Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must first direct you to the Impact Nations website. There you will find a 2009 review of the biosand water filter project. Though I am always certain that I could have done more, I am nevertheless proud of our accomplishments this year. I try to update that page about once a month with news of our progress, so if you are interested in our project, I encourage you to join the Impact Network and follow that particular page.

And now for my personal reflections...

Do you ever get dizzy on December 31st, as you spend the day looking back and forth, at both the past year and the one to come? It's been that kind of week for me. Looking back helps us know where we need to go as we move forward. Actually, looking down gives me a pretty good idea too. When I look down, I see evidence of a 2009 that was spent sitting at my computer and consuming carbohydrates. So, 2010 must contain less time stuffing my face and sitting on my butt. I am determined to lose some weight.

Less time on my posterior means less time with my faithful friend, Mr. MacBook. I struggled with this one a lot in 2009. I'm sure many of you became more intimately acquainted with your computer this year too. The difficulty is that the further we get into this century, the more we find our everyday activities being transferred to the computer and it's dastardly cousin, the internet. This is even more true for those of us who live overseas and desire to stay connected to the western world.

A few years ago, reading the newspaper meant sitting at the kitchen table and spreading out the inky pages. It meant saving a section for my wife so that she could read an article I thought might interest her. Reading a national magazine could be done while having a nice hot bath. Now I begin each day by browsing my favorite periodicals online. Instead of saving articles for my wife, I tell her to check the link that I left on Facebook!

In fact, all of my reading is done on my computer now. I even switched to reading the bible on my computer a while ago. A regrettable decision. My bible is remarkably bereft of my own handwriting and has long since known the loving touch of a highlighter. Instead of curling up on the couch with my bible and my God, I have tried to fit my quiet time into my deafening, digital day. How can one hear the still small voice when my internet browser—only a click away—is forever beckoning me with its promise of another photography tip or news of Tiger's proclivity for extra-marital activities?

Before moving to the Phils, we could visit with friends and family while actually being in the same physical space at the same time. Walks in the park with friends, or a game of golf with my father were not out of the question. Now my time with Dad is restricted to 17" of real estate. Instead of crazy adventures with my best friend, we settle for a binary beer on Skype. Bethany and I can no longer gather with the rest of the Stewart family to watch the hockey game, so I am left to listen to it. On my computer.

Like many of you, my job is performed at the computer as well. This is where I do all of my correspondence, emailing people from all over the world every day. 2009 saw the creation of the Impact Network, where I spend time (on my computer) coordinating communications between our donors and our project facilitators. I also spend time creating promotional materials such as sales presentations and brochures, and researching clean water technologies. Sometimes I do get away from my computer, only to sit in the car for several hours in order to attend a meeting and make a presentation. On my computer.

My hobby has me chained to the computer too. Sure, I must get off my duff to take a photograph, but it takes 1/250th of a second to capture an image. A memory card full of images can take me down a rabbit trail of editing that brings me hours of enjoyment. On my computer.

Each of these are perfectly good reasons to plunk my keister down in front of the almighty motherboard, but the end result is a need for larger pants, a weaker faith, and a lonely wife.

Yesterday Bethany and I had a "discussion" about all this. She makes the excellent point that whatever my activity on the computer is at any given time, the physical reality is always the same. A laptop (particularly that of the 17 inch variety) creates a physical barrier between the user and the rest of the world. It says "don't bug me, I'm busy". My eyes can't help but be drawn to the bright screen, even when I'm conversing with somebody.

So what is a 21st century man to do? After yesterdays "discussion", I retreated to the shower, where I do my best thinking. I was searching for a practical solution—self-reflection is good, self-actualization is better. My answer? Boundaries, of course! Firm rules that will help me to stay plugged in to the real world (pardon the irony of that metaphor). I have also placed some new rules that will help me invest in my family's spiritual growth without the use of any glorious gadgetry.

The new rules:
  • I will put my computer to sleep at bedtime. I have a tendency to stuff my earbuds in and listen to podcasts when I go to bed, which can alienate my wife and distract me from a time of self-reflection and prayer. If I can't sleep, I will turn to the traditional method of reading an actual, physical, made-out-of-paper book.
  • I will not open my computer again until after breakfast. I have fallen into the habit of checking my email when I first wake up, which then leads to either working or reading periodicals before I have greeted my family or my God.
  • I will read a devotional aloud to Bethany at the breakfast table. If the computer can't be turned on till after breakfast, then there is plenty more time for me to invest in my family at the beginning of the day.
  • We will not watch television during dinner. At some point in the last few years we got into this habit, and it's just one more way that keeps us from relating to one another. I don't have anything against TV, but the dinner table is an opportunity to talk to one another about our day. I don't want to miss that anymore. As an aside, we watch tv on my computer, so this is one more instance where I am demoting the marvelous MacBook.
  • We will read a bible story to Promise at bedtime. We already have a pretty good bedtime routine with Promise, and unlike the rest of the day, it does not include a computer. Regardless, in an effort to develop a good habit that will strengthen my family for years to come, we will add the element of scripture to a time that I really do treasure.
So, those are my new rules. I was ticked off when I pronounced them after my shower yesterday, so I committed to keep them only to the end of January. But honestly, I truly hope that we will spend this month developing good habits that will continue throughout 2010 and into the years beyond.

I have stated the new rules here for two reasons. First, I humbly ask for your accountability. Feel free to ask me at any time how we are doing with the new routine. If you learn that I have slipped, you are hereby permitted to give me a good tongue lashing. Secondly, there is a distinct possibility that the temptation of a digitally dominated life is not my burden alone. If you have found yourself in a similar struggle, perhaps my reflections will give you the courage to take action.

Peace out,

Oh, and Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Surprise For You

Greetings! And Merry Christmas to all!
It's hard to believe the year is coming to a close. So much has happened in 2009! I feel the months just blend in together as one when I try to recount the many blessings and heartaches of the year.

This week I spent delivering a continuity's baby boy. :) Remember May from Bible Study? Well, she went into labor on Tuesday night, so I pulled off a very long night shift. :) Healthy baby Kaser John was born sporting a cephalhematoma and giving his mommy a nasty tear! It took me over an hour to suture it! But May did great. And she is healing happily with her precious Christmas blessing.
Wednesday was spent in a whirlwind of cookie-baking and such. Tim and Promise helped lots while Thursday was spent giving away those countless cookies at the local Philippine Army base with our friends, Eric and Casey. We met with the Chief Executive Officer and delivered enough cookies to bless 400 men! Cool.

Tim and I spent Christmas eve quietly alone watching Christmas movies and eating pizza. What a treat.

For Christmas, Tim, myself and Promise had a very Western meal with our dear friends, Darrell and Shannon. Shannon made spinach dip and broccoli salad!!! My fav. We were even able to find an inexpensive honey ham (though not exactly Western-looking) and I made lots of mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes and candied yams. Yum. We even had my special homemade egg nog! We decided that we were going to have a real home-y Christmas this year...and my tastebuds were in Heaven....but my gut is now reaping the consequences of a very rich meal. I think after 3 years here in the Phils, I can no longer handle the dairy goodness of home. Sad. Or maybe I have worms?

But that's not all that's growing inside!....We have been keeping it a secret from the world wide web for the last 13 weeks, but are sharing our special news now. We are expecting another precious miracle in July. :) I am 13 weeks pregnant! Now, if you look at the posts of the last 13 weeks, you may notice some panicky moments and some emotional blahs....well, they came from a very sick preggo lady. This pregnancy has been significantly different from Promise....from the very beginning.

We got an ultrasound at 5 weeks pregnant to confirm and to receive more accurate dating. However, the ultrasound showed 2 yolk sacs! Being the curious midwife that I am, I started doing my research and was asked to return for a second ultrasound in 2-3 weeks to check for fetal viability and the presence of twins.

I got busy and didn't go. Not until I was about 9 1/2 weeks. My midwife and dear friend, Bea, Promise and our friend Beth came with me to the lab. This ultrasound proved to be a mixed blessing. Apparently, there were two eggs, two yolk sacs, but one did not fully form and split. It began to shrivel up creating a hematoma on the chorion (the outer layer of the amniotic sac) of the other baby. They called it a "subchorionic bleed" or hematoma. The doc assured me that it was not growing at this time, but to return for periodic ultrasounds to ensure the safety of the baby.
Four things can happen with this condition:
1. the hematoma gets reabsorbed into the uterine lining causing no harm to mother or baby, 2. the hematoma can get bigger putting pressure on the amniotic sac of the baby causing premature rupture of membranes or preterm labor, 3. The hematoma can burst causing hemmorhage and loss of fetal life or 4. It can stay the same size until term and cause a minor hemorrhage at delivery.

So we are praying for reabsorption. :)
My awesome midwife, Bea, has been walking with me through the process and so far, things are okay. I am sick most everyday and already experiencing sciatic and herniated disc trouble, but other than that, I am still working, loving my Lady Bird and my man.

The future looks daunting....January requires me to study like never before for my midwifery certification exam (NARM) with February requiring me to fly across the ocean 18 weeks preggo with a toddler in tow alone to take the exam. :) I am excited for the journey....the adventure...though at times, very cautious, almost protective of where I am at...I feel frail. Unlike when I was pregnant with Promise - I felt strong...almost invincible. But God.

So, that's the latest news around here. Promise is teething and has decided to show how talented she is in dramatics...she comes by that honestly! But she is beautiful and quite a lot of fun. She lives and breathes for Dora the Explorer right now and points at stars calling them "Estrellas" (the Spanish word for stars). She's a smart cookie. She received a few Dora dolls from her Grandma Con for Christmas and they still haven't left her grasp. :) She calls them, "backpack baby". So here are some pics of our quiet, somewhat Western Christmas. Be blessed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And so this is Christmas...

So here, as shared in the last post, is the Lady Bird showing off her Dora ornaments....she LOVES the Christmas tree! And for those who want to make their Christmas tree appear "presentful", here's a hint: Wrap up empty boxes and beer!
Merry Christmas!

Winding Down for Christmas

So here we are, Tim and myself, sitting in front of two blasting fans. I am wearing a tank top and shorts....Tim has decided to go a few steps further. Sweat drips down my forehead and pools in the creases of my eyelids and on my upper lip. The sound of the Balut bell honking down the street along with the barking of stray dogs and cats crying out in heat fills the air.....Ahhh.."Christmas in the Philippines".

Today I hit my 600th prenatal exam. Yes, I have done a prenatal on 600 women. I came home to relieve Tim from Promise duty and he headed out to work.

Promise has discovered the joy of "Dora the Explorer". Without a TV, pirated DVDs of Dora is all we got for her and she ADORES Dora...or rather, Dora's backpack. We printed off some Dora Christmas ornaments off of and the Bird eagerly watched as I cut them out and tied a ribbon on each one so that she could gingerly place the characters on the tree singing, "Backpack, backpack." With her prickly heat rash and sweaty brow, Promise walked all by herself to our "Charlie Brown" aluminum/plastic tree and hung "Swiper", "Boots" and "Backpack". Tim helped Promise hang "Dora" and "Map" and the "Estrellias" this morning.

I love being a mom. I love hanging with my Lady Bird. I miss my mom.

Shifts at the clinic are getting busier as Christmas approaches. Everyone wants to have their baby on 'Jesus' Birthday'. I was even asked today, "Ma'am B, how do I make my baby come out on Christmas morning?" Her baby is due in early January. :) Meanwhile, the clinic is preparing Christmas food giveaways and ministering to some of the poorest women of Davao.

I currently have a continuity (one of my Bible study patients) in early labor. I am just waiting for the text message, "Ma'am B...I need to go to MMC now...sakit!" I checked her this morning....very early labor. :)

This week is busy. The water project is still busy despite taking a little hiatus for Christmas. Apparently government officials don't want to work for the next 3 weeks. However, the poor still need clean water and so if you check out, you will find out just how many families are getting clean water for Christmas! Thank you to all who have given so freely to these impoverished families!

We've been hanging out a lot with another missionary couple here....Darrell and Shannon...they've become like another set of name it! We so enjoy their company...we both miss our families and so hanging together to talk about how much we would rather be home this time of year has become part of our weekly ritual...we are even spending Christmas day together! Tim and I have been so blessed to have them as friends. You can check out what they are up to at

So there are lots of other things on the go, but we will chat about them after Christmas. Maybe we'll get one or two more posts out before the most wonderful-lest of holidays comes....honestly, we are feeling like it's all been "same old, same old". Routine. We will have some more things to say in a week.

Thank you all again for your prayers, encouragements and support! We are missing so many of you and pray you have a beautiful and Merry Christmas full of Christ's presence.
Be blessed.

Here's a pic that Darrel snapped with his iPhone during a visit at the coffee shop yesterday. Shannon and the Bird were both feeling a little sleepy. It's not very flattering, but we haven't taken any pics recently so this is all I've got.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Continued update...

Greetings! Sorry it has been a while. Tim and I have been somewhat distracted with life the last week or two.

As most of you know, we have been reminiscing the amazing times we had with our dear friend "uncle" Bob. We are still experiencing many weepy days missing our friend, but have been greatly encouraged by the legacy he has left and the response of his family. If you read the comments from the last post, you will know what I mean! :)

As our third Christmas in the Philippines approaches, I am reminded of God's unwavering faithfulness in our life here. To give you just a tiny example of a recent "faithful God sighting" know all the prayers I was asking for regarding taking my certification NARM exam in February....well, just two days after posting that prayer request, my plane ticket was paid for! AND, the National College of Midwifery and the North American Registry of Midwives approved my application to take the certification exam! OREGON EXAM, HERE I COME!! God is sooo good.

So February 3rd, Promise and I will leave our precious Tim and board a plane headed for Portland to stay with my parents, take the exam and head back to the Philippines February 24th. I am looking forward to Promise getting some time with her cousins and me having a latte with my mom and dad. :) I miss our morning coffee talks. Tim will be hard at work here getting the water project set for the future....I have asked a few local friends to take care of him while I am gone. :)

In Philippine news, I have delivered more babies....sutured more, inserted more IVs, did more baby check-ups....not that all this is getting old, but it has almost become somewhat routine now. Each patient and her situation is uniquely different from the last and I love hearing their stories...but what has stood out to me these last few weeks are my Bible Study patients.

Still we have had only two show up each time. I have to laugh at that....out of the 300 patients we have at Mercy per month and then some, we have just two that show up to Bible study and they are just so hand-picked by God.

One in particular tugged at my heart this week. Ann just had a baby two weeks ago and came to Bible study 90 minutes late this week to show off her precious baby girl and to tell us that she was applying to work overseas giving her baby to her extended family to care for. My heart sank. Her family was pressuring her to look to her baby's future because she has no husband and no one to provided long-term for her and her baby. Her only option seemed to be to head off to another country (most likely a middle-eastern country) to work, make big money, and come back home after two years.

This precious baby girl was bathed in prayer in our Bible study long before she was born....we prayed at length for the relationship with Ann and her seemed just so wrong for her to leave this beautiful baby girl to work in an unknown land with unknown scenarios and for unknown employers. I asked her if she wanted to go and her response was not many women here who have just given birth, she shook her head no, but her mouth said, "It is for my baby's future." But what if her baby's future looks bright with money, but without a mother or father?

People live well here on a very small it better for her to mother her daughter and raise her up in God, though not wealthy or is it better for her to leave her baby to be raised by family, but have money....more money here in the Philippines means greater responsibility and added pressure from family....less money...well, depending on how much less, can mean daily reliance on God and a family working together to make ends meet. I don't know what is better....but I do know that her choice is based on fear and not on wisdom. She is fearful that her daughter will never go to school and will never have the clothes and supplies all the wealthier families have....and yet, there are soooo many Filipinos here who work somewhat low-paying jobs who are quite able to send their kids to school and they may not have the most fashionable clothes, but they are clothed and they are fed well.

I don't know which decision is best for her, but I am concerned that her fear may take over her ability to hear God....He is always faithful...and not just to me...or to the wealthy.

If you think of her, please pray that God will give her wisdom and her decision will not be based on her fear of having little and that she will see just how much she truly has.
Be blessed.