This is Summer: Season Six {Episode 29}

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She scoots and shuffles

Can’t now walk, yet I believe

a future for her

~Natalia

Little FangFang was adopted by longtime family friends Matt and Alison. FangFang has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and is thriving and growing in her new family. Alison chronicles the family’s adventures with four small children, as well as FangFang’s OI journey, on her blog.

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The Mother

6am, I’m the only one awake now. Staying at home for the weekend in order to work at the pool, I share a room with the three little ones. Sisters back to back in their big bed, pink blankets and stuffed animals scattered around them. There’s a toddler bed at the end of their bed; blue sheets, Superman blanket. The little guy’s not in there, though.

He slept there last night. Fell asleep with his Elmo milk cup, dark little hands tucked under his soft cheeks. I heard him when I went to sleep, his breath rattling, shaking. He’s got a cold now, and he coughed and sputtered in his sleep; rubbing his itchy nose in his dreams. I fell asleep in the room, listening to his sleeping breath alternate even, resting, with coughing. But he left the room sometime during the night, and it’s quiet now.

I get up, shuffle across the hall to the bathroom. The old, dark, wooden floor creaks, just in one spot. I hit that spot, accidentally. My backpack, overnight bag, is in the bathroom. I find my pants, step over the creaky floorboard to my closet, flip through dresses, skirts, tops, to my purple work shirt. Brush teeth, hair in a pony tail, bathroom light off.

In the kitchen, I stand against the counter, eat a yogurt. There are five different bottles of vitamins in the cabinet, labeled with black Sharpie. N, mine. G+L, the little girls. T, the mother. I eat two of mine, the gummy ones, in the dim light of the kitchen.

The kitchen window faces a brick wall. Across, offset by two feet, someone’s laundry room looks into our kitchen. Between, there are two cement walkways, a thin strip of green plants between them. It’s the middle of May- spring- even though it’s still chilly, and the sun is rising quickly, casting pale white light onto everything in its path. The flimsy plants glow bland green in the growing light.

My ride will be here soon. I find my pens, shrug into my yellow coat. I’ve only brought flip-flops home, but I’ll be barefoot at the pool, anyway. I step into the living room, past the front door, to glance out the front window. The blinds are closed, though; this couch room, play room, school room, living room has been transformed into a bedroom.

The mother sits in the corner, at the very front of the house, rocking the baby boy. It’s hard to breath lying down when you’re sick, and 3am, she woke up with that little boy, and now they’re both sleeping there in the rocking chair. She’s pulled the special grey blanket- her Christmas present to herself- around them both, and his head is slumped, tired, against her. Sitting up against her, he breathes clear, easy.

Later, in a couple of weeks, the little boy will leave; he’ll return to the mother who gave birth to him. But for now, he sleeps on the blue sheets and he eats out of the Cars bowl in the seat at the end of our table. For now, we love him and teach him and feed him and dress him. And the mother, she gets up at 3am to change him, rock him, love him.

~Natalia

Already Knows

Nights in a row. Swollen cheeks, stiff jaw, hungry but unable to properly chew more than noodle soup. Annoyed at life and grumpy with the general state I found myself in.

I was peeved and frustrated.

Finally, last night, I caved. Dragged my feet all the way back to the bottom bunk I’ve been temporarily relegated to, and opened up my prayer journal.

The nice thing, the wonderful thing, about conversations with God is that, often, eventually, the truth comes out. No matter if I come to Him railing mad, mildly apathetic, or somewhere in between, as the words scrawl longer and longer across the page, somehow, my heart comes out, too.

It took a couple of paragraphs last night.

I told Him about my life. Things He already knew. Things He’s known for forever. But that’s the funny thing about prayer; He’s not figuring out my life. As I write, as I speak, He’s listening intently, but He’s not learning anything new. He’s not taking notes so as to know me better, so as to better plan my life the next time around.

He already knows.

And I’m the one learning here.

I’m the one whose own train of thought teaches me. Lead in and out and around by the very One I’m speaking with, I’m figuring it out. Not all of it; this is not a treasure hunt that unlocks the magical guide to all the secrets of my life, but some.

No, I don’t know it all and never will. But in those conversations, those times spent with Jesus, watching the tangle of my life and heart unwind a little bit, I get a snippet. A glimpse of what’s really going on.

A God-provided glance at what lies beneath sore gums and stiff neck and mild annoyance with everything in front of me.

I’m not asking God to fix the loops, to smooth away the bumps in my life, because that’s not the point. But I am asking Him to help me see; to help me see what’s there, what’s not there, and what He has for me.

And I trust Him to show me

because He already knows.

~Natalia

This is Summer {#63}

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Took this when I woke;
it’s not the only thing that
I do not recall.

~Natalia

Dear Wisdom Teeth,

I know you’ve never caused me any pain

and I know it’s probably not fair.

Not fair to you that I be knocked out for an hour

so that each and every one of you can be surgically removed.

I know it’s hard for you to think I could just get rid of you like that.

But, that’s the way it is

and in 12 hours from now,

you’ll be gone forever.

I might miss you, but I doubt it.

What I will miss is solid food-

but even then, real food and I will be reunited in a couple of days.

Which is more than can be said for me and you.

~Natalia

Go for Them

During a short phone conversation yesterday, my mother happened to mention that our youngest family member, the Little Larissa, has a cold.

Two hours later, not thirty minutes after joking with someone about my excessive and routine consumption of vitamin C, and the resulting state of good health that I have been blessed with, I felt a faint tickle in my throat.

Twenty-four hours later, my throat is still scratchy, my nose is getting sniffly, and my head hurts a bit. But the head thing might be because it’s almost 1am. Again.

But really though, I’m not suffering. There are people much, much sicker, much more hopeless, much more miserable all across the globe. A slight cold contracted from sharing a bed with a baby sister is a mild concern compared to the hurt, the broken, the dying that is everywhere in this hurt, broken, dying world.

Talking with one of my Africa teammates tonight, he told me he would “go to the prayer closet for that cold”. I believe him and I very much appreciate both his compassion and his prayers. And his words served as a reminder to me. A reminder to go to the prayer closet. Because there’s so much to pray for.

So much that needs the touch of God. So many people desperate for His love, His grace, Him. Yes, go to the prayer closet tonight. And go there for them.

~Natalia

Encouragement and Hope

In the van again, now speeding along the Nairobi highway. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Kenya, and cars, vans, and trucks whiz past my passenger side window.

Eventually, we turn off the high way and begin bumping along a rural dirt road. My arm is propped in the open window, and my chin is resting on my hand. Leaning as I am, it’s easy to raise my hand and wave to people; men, women, and children gazing curiously at a white van containing three mizungus and two Kenyans.

We drive and drive, weaving back and forth across the road to avoid the deepest potholes and the widest ditches. Motorcycles and bikes zip past us, and we all maneuver our way through the occasional flock of sheep or cows that meander across the road.

We once again turn off the road, this time onto an even smaller path, meant more for bikes than anything bigger. From next to me, a national volunteer calls out directions to our leader, chuckling gleefully as she teases him about forgetting where we are going.

And then we’re pulling into the open space in front of a small mud hut. The outsides of the building are smoothed over with dark brown mud, and a tin roof sits easily on top of the whole structure.

We grab our Bibles and a bag of food and scramble down from the van.

It takes a moment for our eyes to adjust, and then we can make out the inside of the house. Three chairs, a low-slung couch, a little table in the middle of it all. Sitting in the middle of the couch is a small woman, a plastic baggy containing her medications and a cup of water propped on the couch next to her.

We shake hands, exchanging greetings in English, Swahili, Luo, and then take our places. Our leader checks in with her about her medications; How are you feeling? Are you taking the pills? Have you been to the clinic?

And then, business accomplished, I brought you some visitors. He glances over at Anna and I, maybe they will introduce themselves. It’s short and we take turns; I’m Natalie. I go to school in Chicago. The woman on the couch nods in understanding as our translator (who also functions as our GPS) explains what we are saying. Then, at our leader’s encouragement, we open up our Bibles to share.

This is why we’re here. To share. To encourage. To build up. To walk alongside.

Anna reads from Isaiah, and then we sit quietly while the translator reads the passage over again, this time in Luo. A couple more encouraging words, an explanation, a question answered, and then we bow our heads. It’s my turn to pray.

Pray for health, thank God for healing already accomplished. Ask for mercy, thank Him for grace. Beg for wisdom, thank Him for provision, family, support, encouragement.

And then, Amen, and we must be going. Shake hands, God Bless You, God Bless You, and back out into the hot sun. Back into the van, back to the road, to another visit, another individual, another encouragement, because the Word of God is encouragement and hope to them, and encouragement and hope to us.

~Natalia

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