30 October 2010

goodbye october...

~ leaves...they are a' changin'
~the sky is blue, the sun is shining, but somehow I'm FREEZING!!!!! how does THAT work?!
~latest paradox realization: I miss the simplicity of all of my day-to-day life occurring within a mile of my front door, and in the same moment really enjoying the diversity found in most parts of life here
~ diversity of people - different colors, shapes, sizes, music/movie recommendations, backgrounds, passions, interests, life experiences, book suggestions
~ diversity of ideas - NPR programs/interviews highlighting political rifts/polarization, new technology, people investing their lives in vastly different arenas...this week's favorites from time in my car driving around the city:
*Oliver Sacks - professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School and author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" speaking of patients' and his own experiences of a visual/neurologic disturbance called "facial blindness"...fascinating
*Stanley somebody-or-another - world renown writer for Marvel Comics
*George Wills - author/historian/theologian answering questions varying from the intersection of faith/politics to his invitation to the White House and a study showing that people that don't believe in God know more about religion than the the religious...
*A biographer of Houdini, whose name I cannot remember, and a museum curator, whose name I can also not remember, in charge of an exhibit of the famous magician's life/work
~visits to 3 area hospitals this week reminding me how much i enjoy and miss clinical nursing
~realizing that I breathe a sigh of comfort/familiarity when entering hospitals, institutions that invoke discomfort and funny smells for a good portion of the population
~the walking of the tightrope of balance between being a friend and a nurse...the balance I hope to strike looks like a friend who happens to be a nurse, not a nurse who happens to be a friend
~the incredible experience of getting to hold the precious little babies that God gives to your friends, having them fall asleep on your chest and snooze there until you get the feeling someone else wants a turn :) ...not having to wake up 5x/night with them, not having to figure out whether they like bouncing or swinging or both or even worse, neither...etc...this phenomenon is known to me as baby therapy. Jennifer Myhre introduced me, and I'm pretty sure it's a therapy that only works for people who are NOT the parents of the baby involved...I'm also pretty sure it's extremely effective :)
~having a hard time focusing these days...helps for people to ask questions
~best "what was life in Uganda like" question of the week: "Do they have Santa Claus there?" (my dental hygienist)
~interested to see what November will bring

24 October 2010

I miss...stateside edition

Pat “ keep my options open” Abbott: her particular experience of changes in barometric pressure, the way she knows very well what she likes and how she likes it, her eye for style and color, her bravery around snakes with the pestle usually used for pounding sombe, her empathy and compassion for people, her knock-your-socks-off gin and tonics...

Anna “I’ve got a few bites” Linhart: her particular experience of temperature extremes, her tendency to sing nursery rhymes around the house, her affinity for guys by the name of Chuck, her gut m.o. that everything will be alright in the end, her love of baked goods of all shapes and sizes, and her depth of experience/understand of the good news of the gospel…

Travis “Captain Awesome” Johnson: his mad pizza oven skills, his dreams of being able to “do it all” and that it will all be “awesome,” his delight in his kids, his tolerance of a team full of women this past summer, and his heart that yearns to teach in almost every context from the hospital to the opening of God’s word together…

Amy “Martha Stewart” Johnson: the fact that she’s not and doesn’t pretend to be an early bird, her passion for organization, her gracious and beautiful hospitality, her affinity for labeling things, her kindness and grace in the role of Johnson house bouncer, her willingness to see past my rough edges…

Lilli Johnson: the firstborn big-sisterness I know so well and see in her, her full head of beautifully straight, silky blond hair, and her eye for style…

Patton Johnson: his passionate experience of and response to most everything in life, P-A-T-T-O-N, his goofy and oh-so-genuine grin.

Aidan Johnson: his absolutely incredible naturally occurring blonde Mohawk, his “hey guys, what’s going on here?” laid back look, and last but certainly not least: Praise Baby (aka: baby crack)…

John “classic Carhart man” Clark: “Is there anything we can do for you?”, his knowledge about/passion for things I know nothing of, his inclusion of me into the life of their family from the beginning the intersection of our lives at Assessment and Orientation 3 ½ years ago, his lettuce and sweet corn rendering the singles’ dinner table silent with enjoyment…

Loren “now wait a minute” Clark: “So, how’s Heidi?”, her honesty and vulnerability, our shared common experiences/joys/frustrations in nursing, her willingness to chat when I stop by for something or to say hey and usually to stop what she’s doing, she says it like it is…

Bryan Clark: his sweet little voice, “what’s going on dude?”, his shoulder shrugging ear to ear smiles, his articulate thought processes, explanations and questions about every part of life…

David Clark: He’s just so darn cute! And he falls asleep on my shoulder J Just my type…

The pediatric ward: the little ones toddling around wearing next to nothing (even if they would scream when I got close, it was so fun to be around them), laughing with the staff (when we had staff…), the challenge of listening to patient histories in Lubwisi and trying to decipher what’s going on, the opportunities I had to be part of teamwork with Ugandan staff and the joy that was, Mr. Biguye and his story telling…

The mountains: the days when the rain had cleared the dusty haze and the mountains were crisp, clear, snow capped, and seemed within arm’s reach…

Motorcycle rides on the the dirt roads of our part of Bundibugyo…with or without pants…er, I mean trousers…

Susana: her singing church songs while she worked

Zainabo: her funny English phrases (“the sunshine’s! they are many!)

Ngonzi: his “fine and you?” answer to any English greeting

George: his smiling and nodding as I tried to figure out how life in Bundibugyo worked or told him about something that happened that day…

Assusi: her calm, steady, wise, presence

Olupah: her freedom to laugh with and at me

Baguma: his one liners that made my day each and every time

Lamech: his laugh

Pauline: her yellow yolked eggs that topped any in the whole country

And the list goes on…

04 October 2010


Not sure how many of you know this, but before I decided I wanted to be a nurse, I seriously pursued an education in Forensic Science. My life's aspiration was to work in the FBI's crime lab. Forensics is fascinating. That explains a bit why I'm going to compare my adjustment to life in the US after 2.5 years of life in Africa to fingerprints...

Every person on earth is different, I know this isn't rocket science but isn't it fascinating? Every person who has ever lived has a different set of fingerprints; the loops, arches and whorls bend and swirl to tell part of a story. Each one of us has a different story. Part of our story is how our fingerprints leave a unique impression on everything they touch. When I took the NCLEX (nursing board exam) 9 years ago(!!!), as I stood at the front desk at the testing center in suburban Philadelphia, they asked me to leave my thumbprint as part of my signature in signing in for the exam. (I was so nervous about the exam waiting for me that I forgot to press my thumb into the inkpad before stamping it onto the page they had waiting - "um, miss, you'll need to use this inkpad first." - "oh right, yes, of course.") Why did they want my thumbprint? They wanted to be able to ensure that I was in fact Heidi Lutjens and not Meredith Krieger or any other person trying to pose as Heidi Lutjens - trying to ensure that I hadn't sent someone else to take the exam for me, trying to make sure I wasn't cheating. And how does a thumbprint accomplish that? My thumb leaves a different impression than the thumb of some random person named Meredith Krieger, different even than my own brother - born of the same parents and the same upbringing - the loops and arches and whorls are different. Each of our stories are different, even when we have the same last name, the same blood, the same circumstances, the same home culture, our fingerprints leave different impressions.

But it's hard, isn't it, not to look around at the stories walking around near you and want for your story to look like theirs, or to assume that their story should be similar to yours in certain ways, or to wonder why your story doesn't look like theirs.

Where am I going with this, you wonder. Well, the most recent part of my story is that I just moved 1/2 way around the world. There naturally are reactions, adjustments, and acculturations that take place when a change like this takes place in one's life. Frankly, I don't think there's any way to know what those reactions/adjustments/acculturations will look like, but because there's no way to know, I look around, wondering what it is I'm feeling/how I'm doing and wondering if it's the way I should be feeling/how I should be doing.

So that's where I am. I'm struggling to let me be me. Since I have lots of teammates who have made similar moves, from the same place 1/2 way around the world, I'm struggling to not look around and wonder if my feeling/doing should look like theirs does. So far, the US feels mostly normal, I mean, sure, I'm well aware of the differences in my surroundings but so far they're not so much a shock to my system or disorienting or frustrating...but maybe they should be? Does that mean I didn't really make a home where I was, does not thinking about Uganda first thing when I get up in the morning mean I didn't really love people there well? I do miss Uganda and the people there, but my re-entry into the US has looked different than I thought it might, than others have thought it might, different than others' re-entry experiences as of late. I don't really know what to make of it or how to describe it, but I do feel a good deal of guilt/shame for the "normal" that I feel. The things is, Uganda feels "normal" too...it's strange to have "normals" that look very different, that are 1/2 way around the world from one another...but right now, this is what I know, how I'm feeling/doing, and I'm tryin' my best to roll with it.

I think it's related to this notion of fingerprints, but in reverse...not only do we as individuals make different impressions on the world, everything we touch, but everything we touch, the world, leaves different impressions on each of us as individuals...The impression left on my life of any significant (or even insignificant) event can be very different from the impression left on my brother/sister/friend/teammate/colleague. Both our fingerprints on the world and the world's fingerprints on us affect how we feel about/react to changes in surroundings/circumstances.

So, I'm not sure what exactly my fingerprints look like on the world, or what the world's fingerprints look like in me, but for now, I'm just realizing more and more that they're most certainly different than any one else's, and that's a start.


Carrieta and Geofredito (aka Carrie and Jeff) siblings extrodinaire
twins #1: Maceo (L) and Bram (R); mama = Dana
twins #2 - Sophia (L) and Andrew (R); mama = Becca
twins #3 - both boys (twin mama #3 last week at 33 weeks); mama = Leslie
the fam on mom's birthday

24 hours of travel and 5 movies later, after the goodbyes ended with Pat and Assusi at the Entebbe airport, I started the process of hellos. here are a few of those.

Now, you may not know, that being friends with Heidi Lutjens is linked to a high probability of giving birth to twins. The three "twins" photos are 3 friends of mine that by the end of next month will have given birth to twins over a period of 12 months...all of them dear friends of mine, all of them room/house-mates of mine at one point or another, all of them asked me to be a part of their wedding, all of them very lovely and talented women who I respect and admire and love very much, all of them had/having twins. Craziness if you ask me.

Hellos have also included:

  • fabulously hilarious conversations with 4 year olds (ahem, Daniel T.) about the intricacies of pit latrine use
D: "but you can't pee in a hole!"
H: "oh, but you most certainly can, Daniel, I'm quite sure of it."
D: "i mean, you can't poop in a hole."
H: "oh, but you can indeed, Daniel. I'm certain of it."
D: "but it can't be too deep."
H: "ooooh yes, in fact it *has* to be deep, the deeper the better, actually."
D: "I mean, the hole can't be too long."
H: "well, actually the longer the better too sometimes..."
D: "But it can't be too wide...the hole..."
H: "You're most certainly right about that sir, the hole cannot be too wide, that would for sure be no good at all."

(ah the joys of having fabulous friends who in turn produce fabulous children! Not so sure mama Sylwinn will be very happy with me for trying to prove to her son that one can in fact pee AND poop in a hole, but she gave me no evil mom glares so I'm hoping I'm ok :)...until Daniel tries to make a restroom out of a hole in the neighbor's yard...sorry!)
  • overwhelming culture shock moment #1: The AT&T store...it actually succeeded in making me question whether I needed a phone to do everything shy of tying my shoes...luckily I took a deep breath and realized that I need a phone to make phone calls and I'm pretty sure that's it...okay okay, maybe also to send the slightly more than occasional text message, but that's really it!
  • "definitely not in Africa anymore, Heidi" culture shock moment #2: When coming out of the mall, after putting to rest my Chick-Fil-A craving of the last year and a half, a kind, (and rather handsome) man, and total stranger, held the door open for me and looked me in the eye and smiled! I'm pretty sure my mouth almost dropped open, but don't worry, it didn't, and I just returned the smile and said "thank you!" and moseyed on to my car. If you're not quite sure how this might be shocking, then I'm not quite sure I'll be able to explain it to you, but let's just say I was pleasantly reminded that chivalry is not dead.
  • a lovely evening spent chatting over spaghetti, complete with a nice bottle of Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (webaleh Aldi's - missionary budget, remember!), with Jeremy and Courtney, newlywed's as of July of this year, both dear friends of mine who started dating and married while I was in Uganda...none of us realized how fast the time had passed as we sat in their kitchen enjoying Italian food, wine, and oh, can't forget the Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Cake, and talking about everything under the sun, laughing as the hours flew by!
  • 2 hugs and a fabulous bowl of hot apple crisp and vanilla ice cream at the home of Mynda and Jason, 2 more dear friends who started dating and got married during the time I've been in Uganda. In addition to the great company and wonderful dessert, the evening was complete with conversation about just how long I've been gone and all kinds of things that have both changed and stayed the same during that time, how behind the times I am with pop culture, how it is that your surroundings and environment influence your perception of culture and entertainment, and lots of other things that I now forget because I had spent the previous 24 hours flying around the world with little to no sleep...I did manage to drive "little blue" home and arrive in one piece, albeit sleepy.
  • and many other things. If you have not been mentioned or I have not yet had the priviledge of greeting you with a hello, do not dismay, it just means there's only so many hours in the day and I'll be back in St. Louis in a few weeks to continue making my rounds! Save me a bowl of salad or a glass of wine and we'll pick up this conversation then!

03 October 2010

Proverbs Project here she comes!

For some of you, this woman needs no introduction, for others who don't know her, let me tell you a little story. This is a story about a woman named Pat Abbott. This is a story about a woman who God has moved in marvelous ways to further His kingdom. From the "Backporch Screamery" to Bundibugyo (you know, it's just as I'm writing that I realized that based on the name of the former - a restaurant in Winston Salem, NC which I only know second hand stories about- the two must be remarkably similar places of employment :) God brought Pat, 17 years ago, to Uganda where she has, according to popular local opinion, "become a Mubwis." "Omaniye Lubwisi!" (she know's Lubwisi!) you'll often hear as she moves around the HIV clinic talking with patients who have known her for years, as she shush's small children in church trying to get them to pay attention to what's going on up front (which is in fact in *their* native tongue and not hers!), as she welcomes the steady stream of people that flock to her door everyday starting at ungodly hours of the morning as far as I'm concerned, and often lasting until dark, as she councils young men and women in the next steps on the narrow path of following Jesus...she was made for this job, this place, these people. The exciting thing to watch as this story unfolds is how year after year God continues the process of shaping a calling for this daughter of His named Pat. Lately the calling has taken a turn towards the arts. Pat is fantastically creative, from the food she makes in her wonderfully cozy home, the notes she draws in her journal, the painting of murals for sick children, and my most recent experience is in the gifts she gives.

This is the gift Pat gave me the morning I left Bundibugyo a few weeks ago...

a month of her labor of love put into this quilt and I can't quite put words to how beautiful it is! She crafted it on a local sewing machine, the kind you pump with your feet and is mounted on a wooden table. And not only is it a gift, but it's the begining of a new calling on Pat's life.

The "Proverbs Project" (as it was being called at least for planning purposes) is only in it's infancy, but people have started to gather around Pat and help her plan for a project that teaches high quality textile arts/color/design to women in Uganda with Bible study and fellowship intertwined throughout. Please join me to pray with Pat that he would use this new work to provide for Ugandan women and to draw them closer to himself. Pray that he would provide the partnership she needs with Ugandans and with those living far from Uganda, pray that he would provide the funding the project will need and pray that ultimately God would continue to be glorified in and through Pat in this new chapter of her story!

And last but not least, WEBALE MUNO MUNO MUNO, Pat. What better gift to leave Bundibugyo with?! Plain and simple, you rock. :)


me and my little buddy Bryan (Clark)
most of the rest of the Clark family (sans David, the newest addition who was asleep)
Larissa, George's daughter, namesake of the lovely Larissa Funk I believe
Robert, Hannington, and Janet - gracious, hospitable and God fearing friends
Janet, Pat, and Ngonzi
Assusi, me and Gloria
Illuminate and Justine
Byamukama and Asita
Asita, Bahati, and Zainabo
Susana and Joyce
Pattony, Olupah and Patris
Kymanuel and Kwik
Esimo and Night
Susan and Page

"Tutex" time (everyone loves to paint their nails, boys and girls) Tumusiime, Kwik, Richard

Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to dear friends. They were truly "good-byes" I think, or as "good" as goodbyes can be. I miss their smiling faces. Here are some of those smiling faces...