Wednesday, August 26, 2015

C is for Container

The container from Colorado arrived a couple of months ago, and it was so exciting for all of us! So many people I love sent their love in the form of toys for our babies, formula, learning games, and special treats for me, even! Thank you so much to all of you who had anything to do with this huge outpouring of love. We're especially grateful to Benita Thomas and our friends at Eastside Church of Christ in Colorado Springs who spend the whole year gathering, organizing, and packing these things. and to all our friends at Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ in Austin, Texas, who did a huge toy drive to give our kids the sweetest gifts!

Offloading the shipping container

It was just like Christmas opening up all the boxes! 
Here are a few pictures of the kids enjoying some of their new things!
We have used this mat endlessly to work on letter recognition! 

New prams and baby dolls! 
New wagons that help cart the non walkers to and from class!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

B is for Bailey

I get asked one particular question pretty often over here. With all the loss I've seen and experienced, people want to know how I still see God as good, or if I do. People want to know how or if I can keep my faith in God through all of the heartache that often finds us here.

That's a huge question with an answer that changes frequently. There's a short, pat answer that I can give to people I don't know well enough to really hand my heart over to them. But then there's a real answer, a real wrestling, a real relationship behind those big questions. 

I think God made my heart different. I think he gave me a capacity to see sadness and darkness and still carry on. But even with that God-given ability to bear heavy loads, there's a limit. There's never a baby that has died that hasn't caused me to stop and say, "Whoa. Hold on God. This is not as it should be. I don't get you. Stop this please."  The frequency of heartache takes away none of its sting, at least not for me. Each time a new loss occurs, so does a whole new wrestling match with God. It gets a little tiring. 

But there was one baby, one life, that changed my prayers and my heart and the nature of my wrestling matches. It used to be a wrestling to almost have God prove to me that he's still good. That these things can happen and innocent babies can die, but I can still trust him. I wasn't sure about that, and I added each new loss into the column against him, of reasons I couldn't trust him or maybe even ways he'd failed me. 

But then there was Bailey. And all of the babies that came before her had paved a way and prepared my heart for her and what God would reveal to me through her. And through her and her life and death God was somehow continuing to prepare me for all who would come after her.

She was 700 grams. About a pound and a half. They didn't have an incubator at the hospital and had no real options after her mom died and left her family-less there. They knew she would never make it, but asked us to take her anyway because how can you not try? 

My sister and cousins were with me and took turns staying up every hour through the night watching her little chest rise and fall, watching her stop breathing and gently pounding her little heart to remind it to keep beating, taking her temperature to make sure the incubator was at the right setting, dropping little bits of milk into her tiny mouth. And for three days, 72 long and short hours, my people battled with me for life for Bailey. I had unintentionally invited them into this heartache, and they gripped that little life with all the love they could possibly give. 

But what was expected came to be, and she eventually stopped breathing for longer and longer stretches until we just couldn't resuscitate her. 

And I'll never forget sitting on the edge of that bed, holding Bailey's lifeless body, and saying over and over and over again, "If she lives, you are good. If she dies, you are still good." And for some reason in that moment, I believed that maybe for the first time deep down. I just resolved that I can trust him and his goodness. That there is nothing he can do that changes what I know of his character, even when I'm not skilled to understand.

So to answer that question, all I really know to say is that God is still good and I can still trust him. And to some people that's not enough. It sounds trite and un-thought through and simplistic. But it's not those things at all to me. It's deep and complex and a hard choice to keep making when things are confusing and chaotic. But it's true. It's what everything else hinges on, so I keep claiming it. It doesn't make it any easier to accept the losses and so much mourning still must go on. But it's nice to rest in the assurance that God is still good. He just is. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A is for Absence

Hello again, dear friends. I'm just the worst at consistent blogging. That's obvious now. 

In the months of my absence from this little space, so much has happened, yet not much at the same time. These months have been full, definitely, but simply full of those everyday moments and circumstances that add up to life. 

We've had new babes come that have stolen our hearts, and other babes that have gone home who've carried our hearts off to the new places they stay. We've had sick babies get well and overcome some crazy circumstances, but also our sweet Ezra died after fighting for life as hard as a baby can.  We've seen the rains end and the cold begin. And God has been with us through all the change and in every season. 

So this is just me, saying we're still here and life is still good and the world still keeps on turning. And I'm probably still going to be horrible at blogging, but I'll keep trying. :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Egg Hunting

We had such a fun day yesterday hunting for eggs over and over again! The rain even waited for us to finish before it fell! 

Kelvin was in heaven. 
Binwell ripped his bag to pieces long before we started hunting! :)

Sweet Ris helping open up the eggs
Momo and Memo enjoying their sweets. 
Hanna and Kate helping open up lots of eggs!
Priscilla was a bit hesitant. 
As was Mercy. 
They got the hang of it eventually. 
Lulu chowing down, as per usual. :)
Chilala all loaded up. 
John was the best hunter!

Hope your Easter was great, too!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ba Fortune

Today our community buried our friend Ba Fortune, a woman who was loved and respected by all. She was a nurse and a midwife, a mother and aunt and faithful Christian, and she was the house mother for our children at Haven 3. 

It's impossible to put into words the impact she's had on our village of Namwianga, the hundreds of children she's helped bring into the world, the others she's fought to save, and still others she's loved until the end of their lives. 

I will never forget driving back from the hospital with her in the middle of the night after our baby Adam died. She just kept saying over and over again, "His ways are not our ways. His ways are not our ways. His ways are greater than ours." 

I hold onto those words even now as we try to move forward after this huge loss to our family here. Ba Fortune is loved and missed and will not be forgotten. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The story of a friendship

As I write this, I'm sitting in the Johannesburg airport waiting to fly home for my dear friend Louisa's wedding. Well, to be fair, I'm flying home for my furlough, but the first thing on the agenda is getting Lou married! 

I've never told you about Lou on here, or maybe even fully about my journey that landed me living in Zambia. But it kind of all begins with Lou and a friendship that completely changed my life. 

Lou and I met the summer after my freshman year of college. I went to OC and she went to Harding, but we both ended up on an internship in Jinja, Uganda that summer. We were both a little stand offish at first, not quite sure about the other. But over time and by the sweetness of God, we became friends. She would quickly tell you I'm not her best friend and she's not mine (this always makes people laugh because it sounds so weird), but we are each other's kindred spirits. In that first summer together, we bonded over A.W. Tozer's Pursuit of God, over sickness and an inability to swallow pills at an embarrassing age, and hearts that were starting to feel called far away from home. Before that internship in Africa, I'd never thought about the things Lou and I would talk about and question. I'd never had any desire to do anything but get married and raise my kids exactly like I was raised, to be honest. So many questions started troubling me as I left Uganda that summer, and Lou remained that person who "got it" in my life. 

After a couple more trips back to parts of Africa, we decided to move to Namwianga together. The decision and process to get there is a story for another day, but the point is that Lou and I embarked on a journey together that would change our lives forever. 

We were oh so naive. I'm laughing right now just remembering so many of the hilarious memories and mistakes we made early on. We just had no idea what all was in store for us. I always tell people if someone had told me before I left all that would happen to me while I was in Zambia, I probably would not had been strong enough to still choose to go. 

But go we did. Together. It was Louisa who taught me to drive a stick shift. It was Louisa who went wild in the rain with me the first time we experienced real African rain. It was Lou who was with me the night Harper died and I was all alone and away from my family in America. It was Lou who taught me how to be more sympathetic. It was Lou who made me laugh until I peed my pants so times. It was Lou who weathered culture shock with me and I with her. It was Lou who walked with me through so much death and so many questions and helped me learn to see light again. It was Lou who continued to support me even after she moved back to America and I remained in Zambia. There will always be a part of me that only Lou will totally know and understand, and I'm so grateful for that connection and gift. 

Someone wise once said something to the effect of "Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until their arrival" (I'm in the airport, okay? It's tough to look these things up!). But Louisa opened up so many new worlds to me. She made me braver and stronger and wiser and happier and healthier. She affirmed me and challenged me and asked questions with me. I've never known someone whose opinions and ideas of the world and mission and poverty and love mirror my own so closely. 

And now she's getting married and I get to be there to stand beside her and I couldn't be happier. 

And then I get to hug all my family, and my church family, and my friends. My heart feels pretty full. (I'm just not thinking about all the little ones my heart's already missing!)

** Now I'm sitting on a plane to Oklahoma City to see my family, but just now posting this I wrote before I landed for Lou's wedding! The wedding was yesterday, and now it's off to new fun adventures! And this is my 20th blog! :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Before you even start reading this post, know that I just laughed out loud when I was reading it over because it reads like a middle school essay on Chitenges or something. I'm sorry about that. It's just that people always ask me about them, so I thought I'd provide some facts! Sorry if you're bored to tears after reading my term paper. :)

One of my favorite parts of Zambian culture is the use of chitenges. Most every African nation has a form of a chitenge. It's a 2 meter strip of fabric, sometimes nylon, polyester, or cotton, that serves so many purposes.

It would be impossible to find a Zambian woman who doesn't own at least one, but most women usually have more in the neighborhood of 4 to 8.       .  

The primary use for a chitenge is as clothing. It covers the under layer of clothing and protects those from becoming dirty or wet. If you are a thin woman, it can be wrapped and tied around your waist. If you aren't that thin, it is tucked, but not tied. Some women even have strings sewn in so it's able to tie more easily. 
Chitenges are both casual and fancy (but not at the same time!). They are sometimes filthy and ratty from years of wear and tear. But they are also made into suits and worn to the most special of occasions, like weddings or graduations. 

They also play a part in funerals. It would be uncommon for a woman to not wear a chitenge to a funeral here. 

The second main use, and my primary use, for a chitenge is for carrying babies on your back. From the time a baby's cord falls off until they are 3 or 3 1/2 years old, babies are worn on their mamas' backs. Occasionally you'll see a desperate father wearing his baby, but it's a rare sight! Even babies chitenge babies, little girls only 4 years of age. 
It's interesting to me that although every child in Zambia grows up being worn in a chitenge, Zambians place little, if any, sentimental value into particular chitenges. In America, we keep baby blankets and stuffed animals and things that remind us of certain times in our lives, but here once it's worn out, it's used for rags until it can't be used anymore.

We use chitenges for so much more than just wearing, though. They're made into quilts, curtains, nappy liners, bags, table cloths, decorations, picnic blankets, and more.
Aaron and his auntie
Aunties all wearing short chitenges so they could still play volleyball!
Milika snuggled up under a chitenge quilt
Chitenge curtains

Chitenge pillows in the background

I hope you all are having a great day!