Follow Me At davidjoannes.com

If you’re already following me here, you’ll want to check out davidjoannes.com

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.32.58 AM

EVERYTHING IS NEW

The story of how our daughter, Cara Liana, came to us. 
For the backstory, read Tragic Joy.

IMG_0489

“It’s fun to be a zombie.” I texted my friend, Jonathan. “Sleep while you can,” he replies. “Get ready for sleepless nights.” And he’s right. Cry. Comfort. Nurse. Burp. Poop. Change diaper. Pee. Change diaper again. Nurse. Comfort. Sleep. I text Jonathan back, “Our little baby is teaching us all about the nocturnal lifestyle.” The last two weeks have been a whirlwind.

Two weeks? How did that time fly by so quickly anyway? It seems like Cara Liana was just born yesterday. And I know I will be saying the same thing in a few moments, when I’m dancing with her, cheek to cheek, I’m crying with joyful pain, smiling with sorrow and sweetness as I give her away on her wedding day.

Time is like that. “Slow days. Fast years.” That’s what my brother told me on the phone when he called me the other day in St. Luke’s Hospital. Treasure the moments, even if you feel like a zombie.

On December 22, Lorna could barely wait any longer. It was one day before her due date, but all the side effects of a post surgery pregnancy had accumulated to intolerable proportions. “Call Doctor Tan. I think we need to schedule a C-section.” I hated seeing my wife in pain—swollen legs, dizziness, carpal tunnel syndrome. I began to dial Doctor Tan’s number when from the bathroom Lorna said with a calm excitement, “David, my water just broke!”

Her labor seemed eternal. Eighteen hours overnight until one pm on December 23 when they wheeled her away to the delivery room and told me to get changed into my scrubs. But they would not let me inside the room for forty-five minutes. “We will call you when we are ready.”

I was frustrated. I knew she needed me. I squirmed in my aluminum chair, gazing anxiously down the long hallway toward the delivery room. Inside, the nurses were taking turned elbowing Cara downward. She was stuck. Three different nurses announced that the doctor may have to do a C-section. We can deal with that, I thought, but after eighteen hours of labor? It felt like there was a porcupine inside my belly.

Finally, Doctor Tan arrived. “Before I do a C-section, I’m going to try one last thing. I need to use forceps to pull the baby out.” I did not say anything as I followed him down the long hallway, my mind trying to reject ugly images of all the horrible possibilities.

When I walked into the delivery room, I was surprised by the mysterious placidity in Lorna’s deep, beautiful eyes. God was there in the midst of terror. I kissed her on the forehead. I tried not to cry. I have to be strong for her. I cried.

Push! Doctor Tan pulled with his fifteen inch forceps. Nothing. Push! Baby was stuck. Fifty more times, Push! It seemed like forever, when suddenly a bluish baby with elongated head emerged, upside down, quiet, much too blue, I thought, and why is she not crying yet? The doctors laid Cara on mommy’s breast, and finally the cry came. I remembered to breathe then, gasping for air at the same rapid pace as my infant miracle baby.

Lorna cried. Baby cried. I looked at Cara Liana and was surprised how much her tears looked like mine. After years of waiting and hoping and yelling at God and hoping some more and giving up and then hoping again, there she was, bloody and beautiful, our own baby girl! Our little family of three hugged and laughed tears together.

But Lorna’s long eighteen hour labor had taken a toll on both mommy and baby. The doctors were afraid that Lorna and Cara may have been exposed to infection during the labor process, so they were both given antibiotics. They monitored Cara for two days, hoping that her color would return to normal. Satisfied enough, they released us from the maternity ward on Christmas Day.

“What an incredible Christmas gift!” I said. Lorna agreed. “She’s our little stocking stuffer!”

We went home, only to rush her to the emergency room thirty minutes later as her temperature spiked and skyrocketed. Thirty minutes. It was a short lived Christmas jubilation.

photo (1)

She was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. For one week we worried about our miracle baby as her tiny immune system struggled with the help of antibiotics to fight neonatal sepsis. I cried as I gazed through the glass as she slept with IV’s in her foot under the blue luminescent photo therapy lamp.

How could this have happened? After nine years of marriage, five failed intrauterine insemination procedures, Lorna’s stage four endometriosis, laparoscopy and hysteroscopy surgery, and one final successful IUI, there she was in critical condition. She laid there placid opposite the glass, then squirmed ever so slightly. A bitter tear streaked down my cheek, wet and salty. I was angry and confused. I was sad. I was mad at God, mad with an underlying hope and love.

But should it have been any different? Isn’t this the story of Lorna’s and my life? Doesn’t joy and victory always arise from tragedy to defeat all odds on such a regular basis that I should be used to this by now?

Her color slowly began to return. Her jaundice left. Her temperature stabilized. Daddy and mommy smiled with relief and an underlying current of fear that the infection would return.

From Christmas day till December 31st Cara was admitted at the hospital. She was released on New Year’s Eve so that we could wake up at home the next morning from a bad dream to everything new on New Year’s Day. Vitamin D poured through the morning sun rays, and fell on the face of our little baby girl. Her cheeks squinched, and her upper lip curled into a smile. Our nine day old baby looked at Lorna and I as if to say, “Don’t worry, mommy. Don’t cry, daddy. I’m here now. I’m yours.” But we cried anyway, cried with delight and sacred awe. We were stunned and spider-webbed in a moment of fragile bliss, fearful that it might pass too soon.

“Slow hours. Fast years.”

We laid her little body between us on the bed, kissed each other, and were silent. But it was a deafening silence, one in which our heartbeats thumped out of our chest to the rhythm of an ethereal symphony.

January 1, 2013, the day everything became new.

IMG_0495

IMG_0369

IMG_0391

ninja

2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

NINE YEARS AND COUNTING

nez_cruz_maternity_david+lorna-31

I have been chasing Lorna for 15 years. The moment I laid eyes on her in the old Hong Kong airport in 1997, I was love struck.

There are a million details between the time when I met her in 1997 until we got married in 2003, but this blog will just relive our wedding and anniversaries.

Here’s a yearly look at our lives.

2003: Joannes Wedding
After 7 years of pursuing her, Lorna and I were married in Puerto Real, Intramuros in Manila, Philippines. December was dry from the 1st to the 12th, and the 14th till the 31st. But our outdoor wedding was drowned in a heavy downpour until all the decorations were soaked. It was terrible at the time, but such a fun story as we look back. We had our honeymoon in Boracay Island.

2004: 1st Year Anniversary
We went to the ancient city of Lijiang, where I proposed to Lorna in January 2003. We enjoyed getting lost in the labyrinth of cobblestone paths that spiderweb through the old city. We hiked up Lion Mountain for a view of the ancient city and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. We had a Korean dinner at Sakura along the riverbank.

2005: 2nd Year Anniversary
We went back to Manila for our first Christmas season since we were married. Makati is the perfect date place. We walked around the malls and gardens in Greenbelt 3, and ended that warm Manila evening at Bubba Gump.

2006: 3rd Year Anniversary
The Christian community at our church in Kunming, China had a Christmas party that doubled as our anniversary. We hung out with close missionary friends, danced, and had a wonderful evening at Harbor Plaza Hotel near Green Lake Park.

2007: 4th Year Anniversary
It was a simple and relaxing morning in our new apartment in Kunming, China. I made breakfast for Lorna, and she gave me the comics of our marriage that she had made the week before. We walked across Beijing Road to Silver Spoon, and had a great lunch together in the cool China weather.

2008: 5th Year Anniversary
After a week of heavy Christian training and underground meetings in China, I surprised Lorna with a trip to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta soldiers. We flew up to the historic city with our local missionary and partner pastor from the Philippines, then checked in to our own hotel so we could finally be alone. We dressed up like Terra Cotta soldiers, visited the Drum Tower, and ate some incredible food. All around great date!

2009: 6th Year Anniversary
Our one and only anniversary in America was in Prescott, AZ, my hometown. We couldn’t pass up a cozy breakfast at St. Michael’s Cafe on a cold winter day. It was a nostalgic moment looking across the park where I had penned many letters to Lorna while we were dating. And now there she was, looking across the table at me, my beautiful wife.

2010: 7th Year Anniversary
After sharing the gospel at a Within Reach Global English Camp with over 80 Chinese college students, we drove 3 hours west to a natural spring that was recommended to us. When we arrived, we were surprised to find a dirty, dilapidated hotel overrun with a million Chinese tourists. We were so tired after 3 days of ministry, and decided to head back to Kunming. We got stuck in traffic, and ended up at Grand Park Hotel late at night. But we were comforted by the beautiful hotel and each others’ presence. The next day we fed the thousands of seagulls that flock to Southwest China to escape the freezing winters of Siberia.

2011: 8th Year Anniversary
It was our first anniversary after moving from China to Manila. We needed medical help after years of stomach problems, and stage four endometriosis (the cause of our infertility) that Lorna had developed over the years. We had a fun time writing letters to each other, having afternoon dessert, drinking coconut juice, and watching a movie together.

2012: 9th Year Anniversary
After 9 years of a marriage filled with adventure, we looked at each on the 27th floor of Diamond Hotel—where we spent our first night of marriage—and giggled with delight. Our baby girl was finally here, kicking inside Lorna’s belly. Our miracle baby brought us new joy, and we felt like this was a new season of blessing for us. We were thrilled to have spent so many memorable years together before our child arrived, but the thought of our family growing brought us greater joy.

Happy anniversary, Lorna! We have many more years of making memories ahead, and each year will only get better. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

WHERE ARE YOU FROM, LITTLE GIRL?

My little girl, due in December 2012, is going to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK).

She will have traveled around the world before she’s 2.
She will speak English, Tagalog and Mandarin before she’s 6 years old.
She will be uniquely able to communicate between cultures at age 10.
She will have the tools to inspire nations as a young adult.
She will one day change the world.

She’s going to experience life through the changing lenses of cultures. It will be difficult at times, but I will always be there for her. We will complain and cry together about the injustices of the world, and how we are foreign everywhere we go.

I’m sad that she will struggle with fitting in, and trying to figure out where she belongs. If the transition between cultures is difficult for me as an adult, I can only imagine the strain it takes on a child.

But I am happy that she will see a world that is so much bigger than we often realize.

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is known as someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture.”
(source: state.gov)

I have seen this first hand for years. Most of the missionary kids I “grew up” with in China over the last decade and a half are well on their way to becoming my heroes. I consider them my brothers and sisters, and I am so proud to watch them use their many skills and abilities learned from living in a culture not their own.

(Did you realize that President Barack Obama and a number of his cabinet members were TCKs?)

“Where are you from, little girl?”

That question might be hard for my daughter to answer. Though she’ll be able to reply in multiple languages, she might grow tired of responding with a long explanation rather than just naming a country of origin.

But it’ll be okay. I’ll put my arm around her, smile and say, “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, sweetheart. What matters is where you belong, and that’s right here with me.”

I’ll hug her tight and say, “C’mon, let’s go change the world!”

Watching this video makes me sad and excited.