Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gardening for Beginners

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to gardening -- no, really. I’ve tried-and-failed and tried-again-with-some-success to keep indoor potted plants alive, but this is my first real, outdoors tending-things-and-watching-them-grow experience. With my mom, mother-in-law and sister-in-law and their collective wealth of gardening know-how an ocean away, I've been poring over piles of gardening books from the library. It’s just lucky that I’ve taken up this hobby in such an extremely vegetation-friendly climate.

Our four year-old is my enthusiastic partner in this endeavor. Every morning after breakfast Jack pulls on his froggy rain boots, and we “take a turn about the garden” to examine the growth of the past 24 hours. It’s a lovely little ritual with tiny Sophie toddling behind, all three of us still in our pajamas and sporting wild hair, as we go along the beds examining the plants and getting excited about their progress each day.

Here’s Jack, proudly harvesting some lettuce.

And here’s our first raspberries of the season -- well, actually our third and fourth raspberries, as the first and second ones were gobbled up before I could grab the camera.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How to Make the Most of a Rainy Day

A little trick I learned from my mom. Spontaneous tent-in-the-den made out of dining chairs and blankets: 100% satisfaction guaranteed, even (especially?) in the summertime!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Anyone for Flapjacks?

I always thought I spoke English until I lived overseas. Mind you, outside the US I’d only lived in Kenya and Cyprus -- which, like America, are both former British colonies -- before moving to the Mother Land (which was inevitable, I suppose).

Anyway, over the years I’ve learned that -- among the English -- what we call pants are really trousers, not underwear. A sweater is a jumper, unless it buttons up, in which case it’s a cardigan. An undershirt is a vest, and a vest is a waistcoat. A bathing suit is a costume.

The trunk of a car is the boot, the hood is the bonnet, the windshield is the windscreen and the turn signal is the indicator. A truck is a lorry, and an RV is a caravan. Gasoline is petrol. A detour is a diversion. The highway is the motorway, unless it’s a divided highway in which case it’s a dual carriageway. An overpass is a flyover, the sidewalk is the pavement and a place where pedestrians have the right-of-way is a zebra (rhymes with Deborah) crossing.

A vacation is a holiday.

Soccer, as everyone knows, is football. Baseball and cricket are not the same thing. Nor are football and rugby.

An apartment is a flat. A duplex is semi-detached. An elevator is a lift. The first floor is the ground floor, the second floor is the first and so on. The bathroom is the toilet, not necessarily a room with a bathtub in it. Your bottom is your bum, and a fanny is… You don’t even want to know.

A shopping cart is a trolley. A stroller is a pushchair. A pacifier is a dummy. A diaper is a nappy, and a nap is a sleep (often taken in the pushchair while Mummy walks to the shops). A crib is a cot.

Q-tips are ear buds, Kleenex is tissue and Saran wrap is cling film.

Chips are crisps, and French fries are chips. A cookie is a biscuit, a biscuit is a scone and a cracker is something you pull at Christmas that makes a bang and has a paper crown, a toy and a joke inside.

An eggplant is an aubergine, a zucchini is a courgette, a bell pepper is a capsicum and a scallion is a spring onion. Coriander is cilantro. Arugula is rocket.

Fish sticks are fish fingers. A sausage is a banger. Ground meat is mince. Mincemeat is actually not meat at all but chopped, dried fruit. Oatmeal is porridge.

Dessert is pudding, and pudding is custard. A popsicle is an ice lolly. Cotton candy is candy floss, and candy is a sweet. Powdered sugar is icing sugar. A cupcake is a fairy cake. Jell-O is jelly, and jelly is jam.

Now, there are whole shelves of books ennumerating the differences between the English and American languages and cultures, so this list is just for fun and by no means exhaustive. My point is, when we moved here, silly me, I thought I’d heard them all.

But then I learned about flapjacks! Of course, at first I assumed they were pancakes (wrong: pancakes are crépes), which explains why I was so confused when a Mum friend from church offered to bring some to a playdate at our house.

Come to find out, flapjacks are like homemade granola bars, and they’re usually the first thing British children learn how to make (a healthier alternative to Rice Krispie Treats).

Jack and I made flapjacks today, since it was cold and rainy outside. He wouldn’t try them when Kat brought them over that day last fall, but since helping his teacher make them at nursery school one day, he’s become a huge fan.

Here’s the recipe if you’re in the mood for a simple, tasty treat:

Flapjacks from Kat

Preheat oven to 325F/160C.
Grease a pie plate or 9x9 baking pan (or tin, if you’re British)
Stir together over low heat until just melted:
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 full Tbs. golden syrup (or Karo syrup, if you’re American)

Pour melted mixture into:
1-1/2 cups rolled oats/porridge oats
pinch salt
handful raisins

Mix well and press into baking pan/tin until even. Bake for 20 minutes.
Mark into portions while still hot. Remove from pan/tin when cool.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Step By Step

“It’s amazing what God does with little steps of faith.”

These were the words of an old man in our fellowship who led the service this morning. Turns out that this month marks the 50th anniversary that he and his wife sailed to Ethiopia to teach the Bible and train pastors there. Also turns out that, when they had to leave Ethiopia because of that country’s revolution in the 1970s, he served first as a lecturer and then principal of London Bible College, now London School of Theology. (I guess you just never know who might be sitting in the next pew!)

In the years since their return to the UK, Peter has gone back and forth to Ethiopia numerous times. Along the way he has:
➢ Helped establish the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology
➢ Started a feeding center to provide breakfast for 600 street children six days a week (for most, it's their only guaranteed meal each day)
➢ Raised funds to build three new dormitories for a women’s prison (what were just tin sheds are now solid buildings complete with cheery yellow walls, proper bunks, floral sheets and warm blankets)

He's in his early 80s now, but his ministry among the prisons started fairly recently. And he still works part-time here, lecturing at the LST Centre for Islamic Studies. And he writes and reviews books. Just goes to show, it ain't over til it's over.

I was mesmerized as he spoke from the first nine verses of the book of Joshua, telling about God’s faithfulness over the years and casually dropping phrases like during our first kidnapping and in our first famine… Oh my goodness, can you imagine joyfully declaring the goodness of God after being kidnapped once or experiencing the misery of a single famine? Yet here was this man saying, Every bit of serving God is worth it, no matter what. He’s as good as His word. Take it from me, if you trust and obey you’ll never be sorry. There's nothing better. Easier, maybe, but not better.

This week, Thursday, is my 40th birthday -- shocking, I know. Although I've lived less than half the years that Peter Cotterell has, I've come to the same conclusion.

I don’t know where you are in your journey with God or what steps of faith are facing you at the moment, but I clearly remember the chapel service at Asbury College when I responded to His call on my life. I promised to follow Him anywhere in the world, as long as He would guide me each step of the way. And I can say, He has done just that. I remember thinking, “If this is God’s will, it’s the only thing I’ll ever be truly happy doing.” Guess what? It’s absolutely true!

Honestly, if it had been up to me, I would never have chosen this path for myself (my sights were set much narrower, much safer, much blander). Looking back I’m so relieved, so grateful for those little steps of faith and for the faithfulness of my great big God, and I'm continually amazed by His grace and the ways in which He’s taken me from who I was, where I was then, to who I am, where I am now. Looking forward to the next half of my life (Lord willing), I'm excited to see by Peter's example that there's still plenty of time and so much yet I can do to impact my generation for God, as I follow Him step by step.

* * * * * * *
Be strong and courageous... Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is My command: be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6-9 NLT)

I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will

I want to build with silver and gold in my generation
I want to build with silver and gold while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will

What is on Your heart?
Tell me what to do
Let me know Your will
And I will follow You

I want to see the Lord come again in my generation
I want to see the Lord come again while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will

(Words and music by Mark Altrogge)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Elijah Update (June 22)

Dear Elijah Warriors,

Yippee! We are HOME! We stand amazed at the power of God, but why? We know the things that God can do. So why do we seem so surprised? We should expect miracles.

In March when we were in Kansas City, we had sent out a message about the impending earthly death of Elijah. We asked everyone to pray for the Lord to take him quickly and without much pain. I had a friend write to me after and she said she was praying this when God "spoke" to her and said, "Why are you not praying for his total healing?" So, she changed her prayer. We are grateful for all of you who have believed in Elijah's healing. Like Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo in the Bible, we know that God is able and if he chooses not to heal (or in the case of S, M and A... to save them from the fiery furnace), we will not stop believing in Almighty God. We chose Elijah's name because we loved the meaning: Yahweh is God. During the trials that the real prophet Elijah faced, every time the evil King Ahab called his name, he was saying exactly what Elijah was trying to tell the people: Yahweh is God. For us today as we see Elijah improving, we too are saying, "Yahweh is God". ELIJAH!

God chooses different means to work His miracles. We know that God could have healed Elijah without even working hard. We know that He raised people from the dead and even raised himself. My goodness, after that feat, healing Elijah would have been a piece of cake. :) God chose to work through doctors and modern medicine to work the healing balm on our little boy. Every day he improves. We are excited to watch the process and the lives that Elijah has touched. Wow! What a boy. We heard today that he has a prayer warrior in India. Our map continues to fill up.

We finally got out of the hospital around 4 p.m. So, Joel was right. There was a lot to do and many things to get together. We arrived in Wichita in March with nothing more than a baby, a car seat and a change of clothes. Going home 4 months later we there was no room in the car for Joel and me! We had so many things for our boy that you would think we had the hospital with us. We should have just taken his hospital crib as well. Elijah handled the ride in his car seat well. We stopped once on the side of the road to take him out of his seat and let him cuddle with us. This was the longest that he has ever had to sit up.

The first day home was rough for Elijah. A lot of changes and trying to figure things out. Joel and I are tired. The great thing is that Elijah loves to sleep at night. So we are not having a problem with him wanting to play at night. We get up and set up his feeding pump, then turn it off, then give him medicines, ect. It gets very tiring to have our sleep broken up so much, but Elijah sleeps through it all. Praise the Lord!

Each day, hour, moment gets better with being home. Elijah has started taking his bottle again and woke us up last night with a demanding cry for some drink. So, he is excited about eating. He does not seem to have the stamina yet to drink it all, but he is doing very well. We continue to move his oxygen up and down to try to wean him off of the tank. At times he does great without it, but other times he still needs the help.

Please pray with us that his lungs will heal up and be stronger then ever. Pray for protection from infection with this feeding tube. For protection of his nasal passages and throat. For rest for his mom and dad. For physical strength and mental growth.

We received his Factor IX supplies yesterday. I just stare at them and wonder how in the world we are going to treat this boy for Hemophilia B. Please pray with us for wisdom. His veins are hard to find, and he is what the nurses call "a hard stick". We are a little worried about having anyone give him an injection who does not know him well. (Tomas! Want to come to Ness City?)

Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our family.
ELIJAH! Yahweh is God!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Solstice

Yesterday we enjoyed the longest day of the year. The sun was up at 4:42 am and stayed up until 9:20 pm. That’s an amazing 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight! It’s definitely something worth celebrating here in England. Although it does mean that, as of today, we're working our way back to the shortest day, December 22, when we’ll have less than 8 hours of daylight. (Hmmm, sure wish I hadn’t thought of that.)

After a very fun visit, my parents had to catch an 8 o’clock flight home yesterday, so I was on the road at 5:15 am. Practically alone -- as in there were very, very few cars and one lone pedestrian walking along the sidewalk in the brilliant, full-strength sunshine of summertime! Everything was quiet, except the sound of our car and the morning birdsong floating above the open sun roof.

Being out that early in the morning reminded me of when my sister and I had a paper route. I was about 12, Lynda was 10 (ten years old, I tell you) and our Dad saw a great opportunity for us when a paper route became available in our neighborhood. He had really loved having paper routes "when he was a little shaver", so he signed us up!

We got these crazy wire baskets fitted to the backs of our bicycles, and every afternoon after school we would come home, go out to the garage to fold the newspapers, wrap a rubber band around each one, load them into the baskets (being careful not to rip anything) and then ride up and down streets and driveways, delivering newspapers to 119 nearby porches.

Six days a week, The Flint Journal was delivered in the afternoon. On Sunday mornings, however, our customers expected their papers to be on their doorsteps before seven o’clock. So Mom would get up at 5 am to fold and stuff the newspapers (because the newspapers were dropped off at our house in one big bale, separate from the inserts. And on Sundays, there were l-o-t-s of inserts).

Once the papers were stuffed and ready, at about 5:45, Mom would come wake us up. Lynda and I were out the door by 6 am. Now I’m not exactly sure why our parents thought it was a good idea to send their 12 and 10 year-old daughters out into the neighborhood at that hour of the morning (!), but there we were. At the end of our driveway we went our separate ways, delivered all the papers to our own parts of the route and then met up when we were done. During the week, we just went home. But on Sundays, in the summertime, we went to the 7-11 up on Hill Road.

This was back in the day when 7-11 stores were literally open from 7 am until 11 pm. Again, don’t ask me why it didn’t occur to us that, at our ages and at that hour, we had no business whatsoever being anywhere other than asleep in our beds, let alone being the first 7-11 customers of the morning. But we were earning “our very own money”, and I guess we thought that was a fun way to celebrate surviving another week of child labor. But I digress.

The best part of those early Sunday mornings was that, once our baskets were no longer weighed down with newspapers, we met at the top of the subdivision and rode our bikes out onto Hill Road itself, zig-zagging back and forth across all five lanes of it for the hundred yards or so between Antoinette Drive and the parking lot of the 7-11. The road was empty, of course, no vehicles at all as far as the eye could see. We wouldn’t have dreamt of doing such a thing during normal traffic hours. But at 7 am on Sunday mornings all was quiet, and that empty stretch of road was too tempting to resist. We felt positively daring.

It’s not often that I’m on the road in the early hours nowadays, but when I am I follow the rules just like any other time, alone or not. Isn’t it funny, though, how one little memory from childhood can come flashing back in an instant? And after that very vivid moment, I look around and realize: I’m driving a car, not a bike; I live in London, not Flint. My parents are grandparents now, and the story of the paper route is just that -- a story from long ago.

It does make me wonder, though, what stories Jack and Sophie will tell when they grow up?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Elijah Update (June 18)

Dear Praying Friends

Judy is soooooo Excited. She can hardly contain herself. She went to the PICU unit this afternoon and was jumping up and down while she told “our” nurses that we are leaving tomorrow and she was packed up and will be ready to leave at 5AM. I love to see Judy so excited. Her spirits are up so high that she almost floats.

Today Judy hosted many people in Elijah’s room for the last time. Physical Therapy came by to work with Elijah and really gave him a workout. I think he slept most of the afternoon. Several of “our” PICU nurses came by and so did two phlebotomists to say good bye. Everyone seems excited to have Elijah heading home, but of course they will miss his smiles and bright eyes.

Joel is also excited to have his wife and son home with him again. However, Joel doesn’t think we will be leaving the hospital until 5PM. He is much more practical, but Judy will be the one pushing the doctors, nurses and other staff to keep on the ball and to get us out of Wichita. And boy, do many of these hospital people need pushing.

Last week the hospital was supposed to have some things delivered to Ness City in preparation of Elijah’s home coming. We still haven’t seen any supplies. The home care people stopped by today, they had some questions and said they would come back later today, but they never did. So we will see if they will be on the ball tomorrow.

June 19, 2007

Going Home Day!

I guess I am excited too I was up at 7AM ready to play with Elijah, get the staff moving and get Elijah ready to go home. Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait.

The doctor came in this morning saying everything is a go go for leaving and he was working with the home care people to make sure there is nothing to slow us down. Then our nurse came in and said that the home care people called and were having some issues. So I said to tell them that the home care people will have to pay for any hospital stays after today if they hold us up. Hopefully that will get them moving.

So now we sit and wait for everything to fall into place. The car is packed up, the room is almost cleaned up and the Fitzgeralds are chomping at the bit. We just can’t wait to go home.

Please continue to pray for Elijah’s health. We will be going home with oxygen and a feeding pump and, of course, Factor 9. Also pray that we figure out the best way to infuse the Factor 9 when it is time to do so. We haven’t decided if we want home health, the family doctor or our pediatrician to infuse him. There are also suggestions that we continue with speech and physical therapy so we will have to look into that and talk with a friend at home about these options. And please pray that any “rough” nights will not be so rough that we want to run back to the hospital just to calm mom and dad. Well, just pray that we don’t have any rough nights.

Another Ness county boy checked into this hospital yesterday. It is nice to see a familiar face but sad to see them for this reason. However he doesn’t need to have the scheduled surgery so maybe we will be going home together.

Thank you so much for praying and for continuing to pray.

Joel, Judy, and Elijah

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Elijah Update (June 16)

Dear Elijah Buddy Club members,

Fathers Day 2007: Elijah and I talked about a gift for his dad. Something special to say what a great daddy he is, especially through the hard days. I hope that all of you fathers out there know how special you are to your children. Elijah lights up when he hears his daddy's voice in his room, and he scrunches up his face when his daddy gives him "whiskery" kisses. :)

Friday night was an emotional night for Elijah and me. PICU was getting too crowded for us, and so we were sent out onto the Pediatric floor. Saying good-bye is always hard and MKs (missionary kids) are supposed to be experts... Well, I will tell you we are not. It all happened so fast that I was unable to cope well. We are grateful for all the friends we have made and the lives Elijah was able to touch. We will miss seeing those nurses every day.

Elijah has not been taking a bottle at all for a few days, and we had not been able to figure out why. Joel and I noticed a whiteness on his tongue but thought that if it was a problem that someone would have said something. So, we never even said anything to each other. Last night before leaving PICU, I asked our nurse if she could check out his tongue. Well, sure enough, our little boy has thrush (possibly caused by all the antibiotics he has received). So we are giving him medicines to get this cleared out. Poor guy, no wonder he has not wanted to eat with the bottle. His tongue and throat must be so sore. So, we are feeding with the tube totally until we can get this cleared up. Some nurses say it can take a while to clear up, and our doctor said that if this one medicine does not help in the next couple of days then he will go to a stronger med.

Elijah has already received a visit from one of his PICU nurses today. Everyone misses him up there. They told me to bang on my ceiling if I needed anything. :)

Joel comes today and will stay until we go home as a family. We are so excited!

Continue to pray with us for Elijah. Pray that the thrush will clear up, that he will eat from his bottle and not have a need for a feeding tube. Pray for continued healing of the Superior Vena Cava syndrome, for great circulation, wisdom treating Hemophilia B, protection from infection and for our adjustment to life at home as a family.

Thank you for joining us in this journey and for "holding the ropes" in prayer. We could not have done this without all of you. But don't think this is the last you will hear from us. We will be writing again before we leave Wichita.

My sister's 1st grade class sent us some cards. We were opening up them up at the Olive Garden (planning to use one of our wonderful gift certificates... Thank you!), and our waitress began asking us about them. So we told her about Elijah. She promised to pray for him. Later she brought our ticket and on it she had written, "I want to pay for your meal today. I will keep Elijah in my prayers." God has so many people out there watching over us.

Another packet of cards came yesterday from a class in South Carolina. We do not know these people at all, but they are a part of our e-mail "pass along family". A winner is: Roses are red, violets are blue. Get well soon or I am coming after you!

Thank you so much for your prayers,
Judy, Joel, and Elijah

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Elijah Update (June 12)

Dear Friends,

So sorry to keep you waiting to hear how the surgery went on Saturday. I'll start off by telling you that the surgery was successful, and Elijah is now doing great.

Now to the play-by-play:

We are very thankful to God that immediately following the surgery Elijah was taken off of the respiratory vent. That is a big event and we are delighted that he didn't return with the vent. That was one of our biggest concerns.

We were very unhappy that Elijah's pain wasn't controlled better post op and immediately following his return to his room. He did an awful lot of crying over several hours and lost a lot of blood because of the pressure the crying caused. Everyone was concerned about giving him this strong pain reliever because we had just broken his addiction to it. Finally mid-afternoon Elijah was given the med, and he settled down for the rest of the day.

Sunday was much better and Elijah has improved each day. In fact he has only needed a squirt of Tylenol today.

The most fun and exciting news is that Elijah is bottle feeding again. He has eaten progressively more at each feeding, and today he started "asking" for his meal right on time. Such a great little boy.

We are so excited and thankful for the progress Elijah is making. We are so thankful that God is walking right alongside our little boy.

Thank you so much for your prayers. We continue to need them every day.

Joel, Judy and Elijah

Joel was walking through the "lobby" of PICU when a family asked, "How is she?"
Joel said: "I have a little boy."
Them: "Oh, WE were asking about our girl. We thought you were a doctor."
Joel: "You must be new to PICU."
Them: "Well, no.....we have been here 3 days."
Joel: "Yup, you are new."
Them: "How long have you been here?"
Joel: "Since March."
Then the group all went back to talking amongst themselves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bye-bye, Baby

I broke my teapot.

It was sitting in its usual place on the kitchen counter when I opened up the cupboard above it, and my big bottle of American vanilla extract fell out, crashing down onto the handle of the teapot and breaking it off into five pieces. I guess if I have to shop for another one, this is the best place to be, but still my first thought was, “Oh no…”

That teapot served me well through both pregnancies and the births of both children, both moves -- to Cyprus and then here to England -- as well as numerous heart-to-hearts with girlfriends in both places. Alas, ready or not, it’s time for a new one.

I have a love/hate relationship with change. Part of me absolutely thrives on it, but there is a very big part of me that longs for the safety of sameness, the comfort of predictability, the stability of routine. When I grow accustomed to something, especially something wonderful (a group of women studying the Bible together, a friend living just around the corner, a country that feels more like home than the one I was born in), I just want to hold onto that moment in time and make it last forever. But that never works! Time keeps ticking. Seasons keep changing. And I keep trying to live in the moment of NOW instead of holding onto the past or waiting for the future.

Sophie is 16 months old today. Sixteen months! No longer a baby. She’s toddling -- waddling, actually, like a miniature pregnant woman -- all over the place, and her personality is really taking off. She’s rocking baby dolls, pointing to everything she sees and hears, playing chase with Jack, jabbering away to all of us in a language only she understands. Ooooh, as much as I loved those precious baby months, this stage is so very much fun.

Right before walking Jack to school today I looked at Sophie in her stroller and suddenly saw how big she's become. And my first thought was, “Oh no…” Then I remembered the time I told Jack that I love him just the way he is, that I want him to stay little.

He said, “It’s okay, Mommy. Jesus wants me to grow so big.”

True. And He wants me to rely on Him more than anything or anyone else. Maybe that’s why He set up time the way He did. So that He’s the only thing we can hold onto forever.

I picked up a new teapot at a local charity shop the other day. It’s a different color than the other one was -- and a different shape -- but it still makes a great cuppa. And my little girl is even more delightful than she was before, although she’s growing up.

I think it's time for her first (plastic) tea set, don't you?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paradise Found

I’m writing this from my new favorite spot in the house. Just outside the house, actually. Coworkers in the area who are returning to the States next month GAVE us their patio furniture, so our warm-weather living space has just been expanded. I absolutely love it! Ahhh, to be able to enjoy something so pleasant without having to wait until our next visit to Matt’s parents’ house. (If you’ve ever had a meal on their deck, you know what I mean.) It’s a little slice of heaven.

Today’s been one of those heavenly days. In addition to having perfect weather all day long, my favorite white summer trousers fit comfortably again and we had lunch from our favorite kebab shop. And in addition to the pleasure of eating chicken tikka kebabs right here on the patio in our little back garden, as we waited for our order the guy behind the counter gave us a glass of fresh, cold mango juice. Each.

I ask you, is there anything more heavenly than mango juice? I’ll go ahead and say, the answer is NO. I told Jack as much: Mmm-mmm, isn’t this good? Do you like it? I’m so glad you do because this is what we’re all going to be drinking in Heaven. It will go perfectly with the Indian food we’ll all be eating…

The other heavenly thing about today is that we went to church. I love our church. I really do. I thought I’d never love a church as much as I loved ICF in Cyprus, but here we are and every Sunday as the service ends I think to myself, “I must write a post about how much I love our church.” Only I don’t know where to start. It’s more than the sum of all its parts -- amazing worship band; fab pastoral team; Biblical, grace-filled teaching; friendly folks; creative community outreach events and service-oriented members. And it’s more than a feeling, although every time we interact with RBC people or attend a gathering, I feel so ministered-to, strengthened and alive.

Today we had a guest speaker, the London representative from the Baptist Missionary Society. His message kept me riveted, especially as he talked about social justice being an inextricable part of true worship. Later this afternoon we had a Tea Party with a Bite -- as in, a bite to eat and some discomfort -- with different varieties of tea served alongside information about the persecution of believers in their producing countries (China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Vietnam). Since my parents are here for a visit, even though Matt is away this week I was able to go to the Tea Party and stay for the evening service afterward.

At other times I’ve heard about and even prayed for Christians who are persecuted in the world today, but after an hour of drinking tea and reading my way around the room of articles displaying statistics of each country and the photos and stories of specific people who have suffered for believing in Jesus... Well, going into the sanctuary and standing up to worship freely, confidently (and loudly) with other believers suddenly felt like the precious joy and privilege that it is.

And since that’s what we’ll really be doing in Heaven, worshipping God alongside brothers and sisters in Christ from every nation, tribe and tongue, it was a fitting end to the day.

* * * * * * *
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10 NIV)

They sell honorable people for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. They trample helpless people in the dust and shove the oppressed out of the way... I hate all your show and pretense, the hypocrisy… Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry. (Amos 2:6b-7a, 5:21, 23-24 NLT)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Elijah Update (June 8)

Dear Friends,

How do you explain the Ferris Wheel of emotions that we have been on? You can't. Many people have told us to be strong, do not doubt, everything will be fine, etc...

Life is hard when you see the struggles and the pain every day. You see the changes moment by moment. Living two lives. One in Wichita and one in Ness City. Life is hard, but God is good. He gives us the strength to make it from day to day.

Our hopes are still high. Elijah is improving. However, we are faced with yet another surgery. Saturday morning at 7:30 Elijah will have a shunt placed to drain the fluid from his head into his abdominal cavity. This will help to relieve the pressure in his head. We feel confident about this right now, and the doctors have explained a lot to us. Please pray with us for Elijah's protection during this day. Pray for the doctors and for Elijah to recover well. Pray that he will clot.

Last year Judy's family planned a beach trip for June. With everything going on with Elijah, that trip was cancelled for us, and the nurses have heard of my desire to "just sit on a beach and sleep". SO, Elijah's nurses took him to the beach last night. Enjoy the photo. :)

Thanks for standing with us,
JJ and E

Friday, June 8, 2007

Elijah Update (June 7)

Greetings friends and relations,

(Have you ever read any Winnie-the-Pooh? All of Rabbit's "people" are called his friends and relations. I don't think that I am relating us to Rabbit but wanted to add a little lite-ness to this email.)

Elijah is 4 months old! YEAH! We were not sure he would live past the first week of life, so we are so grateful!

God is good. Throughout this entire process we have reminded ourselves that God is Sovereign. We cannot choose where He is in control. He is making Elijah into the little boy that He needs him to be. Elijah will have a story to tell.

For the past few days we have grown concerned about the pressure building up in his head. His "soft spot" was feeling very full. His eyes began to have some symptoms of pressure, and so after some "encouragement" from his mother, a CT scan and some discussion, his reservoir was tapped to relieve the pressure. We are praying that the Lord heals this aspect of our little boy's health. Pray with us for proper drainage in his head.

Today his eyes appear a bit better. Praise the Lord.

We are still working on his eating. Elijah does not have a strong desire to bottle, and this is an important part of life. Please pray with us that Elijah remembers how to bottle and enjoys eating. Pray that if his eating is due to the pressure in his head that the neurosurgeon will know what to do.

This is his first day on total room air... No oxygen! YEAH! Praise the Lord again! And again I say rejoice!

The plan is for us to... drum roll please... GO HOME!

YEAH! The doctors are thinking that we will be ready to go home next week. I am learning how to use the feeding pump and how to give Elijah his medicines (he will go home on many diuretics and sodium supplement). We are so exited about this and are praying that Elijah will not have another setback and that we will find a plan of attack for his swelling.

Today there are may changes and many things going on. Elijah is going to be getting an eye test, a hearing test and a visit from a neurosurgeon. The CT scan yesterday showed some things to be concerned about so we are getting an expert opinion. Please pray with us for the protection of Elijah's brain. We do not understand why this swelling has begun again at this time. Pray for God to HEAL!

Tomorrow night the entire unit moves to a new spot so the floors and everything can be cleaned here in PICU. All Elijah's cards had to come down from the walls today, and everything is packed up and ready to move.

Thank you for standing with us. We know that Elijah has been given to us as a gift from the Lord, and the number of days we get to enjoy him are in His hands. Pray that we enjoy all the days we have with our little boy. We are weary, but we know that there are so many holding us up. We could not do this alone. Thank you.

JJ and E

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Walk the Talk, Part Two

I’m not sure when I started doing this, but my mind often jumps from my present activity (whatever I’m doing at the moment) to the millions of women around the world who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to do the same thing as easily, as comfortably or maybe even at all. I guess it comes partly from living in Kenya and getting to know African and South Asian women there, partly from reading the international news as well as books about what life is like women in other cultures (have you requested your free copy of True Grit yet?) and partly from looking at Matt’s photos when he returns from a trip, hearing him tell about the people he meets on assignment.

For instance: It may look like I’m just digging in the garden, adding compost to the soil so I can plant lettuce and carrot seeds, but my mind is wrapped up in thinking about women in Kenya who do the same thing but without any enriching nutrients for the soil, without a water faucet anywhere for miles and without any assurance of rain. They plant as many rows as they can afford to fill with seeds, desperately hoping to harvest enough food for their families for the coming year, while I’m just clearing a small place along one side of the fence, hoping to have fun watching my kids discover how things grow and to save a little money at the grocery store this summer. For me this is a new hobby, a form of entertainment. For them, it's a matter of survival.

That’s just an example, but you get the idea. It’s not that I like dwelling on depressing things, but I am growing increasingly aware that (as an American woman of my generation, living at this time in history in a place like England) I’m incredibly, overwhelmingly, inexplicably blessed -- incredibly, overwhelmingly, inexplicably more than the vast majority of women in the world. And because I believe that God brings these things to my mind for a reason, I bring them back to Him in prayer. It’s all I can do at the moment.

When I’m watering the garden, I pray for adequate rainfall in places like Africa where countless lives depend upon it. When I pray over Jack and Sophie at bedtime, I pray for the mothers who watch helplessly as their children suffer from preventable diseases and malnutrition. When I look in on them asleep in their beds, I can’t help but pray for all the little ones all over the world who lack the love and care my babies swim in every day.

When Matt brings me flowers, I pray for women trapped in abusive relationships who’ve never experienced the tenderness of a man. When I get into a hot shower, I pray for the women in refugee camps around the world who will never know such luxury. When I drink cold water from the tap at my kitchen sink, I pray for those who have to walk for miles to carry dirty, disease-infested river water home to their families.

This is not because of any shred of saintliness on my part but simply because, if I was the one going through such hell-on-earth, I’d want someone to deliver me from it. And, especially as a mother, I feel a responsibility to do something -- to act in defense of those who are defenseless.

So as I find myself praying for the vulnerable ones of the world, I beg God to send strong, righteous people to intervene, to be their voice and their defender, to make a difference in their lives -- both in the here and in the hereafter. I have no idea why God allows rampant suffering on such a broad scale, but I believe that He intends for us who Have to reach out and help those who Have-Not.

That’s why I get really excited whenever I hear about people I know who are getting involved in some of these very things! Stepping out of their comfort zone. Doing unto others. Putting their faith into action. Walking the Talk.

Check out the websites on my sidebar. Some of these blogs are by friends who take Jesus seriously enough to:

• Raise their two small boys in a mud hut in Southern Sudan so that local Christians can be trained to carry out the Great Commission in their communities
• Live among and minister to prostitutes in the biggest slum of La Paz, Bolivia
• Return to Kenya with their son and daughter to pour themselves into the lives of children whose parents serve as missionaries throughout Africa
• Be a servant and travel the world for a year in order to catch a vision of what it means to live in obedience to Christ
• Volunteer to travel to Zambia and train local Christians in methods of dealing with human waste that can prevent the spread of disease and the contamination of drinking water sources

I don’t know how God may use me to help alleviate global suffering in years to come, but right now while I’m home with our kids, He’s giving me a hunger to learn more about the needs of women and children around the world, and He’s teaching me to pray, pray, pray.

I’m so deeply thankful for the people I know (and the many more I don’t) who are the specific answers to my prayers.

* * * * * * *
As the Scriptures say, "Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten." (2 Corinthians 9:9 NLT)

I'll tell you what it really means to worship the LORD. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused! (Isaiah 58:6 CEV)

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up, judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8,9 NIV)

Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly My disciples if you keep obeying My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8: 31-32 NLT)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 NASB)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Walk the Talk, Part One

So many things happening these last few weeks...
So many posts composed in the shower, in the kitchen, in the garden (but not on the computer)...
So many emails from so many wonderful friends still unanswered (please forgive)...

So, so many blessings!

Let’s start with the smallest one: Her name is Anna Elizabeth, she was born on Saturday, and I got to see her in all her sweet, pink, teeny-tiny loveliness last night. Oooooh, how absolutely perfect is a brand new baby? I turn into a big puddle of mushy baby-talk and tears whenever I see one. Now I completely understand why Christmas cards always portray Mary, Joseph and Company in a hushed circle around the baby Jesus, just gazing at Him in awe. Because -- in addition to His being the only Son of God -- He was, in fact, a newborn baby! And every baby is captivating in his or her own way. Every baby is a miracle, fresh-from-Heaven.

Little Anna’s name means Grace. And you know I cannot leave that un-commented on. It’s my very most favorite thing about God, the most powerful force in the universe and the only reason there is any Hope at all for the likes of me.

So immediately when I heard the name Andrew and Nicola chose for their beautiful baby girl, what ran through my head was the U2 song. Because it’s on one of my favorite U2 albums and because I’m a huge Bono fan. Because he Gets It. Because he’s doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons and (in my humble opinion, and this is my blog, so that’s what you get) in the Right Way.

Speaking of Bono, have you heard that he’s editing the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine? (He even lobbied to change that issue’s title to Fair Vanity, but alas! that didn’t go over too well.) It’s going to be all about Africa. Please, somebody, save me a copy.

And speaking of Africa (as I often do because you know everything always comes back to Africa for me), stay tuned. I'm out of time today, but I’ve got lots more to say... tomorrow!

* * * * * * *
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

(Music: U2 / Lyrics: Bono)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Elijah Update (June 3)

Good morning to our wonderful prayer warriors,

Thank you all for your prayers for Elijah and for your praises to God for His grand healing touch. We are so very thankful to God for touching our little boy and allowing the doctors to remove the vent, and we are so very thankful that Elijah has stayed vent free for a week now. Woo Hoo!

I knew that we liked our doctor. This week I found out that we have yet another connection with him. He is married to an MK (Missionary Kid). Anyone who has ever been an MK, or married to one, knows that there is a special connection with others who have the same experiences. We talked a little bit this week about world travels and especially Ethiopian food. Mmmmm. We have built some good friendships here. This class of residents will be graduating in a week and we have been able to meet all the pediatric residents in this class. They will be spreading out and hopefully taking what they have learned from Elijah to help other little ones.

I have been recommending to our doctors and nurses that short term medical missions is great. We have been surprised with the response of "I just never thought I could be used because I am not specialized in infectious diseases." (Don't worry Dr. Bransford, we set them straight!) So many of our medical friends have shared the need for help with surgeries or help with clinics. An amazing amount of work to be done throughout the world. I do not know how these doctors handle their work load, but we are so grateful for them.

We told you how our Pediatric surgeon is a special woman and how she really has grown attached to Elijah. She came in and checked out all of his wounds to see how they were healing and is so excited to see how well he is doing. When she first met us she asked us what we call him since they were to become "best friends". Since then for some reason she calls him Eli. He does not seem to mind at this point.

Do you have any children in your circle who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, or are you? We have noticed here that there is such a need for nurses these days. Especially in pediatrics. We would highly recommend getting into nursing. We have a nurse who began her schooling when her son did, and she is a woman who loves these little kids. We have nurses fresh out of nursing school who are learning so much about pediatrics. The motto here by one of them is: "We don't take care of ourselves so we can take care of you." Even on their days off they have called work to find out how Elijah is doing. So, become a nurse! You will find a job right away, that is for sure.

Elijah continues to have fluid build up in the tissue of his chest cavity. We are unsure as to why his body cannot pee off the fluid on his own. He now gets three different diuretics to help with this fluid. When the fluid is off, his breaths are full and relaxed, and when the fluid is there he goes with a full body breath. Our doctors think we may need to have him on these meds for several months until his Superior Vena Cava Syndrome clears up and his circulation improves.

He is doing a great job of breaking his addiction to his sedation medicines. He has been able to make it for at least 36 hours right now without any, but if he needs any he gets a small dose. With the smaller doses of sedation he is becoming more aware of the world around him. He is making the nurses do a bit more running, especially at night when his mom is at the Ronald McDonald House asleep.

Earlier this week Elijah was having some struggles breathing and so he was put on a CPAP machine to help get the full deep breaths. He handled that well for a 24 hour period and now is on a high pressure nasal canula. He does not seem to even notice this canula anymore. I am not sure what he will do without anything in his nose or down his throat. :)

Please continue to pray for Elijah. He has come a long way, and the battle has been tough. Pray that he will begin eating well, that his lungs will continue to heal from all the struggles, that he will pee off the fluid and that he will no longer require any sedation meds. There are many out there who are wanting to end their own lives, and Elijah has fought so hard to stay alive. Elijah has been an example to many of the fight for life. We must remember when he is older and giving us a hard time how much his fight to live saved him. God is still in the business of miracles. Never forget that!

Together in His service,
JJ and E

Friday, June 1, 2007

Me, Too

"Mommy, I like where you are."