hike, and I will go visit my mother who is in a nursing home in Michigan.

All women need support during the transitions of life.

The money raised by the Hike for Life goes to pregnancy care centers. These centers provide ultrasounds, parenting classes, infant clothing and diapers. The staff at the pregnancy care center come along side a woman that needs assistance.

It is wonderful when a woman has the support of family and friends during pregnancy. Sometimes she needs another source of support. //

I am grateful, too, for organizations that help women adjust to the roles of motherhood. The Mother of Twins group meeting was my favorite evening out when I had three children under the age of three.

My daughters have benefited from MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), and I have enjoyed being a mentor mom for MOPS.

When we were in Finland I was  happily  surprised  to learn that the    parents of young children ride the buses in Helsinki for free.

Flowers and cards for mothers are nice, tangible help is better. Perhaps, there is someone that you can encourage.

Today I am joining the Five Minute Friday community. Our one word prompt is: INCLUDE

 

Different Environments: New Perspectives

I am joining the writing community, Five Minute Friday, today. We write for five minutes (or sometimes a little more). The prompt today is: ADAPT

Family - Bouquet

 

It was a decision I came to after much thought, choosing to work with physicians and midwives that attended home birth. I had worked in the hospital for many years.

I continued to work in the hospital labor/delivery unit on a  per  diem   basis, while taking weekend call for the home birth group.   Nurse colleagues in the hospital who knew about my second job warned me to keep quiet. Don’t tell any of the doctors.

There is a big divide and limited communication between hospital based birth attendants and home birth attendants. Home birth practitioners are reluctant to transfer patients to the hospital until absolutely necessary. Hospital staff only see the home birth patients that are in crisis. They don’t see the healthy births that take place at home.

I learned so much attending labor patients in their home. I carried supplies that might be needed (IV fluids, oxygen), and arrived at the home when a woman was in early labor. I assessed her and encouraged her to rest in early labor. As labor progressed I helped her with positions changes, suggested a warm shower and offered massage. I made sure she stayed hydrated and nourished.

It was so much easier for a woman to work with labor in her home. (I had taught Lamaze classes, but rarely saw such focus and ability to cope with labor in the hospital setting.)

It was my job to notify the doctor of any problems, and to update him on the progress of labor(so that he/she would arrive in time) . Of course, sometimes a woman needed the interventions available in the hospital. Sometimes I urged the doctor to transfer the patient. A couple of times I rode to the hospital with a labor patient needing intervention.

Hospital staff and home birth practitioners could benefit from switching places. They could learn skills from each other and develop better communication.

As I worked with a foot in both settings, I tried to adapt what I had learned in the home to the hospital setting. The home setting had given me new perspectives on birth.

Call the Midwife: the Spiritual Aspect of Childbirth

It is the 7thseason of Call the Midwife, and I make time to watch it. This weeks episode had me in tears. Death is hard, but I am glad that the current series has reflections on faith. When it first aired I wondered how close it was to the book that it is based on.

In the fall of 2012 I wrote this blog post:

If you liked the new program, Call the Midwife, airing on PBS, you will like the memoir written by Jennifer Worth. A few years ago I came across The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times. Jennifer was a midwife for the east end of London in the 1950s. The TV program is based on her book.

The PBS program is accurate in presenting episodes described in the book. I did go back to check the validity of the  premature  birth  story.    According to the memoir the baby was born at 28 weeks gestation after the mother had taken a bad fall. Despite being very sick and weak the mother refused to let the medical staff take the baby to the hospital.

She kept the baby on her chest, skin to skin. She expressed colostrum from her breasts, and every half hour she used a little glass tube to drip the colostrum into the tiny baby’s mouth. By instinct she was keeping the baby warm and nourished.

This was a 1950s example of kangaroo care motivated by maternal love and instinct.

Jennifer Worth recorded that the baby survived without impairment.

The program left out spiritual messages in the book. As a young midwife, Ms. Worth was frightened by the situations that she was thrust into. She wrote how the prayers of the nuns gave her calmness. Ms. Worth gave insight into the emotions she had while preparing to attend the premature birth.

She wrote: The knowledge that sister Julienne would be praying for us had an extraordinary effect. All the tension and anxiety left me, and I felt calm and confident. I had learned to respect the power of prayer. What change had come over the headstrong young girl who, only a year earlier, had found the whole idea of prayer to be a joke?

Prayer was part of my home birth experiences. At times the husband prayed. Occasionally I prayed.  Although I am not a poet I wrote some lines to remember the  scene  at a birth I attended, assisting a physician.

Labor pains came gently
through the night.
Morning light streamed
on her rocking chair.

Her labor intensified.
She walked, clutched my arm,
And listened for
encouraging words.

Her movements
were intuitive. She labored
with position changes
and firm massage.

She knelt down
and asked me to pray.
No pain medication.
She asked me to pray.

I prayed as she moaned
And released her body
To surging waves of pain
Her body pushed.

A circle of crown,
head and shoulders,
a baby girl was born
in the afternoon glow.

Childbirth is a time to lean into God.

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A New Perspective and Mnemonic for Agape

Last night I tuned into an online nursing journal club. The article under discussion  was  A Nursing Practice Model Based  on  Christ:  the Agape Model written by Nancy Eckerd. The model is based on the Holy Spirit working through the nurse in her daily encounters with patients.

My thoughts were stuck on memories of the high tech environment of the labor/delivery unit that I once worked in. We spent so much time on computer screens, documenting and watching fetal monitors. My pocket held a hospital cell phone. Patients, doctors, nurse colleagues and pharmacists could call at any time.

Once I stood by a patient’s bedside as she prayed.  I  talked  with  the Christian friends that had come to support her. I participated in that spiritual moment. But I don’t remember many moments like that. The unit was just too busy.

I am no longer working in the hospital, but I realized that I could benefit from a new perspective. Am I attentive to the Lord, to the Holy Spirit, in the business of life? Daily life.

A mnemonic was offered for the agape* model of practice.

A   Accept Christ as Savior

G   Grow Professionally and Spiritually

A   Anticipate Supernatural Intervention

P   Prayer & Spiritual Gifts

E   Embrace Fruit of the Spirit**

This mnemonic can apply to Christian living, every day.

* The Greek Dictionary of the New Testament defines agape as: love, i.e. affection or benevolence.

Nancy Eckerd, A Nursing Practice Model Based on Christ: the Agape Model, Journal of Christian Nursing vol. 35. #2. p.130.

I am joining the Five Minute Friday community with this post. The prompt is: STUCK

Memories of Another Festival and A Book About Sex

My sister-in-law invited me to the Festival of Faith and Writing many years ago, and it has become a regular event where we meet for a few days. I have kept the programs from every Festival that I attended. In 2004 Lauren Winner was a presenter—just 26 years old by my calculation. A couple years older than my daughter. She had written Girl Meets God and was speaking about memoir.

This year I saw her book, real SEX: the naked truth of chastity with books offered for sale. My thoughts turned back to the memory of the bright, sophisticated young women I had heard speak many years ago. This book was published in 2005, but the title is relevant today. I bought a copy.

Lauren became a Christian as a young adult. In this book she reveals her promiscuity and premarital sex. As a new Christian she began to study scripture and realized that it was sin.

She laments that the Church has not had a strong voice in the culture.

Turn back time to the sexual revolution; some key events took place.//

The birth control pill became available in the 1960s.

In 1972 The Joy of Sex was published.    It was a popular book  and  my husband I both read it.

In 1973 abortion was legalized.

The pleasure of sex was increasingly being extolled, separated from procreation. Sex is pleasurable but it has a deeper meaning. It is a sacred bond between a couple. It unites them and provides  the  potential  for  establishing a family.

Married couples in our generation were encouraged to limit family size to avoid over population in the world. My husband thought we should have just two children. God had other ideas when my second pregnancy was twins . . . lol.

Even though we had both grown up in Christian homes we were influenced by messages in the culture.    And the messages  have  become  louder and more confusing since the 1970s.

It is so important to study God’s word and understand the full text, New Testament illuminated by the Old Testament.

The Bible does not contradict itself.

Lauren Winner writes that it is important to start with Genesis. God made us with bodies; that is how we begin to know that He cares how we order our sexual lives.   There is—and  we  will  walk  through it here—evidence aplenty from both scripture and tradition about how God intends sex, about where sex belongs and where it is disordered, about when sex is righteous and when it is sinful.*

The pain and confusion about sexuality nibbled at the edges of the Festival. Jen Hatmaker was interviewed about  the  stand  she  has taken on homosexuality and the criticism she has received.

In a discussion group, a woman pastor talked about the distress and anger she experienced when her church did not support her lesbian daughter.

The Church is divided and struggling with the confusion in our culture over sexuality. How do we show compassion and yet uphold the truth of scripture? I think about Jesus. He received the sinner but also said, “Go and sin no more.”

As believers we all need to do some soul searching. We need time in the Bible. We need to pray and look for guidance from the Holy Spirit. May our words be gentle but true.

This post is shared with Five Minute Friday. Our prompt is: TURN

Also linked with Faith on Fire.

*Lauren Winner, real SEX: the naked truth about chastity, Brazos press; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, p. 32-33