I’m warning you. This is a little graphic in parts. If you’d rather know a version of me without the gory details I’d skip to the end.
We have just had a wildly difficult fortnight. It started in the middle of Friday night, as I lay awake with stomach pains. By 4am I was puking in the sink. By 5am I was kneeling on the floor, soaked in pee from one end, vomiting into a bucket at the other. Although the vomiting stopped sometime on Saturday, the dodgy tummy lasted until Monday.
Meanwhile Nick’s face exploded. Okay, not literally. But his nose swelled up into an enormous red balloon and his cheek puffed up to the extent it was closing in on his eye (a little scary). He was in tremendous pain, continually, for days. This, just after he a swelling blister on his finger from cement poisoning.
I had just started to get out of bed when I noticed what I thought was a mosquito-bite-on-the-bum was getting agonisingly painful. It was red, it was pussy, it was gross. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t lie on it. Eventually after a couple of mamas prayed for me, I suddenly felt compelled to show them my bum (not something that happens often) and they were immediately convinced it was an ekone. A walking white mango worm. They were also immediately convinced it was ready to come out, and within seconds a needle came from somewhere (where?) and I was lying flat on my bed as it was squeezed out. Ouch, ouch, ouch, clenched teeth into the pillow. No sooner was it gone that I saw another in my arm, but by then I was a pro and I pulled it out myself.
I got a cold. Nick got a cold. Lily meanwhile, has had a cold for the last two weeks, and before that she had another cold, and before that she had a stomach bug. So I am a getting a bit mad about the list of sicknesses we are totaling up. Imagine the scene – both Nick and I are in excruciating pain from bizarre face explosion / worm invasion, with colds, with a toddler with a cold, and a 5-month-old baby in the belly. In Mozambique. And the water just stopped working.
We are pretty much on the other side now, although Nick still has a new infected bite on his arm, and Lily has one on her leg, which means they’re both on antibiotics. But we are out of bed, hallelujah – in fact Nick is making a homemade pizza in a homemade pizza oven in our garden as we speak, and Lily is snoozing after a busy day limping around, determined to let nothing stop her.
But it has been so hard. So, so hard. And though I was pretty peaceful throughout, just telling God I loved him and knowing it would pass, there were some ridiculously pressurised moments, where we were screaming in pain, or screaming at each other, or I was crying in a heap thinking quietly “I did my three years in Mozambique, I think I’ll call it quits.” (I kind of hoped I wouldn’t get those moments after three years but there they are. It’s the 12-sicknesses-in-two-weeks effect.)
I wish I had more clarity of the purpose behind such seemingly pointless stress. I wanted God to say “well done Cate – okay, now I’m going to tell you why I let that happen. It was all about this.” But I’m secretly glad he didn’t tell me that. I don’t think sicknesses are his smart ways of teaching us, I don’t think he partners with mango worms and sends them off on character missions. If anything I’ll put all that stuff on the bad guy, and know we’re doing a mighty work here that he doesn’t like.
What I do know about God is this. He sees me – all the time. He saw me when I lay in bed (on the worm-less side) for days and whispered I love you. And it moved his heart. He saw me when I refused to be bitter and gave him my heart to heal. He saw me when I didn’t long for my old country but placed my life in his hands. He saw me when I felt nauseous with the new baby, and tired as I cared for the beautiful toddler he’s given me – he saw me and he knew I had trusted him when he told me to give him the reigns of family planning. And this was very moving for him. He saw everything. He saw everything.
And something else – he knows me. He knew I could only handle so much, and he brought relief at the right time. He knew I needed help, and he gave me the grace to ask, and the beautiful friends to give. He knew I love the feeling of hot water and I love waking up in the quiet, and so he gave through a generous couple the money to stay in a stunning hotel. He knows that I don’t really want to run from Pemba, not really, so he didn’t say “OK let’s go” when it was hard, he just looked at me with eyes of love. He is perfect. He is amazing.
To be honest I am still recovering a bit from that storm. I wish I was a bit tougher, but there you go, I am no mega-missionary. But I feel his peace everywhere. And though I wanted answers, if I have one jewel from a couple of weeks that truly pushed me to the limits, it’s that I know that he’s kind. Maybe I don’t need many more lessons than that.