Thursday, June 13, 2019

Don’t Lose Heart

Over the course of one month’s time I had two separate cases of malaria and then came down with a severe bacterial infection with a high fever and many body systems affected. From the end of April through the end of May there were very few days where I was well. Anyone who is a teacher in the American educational system knows that the month of May is often very busy. This May included a school play, wrapping up a semester, exams, an awards ceremony and graduation. We also have been working on plans for next school year as we have had several new families ask if we might have space for their children in our school. While the final stretch of the school year is always challenging, my sickness added additional obstacles. During exam week, I received IV fluids and antibiotics while administering an Algebra 2 exam. 

All teachers also know that when the students are done, the teachers are not. We still have grades to finalize and classrooms and textbooks to organize and things to order for next school year. So the first week of June was busy with many of those things along with having 5 children who are now on summer break. We decided that after this exhausting stretch, our family needed some time away for rest. 

We traveled east to the mountains on the border with Kenya to stay at a lodge near some beautiful waterfalls. We have enjoyed some quiet, peaceful time in nature, a beautiful hike,  nice picnic lunches and fun family game times. But in the midst of this beautiful, peaceful place I am still struggling to be at peace in my mind. Next week we are scheduled to have a court date for Evie’s adoption. I got word that another friend who was scheduled to see this same judge this week had her court date canceled. We also still need to get some documents and have been trying to coordinate that. 

Even as I am lying here cuddling with this precious girl during her nap time, my stomach is churning thinking about this upcoming court date. Evie has been with our family for almost 2 years now. While I have no logical reason to fear that the judge will rule against her being adopted into our family, that fear is sometimes overwhelming. I am trying to learn how to trust God with each moment and not worry about tomorrow. Honestly, I’m not doing a great job with that right now. 

Sometimes remembering how God has worked in the past and seeing his faithfulness gives me encouragement and hope about how He will continue to work. This year’s graduation was a real blessing to me. We had four seniors graduate who have all been in our school for the past 3 years. As they each gave speeches and reflected on their high school experience, I was reminded of how God has worked in each of their lives in amazing ways. They have grown into extraordinary young women who are “rooted and grounded” in the love of Jesus. (Ephesians 3:17) 

Galatians 6:9 reminds us “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”
I realize that after a rough month of illnesss and a lot of work, I have been growing weary. But seeing how God is at work in the lives of our students was an encouragement to me to not lose heart. This adoption process has also left me weary at times. We have been waiting for this court date for almost a year. But as I remember God’s faithful work in the lives of my students, I will also trust Him to be at work in this adoption process. Part of the harvest that we will reap is personal growth in patience and perseverance. While the process is not always fun, I am learning to trust that God is at work, and I just need to take the next step following where He leads me. And when I have the privilege of seeing the fruit of the harvest, I want to rejoice in the ways God is at work and allow His faithfulness to encourage me to persevere in those times when I am a bit weary. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Mother’s Day Mahem

On Mother’s Day I was thankful that our family had the opportunity to love on some kids who are good friends of my older children. While I was blessed to be able to show a mother’s love to these kids, I also was grieving over the situations that lead to many children not being with their families. When we arrived at church, I needed a few minutes to just sit in the van and cry about the moms who can’t care for their children and the children who haven’t been able to receive their mother’s love. This life is such a mixture of grief and joy, brokenness and blessing. I’m thankful for a church family that also understands and walks together through these moments. Looking around the room in our church, where there are almost as many well-loved foster and adopted kids as there are biological ones, I was once again reminded that God brings beauty out of ashes. While I was waiting to hear from the social worker about how long these kids were going to be able to stay with our family, I asked my church friends to pray that I would trust God in the midst of challenging situations. 

As church went on I started feeling ill. After church we went out to lunch and my stomach just wasn’t feeling right. I thought it might be anxiety waiting to hear from the social worker and my concern for these kids that our family loves. We got word that they were allowed to stay with us for a week and we were thankful. As I told them, I wondered how to even process something like this. At least we had a plan for more than just today. 

By the time we reached home I was definitely not feeling well and my fever was high. I realized that I had malaria for the second time in less than a month. Ugh. Thankfully we caught it early and I only had a few days of feeling really lousy. 

One  morning recently as I woke early praying for these kids I love, I had a lot of questions for God. My heart was heavy and my mind was swirling with all the challenges of each situation. As I opened God’s Word I read Isaiah 40:28-31.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator or the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
As I read this passage, I knew it was exactly what I needed to hear. God opened my eyes to see how this passage spoke right to me. Below is my personalized paraphrase of this passage. 
“Lisa, did you forget Who I am? I am the God who created this whole world. I know exactly what these kids need and you don’t have to. I’ve got it. You don’t have the strength or wisdom to carry this situation, but I do. Trust me and I will give you the strength to love freely without feeling like it is up to you to fix things you are incapable of fixing. I am God and you are not.”
While I don’t know what tomorrow or even today will hold. I know that God is the Creator. He has all things in His hands and He is good. As a math teacher I love solving problems, but many of life’s problems are not for me to solve. I’m learning, slowly, that my job is less about trying to solve the problem and more about following my Lord and just loving the people he brings into my life, one day at a time. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Trusting God with My Teens

As my children grow, I realize even more that I need to trust God with them. I am not able to change their hearts. That is God’s job. I am not able to control circumstances and protect them from pain. When they need protecting God will do it, but He sometimes allows painful experiences in our lives to help us grow and know Him more deeply. I am learning that I often need to talk to God about my teenagers more than I need to talk to my teens. 

My children will tell you that I don’t have all this down yet. I want to control things and often speak too quickly or intervene when I should let them work something out. I’m not saying that I should no longer offer advice or even instruction, but I am learning that there are some things that they might learn better on their own. 

I have a particularly interesting challenge in being both mother and teacher to my teenagers. I see their interactions with their friends at school, their misunderstandings, their hurts and I often want to jump in and solve their problems. I wish I could, but I can’t always fix it. And what high school boy wants his mommy to intervene in all of his interactions? Would that boy ever learn to become a man if he was always protected from painful interactions and constantly instructed in how to handle each situation? 

As a math teacher, I know that students learn better if they are given opportunities to solve problems on their own without the teacher always jumping in. It is important to give students tools and skills, but they also need to learn to be able to work through problems, developing perseverance and independence. Sometimes that is a challenge for me as I see a student struggling. I want them to get the answer, but I know that it is more important for them to learn to do it on their own. When they ask questions I try to guide and advise. I often want to just grab the pencil and do it for them, which I sometimes do, but I know that it is usually better for me to just provide a small amount of assistance as they ask along the way. When I grab the pencil, it is often a lack of patience on my part. When I offer my kids too much unasked for advice or direction, it might be that same lack of patience. 

In math class, I sometimes choose not to answer questions because of how it will benefit my students. In parenting, I am learning to trust that God is working for good in my children’s lives through their struggles, and it isn’t always my job to step in the middle of that. I want God to develop perseverance and endurance in their lives and I want them to become mature. The hard part is that these things usually come through trials. It is one thing to experience personal trials, but it requires another level of faith to trust God when those we love are struggling. God is stretching and growing me as I am learning to trust that He is good and is working for good in the lives of my children, even when I see them struggle. 
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James‬ ‭1:2-4 NIV
I have seen the good work God has begun in their lives and I am trusting “that he who began a good work in (them) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
‭‭(Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NIV)‬‬ While I am sure I will still sometimes speak out of fear and a desire to fix things that are not mine to fix, I want to learn to walk with my teenagers in faith, trusting that God has them in His very capable hands and is faithfully at work in their lives. 

Here are our oldest two looking way too grown up as they go to our school Spring Formal. We were there as  teacher/chaperones. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Taking the Next Step

Today was my first chance to go for a run since I have been back in Uganda. It was rejuvenating! I do some of my best thinking when I am able to exercise and pray and process. Life has been very busy since I returned from my brief time in the states. We have a lot going on with our school as we wrap up the third quarter and prepare for parent-teacher conferences. We have also been in communication with some prospective students with one family visiting our school last week. On the adoption front, there has been some progress, but every step toward adoption is also a step that includes grieving over the losses that put Evie in need of a family.

This afternoon I found myself with so many questions about the future swirling in my head. The kids were all doing well and David was home, so I decided to go for a run. As I was running and praying about all theses questions, I reached a hill. I decided I was going to try to run the whole way up, and then did what I usually do. I put my head down looking only at the next step and asked God to give me the strength to make it up the hill. In my years of running, I have found that if I look at the whole hill, I sometimes get overwhelmed and might not make it to the top. With the uneven terrain of our village, it can also be a bit precarious to not look down considering where to place my next step. I have injured my knee, my ankle and my toe at various times when I was distracted and not looking where I was going. All this to say, I just try to focus on one step at a time.

As I was running up the hill, I remembered how much this can be like life. Sometimes when I think of all the challenges to come and questions I have about the future, I can get overwhelmed. But I am going to choose to ask God to give me the strength for today and take the next step. I don’t need to worry about the whole hill. Or tomorrow. Instead I will look where God has called me to serve today. To love my family well. To take the next step in the adoption process. To teach my students. To persevere in the things God has called me to do today. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭

May God give us the strength for the next step and the ability to trust Him with all our tomorrows. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Airplane Reflections on My Final Destination

At almost every check-in counter and several security check-points in the various airports we have visited over the past two weeks, they often ask this question, “What is your final destination?”  It always strikes me as a funny question. On this trip, we travelled to one city, spent a week near there, to another city for another four days, then had an overnight layover in another city and are now on our way back home to Uganda. I understand that these security officers and airport staff are asking where we are headed to make sure they do their jobs properly in assisting us in getting to our destination safely. But every time I hear this question, I am reminded that my final destination is not any city on this earth. My final destination is eternity with my Savior. 

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I may be more keenly aware of this truth since I live in a country where I don’t look like I belong due to the color of my skin. And when I travel to the US, I don’t always feel like I belong since I have lived in Uganda for over 5 years now. While that can lead to some challenges, it also reminds me where I do belong. 

During my brief trip to the US, I was reminded about how comfortable life can be there. The comforts of great water pressure in hot showers, comfortable beds in temperature regulated homes, seat warmers, smooth roads, recliners, and delicious food always available within a few minutes can lull  us into thinking that life is all about us and our comfort. It can even give us a false sense that this world is my “final destination.” We can forget that God has so much better and more in store for us. We have a final destination, a heavenly city to come. I want to live today acknowledging that Jesus Christ has given me the gift of an eternal city. I can offer sacrifices of praise in this life whether I am comfortable or not, because of the hope I have through Jesus. And as I remember that I am looking forward to the city that is to come, I can share with those in need in my city, town or village, because God has already provided me with the thing I need most, a home with Him. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Overwhelmed by Generosity!

I have been in the US for almost a week now and every time I have gone into a restaurant or store, someone else has paid for me. The only exception is when I have taken Elijah out, without anyone else I know being around. I had plans to take him on a lunch date on my own dime, but first a friend offered us her gift certificate and then the owner of the store gave us a free meal! Another friend told me she had sold some eggs from her chickens and wanted to give us a gift to help us build our chicken coop in Uganda. David has been talking about this for years, but we haven’t yet set apart the time and money to make it happen. This one friend has given enough “egg money” to cover the expense. Another friend gave an extremely generous gift to Elijah. Our church family has taken care of all of our needs including help with computer problems and more. Our amazingly generous friends have let us drive their car, stay in their house, and eat their food. Friends have given us books and clothes and asked if there is anything else we want or need. It has been overwhelming!

As Elijah and I were talking about being recipients of such lavish generosity, he made a commitment that really struck me. He said, “Sometimes it is hard to receive all of this generosity, but these are just small examples of what we have been given every day.” I asked if he meant that because we live on the support, all of our life is a gift. He explained that what he meant was that everything is a gift from God, no matter how it comes to us. Whether it is through generous friends or a job that God has provided and given us the skills to do, all good gifts come from our Heavenly Father. Elijah also meant that God’s grace to us through Jesus, bringing us into His family and giving us eternal life, is also a daily gift. 

Our struggle with receiving so many gifts is that we feel like we need to do something to earn or deserve these things. But what could have I ever done to deserve forgiveness of all my sins, and God’s perfect love for me? Obviously, nothing. And what have I done to deserve these amazingly generous gifts? Nothing. God has chosen to show us a small tangible expression of his grace through these generous friends. And I want to receive all His good gifts with joy and a thankful heart. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Monday, February 25, 2019

Safely Stateside

Here I lie in a comfy bed unable to sleep because it is the middle of the day on the other side of the world, where I was just yesterday, or maybe it was two days ago, I’m not really sure in my jet lagged state. Most of my family is still over there, and I miss them. I’m here in the US for a brief time to connect with family, friends, and ministry partners. 
As I looked in the mirror this morning, I realized that in this place I look different. I feel tired and old. The bags under my eyes from travel and my wrinkles seem much more prominent than on my most tired days in Uganda. When I get up in the morning there, I am most concerned with having time alone with God to pray and read the Bible with a cup of coffee before the children need something. Here I woke and thought, “I look terrible, what will everyone at church think of me?” It is embarrassing to me that I came to speak about what God is doing, but am really more concerned with what everyone thinks of me. I wondered what to do to improve my appearance. I don’t usually wear make-up except when I get a chance to go on dates with my husband, and even then, nothing that covers wrinkles or bags. I don’t even own that kind of make-up. As I put on my sweater that I wear every morning in Uganda I now noticed holes that I never saw before. Why is it that every time I come back to the United States, the stains and holes in all my clothes become so obvious to me? I love that in my daily life in Uganda I don’t care about those things. I focus on the people God has given me to love, my family, my students, my neighbors and the children at GSF. I don’t worry about my clothes or appearance. Why should that be any different here? 

In Uganda, my children wear clothes with holes and I don’t care. That is normal. Here I begin to feel embarrassed. It is so strange living in these two very different worlds. It is tricky to learn to live with contentment in both of them. I recently read this post written by another missionary serving in East Africa and it really resonated with my experience.

I want to learn to live with contentment in both settings. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4 that he has “ learned the secret of being content in every situation... living in plenty and in want.” I want to live this life of contentment on both sides of the ocean. I thank God for the many ways He shows me His faithful loving care for me and those around me in both places. As I arrived in country, my dear friends had a pile of winter clothes and shoes for me that they either purchased for me or lent to me. It was so good to see God’s provision in something as basic as the clothes I needed in order to stay warm. It reminds me of Matthew 6.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew‬ ‭6:25, 28-30, 33‬ ‭ESV‬‬,28-30,33.esv)
As I see God’s provision for each of my basic needs it reminds me that I can be content in each situation. I can choose to live in faith rather than in fear. And I remembering God’s faithful loving care and provision for me is an important part of shifting my focus. I pray that when fears and discontentment begin to take over, I will instead focus on God’s gracious loving care for me and how He has called me to show that love to those around me. Whether I am in Uganda, or in the United States or anywhere in the world, I am in the arms of my loving Savior.