[box_dark]”Five Kids, Two Dogs, and a Man of the Cloth,” by Cheryl Oberdieck[/box_dark]

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turning 30

Our growing family

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]urning 30 was not quite as I expected it. I was anticipating a wistful mourning of youth and a day of tolerating over-the-hill jokes from my husband. And if I were a little more self-aware, I might have even recognized that baby #3 was on the way! As it turned out, we barely had time to note the date.

Two days before my birthday, our 2-year-old daughter woke up with vomiting and diarrhea. By afternoon she was a limp rag doll. We took her to one of our pediatricians who could hardly believe how quickly she had gone downhill.  She was glad we hadn’t asked her advice over the phone, because her standard reply would have been to wait it out until morning. In Katy’s case she put her right in the hospital.

Katy barely whimpered when they poked at her tiny dehydrated arm to hook her up to an IV. In a short time the diagnosis was back. She had rotavirus. The next days in the hospital were a sleepless blur of diaper and linen changes. Finally on Saturday Katy was deemed well enough to return home. And all I wanted that day, for my birthday, was to sleep.

As we drove home from the hospital in Little Rock, the sky was an eerie yellowish green. It turned into one of the deadliest days of tornadoes in Arkansas history. There were 16 tornadoes (five of them in the F4 category.) As the sirens went off, our family huddled in the bathroom closet.

Surveying our property, we were thankful to find that the worst of it was a flooded garage. Then we heard reports that a neighborhood just across the freeway was completely gone. At least a hundred homes in Little Rock were destroyed. Eleven counties would be declared federal disaster zones. Within the hour Dave was called up by the National Guard to the flattened downtown of Arkadelphia. Here’s how I recorded my birthday weekend.

Downtown Arkadelphia, Arkansas, March 1997

[box_light]So Saturday was followed by Sunday and Dave was still gone with the Guard. Katy was in terrible pain much of the day holding her stomach. The doctor checked in on the phone with us regularly and advised us to try this and that, trying to rule out an unlikely bowel obstruction. The hospitals were already busy with tornado victims, and I hoped not to go back.

Meanwhile, 4-year-old Jonathan (now also a rotavirus victim) was hanging over a bucket, while my hands were still full with Katy. We tried a warm bath (not easy to adjust the temperature as the cold water handle had fallen off earlier in the day). I climbed in the tub with her and try to hold her in the water. That resulted in a soaking wet bathroom and a furious 2 year old.  I tried warm compresses on her abdomen which she threw across the room.

The doctor finally suggested trying a dose of Maalox (delivered by a church member). Within 15 minutes Katy did a big turn around. The doctor said her intestines must be very raw to be in so much pain. Unfortunately she could have the Maalox only every 6 hours, and within 3 hours she was screaming again. She did at least fall asleep from exhaustion a few times.

I was very thankful to have church people stop by and help me out. It seemed that there was someone at the door each time I really needed help. An elder’s wife, Shirley, managed to rock Katy to sleep for a bit, so I could care for Jonathan and try to shut my eyes for a few minutes. Kim brought by dinner and told me that the church has meals lined up for the whole week!

As my last helper was leaving, I looked up and saw David in the doorway. I was so surprised to see him, but he told me it was just temporary. The Guard let him come home to sleep but he had to report back in the morning.

David is having ministry opportunities such as he has never had before. He has seen some horrible things and heard heart wrenching stories in the last few days, but I know he is making it better for at least a few people who are really in need. It’s hard for him not to be with his own family right now, but he is very thankful the church is helping us out. The elders led the Sunday service in his absence. Several members live close to areas of destruction. It seems everyone knows someone affected by it, so they spent much of Sunday morning brainstorming ways to help the tornado victims.

With that, I see that Katy is now asleep and will take the opportunity to nap with her![/box_light]

My 30th birthday crisis was not the first time, nor the last time that we have been richly blessed by church members, especially when David has been on military duty. David was mobilized for 13 months shortly after the birth of our 5th child. Every Sunday there was a hot meal for us with plenty of leftovers for the week. I had offers of babysitting. The men of the congregation regularly asked me if I needed any household repairs, and promptly attended to any work. And during the months when our family was away, they even remodeled and updated the parsonage for us! We are blessed. It is often in crisis when we are most keenly aware of God’s great provisions.


[quote]”You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

2nd Corinthians 9: 11-12, NIV[/quote]


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