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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Stay Alert for Shepherd Sightings

Yesterday, we moved.  If you can call packing all your household into a 20-foot container (actually about 3/4 of a shared 20-foot container) moving. This season has been one of uncertainty and transition and all the unsettled emotions that brings--being between, not knowing quite what is next, missing family, having life in disarray.  Which actually gives us a glimpse into Mary and Joseph's Christmas, paring life down to what can be carried on a donkey (much less than a Land Rover's capacity), leaving home, looking for the next place to stay, following the vagaries of politics and the harshness of God's call.  So after giving birth in a barn, one can only imagine they might have wondered if they made a wrong turn.  Is this really what God intended for the promised leader of Israel, the heir to the throne of David?  In the context of suffering, night, dashed expectations and physical strain, I have to think that the arrival of the shepherds provided important affirmation. 

Suddenly here are people sent just to say--we see God in you, we see that there is glory hidden here, we want to be near and be a part of all this, no matter how rough it looks.

This crossed my mind yesterday twice.  First, on the road out to the container (just before the moving truck slipped off the road into a ditch on a muddy hill, just before the tow cable broke as Scott pulled them out with our car. . .) I received my first out-of-the-blue (or out of the angels) text.  Dr. M from a distant rural Kenyan hospital had called me the week before, having been given my number by a former intern Dr. L.  They had a very sick baby with a condition that is fairly common here but poorly recognized, hypernatremic dehydration with acute kidney failure in a 1 week old.  Dr. L, however, DID recognize the problem because of her training, and she had helped with the fluids and plans, and told Dr. M to call me and confirm that they did not need to transfer the baby for dialysis. I had run through calculations with them and reassured, and yesterday Dr. M just re-contacted me to say that everything was back to normal and the baby was nearly ready to go home.  We rarely get to see that direct-line story, the way training spreads as interns are dispersed, the way a life is saved.

February 2018
December 2018
The second shepherd-text came from a paediatric surgeon at the National Referral hospital.  I had cared for his premature niece in our newborn unit at Naivasha in February.  I had not heard from him in many months, but he just wanted to share a photo and thanks and good news that the tiny baby was now a thriving 9 kg (20 pound) 10-month old.  He was just sharing the joy.

I don't get those kind of follow-up reports very often.  Mostly we are all-out for all we can do, and then people blend back into the swirl of population and I may or may not ever hear about them again.  So two reports in one day, both received in the process of going to and coming from the massive task of storing all we own, was pretty encouraging.  I think I've generally seen the story of the shepherds as lovely, as musical, as quaint, as important evidence of God reaching out to the lower levels of the social order.  But yesterday it occurred to me that the story was for Mary too.  In her confusion over the way her birth story worked out, the shepherds were sent by God to reassure her that she was in the right place at the right time. That God sees, and she was going to be OK.

Watch for shepherds this season, people who remind you that God's plans, though they wend through shadowed valleys and midnight caves and lonely losses, will bring you good, that in the end all shall be well.
(And to top the day off right or Wright . . . friends from Uganda passing through met us for dinner)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insight about the message the shepherds gave to Mary. Your blog is so very special. What a comfort you offer. I am praying for you and your dear ones, that your season may be blessed by great joys in the midst of uncertain times. Judy in HMB