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Snow

by Samuel, on the morning following our first snowfall

Overnight
in the dark
fall,
a whisper
hints
the coming of the
snow.
We jump to the
window,
excited,
and look
outside.
The
rain has begun its
transformation
into the
beauty of the
crystal
raindrops.

Image

(a poem written in the woods by a golf course)

By the golf course, in the woods

lies a lesson of grace…

Off the fairway, past the rough,

out of bounds, beneath the trees

Dead leaves, shrubs and brambles hide

the lost, the abandoned ones

Once, carefully handled but

somehow errantly flew

Now they are lost, left behind

There was no time to search well

So here they forlornly lay…

I find them silently still

Each ball has a story of how

It soared, bounced, rolled, to be lost

Where I in wonder reach out

Pick up, dust off, make my own

Apparently redeeming it.

But not really. For in truth,

I’m just another golfer

who abandons balls as well

I’m glad God is not like me

Not just another golfer

He never abandons those

who find themselves past the rough

out of bounds, beneath the trees

He always finds, knows just where…

You are and will not leave you

in dead leaves, shrubs and brambles

beneath the trees out of bounds

past the rough off the fairway

in the woods by the golf course.

 

A Jaundiced Journey

Saturday, May 12

I will never forget this day as long as I live.  AT LAST!!!  After a month in Asuncion waiting for Anna to be born, it was finally time to go back to Yuty.  We hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, as usually happens the night before we travel. We stayed up late and got up early to pack our many things – so much stuff that we were taking a trailer with us back to Yuty.

Nathan & Samuel’s biological grandma Sherry & “Paraguayan grandma” Ema, who worked for us for 7 years.

Consolation prize: while Stirling girls held his daughter, Dan held their dog!

Anna woke up with a bit of dark saliva dried on her face. I asked Jeff, our doctor colleague who was also staying at the Guest House, about it. Seeing how far down her body the yellow had progressed, he guessed that it could be another side effect of jaundice and recommended that we stop at the hospital on our way out of town to have her bilirubin levels tested. We did, and then continued on our way. It was a great trip with some special visits, introducing Anna to missionary colleagues and other friends along the way.

Catching some rays during the car ride.

At about 6 in the evening, just over an hour away from arriving in Yuty, we got a call from our family doctor in Asuncion. He’d gotten Anna’s lab results and was very concerned. Her bilirubin levels were dangerously high – in the range that can cause brain damage. He said we needed to return to Asuncion, since the only treatment may be a blood transfusion and no hospitals between where we were and the capital would be able to do that.

Words cannot describe the horribleness of that moment. We were so tired, we’d come so far, Anna was in so much danger . . . We’d already been in Asuncion for so long, we’d miss Mother’s Day at church in Yuty, the boys wouldn’t get to march in the Independence Day parade, my mom may not make it to Yuty at all . . . We prayed, turned around, and started the long trip back, encouraged along the way by calls and messages from friends and colleagues who started praying as soon as we texted them the news. God gave us peace, joy and strength as we went and the return trip went relatively quickly.

Dan left Anna and I at the emergency room and returned to the Guest House with Nathan, Samuel and my mom. They arrived 15 hours after we’d left that morning, unloaded part of what was in the car and trailer, and collapsed into bed. What a day.

Sunday, May 13

In the elevator on our way upstairs from the emergency room, one of the nurses told her co-workers that this was the baby that So-and-So (the emergency room resident) had delivered. Later another of our nurses told her colleague that I was the one who’d shown up at the emergency room 10 cm dilated. I hadn’t realized we were famous!

They put Anna onto a light table right away, which she hated. The most torturous part of it for our alert, wide-eyed wonder was being blindfolded. Everyone was impressed at the strength with which this little four-day-old resisted. While on her belly she was able to push herself up on her knees, “stand up” on her feet, push herself across the table, and even roll over. She wiggled so violently over the next few days that she rubbed her clipped-off piece of umbilical cord off. Her screams brought frequent visits from sympathetic nurses who constantly suggested I take her out to nurse, for which I was very thankful. They never put her on an IV or gave her anything from a bottle.

We praise God that, thanks to a day of sun shining on her in the car, the effectiveness of the light table, and the prayers of many, her dangerously high bilirubin levels dropped dramatically her first day in the hospital. We were comfortable and well-taken care of (Anna would strongly disagree with the former!), celebrated American Mother’s Day in the hospital, and after repeated steadily decreasing lab results, were released on Monday, Paraguayan Independence Day. How incredibly thankful we were that she never needed the blood transfusion that our doctor thought was so probable.

The roller coaster ride wasn’t over yet. We went to the hospital the next day to get her bilirubin level tested again. Unfortunately, it had risen. One doctor said he thought we could still go home; we called my mom at the Guest House and she started packing. (Again!) A little while later another doctor called advising us to stay and wait 24 hours for another test. Not wanting a repeat of the almost-but-not-quite-making-it-all-the-way-home trip, we opted for caution and stayed, unpacking our stuff. (Yet again.)

Posing with our kids & our Mother’s Day presents.

This was Paraguayan Mother’s Day, and we did some special celebrating together to ease the disappointment of yet another day away from Yuty. It was now less than a week before Mom flew back to the U.S. If we didn’t leave soon, she wouldn’t get to Yuty at all.

Same routine the next morning – we left early for the hospital, hoping for a lower result & a trip that day to Yuty. But another disappointment awaited us. The analysis machine at the hospital was broken, and they wouldn’t have her results until the afternoon. That would be too late for us to pack up and make the long drive home. Arg. She had her test anyway, and a one-week check-up at the doctor, and we returned to the Guest House, wondering what would be more disappointing: to pack up and not be able to go, or to be told we could go but not be ready. We were giving Anna her sun treatment while still deliberating, and got a phone call from the doctor. Lower levels!! We could go!! Her bilirubin still wasn’t as low as it had been when she left the hospital, but it moving in the right direction and we were given the green light to head home. What a relief to finally pack up, make the LONG drive, and actually get all the way to Yuty!! We were only there for three days with Mom before having to pack up and leave again, but it was a very special and memorable time together.

In Pursuit of Papers

(A note of explanation is in order here. Why work on paperwork so soon after she’s born? Because we’re leaving on our home assignment in just a couple of months, we had to start things right away for her to have documents necessary to travel by the time we leave.)

Wednesday, May 9

Only one day old, and we started getting Anna’s paperwork. Stops at two different places didn’t get us the birth certificate we were hoping for, due to complications with last names. Paraguayans have two last names, their mom’s and dad’s, and the first place we tried wouldn’t do it either the Paraguayan or the North American way.

“You think I was born yesterday . . .!?”

Dan wishes we had a picture of Anna here, to caption, “What!? You won’t do my birth certificate? You think I was born yesterday? Oh, wait. . . I was!”

Thursday, May 10

Samuel, Nathan & Grandma, patiently occupying themselves while we wait at yet another office.

A marathon. We spent the morning getting her birth certificate (success!), and three hours in the afternoon at the building that issues ID cards (ready in a month).

The last stop of the tiring day was to the mall to get her picture taken for the passport we were going to apply for first thing the next morning at the U.S. Embassy. As if the long day hadn’t been long enough, when we went back after an hour to pick up her picture, they told us it hadn’t turned out and they had to do it again. Eventually we got back to the Guest House, exhausted but so proud of our two-day old & how well she’d done through a long day!!

Friday, May 11

More successful paperwork; this time applying for her passport at the U.S. embassy.

God’s Alarm

I could write pages about the many ways God answered prayer throughout this pregnancy and delivery, but I’ll tell only three stories, all of which happened within minutes of each other. God woke up three important people at just the right time:

  • Kelly. During our sons’ birthday party I had talked to Kelly about picking her up on our way to the hospital – whenever that eventually happened. That night she woke up, realizing that she’d left her cell phone downstairs. She went down to get it and only minutes later, we called.  It was a good thing she came along — with as fast as everything went, Dan would have missed the whole birth if he’d had to do the checking in that Kelly did for us.
  • Jean. Our good friend and colleague woke up inexplicably at 1 am, thought, “Christie could be having her baby” and prayed for us for the next hour. That was exactly the hour in which everything happened!
  • Dr. Schmidt. Our doctor also woke up inexplicably in the middle of the night, feeling like he was missing out on something. Right then he got the call from the hospital and arrived sooner than he would have if he’d been sleeping. Although Anna came so fast that he missed the delivery, he did get there in time to stitch me up afterwards. He said that was a good thing, as the emergency room resident doctor who delivered Anna hadn’t had experience stitching tears.

We praise God for waking up these important people at just the right time!

 

Samuel’s birthday lunch.

Monday, May 7

Samuel’s 11th birthday!

 

Samuel, opening presents.

I’m two weeks after my due date. Could this be the day, at last? Looks like it . . . contractions started in the middle of the night, about 30 min apart, until early in the morning when they were consistently every 11-12 min. We spent the rest of the day – through homeschooling, birthday breakfast & lunch of Samuel’s choosing – wondering at what point we’d go to the hospital.

Denny, 18. Samuel, 11. Born with the same doctor in the same hospital. Too bad Anna didn’t also come on May 7 to make it a trio!

But by the time we had a double birthday party that night (Denny Stout turned 18 the same day), the contractions had almost stopped. I started walking laps around the Guest House property, chatting with friends. Across the property, down a flight of steps, across the bottom, up a ramp, and again and again. Dan later commented that maybe I’d done a few laps too many, as shortly after that the real excitement started. . .

Tuesday, May 8
Midnight – A STRONG contraction in the shower.
12:30 am– Another one.

12:45 am– Three more, in close succession, make Dan realize it’s time to go to the hospital. He gathers some things besides what I’d already packed and in miserable agony I get in the car. We pick up Kelly Stout (who, only minutes before Dan called her, had woken up and realized she’d left her cell phone downstairs) to help us check in while Dan stays with me.
1:30 am– We arrive at the emergency room and I get right on a bed. The doctor in charge checks the baby’s heartbeat (after finding batteries for the machine, which didn’t work the first time she tried). We ask her to call our doctor, but she wants to check the cervix first. She’s surprised to find me completely dilated and the baby crowning!! They quickly rush me upstairs, get me on the delivery table, and I start pushing. More accurately, I start screaming. Dan, my excellent labor coach, gave me helpful advice: “That last contraction you only screamed. You didn’t breathe or push. Next time, breathe and push.” I did and. . .

The emergency room resident doctor, minutes after delivering Anna.

2:00 am – Anna Christina bursts into the world, after just two pushes and barely half an hour after we’d arrived in the hospital. She ‘s laid on me, white slime and all, and takes a first few drinks before being taken away to get bathed, weighed, etc. The resident emergency room doctor delivers her since our doctor didn’t make it on time, but he does arrive soon enough to stitch me up.

Meanwhile, Kelly is still doing our paperwork downstairs. Dan goes down to help her finish and to park the car, which is still sitting outside of the emergency room. By the time I’m cleaned off and sewed up, we’re all back together in the room.

For the next five hours, Anna the wide-eyed wonder looks around, wiggles (leaving the womb didn’t change that personality feature!) and fusses a little. We get an idea of her social personality when she stopped crying as soon as the doctor walked into the room and started as soon as he left!

The next morning Kelly came back with Nathan & Samuel, my mom, and another colleague, Amy. Unforgettable first moments together!!

Incredibly, both Anna and I were doing so well the doctor let us leave that very day from the hospital. He didn’t give the order until rather late, and it took a while to do the paperwork. Were we ever surprised to get back to the Guest House at 10 pm to find a surprise party awaiting!! It seemed surreal that less than 24 hours before we were together celebrating Samuel’s birthday – without a daughter! – and now we were celebrating hers!! I can’t believe I had a baby without ever missing a night of tucking my boys into bed.

Nathan & Samuel, welcoming Anna home from the hospital with the Paraguayan birthday song. They’ve played this many times, but never for anyone on the actual day of their birth — until now!

THE BATH OF THE BIRDS

Samuel loves his birds!

by Samuel
Right  before lunch I took a look at the birds on top of their cage, puffed up like two cuddly clouds, looking longingly at their empty bird bath.  It was plain to me what they wanted on this hot summer day: a bath.
After I set all the plates and cups, I walked over, grabbed the clay bird bath, and carried it to the sink, where I washed it and scrubbed it until it was as clean as a boy after a shower.  I then grabbed the container on the sink, and turned on the water to fill it up.  While this was filling up, I put the bird bath in its place, then turned off the water.  I carried the container and dumped it all in the now full bird bath.
As I did so, Jessie came rushing over from the cage to take his bath.  Once all the family had sat down and prayed, Sammi was over too.  They both stood on one

Jessie after admiring (actually, attacking) himself in the bike mirror

side of their bath.  Then Jessie crossed through the water to the other side followed by Sammi.  The two happy Quaker Parrots did the this a few more times, then they stayed in the middle and dunked their heads under, coming out with a small, very cute sneeze.
We looked on with laughter, watching our two fluffed up entertainers.  Then finally the two wet birds got tired of their bathing and went across the porch to a wire chair, where they napped lazily in the sun.