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

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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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

Books at the Festival of Faith and Writing

In the year 2000 I began attending the Festival of Faith and Writing, a biannual event at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over the years I have met authors and been introduced to many good books.

Lauren Winner was a speaker one year, telling about her path to faith. I have read Mudhouse Sabbath and Girl Meets God. This year I picked up her book, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity.

Marilyn McEntyre, a former professor of English at Westmont College, presented another year. I was intrigued by her focus on language and read her book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. This year I picked up her book Word by Word: a daily spiritual practice.

This year, in addition to the keynote speakers, the Festival had a number of panel discussions and workshops for writers. It was a wonderful experience to spend a weekend with people that share a love of reading and writing.

A few years ago I became acquainted with Deidra Riggs through her blog. This year I attended a panel discussion that she participated in titled Platforms and Privilege. The presentation was thought provoking and explored white privilege in the publishing industry. I picked up Deidra’s book, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.

Kate Motaung had a reception for the launch of her book, A Place to Land. You can read my review of her book here.

An anthology, The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over Forty, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields, made its debut at the conference. I went to a reception and heard some of the women read the essay they had contributed. Women over forty have much experience and wisdom to share! I purchased book and look forward to reading it.

Stay tuned for my review of these books. I hope you will follow my facebook page—click here to check it out.

Book Review: A Place to Land

Kate Motaung’s memoir is a story of God’s grace throughout the events of her life.

A Place to Land

She has a relationship with God that grows through her college years and motivates her to pursue missions. But she couldn’t know the great challenges she would face in the ensuing years. As she tells her story she takes the reader along with her from Michigan to South Africa.

This author shares her moments of struggle and doubt.     A thread of brokenness runs through the book—we live in a broken world. We all experience some brokenness in our families. But there is hope.

Throughout the book Kate writes about painful life experiences but notes the provisions of  God’s  grace. God provided for her during the difficult months of her mother’s battle with cancer. God provided for her mother’s needs. The book has a wonderful tone of Christian community—people helping and  supporting  each other.

I enjoyed reading about South Africa and the friendships that developed. Kate shares vignettes from her marriage, childbirth, beginning motherhood and adoption.

Within the memoir I was impacted by the legacy of faith that Kate’s mother gave to her daughters. A beautiful portrait of a mother’s love.

The major themes of this memoir are faith, community and hope. It is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and points to the future Jesus promised. This memoir is a good read–it will  broaden  your  perspectives.

In an interview Kate gives insight into her purpose in writing.

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading A Place to Land?

My hope and prayer for my readers is threefold:

1) I pray that A Place to Land would increase their longing to spend eternity with God.

I don’t presume to have any idea as to what heaven will be like, except for what Scripture has revealed to us. But I do think that the vast majority of us have a diluted, lukewarm view of eternity. We lack a depth of eager anticipation, and I believe that negatively affects our choices and attitudes in this life.

A Heavenly Home

I’ve learned through writing this book that     intentionally keeping an eternal perspective at the forefront of my mind does wonders for my countenance, attitude, and actions. It has changed me in ways I never expected.

2) I pray that they would find hope in Christ in the midst of their suffering and grief.

He is the only one who can relieve our pain. I pray that the readers of this book will find their anchor in Him amidst the turbulent trials of this life, holding fast to the truth that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

3) I pray that they would be reminded that this world is not our home.

For some, that is a comfort, knowing that one day those who trust in Christ will lay asideall their pain and suffering in exchange for a sin free existence forever in the presence of their Redeemer. For others, this realization could be a bit disconcerting. Many of us make a great effort to find comfort, fulfillment, and satisfaction here in this life, and we don’t like the idea of giving it up.

Before writing this book, I struggled with that a lot. I would get incredibly sentimental over certain material things. Now, the Lord is teaching me that those are all part of what Jesus calls “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves breakin and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Instead, He calls us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). Writing A Place to Land challenged me to consider where I’m storing my treasure.

Kate Motaung

4 Bible Verses for a Spiritual Routine

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: ROUTINE. The goal is to write for five minutes, inspired by this one word. To learn more about the community of writers led by Kate Motaung click here.

Over the past couple weeks we have been traveling and spending time with family. We have changed time zones. The order of our day has changed, but I try to keep a spiritual routine. The following practices give me peace and joy.

Time in the Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Seeking God’s guidance

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

Praise

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. Psalm 96:4,9

Thanksgiving for community

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers. I Thessalonians 1:2

Honestly I don’t always keep this routine, but when I do my days are blessed. Do you  have a routine?

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When the Church Responds to Foster Care Needs

On most Fridays I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: PROVIDE

My children are grown and married. Currently we are taking care of my daughter’s children while she and her husband attend a seminar and celebrate their anniversary. As grandparents we are being introduced to foster care—we have two foster grandchildren. My eyes are being opened to the circumstances that many children face.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 437,465 children in our country were in the foster care system in 2016. The most common reason a child is placed in foster care is neglect (61%). The second most common reason is drug abuse (34%).

I was talking with my son-in-law and he said that poverty is a factor. He has participated in a poverty simulation course and was awakened to the stress that poverty places on a family.

Some children bounce back and forth between foster care and their biological family. It is heart breaking. But I have been encouraged to see the way the church in this community has stepped up.

Last Sunday we attended church with our daughter’s family. A dedication service took place for a young couple and their foster daughter. The children’s pastor invited people that wanted to  support  this  young   couple to come to the front of the church.

About thirty people, from teenage to elderly, walked to the front. They encircled the couple. The young mother had grown up in the foster care system and had been befriended by a family in this church.

My daughter’s family is part of a community of believers who are taking in foster children, providing support to families (children’s clothing, furniture as needed, meals as their family grows suddenly).

The community provides material and emotional support. The love and compassion for children is palpable.

It has blessed my heart to see this faith community engaging in the needs of children. I am so grateful that my daughter’s family has this support system.

Naomi and Ruth: Perseverance of Faith and Love

The book of Ruth has many insights into a life of faith. When our Bible study group read the first chapter together one evening I was struck by the part that Naomi played in Ruth’s pursuit of knowing God.

Book of Ruth in the Bible

Our study leader suggested that we imagine what Ruth might have said about her decision to go with Naomi. What might she have said as a testimony? I thought about her story . . .

As a young woman I was offered an unexpected marriage proposal. A young man, an Israelite, asked me, a Moabite, to be his wife. I had heard stories about Israel and was intrigued. I accepted Mahlon’s proposal. He took me to reside with his family, and I was introduced to their God.

My husband’s mother, Naomi, was good to me.   She was a widow and  devoted to her sons. As I worked with her making meals and taking care of the home she told me about her God. She told me about the way God had guided her people, sometimes in miraculous ways. I could tell that she missed Israel.

Great tragedy struck us.  My husband and his brother became ill and died. His brother’s wife, Orpah, and I were widows now, with no sons or daughters.   Naomi was filled with grief and decided that she would go back  to   Israel. She told Orpah and me to go back to our former homes. We wept because we had grown to love Naomi.

After embracing Naomi Orpah left. But I did not. I wanted to know about the God of Israel. I told Naomi that I would go with her. Her God would be my God. I made a covenant to remain with her for the rest of her life.

Naomi's faith as passed to Ruth and she persevered

This account is an encouragement to live out our faith in loving actions and words. Naomi endured great hardship, but she still was able to convey a message about God to Ruth. What impresses you more, Naomi’s perseverance or Ruth’s openness to learning from Naomi?

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