An African Journey: Post Five – The Very Best Part

There we were, minding our own business,
getting to know this new country,
these new friends,
this new work . . .
and then the world shifted.
Well, maybe not the entire world,
just our tiny corner of it.
And it took a while to sink in, too.
On the 4th of June, 1967, 
I wrote to my mom and dad and said this:
“I have been feeling lousy the last 2-3 weeks.
Attacks of nausea at odd times, extreme sleepiness
and a late period. I am going to see the doctor next week
to find out what the trouble is. Will let you know the results.” 

What can I say?
I was young and . . . naive? 
Let’s just say it . . . 
I was plain old stupid about the process of reproduction.
Yes, thank you very much, I did know how it happened.
I just didn’t have a clue what happened when it happened.
So . . . stupid?
Yeah, that about covers it.
My mother just laughed hysterically when she read that letter,  
and her diagnosis arrived about the same time the doctor’s did:
you are two months pregnant.
About four months along, sipping a Coke on the Garden Route in South Africa.
My husband’s parents and younger sister came to visit us and took us on a wonderful three week trip to game parks and other beautiful places south of our home. I will write another journal entry about our travels to other parts of Africa while we lived in Zambia.
About 6 months along in these two faded black & white photos.
So. We were pregnant.
DEEP breath.
And so, the thinking and the wondering and the planning
and the gathering began.
My doctor was an American,
a member of the denomination with which we served,
and his work and his hospital were 40 miles away,
over a very, VERY bumpy dirt road, out in the bush.
I saw him three times during my pregnancy.
My everything- you-wanted-to-know-about pregnancy reading was limited, 
to say the least.
A friend who was a nurse had an old ob-gyn textbook,
filled with pictures and descriptions of 
all that can go wrong in pregnancy and delivery.
Fortunately, there were women living in our 
neighborhood who had borne babies before.
In fact, over the next four months,
four other women announced that they, too, were pregnant.
It was an epidemic!
Those of us who were newbies learned from the old hands,
and somehow, we muddled through.
Our baby was due on January 9, 1968,
and I worked as a teacher through the end of the term in
mid-December, grateful for papers to grade,
students to love and exams to prepare.
We found treasures to be repaired and painted,
I created curtains out of fabric bought in our town,
friends sent me maternity clothes and baby clothes
from home, carefully folded into 9×12 envelopes.
Over the next few months,
the reality began to sink in:
we were going to be parents.
January 9th came and went.
January 19th came and went.
My 23rd birthday on January 23rd came and went.
I lay on the bed, weeping, convinced that I would have this oversized basketball in my body for the rest of my life.
At about 6:30 in the morning on Sunday, January 28th,
I woke up with a strong back ache.
I went into our bathroom/laundry room and
sat on the edge of the tub, folding clean towels.
I remember being overwhelmed with
the realization that my life was going to change
by the end of that day.

I was, however, still stupid.
I stood in the middle of the lawn at about 9:30 a.m.,
watching my stomach ripple under my dress,
begging my cross-the-street neighbor 
(who was pregnant with #4) 
to tell me if this could possibly be labor.
She just looked at me and said,
“Diana, get yourself into the car and drive to Macha.”
So that is exactly what we did.
If you ever find yourself wondering how you might speed things along in early labor, I have a suggestion for you.
Find yourself a very bumpy dirt road and drive on it for about an hour.
I guarantee that things will pick up nicely.
We arrived at the hospital about 10:30 in the morning, went to a very nice room with a bath and my husband proceeded to talk to me about our travel plans for the summer, 
when our term of service would be ending.
I think I may have thrown the notebook in his face, 
but I can’t be certain. 
It’s all a bit of a blur.
At about 11:45, they wheeled me into the delivery room. 
Only, it wasn’t really a delivery delivery room,
it was a surgical suite.
The doctor was a thoracic surgeon and he did a whole lot of chest surgery out there in the bush.
They didn’t have a delivery table as such, 
just a surgical table,
and that sucker was hard.
His favorite nurse, who happened to be his wife,
gave me a small mask to put over my face with each
pain, a gas called Trilene.
I had no other medication.
At 12:12, just after noon on a glorious sunny summer day,
Lisa Ruth Trautwein entered the world,
a thick head of dark hair and a great set of lungs
announcing her presence.
And I distinctly remember sitting up on the table and
shouting, “This is fabulous! I want ten of these!”
As I said, stupid.
Winnie Worman, the doctor’s wife and an excellent nurse, holding our 1 day old daughter.
I stayed at the Mission until Thursday, eating in their home. Dick spent the first night with us both and then returned to school on Monday morning to greet his students.
The doctor himself (Robert Worman) with our beautiful girl.
With Winnie and Lisa, outside my room. The government asked them to add 5 private rooms and I got to be in one of them. The entire birthing experience cost us about eight dollars.
We had a rocky first night.
Because my husband was with me, the nursing staff left the three of us alone that night. I very quickly learned how much I did not know about mothering, 
and, once again, how much I did not know about being a woman who carries babies and gives birth.
My baby cried non-stop. Nothing would soothe her.
 And I was more than a little bit weak and wobbly from very normal blood loss that scared and surprised me.
Because, as I’ve said . . . I was terribly uninformed . . . 
Yup . . . stupid.
By 6:00 the next morning, 
I greeted the nurse on duty like a super-hero of some sort. She took one look at our girl and said, 
“Oh, this one loves to suck. I can see it. Try this pacifier.”
Glory be! It worked. From there on, it got easier.
In the picture above, Lisa is about 22 hours old.
I’d been up, showered, shampooed, curlered and combed out, (there were no portable hair dryers in the entire country of Zambia!) and in this picture, I am figuring out how to bathe an 8 1/2 pound human person.
Fortunately, she loved it. . . and so did I.
We brought her home and introduced her to our room and to the space that would eventually be her room.
Dick and I were both ecstatic, overwhelmed with gratitude,
sometimes anxious, but basically simply delighted
to be living with this entrancing creature.
She was, of course, the most precocious child in the history of humankind, smiling at 10 days, laughing big at two months, growing blond hair with dark tips.
Our African students adored her. I think she was the only newborn baby they had ever seen who had longish, straight hair, 
and they loved to touch her, to hold her, to stroke her head.
A Zambian friend loaned me her baby carrier and I used it as a pattern to make this one for Lisa and me.
There were no Ergo carriers in the 60’s.
In fact, American and European parents 
knew nothing about carrying babies on their bodies.
I learned about it from my African friends 
and I used this sling all the time.
From the time of Lisa’s birth until the time we left five and a half months later, I was called Bina Lisa by my African colleagues, most of whose first names I never really knew, as they were always called Bina —- (insert the name of their first-born child). I have been unable to find even one picture of Lisa with our African principal and his wife or with the students who earned pocket money by helping me with my ironing twice a week. (Remember ironing??) They are among a small set of pictures that we haven’t been able to locate as we’ve been scanning old memories into our computer.  But I have strong and happy memories of their warm acceptance of our baby and of the gigantic leap of respect our becoming parents engendered in the attitude of our students toward us.
This was Lisa’s favorite position, hanging upside down, sucking vigorously on that pacifier.
All five new babies near the end of our time in Zambia. 
Lisa was the only girl.
Our next door neighbors, Rosemary and Harry King, holding Lisa at a staff gathering. Harry took the black and white photos you see in this and other of these African Journey posts.

The Kings were from Virginia. Millie and Dave Dyck, our neighbors on the other side – and the parents of Michael, born 2 weeks after Lisa and pictured above and below, were from Canada. He went on to become the head of the Mission Board of the Mennonite Brethren Church in that country.
Michael must have been teasing Lisa to make her pout like that. 
Mom and babe on Easter Sunday, 1968. Is she not the cutest thing ever?? 
(Until her sister and brother were born, of course. To say nothing of all the grandkids…)
We did take a trip on the way home.
But by the time we actually left in June, that trip
had been shortened considerably.
We spent one week in Kenya, visiting some friends who were teaching there, then about 10 days in Switzerland (pictured above) and Germany, visiting my cousin and some friends from UCLA.
We were so smitten with our girl that we wanted to get her back to the arms of our loving families just as quickly as we could. And she was a great traveler, too . . . until our very last flight. From Copenhagen to Seattle, she cried almost the entire way, then settled down as we made the last leg into LAX. 
That little one was just plain done with airplanes.

We were greeted at the airport by grandparents, a great grandmother and a small horde of aunts, uncles and a smattering of cousins. 
It was a deliriously happy time and
I think we brought home the very best souvenir imaginable, don’t you? 

 Becoming a mother changed me in ways that are profound, 
in ways that I cannot articulate.
Carrying, birthing, nursing and tending three small persons is soul work, 
down deep living-life work, sometimes terrifying, always gratifying heart-work.
Meeting Lisa was my introduction to that work
and that meeting took place a long way 
from the only home I had known to that point.
There is a very real sense, however, that birthing her in that wonderful place cemented in my spirit, 
my heart, 
even in my body, 
this truth:
home is not a geographical place 
so much as it is an emotional space,
a spiritual point of connection and commitment.
All of her life, Lisa has been able to say,
“I was born in Africa.”
And we have been able to say,
“Africa was our home.”
And those two things go together.

I will happily join this long story with Jennifer and Duane:
And one week later, this will be my first entry in the Parent’Hood synchro blog, joining through Joy Bennett’s blog:

Becoming Who We Are

I want to tell  you a story today. It’s a good story – at least, I think it is. It’s a story about young love, and mature love. About fear and overcoming fear. About unlearning and re-learning. But mostly, it’s about grace, grace writ large, grace first, last and always. 

First-born children – yes, they were each first-born children. Raised in similar families, too. Conservative, loving, happy, Christian homes. With dads who went out to work and moms who stayed home to work. With church as a staple source of encouragement, fellowship and teaching, some of it in words, lots of it as subtext.
And they both learned the same things about love and life and marriage, and about the ‘right’ way to make choices and the ‘right’ way to live into those choices. So when they married – she a blushing bride of 20, midway through her senior year of college, he all of 23, finishing his MBA at a grad school across town – when they married, they knew what choices to make. 
They made them happily, heartily, easily. She even researched their wedding ceremony, hunting for just exactly the right one, one that would include the word ‘obey’ in her vows – because, after all, that’s what the Bible says, right?
They learned early to become a strong unit, connected to one another firmly as they discovered more about life and marriage while living far away from home for two years. And when they came back, they brought a tiny baby with them, the first of three…in four years.
And they knew what to do, you can be sure of that. He would go off to work every day; she would stay at home and take care of those babies. And that’s what they did.
It worked pretty well, too. 
Oh, there were those niggling thoughts for her: “Is this what life is really about? Is there more that I should be doing? Is it enough to be at home with my babies all day?” 
But most of the time, those thoughts would flit into her head and then move right on out again, replaced with her mother’s voice, “Yes, of course this is what you should be doing. This is what all good Christian women do – they stay at home, they keep a clean house, they cook nutritious meals, they keep their children safe. This is what life is about.” 
And she really did love those babies of theirs. Yes, she really did. She did her bit at the co-op nursery school; she started a women’s group at church as the kids got bigger; and she began to read a little about the changing views on the role of women in the church. 
And her heart was stirred.
She remembered that once-upon-a-time she had been a good student, that she loved learning, that she had some talent as a leader and a speaker and a writer. So she did a whole lot of reading. She went to a conference or two – after her children were in school all day, of course. And she prayed a lot and she talked with her husband a lot, and she wondered. “Maybe there IS more for me to do in this life. I wonder what that might be.”
It wasn’t easy getting there. She was so full of fear that she ignored what became an increasingly clear call from God to go to seminary. For five years she ignored it, convinced that if she did something so radically independent, her marriage would be over.
Sadly, she didn’t trust either her husband or her God enough to know that the journey she was on was a shared one, that her husband was beginning to re-think things, too. So they got a little professional help, to sort it out, to unlearn and to re-learn. And they made a great big leap. Yes, indeed.  A great big one.
She enrolled in seminary when their youngest ‘baby’ was a senior in high school – and she was 44 years old and only two years away from being a grandmother.
He said, “The time has come for my shirts to go to the laundry – no more ironing for you.” 
And then the doors of their hearts began to open wider and wider, allowing the fresh Wind of the Spirit to blow through, to change things, freshen things, renew things. While in seminary, she had a direct call to pastoral ministry. Nothing like that had happened to her before. Nothing. “What,” she wondered, “do I do with this?”   
She and her husband talked and they prayed and they wondered. One day, he said something amazing to her, something she could scarcely believe she was hearing:
“You know what, honey? For thirty years, you have supported me in everything I’ve done, both professionally and personally. You’ve raised these great kids, you’ve created a good home for all of us, you’ve been a rock and the center around which the rest of us have orbited. So you know what I think? I think it’s my turn, now. It’s my turn to support you. So wherever God calls you, we’ll go together, okay? We’ll go there together.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Three years out of seminary, they moved 125 miles from home so that she could take a pastoral position. That meant that he commuted that distance – every single week. EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK for ten years. 
Without one complaint.
Because that’s what partners do, isn’t it? They support one another. They take turns if they need to. They encourage the best use of the other’s gifts. They live the truth that each half of their union is a whole human being, created, called and gifted. They pool their resources, they look to God together, they seek the welfare, health and wholeness of one another and of their joint venture, too.  
It wasn’t easy – good things seldom are. And it was very good indeed. They rode the road together. Through the tears and the fears, the laughter and the struggle, they believed in one another and they believed in the God who made them, named them, created and gifted them and called  them to be exactly who they are. Exactly.
Joining this one with Rachel Held Evans’ synchroblog week, “One in Christ – A Week of Mutuality.” I decided to eschew the technical/biblical/rhetorical approach to this topic in favor of a very personal story. Because I do believe it is in sharing our stories with one another, that hearts are changed, lives are enriched, and God is honored. And besides, I’ve spent the last 30 years or so making the biblical and exegetical arguments and I am DONE with that part. Kudos to Rachel, however, for taking it on so beautifully this week.
And a peek at those babies all-growed-up with their own babies, many of whom are also all-growed-up. Sigh. The baby born in Africa is the woman on the far right. 
Our middle daughter is in the middle of the photo and our son is in front of me.
This is a photo of a photo taken by Rich Austin of Austin’s Photography in Arroyo Grande, CA, and I apologize for its blurriness.


Working Toward Retreat…

It’s been almost a full year since I’ve done any speaking or teaching for a women’s group of any kind. For a while there, I was doing something with and for women on a regular basis – I facilitated a women’s Bible study group at church twice a month for about seven years, participated in four different women’s retreats for our own women (two as speaker, one as worship leader, one as communion celebrant) and spent a weekend here, a half-day’s worth of interaction and input there. I spoke at a ladies’ tea, and I offered communion to a Bible study leadership team every fall for several years running. I like working with women – I also love preaching to and teaching groups which include both genders and a variety of age groups. But there is often something rich and remarkable that happens when a group of women gather somewhere away-from-the-usual for the express purpose of drawing closer to God.

Two days from now, I’ll get that opportunity again as I lead a group of women from Brentwood Presbyterian church at their annual women’s ministries retreat – right here in Santa Barbara at la Casa de Maria. We’re looking at the book of Esther – which is the same material I used at the very first retreat I ever led by myself almost 10 years ago. My good friend Karen Jobes has written an incomparable commentary on this marvelous book and I have enjoyed re-reading it the last few weeks. (In case you’re wondering…this is the only commentary I have ever read from cover to cover!) Over the course of this weekend, we’ll be talking about and reflecting on:

The Hidden Presence of God in Our Story

“…for such a time as this…”

Session One – Friday Evening, January 26, 2007

Making Things CLEAR…

…the need for consent and clarity.

Session Two – Saturday Morning, January 27, 2007

Keeping Things CONGRUENT…

…the importance of consistency and community.

Session Three – Saturday Afternoon, January 27, 2007

Living with COURAGE…

…the need for conviction and commitment.

Session Four – Sunday Morning, January 28, 2007

Responding with CELEBRATION…

…moving through confession to cooperation.

Throughout the course of these sessions, the women will spend some time in individual reflection, some time in small group discussion and some time in large group learning. It is challenging and fun to lay out a series like this, and I am grateful for the opportunity. And I am especially enjoying wrestling through this topic at this particular juncture in my own life and ministry. I gave the leadership team at Brentwood a list of about six topics and this is the one they chose. After listening to a bit of their corporate story of the last several years, I can readily see that it is also a great topic for them to wrestle with for a while.

It’s a good and relevant topic precisely because God so often seems hidden to us. There aren’t too many miracles to be had, these days. Indeed, I believe that God chooses to work through the ordinary, non-remarkable circumstances of daily life far more often than God chooses to intervene with a miraculous event – and I believe that’s true in any day. There are far more stories like Esther’s in this life than there are stories like the Exodus. Perhaps a better way to phrase it is that there is more often a “miraculous quality to the ordinary” (a Jobes’ phrase) than there is an ordinary quality to the miraculous! The only problem with this truth is, of course, that we so often fail to have ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear’ the wondrous ways in which our God is at work in, around and through the ordinary stuff of life. I am praying that together, the women from Brentwood Pres and I will have our eyes and ears opened in new ways this weekend.