Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Margo. That is my spinning instructor. I work out at a local gym and on Wednesdays I do a 6:30 a.m. spinning class with Margo. She's great. She's great because she wears her dreads well and her voice is deep and silky smooth. For those of us on stationary bikes at 6:30 in the morning we don't need high-pitched, loud voices screaming at us. We need deep and silky smooth. That's Margo.

But what makes Margo really great is the way she leads us through the 45 minute class. This morning we biked through the Bahamas. It was a nice picture to imagine as we had all come into the class bundled up from the winter weather. Last week we rode through one of the stages of the Tour de France. The week before she took us on a trip trough Manhattan, over the GWB and into Jersey. She helps us imagine riding past bistros and bars; up and down mountains; through the woods ( grandmother's house we go). She helps us feel the wind in our hair and the excitement of discovering something new on our ride.

Her word pictures are inspiring and make me want to work harder. She doesn't have to scream at me: "C'MON, PEDAL FASTER, HARDER!!!" What she does is draw a picture of what the mountain is like and what it will be like on the other side when we begin our descent. With that I pedal faster, harder.

That is what preaching is to me. It is drawing a picture of the Kingdom of God. I'm tired of preachers exegeting (taking apart) scriptures in academic fashion. While there are instances where that is necessary I believe it imperative to tell a story (one story, not a bunch of cute little stories) about the journey we are on and what it will be like on the other side. I have by no means perfected this homiletic craft but I strive to grasp the sweet soliloquy of sermonic speech in such a way that takes the hearers to another place: the Kingdom of God.

Monday, January 24, 2005

I ate and ate and ate until I could eat no more. This weekend in Texas I ate my sorrows away. We made all the local stops that I love: Freebirds, Pappasito's Cantina, Wings 'N' More, DICKEY'S, Paris Coffee Shop. To say the least, I'm stuffed. Literally. I didn't eat dinner on Sunday evening and no breakfast this Monday morning. I could skip lunch and be just fine. I think I gained an extra 10 pounds this weekend but it was worth every bite!

I couldn't have asked for a better time in Ft. Worth. I visited with church members of the church (Fortress) where I pastored, prayed with my friends and yes, farted and played XBox. While there was not a spare moment it was a good time. My friends were quite generous with us not allowing us to pay for meals or our airfare. Laura and I were overwhelmed with their generosity.

I can't imagine going through this time alone. Green Day has a popular song I like called "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". It's a song lamenting one's lonliness and alone-ness. While I often feel this way it is so not true. It's a lie. This weekend was yet another way of God saying that we are not alone in this journey. My prayer is that I will be the kind of pastor who is as giving as my friends were this weekend. We are not alone. And this will carry us forward.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Have you ever been in a plane that was in a holding pattern over the city in which it was due to land? Holding patterns suck. Yet there is nothing you can do about the airport traffic or weather or whatever it is that is holding up the landing process. One is forced to sit...and wait. We are in a holding pattern concerning this pregnancy. There is nothing we can do and we anxiously await the landing.

There are moments in our waiting that are bearable. Like this past Saturday when friends invited us to their new home and we tore down a wall. It felt so good to swing that hammer with wild abandon. Or this past Monday when a friend and I went skiing. It felt great to have a distraction as I flew down the slopes. Or this upcoming weekend when we will fly to Ft. Worth to spend time farting, playing XBox and eating Tex-Mex with dear college friends who understand us completely. Or the Mexico trip my family will send us on at the end of February. Yep, my fam is sending Laura and I to Isla Mujeris while Sophia stays back and spends time with Long Island cousins. These distractions from the "holding pattern" are what the doctor ordered. And they are needed distractions.

However, it's these days when there is nothing distracting me that I find myself aching, hurting deep within. The past couple of days have been shit. Ira is so safe inside Laura. He kicks, twirls, bends, stretches. According to our sonos he likes his hands near his head as if in a meditative pose. It's what awaits him in this world that scares me to death. I cry uncontrolably at the thought of tubes strapped to our baby boy; at having to make hard life and death decisions; at not being able to hold him and comfort him upon Laura giving birth; at the possibility of him hurting. Yeah, the last couple of days have been shit.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

We didn't think the news could get any worse. It did.

We visited an OBGYN (not our regular as she had a family crisis) today at Children's Hospital. This OB went over the results of all the testing we did a week ago. Not only is baby Ira dealing with a CDH but he is also dealing with some kind of malformation in the right side of his chest. They are unsure what the mass is in the right side (liver perhaps or a mass of lung) but it crowds the chest area even more giving the lungs little chance to develop. The OB was dumbfounded and said something like, "it's rare to have a CDH but this baby also has this malformation on the right side...that's just unlucky." Of course she said that in much nicer language but even she was shocked at this development. To say the least, she didn't seem too confident in baby Ira's chances.

We're sad. And tired. And overwhelmed. It's hard to hold on to hope...

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Back in September Laura started delivering food on the weekends for Downtown Atlantic. She worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 5-10 PM. The purpose was to make a few extra bucks so that we could actually buy groceries at the end of the month without putting them on a credit card. It worked out well...until Laura found out she was pregnant and the nausea hit. She decided to work just Sunday nights and I took over working there on Friday nights. We did that schedule until X-mas. Can I tell you how nice it was to pay for a X-mas presents with straight up cash instead of a credit card?

Downtown Atlantic is a nice restaurant. We deliver samon, octupus and everything else exotic. This isn't Domino's kind of delivery or "Here is your sweet and sour chicken, sir" kind of delivery. Therefore, our customers have money and the tips are pretty good.

Laura and I have found that Friday nights are much better nights for tipping than Sunday nights. Why? We have a theory. On Friday nights people have just finished the work week, they feel good and relaxed and many have just gotten paid. So, they tip well. On Sundays, people are anxious about the upcoming work week. They have spent the weekend spending money and suprisingly are tired from all the weekend business. We much prefer Friday nights.

And so we are working Fridays for Downtown Atlantic now. Because we start having the launch team over to our house this Sunday, we can't work Sundays any longer and Saturdays just suck because everyone is out, not in. Our purpose for delivering food on Fridays is twofold: 1) It will help us pay all the co-pays we have to pay for all the appointments we are having concerning the pregnancy. Those $10 and $15 co-pays add up quickly. 2) It is good for the both of us to enter into the secular world in a real way. The restaurant people are interesting and we get a taste of what it feels like to work for low wages. In other words, it's good to have another perspective in life.

This job has made us think about the way we treat people in the service industry. There is an assumption made about us as we deliver food as we are often looked down upon. We now tip better, look service industry people in the eye and make sure we talk to them. We try to treat them as we would want to be treated. Sound familiar?

For more on this subject please read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

While we had a good time on Monday in the Hilton celebrating 7 years of marriage neither Laura nor I slept good on Monday night. We both woke not rested and wondered if our lack of good sleep was because we were anxiously awaiting a day full of doctor appointments on Tuesday or because we felt guilty for feeding the Paris Hilton fun fund. I'm pretty sure it was more the former but the guilt of seeing Paris Hilton at the latest club with her latest boy-toy didn't sit well either. Oh well, have a drink on us Paris.

Tuesday was a marathon day. We arrived at Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian at 9 a.m. We walked out seven hours later after three tests and one visit with our pediatric surgeon, Dr. Stolar.

The bumps on the lungs that we thought we saw in our last sono were no longer there. That is good news. The heart looks great and that is good news considering that some CDH babies also have a problem with their heart. There is still no excess fluid in the chest and that is good. However, that stubborn stomach is still up in the chest area so no new development there.

The doctors who performed the ultrasound and fetal MRI were definitely all about the medicine aspect of doctoring. They hardly looked us in the eyes or even spoke to us. It felt as if we were subjects with whom they were experimenting. After those two tests we had an appointment with the director of pediatric surgery, Dr. Stolar. Of all the doctors who had the right to be arrogant and had the right to talk down to us, it was him. However, he was kind and gracious. More than that, he was confident and assured of his gifts as a surgeon. I was comforted as he didn't come across as arrogant but simply sure that we were in the right place. He seemed hopeful and optomistic about CDH babies in general although he offered no predictions for us specifically. He warned us to beware of the internet and the information that we come across as that info is not always accurate. Our final appointment was the fetal echo. The pediatric cardiologist's final summation was, "the heart looks good and I don't need to see you again until the baby is born." Hallelujah.

You might wonder how all these tests and meetings get scheduled. We are provided a "care coordinator" who makes all our appointments and makes sure we know where we are going and when to be there. Karlla is our care coordinator. She met us upon our arrival at the hospital yesterday and gave us our itenarary and maps of where we were to go. She even gave us ideas about where to eat lunch. She was very, very kind and always had a smile on her face. She knows us by name and seems genuinely concerned for us. I'm glad to know her and glad that she is working with us.

We walked away exhausted. We slept well last night. We both woke feeling rested. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. They are appreciated.

God, thank you for getting us through our day on Tuesday. Give us the strength to carry on. Amen.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Laura led worship today at Manhattan Church of Christ. I wasn't able to be there as I was at home with Sick Sophia. Laura integrated "Blessed Be Your Name" into the worship service and was moved to tears when she led the song. The "He gives and takes away" phrase really got to her.

We have our first visit to Columbia Pres on Tuesday. We will have a sonogram, fetal ecko, and a fetal MRI. We will also see our surgeon that day, Dr. Stolar. We are pretty anxious about the visit. We are thankful for my sister out in Long Island who will take Sophia on Monday and will keep her until Wednesday. Thank God for family living nearby.

Laura and I "celebrate" our 7th wedding anniversary on Monday. We were able to score a 4-star hotel (The Hilton) on and so we will stay in the city on Monday night, get up on Tuesday and head to Columbia for our appointments.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year? Forgive my melancholy spirit but knowing that much of southeast Asia lies in ruins, that the death toll in Iraq continues to rise and that we are awaiting a hard spring with the pregnancy of Ira I find it hard to say with genuineness, "hapy new year." It's not that I'm a louse or a curmudgeon by nature but I think many of us will be putting to test the beatitude "blessed are those who mourn" this year? Does God really bless those who mourn? We'll see.

As for us, we are doing okay. X-mas was good as we spent time in Long Island with my family. We were a bit tense going as we didn't want to overwhelm the situation with talk of Ira, etc. It turned out to be just right as we shared many laughs together.

We had two appointments over the last week. The first was a follow-up sono with the doctor who first discovered Ira's CDH. We didn't have to mess with the sonographer as the doctor escorted us back to the room and then spent an hour with us looking over Ira. Nothing has changed. The good news is that the heart is "beautiful" and there is no excess fluid in the chest area. There are bumps on the lungs but even healthy babies have these. They most often go away. The doctor warned us that with as many sonos as we will be having other little things are bound to pop up. He was kind and gracious and wants us to keep in touch with him through the rest of the pregnancy even though we are being transferred to Columbia in Manhattan.

Laura also had one last mid-wife appointment. It was a sad parting as we were hoping to go with the low medical intervention route. The mid-wife was gracious in the parting and gentle. Just what we needed.

I also needed the gym membership Laura gave me for X-mas. I'm grossly out of shape and gaining weight. When I don't feel good physically, I feel bad mentally and spiritually. Laura could tell that I wasn't doing good in so many ways and thought that one step in the right direction would be to get back in the gym. We really can't afford it but we are going to make it happen because I'm at my best when I'm feeling fit and I'm going to need to be at my best over the next few months for our family's sake.

One more piece of big news: we are postponing the public launch phase of the church plant. The Manhattan church leadership and I decided that we needed that to be postponed. There is no way I can give proper attention to the church plant while we go through this pregnancy. It is an incredible relief. The launch team members know and it is a matter of time before it is announced to the church. I'll write more about this later.

As for the new year, I really hope it will be happy for many. I guess that as I grow and mature and continue to grow the eyes of God I realize we will never be truly happy until the Lord comes again. Come, Lord Jesus, come.