Monday, October 16, 2006

tiny juana: the story she tells

a week ago from this past friday, our little gift from God for a week, tiny juana, breathed her last breath here on earth.

i have had almost two weeks to process through this situation and yet i still have mixed feelings as i write this. i would like to write about how confident i am that this is God's plan and about all the amazing things that God has brought about in this situation: the way rosa rededicated her life to her Savior, the way juana's father stopped drinking during the time his daughter was in the hospital and started working, the way that he would pay a day's wages to ride a bus two and half hours to the hospital where he would be able to see his daughter for the one hour that the family is allowed to visit, and the way that these two families (rosa's and her husband's) have seemed to find reason to unite over the life and death of their grandchild during a time that was otherwise seemingly full of discord. however, then i will also have to write about how frustrating it is to work among the health system here, how juana was getting better and then was suddenly gone, how the hospital has no details to give, how no one has any answers in the middle of all this. i would have to write about how the day that jauna's little body was picked up from the hospital to be brought home with her family, rosa's husband went out and got drunk and then came to pound on her family's door in the middle of the night. about how rosa's husband has always had a drinking problem, beat her, and how rosa's dad has now resumed his proceedings with the town judge to get a restraining order. and how if that does happen, rosa will now find herself 19 years old and without a husband or child in a culture where husbands and children are everything. and i would have to write about my own feelings of sorrow, loss and confusion that seem to cast a shadow over all of this.

and so i have found it hard to write this post as i face the feelings that i face everytime i write something on here. there is the longing for the ability to write something that will touch the reader's heart, the desire to be faithful to my God, the hope that the reader will see something real and the deep fear that they won't; that they will instead walk away with either nothing more than a neat story to tell or with nothing more than cynism and criticism that anyone looking in would be sure to find.

so as i have sat down many times to write this, i have searched for those words of conclusion and finality because part of me wants to leave you with a nice, neatly wrapped story. one that tells of God's amazing love and faithfulness or that speaks of the depth of human depravity that is revealed when we live apart from the completeness that only a relationship with God can bring. or one that speaks of the tragedies that happen specific to guatemala or that instead brings it down to the level of humanity we can all relate to, whether here or there.

but, the truth is that this is not my story to claim, and never was from the beginning. and this is a story that i still find myself muddling through, still full of questions, still trying to make sense of a health system i don't understand, still wondering why God did not heal her. and yet in all of this, slowly finding God in places i did not expect.

and then i remember juana and all that god created her to be, even at just eight weeks old. and then i know that her life is more than a story of another baby that died, or another story from the depths of guatemala, or another story of the depravity that is so familiar to all of us, whether i can ever convey that to you, the reader, or not. and i remember that there is more to her family than another story of abuse and marital strife. and that God is doing much more in this than i can ever understand or even begin to put words to.

and so i find myself without a story, except the one that juana herself tells. and i leave you to draw your own conclusions, although i pray that you won't. although i pray that instead of needing to walk away with a "story in a box," you too will stop for a moment and sit a little in the gray area that we will always find our Savior in the midst of. that you will rest for a moment in the tension that these situations are witness to, knowing that the truths we hold to, the faith we walk, and the God we serve are deeper than whether a story is good or bad. that they are deeper than emotions, deeper than conclusions, deeper than the desires that lead us to control and manipulate stories to look the way we want them to or that lead us to walk away cynical and critical of what we have just read. and that you will see that sometimes we cling to the stories themselves or walk away from them bitter because we cannot sit and listen to the deeper truths that are found in the complexities of each of them; the truths that are there before the story began, are constant throughout it, and will continue on forever, even after we think the story has reached its end.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

motherhood and multi-tasking

the past two weeks i have had the privelege of experiencing a temporary stint of early, somewhat single, motherhood as i have taken care of grace and abi while the fickers were in the states for their son's wedding and to have an open house/dedication service for the ariplane that they are bringing back at the end of the week.

i have decided that motherhood brings out a woman's ability to be detail-oriented and multi-task, even if she has never found these traits to be true to her character before. one day, i found myself making lunch and serving it for someone who had "just stopped by" all the while holding abi in one arm, fixing her bottle in the other, answering a phone call, putting abi down to sleep, picking grace up, fixing her a bottle, putting her to sleep and then finally sitting down to finish eating lunch, which was now cold. thankfully, my lunch guest was extremely gracious and even ate all of the chicken, which had to be chewed about 15 times before it was able to be swallowed. i am still learning much in the area of cooking.

i have also decided that motherhood means conquering fears, exploring new territory, and perseverance. like using your flip flop to bravely destroy the cockroach scurrying around on the counter near their food, entrusting your child to someone else's care for the first time, and working on that vegetable dish two days in a row trying to get them to taste just right.

and sometimes motherhood, at least single motherhood, means learning how to take care of things you never knew even existed. like figuring out which breakers turn on the water pump when you wake up and there is no water, which knobs turn off the water to the house when the line to the kitchen breaks, and to make sure that the water pump is always on automatic because otherwise you can burn out the pump (which costs $400).

overall, the experience has led me to believe some things that are now concreted into my foundational life values and understanding:

1. i'm pretty sure that mother's day should be the most celebrated day of the year.
2. a routine will quickly reveal itself: wake up, shower, get grace out of bed, change her diaper, feed grace, dress grace, eat some breakfast, share your breakfast with grace, throw your hair in a ponytail quickly before you get abi out of bed, change abi's diaper, feed abi, dress abi, change grace's diaper, give abi her bottle, change abi's diaper, put abi down for bed, play with grace, get abi out of bed, change her diaper, feed them both lunch, change grace's diaper, let them both play, eat lunch (which you will share with grace), feed abi her bottle, put her to bed, give grace her bottle, put her to bed, enjoy your alone time, get abi out of bed, change her diaper, get grace out of bed, change her diaper, feed them both dinner, give them both baths, get grace out and dry her off, let her run around naked while you get abi out and dry her off, bring them into the bedroom and put clean diapers and clothes on both, let them play before bed, give abi her bottle and put her to bed, give grace her bottle and put her to bed. please note that the word diaper is used in here 9 times. then read number 1 again.
3. the word mine is quickly transfered from your vocabulary to theirs; what's theirs is theirs and what's yours is theirs.
4. if you ever wonder what you sound like to your children, listen to what the 19 month old says to the 11 month old when they think you cannot hear them.
5. being able to quote mercer mayer's i was so mad (a children's book) without looking at the book any longer should be considered an accomplishment and something to proud of.
6. when you find yourself in that moment where you have just said the very thing your parents used to say to you that you vowed you would never say to your children, telling them that you now understand everything can actually be quite a healing experience. thanks mom and dad. i now understand everything.
7. when choosing your battles, eating paper, dirt and leaves are lower on the priority list than one might originally think (hehe- just kiddin' hannah and leslie... maybe...)
8. they will poop in the bathtub at least once. and it will be gross. guaranteed.
9. sitting motionless on the couch in a silent room and staring at the wall for several minutes to try to get your mind to stop racing after they have finally fallen asleep after a long day is not weird.
10. reading through a recipe book to figure out a new dish for the next day starts to feel like embarking on a new adventure, even though you are forced to acknowledge that you are not actually leaving your kitchen and few would consider this an adventure.
11. no matter how mad you are at them, when they give you one of those smiles and hug your neck real tight, whatever it was doesn't seem to matter any more.
12. there is something magical about that moment when they fall asleep in your arms as you gently rock them while feeding them a bottle.
13. there is nothing that makes your heart happy quite like hearing them learn and call your name... even if it is kay-dum instead of katie.
14. you should hug, kiss, and love on them as much as you can while they still let you.
15. everyone should have a nicolasa and lydia.

nicolasa and lydia are two women who live here and help us out with cleaning, cooking for the men who work for us, and taking care of martina. nicolasa has three young children herself, yet seems to have an endless supply of patience (another attribute that i am assuming builds in a woman more and more the longer she is a mother...) and is always ready to rescue someone from a near-bad experience or give a hug and wipe away tears. she also makes the most amazing pineapple pies ever. lydia is a twenty year old full of laughter and smiles who is always willing to scoop up one of the babies when needed and have them laughing before long. she also cleaned all of the spider webs (and spiders) off of the extremely high ceiling, something i will forever be indebted to her for. and both of them were extremely patient with me as i muddled my way through spanish sentences that barely made sense. it did not take me long to learn that i could not make it through an hour trying to do everything myself and i know i would not have made it through without them.

all in all, it was a two weeks i would never trade for anything. i have grown to love these little babies as my own, and relationships have deepened with two beautiful women that i have grown to respect, trust, and depend on. although i missed the laughter, relief, words of english, and love of life and people that the fickers bring, i thank them for "loaning" me their life and entrusting me with two of their most precious gifts. i learned things and grew in ways that i never could have any other way.