When she reaches out to me for a hug after a long day of school and sports, this girl of mine is now a peer. We hug, chest to chest, shoulder to shoulder, almost eye to eye. She only has a few inches and one shoe size to grow to be caught up to me. And then she will pass me . . . that is one of her dreams. To be taller than I am. She is confident, powerful, full of purpose; and she wishes her height to be equally commanding.
When I hug her tight her hair smells amazing, like coconuts and flowers, and she is every bit my baby girl and fast becoming my grown up daughter too. And I flash back to earlier days and to all we have come through together. It’s her height that reminds me . . . . of the long days in Africa where we fought for her to grow, a whole team working with me to keep her on the mission field, healthy.
Uganda might have been hardest for Naomi, who was born a princess and remains so to this day. The heat, the rats, the snakes, the endless illnesses, these were all difficult for her. So were the foods, and even worse the textures, for my little super-taster. Although we imported giant Jiff peanut butter jars in quantity so that she would have a familiar taste, there still was so little she actually enjoyed. And so it was that in her own patient, quiet way Naomi steadily didn’t eat much and didn’t gain much and didn’t grow much. And one day we discovered that Naomi’s weight actually qualified her for the international aid food that we fed to the more malnourished and at-risk children of our African community.
There was talk, then, of bringing her home to America. All of us knew that both her brain and her body desperately needed full nutrition for optimum health. We took her to another African country for some health screening to rule out parasites or growth-slowing conditions. And then we realized what I have already shared here. that she simply wasn’t enjoying food enough to eat it.
So began the team-wide effort. Friends used some of their limited trunk capacity to bring a blender from America which we used to mix up full fat, extra protein milkshakes which Naomi devoured. Other friends baked extra pumpkin bread or banana bread from scratch (meaning you cook the pumpkin first!) and added precious chocolate chips brought from America to tempt Naomi into eating slice after slice. Because she loves the familiar, I began to cook bread EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Plus biscuits, pancakes or muffins for breakfast. We put milk powder into anywhere it could be hidden. We called for protein bars to be sent from America. We took extra ten hour trips to the city so that we would have meat more often. We crazy-fed that girl.
And it worked. within a few months Naomi was picking up weight like a pro, growing again, and happier than ever. She just needed a little extra help to get there.
So when I look at my 5’4″, super-intelligent, thirteen year old daughter; I thank God every day. Only He knows how I labored for her to grow. And only I know the miracles He did so that I can watch it happen.
This is a story from “between the lines” of our missionary experience. Those who read our blog overseas did not always get the full story. Sometimes it was too difficult, too dangerous, or too current to share. As God gives me permission, I will be sharing some of those “between the lines” stories here.