A Mother of None or Many?

May, 2001

After examining me, my gynecologist gently said, “Pam, I’m afraid you need to have a hysterectomy. I don’t want to let you keep bleeding like this and ending up with an emergency situation.” I choked back the tears and replied, “Is there any way I could be on a different floor so I don’t have to see the new babies?” Dr. Sally said, “No, because the nurses on the other floors aren’t familiar with post operative care of gynecology patients. But I will make sure you have a private room as far away from the nursery as possible so you don’t hear the babies cry. The surgical staff will call you with the date.”

Upon arriving home, the tears flowed as I poured out my heart to God. I know that I am too old to have a baby at the age of 46, nor would I have the energy to run after a toddler, but I grieve for all the children I never had. My pastor has been preaching an excellent series of messages on how to handle trials, so this is my opportunity to learn all I can from this difficult exercise. He said to start by thanking God for the trial. I recited the familiar verse, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 God brought another verse to mind. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 

As I continued in prayer, I asked the Lord to teach me all the lessons He could from this trial, to comfort me, and to help me to think rightly from His point of view and not my own. I decided to do a Bible word study of “barren” since that is the word the Bible uses for women who cannot have children. Over the next weeks, whenever I read an encouraging verse, I wrote it in bold black ink (so I could read it through my tears) on an index card. Every morning I read through my growing stack of “comfort verses” and hid them in my heart. The ones that encouraged me the most were Isaiah 54:1 and 5.

Sing, O barren, thou who didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou who didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord….For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and Thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.”

I noticed the command to the barren was to SING rather than cry, so I started singing whenever I felt like crying. God always lifted the clouds away after I sang to Him. I also noticed that there is no limit to the number of spiritual children I can have. I just finished reading Amy Carmichael’s biography. She started an orphanage in India and became the spiritual mother to 1000 children! I recalled how Gladys Aylward went to China as a single lady and became the mother of many orphans and led them to safety over the mountains during World War 2. Mary Slessor adopted abandoned children in the African jungles. (see post on Mary Slessor )

Surgery

This is my first time to stay overnight in a hospital as a patient. I’m a little apprehensive as I’ve always heard that nurses and doctors make the worst patients. It feels strange to be the one receiving care rather than giving it. I am so thankful that my sister flew in from the Midwest to be with me. She is also a nurse and a Christian. God quieted my heart as we prayed together this morning and asked the Lord to give the doctor wisdom and to give me a good recovery.

I barely remember being rolled on the stretcher from the recovery room to my nice big private room at the end of the hallway far from the nurse’s station. They gave me a clear liquid tray for supper which promptly came back up. Yuck! What a mess… The pain isn’t too bad for which I thank God. My sister was hesitant to leave me because she wasn’t sure I could call for the nurse because I was so groggy.

The night nurse woke me up this morning and said she had to put the catheter back in my bladder since I was unable to urinate. I was under anesthesia the last time they did it. I recalled how many of these I have placed inside my patients over the years.

Tonight I’m feeling better and could eat solid food for supper, but sleep is escaping me. I decided to walk down the hallway and look at the babies in the nursery. As I looked through the window at each baby, I prayed for each one to receive Christ as his Savior and for his parents to look to God for wisdom in raising him. I thank the Lord for each precious new baby.

Reflection

A few months later, I was asked to share all the lessons God taught me through this exercise with ladies’ groups at several different churches. A number of women who were unable to bear children came up to me afterwards and said the lessons I had learned were a blessing and encouragement to them. I also typed in large print all the “Comfort Verses” God gave me at this time. I have handed out hundreds of these to others who are sorrowing and many have said how God used these verses to encourage and comfort them.

Bible Verses the Lord gave me prior to surgery which encouraged my heart.

http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/christia/verses.htm   

Above is the link if you would like to print out your own copy. I carry a copy of these verses in my purse so I’m ready for the next time I encounter a difficult situation.

Since my mother died of breast cancer and my sister also had aggressive breast cancer several years ago, I decided to have the doctor remove my ovaries at the same time that she removed my uterus. The genetic counselor told me I had a 50% chance of having breast cancer. Many women who have breast cancer also have ovarian cancer.

About ten years later, I had repeat genetic counseling. They said because I had my ovaries removed, I reduced my chance of breast cancer to 3% and eliminated ever getting ovarian cancer.  Little did I know that I would lower my risk of cancer so much by having my ovaries removed at that time. Truly, God’s ways are higher than my ways. My sister, Marsha Swinehart, later developed ovarian cancer and the Lord took her home to be with Him nearly two years ago. I miss her so much, but am thankful she is no longer suffering and experiencing wonderful fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That will be a wonderful day when we are reunited at His throne!

I thank God that He has given me a number of spiritual children over the years, and I pray that He will give me many more before He calls me home to heaven. It is so wonderful that I am never too old to bear spiritual children!

 

Nursing Home Ministry

Summer – 1973 – Midwest, USA

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” James 1:27

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was their favorite hymn!

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was their favorite hymn!

My sister, Marsha, asked the director of the nursing home, where we both are working this summer, for permission to have a Bible study for the patients on our day off. The director said “yes” so we had our first Bible study today! Prior to today, I only saw all the patients asleep at night under their white bedspreads in the dark. I was amazed at all the hustle and bustle with the patients up and dressed and either walking with a walker or in a wheelchair. We went room to room and invited each patient to come to the Bible study in the patient lounge. We gathered about 20 residents and began. Marsha led them in singing a few hymns while I accompanied them on my violin. Their favorite hymn seemed to be:

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer! 

by Joseph Scriven

Then Marsha read the story from John 3 of Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, who came to Jesus at night. Jesus said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 She carefully explained God’s wonderful plan of salvation. After concluding with John 3:16, she encouraged each one to receive Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior if they had not already done so.

Afterward, white haired Mary came to me in her wheelchair with a bright smile on her face. “I received Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was a girl. It was so wonderful to hear the Bible lesson today and sing the hymns I learned when I was young. I can’t see well enough to read any more, so thank you for reading God’s word today!” We are thrilled that God allowed us to minister to these elderly residents today!

Reflection

Over the years, God gave me many more opportunities to share God’s word and songs with elderly Christians. I thank Him for our seasoned believers who have willingly shared with me how God encouraged them through difficult circumstances. May we all faithfully run the race today until God takes us home to heaven above and we hear our Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Diapers and Mops – Night Shift Nursing Assistant

June, 1973 – Midwest, USA

Pam and Linda graduated the same day and time!

Pam and Marsha graduated the same day and time!

My sister, Marsha, graduated from nursing school and I graduated from high school on exactly the same day and time! Since I didn’t want to split up the family, I volunteered to skip my high school graduation. Marsha let me wear her white high school mortarboard and gown for the photos our dad took of us. She looked beautiful in her white cap and nurse’s dress uniform walking down the aisle of the hospital auditorium with her 50 classmates.

We both were hired to work at a nursing home in the country a few miles from our home. Marsha will be the evening charge nurse, and I will work night shift as a nursing assistant. There is no nurse there at night for the 50 patients since none of them need to be given medicine at night. There will be one other nursing assistant with me. It sounds a little scary, but I have to start somewhere! I will work ten nights straight for $1.25 per hour and then have four days off. I can hardly believe I will make $50 each week! I have never had that much money before.

 

First Night Shift – 11 p.m.

“Pam, they asked me to orient you tonight, so this is what we do,” said Vera, a middle aged plump lady who had a heavy southern accent. “First we wrap 50 sets of silverware in paper napkins for breakfast for all the patients. Then we make the first diaper rounds which we do every two hours. It’s easier if we make rounds together to help turn them. Then we each give four bed baths to the ones who don’t know the difference between night and day. Then we make diaper rounds again followed by a 30 minute lunch break. We’re allowed to eat anything we want in the refrigerator!”

Mopping the Lounge!

Mopping the Lounge!

“After lunch, we each mop one of the patient lounges and straighten them up. Then we do diaper rounds again. At 5 a.m. we fill each patient’s water pitcher with fresh ice water. Then we give report to day shift and go home!”

So I began to do exactly as Vera showed me. I have never changed a baby’s diaper much less an adult! Our first patient, Sam, was difficult to roll to one side because he was so stiff from advanced Parkinson’s disease. He could no longer talk, but just stared at us with his big sad brown eyes. I held him on his side while Vera washed him and put a clean diaper on him. We collected the soiled cloth diaper in a special bag for the laundry company that would pick them up tomorrow.

I never gave a bed bath before either. Vera told me to take off his top sheet and gown, wash his face, then go down one side of his body and up the other side with the washcloth, rinse, dry him off and put on a new gown and top sheet. I felt sorry for Sam as he shivered.

I was so exhausted when I walked out the door into the morning sun and fresh air. I climbed on my bicycle and wearily pedaled five miles home up and down hills past corn fields glistening with dew. I rode up our gravel driveway, said hello to Mom, ate breakfast, and went outside to our quiet travel trailer to try and sleep for eight hours. I hoped I wouldn’t hear the rest of the family this way. “Thank You, dear Lord, for carrying me through this first night shift in the nursing home. Please give me deep sleep now. Amen.” I fell into bed after being awake 24 hours.

Reflection

When I started nursing school a year later, the professor demonstrated the correct way to give a bed bath. She showed us how you uncover only one part of the body at a time to prevent shivering and preserve as much of the patient’s modesty as possible. Staff development was definitely lacking at the small unskilled nursing home! But being a nursing assistant was a great introduction to the nursing profession. It was a difficult job physically, so it forced any romantic notions I had about nursing right out of my head. After I graduated and began supervising nursing assistants, it gave me great compassion for all the hard work they did for low wages. I always tried to pitch in and help them after finishing my work which also helped foster teamwork.

During the 1980’s, I worked in a 1000 bed hospital in staff development. We asked the nurse managers to complete a survey about how their new graduate nurses were functioning after one year of employment. The BSN graduates who worked summers as nursing assistants were rated the highest by far. So I thank God for faithfully guiding me right from the beginning of my career!

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Psalm 32:8

Tribute to Marsha Swinehart, RN – Part 2

April 10 – Marsha’s Birthday

On February 4, 2016 the Cedarville University nursing students who Marsha Swinehart, RN taught, presented a plaque to the School of Nursing in honor of Marsha’s life.

Marsha plaque

Dr Rachel Parrill, Marsha’s colleague, accepted the plaque on behalf of the School of Nursing with the following words:

I was honored to be asked by the leadership to say a few words today about Marsha on behalf of all of those in the School of Nursing who loved her and were influenced by her life. This presentation specifically illustrates the love and respect that our nursing students held for Marsha. It is very significant that this initiative to honor Marsha has been completely student led. It is clear that it is your desire to love and honor Christ that has compelled you to remember Marsha in this way. Anyone who was acquainted with Marsha knows that it would be her desire that Christ would be glorified in the presentation of this plaque. So, I will try in the next few moments to highlight how Marsha strived to live the words of John 3:30 so that Christ be would become greater and she would become less.

On this plaque, we have remembered Marsha as Beloved Professor, Compassionate Friend, and Humble Servant. It is difficult to sum up a life in just a few words, but we felt these words best represented what Marsha meant to students, faculty, and staff of the School of Nursing.

Marsha truly was a Beloved Professor to students within the classroom and clinical setting and to those she advised and mentored. One former student said of Marsha: “She challenged me to walk closer to Christ and dream bigger about my future. She helped me find my love of nursing and didn’t let me quit. She shared a vision to serve the hurting and broken in the world.” Another graduate wrote: “She encouraged me to strive to follow Jesus more and more each day. She didn’t just teach her students about nursing: we learned about life and Jesus and passion. Using nursing as a ministry for Christ wasn’t just a saying anymore, but a true mission statement that I use as a reason for why I am a nurse.” The words of these graduates demonstrate the kingdom investment Marsha made in the lives of students during her time at Cedarville.

These same sentiments hold true for those of us who knew her as a colleague and Compassionate Friend. I had the privilege of teaching with Marsha for six years in the specialty area of public health nursing. I could share with you what a godly influence she was among her colleagues, which she was, but I thought you might enjoy hearing a story that will give you a glimpse into another side of your nursing faculty.

One summer, Marsha and I were asked to speak at a missions conference in Pennsylvania. About 20 minutes into our drive to the conference, we had a flat tire. I was driving, and I managed to make it safely off the highway onto a nearby exit ramp. As I pulled over, I was rather dismayed to see that I had been followed off the exit ramp by what I assumed and hoped was someone wanting to assist us. I say I was dismayed because based simply on appearances, this person would not have been my first choice  for help for two women traveling alone and pulled over in a somewhat remote area. Our Good Samaritan was riding a motorcycle and covered in tattoos and leather from head to foot. He quickly went to work putting the spare tire on my car. I stepped several feet away to call my husband, but I made sure to stay close enough to pull Marsha off the back of a motorcycle if needed! After a short phone call, I returned to find Marsha and our Good Samaritan discussing the blessings of God. It was so like Marsha to find a way to engage someone in a conversation about spiritual matters anywhere, anytime. It was a pretty neat experience, and it has become a wonderful memory for me.

Finally, we remember Marsha as a Humble Servant of Christ. Marsha’s life is an example of how our extraordinary God can use an ordinary life when that life is submitted to Him. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus provides our example of true servant hood in that He willingly gave His life on the cross. In this same chapter, we are urged to have the same mindset as Christ. We thank God for the many ways Marsha’s humility and servant’s heart touched our lives, but we know that she would not point us to her example but rather to the example of the Christ she followed. In closing, I’d like to draw our attention to Marsha’s life verse which has been included on the plaque.

Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

I know that Marsha’s desire would be that the message of this Scripture would remain with you as you remember her life.

 

 

Tribute to Marsha Swinehart, RN – Part 1

Tribute to Marsha Swinehart, RN – April 10

This week, I would like to honor the life of my sister, Marsha Swinehart, RN, on her birthday, April 10. I also want to share some of the lessons God has been teaching me in the school of sorrow these past eight months.

I don’t think I ever would have become a nurse without her influence. She led me to the Lord Jesus Christ when I was 15 years old (See Life Changing Letter) and was my first Bible teacher. My birthday is April 9, so we always celebrated our birthdays together as we grew up. Mom often dressed us in matching outfits, so I thought that made us twins! Marsha was my best friend on earth and I still miss her so much, especially hearing her voice on the phone. But I wouldn’t wish her back to this old world, because I know she is gloriously happy in heaven worshiping and serving our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Someday, in God’s perfect timing, we will be reunited in heaven above at the throne of our dear Savior.

Pam and Marsha celebrating their birthdays together.

Pam and Marsha celebrating their birthdays together.

Marsha went home to heaven to be with  Jesus Christ on August 12, 2015 after a year long battle with ovarian cancer. I thank God that I could be with her on the hospice unit during the last few days of her life here on earth. She not only only taught me how to live in Christ, but how to die in Christ. Her life verse was Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Pam graduated from high school and her sister, Marsha, RN graduated from nursing school the same day and time!

Pam graduated from high school and her sister, Marsha, RN graduated from nursing school the same day.

She left a rich legacy of numerous spiritual children from her 25 years as a Bible Club teacher, 30 years as a public health nurse, and the last ten years of her career teaching public health nursing at two different universities. Early in her career, she was a missionary nurse in the jungles of Suriname, South America. As a college nursing professor, she led student nurses on short term mission trips to New York City, Swaziland, and Dominican Republic.

She had us sing the beautiful hymn “Face to Face” at her memorial service.

What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain,

When the crooked ways are straightened and the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face- O blissful moment! Face to face to see and know;

Face to face with my Redeemer,  Jesus Christ who loves me so.

On Easter Sunday (March 27) this year, I was really missing Marsha. But God encouraged me when I read the following thoughts on sorrow from a devotional book by Miles J. Stanford called None But the Hungry Heart.

Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us. 2 Corinthians 7:6

All of us are going to have sorrow, and none of us should miss its spiritual benefits. God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus. God had one Son, without sin, but not without sorrow. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one. It takes sorrow to widen the soul. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper must first be a sufferer. We cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which our Lord Jesus drank. The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

It is but a little while and He will appear to answer all inquiries and to wipe away all tears. I would not wish, then, to be of those who had none to wipe away, would you?

Some of Marsha’s favorite verses were Revelation 21:3-4 – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

Life Changing Letter

Saturday, January 16, 1971

I gazed out the window of our small stone home in the country and saw the mailman drive away. “I’ll get the mail, Mom!” I hurriedly put on my winter coat, hat, and mittens to brave the bitter cold. I ran down the gravel driveway, scooped the letters from the mailbox, and skimmed through them as I raced back to our warm home.

I was thrilled to see a letter addressed to me from my older sister!  Marsha was a freshman at the state university three hours away, so I didn’t see her often. When she came home for a visit in October, she seemed so happy, said her headaches were gone, and she broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t a Christian. She eagerly told me that her roommate told her how to become a Christian, and she started going to Bible classes on campus.

When she came home for Thanksgiving, she asked that we give her money for Christmas instead of presents so she could attend a missionary conference. As a sophomore in high school, I would never give up all my Christmas presents to attend some old dumb missionary conference!

Since she returned to school in January, I can’t stop thinking about how happy she is now. So I wrote her last week and asked her to tell me more about God.  I eagerly took her letter to my desk in my bedroom, closed the door, and began to read.

Dear Pam,

I would love to share with you more about God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! Even though we went to church every Sunday and heard about Jesus Christ, the pastor never told us that each of us needs to personally receive Him as Savior.  I am so glad my college roommate shared the good news about Christ with me our first night at college.  I went to a Bible study with her, and  I received Him as my Savior shortly afterwards. I am so thankful that I have a personal relationship now with Him for all eternity and my sins are all forgiven!

As it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world (Pam) that He gave His only begotten (unique) Son, that whosoever (Pam) believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  This is the most important decision of your life because it decides whether you will spend eternity with God or perish forever without Him.  He loves you so much, Pam, that He died for you on the cross to bear the punishment for your sins.  After three days He rose again and lives in heaven today.

I asked the campus group at noon prayer meeting today to pray for you to receive Him as your personal Savior.

Love in Christ,  Marsha

I don’t think anyone has ever prayed for me before. I am so amazed that God loves me so much that He died for ME so I can be saved and be with Him for all eternity.  He knows all about how shy and insecure I am, and that I am so fearful of death ever since my cousin was killed in the Vietnam war.

As my tears flowed, I bowed my head and prayed,

Dear God, I come to You as I am– a sinner.  Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying on the cross in my place for my sins and that You rose again from the grave.  I receive You now as my Savior.  Thank You that You love me so much! Amen.

When I opened my eyes, my heart was flooded with the peace and the joy of God, and my fear of death was gone!

Reflection – August, 2015

Tribute to Marsha Swinehart, RN

My dear sister, Marsha Swinehart, RN went to be with our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, on August 12, 2015 after a year long battle with ovarian cancer. I thank God that I could be with her on the hospice unit during the last few days of her life here on earth. She not only only taught me how to live in Christ, but how to die in Christ. Her life verse was Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Pam graduated from high school and her sister, Marsha, RN graduated from nursing school the same day and time!

Pam graduated from high school and her sister, Marsha, RN graduated from nursing school the same day.

She left a rich legacy of numerous spiritual children from her 25 years as a Bible Club teacher, 30 years as a public health nurse, and the last 10 years of her career teaching public health nursing at two different universities. Early in her career, she was a missionary nurse in the jungles of Suriname, South America. As a college nursing professor, she led student nurses in short term mission trips to New York City, Swaziland, and Dominican Republic.

She had us sing the beautiful hymn “Face to Face” at her memorial service.

What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain,

When the crooked ways are straightened and the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face- O blissful moment! Face to face to see and know;

Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so.

Some of Marsha’s favorite verses were Revelation 21:3-4 – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

I thank God that Marsha is no longer suffering, and that she is so happy now praising and serving our dear Savior in heaven for all eternity. We shall be reunited in God’s perfect timing, perhaps very soon. Thank you for praying for her husband, Keith; my brother, David; and me during our time of sorrow. God is our great comforter. II Corinthians 1:3-4