Monthly Archives: March 2013

Longing for Eternity

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One of the first questions Noah asked after we told him that Hannah died was, “Is Hannah a grown up now?” Of course, I don’t have the definite answer to that. If I had to guess, I’d say she wasn’t 1 anymore. Part of my vision of Hannah in heaven was her growing up as she ran to Jesus. I only saw the back of her. She had long blond hair, but this vision leaves us with lots of questions…

How old is she? What will she look like with more than 2 teeth? What will her voice sound like? I know her mosquito bites are gone and that her wounds are healed, but how does a perfect and complete Hannah look? I long to find out.

I’m discovering that my longing for heaven grows daily. It has a little to do with wanting to see Hannah again, but my desire for heaven isn’t new. I’ve been eagerly awaiting my eternity in heaven because of one reason: my Jesus is there.

I long to be with Him. I can’t wait to spend eternity with the Lover of my soul. And like never before, I desire to be whole. My pain is deeper than I can explain. While I know it will subside as time goes on, I am also aware that it cannot be healed this side of heaven.

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Lord Jesus, come quickly!

 

 

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The Tender Love of God

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I’ve been struggling to know what to write next. I’m overwhelmed by grief but I also have this steadfast peace that I can’t explain. I’ve never felt more loved and cared for by God. In effort to give Him glory amidst my pain, I’d like to share a list of the ways we’ve felt or seen God’s tender love for us (and other people involved in our story). There’s no order and I know some have been mentioned in blog posts by Aaron or myself, but here is an incomplete list of the ways I feel loved by God.

1.) Noah’s prophecy about our future. God grabbed our attention through Noah’s “baby girl in Africa” statement, and God showed us that He was trustworthy. “The works of his hand are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.” Psalm 111:7 NIV

2.) The 18-month gap between Levi and Hannah. It was overwhelming to say the least, but I am so thankful that Levi is 2 right now. He is our comic relief and I believe God knew we would need his not-potty-trained, always-happy self in this time of mourning. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 NIV

Levi and Hannah

3.) God’s promise to my heart. During a worship service at Salem Bible Church, God promised that my life would be better than I could ever imagine if I’d simply trust God and serve as a missionary. His promise is being fulfilled daily. Like He promised Jacob of the Bible, “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Genesis 28:15b

4.) Double rainbow. God not only spoke directly to my heart of His promise for my life but He also gave us a reminder of it through a double rainbow the day of Hannah’s memorial service at Tenwek. God keeps His promises. I doubly believe it.

5.) Pink skies. While I have not personally seen any pink skies since Hannah’s death, I heard several accounts of the “pinkest skies I’ve ever seen.” They show me God is tenderly loving His people, not just me. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 NIV

Pink Skies

6.) Foreshadows. Many times before we left for Kenya, I heard the Holy Spirit very quietly tell me that being a missionary would cost me a lot…perhaps a child. It was nothing I ever took the time to think about. I would just respond, “ok, God” and go on. I don’t think I would have been able to go if I had thoroughly thought this through. However, I did acknowledge this possibility and I still trusted God to take us to the mission field. I’m thankful for the quiet foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit. I echo Pauls words, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24 NIV

7.) God is good lesson. Sometime in the last year, Pastor Justin preached a sermon on God’s permanent goodness. It was life changing. From that Sunday, I determined in my heart to believe that God is good no matter what. He is too big to be determined by circumstances. Important lesson to learn if your faith is to persevere through the death of a baby. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIV

8.) Pediatric neurosurgeon. In God’s sovereign plan, He placed a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon in Kenya at the same time Hannah needed emergency surgery. The surgery didn’t save her life but it did give us a life without regrets. It did give us more time with our little girl. It did give our families comfort and assurance that her healthcare was not compromised because we were in Kenya. (The truth is that our healthcare was better than we would have received in the States!)

9.) CT scan at Tenwek. Not many mission hospitals are equipped with a CT scan but God sent us to live at one of the few that are.

10.) Public life. Living life in a compound is like living in a glass fish bowl. Everyone can hear everything, even when you’re inside your house with the curtains pulled shut. While this is daunting, it did make me a better mom. I was more patient, more loving, more available than I would have been in the States in my private little townhome.

11.) Joyce, my househelper. She cares for my family so deeply, and she had a special bond with Hannah. She took care of all the household responsibilities from the time Hannah got sick. She even came up to the hospital and stayed with me while nurses placed the first feeding tube into Hannah. I’m so thankful for her. Because of her presence in my home, I can be the homeschooling mom I want to be without being so stressed.

homeschool experiment

12.) Family. We have so many families! Our biological families here in the States, our missionary families in Kenya (both at Tenwek and now at Kijabe), and our spiritual family all over the world are so appreciated! We feel your prayers and are humbled by the outpouring of love from the body of Christ.

13.) The last 2 nights. Because we were at Tenwek, we were able to bring Hannah home and care for her in our living room. Aaron and I each had a night with Hannah. We treasure that time when we got to care for her. The sacrifice of sleep was well worth it. Also, we are blessed that Hannah was sick for such a short time. We didn’t have to see her suffer for days, weeks or months like we should have. God, in His infinite mercy and love, shielded her from the typical symptoms of a large brain tumor.

feeding tube at home on the couch

14.) Tickling hairs. Hannah’s hair was pulled up into her typical water sprout the night she stopped breathing. I couldn’t sleep at all that night because her hair kept tickling my face. I’m glad it did, because that’s how I startled and realized that she wasn’t breathing!

15.) ED husband. As soon as I felt Hannah’s lifeless body, I called for Aaron and he immediately began CPR. To say I’m thankful for his knowledge and quick action is an understatement.

16.) 2 a.m. I’m thankful that he tragedy began while the boys were sleeping. They didn’t have to see their sister be carried away to the hospital…or their parents so worried.

17.) Kenyans. Unlike most of us Americans, Kenyans know how to mourn. I’m blessed to be the recipient of their love, prayer, encouraging words, gifts and willingness to carry this heavy load. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV

Kenyans mourning with us

18.) Picture by the river. I’m so thankful that Aaron took the picture of Hannah in the river. It’s the closest picture we have to what I saw in my vision of Hannah in heaven. God knew that picture would bring me comfort. How sweet He is!

This is the closest image I have to what I saw in my vision of heaven.

This is the closest image I have to what I saw in my vision of heaven.

19.) Hannah’s name means “grace.” Like I mentioned in my last post, God gave us the name “Hannah.” Her story is a story of God’s grace. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

20.) Fussiness. The last few weeks of Hannah’s life were taxing. She was fussier than usual. She wanted to be held every waking minute. Never for a second did I think it was because a huge tumor was destroying her brain, but I did hold her a lot more. I conceded almost every time she held up her little arms. I snuggled her so much more than I really wanted to. I didn’t treat her like she was the fourth child. Fortunately, the boys love to play and entertain themselves in Kenya, so this allowed me to spoil her with my time and attention. Looking back, I’m so thankful for the grace God gave me to handle her fussiness because I can honestly say that I have no regrets.  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Praise God, the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is worthy to be praised!

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Hannah’s Story

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About 2 years ago, we heard a word from the Holy Spirit through our oldest son, Noah, who was then 5 years old. Out of the blue, he said, “Mommy, you’re going to have a baby in Africa when Levi is one, and it will be a girl.” I doubt he remembers that day, but I do. Very vividly. After I relayed that information to Aaron, the Holy Spirit made it SO clear that if we were willing to trust God with missions then we should trust Him with the timing of our fourth child. You see, we both wanted more children, but we thought there would be a large gap between Levi and Baby #4, probably after our possible 2 year mission trip. To make Noah’s prophecy even more remarkable was that Aaron and I had not yet felt called to Africa. We were in the process of  applying to the Post Residency Program through World Medical Missions, but we never felt led to a specific people group.

It took us about 2 months to surrender our family planning to God. Like I said, Noah was only 5 years old. Jacob was 2 1/2 and Levi was 6 months old. I already had a baby, and my life was crazy enough. The Holy Spirit was persistent and faithful. We conceived when Levi was about 8 months old. From the beginning of the pregnancy, I knew it was a girl. Not so much because of Noah’s prophecy (he’d never been right before), but I just felt like God-in His infinite, tender love for me-would give me a girl as a little reward for my obedience in having this child. I couldn’t quite convince Aaron of her gender though….God took care of that!

We interviewed for the Post Residency Program that summer. I was 6 weeks pregnant, and we were wavering in our call. Aaron was offered jobs that were too good to not consider. We were very open and honest with the people from World Medical Missions, and we basically told them we were counting on the Holy Spirit to speak through them! Looking back, I guess those were little tests in our commitment. We never forsook the call to missions; we just had to consider all the options and be sure of God’s best plan for us.

A short couple of months later, we received a letter that we were accepted into the Post Residency Program. Yikes! We had almost convinced ourselves that God was calling us to short-term missions, so this really shocked us. Yet God was faithful and tender to me. I think we received that letter on a Friday, and that Sunday I was in church by myself. (Aaron was working.) During worship, we were singing the words, “Where you’ll go, I’ll go. Who you love, I’ll love…” I couldn’t sing those words because I knew God was calling us to move to a place we had never seen. Then, He spoke so sweetly to my soul: “Stephanie, you don’t have to go. I will still love you. I will still bless you. BUT, if you go, I will bless you beyond what you could ever imagine.” In that moment, I knew I had to go, and I could sing those words through the tears.

Then, in October, we attended the Prescription for Renewal Conference in Boone, NC. I was almost 20 weeks pregnant and greatly anticipating my ultrasound when we got back to PA. The Holy Spirit spoke through many people that weekend, and we committed to moving to Tenwek. And Aaron received word (through Will Graham’s sermon on Hannah in the Bible) that our baby will be named Hannah. (Just as a side note, I always wanted that name. I’m always so happy when my plan actually is God’s plan!) Tuesday, when we were at our 20-week appointment, the ultrasound confirmed that Baby #4 was a girl. We started calling her Hannah Mae immediately.

Fast forward a year and a half. We are in Africa and adjusting much better than I expected. The boys love it here, but Hannah isn’t quite herself. Everyone gets a virus. The boys recover as quickly as ever, but Hannah just can’t stop vomiting. Zofran helps and we get to see our sweet, happy little girl at least moments out of each day.

On Sunday, we see a listless little girl. We let her rest all afternoon, but by 11am Monday I am too worried to ignore it. I take her to the hospital. We run tests both Monday and Tuesday, but nothing is coming back abnormal. We’re able to treat her at home. Thank you, God, for bringing us here to experience this, because Aaron and I are so blessed by the last two nights we had with her at home.

I’m not going to re-document everything that Aaron posted on his blog. Frankly, I don’t have that energy right now. Let me just say, that I am confident that God brought us to Africa knowing this would happen. He is not surprised. Not by Hannah’s tumor, her death, or the outpouring of love and support we are receiving. Especially not by the glory He is receiving. And we are humbled and grateful to be a part of Hannah’s story.

I will never forget how lifeless she felt when I woke up to find her not breathing. I will never forget the weight of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” when I was climbing the stairs to the ICU at Tenwek to take my first glimpse of my baby girl lying on the huge hospital bed with doctors all around her. I will never forget the hope I felt when I heard that Dr. Albright was at Kijabe and willing to operate. And I will never forget the unexplainable peace I felt through it all. As soon as she left my house with Aaron and Chuck, I somehow knew God was asking for her. How could I refuse Him?

I never felt more like Abraham, and I so wish that He would have provided a way to save Hannah from death. Well, I guess He did. The Way is Jesus. In my selfishness, I wanted a physical healing for my little girl. God wanted something better.

I never felt more like Job. I just pray that Satan won’t sift me quite as much! But if he does, I will continue to serve my holy and awesome God.

Hannah survived surgery, but she died the next morning. After we took her off life support, we coached her through the end. I remember saying, “Go, girl, go!” and then feeling her last breath. Then, Aaron and I crawled onto her bed with her body. Everyone gathered around to pray, and God-again in His tender love for me-gave me the most beautiful picture of Hannah meeting Jesus.

This is the closest image I have to what I saw in my vision of heaven.

This is the closest image I have to what I saw in my vision of heaven.

There are so many details I want to share. So many ways we have seen God’s hand working through our lives. I just can’t fit it all into one post. Please bare with me as I process this and mourn and ramble in this and the next couple of posts. My goal is to give all the glory to God, for He is worthy. Holy is His Name!

Hannah Update

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As many of you know, Hannah is our fourth child, our only girl. She has been sick off and on since we left the States. She took a quick turn for the worse this Sunday, and my husband did an excellent job at documenting the situation on his blog. Please check in out: http://www.aaroninkenya.com/2013/03/a-kelley-in-casualty-part-2/

I’m sure he’ll be posting again today, but I’ll give you a brief update. Her x-rays are normal. We are treating her for acid reflux and nourishing her through the feeding tube. Our hope is that she developed these reflux issues after having a virus and that Zantac will fix it. Please continue to pray for her. Thanks!!

Saturday School

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Apparently, I took way too much time off school for Christmas and packing…I finally looked ahead and figured that Noah and I wouldn’t been done with his first grade curriculum until the middle of July! In an effort to have a longer summer break, I am trying to double up on the easy science days during the week and do an abbreviated school day on the Saturdays Aaron is home. Today was one of those Saturdays.
We read the story of Isaac giving the blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. My Jacob loves this story so he and Levi listened as well. The activity the curriculum (My Father’s World) recommended was to make lentil soup, so that’s what we did today. I got up early to start the challah (Jewish bread that it sooo yummy but takes 3-4 hours to make) and get everything ready for our lentil soup and challah lunch.
The best part of making challah is that the boys love to help knead the dough!

kneading

Then, they each get their own loaf to braid and decide what toppings (sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sunflower seeds) to add. Each time we make it, it turns out great. Jacob’s is the one with the poppy seeds. Noah shaped his into a circle and topped it with sunflower seeds. It was half-eaten by the time I got a picture, so you can tell it was good!

challah

If anyone could recommend a good lentil soup recipe, I’d appreciate it…Why didn’t the one given in the curriculum, or any I can find online, include meat?? Isn’t that what Esau was out hunting when Jacob stole his birthright?

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1.) Praise God that Jacob’s toe is healing nicely. He completed his round of antibiotics (the first time he ever needed any prescription!), but then he was hit in the eye with a stick thrown by one of his brothers and now has antibiotic eye drops. The scrape on his eye isn’t serious, but it sure scared me…and him……and his unnamed brother!

2.) Praise God for rain! The river was getting super low which resulted in increased power outages and decreased water pressure. It would take me hours to do one load of laundry because the water was so slow coming into the washing machine. The rainy season has began!

3.) Praise God for protecting my children this week. It has been a tough one. Levi wrecked his ‘car’ and has a huge bump on his forehead and scrapes everywhere. He fell out of a tree and hit his head. Each time he was fine after a little crying. Noah stepped on a thorn and hurt his heel scaling the hallway like spiderman. He’s been limping a little but overall is fine. Hannah is acting normal part of the time. She is fighting constipation the last couple of days (it’s a side effect of the medication that is preventing the puking), is still throwing up almost  daily and  is starting  a new medication today.  I already mentioned Jacob’s injuries. I praise God that I can call and/or visit Aaron anytime I need to…And it seems like I’ll be bugging him quite regularly!

4.) Pray for continued protection over us, from illness, injury and such.

5.) Pray for Hannah…and for me, that I wouldn’t be too worried, that I would have wisdom in how to handle her, that I would get adequate rest so that I can care for all 4 children. Praise God for househelp!! Otherwise, nothing would be done. Hannah wants to be held almost every minute she’s awake. She’s super picky about what to eat, and her preferences change daily. While I typically don’t baby her this much, I feel so bad for her. 😦

6.) Baby Ruth who I mentioned in my last post is now with her Father. She did not survive the multiple surgeries. Please pray for all those mourning her death.

7.) Pray for Aaron and his colleagues. It is a joy to serve, but some of the cases weigh heavy on their hearts. It’s hard to explain…

8.) Pray for the lost. May the love of Christ overwhelm their hearts that they would receive salvation.

Avocado Bread

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With this second blog post about our bountiful fruit supplies, I apologize for rubbing it in that our weather here is sunny and gorgeous EVERY DAY and that we have great fruit all year round…but I had several people request that I post this recipe…

We have several huge avocado trees in the yards surrounding our apartment. While those avocados won’t be ripe until July-August, we can purchase the delicious fruit at the market stands surrounding the hospital. My househelper found me one gigantic, very ripe avocado that was perfect for this bread recipe. I hope you enjoy!

Avocado Bread Recipe

2 2/3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground allspice (I didn’t have this…The bread is delicious if you omit it.)

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed avocado (I’m guessing 2-3 normal-sized avocados)

3/4 cups milk

1.) Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice. Set aside

2.) In a medium bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the mashed avocado. Stir in the dry ingredients alternatively with the milk until mixed.

3.) Divide batter between two greased loaf pans. Bake about 1 hour.

 

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1.) Praise God for a full 24-hour day without Hannah puking! She is acting much better today, even getting into trouble. It’s SO good to see her smile, laugh and be goofy!!

2.) Praise God that Jacob is running around after his little trip to the Tenwek Emergency Department. (Check out Aaron’s blog if you haven’t already. www.aaroninkenya.com ) And pray that his toe will heal completely.

3.) Praise God for happy children! They just love it here! Noah keeps telling us how much fun he’s having, how much he likes it here, and how happy he is to be a missionary.

4.) Pray that I can figure out a workable nap schedule for the kids. We almost figured it out, but then the kids got sicks…Now that they’re all healthy, I need structure! 🙂

5.) Pray for the patients at the hospital, that they will find both physical and spiritual healing. A one-year old girl, Ruth, is heavy on my heart tonight. Please pray for her. She is an orphan and is struggling to remain stable.