Wednesday, May 25, 2016

English Fellowship

Speaking English is something I take for granted. I can pronounce most words with little thought and can read complex sentences fluently. I might not know or understand all the grammatical rules associated with English, but it automatically is displayed in my speech (most of the time).

The week after Easter, friends of ours began an English fellowship group at their house. It was open to anyone who wanted to learn/practice English. We viewed this as a great opportunity to get to know Indonesians. My Indonesian language isn't that strong, but maybe we could find some middle ground using a mix of Indonesian and English and establish friendships. 

Most Saturdays we sing, listen to a Bible based lesson, and discuss various topics in small groups according to gender. One Saturday a month is a fun game night. 

 My friend asked us to consider leading small group discussions. She said," It's easy! You'll answer easy questions like where does God come from..." I thought to myself if that's an easy question my friend might want to continue looking for more capable discussion leaders! 

Our family decided to check it out together. We committed to participate each Saturday. Kate comes and plays with others while we build relationships with others. 

The lessons help to lay a "firm foundation" (which is the name of the series) by starting with discovering who God is and the progressing to creation and eventually through the life of Christ. It has been such a blessing for me to evaluate the firmness of my spiritual foundation. As Christians it can be easy to accept things that others say as Truth, without evaluating it through the lenses of Scripture. So we build our fundamental beliefs on half truths or thoughts that have shifted through years of memories or even church history. These half truths cause cracks in our foundations, which can cause the whole structure to be weak. 

Here's one truth that I go back to after each lesson. We've been talking about creation. Everything that God created- land, seas, sky, fruits, trees- He didn't *need* any of it for survival. So, why did He create it?? He created it with US- me and you- in mind. He is kind and loving. God knew that humans would need land, food, and light to survive. He created them in an order that shows His kindness towards us. He didn't create people first and then those things we need in order to survive. He's thoughtful and orderly in everything He does. God had a plan from the very beginning, and no one was there to give Him tips or suggestions on how to create things. He spoke and from the power of His voice *everything* happened. Wow. So now when I look at creation, I can see how even from the beginning God was expressing His love towards all mankind- not just those who would choose to love Him. 

Another truth that is helping repair the foundations of my Papuan friends is that God's power is greater than any evil or power of this world. Satan's power is strong here. My friends have seen spirits do things that mimic God's power, but are counterfeit. It's difficult for them to accept that good and evil are not equal in power. They (and Westerners too) tend to view God as ultimate good and Satan as ultimate evil, equating them with equal good and equal evil powers or abilities. BUT, friends, here's the Truth- Satan was in Heaven with God at some point (Isaiah 14:12). We know that God created all things (Colossians 1:16) and this must include Satan. God, the Creator of everything, has more power and authority than anything He has created. Therefore, Satan or other spirits can not have equal or more power than God. The powers of darkness may mimic the power of God, but do not be mislead that does not make their power equal. In Exodus 7, Moses and Aaron approach the throne of Pharaoh. God tells them specific instructions. Aaron throws down his staff and it turns into a serpent. Pharaoh gathers his magicians and sorcerers, who throw down their staffs which turn into serpents. I image that Pharaoh is feeling a bit smug, possibly thinking God lacks respect or honor because his magicians can perform the same "trick". Then something incredible happens- Aaron's serpent/staff swallows up the other serpent/staffs. Do not be mislead- others may mimic God's power and authority, but God stands sovereign over all His creation. 

    "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all" (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).

Would you pray for us as we re-evaluate our own foundations and as we help others as they begin the process of laying their own? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Micah 6:8 A Nap Time Project

A little over 2 years ago, we returned to Indonesia with a four month old baby. I had tried to prepare a room for our little one before we left. The walls were painted, but that was it.

Here's a known fact about me: I am not crafty. It takes me *forever* to borrow someone else's idea and actually do it. By "forever" I mean my craft plans usually never pan out. 

Before our return, Josh dropped me off at a Joann's fabric store. I experienced instant culture shock. After almost running out of the store due to the mere selection of fabric, I regained my composure and noticed the pre-cut fat quarter squares tucked neatly away. Those pre-cut squares probably kept the employees from having to hold the hand of a pregnant, emotional woman who had no clue what she was doing. 

I'm happy to say all those squares were put to use only a few months after we returned...thanks to my craft-loving friend Michelle. I decided that we should keep Kate and get her settled in her room.

About the same time, I decided to buy four blank paint canvases and tubes of white and a rose color paint. No paintbrushes... what was I thinking? Finger painting? 

Today on May 20, 2016- two + years after buying *four* paint canvases, a project was COMPLETED! 

The project itself has been in the works for at least 3 months or more. It started out as this:

Cute, right? Super ambitious. Even looking at it now, I'm wondering how I thought I could do something like that after not having many experiences with paintbrushes. 

So, after 3 (or more) months, I adapted my idea to this: 

Only SIX words rather than 50 million. Now the only problem was the font- How do you make a beautiful font on a canvas with no craft/art talent? Easy. You look it up on Google. 

Choose your font... Wait. Microsoft Word doesn't have super cutsie fonts like that. So you have to go to these font websites and sift through millions of fonts that eventually all start to look the same! Then you have to add them to MS Word. 

Save your document.... as a PDF. This helps keep the fonts the same even if the computer that's opening the document doesn't have the fonts. Lesson learned- that cost me 2 trips to the printer. 

Print the document using the "mirror" setting on the printer. This prints your document backwards, so when it's laid flat on the canvas it reads correctly. 

Paint the canvas.

Trace the words with playground chalk. Lay the document flat and then trace the words with the tip (the non-brush side) of a paintbrush. This will leave the outline of the words on your canvas.

Mirror printing results

Fonts laid flat

Trace printed side with sidewalk chalk

Lay chalk side down and trace with point of paintbrush 

Traced words 

Next paint the traced words on the canvas.

Paint traced words

The final product:

I have never done anything like this before. While painting the words, I thought this looks terrible or maybe the paintbrush is the wrong size... Eventually I fell into a "groove" and finished. I love it. These words from Micah 6:8 are reminders of how God wants *me* to live. 

One day this will be hung in Kate's room. 

It may take another 2 (or more) years before my next project. 

Thanks to Kelli and Karen for letting me borrow paintbrushes. Thanks to Josh for buying me four paint canvases two years ago, knowing that a project may or may not ever be completed. Thanks to Kate for sleeping so I had some "work time". Thanks to Nickel Creek and Southern Gospel Radio channels on Pandora for providing music that kept me in a happy place while expressing myself creatively. 

Now... on to those picture frames that I bought at the same time... 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

1 Avocado and 1 Lemon, Please.

Usually a scroll through my Facebook feed introduces me to a variety of new, delicious-looking recipes that are simple to make. The only problem is that the ingredients can't be found locally, so after I wipe the drool off the computer I move on with my day, promising that some day I'll make that. Last week there was a recipe that we could actually get ALL the ingredients locally- avocado hummus. 

Kate and I walked to the grocery store to look for 3 items- bread, a lemon and an avocado. 

Indonesia is still generally a cash society. Employees are often paid in all cash. Businesses tend to have bank accounts, I would say the majority of the population does not have a bank account. We have an Indonesian bank account and have one ATM card, so we have to coordinate when we withdraw money. You must have small bills to pay for parking. 

So on this day I had a small amount of money on hand and no access to the ATM card. I rarely choose a good avocado and am often disappointed with the inside when I cut it open. I squeezed one and it felt like "the one". Avocado in hand, I went to have the item weighed prior to check out. The lemons were stocked right across from me, so I chose one lemon that looked on the small side. I had it weighed and asked for the price, quickly determining if I had enough money. The total would be right at the edge, and I might be the lady who deletes items at the register just so she can pay with the money she has. 

The cashier totaled my avocado and lemon- 28,300 rupiah. I looked in my bag... 28,000 in bills and 300 in coins. Exact change. Uang pas. That's all the money that was in my bag. 

It may sound strange but I was really thankful to God- that was my dinner plan and it would have really complicated the day if there was not enough money. It was a small reminder to me that God has provided and will provide for my needs both big and small.  He even cares about giving good things like 1 perfect avocado and 1 lemon. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Papua United Soccer

A few short months ago I was completing a Master's degree that took up so much of my time. I found myself asking God what was next? Did He want me to get back into the classroom at HIS or move my focus to a different school or help write math curriculum with another team or continue with my sole focus being momma? Ideas were presented and all options just didn't work out for various reasons. I have no problem with being momma but have this deep desire for community, to work/serve alongside people frequently.

The Lord is amazing! 

A group of us meet each Sunday night to play a game of co-ed indoor soccer. The first week I felt like I was for sure going to die right there in the middle of a game. Since that first week I feel like that is less likely to happen, although is still a possibility! Through that Sunday night soccer, opportunities were given to play a friendly game against a local Papuan girls team (Papua United). We have played outdoor soccer and indoor against the girls ranging in age from 13-16. 

A couple weeks ago the guy currently heading it up approached me and my friend and asked us to consider joining the girls on Thursday afternoons to run some drills with them. Last Thursday we had another friendly game and about 20+ girls showed up. This Thursday was the first day we were running drills and we had 8 girls. The 8 that showed up were so gracious in my extremely limited attempt to communicate using Indonesian! I learned there's a difference between the lines on the soccer field and the girls standing in line- yep, there's SO much to learn! 

Who knew (God is the answer!!) that in early elementary school I would start playing soccer on the Wild Things and eventually be coaching internationally!? I love that this game has opened the doors for clearly communicating the Gospel and pairing it perfectly with good character. 

Would you pray for these girls to feel encouraged and loved deeply by us as we coach? Would you pray that the girls would gain strength in their dependence on the Lord? Would you also pray that Kari and I would be good examples of women of good character and love for the Lord?

Check out PU website to learn more about their ministry

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The "Final" Leg

It's been a couple of weeks since my last chat about my experience. I feel like it's time to wrap this journey up. Mainly because while I feel better about everything that has happened, it's still painful to talk about parts of it.

The actual procedure itself was fine and successful. I had much less bleeding than what I had imagined, and the physical healing aspect of the procedure went remarkable well. There were moments when I was quickly reminded of where I was. Here are a few of those moments:

 A close friend had come to visit and drop off food for us. I was still coming out of the grogginess of it all and can remember little of what we spoke about. I was covered up but was self conscious about not having pants on. My body began to shiver- I thought that this was due to my awareness of not having pants on. I made the comment about me being really cold, which never, ever happens here! In the course of 2 hours I had spiked a really high fever. It seemed to have come from no where- just came right in and gave me intense whole body shakes. Josh called for a nurse and three followed him back. He asked them to check my temperature because I have a fever. They brought back a mercury thermometer, stuck it in my armpit for less than a minute, and pulled it out with a normal reading. Everyone in the room could feel that I had a fever, although I was shivering. With Fiona on the phone, Josh asked if he could use an alcohol wipe to clean the thermometer and put it in my mouth for a better reading. I could hear her yelling on the phone," No!! Do NOT put that in her mouth!! No!!" We found out later that those thermometers are used rectally to check the babies' temperatures, so really who knows how clean they really are! Josh ran across the street to the pharmacy to buy an unused thermometer so we could safely stick it my mouth. My fever was well over 103, and at that point the nurses realized something was going on. The only way my shakes would calm down was with the gentle, reassuring touch of a Papuan nursing intern. She would gently place her hands, which were warm and comforting, on my arms, which were freezing.

After discussions about the best course of action and rejecting medicine we (who have no medical experience) decided I didn't need, my fever began to go down after given a large dose of a fever reducer. During this time I went to the bathroom. The nurse tried to get me to use a bedpan- I have never used one before. In Indonesian the word for "bedpan" is "piss pot". I did not learn that term (along with many other medical terms) in language school! The nurse helped me to the toilet. My birthing experience with Kate was that when I went to the bathroom, the nurses changed out bloody disposable gauze  sheets. That is not the case here. I returned to soiled disposable gauze sheets. That I could handle because we could easily throw that away and get another clean one- because we had to purchase all of those things before hand. What threw me off was the puddle of my own blood under the detachable bottom of the bed. This was from the procedure and had not been cleaned up. I only noticed it when I entered the room. 

There was also a sweet concerned intern who was practicing her English skills in the midst of all of this. So we chatted about the schooling process required to become a nurse here. Let's just say that during our conversation she paired the word "juicy" with describing a body part. In my feverish state I don't think I busted out laughing, although now when I tell the full story I can't keep a straight face. 

Due to the fever, it was recommended I stay overnight. This was not part of my plan. Karen's gracious response to this relieved so much stress. It would be our first night away from Kate, and this wasn't the ideal reason why. Knowing Kate was well taken care of made this momma's heart rest a little easier. Although resting did not happen. Josh and I argued about whether we should stay or go. This was interesting because it was in front of nurses- so I asked them to leave, I'm sure I had provided enough entertainment for the whole week. Looking back I'm proud of Josh- it's not easy to argue with me and even harder to win. I respected his reasoning and know it came from a place of love, although at the time I was really upset. We were moved to a private VIP room- which contained a *working toilet* with *toilet paper*. They brought in an extra bed for Josh. We tried to sleep. The fever returned in the middle of the night, and Dr. Josh did an excellent job of treating the patient with what he had. Sleep finally came around 4:30 AM, with the only check was a nurse who walked by and looked in our window at some point in the night. At 6 AM, the nurses crashed into our room with their metal cart, flipped on the harsh fluorescent lights, *pushed* Josh's bed out of the way (while he was still waking up) to get to the patient to check my blood pressure and oxygen level in my blood. We started the process of checking out of the hospital at 6:30 AM. Josh had to find the nearest ATM because the card reader was broken in the hospital. After agreeing to waive responsibility from the doctor to me, we were finally in the car heading home 3 hours later. 

I felt like I had severe jetlag- headache, tired, cranky, sore muscles. It turns out I was also having a reaction to the antibiotics. Red, itchy skin. So we stopped all of the meds, pumped me full of Benadryl and waited. I took the max dose of Benadryl and was awake and alert until 2 AM Tuesday morning when my body finally crashed.

Tuesday was when the grief came. The grief hasn't lingered, but does return frequently. I have a heightened sense of awareness of all things pregnant around me- women, dogs, cats. I grieve over birth announcements that I won't be making with this Little One. Pinterest is still giving ideas of how to decorate a nursery along with baby advice, which I won't be needing now. I've heard people say in the past when speaking of a lost loved one that "not one day goes by that I don't think of you". I thought that was just something that was commonly said among those who grieve. Oh, how my attitude has changed. While I have never met our baby face to face or held them in my arms, I did carry them for 9 weeks and 1 day. I think about this Little One every day. Not all day, but every day my thoughts drift towards what life would be like or imagining the flutter of life in my belly. It's an interesting mixture of happiness and sadness. God is gracious and gives me hope. I would be lying if I said this leg of the journey wasn't difficult. My comfort has come from the Lord. It's hard not having your family around during a really difficult time. Life continued as normal and the days are long when you're left alone with a toddler. God is my comfort and continues to comfort. 

Kitty Therapy

The ER

Ready for procedure 


Dr. Josh resting in our private VIP room

The Patient waiting for freedom! 
Thank you to all who have reached out to us. Thank you for the words of encouragement and words of hope and healing. Your friendship and prayers are what have propped me up and helped me continue on when I would rather just sit down. Thank you just doesn't even seem to convey the depth of appreciation. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Part 2

*This is not the entire account of the journey. There's just too much to say. It's too raw and I'm not sure this is the forum I want to re-live every single aspect of my journey. Thank you for walking with me and sharing in my grief, joy and healing. -Amber* 

Friday approached. Karen came to our house at 6 AM, and we left our sleeping Kate to get an early start. I began fasting the night before to be ready for a procedure that would start around 10:30 AM. The procedure should be quick, and I would return home that afternoon to recover. This was *the* plan. It was the *only* plan that I had in my mind- silly me! After living here many years, I should know better than to think that way- often things don't work out the way I plan. 

After going between a couple different buildings a few different times, I waited as Josh registered with the hospital. There was a stray cat who had walked into the waiting area. I still think it's interesting the areas cats are allowed admittance. The cat was familiar with the area, and at one point I lost track of him. The receptionist began shushing out of no where, and it was clear where the cat was. The cat came back to the chairs where I was sitting, and I began to pet this stray cat. It was therapeutic in some ways- calming nerves. 

My journey began in the ER, which is heartbreaking place. Incredibly sick people come hoping for answers to their pains. A little girl, no older than Kate, was writhing in pain on a hospital bed while her exhausted Momma helplessly looked to the nurses for an answer. Already emotional my heart broke for this Momma. My heart began to pray for answers. 

I was taken to a bed to wait for something- no one said what we were waiting for. The walls had dried blood next to my face when lying down. A nurse approached to insert the IV line. She attempted first on my right wrist under my thumb. I stared at a spot on the dirty ceiling willing myself to be strong. She kept pushing on the area of the inserted needle asking me if it hurt. Bravely I said," Yes, it hurts but it's okay." I finally looked to where she was pointing because she held up my wrist and said," Does this hurt? (poke. poke.) Because it's big right here." My skin had a huge swollen bump where the needle had gone in! With each poke pain shot up my arm- yes!! That hurts!! So, she took it out and left. She returned with a friend who attempted to insert the IV on the back of my left hand. The attempt failed even though she pushed and pushed the line in. Be brave. Be brave. I yelled at Josh to please call Fiona thinking she could come and put in the IV for me. They kept asking why my veins were like this? Had I been fasting? Why had I been fasting- my procedure was not until 3:30 that afternoon. What?! This was news to me. 

The two nurses left. Fiona came. She said in her Aussie way "How you going?" and I burst into tears. They flowed. Tears mixed with fear came streaming out. Phrases like "I don't want to do this!", "What am I doing here? I just want to go home. But I don't want to do *this* at home!", or "Is there any other way?" came jumbled out. Fiona listened. God restored my strength and we pressed on. A third nurse came in at some point to insert the IV. We dubbed her "The Ringer", because she looked like she had done this a thousand times. She put the IV in on the back of my right hand. The first nurse was left to complete the job. Cross cultural lessons do not stop in the midst of an ER. She poked her failed attempt and asked if it was still sore. I said yes, it is. She then poked her friend's failed attempt and said "Yes, but *this* one is much more sore, right?" Seriously?? I almost lost it- I said No- your's is much more sore! I was then wheeled away through the hospital to my next destination. I'm glad someone was pushing me because I'm sure I would have gotten lost. It was a sight to see- a bright red-faced, crying white woman being pushed in a wheelchair through the hospital. 

The Women's Ward was in a beautiful new building. The rooms were spacious with little to offer for comfort. We had a bed, which we provided our own sheets for, and a plastic chair for Josh. I stared at a blank wall that had a wall clock and a gold crucifixion hung above it. Josh was given a list of medicine and supplies to purchase at the pharmacy in the hospital. In Indonesia the patient is required to purchase the supplies needed for any procedure prior to the procedure. The pharmacy in the hospital did not have the majority of the listed items and told Josh to go across the street to another place. The pharmacy across the street did not have the items and recommended he make a 15 minute drive to another place. He returned after hunting down all the listed items at the various pharmacies around town. Fiona kept me company while Josh was on the hunt, which was nice because fear was on the edge of my heart throughout the whole experience. 

The nurses entered in a whole team- like a pit crew at a NASCAR race. The head nurse said they wanted to give me a medicine to help begin the miscarriage process naturally. I told Fiona in English- the whole reason I'm here is so I would not have to experience anything naturally! She calmed me down by telling me the facts- the amount they wanted to give was 1/8 of a dose that would be given in Australia or America. The medicine was inserted and I was to lie on the bed for the medicine to take effect. 

This is the part that I'm convinced the Lord was gracious to me and gave me perspective of love rather than bitterness. The Women's Ward was a place grief and joy slam into one another. I was there because my baby had died, and others were there because their babies were being born. Two sets of twins were born that morning. I heard first cries of other babies, knowing that I would not hear my baby's cry. At the moment (and even still) I'm grateful for life. Also in that moment I realized that I lived in a world that disregarded the emotional side of medical care- it should not be that death and life share a room. Even now a month later, my heart is stirred and tears well up at this memory. 

A flurry of activity swept into my room around 2 PM. The nurses seemed excited that something was finally happening on this somewhat slow day. They had attached the stirrups and were about to remove the lower part of the bed when the head nurse came in and stopped all activity because the anesthesiologist would not be ready until 3. The nurses hung their heads as they left the room. The whole crew returned at 3:30 ready to go. We have a photo of at least 8 people in the room besides me- doctor, anesthesiologist, interns, med students, nurses, and patient. No privacy- I'm glad I was knocked out. 

The anesthesiologist talked fast and was right in my face. When someone is that close you can see straight into their mouth and examine all their teeth. It was too much for me. I just nodded and smiled as he spoke because I only understood about half of it. Fiona was with me the whole time. She said," They are about to give you the medicine to make you forget." I replied with "Good. I don't want to remember any of this." My last remark was "I think it's working..." 

Images by Freepik