Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Servant's Heart

Those two words so aptly describe my dad.  Without rival, he is the most selfless person I know.  I can look back throughout my life and see where he has willingly and happily given up his time, money and energy to invest in his children.... and grandchildren.  On this Sunday afternoon in Lesotho, Africa I am wading through priceless memories with the man who mirrored Christ to me as I grew up in his home.

Hardly a night went by throughout my childhood when my dad, who worked a steady and sometimes draining job, did not read to me, play a game with me, pray with me and tuck me into bed.  As an exhausted mother now, I value those memories because I know what a sacrifice they were.  My dad probably would've loved to have sat on the couch in the evenings watching sports or reading a book.  But he didn't.  He came home from work and played with me, invested in me, helped me with school and taught me the truths of the Bible.  Summers were filled with frequent trips to the pool and lake where he would play with me in the water and pull me and my siblings in a tube.  He even taught me how to water ski at the ripe young age of... I don't know... 8 or so?  That takes skill.  He thought not of himself but rather of his family and was committed to being present in our lives any chance he had.

Looking back, some of my favorite memories are of the countless hours my dad spent walking around neighborhoods with me, letting me knock on doors and try to raise money for various charitable causes.  I remember thinking that was so much fun and running back to him after leaving someone's front door, excited to tell him what donation I received.  But, now I wonder what he thought?  Wouldn't he rather have been at home watching a football game?  Or doing necessary yard work?  Or taking a much needed nap?  If he was ever preoccupied with the things he needed to do, I never knew it.  He joyfully walked around nearly every neighborhood in my hometown with me and I know he earned jewels in his crown doing so.

I used to love going with him to my brothers' basketball games and I remember cheering so loudly at a few of them, I lost my voice.  Sometimes my mom would stay home with my other siblings and just my dad and I would go together.  My dad was the coach and when I was the only other kid with him, he would let me sit on the bench with him and the players.  He also coached my basketball team the one year I tried it out for myself.  After getting the ball and shooting it at the wrong goal (fortunately it didn't go in), I gave up on the sport and resolved to just enjoy watching my brothers instead.  I remember him introducing me to some of his favorite songs from the Christian radio station and cruising along to the games in his (extremely) modest ride enjoying them.  And I remember sometimes being able to talk him into a cheap McDonald's burger after a late basketball game.  

My dad was patient with me as I stumbled through my teenage years and despite the times that I destroyed his trust in me, by God's grace we were able to rebuild it.  By the time I was introduced to Jonathan, he apparently trusted my judgment....

I distinctly remember the day I told my dad I had begun writing Jonathan.  It had only been a couple days since I first heard from the guy I'd never met in Mexico and at that point he was nothing more than an acquaintance.  Regardless, I thought it necessary to clue him into the situation.  I told him in a doctor's office that I was writing this guy south of the border and that he was nine years my senior.  From then on my dad nick named him 2-6, since Jonathan was 26 and I was 17.  As our correspondence increased and deepened, my dad stayed in the know.  One night my parents and I sat looking through family photos and videos of the St.Clairs and it was obvious that my dad recognized the seriousness of the situation.  So, it came as no surprise to him when Jonathan wrote asking his permission to begin an official relationship with me.  My dad's response to that message in not these exact words was, "I think you two are going to get married."   We were engaged after my dad took the bull by the horns and didn't even wait for Jonathan to ask for my hand in marriage.... he just gave me away!  Maybe he was trying to get me off the budget but....  I'm still on it!   Thanks for your support, Dad!  :o)

In the hotel room before leaving the US in January.  He wept as he hugged me goodbye and as a parent, I know it is a sacrifice to send your child off even for a cause you wholeheartedly believe in.

I choked back tears as I stood beside my dad before he walked me down the aisle.  He had been a wonderful protector of me and I knew I could always trust him.  He had invested in my life and shown me love until I was introduced to the man who would take his place.  He wept as we danced together at my wedding and as a parent, I know it is a sacrifice to give your daughter away even to a man you love like a son.

Now in my married life, I value him and the example he was to me as a parent.  He has supported me fully in my decision to pursue mission work.  He gave selflessly of himself as we lived down the road from my parents and he often took care of my son while we raised our support to come to Africa.  He cared for Kyle during my three months of miserable pregnancy sickness with Ellee.  He spent most of our family vacation back in November chasing Kyle around as I was unbelievably sick and Jonathan was smothered with seminary requirements.  It brings tears to my eyes to think of him coming into my room on that vacation to take and clean my up-chuck bucket because I was unable to even get up to do it myself.  He has a servant's heart.  He thinks of others before himself.  He makes sacrifices without even thinking twice about it.  Like sharing his ice cream sandwich with his grandson....

Kyle snuggles just before we left the US.

Hugging Kyle one last time in the hotel room in Atlanta before we departed.

I cherish him in my life and I miss him terribly.  

Can't wait to see you again, Dad!  Come visit me in Africa!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ellee Renée

I don't know what made us settle on arriving in Bloemfontein May 22nd, but it was the plan all along.  Trying to aim two weeks before Ellee's due date, we decided the least stressful thing would be to go ahead and come to allow us a little time to settle in before she made her appearance.  Even so, we opted to come sixteen days early, and I really have no idea why.  It's a good thing, though, because Ellee barely waited until two weeks before her due date.  

As we arrived in Bloem from Maseru on Wednesday around lunch time, there was a distinct increase in the pressure I was feeling in my pelvis.  Although the journey was only about two hours, I thought it must have been from sitting still in the car. So we proceeded to eat our lunch, and I didn't even mention it to Jonathan.  By Wednesday evening I was feeling some "pain", or discomfort rather, and began trying to discern what it was I was experiencing exactly.  Although it was the first "pain" I had felt in the pregnancy that even hinted towards labor, I didn't think it would continue because I was still sixteen days out from my due date.  Because Kyle came five days after his due date, I was pretty convinced all my babies would make late arrivals.  I was prepared to be in for the long haul with Ellee as well.  I mentioned the discomfort I was feeling to Jonathan,  telling him that although it felt like nothing compared to the labor I experienced with Kyle, it was the same sort of sensation, and I hoped it would either progress or just go away so I could sleep.

I did sleep for about four hours before waking up to bothersome minor contractions that were coming between 7-10 minutes apart.  The intensity was still almost nothing compared to what I felt with Kyle; I was pretty determined they would cease before long.  After timing those and Skyping my mom and pregnant sister-in-law in the middle of the night, I decided I ought to try to sleep again just in case they did progress as Thursday continued.  I dozed on and off between annoying contractions and finally woke up for good that morning, tired and nervous that Ellee was really going to come before Aunt Lacy had a chance to make it here.  The contractions continued sporadically throughout the morning, but they were still pathetic on the labor pain scale.  We visited the hospital that morning to drop in on friends of ours who were there due to a car accident.  I decided to pop into my doctor's office there at the hospital to see what he had to say.  He checked and told me I wasn't dilated at all which came as no real surprise to me.  I knew the contractions weren't real, intense labor pains by any means, but because I never had any "pre-labor" with Kyle, I wasn't exactly sure what was going on.  My doctor sent me down to L&D to be monitored for about half an hour and see what they had to say.  The nurse said the contractions weren't very strong at all and said I could go home and would likely be back. 

What else would a Daddy and little brother do while Mommy is being monitored but draw Simba?

Mommy knowing the contractions weren't doing anything and wanting to go home and eat lunch.

As soon as we left the hospital at about 2:30 PM, the intensity of the pain began to increase and continued steadily throughout the afternoon.  I alerted the guest house owner, Marian, that it didn't appear Lacy was going to make it in time to care for Kyle while I delivered, and so she would have to be on 2-year-old duty whenever we needed to go back to the hospital.  By 5:30 PM we were convinced a return trip to the L&D floor was imminent, so I began attempting to get things together between contractions.  When Kyle woke up from his nap, I tried to feed him some dinner.  I would run out of the room every few minutes to have a contraction before returning to shovel in another bite.  I didn't want him to see me in pain, but I also didn't want to leave him with someone he didn't know when just awake from his nap and with an empty stomach.  By 6:30 PM, I called Marian back and told her we were going to head for the hospital as soon as I could get everything together.  She immediately came to retrieve Kyle and we left for the hospital at about 7 PM.  

It was so different this time, trying to do everything on our own and also having a son to worry about.  When we got to the hospital and they checked me, I was 2 cm (pathetic, right?), so I hunkered in for a long night.  Ouch.  We decided to send Jonathan back to relieve Marian until he would put Kyle to sleep.  Poor Kyle was pretty uneasy as we left him so quickly and it made me even more tense knowing he had no clue what had just happened.  Staying alone in the hospital wasn't exactly my ideal situation, either, but we didn't see that we had much choice.  I sent Jonathan off with clear directions to keep his phone close just in case.  By the time he got back, I was at 5 cm and much happier with a numbing drug in my back.  I'll spare you the rest of the labor and delivery details but let's just suffice it to say I didn't push for the 1.5 hours I had with Kyle.

Epidural face

Ellee Renée was born at 1:29 AM on May 24th, barely two weeks before her due date, weighing 6 lbs, 7 oz and measuring 19 inches long.  My doctor didn't make it in time for the delivery because he was at home asleep like any normal person would be at that time of the night; the nurses didn't call him until Ellee had practically birthed herself.  Nevertheless, she arrived beautiful and healthy and my relief from being unpregnant was great.

I dare say the months of sickness I experienced until I reached 19 weeks in my pregnancy was the roughest experience I've faced thus far in my life.  Really I can't imagine going through that misery again.  Even so, the reward is so much greater than the pain I experienced in those months.  She is an angel baby and while I didn't think it possible, I love her just as much as I love my Kyle and I love him no less than I did before.

Thus far Ellee seems to have a fairly mild temperament, although at this point she is just sleeping her days away.  She is awake some of the time, and unless she's fighting a dirty diaper, she just looks around at the world and makes lots of little baby grunts.  Nursing is still going great. She took to it with even more ease than Kyle did.  We tried giving her a bottle of milk I had pumped the other day just to see what she would do.  She took to that fine as well.  She is sleeping curled up next to me at this point so we are only up once or twice a night for feedings since she is so snuggly warm.  I don't really want to sleep with her every night, but since it is so cold at night and we don't have heat, I feel like I don't have much choice through the winter.  I am a light sleeper so I don't worry as much about her sleeping with me as I would worry she is too cold sleeping alone.  I won't be looking forward to to training her to sleep in her crib once it starts to warm back up, but for now, I'll try to enjoy having a little bundle snoozing beside me.  I now know how quickly these sleepless early weeks fly by.  I'm doing my best to just enjoy the middle of the night feedings and getting shot at during diaper changes.

Being a mom the second time around is a much different experience as well.  I feel so much more at ease with her all around, from breast feeding to diaper changing, I just feel more confident that I know what I'm doing.  Of course, there are still plenty of things I don't know or have forgotten about Kyle's first weeks, thus I'm really thankful for Skype so I can ask my mom questions even from across the pond.  But, for the most part, it has been a really smooth transition between one and two children.  Jonathan and I make a pretty good team.  We both know, however, we'll be doomed with number three since we won't be able to each just have one to care for.  Yes, I did just mention "number three" and I'm only nine days from delivering the second.  I may just be crazy.

Kyle has surpassed all my expectations on the little brother front.  He immediately took to Ellee and he continues to drown her with hugs and kisses.  He says her name so sweetly, "Ellee Nay", and he is convinced that she "likes you."  She's probably pretty oblivious to the fact that she has a big brother, but I'd bet if she knew, she would like him.  He is a great little helper and eagerly takes her soiled diapers to the trash for me.  That's about all he can help with at this point since she only eats, sleeps and poops.  But, he does it with such a happy heart; he makes me so proud.

Kyle meeting Ellee in the hospital room

We miss our family and friends greatly and wish everyone could be together to share these special days.  We're thankful to now have one extremely helpful family member here, at least, lending us a very welcome hand during these early weeks.  Kyle is loving having Aunt Eee here to play with him, and I think it has helped him take Ellee's arrival smoothly since someone else is here to pay him some attention.  We also enjoyed a visit this weekend from friends from Tennessee, fellow missionaries who now live in Pretoria.  They took these beautiful photos for us and we are so grateful!

My heart is full and my eyes sweat sometimes when I look at my precious little girl and my silly little boy and thank God for the blessings He has given me.  I am so undeserving of such a privilege and I don't take it lightly.  My treasures, I pray I will be a good mother to you always.