Friday, August 4, 2017

Harnessing My Inner Rachel Ray

Yesterday I was feeling a bit nostalgic and reminiscing about the time I’ve spent here in Sierra Leone. I was laughing a bit, thinking about the different roles that the Lord has put me in since arriving here.  Roles that were COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone.  An ICU nurse, who’s patient population was usually over the age of 60 turned pediatric nurse in Sierra Leone.  An ER nurse who had seen exactly one baby delivered in nursing school turned OB nurse delivering babies in high risk situations in Sierra Leone.  Single gal with role models like Amy Carmichael and Mother Teresa, ready to blaze the trail and change the world by herself, turned wife and mother in Sierra Leone. 

And perhaps, the most shocking of all…….girl who’s cooking skills are legendary for always setting the burner on high and burning most things, adding chocolate chips to African food on accident, forgetting all the dry ingredients in a desert, among other things…..turned hostess in Sierra Leone.  That’s right. Five days after arriving in Sierra Leone we started receiving guests from the States and we've had visitors every day since then.  Our last ones left a few days ago.
Pastor Randy came to teach in the Bible Institute and we snagged him to preach on Sunday as well.  

Arlene is a nurse who came to stay with us for a few weeks.  I was in the office next door and heard screaming and wailing! I ran to see what was going on and it turns out they were just doing some hands on teaching and some of the Aunties were being VERY dramatic about their "wounds."  They were in hysterics.  :)

I love having guests. I love getting to watch people see firsthand what’s going on here. I love seeing people broken by the poverty and pain, while getting excited about the possibilities. A lot of our guests are people that I know from home so it’s fun to get to work together in a different context. That being said, now time for full disclosure. It’s also stretching for me because…..I’m a terrible, horrible no good, very bad cook.  And these peoples LIVES are in my hands!!  It might be a bit dramatic, but in my mind, one bad egg and these people are puking all over the place, confined to their bed and unable to do what they came here to do. And I was the one that gave them that egg!!
Frank is an IT specialist who came to train our teachers in the use of computers.

We are a full service organization! My dad even had some dental work done while he was here!

Not only is their health a concern, but so is their general ability to eat my food and receive the nourishment that they need.  I mentioned some of my mistakes above.  That is not an exhaustive list and I’m afraid that I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for my…eh hem….notorious dishes.  I have five or six dishes that I’ve managed to learn how to make and generally avoid catastrophe.  However some of our guests stayed for six weeks so….if you know who they are, you might want to take them out to dinner when they get home.  Take them somewhere that doesn’t serve spaghetti, pasta or rice! 

And my toddler continues to be.....a toddler
I just love the way that God takes us in our weak areas and decides that that’s exactly where he wants us to serve.  It’s SO comforting to know that he doesn’t depend on my strengths or my abilities to accomplish his purpose. Because even with my six dishes, I still overcooked desert, served the same cabbage salad Every. Single. Night and burnt things.  Rachel Ray I shall never be.  But with His help, I can be faithful. I can be faithful with the things He’s called me to and leave the results up to Him.  No doubt some people have undergone some great sanctifying work after going through the trial of my cooking. :)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Home Sweet Salone

Today marks one official week that we’ve been back in Sierra Leone.  All in all we are doing really well as a family to the adjustment!  Our flight was awesome (much better than my flight to the States alone, pregnant and with two kids!)  Peter and I were able to tag-team and although we still didn’t sleep the entire way, our kids did…..which makes everyone happier. J  Shout out to my new favorite airline (KLM) and airport (Amsterdam).  We got to sit in the bulk head the entire way so Haddie could lay down in her little bed and we all got extra leg room! The airport had a play area for the kiddos so they ran around with the other kids there until they dropped and slept a lot of the second leg.  All in all, not bad at all!
No sleep + play area= really tired kiddos in the airport

As we’ve come to expect the missionary life to be, our re-entry into the field was bitter sweet. We celebrated rejoining some of our friends and grieved those who had returned home while we were away.  Marie was thrilled to be reunited with her best bud who lives on our compound and Ben……he was excited to be around the puppies. He. Loves. The. Dogs. 

All the jet lag seems to have done Haddie some good as she’s slept through the night for the first time the last three nights!! Mommy and Daddy are HAPPY about that!!!

It took me awhile to get all our stuff unpacked but I’m feeling better about the state of my house and we are ready to rock and roll with visitors! We have a pastor vising here who will start teaching at the Bible Institute on Monday.  Monday we will receive a couple coming to help with the orphanage and my dad comes on Friday.  Busy, busy busy! But we’re so excited about the things that are happening!

Playing with dolls in every country....this time at 2am courtesy of jet lag
Other things the same in every country......toddlers
We went to visit the kiddos at Grace Village to introduce them to Haddie.  They were excited to meet her and of course commented on how fat she was.  To that effect they also commented on how my “body is fine….” Which is translated “Wow, you’re big!!”  Got it kids….thanks for noticing.  Fortunately my nightly ice cream ritual is a distant memory now so….the Sierra Leonean diet has begun!
Ben of course, went straight for the new puppy

Minus the lack of chocolate chip mint ice-cream, we  are really glad to be back!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Small update that turned into my birthing story. Read with caution.

Lastt week I had a baby. Wait, not last week.....2 1/2 months ago.  That was fast!!  As I write this, it's the middle of the night, my family is all asleep and we are getting on a plane in t-really soon.  (I'm too tired to actually calculate what that would be).  But I thought since I've written essentially nothing since we arrived in the States to have our little bundle of joy, I'd give a quick little update.  What, you say? You want to hear my birthing story, you say?  Well alright, I can give you a quick snapshot.

I had a doctor's appointment on the morning of the big day.  Like most pregnant women, when the time came, I was ready for this little one to get OUT!  I'd been having timeable contractions for months and now that it was time for her to come she was being really stubborn! After months of heading to bed anytime I started doing too much physical activity to get my inevitable contractions to go away, I went for a strenuous walk and all I got was severely short of breath. After basically no physical activity for the past 9 months (and by that I mean probably more like six years.....running in ridiculous heat/humidity with people staring at me yelling "white, white" is not my favorite).  No contractions. Nothing.

So the morning of my contractions I started doing all the old wivesy things to get her out.  Walking, bouncing, etc. I had a feeling today was the day.  I started doing laps in my parents' neighborhood and as I did, started getting some contractions. Then they started getting stronger.  They got to the point that I had to stop walking when I would get one. Pretty quickly they started coming about 1-2 minutes apart.  But I'd been having contractions for so many months, I still wasn't sure if they were real.  So I kept doing laps.  I guess my dad came home from work during this time because while I was pretty far from the house, he drove up to me in his car.  He rolled down the window and asked what the heck I was doing. I explained the contractions situation and he convinced me that if I was having contractions that were difficult to walk through and were 1-2 minutes might be time to go to the hospital instead of having a baby in the middle of the street.  Ok, I see your point.

Peter and I headed to the hospital and I was pretty sure this was the real thing. I'd been having contractions for awhile but these definitely felt different.  These were not fun.  Now I live in Oregon.  I have a lot of crunchy/hippie/all natural labor loving friends (you know who you are). I love these girls!  I admire these girls!  I am not one of those girls.  I did the "natural" labor thing with Ben (to be honest, it was not my choice) so this time I was all about the epidural!  And I had a great one.  They put that thing in and in 30 minutes I was feeling no pain!

There were a few reasons for the epidural.  One, was to not feel pain. That seems pretty obvious.  Although I did threaten Peter at various times in my pregnancy that I may forgo the epidural just so he could see how much I suffered and feel bad for me for at least 10 years.  Natural labor is worth at least 10 years of sympathy i.e. foot massages every evening right?  But who was I kidding? When those contractions came all thoughts of eternal foot massages went out the window and I was all about the epidural.

The other reason I was thankful for the epidural was Marie.  Marie had been asking to be in the delivery room for months.  My answer was always "No" but in my mind I was leaving it open as a possibility.  Because of the way my labor went with Ben, I knew I knew I wouldn't want her there if things got crazy.  I also knew that if I was in a lot of pain, it would be scary for her and I wouldn't want her there then either.  That's why, when I got my awesome epidural and was feeling no pain, I called my mom to bring her on down.  She was very, very excited.  When she started living with me, I had no childcare so I took her to work with me every day, delivering babies..  She's been around her share of birthing mamas, although she's never actually been in the room.  When they arrived, Marie got on her Ipad, my mom read her book and Peter and I watched "Survivor" with our nurse.  That was pretty much as exciting as it got until it was time to push.  Two pushes and she was out. Peter, my "want to vomit at the sight of blood husband" surprised me and cut the cord.  It was a perfect labor, exactly the way I would have wanted it.  I was SO thankful for our excellent medical care here.

Marie's favorite part was giving the bath. :) 
Two and a half months later, here we are.  We're getting on a plane tomorrow to head back to Sierra Leone.  As always, my emotions are mixed.  I think the older my kids get, the more difficult it is to leave my family.  But God.  But God is so faithful.  Every time I want to dwell on the pain of leaving our friends and family here, I remember heaven.  Even if we stay in Sierra Leone for the rest of our lives, in the grand scheme of eternity, the time is so short.  When I think about that, and I think about God's ability to bless us with strength to do His work, joy in the midst of that work and the privilege of having a job to do for and with Him, I just get so excited!!  We have also been blessed with an amazing team in Salone, which makes it even easier to return.

Coming back as a family of five!!
So thank you so much to those of you who have loved on us and blessed us while we've been here.  We've been overwhelmed by the grace of God flowing through people while we've been here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Pregnant in Sierra Leone

I've been wanting to write about this for awhile, but to be honest, by the time the kids are tucked in and the clock strikes 9....I. Am. Done.  My brain refuses to function and the energy required to move my thumb to scroll down my Facebook feed is all I can seem to muster.  But right now, thanks to pregnancy induced insomnia, I have a quiet house, and a brain that won't turn off.  So I will grace the world with my thoughts on being pregnant in Sierra Leone. :)  

I found out that I was pregnant a few days before we came back to Sierra Leone. SURPRISE!!!!  Unfortunately a few weeks after arriving in Sierra Leone I started having the same signs of miscarriage that I had with my last pregnancy.  Stink. Now what do I do?  This is where I saw part of the blessing of my previous miscarriage because I knew what the doctor had done in the States so I decided to do my best to replicate it here.  

The first thing I needed to do was to get some labs done.  There’s a specific lab (HCG) that they will check once, then check again in 48 hours to make sure it’s doubling.  This indicates that the pregnancy is growing.  But where in the world could I get this done here?  I asked around and found one lab in Freetown that said they could do it.  When we got the first result, it was very low for the number of weeks pregnant I was.  It didn’t look good.  When we went back to get the second set done, it had increased, but only a tiny bit, also not a good sign.  I was six weeks pregnant but the labs indicated that I should only be 2-3 weeks…..and baby didn’t seem to be growing the way he should.  By this point, thanks to my limited medical knowledge and Dr. Google, I had my diagnosis’ down to either a blighted ovum (where there is a sac, but no baby inside) or an ectopic pregnancy.  An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube).  And they kill women. 

I’d been having some right-sided abdominal pain, which is one of the signs of an ectopic, so I decided that I needed to get an ultrasound to rule that out.  This is where it got a little tricky.  I needed to find a place that 1. Had an ultrasound machine.  2. The machine wasn’t broken. 3. Had someone on duty that knew how to read an ultrasound.  A difficult trifecta.

We’d had some luck with a hospital about 2 ½ hours away, so Peter and I decided we’d give it a shot.  When we arrived, we went and bought our little registration card and got in line.  When my turn came to go talk to the triage nurse, they pointed to a chair about 15 feet away from the triage nurse.  The table where she was sitting was surrounded by other people (mostly men) all looking at me, waiting to find out why I was there.  HIPPA is not really a thing here. J 

I took a deep breath and started. “Ok….so I’m 7 weeks pregnant today and have been bleeding-“ She interrupts me.  “Ok, come closer to the table.”  Well that was good. The people around the table didn’t move, but at least I didn’t have to shout across the room now.  I explained my symptoms, showed her my lab results  and told here that I wanted to get an ultrasound.  She sent me to the pregnant lady section of the hospital.  After telling my story to several other people and waiting for a couple hours, it was our turn for the ultrasound.

I explained my concerns to the “doctor.”  He put the ultrasound probe on my stomach to look around.  To his credit, he was VERY patient.  He found the little sac, which was a relief because it meant it wasn’t in my tube (ectopic).  But as hard as he looked, he couldn’t find a heartbeat.  Finally he told me that I needed to come back in two weeks and they would try again.  I was only seven weeks and knew that the likelihood of seeing a heartbeat from an abdominal scan would be slim.  I hemmed and hawed a little bit and then asked if he could please try it the other way….the much more personal way.  He looked kind of startled but agreed.  I looked at the screen and immediately saw the little flicker of the heartbeat.  I .  Was. Shocked.  I had been SURE this was going to be another miscarriage! It felt SO much like my other one, and that, combined with my discouraging labs, made me blink twice when I saw that beautiful little flicker.  And all for the low cost of a $6 ultrasound!

The lack of medical care here has definitely been a challenge at times.  The lack of medical care…..and the lack of food.  Two biggest challenges. J  I recently found a new maternity clinic that opened up in Freetown so we went to check it out.  When the doctor started interviewing me, he asked about my pre-pregnancy weight and my current weight.  When I told him, he told me that I hadn’t gained enough weight and he wanted to see me gain some more before my next appointment.  I told him he was the first person to ever tell me that I needed to gain weight….and that I loved him.  I explained that I’d lost quite a bit at the beginning because I was so nauseated and unfortunately every food I wanted to eat was thousands of miles away. 

At one point I heard a rumor that Liberia had a McDonalds and BEGGED Peter to drive on over and pick some up for me.  He refused!  Might as well have since they would have been cold by the time they got back to Sierra Leone and everyone knows that MickyD’s fries are best when they are piping hot!

Because Ben came so early, I’ve been a little more nervous about this pregnancy than I was with Ben.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I had to go to the hospital at 22 weeks in order for them to stop my contractions.  So when I made it to 22 weeks with no contractions I was super excited!  Then they started at 23. L  They seemed like your typical Braxton hicks contractions. They would start when I was on my feet for long periods of time and would go away when I lay down.

Probably perfectly normal. But in the back of my mind was the constant worry of “what happens if they don’t stop like they didn’t with Ben?”  I have a plan. I had someone bring in the same medicines that they gave me in the hospital to stop my contractions with Ben.  I’ve known what I would do since I found out I was pregnant.  But when push came to shove, it was a little scarier when it looked like it might actually come to that. 

So many of you prayed for me and I am SO thankful!  After about a week and a half of having lots of contractions anytime I was up too much, the past week or so I’ve had almost none!! Such a blessing to not have to worry about that right now!  Thank you so much for praying!

Although there are some challenges with living here while pregnant, there are also some benefits! Like the fact that you have friends with their own portable ultrasound machines who come to your house to find out the gender of your baby.  And……It’s a GIRL!!  I was shocked! I was SO sure it was another boy that we already had a boy name picked out and no idea about a girl’s name! 

I’ll be coming home in a month or so with the kiddos and Peter will follow a few weeks later.  Thank you so much for those who have been praying for me and this little girl.  I’m so thankful that no matter what happens, we are safe in the palm of God’s hand.