Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Seriously? Do we need to talk about this again?

July 25, 2011

For those of you who don't know, when Seth, our firstborn, was about 9 weeks old I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression with Psychosis. It was a VERY difficult time for us as a family. That's a whole other story in itself. However, the reason I'm bringing it up right now is because that time in our lives has been brought up 5 times this past week. Firstly, when we went to fill out papers to apply for health insurance we had to record our health history for the past 10 years. Therefore, I had to name the psychotherapist who diagnosed me, all the antipsychotics and tranquilizers and anitdepressant medications I was on during that time. I sat there, in the insurance office, feeling very raw, very fragil, and yet very blessed that I, and all my family members, specifically Randy and Seth, were actually still alive.

The same day as the insurance visit I was meeting my best friend from high school for dinner. (Bear with me here as I do a little bit of circlular writing. I need to share a short story first before I go into how the psychosis came up.)  I had wanted to break up with her for a while because I was hurt by a few things that had happened between us. But, ya know what? There aren't any “break up cards” for best friends! I hadn't talked with her about these things earlier because I just felt stupid. I just kept telling myself, “Megan, people and friendships change.  Just deal”. So, back to the dinner date. We had dinner and were driving to Kohl's when we started talking about some things that might be awkward between us. This was the perfect time for me to mention my hurt to her. You see, when I went through my post partum I had not wanted to see ANYONE. I was hoping that Brigitte, being my best friend, would ignore my wishes and spend time with me anyway as I was really suffering. She hadn't. So I brought this up to her. She looked at me with her jaw dropped and an astonished look in her face. “Megan, I was with you once every week during that time! My mother rearranged her schedule so she could watch my baby, so I could be with you and Seth. Your brother would come in the morning and I would take the afternoon shift”. Up within me came a pit of sorrow (wait, a pit doesn't come up does know what I mean). I heaved with emotion and cried the ugly cry for about 10 minutes. I didn't know what I was more upset about, the fact that Brigitte wasn't as big of a jerk I thought she had been for a few years, or the fact that I couldn't remember this loving gift she had given me and therefore....I realized, again, that I really was VERY sick during that time.  (p.s. we're still friends:) )

The third time it came up was when I was going through boxes and BOXES of stuff we had packed to store while we were in Madagascar. I found a bunch of cards I had saved. I opened one to read it and it was a card from my dear friend Julie. She was very good at keeping in contact with me and encouraging me through cards. This one was dated 3 days before my first psychotic attack. I remember talking to her and telling her that I just wasn't feeling right. I felt like God was dead and that I was feeling distant, almost removed from the daily activity of just living. As I read that note I realized again, not only the depth of pain that I and my family had gone through, but the amazing miracles and ways God had shown Himself faithful to us through that time of suffering.

It then came up again, two days later, when I was talking to a friend about having more babies. She asked if Randy and were done having babies. I had stated how, for 5 years the thought of having another baby petrified me because of my fear of getting psychosis again. I would have never had Cole if God hadn't made it happen. (I was still in the middle of my post partum when I got pregnant with Cole). But, I shared with her that for the past several months God had put the thought of having another child back on my heart without ANY fears.

Then this afternoon Randy starts playing a song on the piano. I started singing with him and got all emotional. I said to him, “Why am I getting so emotional about this song?” He said, “We sang this song together when you were coming out of your Post Partum.”

Why is this coming up so many times this week? I don't believe in coincidences. I believe in purpose. So, what could be the purpose of the journey with this disease coming up 5 times this past week? Well, I know that when we go through very tough things, suffering of some sort or another, we often need to go through ALL the steps of grieving. They say that grieving the loss of a loved one takes up to 7 years. Therefore it doesn't suprise me that grieving the losses lost to this disease will take many years of healing. My sickness was full of losses but was also full of Godly gains. Thank you Lord for reminding me of the loss and the gain that I have received through that suffering.

So, I ask you, “What have you lost lately? What have you suffered through lately? Are you able yet to look back and see blessing in it? Are you able to look back and see God's hand through it?” I pray that if you can't yet, you will soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I want to pop my bubble.

July 17, 2011
So, I'm 36 years old and I had no idea that carrots don't always grow in that “perfect carrot” shape. You know the one I'm talking about? Thick at the top and thinning all the way down until it's a tiny point at the bottom. I didn't realize this until two summers ago when I grew carrots in my garden. I remember pulling them out with the boys and they were all “stubby”. Same size from the top to the bottom. Some had little knodules on them. I remember Seth saying, “Ew, I'm not going to eat those.” You might be asking yourself, “Why is she writing about this?”

In Mada the vegetables were beautiful. They were beautiful and ALL natural. No chemicals. AND no perfect shapes. The carrots where lots of different sizes and often needed some part of them cut out. The orange peals where not bright orange. The apples, though you would find a few really nice, nondamaged ones, where bruised or had little nibbles here and there taken out of them by bugs. Have you noticed the produce that's sold here in the States? It's “perfect”. Perfect in color. Perfect in size and shape. Extra juicey, extra crispy.

I was really stunned by this as I walked through the supermarket the other day. We Americans, really live in a “perfect” bubble. We need perfect looking produce or we don't buy it. We need perfect looking bodies in order to feel attractive. We want a perfect car with no scratches and will pay to have a scratch erased. We want the perfect meal served to us with the perfect service and if it's not how we feel it should be we complain. Oh yeah, and we want it quick.

I really don't think that most American's realize that they really don't live in the “real” world. We have created for ourselves a little bubble of “perfectness”. “Comfortablity”. “Reality”. The reality?  80% of the world's population lives on less then $10.00 a day. Do you think they care what their food looks like, let alone how it's served to them?

Excuse me as I rant a little bit. And please understand that I'm in “reverse culture shock” still. But really. I just want to challenge us a little bit. I really think that Americans need to realize that they are NOT living in “the real world”. The real world is full of germs, trash, and starving children who are looking through, if not living in, trash dumps trying to find food.  People with no shoes, no running water, and open sewers.  And our day is ruined if someone cuts us off while we're driving, if we have to wait too long for our food to be served to us, or if we have to wait more than 5 minutes in line at the grocery store (All of this last sentence happened to me today and irritated me....)

I'm just saying, living the way we do in America is NOT typical. Could we find more ways each day to be thankful rather than to be irritated and have our panties in a knot over someone having 16 items in the 15 item grocery line? This is just where my thoughts are today.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff, stuff, and more's more stuff...

July 14, 2011

I knew this was going to happen. Randy and the boys went up into the attic and brought down a few boxes of things we had put in storage. Wow, that's a lot of stuff. That was only ONE trip up to the attic. After a few days of bringing down more....well...stuff, we were finished with bringing down all the stuff that was seasonal. This morning, after dropping Cole and Seth off at VBS, Randy and I went to Mom and Dad's to guessed it...more of our stuff. Nothing like experiencing culture shock over your own stuff.

When we were in Mada we moved to a new house the same time my dear Malagasy friend, Helena, her husband and daughter had to move. We had a car full of 6 suitcases and many more bags to take to our new house (for one year). We had asked Helena if she needed help moving. They didn't. They only had one “trunk” and Haja could handle it. Oh. Wow. That's not much stuff.

There was something sad and yet....refreshingly simple, about the thought of having only one trunk full of stuff. Now I know, and I'm trying to remind myself, that America is a different culture and takes different stuff to live in successfully, however, taking time to really think about what stuff I really need is important. And so, to say quite simply, I was embarrassed about how much stuff we have and we will be thinning it out quite a bit in the next few weeks. And you know what? I'm actually excited about getting rid of it. It's less stuff I have to worry about getting lost or ruined.

And so, since I'm in “let's get rid of this stuff” mode, we are going through everything and getting rid of a lot of stuff. Because before we know it, we'll just have more....stuff.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sometimes there aren't words

July 11, 2011

Now for those of you who know me I'm usually never at a loss for words. However, this time it's different. I don't think there is a word, in any existing language, to describe what I'm feeling. I'm glad to be seeing people I had left a year ago here in the States, heart is broken having had to leave Madagascar. Bitter-sweet isn't strong enough. It's though I'm experiencing a death by leaving Mada but a heartbeat or breath of life as I re-enter “home”.

The death of new yet deep relationships. A heartbeat by seeing an old friend.

The death of a wonderful people group and culture. A breath of fresh air being in the presence of family.

The death of a language I worked so hard on. A heartbeat of being able to speak a sentence without having to think for 5 minutes first.

The death of a dream come true. A breath of fresh air worshiping with my church family.

A death of sitting around for hours and just being with Helena (my best Malagasy friend). A heartbeat eatting really good ice cream with my mom.

I guess that's life, isn't it? Experiencing death and new life throughout a life time....bitter-sweet....


July 7, 2011

Where am I? Ok, I'm in bed and it's one solid matress so that means I'm not in Madagascar. In Mada we had two twin beds next to each other with a gap in between us. I'm not in Durban we were each sleeping in single beds. I can stretch my legs so I'm not on an airplane. Not sure what I'm going to find I open my eyes slowly. No bars on the window. I know this place. It's familiar. As my eyes become less blurry from a night of deep sleep I slowly realize that I'm in my in-law's house. Oh, yeah. I remember coming here. Not quite thinking clearly, though I'm awake I begin to wonder. Have I been dreaming this whole time? Were we really in Madagascar? Only one way to test the reality of this while still in bed. I start to speak to myself in Malagasy. Wow. That sounds convincing. I guess we really were there.

Choose to be fully present each moment of the day, Megan. Before you know it your time here will be done and it will only feel like a wonderful dream.” I told myself this every day that I was in Mada, and I think I did a good job of being fully present. It does however, still feel like a dream.

It's been good to spend a few days here with our Gehlert parents. I think it's just been another nice step into transitioning back home. Pop, Randy, and I went yesterday to get Randy's drivers licence. I was in culture shock just driving on the road. Nice houses everywhere, grass that was soft, roads that were smooth, and.......LOTS of white people. While Randy was working on his license Pop and I went to Target to pick up some underwear, since ours was all stretched out to kingdom-come from being hand washed. I about fell over with sensory overload as I entered the store. Bright lights, HUGE shopping carts, more clothes then I've seen in a year on the streats of Madagascar, a whole section of the store was for underwear, choices of size, color, style. And the really weird thing? No one was staring at me. I went the entire time in the store without one person staring at me. I wasn't on exhibit here in Target. We were on exhibit EVERYWHERE in Madagascar: people would stop what they were doing, point, stare, and say “Vaza!”/”Foreigner”. I literally didn't know what to make of it. I wasn't being noticed here in Target. Strange.

Friday, July 8, 2011

sitting in the dirt...but not alone

July 5, 2011

We've been having a great visit with the Hills (missionary friends of ours we're staying with here in S. Africa).  They have been such a help to us in our tough transition from living in Madagascar to living in the States.  We've cried and laughed together at the joys and hardships of living in a different culture than what you grew up in.  

Yesterday I was finally able to allow all the emotions that had swelled up inside of me out. Yes, I had cried here and there but I hadn't done that....well...ya know....the “ugly cry”, where your lip quivers and snot runs out your nose uncontrollably. I had been feeling sick to my stomach all day yesterday and I was pretty sure it was just emotions. Pam had dropped me off at the house while she quick ran a friend home as I just coudn't be in the car any more due to complete dizziness. I was sitting on the ground because the house was all gated up. As I sat waves of heavy sadness heaved out of me like uncontrollable tsunami waves. Pam pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and sat in the dirt beside me with her arm around me. She simply said, “I don't have any profound words of wisdom. I just know that it hurts.”.

I went to bed early last night, exhausted. It's now morning. I lay in bed for a while reminding myself that my God is King. He know's what He's doing in my life, in our lives, and I need to pour my trust into Him, even when I'm hurting. Even, when to me, life looks like it's roaring out of control. You see, having been in Mada for a year has changed us SO deeply. So deeply infact, that I don't even fully know all the ways it's changed us. I think we'll be noticing things that have changed in us for months. My grieving, however, comes with the fact that I don't know if I'll ever have a chance to see those beautiful Malagasy friends of mine again here on earth. I know I've blogged about this before, but I need to do it again...for my sake. I have to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes focused on the eternal. If I truly understood eternity I would understand that this life is a “blink of an eye”. And it's true. Just look back on this year. It's over....already! So fast. So fast that I can't get my head around it. That's how our life will go.

And so, I lovingly remind myself, “My King is in control. Hold on tightly to Him and get ready. I'd rather give up my greatest dream, which I truly believe He put in my heart, and live in the center of His will for me, then give up His will for me and live in the center of my dream.”

Sunday, July 3, 2011

If the ostriches chase you just lie flat on the ground.

June 29, 2011

We're staying at the cute little bed and breakfast place that is about 40 kilo away from where we will go on safari this afternoon. Each family has a little bungalow area. This morning we were told that we can go for a hike around the area. We may see giraffe, zebra, different kinds of “deer”, ostriches. We could just walk along among them, no problem. He did worn us though that we should not run around the ostriches or they WILL chase us. If they chase us we should just hit the ground and lie flat and they should leave us alone. Great. That would make for a great blog story. So, off we went. We did see some ostriches and some guinea hens. But that was about it. It was neat being able to walk in the “wild” though. We were all saying that we felt like Marty from Madagascar....finally out in the wild!

We went to Nambidi national park which is a well known park here in S. Africa. They have the “big five” (Leopard, Lion, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhinoceros) As we showed up for our safari, we saw our ride.....Awesome. (Pic to left) The boys were totally pumped! We actually didn't see any predators and we saw just a few animals. This was due to two fires that had been set accidentally by locals living on the grounds. We were able to see the rear-ends of elephants. Even though they were far away they were still REALLY big butts! We were able to see a family of giraffes. We saw several deer like creatures, wildebeests and different birds. It was beautiful to see another side of God's creativity!

Our ride lasted about 3 hours. Halfway through we stopped and had drinks and a snack overlooking a beautiful African valley! It was like standing in the middle of “The Lion King”.

I think that's all I'll write right now as I'm feeling very overwhelmed by all our amazing experiences. Until later....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Running for the flight

June 28, 2011

I remember that each time we had gone to the airport in Madagascar to drop somebody off for a flight I was EXTREMELY relieved and excited that it wasn't US going home but someone else. But alas, the day finally came where it WAS our turn to be dropped off for our flight. We had about 20 people come to the airport to send us off. A nice mix of cultures: Korean, English, Dutch, South African, and Malagasy. I purposefully had not put on make up that morning as I knew I would be wearing it in streaks after rivers of tears poured out my eyes. As I walked up to the airport my dear friend Helena was standing there waiting for me with her daughter and mother. I started to cry instantly! Florentine, Helena's mother, wiped my tears away, gently, with her hand. With a gentle smile she looked at me and said, “Raha mbola manao anio anao de ho capoako.”, which in English is, “If you do that again, I'll give you a spank”. She had a good sense of humor!

We then got in line to check in our 6 bags. We asked the group to pray as we checked in as we were only allowed one suitcase each for the 4 of us. Each bag went through without any problem! The boys and I then just hung out and talked, cried, and prayed while Randy was trying to exchange money. You can only exchange ariary in Madagascar. Our flight was to leave at 3 pm and since this is “Africa”, though NO Malagasy considers themselves African, we figured if we got to the airplane by 2:45 pm that would give us plenty of time as we were told that this flight in particular runs late. It was about 2:35 pm when we saw a woman dressed in Airport attire running towards our group yelling, “The plane is waiting for you! The plane is waiting for you!” I turned around to see who she was yelling at. “It couldn't be us. That would mean that the flight is leaving early and well....that just doesn't happen here.” But sure enough she was headed straight for me! Randy had just stepped out of the banking area and in a flurry of emotions and movement I grabbed the boys and yelled, “It's us they are waiting for!” We started running to the gate (not too hard to miss as there is only ONE gate in the airport). I actually made it through with scissors in my carry on! They led us onto the tarmac and onto the plane, where everyone watched us get on. As I got settled into my seat I looked out the window to see if there were any pigs flying, as NOTHING is EVER EARLY in Madagascar.

Once the plane was up and running another missionary that we knew from Mada came up to talk with me. She said she saw us in line with extra baggage and started praying for a miracle. Apparently she had taken her son to the airport a few weeks ago to head off to college. He had two suitcases and he either had to pay 10 euros per kilo or couldn't bring his bag with him. Obviously that was a lot of money so they left the bag there. Later that week the family went to the main office of the airline and got a special letter from the “boss” stating that, when the rest of the family goes to the US they could bring this 1 extra baggage. When they got to the airport (the same flight we were on) the check in person gave them a hard time, even with the letter. They kept having to get someone higher up to stamp it and read it! What a hassle! And this was WITH a letter! Then we go through the same line with 2 extra suitcases and NO letter and have NO problem getting through! Now THAT, my friends, was a miraclel!

We got to the JoBurg airport without any problems. Our baggage had a sticker on it all the way through to Durban so we didn't have to wait to get our luggage which meant we went right through customs without a problem. We were able to meet a friend, Glen, who was a short termer in Mada the first 3 months we were there, at the airport. He lived in JoBurg. We had a GREAT meal at a Burger joint. Not a fast food one but a REAL burger. It was the best tasting thing I've had in a long time! After dinner we went to check into our next flight. We were asked if we had any baggage to check in. We explained that we didn't because it was tagged to go straight through to Durban. Apparently we misunderstood. We DID have to get our luggage and recheck it through customs! PANIC. Thankfully we had 1 hr. before we started boarding, but was our luggage still there? So we left the kids with Glen's friends (who had joined us for dinner) and Glen, Randy and I went back down to where we came in. At this point we didn't have a clue where our luggage would be. We walked into the luggage claim area, and there they were....all 6 of them piled together waiting patiently for us! In the end, all our luggage and all 4 of us made it to Durban.

I know this blog is getting long....hang in there with me. We were going to rent a car as Pam and Steve's (the friends we are staying with) was too small to fit both families. Randy had found out before we left Mada that his credit card was frozen from being used in South Africa due to a fraud alert. So, when he went to rent a car they wouldn't accept the new credit card number we had, (didn't have the card as there wasn't enough time to mail it from the states...and not safe either) nor would they except a check or cash, or debit card. We wondered how this would work out. Steve ended up picking us up in a huge Land Rover so there was plenty of room for us and the baggage! We ended up being able to use the Land Rover the whole week. The best part? Steve and Pam each drove the two cars so I didn't have to have a heartattack trying to learn to drive on the other side of the road! (I would have had to drive as Randy lost his license when he lost his wallet a few weeks earlier). Thank you Pam and Steve!