Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Post -- 26/05/2012

Firstly, this is Amanda writing the blog this week. The point was reached where Craig could no longer handle the absolute disaster that is the inside of our car, so bright and early this morning he was off to get it detailed. Therefore, I am at home with some peace and quiet to share with you my perspective of events over the last three or four weeks... and in all seriousness, it is something that I have been wanting to do for a while. 

Continuing on with what Craig mentioned about my impromptu trip to Santa Cruz last week, I would like to let you all know I am perfectly fine. The week before I was still in a lot of pain, not from the surgery, but from the treatment I am on, but my trip to the doctor last weekend was very beneficial. He made what adjustments he could to alleviate any discomfort, but also assured himself that everything seemed perfectly normal and that some women just find this process more uncomfortable than others. I know I am being vague about treatment, etc. without ever having defined what treatment or process this is, and while I am completely open to sharing with pretty much anyone who wants to know, some people might find this information a bit of an over-share and maybe even a little gross. However, if you would like more information about the specifics for prayer or interest's sake please e-mail or Facebook me and I would be happy to inform you with more details. But the end of it all is that I feel so much better. Although at the time I wasn't convinced the adjustments had done anything, I truly feel better and am glad I went and had everything checked over. He wants to see me again for another check-up in 2-3 weeks' time. 

I also feel better mentally as well... I think in the midst of the surgery and decisions we were moving and living on adrenaline. Everything happened so fast, with our initial appointment with the doctor on Thursday and my surgery on Saturday and loads of tests, poking and prodding in between. We were very much at peace about consulting the doctor and were already aware of the potential for investigative surgery before we went, so we were very comfortable with the pace with which everything moved. Having never had surgery before, in the moment I was also determined to view it as an adventure... I was not concerned with the surgery itself, but I have to admit that I was a bit worried about general anaesthesia. I could not wrap my head around one minute being awake and another minute waking up having missed the whole thing. Now looking back on that part of the procedure, I still think, "Whoa... weird..." One minute the doctor was asking how I was feeling and the next I was in recovery desperately needing to pee. I was so proud that, even half-conscious, I was able to remember to speak in Spanish, though it was basic Spanish because, "I need to pee" is not all that difficult to say... over and over and over again. However, the word "catheter" was one I didn't know... so I just decided to say it over and over again in English probably really confusing the nursing staff. 

Even after the surgery, for the remainder of our time in Santa Cruz, despite the pain and bed-rest, I continued to feel like Craig and I were on an adventure and kind of felt like I was being spoilt because everything was being done for me. I do admit to cheating a bit in the recovery process... surgery was the Saturday and Monday night we went to the movies... it had to be done. I was walking really slowly, so we left early enough to make up for my hunched over, elderly lady-like gait and went to see The Avengers on the big screen... something we can't do in Trinidad. And while I was a bit uncomfortable near the end of the film, it was worth it. I remember sitting down and thinking about what movie seats used to be like and was so grateful that they had advanced to be so comfortable over the years... they are way more comfortable than airplane seats. 

However, we returned to Trinidad on the Wednesday morning and I tried to keep busy to not think about the implications of the whole previous week... laundry, sweeping out the house, etc. I even went to work the next day, where I learnt I was not actually supposed to be doing those things and I should be actually lying down...and about halfway through the morning I agreed with them. I was wiped out. And the constant activity since returning had made things a lot more painful than they probably needed to be. So Thursday afternoon I stayed in bed, with instructions to not do anything even in the house. And while Bones season 4 kept me busy for that weekend, I couldn't really not think about everything that had happened.

I can't have kids naturally... people talk about so many things, but infertility is not one of them. No one tells their daughters that one day they may or may not grow up to be mothers, because they may or may not be able to have children. And while all women who start to try to have a baby acknowledge that "infertility" is out there, no one really thinks that it's going to be their problem... or least I didn't. I was born one month and two days before my parents' first anniversary, so obviously my parents didn't have problems; why would I? I struggled, and still do a little, with feeling a bit like a failure as a woman -- isn't our basic biological purpose to reproduce? -- and I struggled with sadness because I really want a child... but God has taught me a lot over the last couple of weeks and I have felt really helped and encouraged.

Firstly, I changed my perspective from blaming God to accepting that my body is the way it is because there is sin in the world. Like any other disease, my body is less than perfect from original sin and I know that there a lot more people out there struggling with illnesses a lot graver than mine. Actually, when the doctor came into the room looking really stressed and concerned I was worried he found something a lot more serious and when I specifically asked about tumours he said, "Oh no... we didn't find anything you're going to die from." And I remember my relief was so palpable... and I remember thinking that anything else he was going to say would be OK. So really, physically, I am OK... and praise God for that. And God is still good even though my body doesn't work 100% like it should, even though there are people we love who have diseases like cancer, and even though there is war and starvation in our world. God is good. 

Secondly, I started reading Radical by David Platt... and I am really enjoying it so far. One of the many things he touches on is that our salvation and faith is not and cannot be centred around ourselves. If someone asks what is the centre of Christianity, he says, and I agree with him, that many people would respond with "That God loved me and sent his Son to save me from my sins". But he goes on to explain how this definition leaves the focus of Christianity on us... it becomes all me, me, me, me... he suggests that the definition should be something more along the lines of "God loved me and sent His Son to save me from my sins to glorify His name." He cites many examples throughout scripture which all essentially boil down to the fact that God works and acts in and through us to glorify Himself in this world... therefore, my purpose is to glorify God. I can still be a functioning, productive woman of Christ whether or not I can have children, because my main purpose is to give glory to God. Even more than that, God can use this situation and my less than perfect body for His glory... and even more than that, I want Him to. 

Ephesians 3:20 is a special verse for me and I have been thinking about it a lot over the last couple of weeks... if my desire is that God uses me for His glory, and He can do abundantly more than I can ask or imagine... then I should expect Him to do just that with this situation in a way that is bigger than I can even comprehend. I have to expect Him to work in this situation without trying to guess how... I can't assume that it means He will give us children, but I can expect Him to be glorified and that has given me a  lot of comfort this past couple of weeks. 

OK, this is long... and I am not now going to go into detail about our week. I will say we worked... I did work a full week this week... Audiology in the morning and more flexible work in the afternoons, including house visits. I was invited to a charity event for the rich and famous women of Trinidad where I met loads of new women... and won a photoshoot with a professional photographer in the raffle. Craig's English class had their exam for their second unit... and he's been busy this week with land stuff... we'll call it stuff, because I don't know what it really is called. He spoke at church last Sunday and will be speaking at youth group tonight. Next week, we'll give a more detailed look at what our week was like. I just wanted to share some thoughts instead this week. 


  • Craig as he speaks at youth group tonight about God's strength in our weaknesses. We're also finishing the unit on service in the "Purpose Driven Life", so pray that the young people have been impacted with the whole concept of service.
  • The continual, unseasonal rain which is making life inconvenient for us and much more so for people with less secure housing.

  • A continued sense of peace for us both as God reveals His plans for us in terms of having a family, and that this experience has only made our marriage stronger.
  • Making new contacts and building on previous relationships at the charity event this past Thursday night.
  • A wonderful house visit with great questions and conversation with my friend Mary, who some of you might remember as a contact through the English classes. 

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Post -- 19/05/12

I woke up this morning (cue harmonica!) to that strangest of sensations in our marriage: an empty bed. Fear not, readers, I'm not in trouble, it's just that Amanda has had to make a speedy (and hopefully brief) return to Santa Cruz today, and we are spending a rare day apart. She was promised pain in the weeks following her surgery, however, she called the clinic yesterday to give them the current lie of the land, and it was suggested she see the doctor as soon as she could. It's in situations like these that our distance from a major city is keenly felt. We're really hoping they will have sympathy for our geographical restrictions, address whatever issues have arisen today, and allow Amanda to get on the bus tonight and get home again. 

Amanda has more-or-less stuck to her bed-rest regime, though on Monday, she was summoned to 'action' by a director with a deadline -- that would be me. Strathaven Evangelical Church -- where I grew up and where my parents are still based -- are hosting a fundraising lunch in the coming weeks for FT's Education ministry and they asked us if we would mind making a short video for them. So, having spent some time prepping a shooting script, we set out on Monday afternoon, taking advantage of our day off to film ourselves talking to a camera and, much more interestingly, one of our Education staff at work in the classroom. 

That was the easy part. Editing took a couple of long evening sessions (quicker than I'd anticipated) and then came the moment upon which we had suspected the whole project would stand or fall: uploading it to the internet. You may be aware that net speeds here are not exactly Senna-like, and so we prepared ourselves for long, tortuous hours of trying, trying and trying again -- not helped by the network's propensity to shut itself down every so often.

Anyway, after two whole nights (no kidding!) of uploading, we got there in the end, and hopefully when the congregation at SEC have to endure our Cinemascope mugs (speak for yourself, Craig), they'll at least appreciate the effort that went in.

Despite heavy downpours all week (rain in Bolivia, like snow in the UK, has a tendency to shut everything down) it's been a productive week, with some really enjoyable teaching sessions. In the English class, Tuesday's lesson on 'Comparisons' generated a good few laughs at my expense, much to the delight of the students, with whom we've developed a tremendous working relationship this year, a real bunch of hard workers. And this week's R.E. classes touched on John 3 and 4, in which Jesus meets Nicodemus (a 'good man') and the Samarian (a 'bad woman'); the pupils took on board well the key lesson from both examples: we all need a Saviour.

News is positive, too, on the land front. After weeks of paper-chasing, we are now in the final stages of registering the land as our property, with our architect now submitting his own plans to the authorities. The way things are going, we could be looking at finally breaking ground on the house within a month. Add to the mix our continued family-planning deliberations, and 2012 is looking like a pivotal year for us.

  • For Amanda in Santa Cruz, that she would be given quick, but sensible, answers to her problems, and that she would return home soon in one piece.
  • For Craig as he preaches on Psalm 3 tomorrow morning.
  • For our video negotiating the choppy waters of the Bolivian internet and making it to the relevant parties in the UK.
  • For a positive week in the classroom, and in our land registry.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Post -- 12/05/12

We're back home in Trinidad now, delaying our return till Wednesday, under doctor's orders.

Amanda is recovering well from her surgery. She was discharged, as expected, on Sunday lunchtime and has spent most of her time since then resting (with the exception of a brief shift on Thursday morning in audiology -- not a great idea!).

On Tuesday, we had our post-surgery sit-down with the doctor and it all boils down to one crucial fact: we can't get pregnant by traditional means. This leaves us with a decision to make as to whether we pursue non-traditional methods of conception, and based on the diagnosis, the doctor believes this is a decision we need to make sooner rather than later.

Tuesday could have been a day of real emotional devastation for us. But we faced the appointment with calmness, considered its implications in a composed manner, and went to bed that night with an overwhelming sense of peace, that God is in control and that he has a great plan for our life as a couple and as a family. I share this not to draw attention to our emotional fortitude (would that we had it!), but rather to the very real impact of your prayers for us over the past week as friends and family. We felt truly 'uplifted' throughout and it is our own prayer that God will draw near to you all in a similar vein in whatever trials you currently face.

Since coming back, my stints behind the desk have been as few as they have been brief, with a lot of bureaucracy still to sift through for our land purchase. Thankfully, things are just about there now and we met our architect yesterday, who is raring to go on the house. 

You may remember my band-mate and work colleague Wilson Menacho, with whom I have been meeting once a week for the past couple of months to pray together. Wilson, who is not much younger than me, is the father of two young children, and someone who has increasingly grown in confidence over the past few months, not least due to his capable chairing of the musical slots at church. Unlike a lot of guys in this culture, he takes his faith seriously and reads his Bible with reflection, evidenced by the devotional times he has chaired with us as his fellow band-mates.

A few weeks ago, as youth leaders, we were drawing up the teaching schedule for the following two months, and it became clear to us that this would be a great opportunity to invite Wilson to contribute and encourage him in his growth. So, tonight, Wilson will be speaking on the theme of 'The Nature of a Servant' from The Purpose Driven Life. Please pray for Wilson tonight. We could do with more guys like him in the church, and we hope this will be an important step for him along his spiritual path.

  • For continued post-surgery recovery for Amanda, and energy for myself, as I temporarily see to the multitude of tasks she so ably tends to in the house!
  • For wisdom and guidance as we work through the post-surgery implications.
  • For Wilson (see above).
  • For the overwhelming sense of peace we are experiencing in the face of these difficult circumstances. 
  • For continued progress in our housing project.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Post -- 05/05/12

Writing from Santa Cruz this morning, where we travelled to on Wednesday evening to attend to 'a couple of important matters', as I put it in last week's post. At the same time, we were keen to keep those motives to ourselves. However, there comes a point when it's useful to give prayer partners a better idea as to what to pray for, and this morning, that time has most certainly come.

For the first couple of years of marriage, we didn't much give having a family a thought. Perhaps it was something to do with our urban locale, or our friendship groups at that time. However, almost as soon as we arrived in Bolivia back in early 2010, that desire to have children increased significantly (maybe it's something in the water!). 

However, in the last two years or so, we have learned that we are one of those couples for whom having children is not all that straightforward. And yes, while two years is a relative drop in the ocean for certain couples, we have been curious as to why it hasn't happened at this relatively fertile stage of our lives.

An exacerbating emotional factor is added to the mix in Bolivia. Back in the UK, we have contemporaries who have had children for a few years now, but that is in a culture where people increasingly wait well into their 30s to conceive, and we know that there would be zero peer-pressure from our friends. But here in Bolivia, having children at times feels like the national pastime. Indeed, one of the sadder aspects of our ministry is that, when we hear the word 'pregnant', it more often than not carries with it negative connotations of promising young lives going to waste. People here, in the church as much as anywhere else, simply cannot conceive of an inability to conceive, and barely a month goes by without someone asking us, with nothing but good intentions, "Why aren't you pregnant yet?"

We don't need the interrogations -- it's a question we've been asking ourselves for a long time. So in March, on our way to Costa Rica, we decided to do something about it, visiting a urologist we know in Santa Cruz, who went over the diagnostic treatment which could be carried out. In the end, we opted for a fertility clinic which we learned about largely through word-of-mouth. Amanda booked an appointment for Thursday morning, and that's why we're here.

But while I write to you from our guesthouse, Amanda has just woken up at the clinic, where she is awaiting exploratory, diagnostic surgery at 11.45am (4.45pm UK time, 11.45am in Toronto). It turned out that she has some complicating factors and what the doctor wishes to do is address those and, while he's at it, see if there are any more. I could go into a lot more detail (you should have seen Amanda's email to our parents!) but I reckon that's enough for you to be praying with. Like any surgery, complications could arise, but we're confident this will be a relatively straightforward procedure.

I will leave it at that for now as I have a clinic-bound bus to catch. We really appreciate your prayers at this time and thank you all so much for your interest in us.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Update: While I was travelling over to the clinic, Amanda texted me to tell me she'd been moved up the queue, so she's in surgery right now (9am in Bolivia) meaning you can pray right away!