Last term was war. The battleground was the wall of the youth room and paint was the weapon of choice. This term we've aimed for artistic collaboration in lieu of competition. The girl's group is fashioning puppets whilst the boy's group will construct a wooden puppet theatre. In September, the girls will use the puppets to present two parables to the little ones who attend Children's Liturgy during Sunday Masses. Last week they crafted the "minor characters" out of socks. This week they'll be using felt to make main characters, including Jesus. Stay tuned for those photos.
The theme for the term is "Give Praise" and we'll be using a different praise and worship song each week to delve more deeply into the nature of praising God. At the end of the term we're organizing a big praise and worship music festival for the whole parish, featuring the songs that were dissected at youth nights and some testimonies from the youth about the music and about the Lord. We're pretty excited about it.
I personally was also pretty excited about the SNOW that allegedly fell for about 6.3 minutes this week in the Tauranga area. Snow is one of the things that I miss MOST about Pennsylvania. Although we are in the dead of winter here in New Zealand, the particular part of the country which we are inhabiting does not see snow. Like ever. The trees are covered in flowers, I've planted strawberries and tomatos this week with my children, we wear flip-flops (aka "jandals") many days. That kind of winter. Some of the kids in our youth group here have never seen snow. Almost unfathomable. Definitely tragic. However, a few days ago the temperatures plummeted uncharacteristically and a storm blew up from the south. The smallest flake of a chance of snow overshadowed us. The scoffers scoffed: impossible! But nothing shall be impossible with God. My most snow-pining fellow snow-hoper kept me posted on the forecast via text (even though she was at school and I suspect this activity was illegal). Finally the blessed news - although I was engrossed in a Deep Conversation with Maria in a warm coffeeshop and missed it, the snow had come. A triumph. Such fabulous news that I am choosing to ignore the debate I glimpsed on Richard's Facebook account between the kiwi kids who rejoiced at seeing actual snow at school and those who scoffed that it was all "just sleet". Haters.
The very small, almost bald gentleman in the center of the creative chaos had some medical appointments this morning. Because of the UTI that landed him in hospital when he was 6 weeks old, his kidneys needed to be tested to see if they are refluxing urine. Today he was catheterized for that procedure and the reflux was confirmed. The test itself was a horrible ordeal for both of us. I've seen him endure several other painful procedures over the past few months but this was the most fear I have seen in his eyes yet. I hate how he locks eyes with me during these dreadful moments in the hospital, not understanding why I am not protecting him - or even holding him - while strangers hurt him. It was an additional blow to hear that he is indeed refluxing; Richard and I had been so very sure that this test would eliminate this concern that we weren't prepared at all for the news. Joseph's case is neither mild nor severe, which means there is a chance he might outgrow it in 5 or 10 years but he will need to repeat this invasive test annually until he does so - and he will need to continue taking a daily antibiotic to prevent infection. While at the hospital today he also had his weekly weigh-in and showed a modest gain on his new medication. Over the next few weeks he will need to put on weight at an accelerated speed in order to avoid the feeding tube, which we are still hoping and praying with all our hearts to escape. We appreciate having company in those prayers.
Today, after spending over 5 hours in the hospital, I am particularly moved to write about how truly having Christine here is an awesome blessing. It's been more than two weeks since she arrived and she has given her testimony to girls' group, made puppets, gone to the hot pools with Lighthouse and attended a "normal" youth night, started doing one-to-one ministry and mentoring and has begun writing her first talk for a youth night. Her babysitting duties have been no less abundant. She's already logged in many hours with Maria and Bernadette while Richard and I have partied with Joseph and his doctors. Tonight for the first time she babysat all three of our children while we attended a marriage course in the church (attended! not lead!) On a day to day basis her peaceful, prayerful presence is steadying and strengthening us.
I am blessed by Christine's presence here in many ways far too numerous to list. However, two practical areas have been almost life-changing! Firstly, she is willing to take our little girls to the park for an hour in the mornings. It amazes me how much laundry, cleaning and organizing I can get done in just one hour, even if I have to stop twice to feed Joseph! Secondly, because of Christine, I have been able to start taking each one of my daughters on a private "date" each week. That's been something I have really been wanting to be able to do. Bernadette and I went a long, slow walk last week and examined every thorn on one barren rose bush, ran in circles pretending to be butterflies and went down twin slides together holding hands. A few days later Maria and I got hot chocolate in a warm empty coffeeshop while sharing our feelings on modern art (not even kidding) and then popped into a pet store to talk to budgies and show each other which kind of tropical fish we like best. As I'm beginning to see some evidence that my frequent hospital disappearances are affecting the girls, I am extra grateful for these chances to reconnect with them. But even if I never had to go off to another doctor ever, I'd be loathe to quit this new habit. These dates are becoming the highlight of my week and at least for now, the girls seem to be big fans as well.