Thursday, June 23, 2011

biopsy dates

On Tuesday Joseph will be admitted to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland again. This time the biopsy is definite, not a possibility. His liver is not functioning properly and while currently it is not severe, all structural and infectious causes have been eliminated, as have many others. There is a slow and slight worsening of his liver function and it is no longer advisable to simply "wait and see".

The biopsy will be performed around 11am on Wednesday morning (if you're in the States, that's Tuesday evening, around dinner time). If all goes well and Joseph recovers well, we should be discharged some time the next day. It will be at least a week before we hear any results.

We're praying for no complications during the procedure, for peaceful hearts as we wait and for total trust in Jesus as we receive a diagnosis.

Monday, June 20, 2011

the boys (nearly) wept

The Lighthouse girls painted a lovely wall mural. The Lighthouse boys added their own (unwelcome) additions. This weekend the girls drank deeply from the chalice of revenge. It took over two hours on Saturday morning to reclaim the wall, but it was worth it. Since I couldn't be there to witness the boys' reaction on Sunday night, the girls promised to text me. At 8pm I got the following triumphant text: "The boys' reaction was AMAZING!!!!! There were heads in hands and cries of defeat! haha! It was so cool - their faces were hilarious!" 

The bunny-hunting tank was the first thing to go.
 It was transformed into a stylish topper for a fairy-tale carriage.

Then the rabbit's second nemesis was "re-purposed"
 from hardy archer to whimsical cupid. 

The shark and the troll morphed into long-locked mermaids.
 The reindeer who HAD BEEN intended for the shark's supper 
received pegasus-like wings and pink eyelashes.
 She was then harnessed to the pumpkin carriage. 

 The edgy design on the sun benefitted from a cutesy makeover
 with the simply addition of a few curly Qs. 

The dragon perhaps suffered the worst fate of all. 
He became "she" -
 bedecked with bows, hearts, polka dots and lush eyelashes
 and set in the company of a fairy princess.

Unicorns, rainbows and pink snow (hey, why not?) added insult to injury.

For good measure: ballerinas, butterflies and oodles of flowers.
The finished product left no girly stereotype unturned. 

(To view the boys' original work, click on May in the 
Archives and then on the post entitled
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails)

According to Richard, the boys were stunned and aghast, but couldn't help but find it hilarious. Each mourned the alterations imposed on his own little creation - then as a body they vowed to avenge the prank. 
The fun continues.

(Although he didn't capture the boys' first moments taking in the damage, 
Rich did manage to get some of their reaction on video. 
Warning: if you are prone to sea-sickness, do not watch this clip!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

the naughty little liver

Just a bit of an update on Joseph....his bilirubin count/jaundice are very slowly (but steadily) improving, however his overall liver function is not - so it seems that the biopsy is inevitable now after all. We had a number of tests this morning to double-check that nothing has been missed. If all comes back clear then Joseph will be returning to Auckland in a week or two for that biopsy. Now that we are a few weeks older and wiser, we've decided not to drag the girls through it this time. I'll go up for the night or two that the procedure requires and Richard will hold down the fort here. The biopsy seems to be the last resort for discovering a cause or reaching a specific diagnosis. The docs are looking now for infections and rare genetic disorders... in the case of the latter, it is possible that Maria, Bernadette and/or any future siblings may also eventually need some sort of testing. It's been a real yo-yo experience with Joseph. We ask for ongoing prayers for the little man.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

making choices

I'm trying to think of the most non-dramatic way to share that this weekend I fainted, hallucinated and convulsed. Nothing is coming to me. So without further ado, I share that on Sunday I fainted. And hallucinated. And convulsed.

I saw a doctor to make sure that this exciting new chapter in my life was not entitled Seizures, but was given only the vague diagnosis of "sudden blood pressure drop, cause unknown". After asking about my life and three very young children and Joseph's various health issues, etc... the doctor suggested that this event was possibly related to stress.

Stress? I thought stress was responsible for raising a person's blood pressure, not causing it to randomly bottom out. I also thought that I was not really all that stressed out. Truly. Sure, there have been moments of intense stress - like, lots of them... such as this morning when I decided it would be a grand idea to quickly pop over to the mall for a pair of jeans with an 11 week old baby and a 22 month old toddler. Within the first ten minutes of this foolish excursion Joseph was crying so hard that he spewed pretty much everything I had gotten in him before leaving the house. I didn't quite notice the extent of the spill until the sales girl started completely freaking out that a teensy drop had landed on the bottom cuff of the pants I had been in the midst of trying on - and was still wearing. Humiliated and angry, I started cleaning it off with my one free hand, biting back the impulse to assure her that spitup is not corrosive, when Bernadette - who had been out of the stroller - quietly attempted to climb back in and pitched headfirst to the floor, toppling the heavy double stroller as she fell (Joseph, thankfully, was still in my arms). Ear piercing screams engulfed the store and spilled out into the mall. I couldn't flee until I changed back into my own jeans (both children wailing furiously all the while). There aren't really words to describe the range or intensity of emotions that followed, but suffice it to say that if moments like that aren't curing my low blood pressure, nothing ever will.

Every mother of young children has these overwhelming moments - even the stress associated with having a sick child is common to most mothers at some point in their lives. Perhaps though living in a foreign country and tending (to various degrees) to seven branches of ministry and three very young children - one of whom has mysterious health issues - while not yet three months postpartum myself is just a little bit....insane.  I never wanted to be a "Supermom" or give the appearance of being one. I just want to be a mother - a good mother. And that is hard enough. The fewer distractions, pressure and demands upon me, the more present, peaceful and gentle I can be in the home. So the real announcement for today's post is that it's time for me to focus completely on the only great work to which I have truly aspired for the past five years. Motherhood....the ministry and stewardship by which the Lord has honored me most.
it's not always sweet smiles and sitting quietly,
in fact, these moments are quite rare....

Ceasing leadership of the ministry to mothers is bittersweet, but there are several women in the group who can capably take up those reins. Plus, that was always the plan - simply to start a mothers' group that eventually would be in someone else's hands.

It's much harder to let go of the two girls groups. I've been attempting to wait for another woman to whom I could pass the baton, but she has not yet appeared. I don't understand what the Lord is doing there, but I'm sure He does. Last night was another girls group which snuck up on me with no time to prepare. I thought I could wing it, but ended up instead with arms filled with a crabby newborn and a too-alert toddler - and no mental space for leading a coherent discussion on anything. These are absolutely lovely young women gathering in my home on Wednesday nights and I feel like I am letting them down as much by continuing on so haphazardly as I would be by quitting.

It's becoming clear to me that perhaps the best ministry I can do is to abstain from ministry (for the sake of the girls and for the mothers)- not because I'm a miserable failure but because I ought not perpetuate the cultural myth of the supermom who can and should do it all. I'll still be involved in these ministries  but in a much smaller and less visible capacity. My most urgent prayer for the mission is for a capable and godly woman to minister to those girls as soon as possible. Please continue to pray for that.

The one thing I'm definitely not giving up (yet) is the blog. It's positively therapeutic. (Take THAT, mean, sneering, anonymous sales girl!)  It's also the only record or journal I'm keeping of our time here. So unless my next twitching, hallucinating faint occurs mid-post, the blog will live on. Even if only my mother reads it. Or even if she doesn't.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


We've been having fun lately adding a new dimension to our ministry with a camcorder. Skits perhaps are a bit passé, but movies ... that's different. First we had some Lighthouse teens spoof a YouTube video we found (about proper church behavior). With a few adjustments it became a short instructional film about how not to behave at Tahu (very tongue in cheek). It was well-received by Tahu, but secretly I think that no one liked it better than the Lighthouse cast! 

This past week Glen and Richard remade another YouTube video. The original clip encouraged viewers to take a chance and invite someone to church. We tweaked it a bit to depict a guy preparing to invite a buddy to youth group, but imagining several potential undesirable responses. Richard grew up with 4 siblings who took the phrase "home movies" to a whole new level - and Glen's dramatic abilities - well, watch for yourself (click below). This clip was a big hit on Sunday night & we're planning to do a lot more filming for and with the youth.

all acting was impromptu
  no script, no practice, no more than 2 takes

The semester is dedicated to evangelization and our major push is to ask the youth to invite others to come church, to youth group, to parish events, to retreats. Yes, we want them to engage others in dialogue about faith. Yes, we hope to see them become more comfortable with the idea of being associated with Jesus and "church" in the eyes of their peers. Yes, we're encouraging them to use social media in a thought-provoking way. But more than anything else, the practice of making personal invitation is what we hope to see each young person grow in this term. Of course mostly they'll get shot down, their friends will decline, it will even perhaps be awkward. We've been very straightforward about that. Unless we're dealing with the 3% of the population who love to try new things and are always open to putting themselves in unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable situations, people say "no" almost by default. Not just to church - to anything that doesn't fit within the boundaries of what they already know and enjoy. I've categorically refused to eat fish for almost 33 years now without ever trying it. (I don't need to try it - I know I'll hate it by the way it smells.) I suspect most people have an equivalent - something they "know" they won't like even if they've never really tried it. For some people, that something is church. When I find the resistance of others frustrating, I need only recall my own (ongoing) history of spiritual stubbornness. Most of my best experiences and deepest growth have happened because someone got me to say yes to an invitation that I at first preferred to decline. I had immediately quit going to church when I began college and returned semesters later only because the girls on my dormitory floor invited me so enthusiastically week after week after week after week. I experienced my first Come and See retreat only because a young nun who I deeply admired called me so persistently for a month. And the only reason Rich and I actually accepted Fr. Michael's crazy invitation to New Zealand was because it had been a FIVE YEAR LONG process of invitation. No joke, no exaggeration. He had "warned" us years in advance that he was going to be issuing the invitation and gave annual reminders for half a decade before he actually asked us to come. Even then we wavered. He persisted.

The point is that some invitations are easy and simple. Others take a bit of perseverance. As we encourage the youth to enthusiastically, habitually and persistently invite others, we must grow in this virtue alongside them. That's one of the coolest and hardest parts about youth ministry. The youth minister is challenged to the same degree as the youth group, if not more so. We've been reflecting on the persistence of the people to whom we ourselves are indebted for our own faith - and naturally begin to wonder if we have been anywhere near as persistent in "paying it forward".  We're sharing with the youth about the need to anticipate the awkwardness and push through it - and realizing that we still often shy away from those type of situations. In writing an inspirational talk about how important it is to persistently invite and warmly welcome others into our various church functions, perhaps the ones who end up being most inspired are Richard and I. Not only has this term vastly increased my desire to be more of the "inviting" type, but also to be better at being invited - to say "yes" when it would be easier and more comfortable to say "no". I could stand to open my horizons a bit more, to try new things, to be open to something a little different than my usual. Just not seafood. Just definitely not seafood.