Saturday, May 30, 2015

Swimsuit Shopping in the Presence of God

The moment I had dreaded for quite some time was past due. I needed to buy a swimsuit! I had taken my children to a pool, but since I did not have a swimsuit, I didn't get in the water. Zeke stepped off a ledge and got in over his head. Other people jumped in and pulled him up. It became clear to me that my insecurities about my physical appearance and distaste for shopping had actually put my son in danger. I knew I needed to suck it up (maybe literally) and go buy a suit. 

I have just started reading a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. As I thought of how much I hate trying on many swimsuits, trying to find one that I don't feel fat in and dreading looking in the full length mirror in that bright, fluorescent lighting of the dressing room, I realized that I needed to remember the presence of my Creator and Saviour in the midst of my shopping trip. 

My loving husband planned the day so that I could have some time to go on my own, knowing that juggling the care of our children would only add to the stress of this shopping trip. Shopping for anything is stressful for me. I struggle with spending money to buy things for myself. I know so many people in much greater need. I also struggle with the ridiculous amount of "stuff" available here in the United States. Buying toothpaste nearly put me over the edge! Did you know that there are over 65 choices for Crest toothpaste alone? It is true. I counted them. That number does not include the other brands or whitening strips or other tooth care products. Wow! Here is a photo from my 15 minute decision over a tube of toothpaste. 

As I was preparing for this swimsuit shopping trip, I was so thankful for my amazing friends here! Some friends gave us gift cards for various clothing stores, so that I would not stress about spending the money to buy some things for our family. Another friend told me that I am beautiful. A few other friends told me that they understood and would pray for me. I know it may sound silly to pray about shopping for a bathing suit, but that is exactly what I did. I asked God to help me remember his truth in the midst of this day. These are the truths I asked God  to help me remember:

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

"Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7

"Nothing will be able to separate me from the love of God for me in Christ Jesus my Lord." (Not even feeling fat in a swimsuit.) Romans 8:39

I know it sounds silly and all you men out there probably think I have lost it, making such a big deal out of nothing. But this anxiety over my physical appearance has had such control in my life that I struggled with anorexia when I was younger. And even though I haven't stopped eating food recently, it is easy for me to fall back into letting those thoughts and fears control my mind. Particularly here in America. During the summer. 

It is my prayer that I will remember God's Presence with me and his Word to me in the midst of all of life. Even during my silly, vain moments of getting anxious over buying a swimsuit. He is with us in the midst. One of my understanding friends who was praying for me asked how it went. My response was "Success!" Not only did I find a swimsuit that I was reasonably comfortable wearing, which didn't cost me anything since I had those gift cards, but I was able to spend the morning talking with the One who loves me no matter how I look. And That is why I was able to walk through that morning with peace and joy, rather than fear and anxiety. His Presence is with all His children, we just sometimes forget it. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


As we meet with people and talk about life in Uganda, one of the questions that often comes up is if we feel safe there. The short answer is - yes.

Ebola- The most recent outbreak in Western Africa was literally thousands of miles away from where we are. 

Terrorism- Uganda has periodic threats, just like the U.S., but in our 2 years there we have not had any terrorist attacks in the country. Additionally no one is particularly interested in targeting a small village in the middle of the sugarcane fields. We feel very safe at GSF.

Snakes- In our 2 years in Uganda, we have only encountered a handful of snakes. Only one of them was known to be venemous, so we just kept our distance. During our second week here in the U.S. Esther accidentally stepped on the tail of a copperhead and it picked up its head and prepared to strike. She moved away quickly, and did not get bitten. So I am not any more concerned about snakes there than I am here. 

Malaria- Our family has escaped our first 2 years in Uganda without any confirmed cases of malaria. Those on our team who do get malaria, get immediate treatment and have all recovered in a matter of days. 

Wild animals- We do not live near any areas with lions or crocodiles or hippos. There have been rumors of a leopard taking some pigs nearby, but no one has confirmed that suspicion. There have also been rumors of a two headed leopard in the past. I'll let you know if we ever see that one! 

Crime- The only problem we have had with crime is theft. It was never violent or threatening, we just found that things were missing. It is still discouraging, but it does not make us feel unsafe. 

Now that I have answered your actual question, humor me and read my answer to other questions. Do political stability, protection from terrorism, and the absence of diseases and dangerous animals mean that we are safe? No 

In the safe U.S., one of the most secure buildings, the Pentagon, was attacked and many people were killed in 2001. Every day people who thought they were healthy are diagnosed with cancer. There are unexpected car crashes. Things happen. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit, life is not safe. 

As I have been reading Emily Freeman's book, Grace for the Good Girl, I have been encouraged by some of her concluding thoughts about God and safety. Here is a quote that struck me. 

"He never promises that our families will be safe. Not in the way we think. He does promise his presence, though. And if you don't know him, you may think that is a bad trade-off. There are times when that is how it feels."

As I thought about God promising his presence rather than what we think of as safety, it reminded me of my children. In the transition between worlds, our kids are often in new situations, meeting people they haven't seen in years, and in unfamiliar settings. They are definitely out of their comfort zone and they might not feel safe. So what do they do? They cling to their parents, where they know they are loved. They feel safe in our arms. I give and receive lots of extra hugs, cuddles and requests to be held. In the midst of unsettling circumstances they know where to look for security. 

God tells me that even as an adult child of his, I am to do the same. I can run to my Abba, Father for comfort and security in the midst of the trials of this life. (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) I can call to him, "Daddy, I'm afraid. Will you come sit with me and tell me a story?" 

Just like my kids call for their daddy to read to them every night. And my Daddy tells me a beautiful story of a Hero coming to rescue his lost love. A story of a Good Shepherd, sacrificing his own life to find, rescue and protect his sheep. A story of a Father running out to welcome his lost son home. And I am comforted by his love. All of a sudden the dangers of life and "what ifs" don't seem so scary. Because I know I am loved, and the God of the Universe has me safe in His arms!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My perfect storm

You would think that being with friends and family on furlough in the U.S. should be a time of rest and relaxation after living and working overseas. Instead, I find myself waking with tension in my neck and a stress headache most mornings. Why? 

Because of the idols of my heart. 

No I don't have little statues that I pray to. Instead I let things rule my heart, things that will never bring me peace. What things? Things like what you think of me. Yes, you, those of you who are reading this post and the millions who are not. Furlough is a time to update supporters and friends about what God has been doing through our ministry. Instead I think it is about making everyone like me and think I'm great. Nice, Lisa. Trying to steal God's glory...

I do love talking about what God is doing in Buundo Village, Uganda. I love the people there; I want you to be praying for my friends in Uganda. But when I am done talking about God's work, I slip back into my fears. What do these people think of me? Do they think our house is too big since we love next to a mud hut? Do they think we are being wise in the way we are investing their resources? I struggle daily with the decisions about how to best minister to those around us in a way that is "helping rather than hurting." So many decisions in ministry are unclear. They require lots of prayer and working with our Ugandan friends and talking with our team to figure out the best way to show the love of Jesus. Then in 30 minutes, I try to sum up all that we have been doing and deciding and praying about and struggling with for 2 years.

When I leave these opportunities sometimes I am encouraged, remembering my neighbors and the kids in Uganda and how I love them and want them to know the love of Jesus. Sometimes I am anxious, worried that some of you will second guess our ministry decisions.  It is wonderful that there are books and articles about using wisdom and considering long term economic consequences when making decisions about how to help people in need. It can be almost paralyzing at times though. And when you combine my love for my neighbors in Uganda with a sincere desire to be responsible and wise in the way we help, along with my fear of other people's opinions of me, it can lead to a lot of anxiety. 

I am convinced that this not the way Jesus wants me to live. And in Uganda, I do not struggle as much about what others think of me. So why am I so consumed with what you think of me? Because I have always struggled with looking to other people's approval for my identity. But now I have an added struggle.

We live on support. If you don't like me or my ministry, you might choose not to financially support the work we are doing. Of course people have to give their money to the things they want to support. There are so many good choices of what to support. We have been so blessed by many of you and your financial support for our ministry. Thank you! But my "control freak" tendencies still lead to anxiety over what will happen if everyone stops supporting us and our ministry. 

As I write about my idols of control and approval, I realize that God graciously has put me in a place in life where I cannot find comfort in those things. Only He can bring peace to my anxious heart. Since we have been back in the U.S. I have been reading this great book. 

This book has been a good reminder to me that I do not need to find my identity in what you think of me. Instead, I can just rest in what Jesus has done for me. Here is a brief quote:

When you let go of the things that you have let define you all of your life, you will not be left with nothing. The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-could-ever-imagine. He came to trade my life for his, my weak for his strong, my ashes for his beauty. He longs for us to receive the gift of himself.

God is graciously teaching me to depend on Him, rather than living in fear and anxiety about what you think and if you are going to support our ministry. Slowly, slowly as they say in Uganda. These idols are lifelong struggles, and reading a book or memorizing a passage of Scripture does not immediately fix me. But it is good for me to remember that Jesus has already made me right with God through his work. I want to learn to rest in that. Emily Freeman often refers to Colossians 3:15, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Many people ask how they can help or pray for us. For me, my greatest need is to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, rather than my desires for approval or control. Please pray that I will grow in my ability to rest in what Jesus has done, letting his peace rule.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My covetous heart

I have spent most of the past 2 years missing various foods from America. It is so easy for me to justify this coveting in my heart. "We have made sacrifices and given up conveniences to go do what God was calling us to do; just thinking about what we left behind and missing those things is ok." That is what I tell myself. But I am not just periodically thinking about the differences between here and there. I have been coveting. I want what my friends in America have, specifically Dunkin Donuts, Papa Johns, La Parilla chips and cheese dip, crushed ice, and the list goes on. I also covet the fit, beautiful figures of the women who probably don't eat those foods. Irony. 

Even as I am writing about this problem in my heart, I think that it is not that big of a deal. I excuse this covetousness because many of us struggle with it. It is "normal." But God thought it was a big enough deal to include in the 10 commandments. It is in the same list as murder, idolotry, adultery and stealing. It is the last commandment, the "bookend" opposite having no other gods before Him. When I covet something, it has probably taken the place of God in my heart. I think about that "thing" often. I think that "thing" will make me happy. I see pictures of other people on Facebook who have that "thing" and wish it was mine. 

On our first day back in the US, I woke and went to Dunkin Donuts. It was delicious! And it was over in just minutes. I absolutely loved each bite, and it was more delicious than I had remembered, but then it was gone. A donut will never truly satisfy my heart. 

God is slowly teaching me that the only place I can find true joy, peace and contentment is in Him. He alone satisfies my heart. He is there with me in Uganda when I am eating rice and beans and with me in the US when I am eating a delicious Mexican or Italian meal and savoring each bite. I am asking God to give me the perspective of the apostle Paul who says, "I have learned the secret of being content in every situation... whether well fed or hungry, in plenty or in want." (Paraphrase of Phil. 4) 

By the way, we are not going hungry in Uganda. We have many delicious foods there. We eat well and none of us have lost weight. It is just the nature of my heart to want what I don't have. To want what you have. To walk into Publix and want to buy everything that I cannot get in Uganda. To sin through coveting. As I begin to see how quickly my heart runs to other things for comfort, I am even more thankful for Jesus. 

I have a gracious Savior who knows that I often look to food or people or other things to satisfy the place in my heart where only He belongs. That is why He had to die, because my covetous heart separates me from the perfectly holy God of the universe. I have worshiped other, lesser gods. But God still loved me. While I was still putting ridiculous things like comfort and pleasure from food in the place that only He deserves, Jesus died to make me right with the Father. He gave me His perfect record and took the punishment for the sin I deserve. He set me free. He graciously gives me good gifts like delicious food to enjoy, but all the while reminding me that I can only find true lasting joy in Him. As we are here in this "land of plenty" I want to enjoy these good gifts, remembering that they are little blessings from my loving Father. When I can no longer get crushed ice or cheese dip, I hope that I will remember to look to the real source of joy, rather than wishing for things I don't have. I am thankful that I can know that whether I continue to struggle or not, I am loved in Jesus. And for today, I will rest in that. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A place to rest

After several weeks of travel here and there, we have finally settled into a missionary guesthouse  for about a month. It is so nice to have a place to unpack our bags and feel at home! Ezra said, "I think Zeke and I will start calling this place home since we will be here for a while and our other home is so far away." We have loved staying with friends and family and traveling here and there, but it is really nice to now have a familiar place to be still and rest and come back to each night. We have a quiet place where we can sit outside and have a peaceful time alone with God. I can't imagine a better way to start the day, than a cup of hot coffee with a chill in the air and time to pray and sing and read. I took a photo one morning because I wanted to remember this time.

The ministry that makes our stay here possible is called Missionary Care Ministry. They have a beautiful house in the woods in rural Georgia, but it is only 10 minutes away from so many conveniences. It still blows my mind how fast and easy it is to get food in America, not to mention all the variety. But here at our "home" for a month, we also have a place where we can cook if we want. Last night we had a dear friend over for dinner and grilled out. That definitely made us feel at home. 

The kids have loved exploring in the backyard, building a dam in the creek, and playing badminton in the grassy areas. Today I was even able to have 3 of my children cuddling with me on the hammock as Esther read books to her younger brothers. It was such a nice time to slow down and just be together. I wish I had a photo of that moment too, but I knew if we got out of the hammock to get a camera, it would be very difficult to all get back into our places without conflict. I opted instead for taking a mental picture and sharing it with you in words. 

God has been so gracious to us in many ways as we have come back to the US. We have seen his care for us in providing for all of our needs and more through many of you. We also thank him for his provision of this wonderful home away from home. If you want to know more about this amazing ministry to missionary families, you can click on the link above. Their website also has information about how to donate if you want to help support this ministry.