Thursday, October 11, 2018

Independence

This week our school celebrated Ugandan Independence Day with many fun cultural activities. We had a photo scavenger hunt, a traditional dance competition, a football (soccer) tournament, a chapati (a local flatbread) eating contest, an Ugandan history and geography trivia game, and a delicious array of traditional foods for lunch. It was a great day to celebrate Uganda and we thoroughly enjoyed it! Below is a photo of the group performing a traditional dance from the Central region of Uganda. 


This is our 6th year to celebrate Ugandan independence here, but the country celebrated 57 years. During our first  5 years of teaching here, I planned and organized many of the plans for our school celebration sometimes working with others. But this school year we have been trying to give our students more opportunities for leadership. Our students are all in one of the three leadership teams: 1-Social Events, 2-Outreach and Spiritual Encouragement, and 3-Field Trips, Sports and Games. Each group has a few activities to plan, and our Social Events Leadership Team planned our Independence Day celebration.

Leading up to that day, it felt strange for me not to be busy planning, but I was thankful for the time to focus on other things. As the day neared, I began to realize that some of my idols were being challenged. It was hard for me to not be in charge of anything, but still have many people coming to me  with questions. I prayed that God would give me the humility to step back and let others take the lead for this fun day. 

I love helping others and leading, so taking a backseat and just going along for the ride can be hard for me. When we realized that certain aspects of the day had not been planned, I tried to be helpful, but not to take over. Letting some details fall through the cracks is not as damaging as taking over what someone else is doing. I still have a vivid memory from my young adult life about a church work day. I had been asked to paint a certain wall in the church building. It was not anything artistic or fancy, just a shade of beige on a certain section of the hallway. I worked for quite some time trying to do a good job. I tend to be a little perfectionistic, so I probably took a lot longer than necessary on this wall. As I was finishing, a man from the church came and repainted everything I had spent hours doing. I went home and cried and thought, “If he is just going to redo everything, why did I work for hours?” That day I committed to myself that I never wanted to make anyone else feel that way. I would much rather help someone learn by working together or even reduce my expectations for the quality of something than make others feel like their work is worthless. 

As the Independence Day celebration went on, there were some challenges and things that didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped, but overall our students along with some faculty supervision did a great job organizing a wonderful day! I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of equipping these amazing students for the leadership opportunities God gives them. And I’m thankful for the lessons God is teaching me in the process. Even when it is hard for me to step back, I’m learning to pray more and speak less. God is at work! 

Parenting and teaching both provide ongoing lessons for me. As children grow they begin to work toward being more independent. It is a good, healthy process to equip our children to not need us. But it is also a little bit sad. As I see Evie growing and learning to do things on her own, I want to both celebrate and cry. Honestly, I like being needed, but I know it is healthy and good for our children to grow up. Evie is at the age now where she wants to carry a cup on her own and feed herself even though she usually ends up a bit of a disaster with both of these activities. But if she never tries to do these things on her own, how will she learn?

 Sometimes it’s good to give my children and students opportunities for independence. I want to be a mother and a teacher who puts my full faith in God to be the One in control. Then I can be free to serve others with humility and grace rather than thinking that I am in charge. I can be okay with the mess of the learning process. In the end, it is much better for my students, my children and me when I accept that God is in control. This faith frees me from needing to be in charge or in control or to be needed. Trusting God also sets me free to let my children and students have the independence to learn, even when the process is messy. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Learning to Trust

Lately I have been processing a lot of heavy things. Friends fighting cancer, people processing trauma from their past, grieving over loss, hungry triplet infants in the village, loved ones struggling, budget concerns and the list goes on. Last week we had the opportunity to go on a two day leadership team prayer retreat which allowed for some extended times of personal prayer and worship. This time was such a blessing in many ways. Below is a photo of our Leadership team along with the speaker and his wife. The retreat focus was "Unity in Diversity." It was a great time of praying, worshiping and working together.

As we arrived my heart was heavy with several of the above  concerns. I was talking with one of my friends who shared with me about a way she was writing in her prayer journal. She would write, "Today, I am trusting you (God) to...." and then she would list her specific concerns. It was very helpful to me to think of my prayer requests in this way. All too often I tell God about all of the problems and then leave my prayer times discouraged because I have talked about all the heavy things on my mind, but did not focus on the One who has these things in His hands. So I wrote, " God, today I trust you to care for these people who I love and are hurting. I know that I am not the solution to their hurts, but you are. I trust you to comfort them and provide the help that they need." I also listed specifically some help that I was trusting God to provide for specific people. Then I wrote, "Father, I am trusting you today to provide for all of our needs. I don't need to worry. Instead, help me to work diligently while trusting you to be the One to provide."

During another prayer time at that retreat I remembered how a pastor who recently visited GSF encouraged us to praise God using the alphabet to guide us. So during this time I wrote out truths about who God is from A-Z. After praying in these ways I had much more peace about the many concerns that had been on my mind. While many of those situations are still not easy, and it is appropriate to grieve at times, I was able to trust that God is still good, in control, and even working for our good in each of these situations.

That very evening, David and I received an email from a friend offering encouragement and significant financial support. It was such a gift from the Lord. While I had been praying about finances and asking God for help, I had not been actually trusting Him with those things. My prayers had been more like venting my frustrations instead of entrusting my concerns to the God of the Universe who is able to do all things! A few days later, I heard of another specific answer to one of my prayer requests for others.

Obviously, God does not always answer with such a clear, affirmative response. There are times when I have prayed for years without a clear answer to a concern. But I do find that when I am praying and focusing on entrusting my concerns to the Lord, while meditating on His character, I have much more peace in the midst of these struggles.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Embracing my limits

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5)

This past week was our first full week of school, and I was not well for much of it. I had a bacterial infection that made it difficult for me to teach a full class between trips to the bathroom. I was also in pain on and off along with feeling feverish at times. It wasn’t my best week. There were several times this week that I was not able to do things that I had hoped to do. 

Honestly, around 4am on Wednesday morning I was laying in bed, awake, in pain, and feeling like a failure. I was thinking of so many things I wanted to be able to do or to do better and resenting my limits. I wanted to be able to meet with some of the women from my Bible study on Tuesday to help them prepare for teaching on Saturday. These women had not led before and I wanted to equip them. But I was feeling ill and needed to rest when they were meeting on Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to do a good job teaching my classes, but for some of them I had to just sit in my chair and teach from there due to the pain when I moved around. I also wanted to spend more one-on-one time with my kids, but I was so tired from being sick and from the first week of school that I wasn’t able to do that much.

A few days later, I began thinking about how God has even used my limits for His good. When I wasn’t able to help the women prepare for the Bible study, they prayed for me and still were able to read God’s Word together and prepare to teach. When I wasn’t able to teach as well in my class, students in each class had the opportunity to work problems on the board and teach their classmates, using their gifts and solidifying what they had learned. And I am praying that when my children need someone to talk to, they will learn to go to the Lord first in prayer. I still want to be available for them, but I won’t always be around. Their Heavenly Father will. 

Sometimes, when I get frustrated that I can’t do all that I want to do, it is because I am trying to take the place of God. Sounds pretty terrible, huh? But as I have been thinking on it more, that really is the bottom line. When I resent the limits that God has allowed in my life, like hours in the day, needing to rest, and even sickness, it is because I think people need me most, and I forget that what they really need is God! I am learning to repent of my pride in thinking that I am what others need. I am learning to trust that God knows best. He is infinite and I am finite. He is in control and in his grace has given me limits. He knows that I tend to put myself in his place, and it is a grace that he uses my illness to remind me to repent. I want to worship Him as the only Infinite One, the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. He is the best hope for all the people in my life, and all the people in the world! So today, I am thanking God for my limits. 

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!