Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A face for Ebola



My heart breaks a couple times a day. Whenever I look at the headlines and remember our friends, my heart just sinks.

Granted, I have more in this personally than the average American, and so what I have to say here comes from my heart, not my head.

Thanks to the media, Liberia is all over the news, and as usual, it's bad news. Ebola. The dreaded disease that is killing thousands. People are living in tremendous fear because of how deadly it is, and because hospitals are shutting down. I saw the story today of a lady who died in childbirth because 4 clinics turned her away.

What makes me the most sad, is how it has once again reduced Liberia to broken down hospitals, unsanitary living conditions, and ignorance. The article on CNN detailing the terrible conditions of one of the main hospitals made me sad and angry all at the same time. I feel maternal and protective and it feels like Liberians have been violated and stripped of their dignity. See, I told you I'm thinking with my heart right now, and not my head :)

I realize that every word is true, but Liberians are more than all that. They are funny, warm, friendly, and creative. They have faces.


They are more than just statistics. More than willfully ignorant people. More than dirt and poverty and broken down buildings. They have names and emotions and personalities. They have faces.


What makes me sadder yet is the attitude that many Americans have displayed about the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to help out with this horrible epidemic. 

Most don't realize that working in the hospitals over there is no walk in the park to start with, and then to stay to help with Ebola? That takes a special kind of person, a Christ-like kind of person, a life-giving person. And when I hear people suggesting that if they would truly be unselfish, they would not have decided to bring Ebola back to the States, well, words fail to adequately describe how I feel.

Articles like this leave me speechless. 

Our definition of inconvenience is the waiter bringing the appetizer late, or worse yet, the wrong entree.
The driver pulling out in front of us as we are running late on the way to work.
Golden Corral's buffet prices going up.
Having to park way out at Wal-Mart on a busy day.

How about this for a new definition:
hauling all your drinking water and any other water for household use in buckets on your head for a mile.
a terrible health care system, where many people die for lack of proper care and equipment
eating once a day because you can't really afford more
relying on public transportation because you couldn't nearly afford your own vehicle.

Honestly, I don't know how this will pan out. I can only pray and cry to the Father to have mercy and stop this epidemic. I'm preparing to hear that some of our friends will have gotten it. This disease is ruthless, painful and most times life-taking.

In the meantime i will remember the better days,
of a colorful people
of beautiful, happy babies
of sandy beaches
of friendly folk

My Liberia.





Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Colorful "Baby Wash"



Welcome, Christopher Hudson!

About a month and a half ago, a sweet little boy was born to a family in our church. He joins a family of three sisters and a brother. His brother was especially thrilled for a little brother, and I know there are lots of fun times ahead for those two!

So Amanda and I thought it would be fun to host a baby shower, to celebrate this new life, and who doesn't enjoy a good ladies afternoon?

We brainstormed, started our own secret board on Pinterest and both decided we liked the same theme. We are book lovers, and Hannah, Christopher's mom, is also an avid reader. So we decided to go with bright colors centered around beloved children's books. On the invitations, we requested that people bring children's books instead of cards, so Christopher now has the beginnings of his own personal library!

A week before the shower, I was chatting with Cassandra and Hadassah (C's sisters). Hadassah said she was so excited about her mom's anniversary that we were going to have a party for and Cassandra quickly corrected her: "it's not an anniversary, it's a baby wash!" Baby wash, baby shower, whatever.




We chose fun foods that corresponded with childrens' books and then bought the cute little food tents here.










I think Pooh got it right:


I tried my hand at a diaper cake and was disappointed when the diapers I ordered were patterned on the outside, making so my completely white cake vision couldn't come to pass. I would suggest if anybody tries this, make sure they get plain white diapers.
We played a number of games throughout the afternoon. The first one was the "Don't say baby" game that lasted throughout the whole shower. The sign is a bit hidden on the picture but the idea was to not use the word "baby" and the punishment was having a clothespin taken off. It was amazing how creative some people were with using synonyms to get their point across! The person with the most pins won.

We played a few others as well. There was a Points in Your Purse game and then a baby food tasting/guessing game. I think we were all a bit appalled at the nasty baby foods that people feed their infants :) I also found a game on Pinterest using book titles and rewriting them and having the guests figure out which book it was. For example: The Unsightly Aquatic Fowl is the Ugly Duckling. 

After playing the games, we cut the cake, made by the talented Leah, also from our church. How cute is this? And the details were just amazing!

Big sister certainly approved!


After eating the yummy cake, Hannah opened the gifts.


We all had a lot of fun and Christopher was well-celebrated. He was passed from one set of arms to another all afternoon and we never got a picture of him. But here is one from his photo shoot when he was less than 36 hours old:


 I find I am becoming more and more like my mother and grandmother. As I was cleaning up after the party, I just about threw the food tents in the trash, but couldn't bring myself to do it :) They were only used once, and are in great condition, so if anyone wants them, contact me with your address and I will send them to you at no charge. They would be perfect for a birthday party too. I just think they are too cute to throw away and if someone can use them, I will gladly send them to you. It's first-come-first-serve so whoever replies first gets them :)


That's all for now!
Vicki
photo credits go again to my talented sister, Kelly

UPDATE:
The cards have been spoken for, and will soon find their new home across the ocean. If you want to order them, the link is above. The lady does customized orders, so you can play around with the food names.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unexpected beauty~




I saw it yesterday in the face of a sixteen year old boy/man. Bravely, he held back the tears, but his trembling chin gave it away. I saw it in the face of my sobbing 10 year old cousin, raw grief coursing down his cheeks. I saw it the beautiful, strong face of my aunt, who had carried on so selflessly and tirelessly. I saw it in my uncle, the terrible ache of losing a mother.

It was heartbreaking. A husband shouldn't have to bury his only daughter and wife in seven years time. A son shouldn't grieve his sister and his mom . A grandson said goodbye to his grandmother, while standing beside the grave of his mother, who died seven years before, when he was only nine.



The raw grief and heartbreak was terrible to watch and experience. Kathy's life was so full of life and vitality. The slideshow playing during visiting hours were full of action and joy. She lived a full, rich life, and she was very loved. We laid her to rest, and celebrated her life, in a way that I think she would have approved of. In fact, I could almost hear her laughing and saying in compelling, Kathy-ish tones, "hey y'all, look down there!" as she saw it from heaven.




However, on the flip side of pain is a strange kind of beauty. The gut-wrenching pain is the result of having loved and having loved deeply. Love is beautiful, and in a sense, it purifies and beautifies the pain. How sad is the death of the unknown homeless man who dies in the alley, alone and un-grieved. Nobody grieves him because nobody loved him.

Pain is inevitable when one loves and so the two walk hand in hand. The stronger the love, the deeper the grief. Pain, the outworking of grief, is therefore a celebration of deep love. And when we grieve and shed tears and mourn a passing, it's our last way of saying, "I love you."

And speaking of beauty....the same juxtaposition of beauty and pain existed somewhere else, on a hill, on some boards, with some nails. We often see Jesus' crucifixion from His point of view and not the Father's. I think God knows a little something about heartbreak too, and about a love so huge that it gives itself away. I think His heart broke too, as He watched his only Son suffer away, for crimes He didn't commit, to make His family bigger still.

He understands pain, He sees the beauty, and He holds us close. That kinda gives me chills.

Vicki

photo credits go to Kelly, as always :)





Friday, February 7, 2014

An "I Do" Down Under part 1

 :David and Carolyn:
Their Celebration


So the story is told of a young man, a dashing young man who lives in Australia with his family. This young man, with jet black hair and a pleasant demeanor, is studying medicine. He follows in the footsteps of his parents, both doctors. This young man loves history and knows a lot about religious history. He picks up a book on nonresistance, written by Stephen Russell of Guys Mills, PA. This book is about Biblical Nonresistance, a position held by Anabaptists. He is intrigued and looks to see if there are any Anabaptist churches in Australia, and to his delight, he finds there is one not far from his home in Brisbane. He shows up at church and learns to love the beautiful, multi-cultured church. He soon notices a maiden. The maiden is very fair to look upon, and soon the handsome young man and the fair young maiden start a courtship. Their celebration of marriage was on 18 January 2014.

The maiden is a cousin of mine and the oldest daughter of my uncle Jason. I thought I had to go to the wedding and so I did!

I was thrilled when Melanie,  my cousin, decided she had to go too, so we made plans to go. These plans included many travel decisions. We found it was a lot cheaper to go the indirect route to Australia and so we chose that. If you to ask either of us right now, after going and coming back, we might choose another route next time :)

I had a 5 hour flight to Los Angeles, where I met Melanie. We also met our airplane, a whopping A380:

These are the biggest passenger planes there are and they are massive. Holds 644 passengers plus the crew. I hear there is a nice lounge upstairs as well as a gift shop, where you can be if you have $10,000 to shell out. The economy class is nice too, with fairly roomy seats, and nice entertainment screens to watch movies or see what area you are flying over. On Emirates they also greet you fairly soon with hot washcloths with which to refresh yourself. Quite nice!

So we boarded (they use up to three jetways) and thought we had it made in our seats in bulkhead (area behind the dividers, with extra leg-room), with nobody beside us. However, an hour into our flight, a flight attendant came back and said a mother and baby are moving back with us because she needs the bassinet. So Karim (15 months old) and his mother came back and we were promptly charmed by his curls and big black eyes. He was happy for awhile, and then after we settled down to sleep, he thought it appropriate to start screaming, which he continued to do for a long time. As in hours. So we didn't rest very well and were kinda exhausted when we reached Dubai, 15 hours later.

We got to Dubai in the middle of the night, but you would have thought it was the middle of the day by the crowds and the noise. I was amazed again at the money that is in the place:


 There were high end jewelry stores that were swarming with activity and many nice restaurants too that were filled. Since we had a nearly 7 hour layover, we walked around a while and then got a bite to eat and then looked for an adapter to use to charge our computers. We then looked in vain for a place to charge up. Everybody else was plugging into these outlets under floor tiles, so we eventually did too. It seemed unsafe and unsanitary, but it's all we had.

 
And then there was the funny Bangladeshi guy with very broken English who talked our ears off while we were trying to email our families. He would talk and laugh and so I would laugh and comment on every 4th English word I could understand. We finally got up and moved off to a more quiet space to enjoy some peace and quiet. Right before we left, he wanted to give his phone number to me so I could "remember to him" when I next come to Dubai. I politely laughed and thanked him and said "no thanks!"

We then boarded our 16 hour flight to Brisbane, with a stop in Singapore. Melanie and I had a good laugh over this screen in a Singapore bathroom:

I think we both gave it a good :)

Finally, many hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, we landed in Brisbane. Since it was such an unearthly hour, we hung out and tried to sleep until 7:00 when we saw the lovely faces of our dear cousins Heidi and Charity who had come to pick us up. Lolita and Hadassah H. had flown in from Poland for the wedding as well so we all headed to Gympie together where we reunited with the rest of the cousins and Jason and Melody. We each took long naps in the afternoons, while our weary, confused bodies tried to figure out where we were and what time it actually was.

The next day we hit the ground running with wedding prep. Carolyn had a very clear picture of how she wanted everything to be so that made it easy during the setup. Heidi, Melanie and I ran around collecting flowers and weeds for arrangements and may or may not have raided some beautiful flowering bushes beside a petrol station. There was nobody there to ask so we just kinda helped ourselves :)



 Janae, busy at flower arranging.

Carolyn had collected white ceramic containers for her wedding and she and a church friend planted a bunch of greenery in them. The effect was gorgeous. There was a symmetry with each white container and green plant, but the plants were varied and unique. 



 Jason built this beautiful white arbor as the entrance to the reception area, and  David and Carolyn also used it to take pictures with their guests.


 And now...the Big Day. It started off bright and early with a household of 12 family members and 6 guests to feed and dress. David's sister Daniella came over to help Carolyn get ready and so we got to entertain her sweet little Miriam. 

And then Carolyn got all dressed in her beautiful white dress, lovingly made by her mom. Her baby sister Charis was so proud of her own dress and looked darling as well. Jason's family enjoyed a last few, sentimental minutes together singing and praying and then we headed to the church.

 Is is customary in David's culture for the wedding party to be escorted into the church with singing. They chose not to have a bridal party and their families were their special people for the day so we all met in a side building until our cue to enter the church, whereupon the violinist came and led us into the church with beautiful, happy violin music. The service was beautiful, with Scripture readings by different friends and family of David and Carolyn. Carolyn's grandfather Frederick had a very nice devotional and Jason then had stimulating and fatherly things to say in his message. He and a Hungarian pastor officiated the vows and then Carolyn and David said their hand-written vows to each other. And so they were married! We snapped a few pictures before heading off to the reception.







Melanie and I quite unknowingly matched David's family that day. We felt bad after we discovered it but they were pleased as pie and kept commenting on how glad they were that we matched them, cause they were so outnumbered :) 
His family is wonderful! They pitched right in and helped with everything and were so respectful and nice.
We then headed to the reception and I regret that I have no nice pictures of that. I took a few but most ended up blurry. 
The meal was delicious: grilled chicken and kufta (a Lebanese meatball), rice pilaf, potato salad, a salad bar, homemade rolls made by Carolyn's grandma, and then a dessert table with different cakes, pavlovas, etc. The children from church did such a good job of keeping everybody's cups filled and the tables cleared. During the program part of it, Heidi and Matthew, (David's brother) gave nice speeches about their older siblings, and then both parent sets got up and talked. There was lots of music: Heidi, Janae, BethAnn and Charity sang a beautiful song to the couple, Lolita and Hadassah sang a song with Hadassah accompanying on the piano, Carolyn sprung a surprise on David by singing "the servant song" to him, and David returned the surprise by playing a cello piece along with Matthew and a husband and wife team. Another special feature was playing video messages from the grandparents who couldn't be there.


 
David and Carolyn gave a speech and then soon afterward, it was over and the happy couple drove off into the almost sunset to take their pictures and then head off to their honeymoon in a beautiful rain-forest town.
Coming up next:
our adventures to the beach
a visit to the honeymooners (don't worry, we were invited!)