"2am" by Megan Svajda
In the darkness of night, You find meEvading my dreams to call me out of slumberSleepless nights to awaken my soulIn the quiet, distractions are scarceLeft alone with my thoughts, You speakYou don't shout above the noiseDemanding Yourself to be heardYou are a jealous God, but patientWaiting for this world to fade awayTo capture my full attentionYour words melt away frustrationYour peace binds my wandering heartYour counsel helps makes sense of this worldYour love envelopes my weakening heartIn You and You alone will I find restRest, oh weary soul, breathe in...Breathe deep, unload those heavy burdensYou cannot carry them alone, nor required to do soDon't be crushed under the weight any longerCome home to Abba God
ARTICLE BY BETH FERREIRA
She walks through a maze of hallways, paved with sparkling, intricately placed tiles. There are lobbies and nooks filled with brightly upholstered furniture in wild shapes. A glass ceiling, fit for a castle and cleaned by super heroes, towers overhead, inviting sunshine to bounce off the jeweled floors. All of the elements for a magical theme park are present in this place, with one exception: it’s quiet.
Beds lie full in small square rooms. Parents’ eyes show glassy and weary, burdened at a soul level. This is not a place where children run the halls, hands full of cotton candy, mouths full of giggles−this is where they come to fight for their lives. Here, where the joys of childhood collide with the searing pain of death, is where Megan Svajda spends her days.
Megan has worked as a NICU nurse at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth for five years. She is no stranger to the sting of death or the pain produced by evil. She says she has always kept the rawness caused by her job to herself−until recently.
Megan submitted a piece entitled “2am” to the Psalms gallery at Church at the Cross. Black curtains draw listeners into stillness while Megan’s voice speaks gently into the darkness. It is a piece of invitation, calling the hearer to sit, rest, and unload. Walking into Cook’s Children’s, with all of its flash and charm is like shaking hands with Megan: she’s a rock star. But stepping into the stillness of the “2am” display is glimpsing her soul in all of its raw beauty.
Two years ago, Megan was given a primary patient, Baby B. Born premature, Baby B suffered from a heart defect and genetic issues. His parents rarely visited during his 7 month stay in Megan’s unit. “I just loved him the second I met him,” she explains. Their love was mutual, as she became the only nurse able to make B smile. “People on the unit would joke, saying, ‘Your kid did this today!’−He was mine.”
Long nights snuggling Baby B and helping him through two surgeries and major medical interventions weighed heavily on her heart leaving her overwhelmed with frustration. She loved Baby B in a way no one else did, taking on his battle as her own. In talking about him, she describes their journey as “we had a hard night” or “we went through surgery.” After 7 months on her wing, Baby B graduated out and was placed in a different unit. One month later his health spiraled and his parents made the decision to let him pass peacefully. Megan found out 3 months later.
“I was angry and frustrated and didn’t really understand the purpose of Baby B’s life and why we were put together when we were. God reminded me of his goodness: that I’m not going to understand, but he’s still good and he’s still in control. It’s going to be ok. He said, ‘You loved him well and that’s all I wanted you to do.’”
"God reminded me of his goodness: that I’m not going to understand, but he’s still good and he’s still in control."
It was during a hard week with Baby B that Megan wrote 2am. He had undergone heart surgery and seemed to be backsliding. “I was afraid he was either going to pass or we were going to have a big traumatic event. It came out of a place of having to remind myself of God’s truth, but also speak that over his life at that time. I just really wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to heal and move forward.”
God jolted her awake that night, her mind filled with the words of her psalm. She got up and wrote, which is something she does regularly, the words coming organically, blanketing her in comfort. God told her not to get wrapped up in all that was laid before this baby. She says he told her “to love him. I want you to be that presence, to be those loving hands. To love him and to tell him how much I love him.”
Journaling and writing prayers like this one is a necessary spiritual discipline in her line of work. “In times of real struggle and strife and hurting, I model my prayers like David’s. I am completely and utterly honest with God. Sometimes there’s shouting, a lot of times there’s crying, but I just leave it out there. When I’ve exhausted myself and told him everything that’s on my mind, he’s always so faithful and so sweet. There are always promises that he then speaks over me.”
"When I’ve exhausted myself and told him everything that’s on my mind, he’s always so faithful and so sweet. There are always promises that he then speaks over me.”
Over the last five years in the NICU and through her relationship with Baby B, Megan feels like God has validated her emotions, reminding her that it’s ok to feel frustration and anger−even acceptable to voice it to him. Working with sick children has helped her to see that God does not view human emotions negatively. He says to her, “I’ve created you, and I’ve given you these emotions, and yes, at times you think you’re out of control, but that’s when I want you to come to me and tell me about it, because I created that.” She says she has always approached God the same way she does her earthly father− and he always listens, and then helps her work through it.
Megan has chosen a profession that requires her to take up residence in the Valley of Tears. Joseph Tenney, worship pastor at Church at the Cross, spoke a few weeks ago on people who are called to live lives of suffering, never experiencing deliverance from the Valley. For the first time in her life, something in her head and heart connected, she realized that her home was in that Valley−and it was good. “I’ve been a nurse for seven years and [Joseph’s sermon] helped me to finally see the whole reason God has put me in the place He has. It’s okay to be frustrated and to voice that, but it’s unrealistic of me to ever ask for God to take all of this away, because that’s not going to happen in my environment. When He comes back we will not have to face death anymore. Babies will not die. Nobody will have to die. All those tears we have cried will be dried up, and it will be no more.”
The sermon changed the way she prays for the families and patients in her care. Through physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting work, she is living up to the calling he has given her−to join others as they journey through the Valley of Tears. “The suffering will always be present…but God is still good and there is still beauty in the midst of all of that. I just have to keep connected, and dig in, and stay in his presence.”
“The suffering will always be present…but God is still good and there is still beauty in the midst of all of that. I just have to keep connected, and dig in, and stay in his presence.”
Writing these psalms is one of the ways she is doing just that. “The sweetest part of this relationship is being able to sit at his feet and tell him everything and anything that’s going on. If you leave him out of it, and just seek the counsel of others… they’re not going to have just what you need at that moment.”
She finds rest and renewal through her raw, honest times with Jesus. Death, though she experiences it regularly, has not hardened her. Her times with Jesus have protected her from being desensitized, leaving her able to genuinely enter into grief with the families in her charge. “When I have deaths on the unit, I know that they’re being ushered into the arms of our loving Father and their suffering and their fight is over… It’s still sad, we will still have our moments of tears, but it’s such a sweeter experience knowing that I was the last earthly person to touch a life. God took them out of my hands and into his.”
Psalms reflects the many facets of the human soul, allowing readers to be fully human in the face of a Holy God. They allow people to cry out in the midst of unprocessed suffering and be met face-to-face with One who not only understands, but can turn their chaos into cosmos. Vulnerability, as scary as it feels, allows for all to be cradled in the arms of a Father who loves well, whispering over our squirming hearts, “Come home to Abba God.”
Beth and her husband, Joe, met in Oklahoma but were quickly transplanted to Texas in pursuit of full-time ministry. Mama to two spunky and perfectly unique girls (Lilly, age 4 and Aulani, 1) she spends her days laughing and digging old sippy cups out from under the couch. She loves Jesus, thrift stores, and sipping coffee while listening to other people’s stories. Read some of them, and her own thoughts on the joys and trials of faith and parenting at Psalm One Twenty Six. Or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.