28 December 2011

fleeting moments...

the tick tock of the clock is significantly louder this week.

When I leave monday for Colorado, I will only return to St. Louis for a week before leaving for good. Commence craziness.

"How are you feeling about leaving?" a friend asks..."depends on the moment" I answer.

...at the bike shop today as the man very kindly tells me I should consider a TRAILER instead of a front basket, I leave with his very thoughtful and earnest recommendations scrawled on a piece of paper and without the basket that I came for, because, well, I just couldn't really handle another thing to explain. Do you ever have those seasons? Where you really just want to be able to smile and nod and go with the flow, but your circumstances don't really allow for that?...

...at the computer when I can't really remember how to spell the word "color"...does it have a "u"? two "l"s? an "e" maybe? I seriously tried typing it about 4 times before I settled on no u, one l, and no e...ay yi yi...

...at the bank when I accomplish 6 important tasks in about 20 minutes (wuh hoo!!!)...chatting with Rashad, the guy at the bank who knows me by name...and my mom...and dad...and well, the whole family to be exact...realizing I'm kissing such familiarity goodbye...in full awareness that the efficiency will not be waiting for me on the other end of my plane rides, hoping that at least there might be some familiarity some day...

...at the store when my heart sinks because the man behind the counter tells me he just sold the last of the thing I came for and that I'd need to go somewhere else to find it...nooooooooo!...not really looking for things to ADD to my to-do list at this point...

...when I think about not being able to have my brother walk in the door and greet me with his ever cheery smile at the end of the day...


...looking at pictures of what will be my room in, well, 2 months' time, when I finally arrive in Mundri, South Sudan....eeek! yay!

...reading blogs of teammates old and new, stateside and Africa-side, finding my heart falling in sync with their experiences...

...when I pick up brand spankin' new US dollar bills at the bank that will one day be exchanged for South Sudanese Pounds!!!...

...as I start to pack for language acquisition training in Colorado, where I will hopefully stock up on techniques and confidence for the intimidating task of learning a language without a class or a book...hopeful...

and those were all today...

11 November 2011

brain constipation

come on!? you know what I mean, right? it's the feeling when you just have so much going on up there that none of it comes out quite right? and then you get to the point where you're not sure how to make it come out at all!?!

(see heidi, you go off and say these kinds of things in public forums and then you wonder why people kind of turn and look the other way when passing you in the hall at school or work!...there's always a reason heidi, always a reason)

my excuse? I just got home from another 12 hour shift of craziness...and I spend those 12 hours in a setting in which such topics are lunch conversation...but people, from time to time, let me in on the fact that not everyone in the world does...so let's just hope you're not eating lunch...or any other meal for that matter...

but really, on an entirely serious note - this is a real problem! I have got so many different kinds of things swirling around in my head, its totally ludicrous. How do people with any kind of a reasonably sized world view make it through everyday without their heads exploding like a go-lytely clean out? i mean really, folks?! just to name a few:
  • the question of how do we know what we know? reason? testimony? faith?
  • the question of how to translate the knowledge of high and low context cultures into a genuinely changed day to day experience of life in a high context culture as a low context person?!?!
  • trying to imagine the immense responsibility and love that parents with chronically ill children live in every single day...blows my categories for/experience of such things wide open...
  • and what about parents of chronically well children?!?! raising. a. human. being. - or more than one. it really is a miracle that any of us survive childhood...
  • what is the best way for a person to manage money across oceans?
  • can a reasonable human being in their right mind actually purchase a ONE WAY plane ticket to east africa that has in huge capital letters at the bottom NONREFUNDABLE - knowing that that return ticket won't be purchased for another five years trusting that what awaits them is nothing more than best for them in that time?! this is craziness people. and at the same time, TOTALLY the most sane thing in the world. but sometimes not exactly at the same time...
  • what is a single woman to do with the Song of Solomon? just askin'. read it. it's totally the makings of a movie without ratings. let alone respond with a 2 page paper including the assessment of what this part of scripture means for my head/heart/and hands?!?! you've gotta be kidding me. but no. totally not kidding. it's definitely an important question. just not sure at all how to answer it.
  • the job crisis. I am asking friends and family to give me money that I might go work in another country when a lot of those friends are struggling to make money in their own country, feed their own families...seems preposterous at times.
  • what do we do as a country to provide well for each other...really...what does that look like? then how are we to think about how we might be involved as a country in the lives of our fellow citizens of the world?!
  • what about the people in this little place in NY that have increased rates of cancer in their area because local industrial plants avoid the regulators who come to assess among other things their environmental output performance and dump tons of crap into the air...and how many other parts of the world in which this is the case they just have no idea yet...who advocates for them?
  • I love and believe in a Person I cannot see.........whaaaat?!
  • how to answer the mom who insists that there must be a way to prevent the illness that repetitively affects her son...I'm a nurse and I'm not so sure she's right...I'm not sure there is always a preventative option, or a solution for that matter...but needless to say, she didn't really like that answer.
and it goes on and on and on...

maybe the solution to avoiding back up with the likes of these and dozens of others, is a little something like a dose of miralax everyday...writing more often, praying more often, reading scripture more often, talking more often, asking questions more often? I'm not sure what my "miralax is" on this side of the pond...but something must be done...

maybe it's an introvert thing...maybe you extroverts are reading this incredulously wondering why in the world all this is rattling around in a person's head...not as easy as you might think.

or maybe I should take a dose of my own medicine...maybe there isn't anything that can be done...maybe it's just a part of who I am, how God wired me...put THAT in your pipe and smoke it...yikes.

12 October 2011

Has this always been there?!?

"And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?" And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws." Moses’ father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace."

So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country."

Exodus 18:12-27

It's like it just appeared out of no where...In 32 years as a Christian/in the church I don't think I'd ever read this chapter, or heard it or any kind of teaching about it. In one sense, I am not surprised. We don't take very kindly to Jethro's advice in the church...why is that? We could use a little more "and they will bear the burden with you" in our lives...a few more Jethro's-observant enough to take notice and strong/compassionate enough to do something about it...talk about leadership...

07 October 2011

Vancouver, BC

What a city! So happy Sarah and Harald gave me an excuse to visit this beautiful corner of the world. Sarah (a nursing school friend) and Harald (her new German husband) married last Saturday - a cool overcast day - but inside their small church was a beautiful example of God's blessings. lovely and simply done - communicating well the lives of the people we celebrated. A few reflections on the city these two call home (for now):
  • a international population with a european feel
  • coffee shops really are on every corner independently retail is the name of the entrepreneurial game - from coffee shops to grocery stores and restaurants - few chains.
  • most peculiar traffic signals and patterns (flashing arrows?! everywhere. pedestrians?! everywhere. stop lights with only stop signs on the cross streets?! everywhere. The MOST sensitive and reactive crosswalk buttons EVER. Press the button, count to 5 and the light changes. no joke. makes for pedestrian heaven and drivers'...well....challenge...)
  • everyone is outside with or without kids no matter the weather - sunshine or drizzle.(many more men out with their kids than in the US)
  • logs that look like chopped off telephone poles in neatly arranged rows on the beaches....peculiar if you ask me...awful clean cut and organized for driftwood...the Canadian version of the beach towel? no idea...
  • very stingy with their parking...sheesh...maybe another one of those methods to encourage pedestrianism? if so the method is very effective.
  • stately forests in Stanley Park
  • calm cool deserted sands at Jericho Beach
  • stunning mountain and water views
  • a drive along the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Squamish
  • Poutine - the heavy but tasty British Columbian traditional fare (fries with gravy and cheese) with their own delightful Pumpkineater Imperial brew at Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish
  • conversations with old friends over steaming hot chai to warm the soul
  • a return to the metric system...dividing the cost of gas sold in liters and Canadian dollars into gallons and American dollars...kph to mph to avoid becoming acquainted with the Canadian law enforcement system...
  • automated shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower?!?! clearly I'm not the seasoned traveler everyone says I am...somehow I was a bit uncomfortable with technology moving into the solace of the shower...
  • pastors with chunky silver chains reading the text for their sermon from their smartphone...another first for sure, but the hip pastor preached a refreshingly honest and poignant sermon pointing out that so often we are afraid to believe - believe that God is who He says he is. Amen cool brother.
  • last but not least: Sarah and Harald of course - Sarah the compassionate, practical, creative, baker and cook, nurse and church staff person, Harald the smiling German architect outdoorsman and "thinker" (as his friends dubbed him)...a fabulous couple with wonderful families who know how to throw a fabulous party! BEST WEDDING FOOD EVER!

25 September 2011

the woods: a soggy tale

camping. me and camping have a somewhat sordid history. camping was one of those things growing up that my family was always really excited about....everyone except me. I think it was the annoyance of having to walk farther to the bathroom and cooking involved more work as did doing the dishes (most importantly as this was usually my job)...HA! city girl. See, the thing is, once we got there, I always had a BLAST! and life in Africa and camping have quite a bit in common, so I guess it's a good thing I found myself enjoying it :)

However, I digress.

My church here in St. Louis goes camping every September. This was the weekend and I was glad not to be scheduled for work. I packed up my food, my brother's sleeping bag and mat, several layers of clothes, piled it into my friend Katie's car and we drove to Rend Lake, IL. We made it before dark, ate our take-out while waiting for mom to arrive with the real gear. Then it started to rain. boo.

We helped others arriving to get their tents up quickly so they wouldn't be soaked before anyone even got in them...then they helped us set ours up when mom arrived in the dark. We piled our sleeping stuff into the tent and then pretty much went to sleep. It rained some more. On and off (mostly on) throughout the night.

Mom's grand plan of pancakes and coffee on her new birthday cookstove fell to the wayside when it was still raining as we crawled out of the soggy tent in the morning as the campsite chatter got to a point where it's just better to get out of bed than to wish the chattering people would go back to bed :)

The campground was overrun with puddles, so by the time I arrived at the pavilion where some had gathered to cook their breakfasts my pants and shoes were soggy. I began wondering if it was worth sticking around, what fun is camping if it rains the whole time...I finally owned up to the fact, out loud, that I have a hard time when things don't go like I hope they will, like they always have...it's called disappointment, I guess, isn't it?

But we stuck it out and the rain paused mid morning. You never know if the pause is a stop or just a pause do you? Tentatively people stood around the fire pit and the the fire began to grow, with various people chipping in kindling and matches and logs and heavy sharp objects for log splitting and so forth. People gathered around, pulled up camping chairs since the benches were soggy...not sure yet if they were committing to staying or just hanging around until the rain started again - wanting to stay but not sure if it was safe to hope - for fear of what? disappointment.

Most of us hung around and after a while, choosing not to leave means a default choice to stay.

Lunch happened, smores happened, reading happened, chatting happened, laughing happened, the fire continued to happen - then dinner happened, more smores happened, beer happened, holding precious friends' precious children happened, wine happened, singing happened, the fire continued to happen, question asking happened - conversation happened, debate happened, reminders of God's purposes happened, reminders of our failure to live out those purposes happened. And then it was time to sleep again.

Because of thoughts stimulated by our conversation around the fire, I crawled into my sleeping bag and before drifting off to Lilly White's party, I found myself praying. Maybe as an attempt to push back against the disappointment I had owned up to some of earlier, I found myself praying for a gift from God. I found myself praying, as I do from time to time that He might see fit to give me a husband. Crazy, I know. And it only gets crazier. I prayed that this man would be one who loves me, who respects me and who God has made me to be, who is willing to protect me, who is willing to fight back against my ridiculousness with strength and gentleness, who is willing to remind me of what (and Who) is True, who is willing to walk with me through disappointment (his and mine), who will compliment my strengths and weaknesses, and who is willing to lead...and that's as far as I got before...well, before I don't remember anymore...I didn't get to the part where I pray that I would be able to do mostly the same...but I'm sure that's what I would have said next.

Not long after, the rain started back up again. It continued through the night, and when I heard the hatchet splitting logs I knew it was time to get out of bed for another go round of a soggy life. Still raining, but this time, it was Sunday. Even campout weekends have church services, and John spoke from Jonah. He reminded us of Jonah's attempt to flee the presence of the Lord, his willingness even to lose his life in that flight during the battle through a storm, and his inability to escape God's calling on his life. Sometimes I wanna run from God and what He wants for my life, like Jonah did. But 3 days in the belly of a large fish is not my idea of a good time, so despite the likelihood of my own fear and disappointment in response to how God sees fit to answer my prayers, I'm headed towards Ninevah.

PS - I might need some encouragement along the way. Said encouragement may or may not look like fresh bread baking in the oven when I arrive home from soggy weekends in the woods. Thanks Jeff!

14 September 2011

the hair twirl

so, I was crossing a street today when a minivan passed and as I glanced in the window as it passed I noticed the woman in the drivers' seat twirling her hair with her finger. You know, the way a teenage girl does when she's nervous or restless. I immediately jumped to judgement - "women driving mini-vans don't twirl their hair"...or in other words, women who drive mini-vans are moms and moms are too mature for hair twirling.

now. before I go any further, you need to know a little bit about my place in life right now. I spend a lot of time with moms. Most of my dearest friends here in St. Louis and scattered around the country are moms. But I am not a mom. I have a mom, and I talk to a lot of moms. But I relate to them by telling stories of other friends who are moms.

Most of these moms I talk to, tell me - "I have no idea what I'm doing." My own parents said the same thing. "We had no idea what we were doing." But the tendency, as illustrated by my reaction to the hair-twirling woman in the minivan, is for the outside observer to assume maturity - even a confidence or lack of nervousness - in the role. Clearly this assumption is off base according to the reports of my friends.

My dad said recently that despite the fact that parents never know what they're doing from the get-go, God somehow decided that this is how He wanted his world to look and function....in families. He decided He wanted to entrust these little lives into the hands of His people, knowing their fallenness!

I'm not quite sure what the missionary equivalent of the hair twirling mom in the minivan is, but maybe it's the prayer letter or blog photo of a white woman in her long skirt, chaco sandals, and unkempt hair, in a hazy, harried, "foreign" city with a puzzled look on her face. "Wait" you might say to yourself when you see the picture as you read the prayer letter, "missionaries don't get lost."

If only you knew.

Missionaries totally get lost. And not only in big hazy, harried, cities (although it happens there for sure) but on a daily basis in the hazy harried tasks of trying to sort out cross cultural cues in conversations and roles in the community and words in other languages and responsibilities to love one another. Like moms - we have no idea what we're doing. (Sorry guys for blowing your cover!) We've been well trained, prepared as well as possible for what awaits us in the field, but when it comes down to it, we have to figure it out as we go along. And God designed it that way!!!

God made His Word missional and entrusted it to us, knowing our fallenness. He entrusted the task of being His hands and feet to our neighbors to us, knowing our fallenness.

I can't personally relate to details of infant sleep schedules or toddler discipline techniques, but I can relate to not knowing what I'm doing...to a lack of confidence...to feeling inept...to feeling the seemingly impossible implications of a daunting calling. But the truth is, my mom friends and I can both take comfort in the fact that God knows all our shortcomings very well, and He's still called us - and will use those shortcomings and ineptitudes - those ways we don't fit the expectations - those hair twirls and puzzled looks - for His glory. Now THAT my friends, is good news.

02 September 2011


  • how am I to reconcile the following two paraphrased points from the Convocation address given this morning from the story of Mary and Martha?
  1. Mary was recognized for doing the most important thing by being off her feet and sitting at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was on her feet busy serving.
  2. As Presbyterians we so often pride ourselves in what we consider to be a "deep" faith, when in reality our faith is only deep when it so penetrates our being that it can only escape through our hands and feet.
  • the most appropriate latin medical term ever: acne vulgaris - seen on my billing sheet as I left the dermatologist's office the other day. At 32 I think I have earned the right, after 20 years of treatments of all shapes and sizes, to deem acne to be vulgar indeed. When will the tyranny be over, FOR THE LOVE OF IT!?!?! (ok, just so you know, I am completely aware that this is totally the rant of a young American single woman who in all reality needs to be on her knees in gratitude for the health she has been given - but it's still annoying. and ugly. and vulgar.) (PS - wikipedia tells me that vulgaris only means "common" in Latin which takes every ounce of satisfaction out of the diagnosis) (PPS - is it sacrilegious to speak of "deep faith" and acne vulgaris in the same blog post?)
  • overused seminary word of the day: ministry - what does it even mean anyways...aren't our whole lives supposed to be "ministries" of sorts?
  • the philosophy of knowing...truth...how do we decide what is true? Was Descartes really the hero we make him out to be in the field of science? These are things a mind like mine has no business trying to tackle but it seems important, like the kind of important that shapes people and thoughts and work and words. There are several people - scattered all over the US and the world - who I wish I could be sitting with over a glass of something fun talking about these things...the closest of which is my papa, but he's on vacation - so it will have to wait. Until then, more reading.
  • how is it that a few hundred American Presbyterian theology students and faculty (garbed in their academic regalia of wide sleeved gowns and floppy hats) belting out "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" with beginning of the semester fervor while accompanied by the organ with hymnals in hand:
Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him
a couple dozen Ugandans (garbed either in clothes that the Goodwill was giving away or bright beautiful batik wax prints) belting out "Okwesigwa Kwaawe" a cappella from memory with clapping and drums and dancing in a mud walled church as they sweat and sway:
Okwesigwa kwaawe, ai yesu, bukya bukya kuloho
koona eki ndukwetaaga
omukono gwaawe, taata, gukakimpa

BOTH feel like heaven is just a step away?!?!?...it's gonna be some kinda place, heaven is.
Bring it on!

14 August 2011

people as privilege

one of the most incredible privileges we have in life: people.

to know them, to love them, (dare I say?) to hate them, to be with them, to talk with them, to eat with them, to drink with them, to fight with them, to walk with them, to walk behind them, to marvel with them, to disagree with them, to watch them, to help heal them, to be healed by them, to discuss with them, to unload on them, to be unloaded on by them, to miss them, to hug them, to learn from them, to learn about them...

we are given this privilege up close and from a distance.

we are given this privilege whether we like it or not, whether we can handle it or not, whether we are ready or not.

we are given this privilege in every sphere of life, in every stage of life.

we are given this privilege in plenty and in want, in abundance and in scarcity.

we are given this privilege whether we can recognize it as such or not.

sitting with friends as they come out of coma's, sleeping at their bedside so they know someone's there.

getting your dear friends' toddler twins ready for bed and witnessing their no-holds-bar giggles in the peekaboo game that is sliding their pj's over their heads.

what feel like measly attempts at encouraging and supporting families who are trying to hold it together as they try to care for their very sick children.

caring for those very sick children.

challenging a friend to their first camping trip.

being challenged by the experience of wanting to be everything to everyone, failing miserably, and learning to be genuinely ok with that.

having your heart actually ache with loved ones whose loved ones don't love them very well.

the anonymity of sitting by yourself in a crowd of people you don't know who don't care who you are or what you're doing.

failing to love those who are hard to love in exactly those moments in which they are hard to love - wanting to cuss them out - later wanting to learn how to do it differently next time - wondering if you ever will.

watching your friends build families and cherishing moments with your own.

witnessing the art of pretending - namely what we call "acting" and "theater"

being totally exasperated, manipulated, and walked all over.

being totally overwhelmed and discouraged by the condition of the world (which includes you - aka ME).

a walk with a dear friend on a scalding summer afternoon with frozen yogurt at the mid-way point.

cool summer nights with mom and dad on the back porch

clapping along with black church choirs as you sit sweating on a street corner.

the experience of your anger rearing it's ugly head.

The hearts, the minds, the personalities, the sins, the glories, the colors, the diversity, the hurts the love - all privilege. people.

30 July 2011

of work and play; reading and fuming

so, it's 1230...am. Under normal circumstances, definitely would be in bed. Not so tonight.

I worked for 12 hours today. Did you read that?! It said to-DAY...as in DAY TIME!!!!...as in, I worked during the DAY, while the sun was UP!!! definitely a treat. And my patients were treats too. love that.

After work, I caught the Metro to Busch Stadium where I watched the Cards CRUSH the Cubs (huge rivalry for those of you with the double misfortune of not being from the midwest and not being baseball fans) and Pujols managed to add his 2,000th career base hit to the excitement. Webaleh free ticket Sara!

I came home, checking email before bed and came upon a host of new WHM Africa blog posts. This is like icing on the cake of a good day. The sweetness of getting a peak into the lives of the people I love doing work that I love in places that I love but am so far from, is priceless. Pouring over their words imagining them going about their days, soaking in their insights and wisdom, imagining I'm sitting and chatting with them, or walking next to them, I wish I was there with them, but also glad to be here...all in the same moment...one of those life in two worlds moments.

Another dual-world moment - Tuesday night I arrived home from a quick trip to Chicago. Still glorying in the wonders of the Art Institute of Chicago and deep dish pizza, old friends and new ones, I walked into my brother's house. (I'm living there now, have I mentioned that? it's true.) Jeff has sacrificially allowed his older sister to take up residence (with all her crap!) in his minimalist bachelor pad. There has been the exchange of groceries and cooking to sweeten the deal for him a bit, but it's a sacrifice no matter how you slice it.

Anyways, because he has given up his room for me to live in, he's sleeping on a mattress in the living room which means that as I walk in the door late at night, I try to stumble past him quietly, usually unsuccessfully, in the dark. Tuesday night he stirred and I apologized, quickly remarking that it felt like the air conditioning wasn't on. (After freezing my tail off in the frigidly air conditioned rooms of most everywhere in Chicago I was very temperature aware). He sleepily agreed that it wasn't. To which I replied in a slow, puzzled, way - "well...why?"

"Someone stole the air conditioner today."

We are not talking about a little window unit folks, we are talking about what I have learned is called a "condenser"...that big metal box that whirrs outside the back of your house as it turns on and off to cool your whole house...somebody stole it, in the middle of the day, from the back of Jeff's house.

I was PO'd. and no, not taking things "by mouth" for all you medical people...PISSED OFF! Pardon my french. I realized that this was not the time or the place to continue this particular discussion, considering I had woken Jeff from what is now precious sleep in a house where at night the air is warmer than the air outside, so I went into my room, got ready for bed and went to sleep fuming.

Unfortunately this is a familiar fuming for me...you can probably search on the world "stolen" on this blog and find a fair bit about my experiences with theft in the last year or so...these are not some of my better moments, folks. I won't go into the details but I was mad. Mad on behalf of my hard working, sacrificial brother.

Turns out I was more angry than he was. The next day I learned from my brother, that it is possible to be more thankful for what you have than you are mad about what you don't...that it is possible to focus on what you've been blessed with instead of on the ways you've been hurt. I'm not sure how to give validity to the feelings of violation and the wrongness of things like theft and still choose to focus on more helpful things. But evidently it's possible.

Life in two worlds? Who knew theft could unite my two worlds for me. Who knew my anger could unite my two worlds for me. Who knew God would continue to drown me with His grace and show me His perspective. Who knew I'd be experiencing a taste of Sudan as I sweat with my brother in our little house in St. Louis this summer? People here are dying in this heat, but we have windows and fans and a cold shower and ice and strong-ish young-ish bodies, and so much to be thankful for.

Only by the grace of God go I.

P.S. - This is NOT to be read as a sly and/or underhanded way of generating sympathy points or pity or even a new A/C condenser - we really are just fine albeit warm - but rather as the rambling confessions of an anger-prone young woman who desperately needs her Savior (and her brother, it turns out - but not necessarily A/C)!

13 July 2011

the other side of the bed

I've spent a couple nights in the last week in the hospital - not as a nurse, or a patient, but as the friend of a patient. Isabel, who I asked you to pray for 2 Sundays ago, is still in the ICU in a coma, intubated, on a vent, sedated and paralyzed - with an uncertain future which no one short of God knows the details or even the general story-line of. My time with her has been sweet, in which God has taught me much about himself. It's also strange to be on the other side of the bed.

Most all of my time in hospitals has been spent on the nurse's side of the bed. I am familiar with that side of the bed. The other side of the bed - not so familiar. I mean, when I'm on the patient's family/friends side of the bed I can tell what the alarms are for when they go off, I know the general flow of care, I know who's responsible for what, who to ask about what - but it's my role I'm not so sure of, not so familiar with. Part of this situation is that I'm not family, I'm not Isabel's mother (although one doctor did ask me if I was...) or even her sister - which changes things a bit, but I'm not sure how exactly. Part of it is that Neuro is so unpredictable, the brain is a wild place and there is so much we don't know about it or how it will behave.

Should I ask why they just did what they did? Should I ask what their concerns at this point are? What questions are appropriate and when? I know enough to know some but not enough to round out the picture I'm used to knowing when I walk into rooms that look like this one - rooms with oxygen flowmeters and suction canisters and towers of machines with blinking lights and tubes going in lots of different directions...How much stimulation is too much for her? I can totally give the nurse a second set of hands, which with a 20 year old with no muscle tone could be helpful, but maybe that's not my role here tonight...?
I like having my role defined. I realize this more and more as life goes on. Definition is my comfort zone. That's not to say, however, that situations lacking definition are bad or harmful - they're just unfamiliar, with a degree of discomfort. But usually that degree of discomfort is good for me.

Not knowing, not being able to see the whole picture, lacking definition - it means I have to lean on the One who does know, who can see the whole picture, for my comfort.

The other night I was reading Matthew 14 while sitting with Isabel - the 5 loaves and 2 fish, the calming of the storm, Peter walking on water and the healings at Gennesaret - and it struck me that Jesus is quite capable of doing exactly what's best when we trust Him with our whole selves. So that's what I tried to do with Isabel. Over and over, throughout the night, I entrusted her into His care. I might not know, or be able to see the whole picture, but He does.

So, South Sudan, you might be wondering...that doesn't strike me as a place in which lots of roles are defined where the whole picture is easily seen and understood. You would be right. Matt 14 applies not only to the other side of the bed, but also to the other side of the world. My role there is now and may always be fairly undefined, I will NEVER be able to see the whole picture, or even most of it, but if nothing else, my leaning muscles will become well defined!

08 July 2011

Happy Birthday South Sudan

Ladies and Gentlemen…..

Drumroll please…….

In a matter of hours, The Republic of South Sudan will become the 196th nation in the world, and the 55th country in Africa. In a matter of hours, July 9th will dawn and South Sudan will celebrate it’s Independence Day, just 5 days after we celebrated the anniversary of our own country’s Independence Day here in the US.

How in the world do you start a new country?!?! This is my question. Luckily this is not my job and there are people who think about these things for a living J And, luckily these folks share their thoughts in layman’s terms in publicly accessible forums like the internet!

Karen Masso recently posted the following link to the website of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Here, if you have questions like I do, you’ll find all kind of information, including a helpful summary of what comes next – “What’s next for the new country.”

Here’s a few tidbits from that document:

· Background: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) brought an end to 21 years of civil war in Sudan and decades of struggle between the northern and southern parts of the country – this Agreement established the opportunity for a Referendum (January 2011) giving the South the chance to vote whether to remain part of Sudan or secede and become their own country. The vote was deemed open and fair and was overwhelmingly in favor of secession – 98.83%.

· His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit will be sworn in as president of the new Republic of South Sudan. (That’s him in the cowboy hat – evidently the hat is his trademark). He has been First Vice President of Sudan since Aug. 2005.

· The flag of the new Republic will be the flag which has represented the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (which during the war fought against northern Sudan for the South)

· The new currency – South Sudan Pound – will be put into circulation in coming months.

· South Sudan is not starting from scratch. For the past six years, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has enjoyed considerable autonomy, with an elected Assembly, Government and a functioning judicial system.

· South Sudan is comprised of 10 States, each with their own Governor.

· The official language of South Sudan will change from English AND Arabic, to only English.

· Southern Sudanese Assembly members currently in the Government of National Unity in Khartoum will leave their posts and join the South Sudan Legislative Assembly in Juba.

· The Government is committed to the concept of soft borders with the North, allowing freedom of movement for pastoralists and traders who regularly traverse the North-South boundaries.

· Some critical issues in the CPA remain unresolved such as the final status of Abyei, arrangements for the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and the demarcation of the North/South Border. These issues are still subject to negotiation, with the support of international mediators such as the African Union High Implementation Panel.

Teammates have said today feels like Christmas Eve in South Sudan, celebratory festivities in preparation, and excitement is in the air!

Please join us in praying for South Sudan! Praying for joyous and peaceful celebrations tomorrow, for peaceful and just finalization of border issues still in negotiations, and for this process to lead to the flourishing of the people of South Sudan.

03 July 2011


If ever there were a pictorial dictionary, next to the word "sweet" would be Isabel's photo. She's 20 years old, 2nd born of 7 children to Rick and Mary. Quiet, shy, but a lovely young woman with personality and spunk and a love of life that is quickly conveyed in her twinkling eyes and smile when you talk with her. Her family and close friends may know differently, but this is what those of us around her see :) Sweet Isabel.

Isabel is very sick. Symtoms this last week that could have been any number of minor illnesses culminated in a trip to the ER yesterday, loss of consciousness, and imaging that showed bleeding, causing swelling of her brain. "Throwing clots" but the doctors with little idea why. She's on a ventilator in the ICU and the prognosis is poor. Very poor. She will likely die, and possibly very soon.

If you are of the praying variety, please plead with God on Isabel's behalf. Plead with Him on behalf of her solidly grounded and immensely loving parents and her 6 smart, creative, fun loving brothers and sisters, the youngest of which is 4 years old. Plead with Him for mercy, for life, and for comfort and His closeness for those who love Isabel.

01 July 2011

on the road again: 2nd stop - Northern VA

Friday morning I packed my things back into little blue and headed for the Red and White. I had made plans to pick up my illustrious Bundibugyo teammate Pat Abbott who was in town visiting family to make the trek to Northern VA together, and her recommendation for a place to meet up was nothing less than the best thrift store in Pittsburgh. Classic. Pat could be the best "used clothe-ez" shopper I know and apparently that skill spans several continents :) I left early, leaving myself some time to peruse the depths of the "Red and White" - I didn't even make a dent in my exploration before it was time to meet the Abbott sisters in the parking lot.

I finally got the chance to meet Nancy, Pat's sister who visited Bundibugyo and I'd heard so much about from Pat and from our Babwisi neighbors. Pat's stylin' America haircut and bronzed skin from a recent week at the beach were the visible signs of a rested woman. We loaded her things into the car, said our goodbyes to Nancy and the Red and White and took to the road. Story telling, heart sharing, rehearsal dinner toast writing, and a little Mumford and Sons got us to Sterling VA in no time.

Sterling VA is the childhood home of our also illustrious Bundibugyo teammate Jennifer Myhre. Grammy Aylestock still lives in Sterling and loves hosting any Bundibugyo "family" passing through and had every so graciously welcomed 4 single women into her home for the weekend. Ashley had already arrived when Pat and I pulled into the long driveway. With iced tea and lemonade to greet us we sat on the porch and jumped right into the discussion of the details of the weekend, who needed to be where and when and how...There were showers to be taken, toasts to be written, technology to be gathered, and directions to be detailed for Pat to pick up Pamela at the train...the flurry of activity was a pattern we fell back into with each other like no time at all had passed since we last lived life everyday together in the flurry of activity that is life in Bundibugyo. And Grammy was no exception. Like mother like daughter.

Pat left in little blue to pick up Pamela and Ashley and I left for the rehearsal dinner once we had made ourselves presentable. Working together to write a toast, one writing while the other was finishing blow drying, one copying the toast in a readable manner while the other was driving. With googlemaps and a GPS we managed to get ourselves to the restaurant with even a bit of time to spare. Scrambling to finish the final touches on the toast and figure out how to connect to the wireless network, we each got a drink from the bar and sat down at an empty table, no one we knew had arrived yet. Ashley took a sip of her wine, set her glass down on the table and looked at me and said "So, Heidi, how've you been?" with a smile. She pointed out that we had greeted one another hours earlier but had naturally fell into a pattern of getting done what needed to be done, saving the real conversation for when there was time. We remarked at how it was nice to have friends to fall into those kinds of natural patterns with despite the passage of time apart and proceeded to catch up with the goings on of the last 8 months since we had seen each other last.

The food was scrumptious, italian fare with salads and breads, meats and pastas, with a monstrous piece of chocolate cake to top it all off! Friends of Sarah's who were in the wedding party joined us at our table, along with family friends of Nathan's. Fun to meet people we had heard so much about over the past few years, putting faces to names. Meeting Sarah's sisters and brother in law and Nathan's sister, again, more faces to names and stories. There were pictures in a slideshow put together by Nathan's dad and brother, and then there were toasts. Family and friends attesting to cherished friendships with Nathan and Sarah - fun again to hear a similar theme of genuine relationship. These two love people and love them genuinely.

The Myhre family falls strongly into the category of people that Nathan and Sarah love dearly. Video skype-ing in Scott and Jennifer from Kijabe (along with brief appearances by Julia and Luke I believe) - all to Nathan and Sarah's surprise - was so fun. Scott and Jennifer have been cheerleaders for and mentors to many young people coming to Bundibugyo and living and working and learning cross culturally in ways that challenge and grow and for the purpose of seeing God's kingdom come in that small corner of the world. Part of their sacrifice in this calling and passion of theirs is not being able to be a part of the significant events in the lives of these people whose lives they have poured themselves into. Scott and Jennifer as team-leaders and mentors and friends played integral roles, not only in the individual lives of Nathan and Sarah but also in their relationship together now flourishing into marriage. As a result, Nathan and Sarah are particularly dear to Scott and Jennifer and Scott and Jennifer particularly dear to Nathan and Sarah and so it was so fun to make it possible for Scott and Jennifer to be present in some small way in the celebration of this marriage. The audio connection was great, the whole room heard everything Scott and Jennifer (and Julia and Luke as representatives of the Myhre children) said. There were tears and there was applause! Not only was it special for the couples involved, but everyone in the room who loved Nathan and Sarah know about Scott and Jennifer and really enjoyed this little slice of international connection. It was about 4 am Kijabe time, and everyone was so appreciative that the Myhre's were willing to make that work (including me :) Especially since I had last heard from Jennifer at midnight and apparently Scott had only arrived home from the hospital at 3:30am...THANKS GUYS! It couldn't have worked any better than it did. I was only sorry that I didn't take the opportunity to pan the room with my computer while you were still on and let everyone else greet you too. I was just so surprised everything had worked so well!

After the evening was over and the chatting was done and bar was cleared, we wandered out to Ashley's car and drove back to Grammy Aylestock's house, climbing into bed about Midnight, excited to see what the next day would bring!


There was a lovely breakfast at Grammy's followed by a flurry of shower and bathroom activity with 5 women getting ready in one house! We piled into 2 cars and headed to the church for the 11am ceremony.

Nathan and the groomsmen were standing in the narthex as people filed into the sanctuary. We greeted him and he seemed calm. I called him on it and he could only agree :) He said he had unsuccessfully tried to work himself up about things, thinking he was too calm about it all given this was "forever we're talking about here!", but we assured him there was never a better time to be calm and confident!

What side of the church do you sit on when you know the bride and the groom? Not sure who decided for us, but we ended up on the right, which meant we had a perfect view of Sarah's face :)

Sarah was STUNNING as she walked down the isle with her dad. The photographer was right infront of me so I had NO view of what Nathan's face looked like as he watched his bride walk towards him and a life to be spent together, forever :) But I can assure you he was radiant as well. The halter dress, a Sarah trademark, was perfect for her (not without a few moments of panic in the process we heard later, but mom Reber saved the day with a needle and thread :). The bridesmaids in dark blue with yellow gerber daisies - the color combination reminded me of a kitengi print from Bundibugyo, the guys in black suits and Nathan in a tux. It was a simple service, 2 congregational hymns, the homily, vows, introduction, kiss and recessional. But the most poignant for me - a reading from Revelations 21. An anthem of sorts for us in Bundibugyo, and knowing Nathan and Sarah a theme for their lives together - a creed of sorts - a statement to remind them of what's true no matter what the circumstances.

A simple and lovely reception - just their style. There was food, there was drink, there was dancing (yes, even me - if that's what you want to call it!), there was talk of Revelations 21 when asked how it is we believe Africa will one day thrive in ways not yet seen, there were pictures taken with Pat's camera for documentation requested by Kymigisha and there were hugs and laughs. Although I have oftentimes failed to do it well, I love these two a lot and they love me (or at least they said they did :) and it was so fun to celebrate them, to celebrate their love for one another, God's love for them, and the life He has in store for them together. Watch out world, here come the Elwoods, you'll never be the same again!

21 June 2011

on the road again - First stop: Pittsburgh

The semester is over, summer class finished, moved out of my home of the last 5 1/2 months and in with my brother, got the fuel injector pump replaced on "little blue" along with 2 new tires and then hit the road.

First stop: Pittsburgh (aka childhood home).
10 1/2 hours in the car by myself across 4 states with a John Grisham novel on disc, the time passed pretty quickly. Still not sure what's going to happen to the young corporate lawyer trying to run from his sordid college past, but no worries - there will be plenty more time for brainless entertainment later in the trip. I pulled in to greet my dear friend Caroline and her family. Beef hot off the grill, asparagus and corn on the cob fresh from the farmers market - delectable! Meeting her firstborn Luke and seeing son #2 still occupying the comfort of his mother's expanding belly - priceless. Chatting about the last several years of life and hopes and dreams for the future felt just as natural as it has since we became friends at Penn 14 years ago!!!

The next day began with a "check engine" light investigation - "just google this code" she said...we aren't in Africa anymore, Toto. Then a drive through Garfield. The Babyland is surprisingly still on the corner of Penn and Negley - my young mom friends tell me it's full of high end baby things that people from the suburbs drive in to buy! Babyland? in Garfield? Times they are a changin'! The race car bed that occupied the window display for the duration of my childhood, that Jeff and I drooled over for years - no where in sight. The neighborhood - well, it's hard to tell. It seemed even more overgrown and dilapidated than it was almost 20 years ago when we moved away - but that's to eyes that have seen a lot more of the world in those 20 years.

You know it's interesting...I'm sitting here trying to describe Garfield, the neighborhood I called home for the majority of my childhood...but I'm having a hard time. "Inner-city" I guess they call it. I don't know much about Garfield from a sociological perspective, from a perspective that would sound professional and informed. I only know Garfield from a child's eyes. I only know the sights and sounds, the faces and stories of my friends and neighbors, the houses whose doors I knocked on to ask my friends to come out and play, and the houses whose doors I never knocked on for fear of disrupting the crabby old woman who lived inside, the sounds of the cars beginning their ascent of the very narrow street which would send us running from the middle of the street- where we were riding our bikes or playing "off the wall"- to the sidewalks for safety after someone would yell "Car!!" Now, the street is one-way and the cars park half-way on the sidewalk - making the street much safer but
there were no children playing outside. The yards and porches are overgrown with weeds similar to the rest of the neighborhood. The Mac's house is no longer - something about mining slopes or something - the hill is shifting and many of the houses aren't safe and the land isn't good for anything except planting things - so a local church plant has started an "urban farm" up by the water tower...It was a sad drive down Kincaid street. The one saving grace - our old storefront church building occupied now by a CMA church - carrying on the preaching of the gospel in a place that needs desperately to know the redemption story of the gospel.

There are signs of change in Garfield, at least around the edges. God, I pray it is for the better...the abandoned storefronts along Penn Avenue - trendy new cafes and coffee shops moving in. Two white guys about my age standing in their plaid button downs and hipster dark framed glasses standing with their arms folded staring inquisitively at a completely abandoned storefront that was probably abandoned long before they were born...an art gallery? modern office space? a vegan restaurant? he he he...vegan food in Garfield...who woulda thunk it...Anyways, a trip down memory lane, and an interesting life perspective.

Visiting with family friends who lived in Garfield with us as kids, or whose kids I used to babysit and are now studying to become doctors who I have conversations with about public health and the implications of cultural practices on health in various places...stories about a Holly Hobby dress my mom made for me after reading the pattern upside down - I didn't mind that all the Holly Hobby's on my dress were upside down - "they look just right to me!" I said when holding the skirt of the dress up while wearing it to inspect them :)

The day ended with an evening of laughter and catching up over Thai food at the Smiling Banana Leaf with Allison and Katie, two friends from elementary school. In some ways not much had changed, in other ways - we live in different worlds. We talked about college, careers, love, marriage, children, our childhood educational experience and it's shaping of us, and of course Africa. So much fun - but much to our dismay no pictures taken.
The next day was Becker day. Caroline and Luke and I went to "the blue slide park"! It was a new park for Luke and Caroline, but a favorite of mine from the old days. The highlight - a concrete slide carved out of the hillside and painted with glossy weatherproofed paint. In the old days we used to slide down it sitting on huge pieces of wax paper to make it super fast! Probably not the safest thing in the world, but oh my gosh was it fun! I went down with Luke a couple times, but somehow couldn't get up to the speeds I used to manage 20 years ago...oh well. There was a Dunkin' Donuts treat for lunch and a trip to the water front for a shopping run. What happens when you find yourself in Pennsylvania, on your way to a wedding in Virginia and realize that you've left your dresses for the wedding in St. Louis?! (I know - classic Heidi!) You do a TJ Max and Marshalls run. Luke was beginning to fall apart around nap time, so I hurried it up a bit and found myself with a few things that would do. There was salad, there was chatting and there was Rita's Water Ice! A wonderful day!

Next stop? Northern Virginia!

17 April 2011


Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, op. 23 - Tchaikovsky

Sunday afternoon in spring and free ticket with a friend to the St. Louis Symphony. Mostly white/gray heads which remind me of the history behind this music and the pastime called "going to the Symphony". Mostly white skin in the audience. A grand concert hall in what they call "midtown" these days - on a street lined with black "old"-but-actually-new fashioned street lights perhaps harkening back to "midtown"s hey day. Inside - red plush carpet and red plush seats marked with numbers in rows marked with letters. The musicians with skin colors spanning the spectrum: black, white, Asian, Hispanic - but all dressed in black. I suppose the dressing in black is to create visual uniformity meant to prevent distraction from the aural experience of the music.

The cacophany of practice as musicians stroll onto stage as they arrive, the tuning after the entrance of Mr. 1st chair violin, the entrance of the conductor and the guest pianist with applause, and then silence before "the storm".

This is quite a piece. The guest pianist was phenomenal. I used to play the piano. But my fingers never did anything resembling what this Israeli's fingers did for 40 minutes or so over those ivories. From thundering power to feathery dancing up and down the keyboard - I've never seen or heard anything like it. His right foot pounding on and off the pedal, his greying hair thrown about as his head was tossed around in passionate participation in the piece, practically jumping off the bench at the completion of a movement. The speed and ease and power and gentleness this man played with was just stunning...and the sound produced was breathtaking. I wish my words could do it justice, but what a gift to sit and soak it all in.

The culture of quiet from the audience save the pause between movements which was evidently the unspoken cue for everyone to cough and clearn their throat, the standing ovations and encores, the wine and red velvet cake concessions in the main hall outside, the children dressed in their sunday best - suspenders and patent leather - surprisingly none of whom looked as if it were drugery that they were forced to be there.


The woman jamming on the corner

Upon leaving the aforementioned event, a few blocks away, while stopped at a stoplight, the delightful experience of the freeform groove of a woman, with old school headphones in place over her ears, smiling, singing and dancing her heart out on a street corner. Waving to people in cars as they drove by who no doubt were as pleasantly surprised to see her as I was, her water bottle and towel on the wall several feet from her stage of concrete - it looked like she planned to be there for a while.

In some strangely delightful way, equally as magnificent as the performance in the grand concert hall blocks away.

The church bells of St. Roch's

Walking home from my neighborhood coffee shop last week at 6pm, I strolled past St. Roch's, the neighborhood parish and school that is a pillar of this neighborhood in an unspoken way. As I strolled past, the clock in the steeple struck the top of the hour and the bells announced the passing of another hour. The reverberations of the bells were felt in my chest as I passed, the power of the sound was remarkable. It's a welcomed power. A welcomed reminder of stability. When I stood in my yard in Uganda in the evenings talking to my parents on the phone, I would often hear the St. Roch's bells in the background as they sat on their back porch that faced the church on the next street over...A sound of stability. A sound of establishment. A sound of history.


"Things change, I guess..."

Said the 15 year old describing the friends who didn't know what to say, and the parents overcome with sadness in her recent diagnosis with a terminal form of cancer. This is the reality of my week this week...not terminal cancer...but the sinking in of reality that has been building for the last 7 months since I've been back in St. Louis...Things have changed since I lived here last. Describing this to someone this week I totaled something like 5 marriages that happened while I was in Uganda - marriages of good friends of mine, mostly to other friends of mine...my community here changed drastically while I was gone, and while everybody else got to adjust gradually, it's been an abrupt change for me upon being physically present here again. Change that has no fault to be assigned, no ill will, no hurt inflicted, just change. Change to be faced and grieved, change that I'd rather try to ignore or insist doesn't actually exist. But it does, and I'm sad. But my Father, He never changes.


"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"

"...how vast beyond all splendor, that He should give His only Son, and make a wretch His treasure." I stood next to my brother in the communion circle as the piano started into this hymn this morning and whispered to him, "this is a doozy." The familiarity, the reminder of my team in Uganda, and the weathered truth for this treasured wretch this Palm Sunday...


11 March 2011

on a sunshiney day!

Lovin' it! Soaking in the sun beaming through the windows here at my neighborhood coffee shop where I head when I am car-less and need to be productive...

yep, that's right, momentarily carless. Fuel injector pump...hmmm...deja vous - all over again! :) Luckily the fuel TANK is still intact, let's just say that to start! I've been chatting via telephone all week with my buddy Trey, the mechanic at the shop where I take my little blue VW. I seem to have mechanic buddies all over the world...Trey is way less intimidating than "Dr" Sessanga the king of Land Rover's in Kampala, but both men know cars, and both take time to explain to me what exactly is going on inside the vehicle I've brought to them for their care - very much like a good doctor does for a person they've been entrusted with the care of. I know a bit about the way the insides of people work, I know NOTHING about the way the insides of cars work - so for this I am very thankful.

Anyways, Trey and I have been chatting at least once a day and it's going on a week now, don't worry, just car talk, lest I give you the idea we had other things to talk about ;) But everyday there's more to find out, the process gets dragged out, and it's okay! I don't live 8 hours away, and have my food for the next 3 months packed into a freezer in a local guesthouse...I haven't been stashed in the middle of the shop space in a chair to avoid the evening mosquitos while the boss's minions buzz around the yard in end of the day craziness while texting with a teammate who is supposed to be buying dinner but has found himself inadvertently in what seems to be a brothel - still trying to buy dinner mind you...I don't have to walk around town hugging my Timbuktu bag/suitcase :) (or try not to have to carry it anywhere at all) because it's filled with stacks and stacks and stacks of bills in order to pay my $1,000 balance in cash...

When Trey told me it was the fuel pump injector and asked me about previous work done on the car, I found myself mentally reviewing the last 3 years of vehicle service not on a VW Golf, but on a Nisaan Patrol...confusing for sure...within the last 6 months of my time in Uganda I had to replace the fuel pump injector on the Patrol (or the Zoolander as we affectionately called it)...and now I'm looking at the possibility of having to replace it here on my Golf...

It's nice to be able to hitch rides with gracious friends and family and not have a huge pressure to get the work done NOW NOW in order to drive the 8 hours home to the work awaiting there...(one of the few times in which life in the US has the potential to be slower than in Uganda)...but otherwise, I miss the Zoolander and Ssessanga adventures with a variety of teammates I miss very much...they did get a bit old at times, and I'm sure Scott Myhre is glad to not have to be diagnosing THIS fuel pump malfunction as he did with the Zoolander, which he was less than enamored with ;)...but I miss the Ssessanga lot, I miss having to conjure up the courage to call him on the phone about the vehicle and how it often took other people to help me do that :)...I have been reminded that I, just in general, miss the adventures of life in Uganda...

And oh how I miss the sunshine! (even when "they were many"!)

20 February 2011

from a cup of tea to soapbox

It’s Sunday. I’ve had a bug the last few days that have had me down for the count, missing work, missing gourmet dinner parties planned for weeks, and this morning missing worship. The sunshine is pouring into the front windows of the sunroom in my “new” apt. and I just made myself a cup of tea. Not just any kind of tea, this is Turkish Apple tea. This is my first use of my “souvenir” purchase while in Istanbul what is now 9 months ago. It’s reddish color (and in theory it’s taste, but to be honest my nose is too stuffy to actually taste it L) reminds me of the city and reminds me of the laughs and cultural observations and sightings of gorgeous tile on almost every corner and evenings on rooftop terraces that I shared with dear friends while I was there, along with the embarrassing appearance of my freakishly strong tendency towards insecurity that reared it’s ugly head while traveling with said friends.

It’s these memories, memories of watching small starving children re-learn to walk, memories of working side by side friends/fellow nurses who taught me soooo much, memories of worshipping with brothers and sisters in a language I knew very little of, memories of relaxing candle lit dinners after really long really hard days and retiring to the “more comfortable seating” afterwards to chat, memories of dinner around the table with my family chatting and laughing about everything under the sun, memories of hot summer evenings sitting with binoculars at the Muny trying to see as much of the Grease production on the stage as we could hear through the speakers amplified up through the hundreds of rows of spectators…these memories that while you’re in them you don’t want them to end, but they do.

This last week a Seminary staff person spoke about loss, about change, in these terms…in terms of the momentary and eternal schemes of things. The tears came a tumblin’ down. In the moment, we don’t want these glimpses of heaven to end, but because this world is finite, they must. But what we (or I guess I should speak for myself) or I don’t think about is the eternal scheme of things. These moments we never want to end but do, these friendships we never want to end but are taken away, these situations we never want to change but do, they are only a foretaste, but not the goal. My tendency is to make these moments my idol, to long for them and others like them, to say “one day, eternity will be like this!” What I learned this week is that these moments PALE in comparison to what we were made for. Yes, they are FOR SURE a taste, but we were made for and will one day experience MUCH MORE! In fact, eternity will be far better than this!

One day there will be relationships that will never be severed, there will be community that will never be lost, there will be feasts that will never end, there will be life without death, there will be experiences of the wild/wonderful world God has made with people we love and who love us that are not tainted with insecurity, not tainted with sin against one another or in the world around us…God gives us glimpses of what that might look like but even the best glimpses POINT US to something bigger and better, to our Father and to His kingdom which is coming!

When I think about leaving again in a year…leaving people I have only grown to love more in my time here in the US again, in the likely eventual deterioration of relationships from so much change and distance...the tears come a tumblin’ down. When I think about committing to live my life this way, one of constant change and loss, I wonder “what the h*&# am I thinking?!?!” I’m still not sure of the answer to that question, but it helps to know that these gifts are not the goal, but point to the life we were made for, the home, the stability, the relationships with Father and Brother and others we were made for which are to come.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
 Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. 
Leave to thy God to order and provide; 
In every change, He faithful will remain.
 Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend 
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake 
To guide the future, as He has the past.
 Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
 All now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
 His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart, 
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
 Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
 Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
 Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
 From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
 When we shall be forever with the Lord.
 When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
 Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. 
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
 All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

27 January 2011

ahhhh yes. I'm back...

  • back in America : after my last post and the delight I had in interacting with "the little dude" at the hospital, and the freedom I found in being able to communicate with such ease, 2 shifts later I was brought back to the reality that kids have parents..."Are you f*&%'n serious? That f*&%'n nurse better get in here right f*&%'n now with that f*&%'n medicine!!!!"...this mom's daughter had woken up with a fever at midnight and somehow it was my responsibility to have predicted that would happen and that I should have been standing just outside their door at all times as to provide the most speedy care possible to them, since they are, of course, my only patient...the flip side of the coin that includes delight in children is the reality of the not so delightful existence of their parents. And then there's this picture of a couple American cultural expectations that this statement personifies...the expectation that all discomfort can/should be prevented/solved and the expectation that one not need wait for anything. Both are fascinating, and exemplified in my life most likely everyday, but when I'm faced with them in other people, they are horrifying.
  • back out of hibernation: a few weeks ago it was 11 degrees in St. Louis...eleven! Painfully cold. When looking back to this time last year, I realized that Bundibugyo this time of year, in dry season, is easily 100 degrees hotter than that...one hundred! No wonder I'm such a wuss! But this week, there have been days with sunshine, days when I've brought out my sunglasses, and days over 30 degrees...balmy I tell you! There's nothing that says this will last, but I'm enjoying it.
  • back to school: I'm sitting outside the room that just held the first class of my grad school career...crazy. It's been a long time since I was last a student. I don't even really remember how it all works, especially since technology has changed so much. I bought notebooks this week...as in paper, written on with pen...almost everybody else in the class had their laptops out...I thought that might be the case, but I think my brain needs pen/paper to be engaged...we'll see how this goes.

15 January 2011

"you! you! you!"

My back was towards him, but you know how you can tell by the texture/quality of sound if someone's voice is directed towards you, even if your back is turned? I could tell he was yelling at me. I was standing at the computer in the hall, charting one of any number of details that are all digitally documented in this day and age. Location: 8East, my old floor at St. Louis Children's Hospital...now my "new" floor. A lot has changed in the 3 years I've been gone, and as with the rest of life, most of it is in the realm of technology. When?: Yesterday. It was my first shift back on the floor. I was trying to keep on top of the details, a battle I'll likely be struggling to win but not likely ever succeeding in the months to come.

The little dude yelling at me was probably 4 or so...his cute little self jumping up and down on his bed; trying to eat a snack and jump and point and yell at me all at the same time. Little dudes really are remarkable multi-taskers...and he was managing to do pretty well at all of those things, and be super cute at the same time. I couldn't help but be distracted from my charting to yell and point right back at him. "you! you! you!" He giggled and we went back and forth with the yelling and pointing until his mom returned from grabbing something to drink. She was very apologetic as she approached the room, "I'm so sorry" she said. "No, no, please, don't be. I love it" I answered. I went on to ask the little yelling dude what he was eating and whether he was feeling better and so forth. He just smiled and kept yelling "you! you! you!" and I leaned my head back and laughed, turning back to the computer to try to remember what it was I was doing before I was so cutely interrupted.

Of all the crazy computer documentation, the insane access to inordinate volumes of supplies, meds, food, information, resources (the list is un-ending), the wonderful nurse/patient ratios, the number of doctors of all kinds wandering around with packs of medical students and interns and residents in tow...it was the cute little yelling dude that stuck out in my mind as a light bulb moment in my first day back in the thick of western medicine. You know why? Because I could understand what he was yelling at me! AND he could understand me when I yelled back! Most of the kids I've interacted with in the last 3 years, I haven't been able to understand. And even when I have been able to understand, I rarely knew how to reply in a language they could understand. While it's true, if a kid in Bundibugyo was yelling "you! you! you!" ("weh! weh! weh!) I actually could understand that, and could reply in a similar fashion, it never amounted to much substance. I did manage to banter with the kids on the ward and at my door, even if we couldn't understand each other and laughed a lot doing it. But there was always a nagging desire for more; a desire to hear more, to say more.

So my cute little yelling dude made me so happy. He probably wasn't making his mom so happy...I guessed he must have been an asthmatic or something, hyped up on albuterol and almost literally bouncing off the walls and driving his mother batty...but that's the beauty of it all - I'm not his mom, (or his nurse actually), just the "lady at the compooter" (which he called out to me when I went back to my charting :). So, in that moment, he made my day.