Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Anywhere but Africa...

When Will and I first started telling people we were pregnant, the first question they would ask right after, "When are you due?" was, "Where will you have the baby?"

At first, we were considering having the baby in Spain or Ireland. We were already going to be in Europe when I was 34 weeks pregnant for a Company Conference, so it made sense to stay put and give birth there. We have friends in Ireland and thought our connections there might be helpful. We then talked to other friends who delivered in Spain, so we thought staying in Spain after the conference might be even more ideal. We knew we probably wouldn't give birth in the US since we had just spent 5 unexpected months there after we evacuated and the cost of delivering in the States verses anywhere else is much higher.

While we were considering all of these options, I would explain this to the people who asked where we were going to deliver. To one friend I even said, "We're still deciding which continent to deliver on, but definitely NOT Africa..."

In the future, if I ever say a "definitely NOT" statement to you when you ask me a question, will you please roll your eyes at me and give me a light slap on the hand?

I love how gentle the Lord is to me when I tell Him what I will and will not do. I believe He simply grins and thinks, "Yes, my daughter, just you wait and see how I am going to change your heart in this area."

After looking into our options for delivering in Spain or Ireland and getting advice from friends there, we finally realized these were not our best options. It would have been expensive, lonely and the medical care may not have been what we were hoping for. We thought again about delivering in the States, but it was too much travel, and would have created even more transitions in our already complicated and "up in the air" life.

So then our hearts were finally ready to consider options in Africa. The only reason I had been against it in the past was because I didn't know about about the healthcare options and I was very concerned about delivering in a place so far away from family. I figured it would have ruled out the option of family being there completely.

After talking to several friends who had delivered in Nairobi, Kenya, we soon realized this was actually a very good and safe place to deliver. We learned of a wonderful doctor who had delivered babies for two of our co-workers and worked very closely with another co-worker for a couple years. We learned that the hospital was clean and run very similar to hospitals in the States.

The very first day we started considering in Nairobi, we decided to write missionary friends of ours who lived there to see if we could stay in their guest quarters while we were there to give birth. I remember going to church write after I wrote the e-mail and praying, "Lord, if you want us to deliver in Nairobi, please have this family right back right away so we know if we would even have a housing option. Allow this to be a sign of if we should even consider this or not." The moment we got home from church, we had an e-mail response from these friends and they told us that we were welcome to stay in their house, not just the guest quarters, because they were going to be away for the same time-frame that we needed a place to stay!! They said we could use their cars, guards, workers, etc. for the duration of our time there. Talk about confirmation!

After receiving this news, we started to get excited about the option of delivering in Nairobi. However, I was still very worried that my family, who were very willing to visit us when we thought we would be delivering in Europe, would not be able to or want to come if we gave birth in Kenya instead. However, we serve a God who hears our cries and listens to our desires! I called my parents that day and mentioned the possible change to them. I was bracing myself for the possibility that they would not be able to come. Do you know what my sweet parents responded with? They said, "Well, We'll start looking up tickets to Kenya when we get off the phone!" More confirmation. More praise. More gratitude. Will's family also told us that they wanted to come and would come to Africa after we move from Kenya to Uganda when the baby is born. This will give them the opportunity to see their grandchild, but also see our new home in Fort Portal.

We have been so amazed by the medical care here. Our doctor is wonderful and very professional. We have hired a midwife (common here, even if you are delivering in a hospital as we are) and she has amazed us with the birthing classes she offers and the fact that she will come to the house when we first go into labor and help us know when to go to the hospital. She will there be with us throughout the entire delivery process. She will visit us the next day in the hospital and come to the house two times in the two weeks following the birth to ensure that we are getting the hang of nursing and answer any questions we have about "post birth". What a blessing!

Delivering in Kenya has also allowed us the space to spend a few weeks preparing for the baby before her big arrival. It has given us time to talk to our counselor and continue to heal from this past year. It has allowed us to pray, journey and process as we close out of being missionaries to South Sudan and prepare to be team leaders in Uganda. We are also grateful that after the baby is born, delivering here will allow for a much easier transition since we are already within Africa. We will have a very short flight to Uganda, rather than one or two very long international flights had our other plans worked out.

So, next time one of you hears me say, "Anywhere but..." or "I definitely won't", please just smile at me and say, "Or at least that is what you think now." Let us remind each other that even in our "Yes, but's"... God is at work. He is working all things for His good and changing our hearts in big and small ways to prepare us for what is to come. Let us remember that His plans are so much greater than ours and we can't see the whole picture yet.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Regaining Feeling

Will likes to call himself an "efficient sleeper". He says that while he is sleeping, his body takes heat from his arms and legs and only keeps his core warm. Therefore, he sleeps with lots of blankets and often wakes up cocooned in the covers and shivering.

Will's "efficiency" has made me think a lot lately about our body's response to stress and trauma. I believe our emotions respond in a similar way to Will's efficient body (yes, I giggle a little every time I use that phrase because my husband is funny). When we go through trauma, our emotions go into "survival mode". The keep the core of us functioning, but the non-essentials suffer for the time-being. We're functioning, but only at partial capacity and if we continue that way without seeking help or healing, part of us will die and we will not be about to function "wholly" any longer.

Will and I are so grateful for this season in Nairobi because we have time to assess which parts of us have gone numb due to extended stress and trauma. We have the space to process, bring things to the light and heal. And slowly by slowly, we are starting to regain feeling in parts of ourselves that have long been numb.

I recently saw this quote that a friend posted:
"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us."
~Walter Wangerin

I love this quote because it reminds me, yet again, that sorrow is not wasted. It produces in us deep, lasting, meaningful, joy. However, this does not come without work. I can't just expect that when I'm going through sorrow-filled seasons that I will naturally wake up one day and be filled with joy. Yes, that can happen by God's power, but usually this transition into joy is a process. It takes times to heal from the wounds and grow from the struggle that the sorrow brought. 

For Will and I, we can't expect that we will suddenly be okay with the fact that we are no longer missionaries in South Sudan. We can't expect to get off the phone with our friends in Mundri who just told us, "we are really suffering, we have no food for our children and are fearing what will happen next." and completely feel fine about the fact that we are not there with them and not able to meet their major, felt, needs at all times. However, we can allow God to meet us in the paradox of knowing we can't be in Mundri and also how much we long for it at the same time. We are taking time to allow God to speak to us in the pain and remind us that HE is still there. He is still with our friends and has not forgotten them. We wish we were involved in that process more, but in reality, what would that do? What would our worldly help do if God is not calling us there? What can I do that He is not able to without me (if I know He hasn't called me there for this time)? 

So for now, we heal. We ask God to reveal the numb places in our hearts. And we trust. We trust that His grace is sufficient and in our weakness, He is strong. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Not Forgotten

Justin, Will and Shawn on the last
night together in Spain
Will and I have been in Spain for the past two weeks for our company-wide conference. It was an incredible time and refreshing in so many ways. What a gift it was to be around so many people who love the Lord and are serving Him all over the globe. We heard stories of heartache and stories of great rejoicing. We laughed, cried and ate way too much cheese and ice cream together. It was a beautiful time of being surrounded by the Body of Christ in a beautiful place.

Enjoying time with friends at the
While we were in Spain, Will and I were quickly reminded that the time there marked the end of our "displaced" period in a lot of ways. Ever since we had to evacuate from Mundri, we have been in a temporary location in hopes of getting back to South Sudan as soon as possible. In our last temporary location, Arua, we realized we would not be able to continue to pursue going back to South Sudan in this time because of the lack of stability, team, medical care, etc. Spain was the in-between before our next transition- expanding our family (delivering our first baby in Kenya) and moving to Fort Portal, Uganda.

Often, the reality of the "in-between" in our lives hits me when we're on an airplane. To me, it's the best representative of how I feel emotionally- stuck between two places. One season over and a new one just beginning.

While we were on the plane (which by the way, KLM is amazing and I wish we could fly with them every time we fly internationally!), I started to feel extremely emotional about the next steps in our lives. Reality finally caught up to me that giving birth in Nairobi means that so many of our family and friends will not be present for the birth or able to meet our daughter for several months. I started to feel lonely and sad about the reality of living across the world from loved ones.

Just went I really started to mope, our sweet flight attendant walked up to us with a gift. Yes, we were in the middle of the journey, with hundreds of other people on the flight and she had a gift for us. She said that KLM wanted to congratulate us on our upcoming birth. The gift was a cute bib and a "wishing bell". Attached to the bell was a card that read, "Together we have a great story to tell".

As you can imagine, given my emotional state before the kind gesture, my eyes immediately started to well up with tears as soon as she walked away. Embarrassed about my emotions, I looked up at Will thinking that he would poke fun of the fact that I was crying over an airline bib and a bell, but instead he said, "I get it, I'm feeling it too!"

Receiving this gift was a reminder to us that God has placed people all over the world to surround us in this crazy journey/ adventure He has us on. Whether we in the US, Africa, or flying in the middle of the sky, He has not forgotten us and He has brought people to come along-side us. It really was a great reminder to us that "together we have a great story to tell". Yes, there are time when that"'together" was with specific people that we miss doing life with, but either way, God has placed people in our lives to write great stories.

So, sitting in Nairobi, Kenya today, we are grateful. We're grateful that God has given us amazing people to do life with all around the world. We're grateful for my parents, who are coming to Kenya around my due date to hopefully meet their newest granddaughter and for Will's parents who will visit us a couple months after she is born to meet her and see our new home in Fort Portal. We're grateful for the community we have here in Nairobi and for the fact that we get to take a birthing class with good friends starting next week. We're grateful for the amazing people we were able to spend time with in Spain and for the ways God is working around the world. We're amazed by God provision of great people in our lives and by reminding us that we're not alone- even when we're flying miles and miles in the sky.