Monday, December 26, 2011

Always in My Heart

I feel selfish when I say I miss Kenya at times. Here I am with an incredible husband, expecting a daughter, on the verge of owning our first home, and working in my dream career. Yet, there are days when I just ache for the countryside of Atemo with their maize fields and red clay roads. I wish Trav and I could pack up for a trip over there so he could experience a place that has captured a part of me. 

I also feel bad when sometimes I think everything is just too "white". Seems silly, right? I texted my sister in law a bit ago to ask if she ever just needs to be around other ethnic groups ( in my case, African) and if she ever wants to roam inner city LA I am more than happy to join her :) 

Thankfully it is when my heat is aching for the people of Kenya or when I feel that while I love my job and helping others in the medical field, I want to be amongst the lost and suffering, that God provides some way to fulfill that without sending me to the other side of the world. Right around Thanksgiving my in-laws hosted a night where they were providing a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless in Long Beach. What a blessing as it just happened to be at a time where I found myself longing to serve in a new way. Katie came along too and it ended up being a wonderful evening as we provided this community with a Thanksgiving feast. What I loved most was how they were served dinner at their seats. For some, I'm sure they may have never been served a hot meal or waited on in that way. I loved watching Trav interact with everyone there. From organizing in the kitchen to conversing with the homeless community while they ate just grabbed at my heart. While others passed out food my mother in law and I manned the kitchen, preparing more food or filling plates. It was such a joy being able to share moments like this with family and to know I married into a family who all have hearts for helping others.

At the end of the night we were all cleaning up. I heard my name called and I turned around to see Katie with these two adorable African American toddlers I had been eying all night. One of the little girls was leaning through the window with her arms stretched out my way. I did not hesitate to drop what I was doing and go scoop her in my arms. For a few minutes Katie and I had time with these two girls as we passed them between us. It was just what I needed to fill that hole although I did want to take those sweet girls home with us. 

That night I loved watching Katie serve in person. If you know her you know she has a heart of gold and changes lives wherever she goes. But usually I hear of her ways of service through stories, or blogs, or pictures from mission trips. But that night I witnessed it in person and was in awe. I watched as people came to her. From finding a family who often helps during these dinner Katie made sure they were welcomed by all and as much a part of our little group serving as we were. The little girls clung to her side and gazed at her with big eyes. I watched as she served dinner to the homeless community with a big smile and kind words. People responded when she was around. It was as if each person she passed by she touched in some way, leaving a little bit of light around their darkened lives. I also watched as she stood back at times and took in all in. I'm sure her writer's mind was racing with what she was feeling as she stood in their midst. It was such a special night and I look forward to going again with the Hardeman's church.

God used another family to show me a little bit of Africa. Many of you know the Brinks and there incredible adoption story. Their journey to Uganda, meeting their son, hurdles they jumped through, bumps in the road, and their journey home are living proof that our God is BIG and when something is in His plan He will most certainly guide the way. Following their journey through conversations, emails, and reading their blog was incredible to say the least. There were a few times she would write about Ugandan culture or post pictures of the city and I could envision myself back in Kenya with the people, "Kenyan time", the crowds everywhere, and the difference in lifestyles. They are home with their son ( Praise the Lord) and as I gazed at him wanting to kiss his soft cheeks I was flooded with memories of the precious children that came through our clinics. I was fighting back tears because here was one of those children right in front of me in a loving home with a huge future ahead of him.The Brinks are special people with having hearts for the lost children, the ones that may never experience what love is, and have been given a huge gift of a son who is now a member of one of the most loving families I know.

Our baby girl was given one special gift. One that will sit out in her room and will hopefully spark some good conversations at a young age. Her first doll straight from the heart of Uganda :

While I often search for a little piece of Africa, Baby H is going to have one with her from the moment she comes home. Maybe one day when she is old enough we will head back to Kenya as a family and I can introduce my daughter to some of the most incredible people I've come across. Until than, Trav and I will be open to the Lord giving us ways to serve right here. And pretty soon, taking our girl along with us!

Bowl Full of Jelly

Actually, a belly full of jelly is pretty much what it feels like right now. In fact the other night a friend put his hand on my belly to feel what it felt like and said, " It's like a water balloon." Yup, that is pretty much right on the dot. 

It amazes me how you can go from no belly but desperately wanting to be showing to waking up one morning and there she is! I swear mine popped out over night. Every morning I wake up, look down, and I am pretty sure she grew even more during the night. 

The best part is how feeling her went from "flutters" to full blown kicks, somersaults, and dance moves. I can feel her getting stronger by the week and I have to say, it's one of the most peaceful things to feel her move about in there. Until recently Trav was not able to feel her move. The other night I was laying in bed watching my skin move all over the place as she did a mini work out in there. Despite telling him it was not possible Trav decided he would see if he could hear her heartbeat. He placed his ear up against my abdomen but did he hear a heartbeat? Nope, instead he got one massive kick to the ear from his baby girl! He jumped back and yelled out her name. Than looked at me and said, " Holy cow that was her!" I imagine if she has some Kahler independence in her she was trying to tell him, " Dad, I'm doing my own thing right now. Let me be."

Another new thing with having a prego belly is how others react. Coming from a girl who has always fought with self consciousness and never wanted her belly looked at, exposed, or touched it is amazing how fast that flies right out the window. In the early stages of pregnancy Trav and I used to laugh about how people would try really hard not to stare at my stomach when we were talking but wanted to see if I was showing. I know I am guilty of doing the same thing to others. Now that our baby girl is having some serious growth spurts it has turned into a hand magnet. Co-workers I meet for the first time at work will casually come by my way and put their hand on my belly. A doctor I recently worked with was pregnant too and would come over to have us compare sizes or just to give my belly a pat. My girl friends even said they feel like their hand is just drawn to it and a long time guy friend couldn't help himself either much to his fiance's dismay that he needs to ask first. ;) Trav wakes up every morning and cradles his hands around it while he talks to her. Most nights too I wake up to him as he rolls over and somehow his hand finds her and rest gently right where she is.  But, I love it. I love how much our daughter is loved already. I love that all of these people are going to be snuggling her for real in just around 16 weeks. I love that she can hear what people are saying around her and familiarize herself with their voices. And I love having you all touch my belly. I'm pretty sure Baby H loves it too.

It's hard to believe we are at the 6 month mark and racing towards April. Although I'm not at the waddle around, can't sleep, unable to shave or tie my shoes yet I can't complain a bit about being pregnant. It is such a gift to be able to carry a child and know that everyday the Lord is designing something different in her. That He is making her unique in her own way already. And that inside me she is growing big and strong. It is as if we are already creating this incredible bond.

We are getting more and more anxious to meet our little one. And it's getting harder and harder not to slip with calling her by name in public!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


We are having a girl! I cannot even believe it! I'm pretty sure I squealed when the box opened and the balloons came out. What I loved even more was Trav's reaction.....
He had thought it was a girl all along. Dad's must know there girls =)
At one point I wanted to just open the envelope and find out but I am so glad we were patient and waited because it is a moment we will never forget. I can't thank my sister in law enough for the creative idea, for getting everything ready, and for capturing such a precious moment! 
 We cannot wait to hold our sweet daughter. I cannot wait to see Trav's heart be forever lost when he holds her for the first time. I can't wait to watch her grow up into a beautiful daughter of Christ and walk through this journey of life with her. I cannot wait to snuggle her and kiss her probably chubby cheeks. I cannot wait to rock her to sleep, to pray over her, and see her smile.

It is such a gift to be able to pray for our daughter by name now. For years we have prayed for our future family and kids. Than it was for "baby H'. And now, we can lift our daughter up in prayer together daily by name and it is the most incredible thing. While we won't share the name till she is born, every time Trav says it my heart fills with joy a little more.

Now, time to shop for some pink ;)

17 weeks...Time to find out!

Because our doctor would not do the diagnostic/gender ultrasound until later we decided we had no patience left in finding out if we were having a son or daughter. So my sister in law recommended an ultra sound place in Costa Mesa where they do 4D ultrasounds but they will also just do a gender one to find out the sex of the baby. For $20, how could we not!

We were both anxious to see our little one again. It had been 8 weeks since our last ultrasound and we knew there would be some huge differences.

I didn't sleep the night before. I felt like a little kid the night before Christmas or their first trip to Disneyland. We had a gender reveal set up so our plan was to have the tech just write in a note card what the gender was and we would take it to Heidi to get the rest ready.

I can't even begin to describe our excitement. I kept telling Trav, " This feels like our wedding day! " But we both agreed even better! The anticipation of the day, of knowing if we would have a son or daughter, and than the waiting to see what color the balloons would be in the reveal was too exciting.

Here is a picture before heading in to the ultrasound..
Nervous smile? Just a little ;)

The ultrasound tech got us all set up in the room and turned the tvs off until she found the gender, than we could see our baby. Our little one is stubborn already. The tech spent a long time locating what she needed and kept saying, " They have their butt up against your uterus with their legs crossed and curled up. I can't see a thing!" The "they" that she kept throwing in there was making me a little nervous so I finally asked, " How many are in there?!" Thankfully, still just one :)

 17 week profile
 Hello there legs
 Hardeman Toes?

After she was finally able to see the tvs were turned on and there was our sweet baby on the screens. We could not believe how big our babe was since the last ultrasound. And my, the legs were long! One pic showed them going all the way across my uterus. Uh oh.

 It was so hard to hold that envelope on the way to Heidi's house. It was a good thing we were both together because if it was just me delivering it, I can guarantee I would have opened it and tried to act surprised later!

We passed off the envelope and waited till it was time to take our pictures. In the car on the way to the park I was shaking. I could not contain my excitement! Heidi got everything set up and we found out we are having a.......

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Avocado

We just hit the 4 month....16 week....mark. Where is the time going?! In just a week we find out if our babe is a boy or girl! Eeeek! It's going to be hard being patient for one more week. We have a reveal planned for next weekend that I am so excited for. My talented sister in law will capture the moment with her photography skills followed by celebrating this new life with family and a few close friends.

The past 4 months have flown. Being in the second trimester is truly wonderful. I believe I may be one of those weird women who like being pregnant. But, ask me again when I am 35 weeks and waddling everywhere or Trav has to shave my legs because I can't see them ;)

I can feel Baby H move. Flutter, really. It is the most incredible feeling. I feel connected to him/her in this bizarre way, as if we are sharing this moment or communication between one another. If Trav presses on my belly when I am lying still, he/she will usually move after that...feeling like a butterfly kiss or sometimes a bubble.

Baby H is the size of an avocado now. That's big! The past two days a belly bump has started to appear. Bring on the belly band :) While I still become tired easily ( it would be much better if work was not so crazy) I can't complain because all in all I feel great. We had our second doctor's appointment this past week. I love that Trav gets so excited to come. He always has questions ready for the doctor. After weighing in Trav was concerned I was not gaining enough weight and worried because I don't have a big belly. ( Again, he won't be thinking this in a few weeks when I can't see my toes!) He quickly ran through his list of concerns with the doctor and learned we are right on track with everything. He's already a concerned dad for his little one.

I was hoping for an ultrasound but we didn't have one. The doctor did listen to the heart beat though. My sister had prepped me for this. She told me it can still be hard to find right away so not to panic if it took him a minute to find where the baby was. No need to worry though because as soon as he placed it on my uterus we instantly heard our baby's fast lil' heart pounding away. I could listen to it all day. Trav and I were both in such awe. Our God is so incredible. This pregnancy is taking my breath away as I can tangibly see how His work is progressing as He designs our child. Our doctor also showed us how to feel my uterus. What's funny is I have found, felt, and massaged ( after birth) the uterus of so many of my patients. However, I never thought to find my own! He showed us where it was and we both felt it. So cool.

I am also overwhelmed by how much Baby H is loved already. Our families can't wait to meet him or her, the nieces and nephews are so excited, and of course, the grandparents are all ready for another little one around. Our friends are already showering our baby with love and it brings me so much joy to know we are going to be bringing our child into this world that will be surrounded by people that love him/her so much. We are so blessed.

Cannot wait to find out what we are having. Stay tuned to see if our world will be filled with blue or pink! =)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

8 weeks

Our first ultrasound was done at 8 weeks; a little earlier than planned. This ultrasound feels like ages ago but it was only over a month.

It was a regular Saturday morning. Trav was at work and I woke up to find I was home alone. Curling up on the couch with some breakfast and my computer I became lost in the world of pinterest. As usual, I had to get up to use the restroom, my new favorite past time. As I went to flush ( sorry for the graphics) I realized the toilet was filled with blood. My first reaction was shock. I left the bathroom and sat on the couch. I didn't have any cramping. I didn't feel different. What was going on. I called my mom and sister which is where I than began to freak out. They both said: go be As a shaking, tearful mess I call the nurse advice line for Kaiser who said the same thing, " Always come in with blood."

Trav received a somewhat frantic phone call. I could barely get the words out. Without hesitating he told me he would leave work and meet me at the hospital in Irvine that we would deliver at. From his calming voice to constant texts he kept reminding me that God was in control and would protect our little babe.

The drive to the hospital I spent talking to my sisters and mom who were already praying their hearts out. When I couldn't talk anymore, I turned up the Fish and tried to focus on just getting to the hospital When we went inside we didn't even get a chance to sit down. As soon as they found out I was pregnant they took me right back to my room where the OB cart and everything was already waiting for me. The doctor was in within minutes. Since we hadn't had our pregnancy "confirmed" he ordered an ultrasound, along with blood work, IV fluids, and exams.

The nurse came into to tell me I needed a full bladder for the ultrasound and it would probably take 45 minutes. Trav and I both laughed while I replied, " Give me 7 minutes and I will have to go." With the IV fluids and large glass of ice water, I think it took 3 :) The ultrasound tech came in to grab me and she told Trav that we would be right back. The panicky feeling returned. Wait, my husband can't come with me?!? She informed us that in the ED it is patients only and he would have to wait. That may have been the worse kind of torture for both of us.

By the time we wheeled into the room, I was on the shaky side. Every thought was running through my head.  What if something is wrong with our child? Something that can't be fixed or saved? What if it's already to late? What if...what if...what if. I had to tune my rapidly running, worse scenario mind out with singing my favorite praise song.

Our ultrasound tech was not bubbly sweet kind. In fact, she took the monitor and turned it so I could not see. I wanted to cry. Please just let me see our baby. In response, I turned the opposite way and focused in on a spot on the wall while she clicked ad checked away. What felt like an hour later she casually said, " You can see your baby in a minute." What! The baby! Is he/she ok? As those thoughts were going through my mind she turned the volume on and I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard: our baby's heart beat. It was the faster lil "lub dub" but it was beautiful and I again found myself a weeping mess. I looked at the tech and managed to say, " everything is ok?" As she replied she turned the screen and this is what I saw:

She told me our baby had a strong, healthy heart beat. You could even see all four heart chamber moving in rhythm. I was overjoyed. But I wanted to get back to Trav to tell him! As we came back into the room, my sweet husband was sitting in his chair and I knew he had spent the past 15 minutes wondering what was going on with us. As the tech left the room she looked at Trav and said, " Congratulations, Dad!" His jaw dropped and he looked at me. I handed him the picture of his child and I think his jaw dropped a little more. With tear filled eyes he said, " That's our baby. " We rejoiced in our little hospital room and thanked the Lord for keeping him/her safe.

The doctor came back in to tell us what had happened. I was put on miscarriage precautions until cleared by my OBGYN. Which meant doing nothing that turned out to be much harder than I had thought. We were thankful for all of our family who flooded our phones with comforting texts and lifted us up in prayer throughout the afternoon. We definitely felt some peace through that. We came home to enjoy dinner with our Hardeman support team.

Baby Hardeman is one lucky child to be coming into a family that is filled with so much love and who is always there to support.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Natural

To say Trav is going to be a great dad is probably the biggest understatement I could say. He is going to be a terrific dad. A one of a kind. He's simply a natural. 

Knowing this was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. After meeting him, before we started dating, I brought him to dinner at my parents where at that time we only had 4 nieces and nephews running around. Although nervous with the family he immediately took to the kids. A month later Hudson B. was born and Trav waited up at night with me to hear the news and than asked to come to the hospital to meet him. Without a blink Trav treated my sister's kids as if they were his own. He loved on them, played for hours, and never said no when they asked him to do something. Over the next few years between our sisters 8 more were added to the mix and Trav loved each of them more each day. From endless hide and seek games, to movie nights, day dates, and slumber parties he melted my heart with what a natural he was. 

To think of Trav with our child makes me even more giddy for April. I cannot wait to see our baby snuggled up in his arms. 

Trav will be a dad who....
....never says no. I can't say I've ever heard him say no to a niece or nephew. He is always up for riding scooters, playing hide n seek, watching cartoons, playing a game, shooting hoops or throwing a baseball, going swimming, and more. Our kids are going to be awfully lucky!

....disciplines with love. He is the most patient, gentle, and kind person I know. Having never raised his voice at me or been angry, I know he is going to be a great leader and a great example to our kids of having such a kind heart. While I know he will discipline, I also know it will come from love and what is best for our kids.

....always laugh. There will be times when we are burnt out or our kids are sad, but Trav always manages to find the good in a situation and make people smile. Our house will be filled with laughter.

....prays. Baby H has been added to our daily prayer list and this is only the beginning of years to come for praying for our children. A few weeks ago I kept waking up in the morning remembering Trav's hand on my abdomen. I thought I was going crazy and having weird dreams that always ended up with his hand there. I finally asked him if I was indeed crazy and he responded with," No, when you are already asleep I like to put my hand on our baby while I pray for him/her." My heart melted. Our baby is so blessed.

....encourages. He will without a doubt push our kids for greatness and encourage them the whole way. 

.... leads by example. My prayer has been our children would grow up following in the footsteps of their dad and the kind of person he is. From a kind heart, to a sense of humor, a love for others, and a life devoted to Christ, our kids will have quite the dad to look up to!

....loves. Having one of the biggest hearts I know, love is going to pour out all over our kids. No matter what goes wrong or what mistakes are made, Trav is going to love our kids to pieces. He will set an example for loving others no matter what and to always put those you love before yourself.

I could go on and on but those are the highlights. While the Lord has been preparing Trav for fatherhood his whole life, the past 7 years we have been together He has used our nieces and nephews to help prepare Trav for the dad he would one day be. Click on the link and the pictures will give you a glimpse....

He's Going to be a Great Dad!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Waited a long time.....

....for a plus sign!

Ever since I was younger I've dreamed of being a mom. Than in high school I became an aunt and my world changed for the better. I've loved every minute with my wonderful dozen of nieces and nephews. But it always made me want to be a mom that much more. I found myself watching all my sisters and tucking tid bits of motherhood aside in a little file in my mind for that "one day" when it would be our turn.

Trav and I have wanted kids for a long time.....a really long time. But the timing was never right and we were so blessed to share a few years of marriage together to grow, be adventurous, and prepare for parenthood. As soon as I finished nursing school I thought that for sure it would be our time. Of course, my time and God's time have never been the same thing so I spent months praying every month that Aunt Flow would not visit and found myself taking pregnancy tests just because. Trav, the more level headed one in our marriage, reminded me that it was not up to us when we would have a baby. No matter what we did or didn't do, ultimately it was in the Lord's hands and He already knew when the "right time" would be. After alot of prayer, Trav and I both let go. We were ready to step back and let God's plan unfold. And did it ever.

For the past few years we have both felt as if there have been a lot of steps backwards. While we watched many others around us move forward we both always felt like we were either stuck or taking a step back. Silly, I know, but it felt that as much as we prayed and tried to rely on His plan, there were just no answers. After many job rejections I landed a series of interviews. One being with Kaiser. I almost didn't go. I showed up to the interview and almost left. I bombed my second interview and bawled my eyes out. Th next day they called and offered me a job. I just about fell off my seat. Months...years....of planning and praying to be a working nurse, the Lord opened up a job at Kaiser of all places. 

Soon after we began searching for places to live and found where we were going to move. ( Plans have changed since than.) We began seeing how in both our jobs things were slowly falling into place. Finally. The following weekend we celebrated a dear friend as she graduated nursing school. The prior week I had been feeling off. Really tired and just not normal. After the grad party I had some time so of course I went to browse at Target, a favorite past time. On a whim I bought a pregnancy test. I still don't know why. I came home to an empty house where while I was getting ready to go out for the night with friends I took it. While waiting for the results I literally had a conversation with myself about how silly I was for buying one and wishfully thinking it could be positive. Before going back in I had a nice chat with God about how I will keep letting go and continue trying to be patient for His timing. I almost through the test away without looking at it. But one glimpse was all I needed. This is what I saw.....

My reaction: I screamed. Looked at it again. Squealed. Burst into tears of a joy I had not felt before. Trav was working late and all I wanted to do was tell him. But I had to wait. I went out with friends and found myself shaking the whole night because I could not believe it. Trav met us after work but I encouraged that we leave and get food. There was not a chance I could be in the same room as him and not tell him.

We drove to In n Out ( classy, right?) and I handed him a gift. He opened it to find these:

He looked in the bag and back at me. Of course, I was sitting there with tears spilling all over the place. And than, my big strong husband, formed tears the size of giant rain drops and said, " Really? We really are?" Yup! If you have ever seen an excited Trav you can envision our next hour. Before anything, he wanted to make sure we got ahold of Katie before she left for Europe for a weeks. He was bubbling over on the phone. We went inside to eat and Trav was in such awe he couldn't stop talking. He was so excited he was pacing around inside waiting for our food and kept saying," I'm going to be a dad!" We stayed up late, taking another test, offering up prayers of thanks, and talking about this next journey.

We didn't wait to tell our family. I had many plans on how we would tell my parents and the Hardemans but they were tossed out the window. We were too excited, I couldn't wait a whole month to tell my parents, and we wanted to share our joy with those we love so much! 

We cannot wait to add a member to our quickly growing families. We cannot wait to see our baby held and loved on by his/her many aunts, uncles, and cousins. After being there for the births of our nieces and nephews to watching them grow up, we cannot wait to see them holding our child. God is so good and we are in awe of His timing and faithfulness. 

"Every good an perfect gift comes from above." James 1:17

Thursday, June 30, 2011

God is WILD about you!

"He's Wild! He's Wild! God is Wiilllddd about YOU!" Trav has come to find it normal that I dance around the house singing this song with my hands in the air doing the hand motions. No, it's not a new release on the Fish. It's even cooler than's from Vacation Bible School last week!

Due to school or work I haven't been able to help with VBS since I was in high school. When I realized that this summer my schedule is a little too free, I jumped at the chance to spend a week with these kiddos and teach them about how God really is wild for each one of them. My good friend put the whole week long event together and did an incredible job. I mean, incredible. Even the smallest details were planned with perfection. What amazed me even more was that throughout the week she never showed signs of stress or being frazzled. There was always a smile on her face. It was contagious.

The theme this year was Panda Mania, God is WILD about you! The kids loved it! From visits from Kung Fuey every morning to movie mania, tasty snacks, bible adventures, water games, and cool crafts we had busy fun filled mornings. I had a class of 11, all mixed ages, that was named "Komodo Dragons". One girl in my crew made up our cheer that went like this, " Komodo Dragons one by one. We shine God's light because we are having fun!" So cute! 

One of my favorite parts of the week was having Vander, my nephew, in my crew. I didn't think they would let him because he is only 4 but they did! It was so fun watching him get excited about everything, learn the memory verses, wanting to help the Living Water fund and walk away talking about the Bible stories along with everything he learned. It was a fun week from our car rides to and from VBS, watching his little faith grow, hiding from the water gun shooting panda, and getting to spend so much time together! For being only 4 I was amazed at how he kept up with the big kids and how smart he is! On the last day he volunteered to go up front and recite a memory verse in front of everyone! Way to go Van!
Van going into the belly of the big fish for bible time!

At the end of the week there was a wrap up BBQ held at the school with bounce houses, hot dogs, ice cream, and.....the real Jana Alyra. :) We took Van and Huddy as our dates. I have to say, it was one of the best nights we have had. We grabbed our hot dogs and hamburgers, spread out our blanket, and before you knew t we were having a picnic with some of the other kids from our crew. Vander and Huddy ran off with Brandon, another Komodo Dragon, and disappeared into the land of the bounce houses! During the concert they sat up towards the front and danced the whole time. Both were called up on stage to sing with Jana. They loved it! After dropping them off I looked at Trav and said," Nights like this make me..." and before I could complete my sentence he finished it for me by saying, "...excited to have kids one day!" 

It was a special week, both with Van and being able to lead a group of fantastic kids into being on fire for the Lord. At a time where I have been missing Kenya I was thankful and blessed for the opportunity to serve His children right here. The book, Heaven is for Real, stresses how much Jesus loves the children. I can truly see how He works through them to reach all of us. There is nothing like a child's faith!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Learning to Surrender

I took a small hiatus from bloggin about my Kenya trip. I guess I did for many reasons. My brother in law got married at the beginning of June and with all the festivities, I forgot about hopping on here. After coming home from Santa Rosa we had family visiting from the Philippines and than I went right into teaching VBS for a week. But let's face it, those really aren't reasons just excuses I have made up in my head. The real reason I was purposefully not making time to sit down and recap my trip was simply: I miss Kenya.

The other day my husband and I were watching, Invictus. Thinking back, since I have been home from either trip I have never watched a movie that took place in Africa. I spent the movie missing the little things. The run down buildings. The half painted walls. Children running around the street, barefoot with torn clothing. Random games being played along the side of the road. Women walking around with their possessions on their heads. The music. The language. Crowded streets. The people. I was homesick. I had that feeling in my gut that I used to get when I would go away for summer camp and missed being home. Why do I miss Kenya so much? Why can't I let this reverse culture shock go? Why do I wake up in the morning and wish there was a mosquito net over my bed? Why do the faces of the children run through my dreams? Why does my heart ache throughout the day to be back in the countryside?

The other night we were at the Fishfest and my sister in law asked me how my reverse culture shock is. I lied at first and said ok. (Actually, I never fully told her how rough it's been because I probably would have burst into tears in public.) Than, I opened up a little. She must have been reading my mind because she asked right at the time I was sitting there listening to the music thinking, "If only I could pick this concert up and drop it in the middle of Atemo." She is one of the few people I can say I think it's weird being in a place with so many white people and not think I am out of my mind. ;) 

You probably think I am crazy since I was only there two weeks. Maybe you are right. But it's something I can't totally describe. It's where I am supposed to be. I am without a doubt called to serve there. I am not saying pack up and move. However, I do know that somehow I will always return.

I think one of the hardest things is finding my purpose right now. Not having a job is rough. It makes me feel like my days aren't worthwhile. I need to snap out of that quickly. But these thoughts keep running through my head." I'm made for something more. I want to help the worst of the worst. I want to walk among people who are in a great need of love, healing, and you, Lord. I want to be challenged. I want to be taken out of my comfort zone. I want to be stripped of all things worldly. I want to be a trader." I wake up to these thoughts. They run through my dreams. They are there in the shower, in church, while I eat. It's constant. So, what does it mean, Lord? What am I supposed to be doing? What is my ministry right now, right here?

A good friend who we refer to each other as "africa sisters" gave me this soon after I came home...

Two weeks ago a missionary came to our church and said, “In college the Lord asked me if I would go anywhere for Him. And knowing my heart He then asked, even the United States?”

This spoke volumes to me. While I was in Uganda last January through March I fell in love with the people of Kampala. I saw our family living there, serving in the slums, the orphanages, and filling our home with kids off the streets. While I was there the Lord spoke to my husband and He asked Nathan if he would be willing to move our family to Uganda someday. He said yes.

For months my heart ached and I obsessed about going back. I asked the Lord, “Why aren’t we there Lord? Why are we here? We are willing to go. Why haven’t you called?”

Through prayer I have come to understand that just because He asked, it doesn’t mean go. He may have asked to see if we were willing. He may have asked because someday we will go. I don’t know why He asked, but I do know that He is perfect and His plan is perfect.

Several months ago in an evening church service the Lord pointed His loving finger at an area in my heart I needed to surrender…

my will.

So I wept to the alter and laid down my will.

And traded it in for His.

Right now His will is for us is to serve right here in this city.

And I have found victory.

Victory in picking up garbage off the sidewalks with my children.

Victory in holding hands with saints in the nursing home.

Victory in praying with aching, addicted, women who do desperately want Jesus.

Victory in watching my oldest daughter serve turkey to people in this city for her birthday.

Victory in playing board games with men and women who do not have a place to call home.

Because the people in Marion, Indiana and Kampala, Uganda are all His children.

This city, Marion IN, is the perfect place for me and my family right now.

He is perfect.

He is always perfect.

His will is perfect.

And He always, always knows what is best.

This is His best for me.

And I love where He has me.

So, I am ready to surrender. Ready to let Him show me what He has in store for me right here. To let His will be done. Please, lead me to where I can help, Lord. I am thankful that He does know what is best for my life and I am waiting with an open heart for whatever is next. 

Here is a song from the movie Invcitus that I love. Pretty sure I leave it on repeat multiple times a day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kenyan Meal

During our time in Kenya we really ate like royalty. It's funny because I packed bags of snacks ( granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and more) thinking I really wouldn't eat that much. But, once again, I forgot. I had forgotten how much I love the food there. Call me crazy, it's ok. :-)

Pictured above is one of our usual dinners. I will do my best to describe the food to you. Your mouth may not be watering right now, but after one bite of chapati you will want it every day!

Teeny Tiny Bananas: Though small, they are scrumptious. And a safe fruit to eat on our own without worrying about getting sick. They are literally as big as my finger but completed any meal!

Chapati: ( by the bananas, looks like tortillas) I am in love with chapati. We had a cooking lesson where we learned how to make it. Once we are back from the wedding weekend I plan on introducing Trav. It is kind of a mix between a tortilla and flat bread. It is cooked on the griddle and so, so, so yummy!

Kachumbar:  ( behind chapati, red dish) A mix of chopped tomatoes and onions with a little pepper. 
(and probably something else) Surprisingly, a dish that seems so plain was so good! You usually eat it with ugali and one night we put it on noodles which was excellent.

Goat ribs: The first night we had them I devoured mine. They were so good! i was assuming it was chicken. No, that is a lie. It was darker than chicken but I guess I didn't want to question the source of my protein. Joel made a joke that one of the guard dogs was missing. Low and behold when we were finished we learned it was goat. First time I had it and loved it.

Ugali: ( the big, white ball) Ugali is a staple in Kenya. In the villages, it is eaten everyday. Usually the kids just get one serving of ugali each day. That's all they eat. If they are lucky they may have beans served with it or sukuma wiki. But since they all have maize crops it is the easiest and cheapest form of food. It is also served with meals at restaurants. You usually eat it by rolling it up with your fingers and dipping or scooping up the side dish with it.

Sukuma Wiki: ( the bowl of greens ) A make shift veggie stew. Usually kale, I believe. ( my mom would be proud I ate it!) The name itself means " stretch the week" because when they eat it they make it last a really long time.

So, as you can see, we did not go unfed. Instead, we ate traditional Kenyan meals and fell in love with some! Ooo, I am craving a warm piece of chapati right now!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Clinic begins!

Our first day of clinic was here! I would like to say I bounded out of bed. But it definitely took some stretching, yawning, and a," can't I just hit my snooze for 5 more minutes?" to get up. I will say though, it felt great to put scrubs back on. We organized everything we would need for the day than headed up to the big guest house for breakfast. ( ok, and some much needed coffee!) Once again we were spoiled by the ladies in the kitchen with a breakfast feast! The vans were packed and we were off!
( Please note in this picture the helmet was totally necessary. If you sat in that seat as a man you were guaranteed a head injury. Earl learned the hard way on the drive to Atemo.)
There was something I had forgotten about the last trip. The drives. As we road through Atemo than on to the dirt roads leading to the clinic, kids lined the streets shouting, "Mazungos! Mazungos!" You would hear squeals as they first looked at the vans coming down the road and than saw they were filled with Americans. Out in the fields men and women would stop their plowing or planting to stand up straight and watch us drive by. We were constantly waving and I don't think you could wipe the smiles off our faces as we waved to these little ones.

As we pulled into the clinic compound our eyes grew wide as we saw there was a crowd waiting for us. The word was out: American doctors are in town! Most of the kids stared right back with wide eyes as the strange white people unloaded the vans. Surprisingly, clinic was set up rather quickly and before I knew it I had my first patient!
Yes, it was a child. I knew right than it was going to be a great day because I already was able to snuggle a sweet Kenyan. We moved at a fast pace. The triage station was right outside my room and I often would grab patients to triage myself to help the flow and also, if you recall from my post here, I was slightly timid prescribing and diagnosing on my first day. There was a good amount of women that came through my door that day, all complaining of back pain, headaches, inability to sleep, and pain "everywhere." I prescribed them pain meds but I wanted to say, " Let me give you a day off. How about you just go rest and relax. I'll walk the miles and get your water for you today." Think about that. How often to you find yourself saying," I'm tired. It's been one of those days and I need a break. To just get away and have time to myself." I do it all the time which is comical because I am unemployed, no longer a student, and I don't have children. These women don't know what time to themselves or simply relaxing for a day is. I would give anything to have taken their workload for a day so they could rest. But, instead, along with their pain meds, they were given a warm smile, a casual hug, or a gentle rub on their back.

Above are pictures of patients waiting outside the pharmacy for their meds as well as the inside of the pharmacy in Tala. Let me tell you, these ladies worked hard! For each person who came to the window there were 2-3 prescriptions that needed to be filled for each member of the family of 4-5. They stood on their feet all day and never once complained. They were quite the pair!
Joel and Brenton were hard at work treating patients all day. Sharing their room was a Kenyan doctor as well. I could hear them talking from where I was in my room and I would listen in as Joel explained everything in great detail to Brenton, who being pre-med soaked it all up. Joel is great with all who come through the door but he is especially great with the kids. I could hear the slaps of high fives and the compliments on "princess" dresses. The kids loved him just as much!
It amazes me also how there was a constant patient flow all day. Never a lull or a lag. Just one after the other from start to finish. And they all waited so long. I get beyond impatient if I have a doctors appointment and they do not call me back on time. Yet these people come early in the morning and hang out all day long until it is their turn. Some even get sent away, unseen, when clinic is over.

I had to sneak away at times to check on the kids outside. Sometimes I wondered why they were staring at me so weird because I forgot that my white skin stuck out to them. I look back at the pictures I have with the kids and I can't help but see the absolute beauty of our skin colors next to each other.
Taking pictures of all the kids was a hoot because they all love seeing themselves on the screen afterward. They would squeal and shriek, some even were a little shy, as they picked each other out of the pictures. Even the moms and grandmas liked to see them too! 

Our first day of clinic was a great success. ( Well, minus my ooops incident but I will write about that in a different post!) Driving home was similar to the drive to clinic as we all waved to kids the whole way home. Dinner was once again a feast and we were so spoiled by our chefs! The night ended with starting a game of "Phase 10" that would later be known as "Skip Larry" only to be played every night until usually midnight. Who needs sleep, right?

After a great first day we were ready for another day of clinic, another day to be God's hands there in Kenya, to love on His precious people, and another day to let His light shine through us.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Elephants Play Soccer & Drink From Bottles

We landed in Nairobi early in the morning after flying for 17 hours plus an 8 hour layover. It felt great to get off the plane. We breezed through customs, loaded up our 24 bags, and were greeted with warm smiles from Lorna Meeker ( Pastor Meeker's wife) and Emmanuel, one of our drivers. Since our flight to Kisumu did not leave until 6pm that evening, we decided to do a little shopping in Nairobi. But first, shower! By this time most of us had been wearing the same thing for 3 days and I hadn't shower in just as long. The ELC-K guest house is located on Embassy row in Nairobi. If you remember pictures from my last trip we stayed here our first night. ( and we would stay here our last night on this trip.) The room in the picture below is the same room I had previously :-)
Driving through the streets of Nairobi brought back memories. It's crowded and the driving is insane yet I love it. We headed to a shopping center to start our souvenir shopping. We all found some good finds and than Scarlet said she had a surprise for us but we had to hurry to make it in time. None of us had a clue what it could be. Before we knew it we were driving on dirt roads through bushes to what looked like that middle of nowhere. We pulled into a make shift parking lot and Dr. Larry said, " What are we doing? Feeding lions out here?!" Scarlet grinned mischievously and said, "No, baby elephants!" 

Pretty cool, huh? They were really cute and really hairy! Never did I imagined that an elephant would be so hairy but they are! These elephants are all rescued from the wild. Most of their mom's were killed for their tusks and the babies were found close by. With no chance of survival, they are rescued and brought here to be taken care of until they are old enough to head back out to fend for themselves. And yes, they drink out of bottles. It's a baby formula much like the ones here in the states. 

They also play soccer  =)
These adorable kids were on a field trip!

Mud bath time!
Pumbas =)

While leaving the baby elephant are we stopped to see a RHINO! When I did the safari a few years ago, over a course of 3 days we never saw a rhino. And now there was one inches from my face. He walked right up to the gate and put his horn to it. Pastor Earl stuck out his hand and grabbed it. Katelyn and I followed suit and the next thing you know we were petting a real, live rhino. :-)

It was lunchtime so we headed to the Java House which is delish! Their coffee is famous much like Starbucks is here but they serve really good food also. After that it was back to the airport to fly to Kisumu! ( Please notice the hand written air plane tickets!)

Touching down in Kisumu was such an incredible feeling. As we drove on the bumpy roads to the village of Atemo it felt as if I was coming home. You know that feeling when you go back to your parents house after being gone. Where everything smells the same, sounds the same, and you feel safe...where you are right where you are supposed to be. That is what it felt like returning to Atemo. 

We stayed on the compound that housed the clinic from last time. There are some guest homes there, mingled in with homes where Lutheran missionaries are living as well as Kenyan seminary students who are attending the Lutheran sem in Kenya. ( This made my mom feel better!) As I stepped out of the van with my back to the house I heard my name called out. I turned to see a Kenyan man saying, " Emma! Emma!" as he walked towards me. He greeted me with a hug while saying." You came back! You came back! What took you so long?" I still tear up thinking about Joshua. A man I saw maybe for a day two years ago and here he was, shouting my name and hugging me. Welcoming me back to his village. 
 The house where Katelyn, Larry, Brenton, and I stayed
The main guest house where the others slept, where we ate, showered, & played cards till midnight!

After a delicious Kenyan dinner ( of course with Chapati), sorting of medications we would take and a cold shower it was off to bed. Snuggled up under my mosquito net with my flashlight close by I was out for the night. The next morning we would begin our clinics and I couldn't wait!