Hard Days

Mother’s Day just passed.  We were with friends, and it was also their anniversary – we celebrated both important things together.  (And since Mother’s Day has never been a huge deal to me, it wasn’t this time, either.)  (I mean, Mike & I cooked supper with the kids, including a shopping trip.  Our strategy was divide and conquer: Mike looked around with the 2 girls, while I kept the baby in the stroller and actually got the food.  The baby fell asleep in the stroller as we were walking around the store, and so everyone was making such sweet faces at the two of us, and wishing me Happy Mother’s Day.  It felt a little like I should have been feeling sad, but I was just enjoying the whole experience.)

Today marks 9 months since Beatrix died.  It is also the 40th birthday of a dear friend…  and her nephew Jonathan was born today, 2 years ago.  Jonathan’s parents, Amiss & Marieth, got to spend just a few days with him before he died.

So I’m crying this morning.  Mourning our lost babies.

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There are more hard days coming – Beatrix’s birthday in July, and then the day marking one year since her death a few weeks later.  (I’m not sure what to call it – “anniversary” should be celebratory).

For me, the emotional work is usually done ahead of time, as I pray and ponder the implications of each day passing, remember what has gone before, and try to decide what to do.  As of now, I don’t know what we will do for those days; how we will spend them.  But I know this: they will come, and they will pass.  And I know this: if we face them with as much courage as we can muster, we will receive comfort, and the days that follow will be easier because we’re not deflecting the pain.

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The last time I did this…

We did it – 26 hours of travelling all in one stretch.

I really like to drive all night, once in a while, when the situation warrants it.  You get to visit, listen to music, listen to teaching, and put a lot of miles behind you.

The other night I heard this bit that I wanted to share with you – move it forward to around 26:30, then listen for about a minute until he finishes the story. (click here)

For those of you who know me, especially from my younger years, you will laugh and think, “of course she likes that.”  (Ahem, mom.) But I think it reflects something that we desperately need in our discourse right now.

 

Anyway, we had a very long way to go.  This is by far the longest stretch on our journey with no one to visit on the way.  Our original plan of where to stay didn’t work out, and I resented paying for a hotel room when we would just have a very short sleep (or to take the trip over 3 days and pay for 2 hotels), and I wasn’t particularly concerned with seeing all the landscape.  It worked really well because a couple areas could have been really difficult to navigate since I’m not really used to city driving.  Our route took us right through downtown Chicago – but at 1 am instead of at 9 am, so it was fairly simple.

The other reason, is that this is one of the “last times.”

The last time we drove all night was a few days before Beatrix died.

We were camping with my family, just for a couple days, and we wanted to get every moment out of that that we could.  And then we were headed to an event, a lot of miles away, that we didn’t want to miss any of.  Plus, travelling with a toddler for hours and hours on end isn’t really fun for anyone – and we wanted to have a bit of good family time, just us, in between things with large groups of people she didn’t know well in strange locations.  SO:  We laid her down in the tent, then watched some of the meteor shower with my cousins and my parents.  At about midnight, we transferred her to the carseat and drove as far as we could while she slept.

Once she woke up, we stopped at almost every town.  I think it took us something like 13 hours to put 6 hours of driving behind us.  But we played at parks, we picnicked, we spent time playing with her, and generally took it easy.  (I mean, Mike and I were up all night, we needed to go easy too.)  By the end, Beatrix was really tired of travelling, too.  When she didn’t want to listen to any of the kids music she usually liked, we just put on music we liked and sang loud along with it.  (I remember her bewildered smile.  She wanted to be grumpy but couldn’t resist participating when her parents were having fun.)

It was a Really Good Day.

There are a lot of things, that the “last time” I did this was with Beatrix.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never eat corn without thinking of her – but I like corn, and don’t want to give up eating it because it holds memories.  So I ate corn when it was put in front of me shortly after her death.  And I decided to enjoy the taste, even though just the sight of it made me want to weep.  (And so what if it does?  Nearly everything makes me cry.)  If there is too long of a space, between the time of memory and the time of doing it again, then it becomes too hard, too difficult to face, too difficult to change when the “last time” I did this was.

So now, I still have that sweet memory of driving through the night, and seeing the meteor shower, and then having a really happy day as a family.

But the last time I drove through the night was across the US on the way to see good friends.

My face hurts.

As a general rule, I don’t mind crying- I think it’s good for the soul – but crying with a head cold is the worst.

We arrived back in Canada last week, and have been working to organize ourselves and get over jet lag.  Tomorrow morning we are leaving for our cross Canada tour.  Over the last 10 months, our stuff has become incredibly disorganized, with bits of this here, bits of that there, and we are trying to do a little bit of consolidation and organization.

This morning I packed away the things we decided to keep – a few toys and books for memories sake, some cloth diapers and  baby carriers in case we decide to attempt parenting again.  Sorting through all the stuff at various times in various places and deciding what to keep has been much easier than I expected, but putting the things away in a plastic tub this morning undid me.

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Over the next two months, we are going to spend time with some of the most amazing people in the world.  Our main focus is going to be spending time with people who were present when Beatrix died, with the hope of giving and receiving comfort and encouragement.  We will be starting in the east, at Truro, NS, and driving back, staying at different YWAM locations along the way (although certainly not all of them).

I’ve had lots of different pictures and metaphors along our journey.  A week or two ago I was struck by a line in a song that always makes me weep (its called “You’re Gonna Be OK”).   The line is “just follow the light in the darkness.”  I think it accurately reflects where we are at, at the moment.  We don’t know many specifics about where our lives are going, or what we might do.  We are surrounded by darkness.  Each day we struggle to keep hoping, and keep feeling our way along to that light in the distance.

This trip is the next few steps on our way to that light, to a new place of hope and of vision.  We’ll try to keep you updated from the road.

Mutara Update

One of the things that I have been doing for the last few years in Rwanda is helping people communicate.  I have worked a lot with Amiss on newsletters and different updates.  (His spoken English is really good, but when he tries to write… it is very difficult to decipher.)  (Sorry Amiss.)

He is a great storyteller and communicator – so usually he dictates and I type – I make small grammar changes or ask him to clarify if I think things are hard to understand.  So the rest of this post is one of the recent updates we wrote together.  I thought it would also give you a good idea of how the project is continuing (but nearly in someone else’s words).

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We are thankful for what God is doing among the support group [for people with HIV/AIDS].  They are growing in their relationship with God, and they are building their families on God’s foundation.

We have several members whose spouses did not want to attend the group, because they were afraid for people to know that they are affected by HIV.  However, because of what our members have been learning, they have wanted their spouses to come.  We are very thankful that four people have convinced their spouses to join us, so we have 4 couples attending together.  The more people come out to the support group, the more we can reduce the spread of HIV by teaching them not to sleep with multiple partners.  Also, the more we interact with people, the more we know how we can assist them.

There is one lady who has come to the support amiss update1group; her name is Ainna.  She came to the group as a Muslim.  A few months ago, she received Christ into her life.  It impacted me deeply to see the big change in her life.

About 1 year ago, we gave 6 families female goats to help them begin to earn income.  Once each female has 2 babies, they give one back to the support group (which we pass on to someone else), and then they can sell one, as well as future offspring.  They can use the profits to start another business or to buy health insurance.   Another benefit of the goats is that they can use the manure as fertilizer.  Currently, three families have goats they are preparing to give back to the support group, and so the next round will begin.  (Ainna’s family was one family who received a goat.)

amiss-update2.jpgIn January, we started a preschool in Ryabega.  Forty percent of the children are children of support group members.  We are glad that they are going to this school – it is a good school.  They are receiving quality education and care in an environment that focuses on child development and supporting the whole family.  One of the children loves his teacher so much; he tried to put some of his breakfast in his pocket, to take as a gift to share with Teacher Robert.  (He is the boy in the orange shirt.)

As we have been trying to get the proper papers to establish the preschool, it has lead to visits by leaders from various levels.   They were excited to see what we are doing, and are happy to collaborate with us.  We have struggled to make the right connections with leaders who can make the recommendations we need, so that our ministries can have official approval.  The visit to the preschool is a big breakthrough for us.

During the long school holiday from Amissupdate3November to January, we had many students who returned from school to our football team.  It was a good time of discipleship, and some of the students gave their lives to Christ and joined churches.  Some of students also stopped drinking and/or smoking.  As more people from this generation come clean, it brings hope for our nation.

Five of our sponsor kids had national exams this year.  Three passed and will move on to the next grade level at a good school.  The ones that didn’t pass will take their next grade level at a lower quality school.

On a personal note, Nathan is doing physio.  We have good insurance for him, which helps us cover his medical treatments for now.  Friends and family have been standing with us to make sure we can care for Nathan well.  The YWAM leaders in Kigali have helped us by providing daily transportation to and from the hospital for our family.  The doctor we are working with is professional, helpful, and good at answering questions and providing additional information.  We are seeing improvement in Nathan’s condition, and are so encouraged by that.

Finally, we are thankful to welcome our friends Mike and Amanda back to Rwanda.  They have spent time with us in Kigali, and it has been good for us to stay together and share our lives again.

 

 

Tax Time (or, Why I Love YWAM part II)

For the first time ever, we got an accountant to do our taxes this year.  We are out of the country through most of tax season, and there are a few things I wasn’t sure how to deal with – and for now I am farming out all of the hard things I can.

(Let me say that I am happier than ever to live in a country where our taxes pay for some amazing things, like roads and health care, but this does make me laugh.)

 

An accountant was recommended who was familiar with YWAM.  (Because of the way we raise our own support, we are in a weird income tax category.)    One of the things he said when we met with him really struck me.  I can’t make an exact quote, but it was something like this,

“You YWAMers.  You shouldn’t have to pay much income tax because you give away so  much of your income.  It gets used for your work and donated to people who need it.  You give more than any people I know.”

This wasn’t exactly news to me.  I know how much of our “income” actually goes towards things for work, and I’ve seen statistics on how much the average Canadian (and Canadian church-goers) give to registered charities.  (And known that the dollar amounts we give are way above that, despite the fact that our income is much, much lower.)

This isn’t to pat myself on the back – generosity is woven into the DNA of YWAM as an organization, and certainly we are far from exceptional among our colleagues.  But I have been thinking a lot about this accountant’s words, and pondering  some of the “why” of this, and have a few thoughts.

One factor is that we are often in positions where we see the value of the work.  I’ve seen some of my colleagues having tremendous impact over the years.  Sometimes the best way I can lend support is through my skills or encouragement.  Sometimes the best way I can lend support is through sharing our finances.

Another factor is that we are often rubbing shoulders with people in real need.  We are in positions where our hearts (and wallets) are moved by compassion.  If the hospital is going to stop caring for my friends’ baby because they can’t pay an $800 deposit (and then the baby will probably die)?   No, I don’t have $800, but I can get $800, and figure out how to adjust our budget to accommodate later.  (Because what’s the value of $800 compared with the life of my friends’ baby?)

Most of the needs are smaller, less dramatic, and more regular than this.  Our friend’s dad is in the hospital, and she wants to travel to him to take some food.  A missionary friend is trying to raise the cost of books, so that her kids can have a decent education.  Another friend has health insurance, and so will be cared for at the hospital, but needs money to pay for the trip to the hospital.    You get the idea.

Sure, there are other ways I would like to spend that money – other things I had planned to spend it on (often things we “need”).  But I find I don’t miss it.

Our Team (Or, the People Who Have Saved My Sanity, Part III)

This has always been the planned third post in this series. (The first and second posts are  here and here.)  It has taken on a bit of a different slant, now.  (Not only because my sanity might be in question.)

 

We have met and worked with some really incredible people in Rwanda.  We moved out to the village Ryabega over 4 years ago with 3 other families we hardly knew to pioneer this project.   We have wildly different backgrounds (including 6 nationalities), experiences, education, skills, theology, and personalities.

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Cooking with Amiss & Marieth, when we lived with them in their house.

Professionally, it has often been difficult to work through issues of direction and how to get there – but we have consistently come up with better solutions together than we would have alone.  The variety of skills and passions across our team has allowed us to have impact and insight into various areas.  It has been a privilege and an honour to serve alongside such excellent individuals.

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cleaning the tanks

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Personally, these people are my dear friends.  We have walked together through more than our share of tragic and dramatic.

I would far rather be the one helping than the one needing help – but in these last months especially, these people have generally been there for me before I have even asked.  And on the occasions when I have asked, they have responded without hesitation.

There have also been all of the

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Our Aussie team member, making sure we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. (She also took many of these pictures).

ordinary, daily experiences: coffee and cake (CAKE!!  you have no idea how good cake can be when you rarely get treats); parenting advice, support, and encouragement; and practical help (once we had invited everyone over for a meal, and I went outside to find two of the guys replacing the broken backflow valve on our watertank).

 

 

 

 

And they loved my child.  They played with her, valued her, and helped us be better parents.  Their kids played with Beatrix, and she adored them.  (They are great kids.)

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After swimming.

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All 3 siblings trying to help Beatrix ride the bike.

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The picture just before this shows mama and friend distressed, as Beatrix was trying to crawl onto the baby – but they patiently helped her figure it out – Beatrix just wanted to give her a hug.

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There are more pictures, and so many more memories, but I think this is a good selection.  When we were thinking of moving to the village to work on this project, we knew that we couldn’t do it alone, and that we would only go if others came to work here, too.  But we had no idea we would meet, live and work with such incredible people.

 

Odd & Awed

We are spending some time in Europe on our way back to Canada.  We are debriefing, visiting, and resting.

I have a strange life.

I have many moments where I catch myself, stand back, and think, “My life is really weird.”

Sometimes it is because I am totally bewildered, and have no idea how I ended up in this moment or how to move forward.  Sometimes, it is because some very strange set of circumstances has collided so that I find myself in the midst of an awesome experience, and I stop to be grateful for the privilege.

In the last months, we have been in some beautiful places.  I have had those moments, where I have nearly stopped and thought, “My life is really weird.  This is awesome”  Each time, my brain has stopped itself before the thought has been entirely completed, interrupting itself with a second thought, “But I wouldn’t be here if my daughter hadn’t died, so really, there is nothing awesome about this situation.”

 

On Easter Sunday I was walking through the woods, and my brain started this same thought.  (I was walking through the woods, in Denmark, near the ocean.  Where we were staying with friends at a seaside cabin for the Easter weekend.  I’m sure you can see how the thought was sparked.)  This time, though, as my brain started arguing with itself that I don’t really appreciate the amazing set of circumstances that has brought me here, there was another argument – that even so, even given the pain that we have been through, it is still awesome that I get to heal with such good friends – in such a beautiful place.  I never would have imagined myself wandering through the woods near the Danish coastline – but here I am, and it is awesome.

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