Monday, February 24, 2014

Much to be thankful for!

Recently I have been realizing so many things that I have to be thankful for. I just woke in the night with a disturbing dream and am unable to settle my mind enough to sleep, so I thought this would be a good time for me to write about these many blessings. 

First, I am thankful for good health. Several people have been asking about how Elijah is doing. He has fully recovered and is back to running around and playing with friends. Also, my tongue is healing and I am not needing to take pain medicine as often. Yesterday I only needed it at dinner. I am also not struggling as much with my lisp. I am still praying that it will clear up completely. There is also a missionary doctor in Jinja who has agreed to do my 3 month check ups. For all of these things I am very thankful! 

Secondly, I am thankful for progress in house plans. David has followed up with checking some references for this foreman from our church in Jinja; it sounds like he is a man of integrity who does good work and does it quickly. They are hoping to meet again this week to discuss more details about him building our house. David also has a meeting scheduled with a solar power company in Kampala. We are thankful and excited to see things moving forward even while we wait on the land dispute to be resolved! 

I am also very thankful for electricity! Since I have been back in Uganda, we have had fairly consistent electricity. It is so nice! I love having a fan on at night to keep the air cooler and to muffle the sounds. I love that things stay cold in my refrigerator and don't spoil so easily. And I really enjoy being able to turn on a light or charge my phone or use the copy machine for school whenever. Electricity is such a blessing! 

I am also thankful for the joy of gardening. Over the past 6 months or so, we have been developing a flower garden around the school. There are so many plants that grow well here! We have really enjoyed adding beauty to the area around the school and working on this project. I like to stop at roadside nurseries and can buy plants for about the equivalent of 40 cents that would cost $10 in the states. Yesterday I had so much fun planting in the early morning and late afternoon. Here is a picture of one area of our garden. 

On Saturday night, actually Sunday morning at around 3am, a fire was started in the sugarcane on our farm. We are all so thankful that our security staff spotted this, woke many in staff housing and called some staff who live in the neighboring village and they were able to put it out. There was not too much loss of our crop here. I am thankful that so many people would get up in the middle of the night to come help put out the fire! We don't know how or why it was started, but we are thankful that it did not spread far, particularly since it has been the dry season. I am also thankful that the rain have begun since many plants are dry and many people are without clean water right now. 

I am thankful that after a while of being awake last night, I was able to go back to sleep. I am still a bit tired this Monday morning, but I am thankful for a new day to serve the Lord here at Good Shepherd's Fold! 

"Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done!"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

House update

As many of you may know, we have been hoping and planning to build a house on campus here at Good Shepherd's Fold. Right now we are living in a duplex which is located right in the middle of the campus. We are so very glad and thankful to be living on campus, but our current location makes quiet time a challenge. There is always something going on and it is hard to find a time and place to be alone. 

Those of you who know us well, know that is particularly challenging for David, but I have struggled with it also. All the missionaries on the team who have lived in this house have agreed that it is not a good long term solution for missionary families. Since this duplex is right alongside all of the children's houses, the goal is to convert this house into another house for children. Here is a picture of Elijah taking guitar lessons on our current front porch. 

We are very excited about the idea of building a home for our family toward the back of the campus. It is beautiful and a quite a bit quieter. Here is the view from where we hope to put a front porch. The roofs below are from the children's houses and there will likely be a vegetable garden in some of the open space between. 

We have met with an architect several times and we now have house plans. A team from Engineering Ministries International came and help to plan where to locate our house on the campus, along with helping to develop a master plan for our campus. Yesterday David and Daniel, a missionary serving with EMI who will help oversee the building of our house, are meeting with a potential foreman. David recognized the man from the church we attended in Jinja and has actually prayed with him in small groups during the worship service a few times. David was very encouraged by their meeting. It is exciting to see the progress as we prepare to begin building. 

Then, yesterday, our team leader and our Ugandan administrator were summoned to the local police station because someone claims that the land was not  the properly sold to GSF. They are claiming that the documents we have from the previous "owners" are false and the land belongs to this person instead. It is odd these claims came through the police since it ought to have been challenged through the legal system. Apparently land disputes are very common here in Uganda. GSF went through a lot to purchase this land and check these documents, so we believe that these claims are false, but we don't yet know how or when this issue will be resolved. 

For now we are moving forward with planning to build, but we will not begin work on the land until this issue has been resolved. Please pray with us as we wait on the Lord to build a home here. I have been thinking of a few verses that remind me to submit my will to the Lord's. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:1 and "Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor in vain; unless the Lord protects a city, its guards stand watch in vain." Psalm 127:1 I hope these verses encourage you also as things do not always go as planned in your life. We are learning to trust God with more each day, health, housing, my tongue, my children, our financial support, etc. it is good to grow in dependence on the Lord through each situation. God is good, all the time! And all the time, God is good! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Elijah update

Thank you all for your prayers and concern for Elijah. He did not had a fever all day today. He was still not feeling 100%, but he was been able to participate in school today, go for a bit of a walk and do some watering at our school garden. The photo above is of David and Elijah working together this afternoon. I thought that he was improving, but then later in the afternoon the fever came back, and it was higher than before. He has also continued with a headache and feeling a bit sick to his stomach all day, and those symptoms have worsened also. 

After discussing and praying about pros and cons, we decided to go ahead and treat him for malaria. Our neighbor in our duplex along with several other members of our team have had malaria the past couple of weeks. So there are mosquitos carrying it around. The doctor thought that was the most likely diagnosis yesterday, but said we could wait and see if he improves. I was really hoping that he had improved, but this evening he was clearly not feeling well. It may be an atypical version of malaria since he is on a malaria prophylaxis. 

I am hoping that we have the diagnosis right and that this treatment will help him begin to get well. I would appreciate your ongoing prayers for Elijah. I have been killing every mosquito in sight so that it will not spread any further. All those years of volleyball are paying off as I jump and slap the wall to kill those little blood suckers. ;) 

While it has been sad to have my boy not feeling well, I am thankful to know of the many people who are lifting him up in prayer. We are all in God's hands and we don't know what tomorrow will bring. I am asking that it will bring healing for my son. God has given me so much love for him. It is amazing to remember that God has called us his sons and daughters. 

This morning as I was reading the book of Mark I read the account of Jesus' baptism. God said aloud, "This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11) God's Word also tells us that those who trust in Jesus have "become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) As much as I love my son, Elijah, God's love for me and for him  is so much greater. He looks at us, His children, with love and pleasure! We have been given the righteousness of God! As I hug my boy I often remind him, and myself, that God loves him even more than I do!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Taking Elijah to the doctor

I am very thankful that, overall, our family has been very healthy here in Uganda. Of course my tongue has been a concern, but we have really only had a few acute illnesses in our 7 months here. David and Esther have both had bacterial infections and there have been a few digestive issues, but that is not too bad for a family of 6 in over 7 months.

Last night Elijah's head began bothering him. He has had fever and headache on an off all day today. Then this afternoon he had some stomach aches. These are classic symptoms of malaria, but has tested negative both in the rapid test and tonight when I took him to the clinic for the blood test on the slide and a complete blood count. All the labs are normal, but he still has a fever and feels bad. If it were a virus or a bacterial infection that should have shown up on the blood count. 

Please pray that Elijah will feel better soon. Also please pray that if it is malaria it will show up on a test soon. Sometimes the parasite count is low so it does not happen to be in every sample of blood. It also is a disease that fluctuates a bit at first. Some of the other missionaries on campus never test positive until the malaria has gotten very bad. So we are trying to decide whether to just treat him for malaria, or wait and see if he improves from some other undetected illness. Thank you for your prayers for my boy. I will keep you posted. 

Friday, February 14, 2014


While I was in America for the month of January, most of my family was here in Uganda. For all but one week of that time, there was no outside electricity. (GSF has a generator that they run for a few hours at a time.) Some men had been cutting the power lines in order to steal the wire. They have been caught and just a few days after my return to Uganda the electricity was restored! 

For the past week we have had fairly consistent electricity. It has only been out for a few hours a couple of different times. One night, however, the power flickered several times, and then went out until sometime the next day. The kids were already in bed, so it was not too much of an inconvenience. Because it was a cooler night, the fan did not feel as much like a necessity. When the children woke the next morning, they knew they couldn't watch a video; instead I found my older two reading by flashlight.
 I decided that I would try to view this lack of electricity as a blessing rather than a frustration. We ate breakfast by candlelight and it was a very pleasant morning, other than the fact that I had not showered and did not want to have a cold one. Here is our breakfast table!

One of my thoughtful friends from the US asked me what was the thing that is the hardest about not having electricity here. There are many things that are harder to do without electricity, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that a large part of the struggle has to do with this expectation that I deserve electricity. Growing up in the United States with electricity everyday of my life, I had no idea that many people all over the world do not have electricity. Many of the places where electricity is available, it is not consistent or reliable. I am learning to see electricity as a blessing when we do have it rather than as a "right." 

I wrote a previous post entitled "Light" in which I talked a bit about the challenges of walking around in the dark. But there are also emotional challenges to being in the darkness. Not just fear, but it is much easier to be discouraged or depressed when you are sitting in the dark. When I was a teenager struggling with depression, I would sit in my bedroom with the lights out. God graciously brought me out of that time of darkness, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I have found that when my physical surroundings are dark, I need to be intentional to remember the light of God's Word, reading and reciting His truth. I need to preach the gospel to myself, remembering that whether or not I have electricity, I have something much greater, the Light of Christ! But I am also thankful that the power is back on, at least for now...

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

Saturday, February 8, 2014

This is the day...

"This is the day The Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24

If you grew up like I did going to Sunday School and living in a home with Christian parents, you likely have heard the song with this verse above. It was a cheerful song with clapping and was always sung in a lighthearted way. While this is true on days full of obvious blessing, that is not actually the context of the whole chapter. 

Psalm 118 begins and ends with the same sentence, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" That also sounds cheerful, but the rest of the chapter seems to indicate that it is more of affirming this truth in the midst of adversity. Here are a few other excerpts:

"Out of my distress I called to the Lord....The Lord is on my side I will not fear. What can man do to me?.... It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.....I was pushed hard so that I was falling, but The Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation....I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of The Lord." 

These verses are all a part of the same chapter with our song, "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" This morning I woke at 5:45 with a disturbing dream about cancer and bad prognosis. Obviously this was just a dream, but I often struggle with fear about this. I also woke in pain. My pain medicine is gone and it still hurts quite a bit. But as I got out of bed early this morning, I was reminded of this verse. "This is the day The Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!" 

I don't know in what ways you might be struggling today. It may be fears about the future. It may be struggles in relationships. It may be struggles with your health. It may be struggles with your emotions. But whatever struggles you are experiencing, I want to encourage you to run to the Lord in the midst of it. Take the time to read Psalm 118 for yourself. "His steadfast love endures forever!" I am preparing to walk to the village church and worship with my brothers and sisters. "This is the day that The Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

As I write the toddlers are marching around the pavilion across the street sing praises to the Lord! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Basketball in a skirt

This afternoon felt a bit like a Friday afternoon to us. Two of the families we teach have appointments in Kampala tomorrow, so we decided to take the day off school. We will still finish our curriculum and 180 school days, but it is nice to have the flexibility to take off for things like that. Our family is going to use the day to run some errands in Jinja and visit with our good friends, the Lawsons. We are all looking forward to the day! 

Since I had this feeling of freedom this afternoon, I decided to go down to the basketball court with some of the teenagers and pre-teens who live here at GSF. I have gotten to know the toddlers and babies who live here pretty well, but I haven't spent as much time with the older kids. I was excited to be invited to play basket and to have an opportunity to build those relationships. (Although anyone who has played basketball with me might argue that I'm often not as concerned with the relationships as I am with winning.) 

Since David was still working on grading I just took all the kids down to the basketball court with me. Now when I say basketball court, do not picture an American park with an outdoor basketball court. This court is about 1/2 to 2/3 the length of a regular court, so the middle of the court is about a 3 point distance, but without any lines. It is located at place where mud runs off whenever it rains, and it rained today, so much of the court was covered in mud. The backboards are rectangular pieces of plywood that are a little different than the standard shape. I am not saying this to complain about the basketball court. The kids here absolutely LOVE it and are so thankful for a place to play. But as I describe our game I thought you might enjoy picturing the game. Here is a photo.

Everyone just plays as they are, girls in skirts, many people often without shoes etc. So when they asked me to play, the kids and I just walked on down. I had forgotten that I was wearing a full-length skirt with Chaco sandals for shoes and my hair was down. I really just imagined shooting around, but it quickly turned into a full fledged game. 

We decided to play boys versus girls. Two of my female students, Maggie and Emma, who are both good basketball players and a head taller than most boys their age were a part of the group. So we began the game playing 3 girls against 5 boys, and it turned into 3 on 6 or 7 at times. Later some other girls came and joined us which made it closer to even numbers. We tried to take it easy on the boys a bit, but you know...Several other kids just came to hang out and watch.

I really enjoyed getting to know these kids a bit better. Of course, the ones who are my students I know well, but it was good to get to know others who live here at GSF too. Elijah has enjoyed playing basketball with this group of kids often; it is good to see him making so many new friends. I hope Geoffrey will still be Elijah's friend after I elbowed him in the teeth, stepped on his foot, and elbowed him in the chest. Yikes! For some reason he and I kept colliding. None of these injuries were serious enough for him to leave the court. I really was trying not to play too intensely because I was truly there to build relationships. I also thought that playing in my skirt and Chacos with hair in my face on a muddy court might increase the chances of injury. I certainly do not want to tear my ACL ever again, so I was trying to be a bit more cautious. Nevertheless, Geoffrey may not have such fond memories of his first basketball game against Auntie Lisa. 

I am so thankful for this fun afternoon with the kids. It is such a blessing to live here at a place where my children can always find a playmate. The older boys even let Ezra play and passed the ball to him several times. Zeke and Bobby were too busy playing in the mud to want to play basketball and Esther was supervising them.

This week I have really been missing my friends and family who I was with this past month. But today I was thankful that God has provided friends for our family on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. I started today worshiping with my dear friends from our missionary team, and was ending the day with my kids and their new friends. I still have moments when I am really sad (like yesterday), but I am trying to remember how God has so graciously provided good friends. And then there are times that I am just having a lot of fun, like playing basketball in a skirt. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Phil. 4:4

Monday, February 3, 2014

A good first day back at school

I was a bit anxious about not feeling up to the task of teaching today. But as we went over to school I quickly remembered how much I enjoy teaching, particularly math. I love explaining concepts and demonstrating them in ways that help the light bulb come on for kids. Today I was able to do that with adding and subtracting positive and negative integers on a number line. I always like doing this activity with sidewalk chalk so that the students can walk forward and backward on the number line. 

I was also concerned that I would not be able to talk all day. A thoughtful young woman who is working here as a short term intern offered to cover my afternoon class periods. So I was able to teach all morning until our 1:00 lunch break, then rest my tongue and work on catching up on a month's worth of grading at home. I am so grateful for the way God provided this help, but also gave me a very enjoyable day teaching. I am so thankful for how well today went. I am still struggling with pain while talking and eating, but it seems to be getting a bit better. I am hoping to get a better night's rest tonight. Thank you all for your prayers! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My first few days back

I wrote in my last post about my journey home, but I thought I would just give a brief update about my first couple of days back.

Saturday was a day of organization, getting the things I brought back with me into place. I brought some things for school and some for my family. David hung the spice racks that I brought to help organize our pantry. I emptied and sorted items from our containers. I was very tired and am still often dealing with pain in my mouth, but I was thankful for a day to just work round the house. In the afternoon we walked up to the part of GSF where we hope our house will be built. David has employed some local teenagers to help clear the area where we will build. This provides money for their school fees and extra help with some labor intensive work. (For my fellow tree huggers, we left many trees, but just cleared out the underbrush.) David and the kids also showed me the treehouse they built in this huge old mango tree. 

While we were up at the property, the power came back on!!!!! praise the Lord! Please pray that the power lines will not be cut again. After walking around the property and talking about David's work there, we walked to the Gwartneys' house for dinner. Amy had prepared enough lasagna and baked ziti for our whole team! She can really cook, too! She makes a very good cream sauce to substitute for cheese. It was so good to be all together and enjoy a time of fellowship and good food! I am very thankful for this team that God has brought together. 

On Sunday morning I slept in until about 7:30am. That is late for me here. But I am still struggling with quite a bit of jet lag. I just feel very tired most of the day, but then have trouble going to sleep in the evenings. My body clock has not yet adjusted to the 8 hour difference. That is part of the reason I am writing this post at 3am local time. 

This Sunday was the first Sunday back for Sunday school classes at GSF. They follow the Ugandan school schedule which begins tomorrow. All the children who live here and the missionary kids are divided up by age into 5 or 6 different classes. Elijah and Esther are in a class together, but Ezra is the only mzungu in his class. Zeke will be with Bobby so he is fine. Ezra was a little nervous about going to Sunday school, but sweet little Danny took his hand and walked with him to class. Then Danny sat down beside him to be a good friend. For those of you who don't know Danny, he is the first child I held when we visited GSF almost two years ago and has become a friend and playmate to my children. He has been here at GSF since he was a baby and is now 4 or 5 years old. He is a very sweet boy! I should have gotten a photo of that precious moment, but I didn't catch one today. 

After Sunday school we walked to church. I was able to briefly share an update about my tongue as this congregation has been praying for me and my family. We also heard several other testimonies of God's provision for people in this congregation. It was a joy to worship together again with my brothers and sisters here! 

We spent most of the afternoon visiting with our pastor and giving him some books that were sent along with me. Most village pastors here have very few resources to help them study the Bible. Concordances, study Bibles, cross references, books about historical settings, are just not readily available here. So some of my dear friends in Georgia sent many of those resource materials for us to share with pastors here. I am so excited to be a small part of equipping pastors to preach the truth of the Word of God!  

After greeting some visitors at the gate, we came back to our house which had become Esther and Ezra's restaurant for the evening. Each of the oldest 3 children helped David make a pizza of their choice and Esther wrote the options on a menu. She took orders and helped to serve the meal. It was a lot of fun. It is so good to be together as a family! 

It is now sometime in the middle of the night, and I have been up with 3 of my 4 children. I need to go back to sleep, but my mind is swirling. Today will be my first day back to teaching. Honestly I am a bit anxious. I am way behind in the grading and my tongue still hurts to talk. It feels a bit overwhelming to me to think of the work in the day ahead. Teaching six different grade levels requires a lot of mental juggling going back and forth between many lessons. It also requires a great deal of energy and talking. It is good for me to remember that "in my weakness, He is strong." I am also thankful that I am loved by my Lord, even if I am not at my peak performance as a teacher tomorrow. It will be ok if I can't teach all of my classes and need to rest a bit. Please pray for me, that I will have the strength for the day ahead, that I will know if I need to rest a bit, and that my students would continue to learn even if I am not at my best. I am going to try to get some sleep to increase the chances of having energy for the day. 

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

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I cannot tell you how exciting it was for me to see my husband and three children walking up to the airport! So many hugs all around! Zeke was just giggling with excitement, and I felt the same way. David now has a full beard. The goatee began when I went on a one week trip fairly early in our marriage. Now he has a full beard after this month apart. I'm not sure what will happen if we have to be apart again. 

Since we had several hours to wait for my baggage to arrive, we went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Zeke spent most of the lunchtime sitting in my lap giving me hugs! It was great! As we were leaving lunch we received a phone call that my bags were all there an hour sooner than I expected. So we drove back to the airport. Elijah went in to help me collect the bags; he is really getting to be a very helpful young man and seems to have grown while I was away. I also found out that he sang a solo in church last week. David recorded it for me, but I am sad to have missed it. 

After loading all the bags we began the drive back to Good Shepherd's Fold. David and I talked and talked, and Ezra got a good nap to help him recover from the 3 day journey with very little sleep. On the way we received the good news that our van was repaired and it was only a broken belt. Our mechanic even brought our van to GSF for us once we returned and drove the Lawson's van back to them for us. We are so thankful for Moses, a good and very helpful mechanic who is also honest and charges reasonable prices. 

When we arrived at GSF there we signs all over our house here from my children and my students welcoming Ezra and me home. It did feel like coming home. 
David had the bedroom painted a beautiful light blue color, which previously had many areas of peeling paint, and he hung some decorations around the house. It was exciting to see his work. 

We spent quite some time opening all the containers I brought back and I enjoyed seeing my children's excitement at receiving pretzels and goldfish crackers. After a late dinner, we put the children to bed. It was so good to be able to give them all goodnight hugs and kisses and pray with them rather than just praying for them from another continent. 

This morning I woke remembering that I was at home in Uganda. My children were up and playing with Legos by flashlight before the sun was up. The hyrax was giving it's last screams of the night. The bats were returning to the attic to settle in for the day of rest. The toddlers next door were waking a bit unhappy. And Daisy, the donkey, was braying. I was still very tired, but I was excited to be at home with my family. I got up to start the day as I readjust to the time zone and to life here at GSF. I am so very blessed!  

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for our travels. It is good to finally be here! Please continue to pray for healing for my tongue. I am still experiencing quite a bit of pain, particularly when talking or eating. We are so very grateful for all of your prayers!