Thursday, October 24, 2019

Waiting on the Lord, and the Passport Office

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬
Soon after finishing my previous post, the immigration official notified me that the passport has not yet been printed. Since we paid the express fee, it should have been ready yesterday afternoon, which is why they told me to come pick it up today. Today he told me to come back tomorrow. I tried to gently explain that I do not live in Kampala and it would be very difficult for me to come back tomorrow. Then he told me that I should come back at 4pm today. I was supposed to be back at GSF at that time in a parent teacher conference, but I called the parents and they were very understanding about the change of plans.

So I rearranged my expectations of my plans for the day and asked again for God to direct my steps and help me trust in him while I wait. I’m now in Kampala doing a bit of shopping for my family and teammates at GSF. I want to make the most of a trip to the big city. I’m asking God to remind the person to print the passport today. And I’m also asking God to give my heart courage as I sit and wait. It is good to remember that I am not waiting on the passport guy. I’m waiting on the Lord. He loves me and my family and will provide what we need at just the right time. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

He Will Direct My Paths

Recently, I’ve been playing music for Evie at bedtime. While it has been helpful in settling her down at night and helping her to learn God’s Word, it has also been good for me. There is one particular song that keeps coming back to my mind. It is by Steve Green from the album, “Hide ‘Em in Your Heart.” 
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Prob.3:5)
Even as I type this, I am singing the tune in my mind. This is a verse I always need to remember.  You see, I like to lean on my own understanding and try to direct my own paths. At least I often try to until I realize that I don’t have the wisdom or the power to do so. Living overseas often feels like an intensive course of study in trusting the Lord. I often don’t realize how much I have relied on my own understanding in many situations until I see how much I do not understand. As I write I am sitting at the passport office waiting for them to find Evie’s passport. Once we receive the passport, we still need to apply for a visa and wait for an interview before we will know if we are free to travel on our Christmas holiday. Each step in this adoption process has been another opportunity to learn about trusting God with the future. I cannot say I have passed the course yet, but I am thankful that God is teaching me along the way. 

And here’s a photo of Evie dressed as Doc McStuffins. It is too cute not to share.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Day of Praise

My Monday morning began early. Evie woke at 3am crying and when I went to check on her, I found that she had a fever of 102. This was particularly scary for me because of her history of having a febrile seizure. The doctor told us that it could recur any time her fever was above 100.4, so I immediately began to do all the things I had learned to bring her fever down. It reduced to 101, and eventually she went back to sleep. After much prayer, I also returned to bed. 

The morning was busy as we were getting back into our routines after having week off from classes. We also had a government official coming to visit our campus to determine if the building permit would be approved and if we could begin building the additional classrooms we need to accommodate the students we are expecting for next school year. It is estimated to take 8-9 months, so we have been feeling a bit of a time crunch. The process of approval has also recently added several steps, so it was costing more and taking longer than we expected. 

I also had been waiting for the American dentist who has been doing check-ups on my tongue to return from the US because I had some questions and concerns. He has been doing my follow-up care since I had surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells almost 6 years ago. We had scheduled the appointment for Monday afternoon. Since our dentist and doctor are in the same building, we decided to take Evie for some bloodwork to determine the cause of her fevers at the same time. 

As I began the day, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the thought of juggling it all. I was planning to keep Evie in the back of my classroom in order to keep a close eye on her. I set up a place for her to rest and play next to my desk. The first blessing of the day was that when Evie woke, she did not have a fever! I was so very thankful! 

Soon after we started school, the government official arrived, earlier than expected, which is highly unusual here. Our builder and the GSF director of Education met with him and he approved the site for us to begin building! This second blessing was an answer to weeks of prayers! 

Since we were hoping for this result, we had planned a tentative ground breaking ceremony for lunch Monday so that the workers could begin on Tuesday. We had a time with our students to thank God for his provision both for the finances to begin the project and the approval to begin. We had to shift the prayer inside since it was raining at the time, but our Ugandan teacher reminded us that rain at the time of a ceremony was a reminder of God’s blessing. The rain was my third reminder of God’s blessing that day. After our time of prayer, the rain stopped for a brief time and we were able to go out and break ground. 

Soon after the ground breaking we headed to town for the dentist and doctor appointments. I saw our dentist first and he examined my tongue. He explained that all the changes I have experienced with my tongue are still completely normal. He does not see any reason for concern about abnormal cells. He said he is 0% concerned about that. He thinks that the changes I have noticed are probably more related to stress and anxiety. He encouraged me that I don’t need to worry about my tongue and also encouraged me with God’s Word about the other concerns in my life. It was the best possible outcome and my fourth answer to prayer and blessing from God.

After my check-up, Evie was seen by the doctor. We needed to do some bloodwork to check for malaria and other possible infections to determine the cause of her fever. She did not want to go to the lab because the last time we did that, they had difficulty getting a vein. It was a traumatic for both of us. Evie even said, “I don’t want to get better.” But this time, the nurse was able to draw blood quickly and without much pain. A fifth blessing and answer to prayer! 

While we were waiting for the results of the bloodwork, I received a phone call from our friend who is helping us with the paperwork for Evie’s passport. The printer had been repaired and the adoption certificate was finally printed! This was the final document we were told we need for our passport application. Our friend is going to pick up the certificate today and I am going to go to Kampala on Thursday to reapply for Evie’s passport. We had been waiting for this document for weeks! This was a sixth blessing and answer to prayer! 

After getting off the phone, the doctor had the results of the bloodwork. Evie had a bacterial infection and prescribed antibiotics. I was thankful that it was not malaria, which is so miserable, and it seemed like we caught the infection soon enough that it did not become too severe. Evie’s fever did not get very high again and she has not had a seizure! A seventh blessing and answer to prayer! 

As I returned home, I was overwhelmed with God’s many blessings to us on this day. I began the day overwhelmed with anxieties, but I ended the day overwhelmed by God’s gracious provision for us in so many ways! I was reminded that we are encouraged many times in God’s Word to recount God’s goodness and loving care for us. Counting my blessings in this post has reminded me to continue to be thankful. And in those times when I am asked to wait, I want to remember and rest in God’s provision in the past. This day was an “ebeneezer,” a stone of remembrance. Whether today is a day of being overwhelmed with many blessings or a day of just being overwhelmed, I hope that hearing about God’s provision on this day helps you to rejoice and remember! 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When God Says Wait

Right now we are driving back from a trip to Kampala that ended with no progress on the passport. We are still waiting on one document from the National Identification and Registration Administration office in Kampala. Apparently the only printer that can print this certain document is not working. It hasn’t been working for a week now. The IT guy has been busy and so we have been asked again to “be patient.” At around 4pm, we were told that he will not get to it today so we should begin the journey home from Kampala. It is usually at least a 2 hour drive. We will see how traffic is this afternoon. Not too bad right now. 

I have been praying (and asking many of you to pray) that we would get this document today so that we could apply for the passport, which we need to then receive before we can apply for a visa to travel at our Christmas break. As you can see there are many steps. We were hoping to make progress on one of those steps today since we are on a break from school. The next two weeks are full with teaching during the day and parent teacher conferences after school. If the document is printed during that time, I will need to find some way to get back to Kampala to apply for the visa. I trust that God will work out those details when the time comes. 

As we explained to our children, who were all patiently waiting with us at a restaurant for over 4 hours after many hours in the van and much waiting at other places, one of my children said, “So this whole trip was a waste of time?” While I was feeling that way myself, it made me think about how we as a family can try to use this experience as an opportunity for growth rather than feeding off of one another’s frustrations. So as we were sitting in some traffic, I asked my children to think about what truths from God’s Word we can remember to encourage each other during this time. I usually turn to Romans chapter 8 for encouragement, but I also wanted my children to have a chance to share their own thoughts from God’s Word. Most of my children weren’t ready to say anything, but one of my children reminded us of the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 which says:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” 
Some people might use this verse to say that God is going to always work things out in the way we want, but that was obviously not the case today. But I am learning to trust that God’s good plans sometimes are more about the things He is teaching me and the way He is shaping my character than about fixing the situation. So I will trust Him. Sometimes it easier and sometimes it is more difficult for me. But even when I don’t feel it, I will choose to remind myself that God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Counting the Cost

Lately, I have been struggling with living across the ocean from my family. My dad had double knee replacement surgery recently. My mom has been busy and sometimes overwhelmed with caring for him.  I am thankful that my brothers are both nearby and that my parents have a wonderful church community and other friends who have been there with them. I am also extremely thankful for technology which allows me to video chat with them often. But I wish I could be there and hug them. We do have a “fall break” right now in our school schedule, and David was willing to juggle things at home for a week with our 5 kids. As I discussed the possibility of going for a visit, my parents didn’t think it was worth the trouble and cost since in the end it would be less than a handful of days of me being there with them before I needed to fly back to teach again. (One other teacher is also currently away and finding a substitute for middle and high school mathematics isn’t easy.) 

While I have been sad about not being able to be with my parents at this time, I have also been hoping and praying that we would be able to visit them as a family around Christmas time. Evie’s adoption was finalized in August and I thought surely we would have the documents to be able to travel by December. It is now October and it feels like we have made very little progress in this process. It has been a bit discouraging. When we apply for any document we are told to wait weeks to months for it. The usual wording is “be patient.” In general I used to think of myself as a patient person, but lately it has been a struggle. We have time off school this week during which we could go to Kampala to apply for the passport if we had these two documents that we are still waiting to receive. When we start back to school next week we have parent teacher conferences every day for two weeks. It would be very difficult to get to the passport office in Kampala during those two weeks. By the time we reach the end of our conference schedule, it will be just a little over a month from the time we need to leave if we are going to travel. It will also take time to process the passport and then time to get a visa. All of this makes me think that we need to get these documents this week. 

Here is a picture of Evie and me from our Ugandan culture celebration last week. Don’t you think this beautiful little girl would bring some cheer to her grandparents? 

As I was talking with a Ugandan friend this morning, we were discussing how we often don’t know what God is doing in a situation and it can be a struggle to trust him in the midst of the unknowns. She shared about being deceived and the money she had worked hard to save, being stolen. I shared about my struggles with wanting to see my family, but the challenges of getting all the documents. I also told her that I am trying to choose to trust that God has a good plan whether or not we get these documents. I remembered the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel chapter three. We talked about how these three men had to trust God with something much bigger than visiting their parents. They had refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and were going to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. And this is how they answered the king:
 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.” (Daniel 3: 16-18)

You may wonder, how does getting a passport relate to worshiping an idol? I am realizing that when I demand that God works when and how I want, I’m actually setting my desires up as the idol. It is a good thing to want my family to be able to travel together so that Evie can meet our family in the US. But when I get angry with God and irritable with others when it doesn’t happen, it reveals that this good desire has become an idol in my heart. I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, saying that God is able to provide these documents so that we can travel, but even if he does not, I will still worship only him.

Please pray with me that God will provide these documents for our family to be able to travel together. But also pray with me that regardless of how he chooses to answer that request, I will trust in him knowing that his plans are best. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

One Day at a Time

Have you ever felt like you don’t know how you are going to make it through an upcoming challenge? I’ve recently had a few conversations like this with friends. When my tongue is painful, I often reflect on the challenges I have beeen through and think, “I can’t go through that again.” And I begin to worry. It is so easy for fear to take over. 

But then I remember that I don’t need the strength for the entire upcoming challenge right now. I just need the strength for this moment. I don’t even need to have the strength for the whole day ahead of me. I just need God to strengthen me for the task at hand. I often borrow trouble and worry about how God is going to provide what we need weeks and months down the road, but Jesus teaches us to ask God for our “daily bread.” I would like to ask God to give me the month’s supply of bread up front so I can plan. But God wants me to depend on Him day by day, moment by moment. That is so contrary to my North American culture. We have been taught to plan, to save for the emergency situation, to have insurance for everything. And I’m not saying that planning is bad. But when my hope is in my plans instead of my Savior it is a problem. When things don’t go as I planned, or for some reason I’m not able to see the plan, that is when I realize where my trust is. It is gracious that God doesn’t always show me how He will provide for my needs. He knows that peace does not come from being prepared for every contingency, but in trusting in Him and His goodness in the midst of my struggles and fears. So today, I am asking God for the strength for today and I am choosing to trust Him with all my tomorrows. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Starting the Week Feeling Weak

This past weekend wiped me out. Friday was an emotionally exhausting day of rushing my daughter around after her seizure. We arrived home after dark and then needed to prepare for the next day. Saturday was Elijah’s first rugby tournament, a board meeting and a birthday party for a friend in town. We left Jinja for what is usually a 30 minute drive home at about 8pm. We saw terrible traffic due to an accident so we tried an alternate route. Since it has been very rainy lately and they have been working on this dirt road, we found many vehicles stuck in the mud. Our four wheel drive kept us from getting stuck, but the road was impassable due to all the other vehicles. So we turned around and headed back to sit in traffic on the main road. We arrived home at 11:45. 

Since Evie’s seizure we have been giving her medicine every four hours to make sure her fever did not spike again. This means that I’ve been processing and praying, taking some time to fall asleep and then getting 2-3 hours of sleep before waking again. Sunday was busier than usual with going into town for church, staying to celebrate some of my friends’ birthdays and then family church with the kids and families and housemoms here at GSF. I did squeeze in a run to give me a needed boost to make it through the day. 

Here I am on Monday morning, feeling unprepared for the week ahead, not even knowing what happened in my classes on Friday, and having very little energy. The two things that keep coming to mind are the song, “I Need Thee Every Hour” and when the Lord tells the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) So as I start this week feeling weak, I am going to believe that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I am going to continue to pray remembering my need for His strength. (And I’m also going to look for a chance to get some rest.)