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Friday, February 28, 2014

Singing and Swords: Happy 19th to Caleb

Caleb turns 19 today.  So here I am in my USAFA psyche at my computer, missing him.
 And here is the entrance of the hospital this morning, where I went to hug and cry with a grieving mom as we removed her brain-dead baby from life support, a baby whose short four month life I had witnessed in a large portion due to the many anomalies with which he was born.
But 19 years ago I walked into these doors in a lot of pain and with no small amount of trepidation, little knowing the amazing gift that God was giving us.  A perfectly healthy boy, a perfect size, a good sleeper, an avid eater, whose ear was tuned to music even before he could talk.  A runner, a thinker, a loyal friend, a good brother. 

A hardworking student, an adventurer, the one who was always up for a longer hike or a new route.  A boy with an ear for irony, a dry humor, a quick wit.  A kid who values sacrifice over comfort, service over success.  Who is willing to see things a little differently, and think them through.  A young person who has been condemned by his Kenyan birth to an American family to not quite fit in anywhere.  Yet who is perceptive and thoughtful about his outsider-ness, whom others seek out.  A young man who has suffered and whose suffering has produced perseverance.  Who keeps on in spite of injury and setback, who works through pain . .  . but who also loves to be alone with a guitar, to sleep deeply, to eat well, to watch the sunset.  

A kid for whom we feel equal parts of grief (when he struggles, when we say goodbye, when his life is difficult) and joy (in who he is).

Which is the nature of being a parent, and accentuated by a birthday separated by continents once again.  

So this post is for Caleb, a celebration of 19 years of making us smile.  And this verse could be his for the year:
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
   he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
   let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats, 
   and two-edged swords in their hands . . . . Psalm 149: 4-6

Caleb is one who leads in worship, in music, in singing (and he likes his bed); Caleb is also strong in mind and body, training as a warrior.  God takes pleasure in this humble guy, and we do too.  We pray that God leads him in good paths this year.  And that our paths intersect as much as possible!!  Happy Birthday Caleb.  We love you.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whose Glory?

The Bible character with whom I most frequently and closely identify has changed over the years.  In this season of kids from age 15 to 21, it is the mother of the sons of Zebedee.  Bear with me on this one.  In Matthew 20, she kneels before Jesus and asks for their success.  "Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."  That sounds like my prayers rather often.  This is the season of goals, applications, programs, awards, teams, cuts.  Of exams, scores, reports, recommendations.  Of interviews, tournaments, evaluations, speed.  Of inclusion or exclusion.  And I'm right there with Mrs. Zebedee, asking for my kids to not only do their best, but to be best.  I hear other parents say this too, comments about just having prayed that a goal would be scored, about praying for a university spot to open.

But Jesus' reply is sobering.  Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?"  Jesus' answer to success-seeking is that the road to glory lies through suffering.  One must drink the cup, of wrath, of struggle, of grief and loss, to enjoy the rewards of the Kingdom.  Of course James and John thought they could handle it.  Their mom was ready to overlook the fine print about suffering to get them close to the "top." But Jesus wanted them to see that leadership in the Kingdom comes by serving, that being out in front means laying down your life.

So it is with some trepidation that I ask for prayer for my kids.  On Friday, the oldest will compete in a final round of selection to potentially become the student graduation speaker for his University.  It is down to the final three.  This sounds like a real opportunity for him to present Kingdom values and to challenge complacency, to stand for something that is inspiring and different.  It also could be a hidden call to a bitter cup.

Would you pray that God would be glorified whether the committee chooses Luke or someone else?  Would you pray he would do his best with this, and biochemistry and medical school interviews and friendships and all the complexity of being a Senior? In the end, the effort is hollow if personal glory is the end. But if this speech could be part of the big picture of a redeeming God on the move, then it is worth praying for.

And the same for son two, who is recovering from knee surgery, always on the edge of survival.  Should we pray that his grades are excellent and his commanders look on him with favor? Or that he hears God's clarity in his calling, and continues to serve in a hard place full of broken people?

And the younger ones, finding their way, taking SAT's, preparing for college.  My heart wants them to have the superb lift of spirit that comes from a glorious game-winning shot, or getting recognized for their grades.  But am I ready to see them walk the same kind of lonely and challenging paths their brothers' "success" has earned them?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Life in the Biathlon

We are watching the Olympics, at least little snatches of them when we can.  The graceful ice dancers twirling in unison, the bird-like flights of the petite ski jumpers, the dangerously fast luge, the brutal bounce and spins of the free-style moguls.  But if I were an olympic athlete, I would enter the biathlon.  That's the cross-country ski endurance race punctuated by rifle shooting.  Scott and I actually did have cross country skis when we were newlyweds in Chicago.  Thanks to his Norwegian roots, we inherited them from his parents and used them on the Lake Chicago trails.  And as much as I deplore gun violence in America, I did grow up with guns.  From my first pellet gun to 22's to gauge shot guns, I was a decent shot.  Many cans jumped off the railroad track where we set them up, and clay pigeons burst into shards when we shot skeet.  So the idea of being strong enough to slog through the snow on skis, and sharp enough to hold a gun steady and shoot, appeals to me.
Mom and patient in ICU 
A panel of Kenya's leading paediatricians as we debate improving infant survival 

Our Caring Community learning Scottish Dancing for an evening activity
The orthopedic surgeon from Charlotte NC who operated on my mom two weeks prior, doing a teaching/surgical trip to Kenyatta the same day I was there for neonatal survival meetings.  How crazy is that?????

Because my life is a biathlon.  Most days are a cross-country endurance race through slippery and hazardous conditions.  Up in the dark, prayer and maybe exercise, breakfast and plans for the day, devotions with kids.  Day in and out at the hospital, covering rounds, checking labs, teaching.  Sorting out call schedules, meeting with my team, mentoring younger docs.  Covering RVA student health, appointments, immunization policies, working with students, projects.  Laundry.  Emails, planning WHM conferences, answering questions, accounting.  Prayer meeting times, communication.  Cooking dinner, creating atmosphere and wholeness.  Cheering at games, thinking, reading, learning.  Meetings. The marathon continues, day after day, striding through and over, pushing back against the path of least resistance.
Birthday for Jack's classmate

Sunday morning pre-Valentine treats 
First-place Basketball tournament 
Colleagues reporting on their trip to a Paeds conference in Germany 
Kenyan Raspberries, which are being off-loaded at Kijabe 
New surgical residents-note Erik second from left, who brought his daughter here for treatment from Congo and developed relationship and trust here and is now staying for his own residency 
My "Banquet Ask" at our Student Health Clinic

Then the beeper goes off, and it is time to shoot.  In the war against disease, in the covert effort to save the lives of children, one has to go on the offensive.  No matter how weary, to take a deep breath and line up the gun, to carefully but boldly pull the trigger.  This week it was baby B, another gastroschisis, plummeting down.  We were so close to our fourth save; he had been doing so well.  But when the pager went off at church, I went into shooting mode, intubating, changing therapies, xrays, antibiotics, move to ICU.  He stabilized temporarily, but then he needed blood.  Fresh blood.  And I was the only handy compatible donor, so another round of shooting, this time in the lab's blood donor room.  Perhaps these shots were off target.  Bahati died that night.  Or perhaps they were on target, the target of showing love to this family, giving these parents the assurance that they and we had done everything possible.

More cross-country endurance, normal life, then boom, time to lift the gun.  Our friend E.N., who took care of our family almost 16 years ago when Jack was born here, was having her baby.  She's a little older than the average first-time mom, after many years of working for others, finally she has her own husband, a hard-fought struggle for pregnancy with many complications.  But the day had arrived for delivery, and I went in to comfort, to wait, to celebrate, to be the one to receive her baby, from Scott who was doing her C-section, no easy matter.  Baby M.J. was vigorous, crying even before he was fully "out".  But my heart sank as I dried him off.  Down Syndrome.  Almost 14 years ago I was in the same situation, at my sister's delivery for moral support.  Only when her sweet Micah was delivered, I knew he was not quite alright.  Just like MJ, unexpected but certain subtle signs.  I found myself once again comforting the mourning loss of the expected baby, but enjoining her to be thankful and anticipate blessing in the unique and loving baby she did get.

 So that is the biathlon- straining on, sweating, muscles tired, rhythms, pull, the constant background of effort.  Then the beeper, the call, the all-out push to defeat, to pull off victory.  Ski, ski, ski, ski, shoot.  Ski some more.  Never quite balanced.

When the women finish this event, they fall over into the snow, and gasp and cry.  That's how I feel some weeks.  Stretched by the pace of a normal day, then energized by the adrenaline-rush-demands of a dehydrated burned baby coming to life as we push fluids into an emergency needle into his bone.  Or challenged to come up with a plan for a nearly-dying patient.  Then back to the steady pace of normal life, thinking about what we can pull together for a meal.

Maybe one day I'll have skis and a gun again.  Or maybe for now, it will be pots and pans, and a stethoscope and a needle.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Building in Bundibugyo?

World Harvest Mission short-term-trip-leader and construction-guru-with-decades-of-experience Brad Wallace is planning a construction trip to Bundibugyo May 9-25.  He has four people signed up and could use 4 to 5 more to help on building projects at Christ School.  This is the first time in AGES that we've had an opportunity like this for handy construction-oriented people to bless Bundibugyo.
If you are interested please contact Brad.  703.969.5309 or  

Our children studied in these classrooms.  Our friends are the teachers who still faithfully bring the Kingdom of God to Bundibugyo one child at a time.  Our team mentors young people, coaches sports, helps with the farms, leads studies.  Our Ugandan boys have found Jesus here, have received the foundations for their lives.  The buildings are not just buildings, they are the the venue for real change in real peoples' lives.

Thanks for considering!

Saturday, February 08, 2014


21 years ago today Luke Aylestock Myhre made his entrance into the world, a month early (but not three months early which he had been threatening), after a difficult labor that nearly ended in a C-section, on a snowy day in Baltimore.  He was beautiful and perfect but a little early and punky, so whisked off to the nursery in an incubator.  21 years later he was back in Baltimore to interview for medical school on another snowy day.  He's approximately thirty times the size he started and finally sleeps a bit longer, but most things haven't changed significantly.  We still revel to watch the new steps with wonder and hope, still find our hearts wrapped in his flesh, still banter our points of view, still enjoy his company more than just about any other in the world.  But now we have to do that from seven thousand miles away.  We sent postcards and a few fun things in the mail weeks ago.  That's how we have to do Birthdays, right?  I thought that was fine.

Then this morning, a bustle to get Jack out to a basketball tournament, breakfast, laundry on the line, be at rounds by 8.  I started writing a note on a baby and wrote down the date:  8/2.  8th of February, hit me like a punch in the gut.

Our firstborn son is an official adult today.  It's another milestone we'll miss.

He'll be fine, with friends and work and hopefully a good dinner.  We'll be fine too, distracted by most of the last 8 hours in the hospital on call.  But it's another little shift in our family.  And while we celebrate survival, celebrate independence, celebrate the beginning of a future, we also grieve.  As all parents do, who look away from the incubator to blink and find that the little person inside is riding a bike and reading, is making slingshots and climbing trees and falling out, is writing poems and scoring goals, is climbing mountains and solving equations, is flying across continents and learning new languages, is leading groups and captaining teams.

Because he is his own person.  A person we are proud to know, a person whom God has gifted in a hundred unique ways, a person who will cut to the core, see the problem creatively, live to the fullest, invest in his friends, and not lose sight of the real and the important.  A person we believe in, no matter how many miles or months separate us.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

It's been a while . . .

Perhaps part of the recovery phase of a terribly crazy October through early January, short staffed, strikes, terribly sick patients, family visits, heart-wrenching goodbyes.  Perhaps the insanity of RVA meshing (or more to the point, NOT meshing) with Kijabe and World Harvest as the new term started.  Perhaps Scott being gone two weeks for meetings in America, and connecting with his parents.  Perhaps sensing God calling for silence, meditation, grounding, thoughtfulness.  But for whatever reasons, this blog has been unusually quiet.

And the pressure of resuming with something profound to make sense of the silence is too much.  So I'll just list a few happenings and praises and flow-of-consciousness information.

Patients.  Gift, whom we all prayed for throughout the last two months, went home.  He is the third survivor ever in Kijabe and probably all of Kenya of his serious bowel malformation.  He had overwhelming bacterial infections, and once completely died but was revived.  He had a persistent heart issue that slowly healed, and in the last week we thought he might have had a second life-threatening abnormality of his liver.  But he didn't, and he got better, and he went home to the coast on Friday.  Along with Daudi, who hopped a ride on an ambulance from the opposite side of the country one terrible night when I had kids coding in ICU and nursery at the same time.  He had a massively swollen belly because no one had noticed his lack of anal opening, being distracted by his obvious cleft lip and palate.  Again, thanks to partnership with our Paeds surgeons, he went home rescued and functional, with hope for more procedures soon.  It's been a pretty good month on the NICU service, lots of surviving preemies and slow improvements, lots of moms who battled discouragement and hung on, lots of victories and a bit of heartache too.  Both Gift and Daudi were majorly helped by our Needy Children's Fund as well as other funding through the surgical arm of our hospital.  It is good to work in a place where Jesus' healing power can be extended to the least of these.

RVA.  The new term is in full swing.  Which means early Saturday mornings for Senior Store coffee.  Caring communities.  Class night preparations.  Clinics.  Games.  The flurry of activity and anticipation that occurs for Banquet, the major social event of the year for Juniors and Seniors (sort of like a prom, but no dancing, so more of a dinner theatre evening).  The girls helped Jack pull off a wonderfully romantic "ask" with lots of chocolate, roses, word-smithing and atmosphere, and each of them had fun with clues and notes and surprise askers themselves.  And Friday was a parent open house day, where I got to watch Julia in her pottery class, and think about poetry and physics and Swahili.  It is a privilege I will never take for granted after two kids boarding, to be here and to participate.  I try to remember that when every night seems to be crazy busy with something scheduled.

Women's Retreat.  And in the midst of single-parenting and new terms and homework and scholarship applications and lectures to prepare and middle-of-the-night emergencies and phone calls and dinner to make and administrative scheduling and just too much of life . . the AIM mission had a women's retreat which they opened up to all of us.  Our World Harvest contingent of Ann, Bethany, and me was joined by Pat visiting from Uganda for a wonderfully refreshing weekend.

We roomed together and had a blast.  But the worship and teaching were also solid, and just to be away and quiet was priceless.  God had been drawing our attention to Psalm 1 and the tree, so when I was able to go early to the retreat and spend a day in silence and prayer, I wandered into the nearby forest and sensed the refreshment of God's presence.

Family.  Prayers would be appreciated for my mom, who underwent MAJOR back surgery two weeks ago.  She had rods put in to help with a severe kyphosis (hunching over) that would have progressed to respiratory compromise.  The recovery has been slow and painful.  She is in a rehab facility. Today she sounded brighter, and was able to get out of bed with help and take 120 steps.  But she has a long way to go.  And Caleb will have surgery on Tuesday to remove a screw from his knee that is working its way out of the bone and irritating him where his brace rubs.  He has finally, after a year, just started to run a bit.  Luke heads into February with five interviews for medical school to be completed.  That's a lot of travel, and no small amount of stress and uncertainty.  Pray that God would prepare a place for him.

That's the news for tonight, thanks for hanging in there with us, and for your prayers.