Monday, January 12, 2015

au revoir

I took two years of French in high school.
Although it was a small class, it was neat to not only learn a new language, but feel pretty prestigious once I realized I knew the meaning behind a lot of the character names and songs in Beauty and the Beast. Thankfully, my "visual learner" kicked in and helped me in my test taking, but unfortunately learning a new language is more than just being able to read and write it. Ya gotta speak it at some point. Which also wasn't too bad until we got to the dreaded French "r". The perfect blend of sounding like you need to both clear your throat and spit at the same time. It's actually beautiful really. But only when people who are French say it.

One phrase in particular always gave me an exceedingly amount of trouble: "au revoir", the French words for goodbye. It starts and ends with that stupid and beautiful "r" leaving my throat super dry. It's funny what tiny details your mind remembers about the past.

______________

Today was the first day of my last semester of college.
Considering I'm still trying to figure out what those words mean put together, one thing I do have figured out is that a lot is about to happen in life over the next few months.  And when you have six hours of driving to get to school you can't help but think about it.

Saying goodbye to my family for a pretty good while.
Saying hello to a new family. 

Leaving the familiar streets of T-Town.
Learning the streets, shortcuts, and city of Jonesboro.

Crying as I move boxes out of Shores 308 and living with some of my favorite friends ends.
Living with the love of my life, and starting at the beginning learning the lives of new people. 

The closer I get to all this change, I'm realizing this is the semester of "au revoir". And what "au revoir" means is almost as hard as the word itself is to say.

But why? What makes a goodbye hard and why is it so difficult for us? Is it because whatever it was is over and we know we didn't do all we should have? Or maybe because we're hugging the necks, or closing the casket, of people we didn't say all the things we wanted to? Or maybe it's because this season and situation of our lives we've finally learned to manage/manipulate/control is about to change once again. We're about to have to uncomfortably learn something new. We're about to have to hand over the driver's seat of our future and feel the growing pains of failure once more. We're about to need help again. 


But if I've learned much of anything as my person has grown over the last 4 years, it's that this is the rhythm of living life. Especially the Christian one.

Waving goodbye so that you can say hello to something/someone else.
Closing chapters so that you can start a different one (maybe this next one will be your favorite one yet). 
Dying to your old self so that you can begin making room for and learning the new you. 


So if you're in a season of saying goodbye like me, maybe there's nothing weird about it. It's sad sometimes. But not uncommon. It's just the rhythm of life and we'll soon be saying goodbye to the things we're now saying hello to. Change is constant and that fact by itself only solidifies in my mind that I should never cling too tightly.

Saying goodbye may never come naturally but it will also never go away. Because even though right now we're traveling on a road that leads us farther and farther away from what we feel is home, it's also the road that takes us deeper into knowing ourselves. And once we get there, the adventure begins.

Friday, November 14, 2014

5 things I loved about the last 7 days

This semester I'm taking a class called Children's Literature.
Yes, it's a real class, and yes you should take it.

This semester in general I've gotten more stress acne than I have my entire life combined (Mom you would not believe). If you know me at all you know it takes quite a bit for this girl to make enough tears to fall and I have cried at least 5 puddles from feeling overwhelmed (another post for another day).

Child's Lit. is 2.5 hours in my week where I can find a little calm. In the class we have to do book talks, literature circles, author studies, and read 60 children's books that span across all genres from non fiction picture books to graphic novels.

Last class we came across this blog by a teacher who every now and again lists his favorite things from his week as a teacher. He calls it, "5 Things I Loved About the Last 7 days." That Thursday I was especially spread thin (so naturally I was spending the majority of the class studying for an Anatomy test). Hearing Dr. Smith say the title of the blog alone made me put down Neurology and decide, "It's time to let myself breathe for a minute." The past 2 weeks I've been in a fog of to-do lists, hurried conversations, and running on the fumes of caffeine. But that Thursday's class quickly brought me back down to planet Earth and I re-learned what I so desperately needed to be reminded of: I haven't taken the time to be thankful in a pretty good while. I've thanked God for a lot of things. But I haven't let thankfulness be the posture of my whole day in months. I've let my busy-ness dictate how I treat other people and the amount of grace I extend to myself. And I've let myself get so tired I haven't completed a prayer before bed, just me and God, in I can't tell you how long. My eyes never let me make it that far.

So I decided. It's time to make a list of 5 things I loved about the last 7 days.

Now don't let me fool you. There are grad school applications to fill out/pay for, a book to write, a term paper to start, an EchoLecture to watch, an Audiology notebook to complete, and therapy lesson plans to get together. But I'm choosing to let myself breathe for a minute and I'm about to thank God for a few ways He told me He loved me this week.

________________


1.) My roommates and I made a last minute dinner decision to treat ourselves to some Mi Pueb on Tuesday. We ate like usual but ended up sitting in our booth for almost two hours talking and laughing about Freshman year and the ridiculousness all of our memories entail. We remembered the first times we all met and were in awe of just how different we are leaving Harding than we were when we got here. I don't know that I even remember that Holly that well.

2.) Cierra and I had to get a couple of things at Wal-Mart Wednesday night after devo and I found something that changed my life: red velvet cupcake coffee creamer. Ok, maybe it hasn't change my life, but it has changed my morning. Drastically.

3.) I got a note in the mail from our wedding photographer, Jon Yoder, about how excited he is for our wedding and how thankful he is we chose him to document such an important day. So kind. (Also, 190 days, but who's counting?)

4.) Hearing my dad say, "You're best is good enough." He always knows.

5.) I'm doing an Honor's contract for my Children's Lit class and Dr. Smith and I decided at the beginning of the semester it would be great if I could create a children's book incorporating my major (Speech Path) with elements of children's literature. And so, I'm in the process of creating a children's book about a little boy named Garrison facing his first day of school with an unrepaired cleft lip. Last night I was typing the story into a template and I came across the page where it asks for the author to type who the book is dedicated to. I thought about dedicating it to the clients I've had in the clinic, for all the times they're reminded me that simplicity is the best of life's joys. But, I decided against it once another little nugget came to mind. I decided to dedicate it to a special kiddo who has taught me eons about overcoming weakness and trekking on: Joel. It makes me proud to have his name on my book. That's probably my favorite of the five.


So there they are. Five little beauties from my week.

Try it! It gets difficult to narrow it down to 5 once you get going.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Week 6: Sovereign



“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places,
 that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.”

Isaiah 45:3



July 20, 2014

This morning we went to Farm church for our last Sunday here. Farm church is a house church about 20 minutes away attended by all kinds of farmers in the area. There are tobacco farmers, vegetation farmers, dairy farmers, you name it, they’re represented. Everyone there is white but they’re South African or Zimbabwean or native to Africa in some way. The house where everyone meets is on a plantation owned by Sam and Fiona. They used to only meet every 6 weeks or so but recently they’ve started meeting every week. Meagan said sometimes she’ll go and there will be a lot of people and sometimes she’ll go and there will only be 2. So when we pulled up today there were 6 people; 1 leading the service and 5 in the seats. It was funny realizing we nearly doubled their attendance. We got there and sang a little and then Sam talked about what he’d been learning from a book he’s been reading. I say “talked” instead of “preached” because that’s what it was. More of a talking discussion rather than a lecture. It was inclusive and simply an expression of the growth and refining going on inside of Sam lately. Really a neat way to do church.

His talk was about how the act of trusting God is a physical choice we have to make. To trust God means to deny your feelings and circumstances and choose to believe what you once believed to be true. Sam mentioned a number of people from their congregation, most of whom are battling cancer, and it just seemed like what church is supposed to be. Uplifting one another in spirit and in prayer. After he talked he opened up the floor for anyone to say anything they were wanting to say. A man who had cancer spoke up about how he feels like once you realize the purpose for pain, it’s as though bad times are actually considered good times. You relish them because you know you’re in a period where you have nothing but God. It was pretty incredible hearing a man talk about how if cancer is what ends his life, then hallelujah, but it’s not going to change the living he wants to do before he goes. I took a ton of notes.

We went by town to get some things for lunch and came back and made tilapia and vegetables. We ate and played a couple of games of Hand and Foot before going to get the babies for our one-on-one time today. Meag is letting us choose someone to spend the night with us which is so exciting. Aubrey got Biggie, River chose Petra, and I had Joel. When we went to the Havens to pick them up, the rest of the Haven 2 kids were (literally) barreling out of the Haven 2 gate sprinting into our arms. I picked each one up and squeezed the air out of their lungs hugging them so tight. It sounds crazy but I’ve missed them after only two days.

We brought the ones we picked back to Meag’s and decided to make a  home theater and watch Beauty and the Beast. I sat Joel in our big chair while I went to get something to drink, and when I got back he was looking at me and patting the seat beside him, motioning that he wanted me to sit by him. Swoon.

We watched the movie and ate dinner all piled around Meagan’s dinner table. It was a full house and I loved it. We put them in their PJs and walked to Johnson church where Roy talked about marriage and how to keep from making Samson mistakes in finding a partner. Pretty cool topic and he presented it in such a hilarious way.  He makes these slideshows with all these pictures of students from around the campus and some that are clearly from Google. Hi-larious. A guy wanted to be baptized and after Roy asked for his confession, Roy prayed and thanked God for open and receiving hearts. That struck me for some reason. I feel like I should thank God for that more often.

When we got back, we made a pallet in our bedroom floor for the babies since they all had already fallen asleep. We put them down and then watched 12 Years a Slave just us girls. Holy cow. That movie wrecked me in every way possible. It’s just a well-made movie first of all, and then the story behind it is absolutely incredible. I mean we all went to bed saying “Wow,” over and over.

Everyday since being really sick last week, has just been better and better. I savor every joyful moment. With the babies, with Meag, with living simply. I’m caught in between being excited to see my family and Daniel, and never wanting to stop being here.

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July 21, 2014

This morning all the babies woke up around the same time as us. I was able to pull Joel into bed with me for a little bit before having to get ready. I love cuddly, still, morning babies. We fed them porridge before piling them all in the bath. Cute as ever.

Meagan told us this morning we don’t have to stick with what our scheduled Haven is for the week. We can spend time with whoever we want since we only have 3 days left at the Havens. I was supposed to be in Haven 3 this week but I was really happy she said that because now I don’t feel so frantic about only being able to spend short amounts of time with the kids as our last time.

When we got to the Havens each of us interns decided we wanted to be in language class. It was so much fun because they did all the fun songs that I love so much. I was able to film some of them, which are priceless treasures. Joel was so incredibly excited in class today like always. Since we’ve spent so much time together he truly realizes who I am whenever I’m around. Walking to language class this morning I came up beside him, grabbed his hand, and he looked up, smiled from ear to ear, squeezed his eyes closed as tight as he could, and kept putting our joined hands to his head and laughing. I love Joel more than I know to say.

We ended the language class with a parachute activity and the kids were beaming. They were so excited and everyone (but Vera, little cranky pants) were squealing with pure delight. It was a great moment being able to see complete  joy on each of their faces.

After language class I went to see what the Haven 3 babies were doing and held Patu for a little bit. When I went into the little baby room, Meagan came in behind me and realized that Memory, a new 1.9 kg (4 pound) baby, had an incredible fever. She took her temperature and it was 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Meag took her to the clinic to see what’s going on straight away.

All the babies were heading to bath time so I went into the kitchen and helped sort through beans to pick out bad ones. It’s just as enjoyable to me being around the Aunties as it is the kids. Since all the kids in Haven 3 were bathed and being put down for a nap, I went to Haven 1 and sat with Aubrey for a little bit. I was able to start the goodbye process and hold a couple of the little ones that I’ve grown to really love. The big boys were so sweet and cuddly today and I’m happy to have that last memory of them.

I set up the hammock and Aubrey and I spent a couple hours with Biggie, Joel, and Seth. I played a memory game with Seth again and again while Aubrey, Biggie, and Joel were swinging. We were listening to music and all of them were in really great moods. Seth and I were doing shapes and we got into this silly game of yelling back and forth at each other what certain shapes were. It was so cute hearing that little voice screaming, “WHAT IS THIS?” to which I would answer, “SQUARE!” It was fun.

At 17:00 we left with Meag and went to check on our quilts again. They’re almost finished and I’m so excited to get them in the next couple of days. We came back, made quesadillas for dinner, and talked with Meag for really long time while playing games. She had a bad day today with things happening and missing her family and just the really sad parts of this missionary life. I hadn’t seen her cry like that in a long time. It pains me seeing her so sad but it’s important to see this side of this life too. I cry every time I think about leaving her and here and this summer. I am so excited to see my family but it doesn’t feel right leaving yet. Realizing that it’s happening in 3 days is beginning to shift a lot inside of me and causing a whole facet of emotions.

I’m not ready.
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July 22, 2014

This morning Aubs and I walked the trail before brewing some coffee and packing our lunches for the day. When we got to the Havens I went straight to Haven 3 to spend time before language class. Tomorrow is our last day at the Havens but I’m really wanting to spend that day with Joel, so I’m wanting to say goodbyes to the Haven 1 and 3 kids today.

When I walked into Haven 3 I was greeted by all the big kids running around in the main room. Angel was speeding around on this push car and Kent was by the door when I walked in so I scooped him up and we chased Angel around and around. Kent was belly laughing and I could’ve cried. I sat with the big ones for a little bit before leaving for language class. Meagan had left for an emergency trip to Zimba for baby Memory. Her temperature is still the same so Meagan rushed her to the hospital to get blood work done and to see what’s going on with her little body.

Language class went much better than it did the last time Meag wasn’t there. The kids were happy and pretty participatory. I went to help with nsima time afterward and then walked over to Haven 1 to sit with the Aunties and babies there for a little bit. I was able to do some goodbyes. I fed Esther, rocked Zeke, and held little Oscar.

At intern lunch we had a full out picnic. We brought blankets and sat under this big shady tree in a field behind Haven 1. We were able to craft a surprise banner we’re making Meagan for her birthday since it’s tomorrow. We want to surprise her with a birthday celebration, so hopefully Memory will be doing better so we can have some fun with her on such a special day.

I went to Haven 2 and got Reuben and Ella and we read a couple of books and hit the swings for a good bit. We sang songs and laughed a bunch. I really love those two. They definitely are the most adamant about wanting to learn.

Afterwards I took them back to the buundus and sat with the kids making dirt sand castles. Joel and Vera decided to try their hardest to bury me alive by covering my skirt in dirt sand. They were just laughing and laughing and so was I. When they got their snack I sat with the Aunties for a little while. Ella managed to find my lap and we sang to each other. I love little Ellastic.

I stole Joel away for a while and we went to sit on the Haven 2 veranda and traced each others’ hands and drew in my notebook. I think he got bored because after a while he stood up and waved goodbye as he turned to walk away. I think that boy’s going to be just fine.

After walking with him back to the buundus I went to Haven 1 to help with feeding. It was really neat that today was the last day helping because usually when the babies are waiting on their food they’re screaming and crying but today they were all in a chorus of laughter. While I was walking back and forth, carrying the bowls from the kitchen into the main room all I could do was laugh to myself at how bittersweet these moments are.

Meag was still in Zimba once 17:00 came around so we walked back through the paddock one last time. It was just as beautiful as always. We got back and started cooking some potato soup and began packing some things. Meag got home and was extremely discouraged and ended up going back to her room to unwind until dinner was ready. I hate that these bad days are happening so close to when we leave. But I think the fact that we’re leaving could be one of the contributing factors to the sadness.

After a while Meag came back out and we had this awesome homemade potato soup and played some games afterward with Lou. It was a lot of fun but very obvious to all of us that it’s been a tiring day for Meag. When Meag and Lou went to bed we decided to go onto the containers to look at the stars one more good time. They’re just incredible.

 
If only I could capture it

When we got back we started decorating the kitchen for Meag’s birthday with the banner we made at lunch today. We finished making her gift, which is our favorite coffee mug with our funniest moments written on it. It’s just weird doing things like packing and saying goodbyes. These days feel so much like normal that I’m not ready to close it off. It just doesn’t feel right.
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July 23, 2014

This morning River, Aubrey, and I woke super early to make a surprise breakfast of champions to start off the day for Meag’s birthday. We made biscuits, bacon, and eggs and she was totally surprised. She told us baby Memory made it through the night and finally broke her fever. Meag said her first birthday wish already came true in that baby girl didn’t die in the night. I’m constantly reminded of how different this world is.

We pigged out and she left right away to go check on Memory at Zimba Hospital. The other interns and I still had about an hour until we needed to leave so we packed a little and finished our gifts to Meag since she was out of the house. We walked to the Havens and made it just as language class was starting. The kids participated really well despite the fact that Meagan wasn’t there. After language class was nsima time and I fed Joel some before going to Haven 1 to say some final goodbyes. The Aunties told me to sit with them for a little bit while Katie and Oscar and Binwell crawled all over my legs. After spending a while there, Aubrey and I went back to Haven 2 and sat in the floor of the big boys room. All the kids were supposed to be napping but undoubtedly none of them were, surprise surprise except not at all. They were like swarming bees around us, all lined up on our legs from waist to toes.

Bina Franco came and got me and asked me to help her and Susan cook lunch. She put me in charge of the tomato soup and egg and we had so much fun laughing together. Aubrey joined us and we took a few pictures to remember them. I so appreciate these two women who have made me feel welcomed like a true friend. Bina Franco told us she’s sad we’re going and that she’ll miss us. It makes me feel even better knowing that we were a help to more than just the babies.

After eating lunch together, Aubrey and I got Biggie, Seth, and Joel and went to set up the hammock. Joel was in such a giggly mood to where he was laughing so hard whenever I would tickle him, he was wheezing. Love that sound.


Joel and Seth

Biggie, Aubrey, Reuben (on Aubrey's back), Joseph, and Joel

Joseph, Seth, Joel, and Reuben

We swung for a bit and Seth and I worked on letters and matching the cards with the actual plastic letters. Joel was our helper and liaison in handing Seth whatever it was he needed. Joseph and Reuben eventually joined us and it gave me joy seeing them enjoy the hammock so much.

Joel and I went to the language class veranda to have some one-on-one time. We pushed cars and played a throwing game with some beanbags and a basket. He’s so much more outgoing, talkative, and constantly requesting for things in his own way. I soaked up every second I could just looking at him and watching him be so big and strong. I took him to the buundus so he could get his drink and snack and then took him and a couple others to the swings. Once they were tired of it we went back to the Haven 2 veranda where we traced hands and scribbled. I wanted today to solely be for Joel. So I took every opportunity I could to be with him.

It was time to start the dreaded trek to Haven 1 to start saying goodbyes. I told Ba Pauline we were leaving and she said she was so sad and that we were such a big help. Those kinds of words mean so much and Meagan told us later that the Aunties wouldn’t offer a compliment like that freely. I found Mamma and thanked her for letting us be a part of this as well as said my final goodbye to Bina Mbombo, thanking her for everything. Farewells are just such a hard thing for me because I know it is quite possible that I may never see these people again. And it’s strange knowing that when you’re looking at that person in the eyes trying to convey what they mean to you. It’s just impossible when this place and the people in it mean so much. What do you say?

After the Haven 1 goodbyes I walked over to Haven 2 to give good last hugs. I picked each child up one by one, gave them tight squeezes telling each one I loved them. It’s so hard especially when you know they have no clue what’s going on and will honestly forget who you are in two weeks max. But I won’t forget them. I didn’t expect saying goodbye to Seth would be so difficult for me but it really was. He’s such a good boy and he kept kissing me on the cheek saying he loved me.

Holding and kissing Joel for the last time was just as painful as I thought it would be and nothing I can say about it will convey it.

I walked over to Haven 3 to tell Ba Cece goodbye. At first she refused to hug us because she didn’t want to tell us goodbye but eventually she gave in and told us how sad she was.

Pulling away from the Havens was like tearing off a Band-Aid super glued to your skin. It hurt and I tried my hardest to memorize every little thing I could about it as we drove away.

We went to Eric’s House to say goodbye to Jason and Cyn and the Merritts. We picked up our quilts too and then once we got back to the house we found Emmett sitting outside waiting to wish Meag a happy birthday. He gave her this super awesome hammock as a gift and we set it up for her to try. She loved it. We decided to make hamburgers tonight for dinner to celebrate and Emmett ended up staying to help us cook. We made our own homemade french fries and the whole thing was just so so yummy and comforting after a day like today. While eating, we hear this chorus of “Happy Birthday” beginning outside. Jason and Cyn and Kathi along with all the Eric’s House boys surprised Meagan with a cake. It was so sweet.

We said our goodbyes to Emmett and dreamed together about any chance we might have to see each other again.

L to R: me, Emmett, Meagan, Aubrey, and River

After he left we gave Meag our gifts and she loved them. We ate our Funfetti cupcakes we made for her and played our favorite games together. Aubrey brought some facemasks from the States as a fun thing to do so we used them tonight for Meag’s birthday. It was hilarious. We ended up packing the rest of the night, deciding what to leave for Meag and what to take.

I’m trying my hardest to push all of these feelings inside of me to the side and enjoy these last few hours we have with Meag. I want to stay. I want to see Joel again. I want to hear him laugh and see him get better and better at communicating. I want him for myself. I want all of these kids for myself. They’re so unique and unlike the other and every one touches such different places in my heart.

It’s like you tell yourself not to go places and do things like this because you know there’s an end. And you know it’s going to come fast. But I always go against my better judgment and I do just what I tell myself not to and I let it happen. I let myself experience what it’s like to love a child and the women who take care of them. I let myself become captivated by a four year old boy with cerebral palsy who will forget me sooner than I would like to admit. I told myself not to because I knew it would hurt but I did it anyway. And I was right. It’s just as bad as I told myself it would be.

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July 24, 2014

This morning we all woke up, packed the last of our things, and said our goodbyes to Mati and Luyando at the house. Driving the Namwianga road for perhaps the last time was so saddening.

To get to Livingstone you have to drive through Zimba which is where baby Memory is, so we stopped there to check and see how baby is. She was looking so so much better. Her face looked fuller and they were talking about wanting to take her off of oxygen to see what her oxygen levels in her blood would do and see if she can still be stable without it. All great news.

We left the hospital and finished our drive to Livingstone. It’s hard to try and make your eyes soak in every last sight you can possibly see. All the unique trees, the people, the beautiful simplicity. We went to the hospital to check on Jonah’s biopsy results but to no avail. They still aren’t in. We drove to Kubu cafĂ© and drank some coffee and talked together before heading to the airport. When we got our stuff inside we stood at security and hugged Meag’s neck one more good time. It took everything in me to keep from crying but I know I’ll see her again and I kept reminding myself that.

We cleared check-in and flew to Johannesburg with no problems. On the plane I was pleasantly surprised to be sitting next to Mr. Pippin who was on his way home from the Zambia Medical Mission. So ironic. Not to mention his house (called the Pippin House) is the one I stayed in when we studied abroad to Namwianga fall of 2012. Pretty neat. We talked a lot about Namwianga and how he became involved and how I happened to stumbled upon it. He told me I should return and be a practicing SLP at the Havens and help teach Aunties therapy skills. Maybe it’s just because I’m so fresh off of leaving, but that sounds really intriguing to me.

We waited for a few hours in the Johan airport before taking off to London and sat there for a few hours before flying to Chicago. We cleared customs with ease and were on our way to Memphis before we knew it. When we landed we got to the room before baggage claim and I saw my parents right away. It was so nice hugging their necks. All of our baggage made it (praise) and all of us interns hugged one last time before saying goodbye.

Dad and Mom and I went and ate at a barbeque place on Beale and talked a lot about some of the things that happened. I’m blessed beyond measure to have parents like I do. They want to hear my stories.

So now I’m laying in a hotel bed in Memphis, Tennessee.

And God how I miss Namwianga.

I cry when I think about the emptiness of my arms that once held Joel and Ella and Pri. I’m struggling to feel as though I can do anything that matters other than being back there. Being on God’s mission is more-so a state of mind than your location (or sometimes it very much has to do with your location) and I know this. But the state of my mind doesn’t feel right not being there.

I love these sweet reunions. I love my family. I love that I have people that anticipate my return. No ifs, ands, or buts. I just miss living life there as well. And I know these emotions will alleviate the longer I’m back. They always do. It’s just right now it’s so fresh, I don’t know if this sadness means I should do something to continue this path or just accept this summer as a good experience and leave it at that.


Only God can lead and craft my path in such a way that I’ll find the answer to that question. Until then, I’ll rest in my memories of what’s just happened and think on the beauty and darkness of my experiences. I couldn’t have done this without people who are generous with their money and prayers. I’m so thankful.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Week 5: Squashed Chickens and Cement Floors



Learn this lesson well my friend
There’s a time to rejoice and lament
Every season will find an end
All will fade and be made new again.

Being deaf to the voice of the Almighty One
Spirit illuminates the dark like a fire
Revealing the way that was hidden but is higher
Now we must travel on the wings
That will never grow tired
Of searching the mysteries of God.

- Josh Garrels

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July 13, 2014

This morning I woke up at 5:00 and was totally unable to go back to sleep. Luckily, Daniel was awake and we were able to Skype for over 2 hours. It was so great finally getting to talk to him unrushed and at ease.

Once everyone woke up and got ready, we left for church at the Johnson this morning while Meag stayed home with Mercy since she’s still sick.

We came back home from church and all made breakfast for lunch, complete with waffles, eggs, and bacon. So yummy. People were coming in and out of the house since more and more people are arriving for ZMM. Today’s the day we bring a baby home from the Havens to spend special time with them and since the ones each of us are wanting to bring back nap until 2:30, we decided to play some rounds of Hand and Foot to pass some time. It’s just fun to live here with Meagan. Life is just brighter with her around.

We went to the Havens to get the babies after their nap and I decided to get Joel since there’s only two more of these kind of afternoons. It’s blowing my mind how quickly this end is coming. We chitenged the babies on our backs and walked back to Meag’s house. The walk is so beautiful to me. It seems so dry and dead at a glance, but when you take the time to stop and look at it in light of the sun and how the horizon compliments the sky so well, it really is beautiful.


Biggie
Petra

Joel 


Joel and I spent the afternoon reading some books and I was able to FaceTime with Mom and Maggie and they were able to meet him for the first time. We also took some crazy pictures. The only thing better than Joel is a frog-eyed Joel.





The ugliest yet cheesiest and best Photo Booth effect

The last hour or so, River, Petra, Aubrey, Biggie, Joel, and I all sat on the front porch sitting with the kids and talking to each other. Joel was lying on my chest still as a stone. I couldn’t help but hold him and wonder what is to come of this child. What he’ll be like when he’s older. How he’ll learn to talk. How people will treat him. Who in his adult life will love him the way he should be loved.

We walked the kids back to the Havens before dark where Meag and Lou picked us up. We helped them look for some hemoglobin machine the ZMM people needed and then came back and made this awesome homemade dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, and cheddar biscuits. So. Yummy. And such a treat. It’s neat how living simply makes you appreciate things like eating yummy things. After dinner Lou and Dan came over and started making caramel popcorn. It’s so fun being all together. They’re so silly and just fun to be around. Listening to them joke and sing and quote movies and talk about funny stories from a long time ago. It’s such a fun time whenever they all get hyper.

Today really highlighted this panicked feeling I’m getting about leaving Joel. Not because I think he needs me by any wild stretch of the imagination. And not because I think he won’t be ok here. I think this is the very best thing that could have happened in his life. This place has gotten him walking and doing things that he would have never done otherwise. I think the anxiousness is coming from thinking about what his life might be like post-Havens. Disabilities aren’t treated anywhere the same as the States. People with severe physical, and especially mental, disabilities become ignored beggars more times than not. Who will accept him and his disabilities? Who will take him in and who will teach him? Who will stand up for him? I have full confidence in Meagan and the Aunties’ love. But when his family comes for him there’s only so long they can love him. His family has the rights to him and he has to go back when they say they want him, and from what I know about his family from Meag it makes me so incredibly nervous. For him.

Tomorrow begins our last full week here. I’m at Haven 2, which I’m so so excited about now since I’m feeling more rested and healthy.
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July 14, 2014

This morning we somehow all managed to find it within ourselves to run. It’s been a few days since I last ran and it felt pretty great making time for that part of the day.

For language class, Chimuka borrowed a Grade 2 book from Meagan. We each took turns reading a page in Tonga out loud and then tried translating it into English. It was a lot of fun. I kind of wish we had been doing this the whole time because it made learning new words much easier.

We went to the Havens and I instantly was greeted by Ella wanting to learn. We read some books in Meagan’s language classroom when we were greeted by the rest of the Haven 2 kids coming for language class. It’s so much fun being around little people who understand you and who you can finally understand. Joel was a wild man in class today. He was singing and screaming and joining right along with everyone. At some points he would get so excited, all he could do was shake and grab his face, grinning ear to ear. Meagan had to leave to go prepare for the ZMM tour coming through that morning so she left the rest of the class to Ba Clenice, a Haven 2 Auntie. Towards the end of the class, a huge group of ZMM people came in, led by Meagan, just to see all the good things about this place. They seemed impressed and it was fun to see Meagan show off all of her hard work and diligence in helping things run the way they do.

After language class we walked back to Haven 2 for nsima time. The kids can feed themselves (except for Vera) but I still like to help feed them. It gives me some extra time to interact with them. Today I was feeding Deacon and when he finished he turned his little bowl over and made it into a drum. Now that I know a little more Tonga I understand more of what the kids say to each other. They started singing and drumming to this song all the kids dance to. Each child’s name can be put into it and whenever the kids hear their own name they dance. So Deacon started drumming to my name, I started dancing, I sang it to him, he started dancing, Biggie wanted in on the fun, so he started dancing. It was just a good time. They’re starting to know who each of us interns are too, which is sweet. They’ll call us all by our names without any kind of reminding which is a special thing.

After the tour, the ZMM people went over the Eric’s House for lunch. We followed close behind them to help serve food. After we ate, we left with Meag for town so we could renew our visas. We thought we were late on this (woops) but thankfully we realized today was the exact day it expired.

We came back to the Havens and I started doing more one-on-one time. During my time with Joseph this Zambian guy walked up to the veranda and started asking me all these questions about myself. When the first question is, “Are you married?” you know it’s about to be a lively conversation. Seeing that this happens quite often here, I have to say the boldness in some of these men will never cease to both amaze me and creep me out. I would say it never gets old, but it does. It really, really does.

A few minutes later Aubrey came to get me to tell me Maya and Marissa were at Haven 3 visiting. I was so so excited to get over there and see what they look like now. Maya and Marissa are twins that weren’t even able to crawl when we left here in 2012. Since they’ve gone back to the village, now they’re walking and talking and smiling little ladies. I loved seeing Aubrey so happy knowing that the little ones who have her heart are healthy, safe, and sound.



We left after a few more minutes and went with Meagan to drop them off at a bus stop in town. In this part of Zambia (and in all parts I would imagine) there are chickens and animals that run across the road all the time. Well, on the way to town we came up on some chickens. Assuming they would run out of the way like they always do, Meagan continued but ended up running over and completely pancake-ing this baby chick. She was screaming, I was laughing, there was a clueless African grandma in the back, it was great. We stopped, got out to look at it, and then Meagan waved this lady down that was driving by. The whole scene was just hilarious. The Zambian lady driving by on her motorcycle stops and Meagan says in her best Zambian sounding English, “Hi! Ma’am, I think I killed that chicken lying there.” Silence. “That chicken back there, I think I ran over it. What do you think I should do?” She told us maybe see whose it is and talk to them. I had to cover my face the entire time I was laughing so hard.

We came back and made a Mexican meal for dinner. It’s so fun thinking of meal ideas we can do with the limited range of ingredients we can find here. After dinner we all sat around in the living room for a few hours and talked to Meag about Kailey. She wanted to know how and where we all are with it. All three of us are in completely different places but it was beautiful hearing Meagan give us wisdom from her own experience with loss and grief. She told us the best thing we can do is name what it is about the loss that makes us sad rather than letting sadness engulf us. She told us to think to ourselves, “What about this specifically makes me sad?” instead of allowing the reality of the sadness of the world take over. Acknowledge and name the grief, and then put it in its proper place. Never letting it succeed in having control over you. We all prayed together and it was just really special.

Some of the blessings from today:

- God reminding me in language class by Joel’s excitedness and ability to learn new things that he will be in His hands.
- Feeling like the kids have accepted and grown to trust us.
- Seeing another successful reconciled family through Maya and Marissa’s visit.
- The joys of life that can be found, even in squishing a chicken flat.
- Today was the first day Tracy didn’t hesitate to come with me to one-on-one time (she’s been totally against the idea of coming with any of the interns for learning).
- How the comfort others have received from God really can be used to comfort other people like the Bible says it can.
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July 15, 2014

This morning River and I ran the usual trail before having language class where we read more out of the grade 2 book. It’s been really beneficial and instantly applicable right when we get to the Havens, which is so helpful.

Chimuka

I managed to get to some one-on-one time before language class. Language class has become one of my favorite things about being here. It’s great being able to see each kid shine in their own way. They each add something different to the group as a whole. And even being gone from Haven 2 for two weeks now, I’m able to see improvements in some kids’ accuracy of colors and animals and counting. The last 30 minutes of language class we broke into centers and Meagan and I went outside with the older kids to do some matching bingo animal game. She named off the kids she wanted to come outside with us (she chose the older ones that could understand the game really). She didn’t choose Joel even though he is one of the older ones. And when he realized she hadn’t picked him to go, he started crying like crazy. I’ve never seen him shed tears due to his feelings being hurt and Meag said she hadn’t either. But that’s exactly what happened. It made me sad obviously but also kind of happy at the same time because it means he’s finding ways to express himself outwardly to communicate what he feels on the inside. Good, good signs. Meag let him join in our game by letting him be the one to hand me the cards.

After our game, we left for nsima time. It cracks me up that every day I go into Haven 2, there’s WWE showing on the TV with at least two Zambian men watching. I ask myself why. So after nsima time I experienced Joel’s second fit (both of the day, and ever) I’ve ever seen him throw. I fed him his nsima and he finished, so Bina Sankwa told him to go to toilet time (all the babies are lined up on these plastic toilets completely naked and are told to sit there until they go, and yes it is the most precious sight in the world) but Joel didn’t want to. She stood him up and starting walking with him and he just lost it crying. It sounds weird to say I’m proud of him when he’s acting sassy, but I am. He’s developing in new ways and I’m proud of that.

I began my one on one time soon after bath time and I managed to get through all but 2 kids today. The time flew by because I’m able to do activities that last longer than just a couple books like in Haven 1. I’m able to do cards and then match plastic letters and numbers to the cards, do sorting and grouping; it’s just a fun break being able to teach and have some kind of reciprocation.

Seth (Sessa Boy) has started joining us for our intern lunches. He doesn’t eat with us but he loves to sit beside us and play with our hair. So today he was sitting there and then decided he needed to go to the bathroom. So he walked to a tree that was beside River, turned his back to us, and pulled down his pants. Well, he got this bright idea to turn around and then spin in circles…all while peeing. Boys will be boys? It brightened our day but still. Help.

I got to sit outside with some of the Aunties out at the buundus. The Haven 3 kids were out there playing with the Haven 2 kids and I noticed Kent sitting and eating his snack. He looks so much better it’s unreal. They shaved his head to try and get the cream for his ringworm on his scalp better and to also see if it would help his hair grow back more healthily. His skin seems to have cleared some too. He looks so so much better.

Meag went home early to take care of Mercy so we walked back with the sunset. We got home and made a homemade dinner of this broccoli salad stuff and fried okra. I put my Smoothie King skills to good use and made everybody some fruit smoothies before playing some cards.

It was such a great day of being with the kids. I realize how smart they all are when they surprise me with how much they know of the alphabet and shapes and being able to speak two languages for crying out loud. They’re just bright kids that love life. I love learning from them.
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July 16, 2014

This morning was our last day of language class with Chimuka. I got up and made some blueberry muffins for us all. Aubrey woke up feeling pretty sick so she forwent the day, but it was a great last day with her. We read from a grade 3 Tonga book and it was so hard! Nearly all of the words were new to us.

Today is Joel’s birthday so it was a party at the Havens. We sang to him and I made sure to hug him a little tighter. Meagan had to meet with a lady at the clinic and wasn’t able to be there to do language class, so Chimunya had to take over. It was a COMPLETE disaster. None of the kids would sit, all of them had toys in their hands, they were all talking, and at no time were all of them paying attention. It was so awful I felt sorry for Chimunya. We struggled through the hour and a half before going to nsima time. It’s kind of good to see them like that on occasion though because it keeps me having the perspective that they’re just kids. They’re not any more angelic just because they’re African. They can be (and are) just as bratty and ornery sometimes.

Today, Seth could tell me every letter, color, and animal I showed him with 100% accuracy. So. Cool.

One of my favorite things about these kids is how much of a family they are to one another. They’re constantly sharing everything. Clothes, food, rooms, everything. They’re always with one another and treating each other like brothers and sisters. One thing Ella always does in our time together is whenever we read a book, she’ll without fail find people or animals on a page and label which of the Haven 2 kids they are. Today we were reading a Dr. Seuss book and there was a page with a lot of crazy looking animal/people things and she started rattling off everyone’s name. “That’s Ella. That’s Maureen. That’s Biggie. That’s Deaco.” It’s the sweetest how much they each consider the others in everything they do.

Since it’s Joel’s birthday, I jokingly said something about him coming home with us for a birthday party and Meagan totally was for it. We didn’t have a party but he did get to come home to spend the night with us! We left the Havens with him and came back to make some dinner. It’s Mercy’s birthday today too so when we got home Meag put them both in these cute little outfits. We made dinner and ate before the girls came over for Bible study.

Tonight we talked about Nicodemus and how being born again relates to a passage from Ezekiel. Some of the girls asked some good questions about baptism. A couple of them are really deep thinkers and it’s really neat to observe Meagan’s dynamic with them.

I knew bringing Joel home was a bad idea. Not because it was a bad idea, but because now I love him that much more. It’s just painful honestly thinking about saying goodbye. I got to ask Meag some questions about the status of his family and the most current situation of what the plans are for him. I wish he was mine so badly knowing about all the options for his special needs along with the amount of love I have for him. It’s going to be a struggle coming to terms with the truth that I’m leaving here without him and accepting that he may not have the quality of life I wish he could have. Not because African life isn’t good quality life. It’s not a matter of nationality. It’s a matter of having access to the kind of stimulation and care for special needs. And he won’t have that where he’ll grow up. But he will have his family. And he will be relatively close to Meagan so that she can drive to check on him. I just want to believe that he’ll be taken care of. And I think he will. But I want him to be more than just taken care of. I want him to be the best he can be and to feel loved every day of his life.
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July 17, 2014

This morning the plan was to wake up and be at the Havens by 7 so we could drop off Joel and walk to the village to spend the day there cooking lunch for our host families and hanging out with them one last time.

I woke up early so I could check on Joel and see if he was sleeping well through the night and my stomach was feeling upset. I ended up getting super sick. I was planning on still going to the village so I could cook lunch for Bina Mbombo, but I just felt awful and the village is the last place you feel like being when you’re sick on any level. All morning I just kept getting sick over and over again and spent most of the morning on the cold cement floor with a blanket. I really can’t remember the last time I was that violently ill. Definitely a low point. I imagine it was pretty pitiful looking.

I spent all day in the bed feeling incredibly nauseous and trying my hardest to sleep it off. Lou gave me some Phenergan, which helped me sleep for a while, and left me waking up feeling much better. I was able to manage some soup for dinner while Meagan and River went to help serve the ZMM team their Mexican meal. Lou stayed at home with Aubrey and I since Lou’s mono is starting to flare up again. We were joking about how this house is just full of sick people! But it was really nice because Aubrey and I had a really great talk with her about Dan, her life, their life together, and just a lot of good things.

I’m super sad the day didn’t happen like I thought it would and even more sad that sickness is just now happening at the end of our trip. It’s just frustrating to me because last night I felt totally fine and then today I couldn’t stop getting sick. But I definitely am more appreciative of good health now that I’m not throwing up every hour.

Tomorrow’s my last day in Haven 2 so I really really hope I wake up feeling good enough to finish as strong as I want to.
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July 18, 2014

Thankfully we all woke up this morning feeling healthy and ready to take on the last day of this week. We got ready and went straight to the Havens. When I got there I found Bina Mbombo and talked to her about how sorry I was that I was sick. She seemed to understand and I was able to give her the basket I had gotten her as a gift of thanks. She really loved it.

Bina Mbombo

Language class was special today because we celebrated Joel’s birthday. We made some cupcakes a couple of nights ago and the kids loved them. It was so sweet seeing the kids dote over Joel and celebrate him. He’s so great at being in the background and encouraging other people, so to see him praised makes my heart happy.

After language class, it was nsima time like always. I helped feed and then helped Ba Susan in the kitchen with the dishes and the sweeping while the kids were taking their bath. Even in small things like doing the dishes, I feel like I’ve found a small place with the Aunties. Not because I’m doing a job but because they actually talk to and joke with me now. Ba Susan told me she would be sad that I would be leaving. It’s kind of comforting to feel like you’ve managed to find some kind of place in all of this.

After lunch I got started right away with one-on-ones. Pretty soon Emmett showed up to take us on an adventure into town. We caught a ride, ran some errands he needed to run, browsed around, and stopped at El P for a cooler before walking back. We sat at El P for a while talking with Emmett about his week and the classes he’s been guest teaching at the college. He’s been talking about the teachings of Paul and told us a lot of the guys had questions about disciplining their wives by beating, discussing whether or not it was appropriate. It’s interesting to see how different the issues are over differing cultures.

Emmett and the 'terns

We decided to be trailblazers (in the most literal sense of the word) and find a shortcut back to Namwianga. It took us about an hour and a half, so we cut off a little time. It was an incredible walk. I mean we were walking through plains and plains of nothing but Africa as far as your eyes let you see. There were trees and brush and gardens and we even came up on this huge rock thing that was like Pride Rock from Lion King. It was surreal realizing how special this experience is and understanding just how cool the things we’re doing really are.

We got back to Meag’s house and fixed a quick dinner before going out to the Merritt’s for our last night of singing. We stopped by the Havens so we could each bring someone with us. I picked Joel naturally, and he was a champ. He was talking to me all throughout the night.

We got back to Meag’s and played some cards before the power went out, not so surprisingly, and we called it a night.

Health is one of those things you forget to be thankful for until you don’t have it. Or someone you know/love doesn’t have it. I’m so grateful to be feeling so much better and that I’m able to live this last week with 100% of me. It’s weird realizing that I need to go ahead and say goodbye to people I run into since it may be my last time to see them. It feels too soon to be saying goodbye.
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July 19, 2014

Our sleep in day is such a highlight as it marks a week of hard work completed. Aubrey and I woke up around the same time and worked on Meagan’s birthday present since it’s coming this Wednesday. The day before we leave actually. Kind of depressing really if you think about it too much.

Once Meag got up we played some card games before walking to Wasawange. We wanted some quilts made so Meagan brought a lady to us a few days ago that could make them for us. I gave her all of my chitenges I’ve ever worn while being here both times and am having a couple of quilts made from them. We walked to Wasawange (where she lives) to check on how they were looking and to give her some backing and batting for them. I had this HUGE roll of batting chitenged on my back. I couldn’t have fit my arms around the whole roll if I would have tried. We got to her house and they looked SO great. I’m so excited to get them.

We walked back by Eric’s House to get a couple of things from Jason and Cyn’s gift shop before walking back to Meag’s through the paddock and making this huge Mexican feast for dinner: guac, homemade tortilla chips, fajitas complete with bell peppers and onions. It was so much fun all cooking together.

We went to the Merritt’s for a game night and played with Kathi and Cyntia. It’s so fun being a part of their talks and jokes. I’m grateful for these moments.
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