Thursday, August 2, 2018

Awesome!

This week David and I are celebrating 21 years of experiencing God’s grace in our marriage. We were both 21 when we got married, so this year we have lived as many years married to one another as we lived single. God continues to teach us more about His love and forgiveness as we show these to each other. To celebrate the gift of these 21 years, we came to Wildwaters, an island resort on the Nile. It is such a beautiful place! Seeing the water rush over the rapids with such power is an awesome sight! 

Watching this massive amount of water rushing past us, I have been thinking about the power of this river, and I have been thinking about the power of the Creator of this river. 

During our few days here, I began reading Jen Wilkin’s book entitled, None Like Him. The book is about the character of God and is subtitled, “10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and why that’s a good thing).” She begins the book with the importance of fearing the Lord with “worshipful reverence.” She states, “When we lose sight of the majesty of God, we invariably fill the gap in our vision with the fable of the majesty of someone else.” (p.13) 

I can see this tendency in my own life in too many ways. When many people liked and shared my recent blogpost, I started to feel really good about myself. People liked what I wrote, and instead of worshipping God, I wanted to steal some of His glory. I wanted it to be about Lisa and how she can encourage people (and receive their approval). It is sad how natural that sin pattern is for me. But in God’s grace, he showed me the rushing waters. He showed me His power. And He reminded me how I can always repent of worshipping the opinions of others, and instead fix my eyes on Him. 

Through these 21 years God has also been teaching me that I should not look to David for the things that only God can give. David is an introvert who works with people, has a large family, and lives in a cross-cultural setting. And sometimes I look to David to receive the attention, love and approval that I can only fully receive from God. But David often needs time alone. David is finite and fallen. God is infinite and perfect! When I remember that I have been loved perfectly, even lavishly by God, I am freed to love David rather than just need from him. 

So as I celebrate these 21 years of God’s grace in our marriage, I am also celebrating the One who “has measured the waters in the palm of his hand.” (Isaiah 40:12) These constantly rushing waters outside our room, along with this good book,  remind me that God is infinite and immeasurable. He is the One I need to fear with worshipful reverence. And worshipping Him takes my eyes off so many lesser things, like the idols of approval, others and self. 

I am so thankful for God’s grace to me! Even though I still tend to care too much about the opinions of others, I know that His forgiveness has washed over me like this powerful water rushing over the rocks. The rocks are gradually changed by this powerful washing. I am thankful for the ways He is changing me and helping me to shift my focus to worshipping Him. I’m also thankful for the 21 years that God has used marriage to help David and me taste His grace. Our God truly is Awesome! 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Saying Goodbye

One of the hardest parts of our life here is all the goodbyes. When you love people on both sides of the ocean, you are always saying goodbye to someone you care for. Additionally, where we live there seem to be many people who come and go. Right now we are in a season of many farewells. 

We had a wonderful visit with good friends from our sending church in Georgia. It was so good to reconnect with close friends and do life together for a week and a half. Below is a photo of a day I got to take two of my dearest friends out for a birthday celebration. We had hours to sit and talk! It was an amazing blessing to have these friends come all the way across the ocean to be with us! 

We also got to know some former acquaintances who are now sweet friends! We loved having them all here, but bidding them farewell at the airport was just as hard as it was the first time we left Georgia to move here. 

Soon after our team left, two of our students, who are also our neighbors, our children’s close friends and basically family to us, left for college. We have poured into their lives for five years, and we are so excited for them to move on to this next step. At the same time our whole family will miss them so much!

This coming week our summer interns head back to the US. We have had the privilege of hosting them weekly for dinner and I was asked to be a mentor for one of them. She has become so close that everyone started calling her a member of our family. So here is a picture of my 3 girls this summer. 



This week, one single friend on our team and another family that we are friends with leave for extended times in the states. There are others leaving for shorter periods of time and some leaving over the next month or so. But definitely way too many goodbyes! Here is a photo of Esther and her sweet friend having one last day together before her family leaves.  

Honestly, I think this is one of the biggest “costs” of our calling. We have to regularly say goodbye to the people we love. As I was thinking about why this is so painful every time, a few thoughts came to my mind. 

First, I could prevent some of this pain by not caring deeply for new people. Protect myself from the loss. But if you know me, you know that is not me. I choose to love deeply, even if it hurts deeply later. So I am going to continue to invest time and energy into relationships, because God has loved me at a great cost to himself. I don’t need to be self-protective. I have the perfect love of my Heavenly Father, and He is never going to leave me or forsake me! I am clinging to His love in the midst of this season.

Secondly, these goodbyes on earth are for a short time in comparison with the joy of eternity together! One friend of ours who will be leaving Uganda soon and moving to another part of the world recently had a conversation with another friend of ours who left on furlough about a month ago. When they were saying goodbye, one man said to the other, “See you at the banqueting table!” They don’t know of a time they will ever see each other again in this life. But this life is so short in comparison with eternity! When I grieve over these many goodbyes on this earth, I want to remember that times apart from loved ones, though painful, are brief in light of the joy that in heaven there will be no more tearful goodbyes. Every tear will be wiped away!  Although there have been many sad days recently, I look forward to that Day! 

While I want to take time to grieve and give my family that freedom as well, I also want to remember to love the people in front of me. My husband, my children, my teammates, my students, my neighbors, the children of GSF. We are preparing to start a new school year and God has blessed us with two new teachers! I want to think of how we can love them well. Even though it is painful when we have to say goodbye, I want to live a life a love, pointing others to the only One who can love them perfectly and forever! 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Life lessons from the road

Driving in Uganda is an adventure! I’ve had to make several adjustments to get used to driving here. The first and easiest adjustment is driving on the left side of the road. Along with that is sitting on the right side of the car to drive and the reversal of the turn signal and windshield wiper controls. You don’t realize how instinctive it has become to put on your turn signal on the left side of the steering wheel, until every time you are preparing to turn, you accidentally turn on the wipers. Learning to adjust to different traffic patterns is another adventure. Avoiding bodas, goats, pedestrians, cows, potholes and oncoming traffic feels almost like a video game. I’ve also realized that some change in perspective about driving seems to be a good analogy for life. 

Recently I was driving to a friend’s home down a very bumpy road. Some visitors were with us, and I told them about s little trick I’ve discovered in our years here. When I tense up as we pass over rough areas I find that I am often frustrated and uncomfortable. I also have a lot of back pain afterward. But when I am able to relax and just enjoy the ride, it almost feels like a massage chair. People pay good money for this type of experience. And we get it for free! Here is a photo from one of the roads I drove on in Jinja yesterday. 



David has often mentioned that you can choose to just relax in traffic or get angry every time someone cuts you off. When driving it is possible to find yourself in perpetual irritation if you get angry at others not following the rules. Below is a picture from one of those opportunities while I was driving one evening. Two taxis drove around me, one into oncoming traffic, one along the shoulder of the road and then both cut in front of me st the same time. We like to call these moments “opportunities for sanctification.”


So much of life is about perspective. I can choose to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes.5:18), or I can complain. I can choose to be content (Phil.4:11), or to be irritated. I can consider it pure joy during trials (James1:2), or I can have a bad attitude. When I remember and believe that God loves me and is working for my good, I can enjoy the massage chair of the rough roads. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also with him graciously give us all things?...In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:31,32,37)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Days of extremes

The past several days have felt like a roller coaster experiencing moments of amazing joy and celebration along with times of fear and grief right around the corner. It has been hard to handle all of these emotions lately. In the midst of these ups and downs I find myself often praying, “God, you are good. I know and believe that even though I don’t understand what you are doing right now. Help us to trust you!” 

On Friday, we had our end of the school year program and the graduation of two students we have taught and loved for 5 years now. Graduation is always such a mix of emotions, gratefulness for what God has done in the lives of these students and how much they have grown in so many ways right next to the sadness of saying goodbye as they move across the ocean to study in college in the United States. We are both celebrating and grieving as they move on to the next  thing God has for them. I will miss these girls so much! 


On Sunday, we received a message that Tim, one of our teammates, had been bitten by a snake and was not doing well. We did not know what kind of snake it was at first. He had thought it was a harmless green snake, so he picked it up. He even took a picture holding it. 


When he wasn’t being careful enough it bit him, and he almost immediately began feeling terrible. As our team leader and Tim’s wife were rushing him to the hospital, the kids and I were at their house with their 6 children. David posted the picture to a reptile Facebook group for identification. The group identified the snake as a baby Jameson’s mamba whose bites can be fatal if not treated with the correct antivenom within 30-120 minutes. The nearest hospital that had the correct antivenom was about 90 minutes away. As I was working in the kitchen with 2 of his daughters I realized how serious the situation was. We received word that he was in very bad condition. He was struggling to breathe, vomiting and barely hanging on. Silently I told God that this family and this ministry need this man here. I begged God to spare his life. They arrived at the hospital 70 minutes after the bite. Once he received the antivenom, he immediately began to improve. His condition stabilized and we celebrated and thanked God for the treatment being available and the quick transport that God used to spare Tim’s life. 

On Monday, the GSF social worker who works with elderly people in the village told us that one of our neighbors was very ill. I had heard he was sick on Saturday at Bible study, but I didn’t realize it was so serious. Since Tim is the Director of Community Development, and he was recovering from his snake bite, the social worker asked me to help arrange things to get our neighbor to the hospital. We found someone who could go with him and arranged transportation. Just about 30 minutes after they left, I received word that our neighbor had passed away. His daughter lived there with him and her children. He was a very kind man with a good sense of humor. He will be terribly missed. None of us realized how serious his illness was a few days ago. So yesterday evening we sat with the family as they grieved over his body. 

Today, Tuesday, the morning has mostly been consumed with helping our neighbors with preparations for the burial. Buying and preparing food, getting a coffin, setting up a tarp for shade for people to sit under. In the middle of these preparations, I left in order to go to a baby shower for two friends who are expecting babies very soon! It was a very nice time, but I am struggling with going between these two extremes. Celebrating new life and grieving over the loss of another life. Right now I am taking a few minutes to write and cry and process these emotions while my baby takes a nap before we go for the burial. 


I am thankful that our neighbor knew Jesus. I am thankful that for him, death was like a graduation, leaving this life behind and moving on to something better. But for his daughter and grandchildren, this is a time of grief and sadness. They will miss him. We all will miss him. 

The only way that I know to handle this jumble of emotional ups and downs is to cling to my Lord. I will trust that He is good, all the time. I will trust that he is using the times of joy and pain for good. (Rom 8:28) I will trust that our present suffering isn’t even worthy of being compared to the glory that awaits us. (Rom 8:18). But I will also weep with those who weep (Rom12:15) which is what I am doing today. 

God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good! 




Saturday, May 5, 2018

Learning to pray

This week I met with the small group of girls who live here at Good Shepherd’s Fold and are in my cord group. These girls get opportunities to visit with some family members during their upcoming school holidays. Before they go for holiday visits we always meet and pray together and talk about the upcoming visit. We also debrief when they come back. 

During this cord group time, I asked the girls how I could pray for them. A girl named Esther (not my daughter) responded that she wants us all to pray that her family will come to  know God. If I were this young lady, I can imagine so many other requests I would also have. I would ask God to heal the wounds on my feet so that I could walk. I would ask for God to provide for the physical needs for my family members. I would be thinking about my feelings and needs during the upcoming visit. But this amazing girl just asked for prayer that her family would know God. She said that is what they really need most. 

After sharing prayer requests, we decided to all take turns praying. I was going to be the last one to pray, so I had the privilege of listening to these girls pray first. When it was Esther’s turn to pray, I expected to hear her ask God to answer the requests we had just mentioned, but her prayer was strikingly different from what I expected. I cannot remember her exact words, but I will paraphrase the gist of her prayer. In her humble, gentle voice, her prayer went something like this:

God, you are the Almighty One, the Holy One  and everything is in your hands. You are good and love us so much that you sent Jesus to save us from our sins. You have given us so many things, you have provided for all our needs. You have given us life. You can bring my family to know you. You are the Almighty One. You are so  loving and faithful and you are working for our good. Thank you that you have all of us and our families in your hands and you can do all things. We trust you because you love us so much. Thank you, God. 

I was almost in tears realizing how much I have to learn about prayer. I often bring my requests before God, but not like this. As I listened to this precious child of God pray, my faith was strengthened. Her prayer took my eyes off of my concerns and put them on the good, faithful God who is at work. It was beautiful! 

Reflecting on her prayer afterward, I was reminded about Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. We have heard the Lord’s prayer and recited it so many times, that I sometimes forget to consider how it ought to affect the way I pray. Jesus  began his prayer acknowledging our Heavenly Father and his character. Esther so naturally did this out of her love and appreciation for who God is. And her request for her family to know God was essentially asking for God’s kingdom to come. She did not seem to be following any formula, but her prayer sounded a lot more like the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray than my usual prayers. 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from listening to the prayer of this sister in Christ who is less than one-third of my age. Her faith humbles me. Her prayer teaches me that I should spend more time looking at my Savior than I do looking at myself or my circumstances. Isn’t it interesting that due to the medical challenges she lives with, this amazing young woman spends much of her time on her knees? I want to learn to pray like her. I want to fix my eyes on Him and ask him to strengthen my faith as I continue to learn to pray.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

Recently the women in my Bible study group have taught me a lot about loving our neighbors. I have seen them work together to meet the physical needs of several others in our village and to pray for them over the past few weeks. These are not wealthy women who are giving out of their excess. These are women who work making beautiful jewelry and crafts so that they can feed their children, buy soap and medicine for their families, and send their children to school. These women have gone to bed hungry at times. These women have slept in leaky huts during rainy season. A few of them have been able to save up to buy a few solar powered lights for their family to have electricity. They all have to fetch water daily. These women have many physical needs, but they have shown me how to care more about the needs of others first. It has been a joy to see these women choose to use a portion of their earnings to help several others in our village!


This week, our Bible study was on Luke 10, where Jesus tells the parable about the Good Samaritan in response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Before our Bible study, we found out that a woman in our group had some complications with her pregnancy, had to have an emergency C-section and the baby died. Using all her savings, she had enough money that the hospital was willing to do the C-section, but she could not be discharged from the hospital until the full bill had been paid. Of course, that means that she is grieving while at the hospital and away from her family and friends, all the while increasing the bill by staying more days. The remaining bill was equal to what she is able to earn in our Buwundo Beads and Crafts group in 2 months time (a sixth of her annual salary).  The women discussed what they might do to help and agreed that if they all loaned her more than one third of their earnings for that week, she could be discharged from the hospital and pay them back one at a time as she is able. I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that?

A few weeks back, the kitchen/cooking hut of an elderly man in our village blew down in a storm. Since it is the rainy season it isn't possible to cook outside most days. And since people mostly cook over firewood and an open flame it isn't safe to cook inside the small hut where you sleep and keep your clothing. Since this man does not have a source of income, he could not afford the poles, nails and iron sheets to build his kitchen. Additionally, since he is elderly, he would really struggle to build the structure. The women from Buwundo Beads and Crafts decided to all contribute a portion of their income that week to go toward building a new cooking hut for this man. They each contributed about a fifth of their weekly income in order to care for a neighbor in need.

About a month before that, another elderly women in the community had a cooking hut with a grass roof. The roof caught on fire and the structure burned down. One of her daughters let us know about the need and I asked the women what they wanted to do. They all agreed that they wanted to contribute toward assisting her.  One of her neighbors had some poles to contribute toward the structure as well.

In each of these situations, people often come to me asking me to solve the problem since our family has resources. I definitely do want to be generous with the money God has given us, but I have realized that asking these women in the community to consider how to help is much more valuable than me jumping in and solving the problem. They often know better than I what to do and how to go about it. I am glad that they have been able to work and save money through Buwundo Beads and Crafts that they use not only for supporting their families, but also for loving their neighbors and caring for their needs. Thank you to all of you who have purchased jewelry, baskets, hot pads, and more in order to support these women. God is using them to do great work in Buwundo village, Uganda! And I pray that hearing about how these women love their neighbors, will help us all grow in our understanding of God's generous love for us and grow in the way we show His gracious love to those around us.

Also, if you are interested in helping to sell the beautiful, handmade, Buwundo Beads and Crafts products, please contact me! I have items in several locations around the United States.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wanting to have a thankful heart

Today I feel like complaining, and honestly I have done my share of it. I have malaria and I feel lousy! (I have begun treatment and am not on my death bed for those of you who are panicking. I’m well enough to write this post, and trust that after a couple more doses of treatment I will be significantly better.) But God has brought to my mind the important discipline of “giving thanks in all circumstances.” I thought that writing a blog post might help me actually list out some of the many blessing I have in the midst of this sickness. So here goes...

1- Even though the first two tests were false negatives, God has provided us with a good doctor and medical clinic in Jinja who was able to properly diagnose the malaria and begin my treatment. 

2- I can afford the life-saving testing and treatment for this disease. (Many others cannot.) I’m also thanking God for supporters who make this medical care possible for us! 

3- David and the children have been able to manage much of the cooking and cleaning for a holiday/birthday weekend. Esther has been particularly amazing! 

4- I don’t have to plan for school tomorrow since we are on Spring Break! 

5- When we visited a church in Jinja for a sunrise service, some friends there knew I wasn’t feeling well and were extremely kind and helpful! They even found a room for me to rest so that David and the kids could stay for the breakfast and fellowship time afterward! 

6- Because malaria in cyclical, I have had some times that I was able to work with Esther preparing food and was even able to keep our plans to celebrate Ezra’s birthday with an ATV ride along the Nile! It was awesome and I didn’t feel sick until the last 20 minutes or so! 




7- We have solar power, so even when electricity was out from the Ugandan grid and the GSF generator was broken, we still had electricity. 

8- Although the water was out today, during a previous water outage we got a box of bottled water which was still in our pantry. So we didn’t have to go fetch water. Many people have to fetch water daily. 

9- I had some Promethazine in my cabinet which I was able to take to reduce nausea and to keep my malaria medicine down. 

10- Writing this post has kept me awake long enough to take my next dose of medicine. Timing is important to eradicate the parasites. 

11- one day there will be no more pain or sickness!

While I would love your prayers for healing, I would also appreciate your prayers for my growth in thankfulness in the midst of struggles. I have been irritable and demanding with my family. I have been angry that I feel so bad. But I am asking God to change my heart during this struggle, to help me remember that “He has loved me with an everlasting love” and will even use these struggles for the good of “conforming me to the image of his Son!”  

God is good, all the time.
And all the time, God is good!