Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Middle School Years

Can you find me in this photo?
Recently I have been remembering bits and pieces of my middle school years. As two of my children are now walking through this stage of life, I am remembering several of the challenges I faced during these years. I am also realizing how some of the struggles that are common in these years are issues I still struggle with at times. I find myself reliving some of the pain from those years as I try to equip my children and students to process the These are such important transition years as children grow into teenagers and young adults. Here are a few of the things I began learning at this age and still need to remember as an adult.

1- God is my only perfect friend. He is always there for me and I learned to pour my heart out to him through prayer and journaling during these years. Psalm 118 says "His steadfast love endures forever." It is so good to know that even though all friends will disappoint us at times, God never will. He will always love us! He is the best friend I could ever have! As I learn that I am secure in God's love for me, I can think about being a friend to others rather than needing a friend. I still need to remind myself of this as an adult.

2- God has given each of us gifts to be used for his kingdom. During my middle school years, I began thinking about what God might be calling me to do. My youth group leaders and teachers encouraged and equipped me for ministry. I started a Bible study with a few friends in my neighborhood and really enjoyed that opportunity to serve. It is interesting that so many years later I am still starting and leading Bible studies in my neighborhood, although my neighborhood now looks very different. I realized that when I was thinking about how I could love and serve others, I was much less worried about what others thought about me.

3- Words have a great deal  of power. In middle school I was feeling jealous of another girl and said something hurtful about her to one of my friends. A year later she told me that someone told her what I had said. She expressed how much those words hurt her and explained that she avoided me for a year because of the pain those words caused her. I am thankful that she had the courage to confront me and that made a significant impression on me. Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." I still struggle at times with my words, but I pray that my tongue will bring healing to those around me.

These middle school years can be challenging times, but it is also a wonderful time for equipping and growing in many ways. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak into the lives of our children and students in these significant transitional years.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thankful for my mission family

Bringing a foster child into your home in order to eventually adopt is a very different experience than giving birth. Another adoptive mom on our team suggested that the "birth pains" are stretched out over a long period of time as you go through the whole process. One major difference is a bit of confusion about when to celebrate. If I had given birth to a child, I know that my family and friends would come to the hospital and probably have a shower to celebrate the child. But I didn't know how or when to celebrate Evie joining our family. 

Our missionary team sometimes has game nights where we get together just to have fun. Since many of us had recently returned from the states, I was excited to hear that someone was planning a team game night for last Friday. When we arrived, I found out that it was a surprise baby shower welcoming Evie to our family and to our missionary family! I cannot explain how much I felt loved and understood and so happy that I even began crying! I had longed for this type of celebration for my daughter, but didn't even realize how much I desired it until our missionary family surprised us with this party! 





Our team gave us this basin full of essentials like diapers, wipes, baby wash, formula, etc. and made these beautiful cupcakes to celebrate our baby girl. 

They even had beautiful decorations!

They were all trying to hold an adopted or foster Ugandan "baby" as we walked in to celebrate with us. We are not alone in this process! Our team actually has more adopted missionary kids than biological ones, but many of the children area bit big to carry. 😉

While I am sad that Evie has not yet been able to meet any of her new grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins since they all live across the ocean, I am so thankful that she has such a loving missionary family who took time to plan a beautiful celebration welcoming her into our family! In Psalms 68:6 the Bible says that "God places the lonely into families." I am thankful that God placed Evie with us, but I am also so thankful that He placed our family in a missionary team that has beome a second family to us! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Rejoicing and Grieving

As I get to know my precious new daughter, I have such a mixture of emotions. I love her deeply and am beginning to see a special bond form between the two of us. 
 
Yesterday, she wanted to be held close and in the afternoon and evening she kept reaching for my face and bringing her nose to touch mine. It was so precious and I thank God for the connection that is beginning to form. I want her to know that I want to be her mama forever.  I want her to know that she is special to me. She enjoys our whole family and they all love her dearly. Here is a photo from the first time our children met her when she was just a few months old. 



These boys particularly love giving baby Evie cuddles and are thrilled to help care for her, except when she has dirty diapers. 😉 My older two are amazing helpers and I love how they care for her! Evie shares a room with Esther so each morning Esther gets her out of her crib, brings her to me for cuddles and then goes to prepare Evie's bottle and my coffee without me even asking. Esther is such an amazing help to me and will be a wonderful mother one day. One night after I put Evie to bed, she started fussing again. When I went in to check on her Elijah was holding baby Evie and singing Jesus Loves Me for her. My heart was so full! She is enjoying getting to know David and particularly curious about his beard. (She only had women caring for her at the babies' home.) I love watching her connect with each family member in a different way. 



Yesterday was a hard day. It was the first day she was just fussy and I couldn't figure out why. The first week and a half that she was with our family she was generally a happy, easy baby. Then yesterday afternoon she did not want to nap, cried a lot and I was not able to settle her down. I couldn't figure out what was wrong or how to help. I asked Elijah to take over and went to my room and cried. I have had those moments with all of my children, when I couldn't figure out what they needed, but this time I had an added thought. "We have only had you as apart of our family for a little over a week, but you have had 6 months of life that you did not know me. My other children knew my voice when they were born from their months growing inside my womb. You didn't know that I would be your mom when I was visiting you at the babies' home and you are just now learning what it means to have a mother who loves and cares for you." As I processed this grief that we both experience whether consciously or not, I remembered that adoption always comes out of brokenness. As I look at her beautiful face, I see scars that I will never know exactly how they came about. It breaks my heart. But God has given us the privilege and responsibility of loving and caring for her from now on. As we grieve over what was lost, we will also rejoice in the way God has brought her into our family! He is the God who brings the lonely into families and creates beauty out of ashes. And I thank Him that we get to be a little part of that in the life of our dear Evangeline Kisakye. Her names mean, "the one who brings good news" and "His grace." I pray that her life will be a picture of God's grace to all who know her and many will come to know the good news of God's love through her life! 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Celebrating!!!

This week has been very exciting for our family! We have brought a new baby into our family! She is currently our foster daughter and after a year of foster care (which is now required in Uganda), we plan to apply for adoption. 
We are calling this precious little girl Evie, which is short for Evangeline and her second name is Kisakye which is Luganda for Grace. 

We began the process of applying to foster to adopt early this year and in God's perfect timing it all came together this Tuesday, the day before our first day of school. A bit crazy, but wonderful too! So here is our first day of school photo of the Fish five! (Ezra 4th grade, Elijah 8th grade, Evie 6 months, Zeke 1st/2nd grade, and Esther 6th grade.) They are all thrilled to have a baby sister!

Even though we were a little less prepared due to spending all Tuesday working on bring home our baby, the first day of school was great! Here is a photo of our students and teachers on the first day.Everyone seemed happy to be back except Bobby who was in pain from breaking his arm a few days previous. We also have a new teacher who joined us this year! She is in the front left and is already a huge blessing to our school! In the above picture we are standing on the back verranda of our new classroom building. We are thankful for God's provision in so many ways this week. We moved into our new school building, with a new teacher, brought home a new family member, and started a new school year! What an exciting week! We are also thankful that our precious little girl sleeps through the night and is generally cheerful! I'm not sure how I would have made it otherwise. Please keep our family in your prayers! As you can see I'm quite literally trying to juggle caring for Evie and my school work. 

We are very thankful to be able to care for this precious baby girl!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tongue update

As we visit with family and friends, I am often asked about how my tongue is doing. For those of you who might not know or remember, a few months before moving to Uganda, my dental hygienist found an abnormal spot on my tongue. It turned out to be pre-cancerous. We decided to watch it and see how it healed from the biopsy. Not long after moving to Uganda, we realized that the abnormal area was spreading. I came back to the US and had surgery to remove all abnormal cells and find clean margins which led to removing about 10% of my tongue along the right side.

It took quite some time after that surgery to recover. It took time for my speech to return to normal. It took time for the pain to decrease. And it took time to adjust to the fact that my tongue needs a break in the afternoon when I have been teaching all morning. God has taught me many things through these times, most importantly to trust Him with the future. I also have learned to see each year I get older as a gift. 

I had to modify the recommended follow up care and check-ups after my surgery. Obviously it was not going to be possible for me to fly back to the US every 3 months just to have someone look at my tongue. We found a good, American-trained dentist who was willing to look at my tongue and communicate with my doctor in the states. Since the surgery my follow up care has been a combination of check ups with my dentist in Uganda and with an otolaryngologist when I am back in the states. 

Early during our time in Georgia, I went in for a check up. The doctor said that everything looks great and he sees no sign of a recurrence of the abnormal cells! I was so relieved when I heard that news. (My blood pressure was a bit high at the beginning of the appointment.) I also asked about the ongoing burning sensation I have on the side of my tongue which gets more painful with use throughout the day. My doctor explained that in some cases the nerves do not heal properly after surgery and the burning feeling is a possible result of this. While it is disappointing that this pain probably won't go away, it is relieving to know that this pain is not an indication that something is wrong.

Thank you all for your prayers and concern for me and my health. I am blessed and encouraged by so many who care for me and my family! As we face each new day with unknown adventures around the bend, it is good for me to remember that God is with me through it all, and He has brought me into his family where so many have walked with me through trials and joys. We are thankful for your ongoing prayers for our family! I know that the days ahead still hold many joys as well as many challenges and it is a blessing to walk this road together with brothers and sisters in Christ!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Feeling Loved

Since my last post, I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have "checked in" from both sides of the ocean. While it is hard to live in two different worlds, we are also blessed to have people who love and care for us both in Uganda and the United States. I have been encouraged and blessed by the many people who have read about our "furlough funk" and have been praying for us and have been gracious to us in many ways.

This week I posted on Facebook that we would like to borrow a car for a couple weeks. It wasn't a need, but would help simplify things as we all have appointments while we are here in Georgia. In one day we were offered three vehicles! Elijah suggested we hold out until someone offered a Lamborghini, but I thought we would gratefully accept the first offer. Yes, he is almost a teenage boy!

Another family wrote that same day and offered to bring us dinner one night. They insisted that they not stay to eat with us so that we could just have a quiet, relaxing evening. I felt so loved and understood! 

I received a message from a woman who has just joined our missionary team telling me that she is praying for me. She is the one who has just moved her family overseas and she is writing to encourage me!

We got a babysitter and stayed out late with some old friends, sitting on the tailgate of their pickup hours after the restaurant's closing time. It was a joy to have several hours of conversation with people we have known and loved for many years! 

The next night we were able to have dinner with other friends whose whole family is a blessing to our whole family. As you can see our boys love spending time with them!


Even though there are many hard things about our time here, God has shown me how blessed we are to be loved by the body of Christ! I am thankful for those of you who support us in prayer and who partner with us financially! I appreciate those who offer cars and meals and friendship! Thank you for loving us well and being God's hands and feet to minister to us as we live in two worlds! We thank God for you!


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Furlough Funk

While it is wonderful to be with so many people we haven't seen in years and reconnect, David and I both have been in a bit of a funk. Living in two worlds brings many blessings, but also several challenges. Coming back to the US does not really feel like coming home.  Don't misunderstand. We love visiting with family and friends! We love driving on smooth roads. We love that we can run to the grocery store or go out to a restaurant so easily. But being in the US is not easy for us. If we tell you the same story multiple times or if we seem a bit confused it is probably because we are a bit out of sorts here.

These are some contributing factors...
  •  We have slept in 7 different places since leaving our home in Uganda. (More if you count overnight flights, but we don't usually get much sleep on those.)
  • We have the same 2-5 minute conversation with a dozens of people and neither David nor I love "small talk." I do love getting together with a small group or an individual for an hour or more where we can really connect and learn more about each other's lives, but we don't have the time or ability to do that with everyone.  
  • Those who ask our children if they are happy to be "home" get very confused looks. Zeke was 2 years old when we moved to Uganda and has lived there for 4 years. This country does not feel like home to him even though that is what his passport says. 
  • We need to increase our monthly support as some donations drop off over time and we are having increased expenses, but talking about money is often awkward and uncomfortable.
  • We have paperwork that we need to get done while we are here, but computer challenges and other technical difficulties contribute to frustration. 
  • We have had too many long days in the car. Young boys, in particular, don't love being strapped into one position without exercise for hours on end. Neither do I. While our kids have done exceptionally well, it has still been challenging.
  • We use furlough as a time for counseling and addressing issues that might get ignored in the busyness of life and ministry in Uganda. Even though it is very beneficial, talking through our struggles can be emotionally exhausting. (Overall, I am so thankful for this opportunity, but some days it does contribute to our furlough funk.)
  • We don't have a regular routine. I find myself not making sufficient time for prayer, journaling, Bible reading and personal worship. 
While all of these challenges often lead to being in a bit of a funk, I know that God has good purposes for our time here in the states. I want to practice the habit of thankfulness, not only when I feel like everything is going smoothly for my family. I want to have patience and grace with my family as we all feel this funk at different times. Please pray for us. Pray that we will love each other well and be gracious to each other. Pray that we will know how to prioritize as our schedules fill quickly. Pray that I will not overschedule our family as we are not used to running around so much. 

Even as I share these challenges, I also want to say that we do want to spend time with you! I tend to try to squeeze two years of relationship into one month. (No wonder my introverted husband is so exhausted.) I still want to meet with friends and share with small groups about our ministry. I just might have to sometimes say that I can't get together because my family needs rest. 

We are very thankful that we are now staying in a missionary guesthouse where our family can relax a bit. It is a place we have stayed before, and we are able to stay for a month! Other than a quick trip to the Chattanooga area, we can be more settled than we have been for the past month and a half. 

I have so much for which to be thankful! God has provided for us in amazing ways... places to stay, delicious food to eat, a great vehicle to drive, relationships with friends who welcome us back, time with people who have visited us in Uganda, ministry supporters who have partnered with us in prayer and finances for years. God has provided faithfully and I trust that He will continue to do so. I want to draw near to Him in times when I am struggling. I want to remember that He loves us and is working for our good in the midst of all this transition. And I want to thank Him for his many gracious and abundant blessings!