Tag Archives: Reflections

The Christmas New Year Lull

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I had to check the calendar. “What day is it?” Tuesday, Sunday I’m not really sure. Somehow the six days between Christmas and New Years feel like a strange time warp, a bit of a prolonged blur. But, I actually really appreciate those days because I’ve come to see them as a chance to slowly pack up the Christmas decorations, reflect on the past year and think ahead to the new one just around the corner. Do years have corners?

I managed to give out a few Christmas cards to friends on Boxing Day (see how organized I am). I got the salt dough Christmas ornaments, that my friend gave me, decorated during that six-day lull. It took a couple days to finish them, and we did markers instead of paint because I didn’t feel up to cleaning up a paint mess. My 3 year old colored one, and I made a cute one for our daughter’s first Christmas. With the final two, I used them to reflect back on 2019 and look forward to 2020.

I find that years often have a theme or a word that keeps popping up. I noticed this particularly in 2013 after getting through a particularly rough year (See To Butterflies, 2013, and New Beginningsthat was tainted with the sudden death of a close friend and a car accident just before Christmas that landed my grandma in the hospital with a broken hip and eventually cost her life. I felt completely stuck running a newspaper in a small town that I had opened not because I had wanted to do it but because other people had wanted me to do it. I battled some serious depression that year until I finally decided to stop living other people’s dreams for me and to go out and live the dreams God had tucked deep into my heart. 2013 was a beautiful year. I moved to the amazing city of Saint Louis, worked as a nanny, travelled, met the man who would later become my husband, and got the privilege of parenting 19 beautiful kids in Kenya. After one of the hardest years of my life, it was one of the best. Through out that year butterflies (a symbol of freedom and new beginnings) kept popping up. Sometimes it was a butterfly sticker on an envelope. Once it was the mom of the little boy I nannied for buying a butterfly shaped cookie for me as a way of thanking me for giving her the peace of mind that her little guy was in good hands while she took a few days a week to pursue her dream of opening a coffee shop. Those butterflies that popped up were always little unexpected reminders of God’s love throughout the year.

This year it was during a retreat in April that the word Healed was impressed on my mind as the word for 2019. At first, I thought it referred solely to physical healing. At the time I was in the midst of recovering from a painful wound that had resulted from an abscess steaming from mastitis that had burst and took several months to heal. Then, mid way through the year, I got a deep cut on the back of my ankle that at first seemed to be healing but then became very infected and took months to heal. Both those wounds have healed now although the scares remain. As they healed, God has used a variety of things throughout the year to show me that He longs to bring emotional healing not just physical healing. I struggle with anger, people pleasing, a constant fear of losing those closest to me. I struggle with feelings of bitterness and feeling unseen as I pour many hours into taking care of two little people who seem to constantly need me when emotionally I just want some space. This past year God has shown me my emotional wounds of anxiety, insecurity, and rejection; and as we have journeyed together this year the healing process has begun. There are still scars, but God has shown me that for anxiety- perfect love casts out fear. I no longer have to live in that place of fear but can settle my heart in a secure love. For anger rooted in the chains of legalism, insecurity and feelings of never being enough- God has shown me the beauty of living under grace and I pray as I continue to grow in this area, I can pass that lifestyle of grace on to my children. For feelings of being unseen- God has shown me that He sees me even when no one else does and that I need to let go of unnecessary burdens and duty and just sit at His feet.

So Healed is the word I wrote on the salt dough ornament surrounded by some PNG inspired designs that almost hide the word. Healing is such a slow, intimate, messy but needed process. What is the word for 2020? I asked, and the word JOY came. Joy? I was a bit skeptical. I tend to be a more of a glass empty type person, a realist I guess. But, yes, I would love for my life to reflect more joy. So that is the word I wrote on the last salt dough ornament and hung it on a push pin tacked to the shelf in my room. This coming year I choose to look for Joy. I read Psalms 43 after the impression of the word joy came verses 2-4 resonated with this search for a joy filled life. “Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God- the source of all my joy.”

I got a message from my sister on Sunday. My aunt, who recently had a stroke, was taken to the hospital with water in her lungs and heart. “How I thought, in that moment, “is this going to be a year of joy?” It is so hard at times being on the other side of the world when difficult things are happening in your family over on the other side of the world. But joy does not mean a year without trials. I have the verse from James 1:2 on my wall- “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

So JOY- joy in trails, joy from the one true source of joy, joy in each day of 2020. May 2020 be a year of joy for you as well.

Do you have a word going into 2020 or a word from 2019?

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When it Rains…

“When it rains it pours,” the saying goes. This definitely has been true for us these last several weeks. It started on such a high (yet soggy) note. It rained buckets for days and days and then some more days. Our street flooded, the neighbor’s house flooded, a pair of flip flops I left outside by the door floated away to—I‘m still not sure where, wet laundry hung in the bathroom waiting for the sun to peak out. The outdoor mumu (pig and sweet potatoes roasted in a pit) we had planned to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the widows’ fellowship somehow got underway. Simon pulled our car right up to the front door so we could load all the remaining supplies needed for the celebration into the car without getting utterly drenched.

Trevor was still enjoying his morning nap, so I scooped him up, threw a blanket over his head and off we went. I thought back to the first Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship (WEWF). Trevor was not quite born yet. Now he runs around with the other kids like he owns the place. A lot has changed over the last two years; and as I look back, I am so humbled and thankful that our little family gets to work with such an amazing group of ladies.

The downpour dampened our efforts for an early start. We were an hour late to the venue (still ok by PNG time standards). The ladies had been invited to come help with the baking (if interested), but only Rose managed to brave the rain and come early. So we started: first bread, then muffins, and finally we finished off with some cookies. As we baked we laughed, reminisced and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Rose was one of the first widows we visited when we first came to PNG. After her husband’s death she told us that she had stopped coming to church. She said she felt forgotten when the initial support from people at church slowly faded. Grief—it is just hard and sometimes such a lonely process.

I remember that first visit. I barely spoke any Tok Pisin. We brought a bag of rice and Simon and our good friend from church, Elizabeth, prayed for Rose and her children. Rose’s little guy was just a toddler then. It wasn’t a long visit, but as we baked together Rose brought up again how much that initial visit had meant to her. It ended up being a turning point for her, she said. She started going back to church again realizing that people were there to walk this difficult road with her. She is a faithful attendee of WEWF; and as we celebrated the 2nd Anniversary I couldn’t help but think, “this is why we are here.” It matters. Each lady, each one for their kids matters and getting to walk along side them on their journeys is a privilege.

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Baked Goods for the 2nd Anniversary of the Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship

On the drive home from the celebration, the car started making banging noises—again. Sunday, coming home from church the noises grew even worse. So, back to the mechanic it went. He fixed it only for the car to die again on Wednesday. Now a week and a half later, two new tires, a new fuel pump and a few other things fixed we believe that we’re mobile again. Well, at least for the moment. The reality is that it is an old car and slowly (or not so slowly) dying. We are saving up for a new one, but it is hard to save when money has to continually go towards repairs.

This week brought other hard news. One of the widows we work with was sentenced to three years in jail due to a land issue that took place while her husband was still alive. Her children are now all young adults, but one of her kids has special needs.

Then we received news that one of the ladies who has been a support/encouragement person for WEWF passed away suddenly after a short illness. She and her husband have a young daughter.

Some weeks are just hard. It is hard to know what to say, hard to know how to move forward, hard to know how to be a support and encouragement. But, we do stand together not knowing the future, but knowing and trusting in a God who does. On the hard days I go back to that moment with Rose baking bread in the kitchen. We are here for a reason to stand together, walk together in the midst of broken cars, flooded streets, prison sentences and the painful reality of grief. It is not easy, but it is easier when you face it together.

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Rose with her freshly baked bread

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The Story I couldn’t Write (Part II)

It’s indescribably hard to trust strangers with your child. But, he needed the medicine, the care that I was unable to give. So, with struggling hearts, we left. The nurses told us visiting hours started at 7 a.m.

Back across the road we went to the private hospital where I had given birth and was yet to be discharged. The evening is mostly a blur. Two friends from church stopped by with some bags of fruit. Trevor’s first official visitors, except Trevor wasn’t there. Later, Rachael, one of the widows we work with came with her daughter and ten month old granddaughter Mya. They brought a delicious dinner for us. I just held on to little Mya. God knew I needed a baby to hug right then since I couldn’t hug mine. Rachael told us that Mya also had to stay for a few days in that same intensive care unit—calming news to my anxious heart.

I slept. The first real sleep I’d had in three days. Simon slept on a mattress on the floor next to my hospital bed. At 4 a.m. I woke up. I couldn’t think about anything but Trevor. I got myself ready and packed up a few things to take over to my little guy. As soon as the sun started to peek up, we headed back across the road. It wasn’t visiting hours yet. The nurse allowed Simon just a few minutes to look in on Trevor before saying that only the mother was allowed in the intensive care unit in order to protect all the sick babies there.

Trevor’s neighbor to the right was incredibly tiny barely over a kilo. On his left was a little guy born the same day, but well before his due date. Across the room was a set of twin boys so thin that they reminded me of the pictures you see in National Geographic of severely malnourished children.

I looked down at my son lying there under those bright hospital lights. His face was all smushed up, and he had so many tubes connected to his tiny person. As I held him, I didn’t feel that instant connection. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was the fact that this whole motherhood thing hadn’t had time to really sink in, but then Trevor looked up at me with those precious little eyes. The way he looked at me right then seem to say, “Mom, I need you.” In that instant, my heart melted. He was mine. There was that deep connection and it stuck stronger then any glue ever could.

Those five days of caring for Trevor felt like five weeks. To write down everything would take a small book, so highlights will have to suffice—the moments that stick most deeply in my mind.

I went to change Trevor for the first time and realized the diapers were still in the car. I asked the nurse for one and was told that diapers were available for sale in the hospital store. Buy enough, I was told, so that the nurses could change him when I was away.

I tried to feed Trevor for the first time holding him while he was still connected to oxygen and an IV. The oxygen tube kept falling out of his nose. I kept having to go and call someone to put it back in again. His little cheeks were chaffing red from the tape holding the tubes down.

Trevor’s first bath wasn’t exactly a proper one. A nurse handed me a silver bowl, a handful of cotton balls, and showed me where the sink was. Because he had been put on oxygen right away, Trevor never got a real bath after he was born. I tried my best to wash his hair out with that handful of cotton balls.

That first morning one of the nurse told me not to hold him for too long because they didn’t want him to get too used to being held all the time. That made me blink back tears. All I could think of was a study I had read about how babies in a Russian orphanage had a lower mortality rate after volunteers came in just to hold the babies. That little bit of physical love ended up saving some of those tiny lives. I told myself this was only for five days.

Scheduled feeding times were 4am, 6am, 8am, 10am, Noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, 10pm, and midnight. Nurses took care of the 2am feeding. We live about a half hour drive from the hospital. There was a place where the moms, who weren’t already staying in the hospital, could stay. Location was great—just one building over from the baby nursery. But, the rooms had no doors. They did have ceiling fans installed, but they didn’t all work. No men were allowed to stay in the building, so that meant that Simon wouldn’t be able to stay with me.

Thankfully, my parents were staying at a missionary guesthouse just down the road from the hospital. Originally, we had planned for them to stay at a guesthouse close to where we lived. But for the first part of their stay, that guesthouse was overbooked; so they ended up at the one near the hospital. Thankfully, that guesthouse also had a room free for us.

So we went back and forth, back and forth—hospital, guesthouse; guesthouse, hospital. We got to know the names of all the security guards that worked at the missionary guesthouse front gate. Although sometimes in our sleep deprived state we would call them by the wrong name.

By the third day, Trevor was off oxygen and the feeding tube. The nurses even let me take him out to the hall to spend a bit of time with his daddy. On the fourth day, he was moved out of the intensive care unit and into the recovery room. A clear Plexiglas window separated the two sections, so I could still wave to Trevor’s neighbor’s mom (the baby to the left of him). She came so faithfully every feeding. Her husband even started to join Simon in the hall. Their baby was their first child as well. The husband told Simon that they didn’t have a watch, but every time they saw us coming they knew it was time for a feeding. The husband had been sleeping outside the hospital at night. Simon actually ran into the couple and their little boy a few weeks ago while at the store. He is doing well and they asked how Trevor was. Sadly, the tiny baby to Trevor’s right passed away the second day we were there.

The twins moved over to the recovery side as well. Their mom was still in recovery herself. The nurse used to scoop them up and tell them, “Your mommy is doing better, but for now I’m your part-time mom.” The twins were still so, so tiny but starting to eat better. It made my heart happy to see them in the recovery room. When their mom was finally able to walk over and visit them, she held those tiny little boys both in the same arm and sang to them as she walked back and forth up and down the room.

On Monday we were told that once Trevor got get his last dose of antibiotics on Tuesday, he could come home with us. It felt so good to be on the recovery side one step closer to the door.

I sat on the white plastic chair that was provided feeding Trevor and chatting with one of the other moms. She was new and worried that her milk hadn’t come in yet. I told her mine took a few days too. That seemed to give her some comfort.

Through that Plexiglas window I saw one of my favorite nurses standing with one of the mothers. The mom’s face was twisted the saddest expression of pain that I have ever seen. She wasn’t crying, as if the pain was too much even for tears. The nurse swaddled the baby lying in the incubator in front of her in a fuzzy blue blanket with yellow flowers. But, this time she swaddled the child’s head as well. Right in front of me, a mother was having to say a final goodbye to her child. I felt utterly helpless. Tears welded up in my eyes. I wanted to go to her, say something, but what? Here I was holding a healthy baby about to be discharged.

That night I had terrible dreams. I woke up at 1am and felt an overwhelming need to go and check on Trevor. I woke Simon up and told him we had to go over to the hospital right now. We talked, prayed, and finally I felt settled enough to wait a few hours and go at the normal time.

I held my breath, as I always did, walking through the front door and turning the corner to go and see Trevor. A bright colored quilt that my grandma had sent lined his little basinet, so I could always pick out his little bed quickly even if he had been moved. There he was— fast asleep. The nurses told me he had a very peaceful night and could be discharged at 10am after his final dose of medicine and once the head nurse had a chance to clear him. Sweet words and even sweeter the feeling when we finally got to carry him out of the hospital and to the car.

I’m thankful for each one of those nurses. They work so tirelessly and really have a heart for what they do. Talking to one of the head nurses she said that they are often understaffed and the nurses work long hours on days that the nursery is especially full, which is frequent. They have a great need for more equipment, but do the best with what they have. Trevor’s care was completely free of charge.

It wasn’t an easy road to walk, but God was there each step of the way. I learned so much about trust, taking one moment at a time and finding strength within yourself when you feel like you have none.

Sometimes when he’s asleep, I just look at my little guy’s sweet little face and my heart wells up with a mixture of gratitude and joy. He’s here. He’s safe. He’s such a wonderful part of our little family. Every single day is a gift. A gift I can never take for granted.

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Hanging with Daddy in the hospital hallway

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Pageants, Parades, and Tractor pulls

What’s the point really? I find myself stopping so many times through out a typical week asking this question. Maybe I over analyze. In fact, I know that I do. I think it’s part of being a writer, but when I’m driving by myself and honestly stop to take a look at life, this question always comes up.

Writing for a newspaper in a town of about 800 people I often find myself writing about parades, pageants, and tractor pulls not the type of events that grab my interest. Please don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy my job. People in the community have been so supportive, and I have met so many interesting people like the lady I interviewed today who makes amazing cheese cakes.

But, at the end of the day I often feel restless. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up observing Deer Day and going on hay rides. Maybe it’s because for a long time my dream has been to work with orphans or refugees in Africa. But the truth is, I’m here not there and because of that, I often lose my sense of purpose.

Then there are those moments when it hits me. On a Wednesday night while working with a group of “Sparkies” at church. A kindergartener, whose dad is in jail, interrupts the lesson yelling, “I know something. I know something.”

“What’s that?” the leader asks. “Jesus ‘woves’ us,” he responds hugging himself.

Then there’s my little buddy Hailey who stops by the newspaper office with her bike. “Can you give me a ride home?”

“Sure, just give me a minute to finish some things up here.” She usually types on the antique typewriter in the office while she waits. Then I drive her and her bike up the hill.

“Your like my big sister,” she told me the other day. “I always wanted a big sister.”

Purpose— sometimes it’s not in the things you expect it to be in, but it’s there. Just look in a child’s eyes. That always gets me back on track.

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