Wednesday, January 16, 2019

little did I know

I am an easy person to surprise. This bodes well for people who want to throw me surprise parties, take me on a surprise date, or give me a surprise gift—I almost never see it coming and it takes very little effort on their part to keep it a secret. It does not bode well for people who accidentally startle me in a quiet place or for me when I need to use the bathroom when that happens. I live unsuspiciously. 

Christian does not appreciate surprises. Even when people are planning something especially for him, and that we know he will like, he would rather know ahead of time than be surprised by it. That sounds dull to me, but whatever. He can have his way. (Now that I think about it, it is ironic that he is the one who didn’t want to find out if we are having a boy or a girl. Apparently that is one surprise with which he is okay.)

I, on the other hand, enjoy the anticipation of not knowing. When I know something is coming but I don’t know what, my mind careens with possibilities, some of which are realistic and some totally imaginative. Despite my good imagination, there are so many surprises I did not see coming. 

Marrying my Dutch neighbor in Uganda, for instance. 

Living in Africa for more than a year. 

Finding cookie dough ice cream in my freezer. (Wonderful surprises don’t always have to be big.)

There are so many times I can look back on the last days, or months, or years, and think to myself, “Little did I know…” 

While many surprises I can attribute to a person, or people, who intentionally planned something and kept it a secret, the best surprises I can attribute only to God, who both sees the big picture and gave me a tiny brain that does not see the big picture. This lack of foresight can be frustrating at times, but oh, what joy to look in hindsight at how He orchestrates our lives and our circumstances in ways I do not anticipate! This is one such story…

Five years ago, I was in Uganda for the first time. It was new and unfamiliar and scary and exciting and confusing, a sometimes-overwhelming barrage of emotions and challenges.

One October afternoon, I decided to walk from Noah’s Ark to Mukono to do some shopping. On the way I met a boy, who introduced me to more children, who introduced me to two lame men living in a small room just off the roadside. We laughed, played, ate candy, took pictures, and then I left. I expected to stop by once or twice more before leaving Uganda, but because of geography and communication that is where the relationship would end. Little did I now that that was only the beginning. (For a full story about that day, you can read my post from five years ago: "it is very far".)

Our "family photo" from that day in 2013.
Margaret (you will read about her further on) is on the far right.

Four years ago, six months after I had moved to Uganda, the youth pastor asked me to lead a group of five teenage girls in a Bible study. Once a week these 14-year-olds came to my house for tea and a discussion of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We had our fun moments, but for the most part it was like pulling teeth to get them to talk about God. 

Three years ago, Christian and I had been dating for a few months and there was a new youth pastor at Noah’s Ark. He asked if we could co-lead a teenage Bible study on spiritual discipline, so we were assigned a group of six boys and girls and given a new curriculum. After a few months, the Bible studies ended and Life Groups were born. The idea was for adults to start discipleship groups based on a particular interest, such as dance, drama, music or media, and use the interest as a way of drawing teenagers into this new kind of Bible study. Christian and I started a service group for teenagers who wanted to actively serve God in different ways as we studied Biblical examples of service and servanthood. Within weeks we had twelve faithful students who came for Bible studies and to plan and carry out service projects within the compound. We made encouragement cards for students with upcoming tests, helped feed babies in the children’s home, washed clothes for students who were sick, and cleaned the church for special occasions. Little did I know that through this group, I would learn more about service than I was teaching. 

Two years ago, I learned the cultural art of making beads out of paper. (To learn it yourself, check out my post: "how to make beads out of paper") That was around the same time our Good Samaritans (the self-chosen name of our service group) expressed an interest in serving people in the community, not only within our compound. We started with the grandfather of one of the students from school. He was very old and very sick. Most times we went to visit, he could not get out of bed, so we crammed ourselves into his tiny brick house to serve him food and pray for him. 

Being the hands and feet of Jesus has an addictive quality to it, and it wasn’t long before the Good Samaritans asked if there was anyone else in the community we could serve. I asked a social worker for any suggestions, and he immediately started telling me about two lame brothers who lived near the grandfather we were already visiting—the same lame brothers I had met three years before. What a fun way to come full circle! 

the brothers: Buule Geoffrey and Mukasa Kaye 

Our group paid them a visit to get to know them and assess their needs. The conclusion: we would make paper bead necklaces, sell them as a fundraiser, and use the money to buy wheelchairs for the brothers so they could go to church (a desire they themselves expressed). From that point onward, every Tuesday evening was spent hunched over our beading supplies, tediously rolling strips of paper and deciding whom to ask for advice on buying a wheelchair. Little did I know how many Tuesdays it would take before we saw any fruit from our efforts.

After one-and-a-half years of beading, we finally had necklaces to sell. I posted them on Facebook a few hours before Christian and I left for our vacation in America, and by the time we set foot on Washington soil, all twelve had been sold. What a blessing! We were so excited to bring the money back to the Good Samaritans and show them the resources we now had to use for the brothers. 

Little did we know that in the time it took us to do the fundraiser, another organization had already given wheelchairs to the brothers. 

But that did not stop us in the least. Our teenagers immediately jumped in with new ways we could use the money to serve them. During one Tuesday evening in September, our conversation went something like this: 

Shannon: Their floor is only dirt and it is hard to clean, especially for lame people. Let’s get them something to cover their floor. 

Me: Like a big grass mat? 

Timothy: No, they have the plastic ones that are even easier to clean. That would be better. 

Me: So one of the plastic woven ones? 

Job: No, they also sell that flooring material and we can just measure and buy the right size so we can cover the whole floor, not just part of it. That would be best. 

Christian: But the floor is also uneven. Will that kind of material lay well on their floor or will it only cause more problems? 

Shannon: If the floor is uneven, first we should make it flat. Then the material will lay properly. 

Samuel: A mat is not enough. If we really want to help, what we should do is put in a concrete floor. That way it is flat and easy to clean. 

Me: Does anyone know what it would cost to put in a concrete floor? 

Samuel: Not so much. You only have to pay for labor and supplies. 

Deng: A bag of cement costs about 30,000 shillings. 

Christian: How many bags would we need for their floor? 

Deng: Maybe four? 

Me: And what else would we need to buy? 

Deng: Sand and aggregate. Those you can buy by the truckload. 

Me: How much would labor cost? Does anyone have any idea? 

Timothy: I can ask Uncle Asaf tomorrow. He would know. 

Me: I think it is a great idea, you guys, but we do need to consider all the angles. We do have 900,000 shillings, but this can end up costing a lot and before we move forward we need to make sure we know we can cover all of it. 

Shannon: But we don’t need to pay for labor. Just ask Uncle Erias if the DIT (vocational) students can do it for practical experience. Then the work is free. 

Me: Do you think they would do that? 

Deng: I can ask him tomorrow. He might let us so we can practice. 

Christian: Okay. Deng, you are going to ask Uncle Erias if you and the other DIT students can use it as practice. Timothy, you find out how much the materials will cost and get back to us next week. 

Me: But there is still a big issue—while we are having the floor done, where are the brothers going to stay? They can’t stay in their house. If we give them a place to stay at Noah’s Ark then we are responsible for feeding them and making sure they have everything they need for that time. We would need to pay for a place for them to stay, and that would come out of our budget. 

Shannon: They can stay with Mama Meg. She is the mother of one of the students who lives next to them. 

Me: Shannon, it is a big thing to ask someone to let two lame adults live with them for a week. Even though she helps them a lot, this is different. 

Shannon: I will ask Margaret tomorrow and she can ask her mom. I know she will say yes. 

Christian and I were both skeptical of the whole idea. We knew a concrete floor would be a wonderful thing for the brothers, but it seemed like such a big undertaking for a group of twelve teenagers and two foreigners who know nothing of building and are still learning subtleties of the culture. For the next three weeks, we posed question after question in hopes that through finding the answers our group would discover on their own that this project was simply too big and we needed to come up with something smaller. Little did we know that every week our members would come back with positive answers to all of our questions, to the point that there was no reason not to put in the floor. 

The cost of materials was well within our budget. 
The DIT students could do the work for free because it gave them hands-on experience. 
The instructors would make sure they had all the tools they needed. 
The brothers could stay in Mama Meg’s house while the work was being done. 
The teachers would order all the supplies, so we only had to reimburse them instead of finding the materials and bargaining ourselves.  

The big ideas did not stop with our students. When Christian and I met with the head of the vocational department at the school to make sure everything was in order, he asked, “If we are already doing the floor, why not plaster the walls as well? If you are ever planning on doing that it is better to do it now while they are shifted out and the room is empty. Plus, in the end you will save money on materials because we can order everything at once.” He gave us a proposed budget for putting in a concrete floor and plastering the walls and it still fell within our budget. What was happening? 

In October, almost two years after we started our paper bead project, I piled into a car with five Noah’s Ark students, two vocational instructors, and a wheelbarrow, and we set off for the brothers’ house to make this thing happen. (I came with a camera to document the whole thing. Don’t worry, they were not desperate enough to need me to build anything.) They worked for almost eight hours that day and finished just a fraction of the work. Between days of working, days of letting the floor dry, and days off when the students were in exams, the floor and walls took more than two weeks to complete. 

digging up the dirt floor

covering the exposed brick with plaster

One day at school, I found Margaret and wanted to express my appreciation (and apologies) for her family hosting the brothers so much longer than we had anticipated. 

“Have you seen the house this week?” she asked me. “The floor is finished and they are almost done with the walls. It looks really good!” 

“No I haven’t seen it yet, but I want go tomorrow,” I said. “And Margaret… thank you. Thank you so much.” 

“For what?” she asked, and I could tell by the look on her face that it was a genuine question. 

Do you know any 14-year-olds who would accommodate two lame men in her family’s very small house for almost three weeks as a favor… and not expect even a word of thanks for it? Would you accommodate two lame men in your house for three weeks as a favor without expecting thanks? It doesn’t take an easily-surprise-able person to be surprised by her reaction. 

We started the Good Samaritans as a practical way of teaching teenagers what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but through people like Margaret and her family I have learned so much more about doing that with a humble and willing heart. Through our teenagers I have learned what it means to dream big and not let my tiny brain limit what God can do through me or anyone else. I have been surprised by people and I have been surprised by God, and I have loved seeing these surprises play out in the last several months. 

Five years ago when I met the brothers, little did I know all God had in store for us. 

cleaning the new floor and walls

Mama Meg at her fruit stall

some of our Good Samaritans on one of our visits to the brothers

That being said, little do I know of all God still has ahead for the brothers and the Good Samaritans! This progress was good motivation for our group because in three months’ time we have made another dozen necklaces to sell so we can continue serving the brothers in whatever way God makes possible in the coming year. A few ideas include installing a proper window in their room (right now they have sheet metal covering a square hole in the wall), repairing the wheelchairs (only one is usable at the moment), and buying basic supplies like food and clothes since they are mostly unable to work and generate an income on their own. If you are interested in supporting the brothers by buying a necklace, please contact me and I will send you photos of the ones we have to offer and we can figure out the best way to pay and get the necklace to you. Don’t worry about which continent you are on—we will find a way to make it work!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

just as you are

“Come to me…” (Matthew 11:28)

Isn’t it humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus! Think of the things about which we will not come to Jesus Christ. If you want to know how real you are, test yourself by these words— “Come to Me…” In every dimension in which you are not real, you will argue or evade the issue altogether rather than come; you will go through sorrow rather than come; and you will do anything rather than come the last lap of the race of seemingly unspeakable foolishness and say, “Just as I am, I come.” As long as you have even the least bit of spiritual disrespect, it will always reveal itself in the fact that you are expecting God to tell you to do something very big, and yet all He is telling you to do is to “Come…” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

The week before we left Noah’s Ark, the Nnabagereka (queen) of Buganda hosted her annual Christmas party on our compound. Hundreds of other children came, people performed dance and drama presentations, they had a nice lunch, and every child was given a gift from the queen. The week before the Christmas party, some of the queen’s people came to visit the compound to see where different parts of the event would take place and if it would work. Of course in the days leading up to the event, the children were excited: “The queen is coming!” The day of the visit, they put on their best clothes. The girls had freshly braided hair, which usually doesn’t happen until January before school starts. Garbage was picked up, the children’s home was cleaned, and the day’s schedule was printed. Before the queen could come, we had to be ready. 

I am 37 weeks pregnant—the beginning of full term, according to most sources—and in the last week my hormone levels have shot through the roof. I am always a fairly emotional person, but these days, especially in the morning, anything can make me cry: Christian leaves his jeans on the bed. The blender won’t blend my frozen raspberries. The person on television has an annoying voice. I am ready for church 15 minutes later than planned. My toes are cold. Seriously, you name it—it has probably put me in tears in the last week. 

Last night my sister texted me: How are you, sister? 
My response was: So. Many. Hormones. 

Yesterday we went to Gouda with Christian’s family for a tour of a siroopwafelfabriek (a factory where they make a certain Dutch dessert) and to have a day out. I was feeling guilty in the morning for doing fun things instead of working or being productive, but managed to shake it off and enjoy our time out. On our way home, as Christian and I were walking back from the train station, I started felting down again. It began as a combination of this increasingly heavy baby in my pelvis, the nearly constant discomfort of needing to pee, and my husband walking several steps in front of me because his long legs are still not used to my new, slow pace. My emotional instability intensified when we stopped at a supermarket on the way. After our normal shopping, I mentioned as casually as I could that I wanted ice cream, but that we have probably been eating too much of it lately. My hope was that Christian would argue with me and say that since I was eight months pregnant, I should get ice cream anytime I want. To my dismay (and here I really mean dismay, what with ratcheted up emotions and all), he offhandedly agreed and proceeded straight to the checkout with our other, healthier, items.

By the time we reached home, I was fighting back tears. I can always tell that something is really wrong when I stop making eye contact with people, and I was refusing to lift my gaze above Christian’s navel. I unpacked our shopping and lay down on our bed for awhile, but it felt like a waste of time. Christian joined me for a few minutes, and when he left I grabbed my computer to work on my online Dutch lessons. Maybe doing something productive would get me out of this funk. 

It didn’t.

I could hardly see the screen when my eyes filled with tears. With a mind that was not fully present, I had trouble following and reviewing the new information on how to spell adjectives. My laptop is functioning less and less as a laptop, as the size of my lap is decreasing by the day under my protruding belly, and when I momentarily let go of the corner and my computer slid off my legs onto the floor, I wasted no time in also flopping sideways onto the floor, my whole body convulsing from sobs that had no legitimate foundation other than hormones. 

Be logical, I kept telling myself. If you stop crying and sit up, you can finish your Dutch lesson. It is still early in the evening and you can still do something together with Christian. You have not wasted the whole night, and there is no reason why you need to. So stop crying and sit up.

The problem is, my emotions are not founded in logic. I did not sit up. I did not stop crying. And the longer I lay there telling myself to be logical and the longer I failed to do it, the worse I felt. I shook. I sobbed. I had trouble breathing. For a fleeting moment I wondered if the baby was getting enough oxygen, but that worry did not calm me down. 

After half an hour of lying on my side on the cold, laminate bedroom floor, my whole upper body racking with sobs, I was a mess—emotionally and physically. The entire area on the floor where my head rested was slippery from tears. There was snot on my sock from where I had blown my nose on it (don’t ask how I managed to reach my nose to my foot because I have no idea). By the dim light streaming through the cracked door, I could also see a thin, very attractive string of snot-mixed-with-saliva stretching four inches from my face to the floor. What a depressing connection to the place I had let myself fall. Part of me wanted Christian to come in and comfort me, but my pride kept me from calling him. What wife wants her husband to see her in such a state? I was embarrassed of how I looked and ashamed of not being able to “logic” my way out of this fit. 

And there, on the bedroom floor, covered in my own tears and grossness, I started whispering, “Jesus, I need you.” Over and over again the same thing: “Jesus, I need you.”

Just as I was, I came. 

It is a wonder that after God makes each of us so intricately and perfectly, He still accepts us back—no, welcomes us back, wants us back—even after we have made a mess of ourselves and broken ourselves. He did not tell me to first wash the snot off my face. He did not tell me to first get a handle on my emotions and then come before him, composed and clean. He did not tell me to do something useful or productive. He did not even tell me to first sit up. Long ago, and every day since then, He simply tells me to come. 

“Just as you are, come.” 

Just. As. You. Are.

There are days when I feel more worthy to sit at His feet than I did in that moment. The funny thing is, those are the days when I am most in the wrong. Jesus is not the Nnabagereka who needs to have everything ready before she can enter our compound. Jesus is the one who makes me ready. He is the one who makes me clean. He is the one who lifts me up and composes me and helps me to see things clearly. 

Oswald Chambers goes on to say, “Just think of the invincible, unconquerable, and untiring patience of Jesus, who lovingly says, ‘Come to Me…’ “

Just as I am, I will come.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

these days

287 days ago, Christian and I decided now was the right time to start a family. We both always knew we wanted children—it would be hard to live and work with 200 of them without loving them! When we got married, I told him I wanted him all to myself for one year, and then we could start our family, whether biologically or through adoption. It was a wonderful year of childless marriage (well, at least not with our own children), and then we were ready for the next stage.

248 days ago, God quickly answered our prayers and I became pregnant. We just didn’t know it yet.

211 days ago, I caved and took a pregnancy test. I had told myself I would not get overly hopeful and take one until I threw up, but the fact that I could come home from work at lunchtime and fall asleep before making food was a red flag that something was up. (I hate naps.) That double line was so beautiful to me. 

I wrote a note telling Christian that he was the world’s best father and taped it on the bathroom mirror, somewhere I assumed he would see almost as soon as he got home. Just to make sure, I brought him a cup of water while he was working in the office, claiming I cared about his hydration (in general, I do). When he came home, he was so nice that he wanted to sit on the couch with me and let me read to him in Dutch for an hour, which is normally such a blessing but this time made me a little anxious. When he finally used the bathroom, he walked out with this goofy smile on his face. “Really?” he whispered. I nodded. We hugged. We had a family. 

210 days ago, I took a second pregnancy test just to make sure. Still positive!

208 days ago, baby and I had our first ballet presentation in church. I had been teaching 25 6-year-olds for the past few weeks and we were finally showing everyone the dance on which they had been working. Little did I know that would be the first of many ballet presentations with a baby inside.

197 days ago, we told Christian’s parents the wonderful news. After debating how we were going to share it with the new grandparents, we found books online called “I Love You, Grandma” and “I Love You, Grandpa” in both Dutch and English. We ordered copies for each of our parents and had them sent to their houses with strict instructions not to open anything until we told them to do so.

While Skyping with Christian’s family, we finally gave them permission to open theirs. They were thrilled, though not surprised. Apparently when a one-year-married couple clearly has a secret—and a good secret at that—there are not so many options as to what it can be.

196 days ago, we Skyped with my parents and repeated the routine. My mom’s face was the best. Wide eyes, open mouth, and not a word for quite some time (which is unusual for her when we are Skyping). She did not look as thrilled when she asked if she could tell my grandma and we said no, but in time she forgave us for that.

192 days ago, after a few weeks of almost-round-the-clock nausea, I woke up feeling fine. It was my birthday and I took it as a special birthday present from God that I could happily and easily eat the wonderful dinner Christian had prepared for me.

193 days ago, I woke up feeling fine again. This time, it send me into a panic. What if something had gone wrong? I knew miscarriages were common and that one sign is simply losing any pregnancy symptoms. Christian and I went to the clinic at Noah’s Ark, but that early in a pregnancy they could not confirm anything. We immediately went into Mukono and asked for an ultrasound from a clinic there… and that was the first time we saw our baby. It was a smudge, and admittedly a different smudge than I thought when I looked at the screen, but a beautiful white smudge nonetheless, complete with a heartbeat.

181 days ago, we received our first baby presents. Immediately after we shared the news with Christian’s family, his mother had already started shopping for her first grandchild. There were pink and blue bubbles, pink and blue candies, tiny baby clothes and tiny baby shoes, but the best part was a pregnancy book—the kind we get to fill in week by week to document how the pregnancy is going. It is called the Negen Maandenboek (Nine Month Book) and we started filling it in and taking weekly belly photos as soon as we could. We are so excited to show it to our baby someday and prove that he or she was wanted and loved from the very beginning.

167 days ago, we went in for a second ultrasound just for fun. We went to Mukono again because the Ultrasound Guy (or the Scan Man) only comes to Noah’s Ark on Saturday mornings, and the whole compound knows that if someone goes to the clinic on a Saturday morning and does not have an emergency, then she must be there for an ultrasound. We were not yet ready to share the news with everyone, so we went back to the clinic where we did the first one because we wanted a nice ultrasound photo to show my family when we went on vacation the next week. 

In preparation, I drank a whole lot of water. In adherence to Ugandan culture, the ultrasound man was an hour late. And then he got to poke and prod around my bladder for awhile. It was agony, but it was worth it. This time our smudge was peanut-shaped!

163 days ago, we brought baby Norton (named years ago by Annie) to America for the first time. We spent an exciting nine-hour layover exploring New York City, managing to hit the top of the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Central Park before heading back to the airport for the last leg of our two-day journey from Uganda to Washington.

161 days ago, on the first evening of our Peterson family reunion in Oregon, my mom had the privilege (or the task?) of telling everyone about her newest grandchild. I was supposed to do it but couldn’t find a way to casually bring it up, so she saved the day. Everyone is looking forward to having young children in the family again, considering the next youngest is already 16 years old.

155 days ago, on the last day of the family reunion, Jen got out her doppler and we got to hear the heartbeat much more clearly than we had before. There are definitely benefits to having a midwife/nurse sister.

133 days ago, Norbert (the name changed because my mom couldn’t remember Norton) experienced its first Loggers’ Jubilee. Actually, so did Christian. We made sure to hit everything—coronation, lawnmower races, logging shows, bed races, parade. It was a fun-filled weekend, even with the rain shower during the parade.

132 days ago, Norbert and I ran our first race together! In that Jubilee 10k, my main goal was to make it through the whole thing without wetting my pants. (My pregnant or have-been-pregnant friends, you get it.) It was a success! And to top it off I/we placed third in my age group. That was enough to convince me to sign up for a race the following month in Uganda.

129 days ago, Christian and I were sitting on the airplane in Dubai, waiting to take off for the last part of our trip back to Uganda. After a 14-hour plane ride to Duabi and a 14-hour layover in the airport, we had been sitting on the hot, stuffy plane for two hours and were still on the ground. But that stillness was exactly what I needed because that was the first time I felt our baby move. It was strange, and different, and absolutely wonderful. I sat there in my rough, blue airplane seat with my eyes closed and a tear rolling down my cheek. Magical.

124 days ago, we were in our first church service since returning from the U.S. We came forward during testimony time and Christian thanked God for our good trip and safe travels. Then he continued: “We know every time we come back you tell us we have grown fat, and that is true. Today I thank God that I came back with a big stomach because I ate a lot of nice food, and I thank God that Auntie Katie came back with a big stomach because she is four months pregnant with our child.” This was followed by a full minute of cheering. I am not exaggerating. 

122 days ago, we had our first visit with the midwife at Noah’s Ark. After reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which is written for women in America who are going to deliver in a hospital, our checkup seemed pretty minimal, but that was okay with us. We both had some blood tests, they checked my weight and fundal height, and I took some anti-malarial pills since the normal treatment for malaria is harmful to a fetus. All in all, everything looked good and we were pleased.

121 days ago, Christian felt Norbert move for the first time. At only 18 weeks along, that was an earlier-than-expected blessing.

117 days ago, we made the announcement public by putting news of this new baby on Facebook. It was fun to have a secret for awhile, but it was also a joy to see how many people are excited about this little life.

96 days ago, Norbert and I performed in our second ballet presentation together. My belly was getting a bit more visible by then.

92 days ago, we bought plane tickets to come to the Netherlands for the delivery. If we knew everything was going to go well, we would have stayed in Uganda. However, Uganda has no NICU and it is hard to get blood if I were to lose a lot. After seeing what a big difference it made to go to Seattle for my burns a few years back, we decided to play it safe and deliver outside of Uganda, just in case. Our hope is that things will go smoothly and we will look back and say, “We should have just stayed at Noah’s Ark!”

89 days ago, Norbert and I ran in our second race: the Source of the Nile 12k in Jinja. My goal this race was to finish before my iPod died, and again we succeeded! We also came in 14th, which at 23 weeks pregnant isn’t so bad I think.

68 days ago, Christian’s family and homefront committee (our missionary support group in the Netherlands) did a bib/diaper/baby-towel-and-other-things-we-need drive at their church and raised enough money to pay for most of our basic baby supplies. We are so blessed!

43 days ago, Oma Janneke and Opa Aat came to visit us in Uganda and got to see my ever-growing stomach and feel Norbert move. Good thing we have such an active baby!

21 days ago, Norbert and I performed in our last ballet presentation in the Noah’s Ark school Christmas Carols. We did one very simple dance with 20 4-year-olds, and then had to fill in for one of the teenagers in another dance. The aunties told me later that I scared them when I had to jump up on a chair onstage for some of the moves, but it all went well. Seeing a very pregnant ballet dancer was a new experience for everyone there.

9 days ago, we had our last day of work before leaving Uganda. I spent half the day organizing puzzles for the library and was not at all sad to be finished with that. We wanted to reserve our last few days at home for preparing the house and packing.

8 days ago, we spent the day in Kampala for two important reasons:  One, we picked up Christian’s new work permit, allowing us to stay in Uganda another three years (woohoo!). Two, we bought a crib! From the side of the road. It’s not quite up to Schinnell standards, but we think it’s beautiful, and we have already tested it with a five-year-old to make sure it will work for Norbert for quite a while.

7 days ago, we spent the whole day clearing things out of the not-so-spare room to make space for baby stuff. We managed to reassemble the crib all by ourselves, find out-of-the-house places for too many work supplies we had been keeping at home, and organize all the toys the other children use when they visit. After that, we felt much better about leaving soon and knowing we are coming back with a new family member.

6 days ago, we took advantage of our last few days in African weather and did a maternity photo shoot. For fun, we brought down four-year-old Janet, who kissed my belly about 80 times in that hour.

5 days ago, we went to our last Noah’s Ark church service before leaving. At the end of the service they called Christian and I forward to pray over us, our journey, the delivery and the baby. The children came and laid hands on us—nine-year-old Levi came forward and confidently smacked his hand right in the middle of my forehead. It was all done in love.

4 days ago, we woke up in our Uganda house for the last time with just the two of us. It is still hard to believe that everything is going to change so much. However, I remember thinking the same thing before getting married and I haven’t regretted that for one moment. We said too many and yet not enough good-byes as we left Noah’s Ark for what we hope will not be more than three months, and ended the day by boarding the plane. 

3 days ago, we arrived in the Netherlands to a family who has done even more to prepare for this baby than we have. While trying to stay awake after a night in the airplane, we unpacked our suitcases in “our” new apartment, took the bikes out for a test ride (fortunately being pregnant does not make that any more difficult), and to celebrate being in the western world I of course ate a salad.

2 days ago, we had our first appointment with the Dutch midwife. The ultrasound showed that Norbert is already in a good position for birth and should not shift before then. We discussed what still needs to be done in order to get things ready for a home birth, and as long as no complications arise in the next month, it should all go as planned. But of course you never know with things like this.

Today I am sitting on the couch, watching this little life move around in my abdomen and thinking about how I am going to miss feeling those movements so distinctly. At the same time, I am so excited to see its arms and legs and head and actually hold those tiny fingers and look into those eyes. And to know whether we have a son or a daughter! We still have a month more, but for now I am going to cherish this time of having our baby all to myself.

13 days until our next appointment with the midwife. 
16 days until we need to raise our bed and finish final preparations for a home birth. 
30 days until Norbert’s due date.
37 days until our second anniversary. Will we be parents by then? 

Where have the days gone? It feels like a lifetime ago that I was sitting on the couch waiting for Christian to read that note, yet at the same time I feel like this pregnancy has gone so fast I can’t believe it is almost over. These days have been blessed, and exciting, and nerve-racking, and stressful, and joyful, and sometimes uncomfortable, but I thank God for every single one of these days that our child has been alive and well. We will see you soon, little one!