Monday, May 28, 2007

Another Wal-Mart Customer Bites the Dust

Have you seen The Wal-Mart Movie: The High Cost of Low Price?

I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard about it -- it was released 18 months ago. Anyway, we just finished watching it on TV. Matt’s not surprised, but I'm absolutely shocked. I had no idea.

So for billions of reasons, I'll be doing my Stateside shopping elsewhere from now on.

Elijah Update (May 27)

Dear Friends,

This is the day
This is the day
That the Lord has made
That the Lord has made
We will rejoice
We will rejoice
And be glad in it
And be glad in it
This is the day
That the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day
This is the day
That the Lord has made.

I used to sing that every day to Elijah when I was pregnant, and we have sung it every day of his life. During the hard times when he was close to death, we have sung it to him. No matter what hard times we go through, we know that "This is the day that the Lord has made". What a peace we have been able to have through all of this, knowing that the Lord holds Elijah tightly in the palm of His hand.

Today we have GREAT news! Elijah came off the vent and is now breathing on his own. He is one happy camper. All of his numbers are good, and right now he is sitting on his daddy's lap enjoying being cuddled. FINALLY! We are so excited to be able to hold him. This is one major step in the right direction.

Thank you for praying, and please continue to pray as we work with his breathing, his eating and continuing to wean him off of the medicines.

Judy (Saca), Joel and Elijah (the Champ)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Elijah Update (May 25)

Dear Friends,

Judy headed back home to Ness City this morning. We decided there were just too many floral arrangements to be designed before Memorial Day. Our designer was only able to work Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, and she just isn't able to keep up. I think it will be a good break for Judy. She won't get much rest, but she will keep busy, have a change in pace and make some beautiful flower arrangements for Memorial Day.

I am here with Elijah, spending a couple of days with my son. This morning he has been sleeping, looking so handsome. Every once in a while he will squirm and his vent will start honking and then he will lay still again. We have been more diligent with our nurses getting him help immediately when he is having trouble breathing or needs his vent tube suctioned out. Our doctor wants to take the vent out as soon as possible, and I told him my fears of taking it out over the weekend. I think the nursing staff is often "second string" on the weekends especially with a holiday on Monday. He was very reassuring and said Elijah would dictate when the vent would come out.

Elijah has been having some problems with throwing up. His doctor believes it is because he was sedated so long and is now coming off of the sedation. Or, as Dr. V says with a chuckle, "He doesn't want or need the medicine so he throws it up."

Judy has written that we have been listening to Focus on the Family's radio theater production of C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia." It is a great production, and I highly recommend it -- or better yet, read the books. I've heard that most people like "The Last Battle" best, but I believe I like "The Horse and His Boy" the best. The portion that caught my heart is typed below. The hero, Shasta, an orphan boy who has had a pretty miserable life, is alone, lost and discouraged, but he is about to meet Aslan, the creator of Narnia.

"I do think," said Shasta, "that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me. Those Narnian lords and ladies got safe away from Tashbaan; I was left behind. Aravis and Bree and Hwin are as snug as anything with that old Hermit: of course I was the one who was sent on. King Lune and his people must have got safely into the castle and shut the gates long before Rabadash arrived, but I get left out."

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

--- Then in the complete darkness of the night Shasta hears something breathing and walking beside him.

"I can't see you at all," said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, "You're not - not something dead, are you? Oh please - please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!"

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.
"There was only one lion, " said the Voice.
"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and ...."
"There was only one; but he was swift of foot."
"How do you know?"
"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with mouth open and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the Lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?"
"It was I."
"But what for?"
"Child" said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."

This portion of the story makes me think about little Elijah. How easy it would be for him to say, "I do think that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. I was born with hemophilia, I had a brain hemorrhage, superior vena cava syndrome, respiratory failure, I've been operated on several times and I've been near death many times."

But like Shasta, someone more powerful and knowledgeable is protecting and directing Elijah's life. Aslan the Lion used all of these events to shape Shasta's life, and God is using all of the events in Elijah's life to shape him. We don't know why God chooses these means nor do we know what the outcome will be, but we know that God has good planned for Elijah. We just have to be patient to see how his story unfolds. And as Aslan says, "I tell no one any story but his own." We may never know God's complete plan and purpose for Elijah. Judy and I have our own story, and God will be revealing that to us in His own good time.

Thank you all for your prayers, notes of encouragements and e-mails.

Joel, Judy, and Elijah

Friday, May 25, 2007


1973: “Laura enjoys learning, but she spends too much time daydreaming during class.” (Old habits die hard!)

1992: “Krista grasps math concepts easily; Katie is a vividly imaginative writer; Michelle is insightful beyond her years; Jun has a cheerful attitude in spite of knowing very little English; In addition to doing well academically, Eli and Ian keep us all entertained.” (I could continue, but you get the idea.)

2007: “Jack is a pleasant, chatty boy. He knows his numbers and most of his sounds. He’s making good progress.”

Having been the student, the teacher and now the parent, I’ve officially come full-circle on the Parent-Teacher Conference.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Default Mode

Bono sings: “Where do you go when you’re lonely? Where do you go when you’re blue?”

I add: “What instincts kick in when you want to relax, unwind, clear your head, regroup? What music feels like home? What time of day makes you feel most alive?”

Not that I’m feeling particularly lonely or blue (although Matt’s away this week, we’ve had sunny, blue skies and fun things planned with friends). As the only adult in the house, though, I got to thinking about things I do by default, about where my comfort zone is, because recently I’ve caught myself:

• Inviting friends over for somewhat impromptu tea parties and a baby shower for Nicola, my closest friend here
• Baking muffins, scones and streusel bars for somewhat impromptu tea parties and a baby shower
• Listening to AndraĆ© Crouch and John Denver
• Going back outside after the kids are in bed, watering and admiring the green things growing in our little garden

So this is me -- when left to my own devices -- I host, I bake, I listen to the music I grew up on, and this time of year I drink in the quiet softness of longer, almost-summer evenings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Real Life vs. The Picture In My Head

I don’t get out much. I say that with nothing but warmth and enthusiasm for the two angel-babies who keep me very much occupied at home. And I say that fully recognizing the power of my own choice to stay home with them instead of keeping them on the go, taking them with me to the shops or any number of Mums and Toddlers groups in the area. Besides getting Jack to nursery school for a couple of hours each afternoon, we keep a simple schedule consisting of unstructured play-time, structured nap-time and lots of reading, singing and snuggling in between snack-times.

So, yeah. We live a 45-minute Tube ride from one of the most famous cities in the world, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve been downtown. But last Saturday we took the kiddos to the London Aquarium, and it was such a great day! Sharks, sting rays, jelly fish, octopuses and all kinds of fish sporting a host of colors to make the people at Crayola drool. What’s not to love? And it was right next to the London Eye and a bunch of fun street performers. And when we looked across the river, I caught my first glimpse of Big Ben! Of course, I wanted a picture to capture the moment.

We usually send out photos where everyone looks a little more (ahem) composed, but I really like this shot. I think it’s because of all the things going on at once -- the bus, the people, the half-hidden landmark, the arms full of children, the heart full of happiness -- kind of like my life right now.

In spite of my best efforts to keep things as simple as possible, each day ends much differently than I pictured it in the morning. At any given moment, I’m caught up in a variety of tasks, conversations and mental Notes To Self, all the while feeling like I’m forgetting something. At no point in time is anything ever all the way done, perfectly arranged or simultaneously clean. And as much as I love order, crave perfection and dream of a completing everything on my To Do List so I can go in my room and close the door for the weekend, none of these things is going to happen anytime soon. So I give up, give in and decide to make the most of whatever is happening right now. Because, in spite of myself, the chaos really is fun!

Is there a twelve-step program for recovering introverted, perfectionistic, self-absorbed control freaks?

* * * * * * *
Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. (Henri Nouwen)

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. (John 15:11-12 NLT)

Elijah Update (May 18)

Today has been another up and down day for Elijah. I woke up so excited for Elijah to have this special day. A day to have his vent taken out, a day for his mom to hold him and cuddle with him, a day for many changes.

He got his immunizations today as well so that he will be all set. We are watching the sight like hawks to be sure that he does not have any internal muscle bleeds. He had three lovely nurses with a needle each and on the count of three he received all of his shots.

Elijah was extabated (the tube was removed) around 3:00 p.m. and re-intubated about one hour later. He was just not ready.

One of the nurses said "How do you keep your emotions in check?"

Boy, it is getting tough.

We are trying to figure out how to help him get the energy back so he can take breaths properly. Our doctor feels that he just needs strength and he has lost strength over the past few weeks. So, that is our task. We do not want to rush him. We will take it one day at a time.

I got to hold him for about 10 minutes to try to calm him down before the doctors decided to take him back.

Please continue to pray for Elijah.

Specifically for his strength, to be able to breathe on his own and to do it properly. To circulate things properly. For his heart. He has been working very hard lately to get all his systems in line.

We know that God has all things in His hands and that He holds Elijah so tightly in His hands.

Right now his mom just wants to go to a beach and relax. I remember how much fun and relaxing our honeymoon was and wish we could go back there with Elijah. Maybe God will allow us to do that some day.

Thanks for continuing to keep Elijah in your prayers.

Joel, Judy and Elijah

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Elijah Update (May 15)

Dear Warriors,

We had a storm last night in Wichita. The power went out at the hospital, and things got a little crazy. Good thing for huge generators as most of the kids up here in PICU are on ventilators. I got to the hospital and found the stairwell. Five flights up to PICU and I thought, "I should have been doing this for the two months I have been here!" Elijah's room was stifling. He is located in the back corner. He was spread out with no blankets trying to keep cool. After much work the electricity came back on (I think PICU was the last to boot back up), and everyone is cool and happy again. Surgeries are now a day behind. They were already backed up with operating going on through the night until the power went off last night. We are grateful that Elijah is not needing an emergency procedure tonight.

Elijah? Well, he is bundled back up in his blankets and snoozing!

Elijah is doing so well! I just can't put into words how excited I am right now that he is doing so well. I do not remember a time when I felt so good about his health.

He is resting well, breathing slowly and deeply, and all of his "numbers" are looking great. The plan right now is for the chest tube to come out tomorrow and begin weaning him off the vent.

He is such a fun little guy. When he is awake he spends all his time trying to get his hands into his mouth even though the vent tube is in there.

Please continue to pray for Elijah. He is not home free yet. God is doing miracles in his little body, and we can't wait to have him home soon.

People have been getting upset with us for not sending photos of Elijah. He was not looking very good for many days, and we did not want him to have photos of his swollen little body floating around the world. :) SO, here is a photo of him today.

Thanks for praying! We can add Haiti and Ireland to our prayer map. It is truly amazing how huge the family of God really is.

JJ and the "World's Toughest Baby"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Elijah Update (May 13)

Dear Elijah friends,

Yesterday, May 12, 2007, Elijah was going through his standard "thumping" treatment to get the mucus plug loosed in his lungs so it could be suctioned out and re-inflate his left lung. Well, something happened during this time, and I noticed that something was wrong with Elijah. The monitors confirmed my horror as I began shaking him and saying, "Come on Elijah!" During the next few minutes the room was full of commotion, I was crying and picturing myself holding Elijah's lifeless body until Joel could come. I praise the Lord that I had friends from Ness City here during the event. Clyde prayed as we waited for the doctors to get Elijah breathing again.

Elijah is now resting very nicely. The collapsed lung wore him out and some mucus had closed up his airway, but now he is doing well. He is on the ventilator again which will help reinflate his lung and will make it easier to get the mucus out. He is content and resting.

After the incident our nurses were very emotional. They have all grown very attached to Elijah and have a bond with this little boy. There was a lot of, "Come on Elijah," being heard. We are grateful for their expertise in getting his airway cleared and his heart running full force again. Our doctor said he is so glad he was here. He was planning on going to the Pediatric floor and had just come to our end of PICU to look at an X-ray. He was standing outside our room when he heard the monitors and saw the look on my face. He ran in and said, "What happened?" As a mother, I am so grateful to see my boy on this, our first Mother's Day.

Elijah and his dad picked out a beautiful gift for me, and it will be one that we hope to one day give to Elijah's wife or daughter.

Yesterday, God worked in amazing ways. Earlier in the day I had a chat with God and said, "If someone comes to visit with me, I just might leave and go get something to eat. Then I would have someone to stay here and sing, pray and read to Elijah."

A few moments later I heard, "How is our baby?" An RVA (Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya for those who do not know about Judy's life) dorm girl of mine had written her Grandma and told her to come and visit us! Lue is a wonderful woman with a gentle spirit. She came in and told me, "God told me to get dressed and come!" So, I went out for a bit and got some lunch. After she left, Clyde and Terry Sutton came in to see us at just the right moment. Clyde has such a wonderful gift of prayer that it was very special to have them with me during this hard time. Many other mothers on the floor were watching the hall monitors and praying for Elijah as well. We are a small "family" here in PICU, and we pray for each other as we know what is going on in each "cubicle".

We are excited to see his improvement today and praying that the lung will get working again with full force. The x-ray today showed GREAT improvement!

On a very positive note, there does not seem to be any problem with the left side drainage (with the chest tube that slid out) and the right side is barely draining a thing. We are hoping that tube will be able to come out soon as well. This is great because it means the surgery was a success. Elijah is also on feeds, being fed into his gut. He needs nutrition so badly. He is getting food right now, and we are grateful.

I look forward to one day taking Elijah with me to get Joel his Father's Day present!

Pray with us that we will be home soon.

JJ and "The World's Toughest Baby"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Elijah Update (May 10)

Dear Friends,

Great News Today! God has healed Elijah to the point were the doctors and nurses were able to remove his ventilator today. Aunt Heather (Joel's sister) and Uncle Scott were here today to witness the great event. We are so excited and Elijah is looking great. Everyone who comes in to check on him comments how great he looks.

Dad and mom were both gone for this great event. Mom was back in Ness working at the Flower Shop, and Dad was at a continuing education class here in Wichita. Aunt and Uncle Seratte from Lawrence, Kansas, baby-sat for a couple hours. They were a great help and allowed dad to take this class. Heather and Scott called both of us to let us know that he had been extabated. It was a grand event, and I'm sure there was much hoop and hollering.

Elijah's cough is very raspy, and he still doesn't cry more than a very small squeak. But at least he is able to make some noise now. I expect it will take several days before he will do much vocal crying.

It is just amazing how happy and healthy he looks. Praise God for such a great miracle. God has been so faithful in holding us and strengthening Elijah through this process. A nurse calls Elijah "The World's Toughest Baby." Of course we know that he is so only by the grace of God.

Another tube was extabated during the writing of this e-mail.(many e-mails take hours from start to finish) I was helping a nurse move Elijah up in his crib as we changed his diaper and his bedding. When we had finished I noticed that his left chest tube was just laying in his crib no longer attached to Elijah. Medically, in my mind, Elijah needs his left chest tube more than he needs his right chest tube at this point. So I pray and ask you to pray also that God will use this for Elijah's good - to heal him and not to harm him. Our little boy is sleeping on his side now, looking so very comfortable and content. He is chewing/sucking on his hand and seems to be very much at peace.

Elijah had three more visitors today. I wish we had extended this invitation to come and pray a long time ago. Thanks Trish, Alan and Angie. Oh yes, thank you Aunt Heather and Uncle Scott, too.

May 11: (Judy speaking now)

I was able to make it back last night after working several busy, busy days. I know that Joel had wanted me to get rest, but that did not happen with Mothers Day around the corner. It was great to see Elijah with all the swelling down and the ventilator out of the room. It makes it much easier to kiss his sweet head.

During the night we received a call that made our hearts drop. Our nurse called the Ronald McDonald House and the manager wanted to know if she could leave us a message. The nurse said: "NO, you go up and knock on their door and wake them up!" Sometimes we wonder... They were concerned about Elijah's breathing and wanted permission to re-intibate him (to put him back on the vent.) if they had no other options. After about ten minutes I called back to see how Elijah was doing, and they said that he was resting well without a need for the ventilator. Praise the Lord! This morning we arrived to find him on something called CPAP. Our Respiratory Therapist (RT) explained it as the feeling you get when you put your head out the car window when it is going fast. This is to help his lungs get used to breathing again and help him take deep breaths.

For a few hours they were concerned again that he would need to go back on the vent.

It is now 4 p.m. and the doctors think they know what the problem might be. His chest x-ray showed alot of "white" on his left side (the side the tube slid out of last night). This could be one of two things...

1. The left side is full of fluid
2. Elijah has a collapsed lung and therefore the lung does not even show up on the xray.

After a radiologist reading of the xray and an ultrasound to be sure. It was discovered that Elijah' s lung has collapsed. He is now getting some "aggressive" respiratory care. The RT is "pounding" his chest with a thing that looks like the end of a plunger. This helps to break up any mucus in the chest. He will then "deep suction" his lungs to get this out. Please pray with us that this clears up this problem quickly.

Elijah sure has put up with a lot!

Today we received some more visits. Thank you, Sharon Entwistle, for getting your classmates here to pray. Go RVA Class of 90! The prayers over our son have been amazing! We feel Gods presence! Thank you. We have appreciated everyone who has come, prayed, sent cards, sent food, whatever you have done for us we are so grateful!

Joel and I are getting to know our doctors and nurses way too well. We know about their families, their children, their dogs, their travels, what books they read... The list goes on!

Well, you know that you have been in the hospital a long time when... you begin to know Phlebotomists (people who draw Elijah's blood) by name and recognize them in the halls. Today we had a super sweet girl (who tells us hi wherever we see her!) who said that everyone in the lab was celebrating yesterday when they heard that Elijah was off the ventilator! She shared a wonderful story of her nephew and how no one thought he would live. He is alive now and is 7 years old. She said, "Never give up hope!"

Elijah's message to the world is "Never give up hope!"

Please continue to pray for Elijah.

JJ and Super E

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, dear Harriet

Ever wish you had the money, ability and power to do something that would really make a difference in someone’s life? Ever think, “I hate that I can’t make it happen -- If only I knew someone who could help”? Me, too. Or, as they say in Kenya, “Even me.”

Today is my friend Harriet’s birthday. She and her family live in Kenya, just up the hill and across the road from Rift Valley Academy. In my first year of teaching at RVA, Harriet came to my house several times a week to wash dishes, bake bread, clean the house, take my clothes to and from the school laundry and build a fire in the fireplace. During the rainy season, she kept a fire going all the chilly day long, but the rest of the year she’d build the fire and leave it unlit. In the evenings I’d light the fire to ward off the cold while grading papers and working on lesson plans. Harriet could build a fire that would burn and burn, falling in on itself until, hours later, nothing was left but one or two little glowing embers. I’m not kidding, it was like a work of art.

Man, did I love having Harriet’s help! All the work she did freed me to focus my time and energy on teaching those loveable but rambunctious 6th graders I keep yapping on and on about. And the wages she earned helped provide for the needs of her family: Samuel, her husband who worked as a night guard at a clinic in another town, and their three growing boys -- John, Abraham and James. But in addition to all this, Harriet became a lifelong friend and an inspiring role model of what it means to trust in God and walk by faith.

Practically as soon as I met her, Harriet started praying for me a husband, a life partner, a man of God's choosing. Every day. For six years! Until I became engaged to Matt. Then her prayers changed for us to be blessed with children. In that first year of our friendship, she would often tell me, “God is never late.” Wryly, I would answer, “Yes, but I’ve noticed that He is never early, either.” (O spoiled me of little faith.)

Harriet suffered from degenerating hip joints, and walking became more and more painful, labored and slow. During the following year while I was back in the States in Bible college, she had to stop working altogether because she could no longer walk up and down the hill between RVA and home. Just below RVA is Kijabe Medical Center where doctors from America often volunteer their services for weeks and months at a time. Rumor had it that a specialist was coming who would do hip and knee replacement surgeries for those who needed it. Unfortunately, no one knew when he was coming, and hospital staff wouldn’t compile the list of patients until they had a set date for his arrival.

The next year I returned to Kenya and was living in Nairobi. When I could get to Kijabe, I’d dash up to Harriet’s place. She was always at home. Waiting. Physically, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t even walk to church, which was within sight of her front door. One of the things I witnessed about Kenyans in general, and the Kikuyu tribe in particular, is that they are very social people. A job provides money, but it also provides interaction with others, which is vital to a sense of well-being. So not only was Harriet missing out on the pleasure of being with people through work, she was missing out on the joy of fellowship at church. Of course, people came to visit her at home, and the elders of the church brought the elements of the Lord’s Supper to her once a month. But the daily isolation was rough on her.

After two years in Nairobi, I moved back to RVA. Harriet was still home. Waiting. The specialist came to KMC, but the hip and knee replacement parts were held up somewhere in customs. I’m sure he helped a lot of people who desperately needed treatment, as all patients who go through the trouble of getting to a hospital in Africa do, but then he went back to America. Harriet continued to wait.

All this time, do you know what she said to me, over and over, with conviction in her voice and sincerity in her eyes? “God is never late, so we do not grow tired of waiting for Him.” There I was, 30 years old, and I felt like a spiritual infant in her presence. I’d only ever had to trust God for a fraction of the things Harriet had, and as a result my faith was a fraction of the strength and depth of hers.

Over the next two years, I’d often go to Harriet’s house for a few hours on Sunday afternoons to visit and drink chai and pray together. We often prayed that God would somehow provide healing for her hips. Once I remember saying something like, “Well, that would take a miracle.” And Harriet chuckled, looked at me and said simply, “But that’s what God does. Miracles.”

Once I ran up there after school, unannounced. As I came up the path, what I saw was so shocking that I nearly stopped and ran away. I probably would have if Harriet hadn’t turned right then and seen me. She was sitting on the ground, talking to Samuel while he stood washing their clothes in a plastic tub and hanging them up to dry. I can’t tell you how bizarre, how beautiful it was to see this man humbly serving his wife in such a culturally inappropriate way. They were both a bit embarrassed that I’d “caught” them in that moment, so Samuel helped Harriet to her feet as quickly as was possible in her situation, and they ushered me inside.

Harriet, Samuel and their three boys lived in three rooms that they rented from the local church. One room was the boys’ bedroom, one served as the sitting room (meals were eaten here as well) and one was the kitchen. The kitchen had a jiko (charcoal-burning stove) and a small table for preparing food, and Harriet and Samuel shared a bed behind a curtain at the back. Their rooms adjoined six or eight others inhabited by as many families, all of whom shared a nearby long-drop latrine. A year or two before I first arrived in Kenya (1992), the floors had been cemented. Before that, they were dirt. Harriet had “papered” the walls of their sitting room with pages from old magazines she’d been given by other Americans she had worked for, but my roommate and some friends came one day and put up sheets of the cardboard that milk cartons were made out of. I don’t remember how they came upon that stuff, but it did a much better job of keeping out the wind, rain and insects than the magazine pages had. After that, instead of looking up at smiling ads for Maybelline, Cover Girl and Clairol, we were greeted by alternating blue and green rows of Maziwa Maziwa Maziwa.

Finally, in 1998, everything came together for Harriet’s surgery: the specialist, the hip replacement parts and the finances, graciously sent from numerous people who had known and loved Harriet over the years. She had one hip replaced and then, several weeks later, the other one. She was determined to do the therapeutic exercises and was gradually able to walk all the way to the road and back. Pain free!

In the months leading up to the surgery, two other things happened: 1) There was a severe drought in Kenya; and 2) I met and fell in love with Matt. One Sunday afternoon in March 1999, Harriet and I were sitting together drinking chai and marveling at the miraculous power and faithfulness of our great God. I had just told her that Matt had asked me to marry him. And she was still aglow with the joy of two new, strong hips. We sat there praising God for answered prayer and for all the ways our faith in Him had grown during the years of praying and waiting.

And. Right. Then. It started. Raining! For the first time in nearly a year! Harriet and I burst into a glorious combination of crying and laughing and shouting, all at once. In Africa, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. In the right amounts and at the right time, it literally means the difference between life and death. Kenya had seen death that year, and as we listened to the music of the rain falling on the tin roof, Harriet and I felt full to overflowing with gratitude for God’s goodness and grace in bringing Matt to me, in healing her hips and in finally, finally sending the much-needed, long-awaited, desperately prayed-for rain. (Yes, I realize I was just complaining about rain in the last post. Forgive me.)

Of all the sweet memories I treasure of times spent with Harriet and her family, this one will always be my favorite.

I no longer live down the hill and across the road, but we still keep in touch through hand-written letters. Her sons are grown up now, trying to find work to help provide for the family (in spite of completing high school and college/technical training, jobs are scarce). Samuel is working for some folks at RVA now. Harriet is not working, but she writes: The amazing news is that I am walking comfortably, and I just wish you were here to see the amazing grace of the almighty God. My healing brought joy to the family and it strengthened my faith that, despite the hardships and traumas that we do face or come across, God is still our refuge and our help… I have now tasted the fruit of trusting and depending upon the Lord.

Recently the church gave away plots of land to some of its members, and Harriet and Samuel were among them! After renting rooms for over 20 years, they dream of living in their own home. In my last letter, I asked if there had been any progress. Harriet’s response broke my heart: Not only do they not have the financies to build a house (she wouldn’t have told me this if I hadn’t asked), the church has stipulated that any house built on these plots must be a modernized house. I’m assuming this means being equipped with electricity and plumbing. Samuel and the boys don’t know how to build a house like that, so even if they did have the money they’d still need outside help with the plans, materials, labor, furnishings, etc.

I wish I was there now, but I’m not. I wish I had experience and knowledge about building houses, but I don’t. I wish I could somehow make this dream come true for Harriet and her family, but I can’t. All I can do is pray. And trust that God, in His perfect timing and faithfulness, will provide. Maybe He’ll even direct someone (or several someones) out there to read this post, decide to get involved and somehow find a way to make it happen.

Of course, that would take a miracle.

* * * * * * *
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display your power among the peoples. (Psalm 77:11-14 NIV)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 NIV)

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Elijah Update (May 8)

Dear Prayer Warriors, Friends and Family;

Exciting, exciting news today. Elijah had a good Monday night and Tuesday morning he was all wiggly and wide awake. Praise God! All of his processes from tip to toe seem to be working properly. Praise God again and again!!

Elijah's feet and hands and tongue moved about most of the morning. All of his movement was setting off alarms because the probes couldn't monitor his vitals properly. The sedation is wearing off allowing Elijah to be more active, but this also means that he is more responsive to pain. So Elijah's nurse tried her best to keep him covered with Tylenol and other meds.

Finally in the afternoon Elijah feel asleep for a couple of hours or so. He was so worn out by his morning movements that he slept through several heel sticks and attempts at blood draws.

Dr. V was very excited about Elijah's conditions today and was happy to see him moving. Dr. V hopes to take out Elijah's vent soon. Last night "we" started giving Elijah food through a feeding tube and already today he is almost up to "full" feeds. We are praying that Elijah will be ready to drink from a bottle when his vent comes out.

Some of the swelling in Elijah's body has been reduced, but there is still a huge amount that needs to be "pulled" out. Please pray that this happens soon as the swelling on the surface indicates swelling internally and it impedes the healing process.

In the last update we invited anyone to come to pray with Elijah. Today we had three visitors. Thanks for the prayers and visits Kim, Lue and Rocky!

Judy has finally agreed to take a rest. She drove home Monday night and left Joel with Elijah. It's a Boys Only Campout at Wesley Medical Center without tents, bugs or campfires. Please pray for Judy. It is very hard for her to be away from her little man. This is Mothers' Day week -- hopefully she will be kept busy at the flower shop while at home and she will get some much needed rest.

Thank you so much for your letters, cards, e-mails, gifts, and prayers.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Confessions of a Weather Wimp

Yes, it's true. I may as well just ‘fess up right now. What ruined me forever was living in Nairobi where the weather is warm (but not horribly hot) and sunny (but not blazingly bright) with clear, blue skies pretty much all year round. And you know how it is. After experiencing the ideal -- say, getting bumped up to first class on an international flight -- flying economy (or, in this case, living with cantankerous weather) is just never the same after that. Chalk it up to growing up in Flint, Michigan, where the weather is wretched nearly half of the year, but gray skies and cold temperatures are a sure way to spell d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n in my book.

So when we moved here, I fully expected to dislike the weather. England is infamous for dismal temperatures and lots of rain. Not wanting to dwell on the negative, though, I told myself to just ignore it and go about life as if the weather isn’t a factor. Focus on the vibrant energy of daily life with Jack and Sophie. Think about all the green things growing here (actually, that’s easy to do after living in sun-scorched Cyprus). I even vowed to myself never to mention the weather in communicating about our adjustment to living here. (Aha! Never say never…)

And then I wrote about the Bank Holiday and my disappointment about 90% chance of rain. So the embarrassing secret is out: My moods and outlook on life in general are all too easily affected by the weather. Sigh. That’s what I get for trying so hard to Keep It Together and polish this rusty faƧade of Appearing Perfect. (As if anyone was buying that, anyway!)

Weather-wise, our Bank Holiday Monday was typically schizophrenic. We woke up to pouring-down rain and strong winds. It was so cold in the house that we turned the heat back on for the first time in over a month and had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. But by 4 p.m. the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the air was warm. And somewhere in between, Sophie started walking! That’s right, nearly a month after her first steps, yesterday was the day my dear little girl decided to Get Up and Walk.

Looking back on it, I was so focused on the weather that I was unprepared for the day’s main event. It absolutely caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting anything half so joyous, so funny, so delightful for our entire family. But there we all were, inside the house on a public holiday and hanging out together when Sophie started toddling around. For a family who spends many, many days apart while Matt travels, it was quite a gift.

Once again I’ve learned a lesson about what’s Real and what only feels that way. How many times does it take, though, before it sticks? Will I remember to look past the weather (or whatever trivial thing I’m fixated on at the moment) to what truly matters? Will I let go of what is meaningless in exhange for a chance to see the Big Picture and make the most of Right Now? This is hard enough as a woman, a wife and a mother. But what about as a Christian? Will I choose to put aside my shallow hopes, meager expectations and limited perceptions and focus instead on what God says is most significant, namely people -- their feelings, their circumstances, their needs -- and to see them through God's eyes, taking every opportunity to point them toward Truth? This is what it means to live wisely and with maturity, filled and led by the Spirit. This is what I continue to pray toward.

My inability to make it happen on my own is why I'm constantly amazed and inspired by His grace.

* * * * * * *
"A person's character cannot be washed away by the rain." (Liberian proverb)

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8 NLT)

You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness and clothed me in happiness. (Psalm 30:11 NCV)

And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan... Pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19, 20 NLT)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Elijah Update (May 6)

Elijah Daniel Fitzgerald is 3 months old today! A very big day! We are so grateful to have him with us this morning.

Surgery was VERY difficult for Elijah. At one point during the surgery, two of our doctors come talk to us to let us know that he was having a hard time. So we were prepared. Afterwards our surgeon came to talk with us and she was sad, very sad. In previous meetings she has always been positive. This time, she was very honest and shared with us her concern for him. She was very worried. The next hours would be critical ones for our little boy.

Hours were spent trying to get a new, stronger central line into his veins to help with getting his meds. The doctors were up against a wall and never did get good access. Elijah is functioning right now on a few peripheral IV's, and in the past they have worked for only 12 hours before stopping. We are praying for his veins to hold out so that the meds can continue. Last night Elijah's Mimi stayed with him while Joel, Judy and cousin Diane went to get some food. The phone rang, and we were told to return to the hospital right away. His vitals were falling. We were concerned that we would not make it in time. When we walked in, Elijah was just getting himself sorted out. His vitals improved, and throughout the night he continued to improve. Around midnight the doctors came in to talk with us. Joel asked, "Can he survive?" The doctor said, "If he survives it will be from nothing that we are doing." Joel said, "Have you learned from Elijah?" He said, "Oh yeah!" We do not want what Elijah has gone through to be in vain. We want the medical profession to learn from Elijah.

Sunday morning greeted us with more Kansas tornadoes and rainy weather. Elijah slept through it all and grew stronger as the day moved on. All of his "numbers" improved thought out the day. Mom took a nap in the morning, dad took a nap in the afternoon and at 5:00 we celebrated Elijah's 3rd month of life with cookies from Pan and songs sung to our little man. What an exciting time.

Elijah is swollen from the surgery, has had a blood transfusion, is still on antibiotics and his body is spending time healing. What in the world does God have planned for our little man? We have no idea!

Last night as we thought we were once again watching our little man enter into the presence of Jesus, we thought about the roller coaster of emotions we have been on.

Joel: "It's not a roller coaster, its a Ferris wheel!"
Nurse: "It's even been a broken Farris wheel! You have never been all the way to the top!"
Cousin Diane: "Maybe more like the Pirate Ship ride!"

Please, please continue to pray.

We also have another request. If there are any people in the area who would be willing and able to come and pray over Elijah here in Wichita, we would love that. We love to see people and pray with them for God's will in the life of our boy and ourselves.

Many have asked for our address again... Elijah is at Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas in PICU, and we are staying at:
Ronald McDonald House
Room 4,
520 N. Rutan
Wichita, Kansas 67208

Others have asked what they can do for us. Three things come to mind:
1) The Ronald McDonald House charges us $15 per day.
2) The hospital food got old a long time ago: McDonald's, Spangles, Pan Bread, Chipotle and Subway are nearby, and The Olive Garden is a great place to eat and relax.
3) Volunteer your club, church group, Sunday school class, etc. to prepare and serve a meal once a month or more often for your local Ronald McDonald House. This is a great blessing to us when we get a great sit down meal at the house.

Thanks you so much for your concern and prayers,

Joel, Judy, and Elijah Balboa

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Live and Learn

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here. As Americans living in England, it is taking us a while to learn some of the things that are “givens” to everyone else. Like, guess what? No school tomorrow. Was this on the school calendar that outlines all the half-term and between-term breaks until 2008? No. Was it mentioned in any of the notices Jack brought home from school last week? No. Did I only find out about it while talking with someone at church this morning? Yes.

I guess that explains why the congregation was a bit sparse today. This is the May Day Bank Holiday (first Monday in May), then there’s the Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May) and the Summer Bank Holiday (last Monday in August). Kind of like Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends in the States, except here we get an extra one at the beginning of May. (I like to think of it as a little bonus for making it through the winter.) Being a public holiday, I guess it just stands to reason that there’s no school, right? Like in America, there’s no school on Memorial Day. Of course! You’d think we would’ve figured it out from all the TV ads for Bank Holiday sales over the weekend. Like, DUH.

Unfortunately, there’s 90% chance of rain tomorrow. After all the sunshine and warm temps over the past month, it’s disappointing not to be able to enjoy this Bank Holiday outside. The good news is we spent part of Saturday afternoon at a big park nearby, where Jack practiced riding his bike on a path next to a small lake, Sophie made quack-quack sounds at the ducks, and Matt and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kiddos enjoy themselves. In the sunshine!

The other good news is the Spring Bank Holiday is only three weeks away.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Elijah Update (May 4, Part 2)

Most Dearest of Friends and Family,

I am very thankful that I am able to be with Elijah and Judy today. When Judy called last night to tell me about Elijah, I was ready to drive to Wichita immediately. She told me to stay put and she would call if Elijah got worse. When I arrived at the hospital, Judy told me that Dr. V had told her that he would have told me to come to Wichita if he had talked to me.

However, around midnight Elijah seemed to turn the corner to better health. His breathing became more regular, and his heart rate slowed down and his O2 levels increased.

The infection in his blood is still there, but the strong antibiotic seems to be helping. They have discovered that all of the plastic parts stuck in his body are infected and must come out. This will happen Saturday morning at 7:30. The surgery will last about 3 hours. Dr. M will remove two chest tubes and the shunt which enters his body in two different places. She will also remove his central line IV. Then Dr. M will perform a pleuralsentesis (sp?) which will cause the outside wall of his right lung to adhere to the inside walls of his chest. This will remove any spaces for the fluid to accumulate. Dr. M will also ligate the Thoracic duct. Also two or three or four new chest tubes will be added to suck out any fluid that might be produced by his body. Finally a new central line will be placed. I'm afraid Elijah will be very sore when he wakes from his surgery.

As I sit here in Elijah's room writing this, I am struck by the fact that we serve a Great God. He is so good to us. I am frustrated that God didn't completely and totally heal Elijah back in February, but I have a comforting knowledge in my heart that God is in control, and I know that God loves our little boy more than his parents do.

Elijah has many tubes and wires coming from his body at this time. The wires all monitor something. As I watch him and look at the monitor, I see him sleeping (well sedated) comfortably and all of his "numbers" on the monitor are improving. Proof of God's healing hand.

Don't forget to pray Elijah through his surgery at 7AM, Please pray that the infection will be obliterated and will not cause complications after the surgery. Please pray that Elijah's blood will clot appropriately (time and place). And please pray that the doctors will be able to easily, carefully, comfortable place a new breathing tube. There is already some scarring, and there is great concern about whether or not a new one will insert properly.

Thank you so much for your prayers,

J J and Elijah

Friday, May 4, 2007

Elijah Update (May 4)

Dear Friends,

I write to you now asking for more prayer. I know, I know, how much more can we pray for this little boy? The Lord has brought us through so much already, and He gave us a glimpse at the "gentle whisper" but then the storm began again. We do not know why, but Elijah has continued to get worse. He now has chest tubes back on each side, but still the fluid continues to build up and we do not know from where it is coming. At this point Elijah's condition is critical. When I left his bed tonight he had many things going on. Elijah does not know all the comings and goings because he is sedated. Earlier today we were preparing Elijah for a surgery to occur on Saturday morning. Now the medical staff is trying to keep Elijah stable. We have no idea what happened... why the shunt stopped pumping, why the chest tubes don't seem to drain and why he is having such a difficult time... BUT GOD KNOWS.

I am a mess (as well as Joel at home) right now, but if we did not have a strong faith in a loving God we would be more of a mess then we are. The other night Joel asked me, "Is someone's coming to Christ, or changing their walk with the Lord, worth what Elijah is going through to reach them?" We both agreed that the answer is yes. As much as it pains all of us, if lives are changed through Elijah's life, it is worth it.

Pray for Joel as he hopes to be able to make it here before Saturday, and please pray for me. We are not sure how much more we can handle emotionally, but we have a great team lifting us up all over the world. Thank you so much.

JJ and Super E

Thursday, May 3, 2007

We Don't Normally Eat This Much Sugar

(Just had to clarify that because, you know, I try to keep our family eating mostly fresh, healthy, good-for-you stuff.)

What happens when your son turns four, your husband is away the three days before the party and you’re coming off the warmest, most glorious April since 1659? Well, I for one have gotten incredibly behind in everything except making birthday treats and gardening.

My inbox is overflowing, my desk is covered in cascading piles and I’ve started several “to do” lists (they’re here somewhere…) Not to mention that the entire house, cozy as it is, needs a serious spring cleaning. With such lovely weather, though, the kids and I have spent a lot of time outside, enjoying our little back garden and each other. In between times outdoors, it has been all about birthday festivities around here.

(Yes, Sunday's party was fantastic! A good mix of people, friends from church and friends from school -- American (us), English and Sri Lankan. All together, we were seven children, ages 1 to 9, and 11 adults, ages 30-ish to 60-ish. The weather was gorgeous, so we could open the patio doors and spread out a bit. Everyone seemed to have a great time, especially Jack -- and Sophie, who was happily passed from lap to lap. After 10 months here, we're finally feeling a bit more broadly established in our relationships. It feels GOOD.)

I’ve been composing a more serious post in my head, but it will have to wait until I’m caught up a bit. For now, though, I wanted to pass on these fab recipes… Jack’s birthday breakfast (pancakes!) on the day of his party, the chocolatiest chocolate birthday cake ever and the chocolate chip cookies we made together on the morning of his actual birthday (which he shared with his classmates that afternoon). Mmm-mmm-mmm!

The reason I’m posting these recipes is that each one was given to me by someone wonderful, and each recipe is totally a-maz-ing. People always rave about this cake and these cookies (I guess the pancakes only make it as far as family). This is not about me, honestly, it’s the recipes that are so good. See? I was telling you that everywhere I’ve lived I’ve gathered great recipes. So until I have the time and energy (yeah, right) to produce a proper cookbook (in which I would feel compelled to tell you how much I adore each of these women, when/where/how I came to know them and how they've impacted my life), I happily pass these on to you:


1-1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs. cooking oil
1-1/2 cups milk

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Beat egg slightly in a small bowl. Mix in oil and milk. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir. A few small lumps in the batter are preferable, and using a whisk gets air pockets in the batter, making for fluffier pancakes. Add more or less milk for thicker or thinner pancakes.

Drop batter by 1/4 cup-full onto lightly greased, hot skillet. When bubbles appear and edges begin to dry, turn to brown the other side. (This works most easily in a non-stick pan. If you like the edges crispy, like my guys do, add more oil.)

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup or preserves.

Makes about 10 pancakes.


2-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1-2/3 cups sugar
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup margarine
1-1/4 cups water
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Mix on low speed for half a minute, then on high speed for 3 minutes.
Pour into greased and floured 9x13-in. pan and bake about 40 minutes on 350F/180C.

Chocolate Icing:
3-4 Tbs. melted chocolate
1-1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 margarine
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt the chocolate. Add this to the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth.


1-1/3 cups butter/margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I just chop up a large milk chocolate bar and a large semi-sweet chocolate bar, but you can use chocolate chips if you live in America)

Mix butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla.
Sift together flour, soda and salt.
Stir liquid into dry mixture. Add chocolate chips.
Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350F/180C for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 40-60 cookies, depending on size.

Elijah Update (May 2)

Dear Family and Friends,

Joel is still in Wichita with Judy and Elijah. Joel was hoping to head home Monday night after Elijah recovered from surgery. However he didn't recover quite as well as we had expected. We have been waiting to write in hopes that we would have something better to share with you.

Elijah is still on the ventilator. Our hope to take him off Monday night turned to hopes to take him off Tuesday morning. Then we hoped to take him off the ventilator Wednesday morning. Now Wednesday afternoon we hope to take him off of the vent sometime Thursday. The problem? No one really knows. Some fluid has accumulated in his chest, but not great quantities. Despite this we decided to re-insert a chest tube to help pull of the fluid. We didn't see much improvement in his breathing.

The good thing about this is he is now resting and letting the vent do his breathing for him. Elijah had been breathing terribly fast, too fast to get a good supply of oxygen and release the carbon dioxide. Now he is breathing slowly and deeply.

Our surgeon is very upbeat and positive about Elijah's predicament. She is certain beyond any doubt that his condition will resolve and that she will be coming to his first birthday. She just isn't sure how long it will take. So here we sit waiting for Elijah's blood gases to improve, waiting for him to use the oxygen in the air better and waiting for him to stop dumping his chyle into his pleural cavity. On a positive note, his abdominal cavity is doing a great job absorbing the chyle that is being pumping into it.

Thank you all for your prayers,

Joel, Judy, and Elijah

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Elijah Update (April 30)

Dear Friends,

Another day with HUGE changes for Elijah. Thank you for praying us through today.

Elijah underwent another surgery today to insert another plural-peritoneal shunt. There was discussion that the other shunt had ceased to work and our surgeon had order two "just in case". So, Elijah quickly went into surgery and is now recovering. He is on a vent just to give him a break, his shunt is working GREAT, the doctor was able to put in a line for him to get his medicines and we are excited for him. We are hoping that the breathing tube will be taken out soon so he can begin his feeding again.

We are looking forward to many more changes in Elijah. The absorption of his clots throughout his body, better circulation, and peace for his parents as they treat Hemophilia B.

We are grateful for all of you out there praying for us.

JJ and E