Thursday, November 29, 2018

A New Definition of Success - Growing in Patience

This Tuesday, we had a last minute change of plans. Our lawyer's office called us and said that we needed to meet someone in Jinja to sign some documents. We scrambled to make sure our responsibilities at home and school were covered, and then we drove to town. We arrived at the agreed upon time, but got word that the person meeting us would be about an hour later. We signed some final documents, and realized that we were finally petitioning the court for adoption. The woman from the law office told us that she hoped to get a court date for our case when she submitted the petition. After much waiting, this was very exciting!

We drove with her to the court and waited while she submitted the documents. She was able to successfully turn in our petition, but we found out that the diary (calendar) for 2018 was full and they do not yet have the diary for 2019. While we were disappointed that we were not able to set a court date, we were thankful for progress in this long process of adoption. We are trying to celebrate each small step of progress in this long process.

Through our years living here in Uganda, we have learned that many things take longer than we anticipated. After some time, David realized that a change in perspective would help him with contentment. Instead of thinking of each task as done or not done, he likes to say that if we took one step forward, that is a success. One example that I remember from our first months in Uganda was opening a bank account. It was one thing on our to do list one day. We naively thought that we could just walk into the bank with our documents and some money and open an account. We then got a list of all the things needed, 2 passport photos of each of us, a letter from our NGO, letter of recommendation from the LC (local council), and a few other things. That day we began the process of requesting letters and maybe found a place to get our passport photos taken. If we were frustrated every time we failed to complete the task on our to do list, we would live in a constant state of frustration. But if we can instead celebrate each little step, it makes it much easier to have a heart of thanksgiving. 

I can see God's grace to us in teaching us patience through daily life here. While these situations are not fun or easy, God is graciously helping us to develop a new perspective. I can see how these little everyday challenges are teaching us patience and working in us to develop the fruit of the Spirit. (Eph. 5:22) Please don't misunderstand, I am not saying that we are completely sanctified and always patient. You can ask our children; we still have plenty room for growth! But it is good to look back and see that God, in his loving kindness, is allowing little challenges to help us grow in Him. I pray that He will continue to use this adoption process and all of life to teach us, sanctify us, and equip us for whatever kingdom work He has for us to do. 
Here is a photo of Esther's opportunity for growing in patience...baking with her little sister who likes to get into everything! These girls are both such a blessing to our family, not to mention, they are super cute! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Giving Thanks for Trials

In this season leading up to Thanksgiving I have often tried to focus more on having a grateful heart and thanking God for things that I often take for granted. That practice is a helpful perspective shift and helps me to experience more of the joy God has for me. In my classroom this year, my students have been working on a thankfulness list and have now listed hundreds of things for which they are thankful. While this practice of thankfulness for God's good gifts has helped me grow, I have recently been asking God to help me be thankful for the good work He is doing even when the situation is not good.

It is much easier for me to have this perspective after a trial is over. So that is where I will begin. Baby steps. As I look back on my life, I see how God has often used some of the most challenging times to grow me and equip me for ministering to others. My love for working with middle and high school students is largely because of the many challenges I experienced during that season of life. My struggles with depression, anxiety, and body image issues have given me a better perspective with which to encourage and serve my students. I am often reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3&4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who  are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
While I am thankful for this truth, that God uses our struggles to equip us to love and serve others who are struggling, I also see how God has used the challenging times to grow me. I am reminded of James chapter 1.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Every time I read this verse I think how bizarre it sounds. Who really counts it all joy when they meet trials? Do you know really someone like that? Most of us get annoyed, discouraged, frustrated, disappointed, angry or depressed when we experience trials. That certainly is my natural tendency. But I can see how God has used some trials in my life to grow me. I can look back at the time of uncertainty with my tongue and the possibility of cancer and see how that gave me a more eternal perspective on life. I can look at some of the everyday challenges of life in a developing country and see how God is using those to develop in me perseverance and patience.

I can also see how my children grow these everyday struggles. One of my favorite moments was when we had been in Uganda for a couple of years and we coming home late from town, Everyone was tired and we realized we were locked out of our house. Elijah pointed out that we could enjoy the beautiful stars and make the most of the moment. He also pointed out that before he moved oversees, he would have likely been frustrated at having to wait to find a way into the house. It was a little thing, but a way that God reminded me that He does uses trials to help us grow.

None of this means that trials are fun, or easy or that we can't grieve. But it does mean, that I am clinging to God's promise that He is working to grow me in the midst of these trials, and He will use them for good. So on this day before American Thanksgiving, I am thanking God for our broken down van. I trust that there is a good reason God has allowed this minor setback. I am thanking God that He has a good purpose for the delays in the adoption process. I thank God that he is using the challenges and conflicts of everyday life to produce in us steadfastness and maturity. Lord, teach me to "give thanks in all circumstances" (I Thes. 5:18) because I know you are good, and are working for my good. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Future Questions

About 7 years ago David told me that he was wondering if God might be calling us to teach missionary kids overseas. That idea made me so anxious that I literally lost my lunch. Today I can’t imagine a life that is more fulfilling. Certainly there are things that are hard. There are days when I am just tired, but I love where God has called us to serve. I love the people of Uganda. I love the opportunity to walk out my door and share God’s love with the children who live at Good Shepherd’s Fold. I love the beauty of this place. I love getting to be a part of what God is doing here. I know I am right where God wants me to be. 

But today I also have many questions about the future. None are quite as big as moving our family of six overseas, but they are big questions nevertheless. When will we get a court date for Evie’s adoption? Has our lawyer even filed the paperwork? (You would think that this might be easy to determine, but we have not had answers to our emails and phone calls for weeks.) When will we be able to travel to the US as a family for a furlough? (Which of course depends on the answers to the previous questions and many more.) Will we have the finances to continue some of our outreach work in our village? Who will be teaching with us next school year? How will the travel plans of the different families involved in our school affect our school schedule? I want to be able to plan, but I am learning that what I need to do is to trust God.

Honestly, I wake most mornings very anxious. I really struggle to believing that God is working for my good in all things. (Rom.8:28) I run many scenarios through my mind and try to figure it all out before I even set foot out of bed. But God is teaching me. I am learning to set my eyes on things above, not on earthly things. God is teaching me to remember. To remember his faithfulness to his people throughout all generations. To remember how He has been faithful in my life bringing good even through challenging situations. To remember that My life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col.3:1-3) To remember that God has brought me through challenging times and grown my faith in the process. 

It is easy for me to let fear of the future steal my joy whe I forget God’s faithfulness. Instead I want to choose faith over fear. I want to remember God’s faithfulness and trust Him with all the unknowns. I want to trust that He is helping me grow in the midst of so many questions. God is strengthening my faith to pray and wait while He works out these details for my good and His glory. He reminds me to focus less on my situation and more on my Savior. As I continue to struggle to trust God, I remind myself of these words from “In Christ Alone.”
“From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand. Till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ, I stand.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018


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


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! 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Learning to pray

This week I met with the small group of girls who live here at Good Shepherd’s Fold and are in my cord group. These girls get opportunities to visit with some family members during their upcoming school holidays. Before they go for holiday visits we always meet and pray together and talk about the upcoming visit. We also debrief when they come back. 

During this cord group time, I asked the girls how I could pray for them. A girl named Esther (not my daughter) responded that she wants us all to pray that her family will come to  know God. If I were this young lady, I can imagine so many other requests I would also have. I would ask God to heal the wounds on my feet so that I could walk. I would ask for God to provide for the physical needs for my family members. I would be thinking about my feelings and needs during the upcoming visit. But this amazing girl just asked for prayer that her family would know God. She said that is what they really need most. 

After sharing prayer requests, we decided to all take turns praying. I was going to be the last one to pray, so I had the privilege of listening to these girls pray first. When it was Esther’s turn to pray, I expected to hear her ask God to answer the requests we had just mentioned, but her prayer was strikingly different from what I expected. I cannot remember her exact words, but I will paraphrase the gist of her prayer. In her humble, gentle voice, her prayer went something like this:

God, you are the Almighty One, the Holy One  and everything is in your hands. You are good and love us so much that you sent Jesus to save us from our sins. You have given us so many things, you have provided for all our needs. You have given us life. You can bring my family to know you. You are the Almighty One. You are so  loving and faithful and you are working for our good. Thank you that you have all of us and our families in your hands and you can do all things. We trust you because you love us so much. Thank you, God. 

I was almost in tears realizing how much I have to learn about prayer. I often bring my requests before God, but not like this. As I listened to this precious child of God pray, my faith was strengthened. Her prayer took my eyes off of my concerns and put them on the good, faithful God who is at work. It was beautiful! 

Reflecting on her prayer afterward, I was reminded about Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. We have heard the Lord’s prayer and recited it so many times, that I sometimes forget to consider how it ought to affect the way I pray. Jesus  began his prayer acknowledging our Heavenly Father and his character. Esther so naturally did this out of her love and appreciation for who God is. And her request for her family to know God was essentially asking for God’s kingdom to come. She did not seem to be following any formula, but her prayer sounded a lot more like the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray than my usual prayers. 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from listening to the prayer of this sister in Christ who is less than one-third of my age. Her faith humbles me. Her prayer teaches me that I should spend more time looking at my Savior than I do looking at myself or my circumstances. Isn’t it interesting that due to the medical challenges she lives with, this amazing young woman spends much of her time on her knees? I want to learn to pray like her. I want to fix my eyes on Him and ask him to strengthen my faith as I continue to learn to pray.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

Recently the women in my Bible study group have taught me a lot about loving our neighbors. I have seen them work together to meet the physical needs of several others in our village and to pray for them over the past few weeks. These are not wealthy women who are giving out of their excess. These are women who work making beautiful jewelry and crafts so that they can feed their children, buy soap and medicine for their families, and send their children to school. These women have gone to bed hungry at times. These women have slept in leaky huts during rainy season. A few of them have been able to save up to buy a few solar powered lights for their family to have electricity. They all have to fetch water daily. These women have many physical needs, but they have shown me how to care more about the needs of others first. It has been a joy to see these women choose to use a portion of their earnings to help several others in our village!

This week, our Bible study was on Luke 10, where Jesus tells the parable about the Good Samaritan in response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Before our Bible study, we found out that a woman in our group had some complications with her pregnancy, had to have an emergency C-section and the baby died. Using all her savings, she had enough money that the hospital was willing to do the C-section, but she could not be discharged from the hospital until the full bill had been paid. Of course, that means that she is grieving while at the hospital and away from her family and friends, all the while increasing the bill by staying more days. The remaining bill was equal to what she is able to earn in our Buwundo Beads and Crafts group in 2 months time (a sixth of her annual salary).  The women discussed what they might do to help and agreed that if they all loaned her more than one third of their earnings for that week, she could be discharged from the hospital and pay them back one at a time as she is able. I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that?

A few weeks back, the kitchen/cooking hut of an elderly man in our village blew down in a storm. Since it is the rainy season it isn't possible to cook outside most days. And since people mostly cook over firewood and an open flame it isn't safe to cook inside the small hut where you sleep and keep your clothing. Since this man does not have a source of income, he could not afford the poles, nails and iron sheets to build his kitchen. Additionally, since he is elderly, he would really struggle to build the structure. The women from Buwundo Beads and Crafts decided to all contribute a portion of their income that week to go toward building a new cooking hut for this man. They each contributed about a fifth of their weekly income in order to care for a neighbor in need.

About a month before that, another elderly women in the community had a cooking hut with a grass roof. The roof caught on fire and the structure burned down. One of her daughters let us know about the need and I asked the women what they wanted to do. They all agreed that they wanted to contribute toward assisting her.  One of her neighbors had some poles to contribute toward the structure as well.

In each of these situations, people often come to me asking me to solve the problem since our family has resources. I definitely do want to be generous with the money God has given us, but I have realized that asking these women in the community to consider how to help is much more valuable than me jumping in and solving the problem. They often know better than I what to do and how to go about it. I am glad that they have been able to work and save money through Buwundo Beads and Crafts that they use not only for supporting their families, but also for loving their neighbors and caring for their needs. Thank you to all of you who have purchased jewelry, baskets, hot pads, and more in order to support these women. God is using them to do great work in Buwundo village, Uganda! And I pray that hearing about how these women love their neighbors, will help us all grow in our understanding of God's generous love for us and grow in the way we show His gracious love to those around us.

Also, if you are interested in helping to sell the beautiful, handmade, Buwundo Beads and Crafts products, please contact me! I have items in several locations around the United States.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wanting to have a thankful heart

Today I feel like complaining, and honestly I have done my share of it. I have malaria and I feel lousy! (I have begun treatment and am not on my death bed for those of you who are panicking. I’m well enough to write this post, and trust that after a couple more doses of treatment I will be significantly better.) But God has brought to my mind the important discipline of “giving thanks in all circumstances.” I thought that writing a blog post might help me actually list out some of the many blessing I have in the midst of this sickness. So here goes...

1- Even though the first two tests were false negatives, God has provided us with a good doctor and medical clinic in Jinja who was able to properly diagnose the malaria and begin my treatment. 

2- I can afford the life-saving testing and treatment for this disease. (Many others cannot.) I’m also thanking God for supporters who make this medical care possible for us! 

3- David and the children have been able to manage much of the cooking and cleaning for a holiday/birthday weekend. Esther has been particularly amazing! 

4- I don’t have to plan for school tomorrow since we are on Spring Break! 

5- When we visited a church in Jinja for a sunrise service, some friends there knew I wasn’t feeling well and were extremely kind and helpful! They even found a room for me to rest so that David and the kids could stay for the breakfast and fellowship time afterward! 

6- Because malaria in cyclical, I have had some times that I was able to work with Esther preparing food and was even able to keep our plans to celebrate Ezra’s birthday with an ATV ride along the Nile! It was awesome and I didn’t feel sick until the last 20 minutes or so! 

7- We have solar power, so even when electricity was out from the Ugandan grid and the GSF generator was broken, we still had electricity. 

8- Although the water was out today, during a previous water outage we got a box of bottled water which was still in our pantry. So we didn’t have to go fetch water. Many people have to fetch water daily. 

9- I had some Promethazine in my cabinet which I was able to take to reduce nausea and to keep my malaria medicine down. 

10- Writing this post has kept me awake long enough to take my next dose of medicine. Timing is important to eradicate the parasites. 

11- one day there will be no more pain or sickness!

While I would love your prayers for healing, I would also appreciate your prayers for my growth in thankfulness in the midst of struggles. I have been irritable and demanding with my family. I have been angry that I feel so bad. But I am asking God to change my heart during this struggle, to help me remember that “He has loved me with an everlasting love” and will even use these struggles for the good of “conforming me to the image of his Son!”  

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

Yesterday was Good Friday, the day we remember that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment that our sins deserve. It seems strange to call something good that is so terrible, the Son of God being brutally killed. But it was good for you and me! It is often hard for me to believe that painful things can accomplish good. Yesterday I was able to visit with a woman in our village who has been struggling with that very thing. 

Since we did not have school yesterday, I had some time to visit with Shamim, a woman who has been so kind and generous toward me. On a previous day as I was walking through the village with Evie and our friends, We met Shamim as she was cutting some sugarcane for her children. She greeted us and offered some sugar cane to Evie. Evie was thrilled to receive liquid sugar straight from chewing the cane!

She also wanted togive us a gift since we stopped to visit with her. She had a package of disposable diapers that she gave us. It was such a generous gift as diapers are expensive!   

Yesterday when I went to visit Shamim, she prepared milk tea for us and even sanitized a bottle for Evie to try some. She also shared some bananas with us! Evie played with her children for quite some time as Shamim and I visited. Over this past year she had a baby die and then her husband left her with 3 other young children to care for. Since she is from a family that is from another religion, I was able to ask her if she understood why Christians celebrate on Good Friday. We talked about how God brought about the ultimate good of redeeming us through faith even through the grief of his only Son dying. I am thankful for such friendly neighbors in Buwundo who are open to hearing more about Jesus. 

As we were preparing to leave, this sweet friend sent us home with a bag full of avocados. Evie thoroughly enjoyed playing with and eating them when we reached home! Uh oh, I’ve been caught playing with my food again!!

As if the morning in the village was not enough of a joyous celebration on Good Friday, we were also given the opportunity to participate in a Passover Seder with some other families in Jinja. It was such a blessing to see how Jesus was so clearly represented through all the symbolism of this beautiful meal. I was thankful that our whole family was able to participate together. Afterward all of our children were able to run around with friends and have a blast while we stayed for a soup dinner. 

There is so much for which to be thankful in this season! God has graciously sent his own Son to redeem us! My sins are paid for! I have been brought into God’s family through Jesus. He is the Son of God, the Savior, who experienced death, that we might have life! And we know that death could not hold him! He is alive! But we will wait and celebrate that part tomorrow...

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Date to Remember

On Thursday, Ezra and I had a mother-son date to Jinja. It didn’t occur to me that since it was Election Day for the MP(Member of Parliament), things might be a little crazy! It was a rainy day and even before we left the house things started to go awry. The windshield wiper on the passenger side broke and the car was making a bad noise, so we had to go to the mechanic in town first. After the vehicle safely made it through the 45 minute trek to town and right before reaching the Mechanic’s shop, we drove through a bunch of police officers with billy clubs in one hand and automatic weapons in the other. We made our way safely through and to the shop. From inside the Mechanic’s walled compound we could hear lots of shouting out in the streets. 

Since there was a noise beneath the van, the mechanic asked me to drive up the ramp in order for him to check beneath. I had never before tried to drive a vehicle onto a ramp that just had space for the tires. It was exciting! Then he got some other guys to come over and shake the van to see if anything was loose, all while we were still up on the ramp. It was an adventurous beginning for our date! You can see the ramp behind us in this photo. 

As we left, the police had cleared from that area and we passed many groups of people out walking in the streets. Apparently the opposition candidate won and many people were out celebrating! The shouting we heard earlier was probably when they were announcing the results. It was pretty challenging to get across town between the road construction, the crowds in the streets, and the various places we found police or soldiers marching. It made us a bit nervous, but in the end, we were able to get to a restaurant and have our milkshakes and snacks. 

While the trip was a little stressful, we were able to enjoy special time together and make some memories that will last a lifetime! Apparently the next day there was tear gas released in Jinja. I was thankful we didn’t get stuck in the middle of that situation. We are grateful that we were able to have a fun date that evening even though it didn’t quite go as planned. 

This unusual date with my boy reminded me that in every situation, I can either be thankful and trust that God is working for good even when things appear chaotic, or I can complain in my heart and waste the beautiful opportunities God gives us. By God’s grace, He enabled Ezra and me to keep a sense of humor and enjoy this special time together. I pray that in the course of our adventures, God will give me the ability to see his gifts in the midst of changed plans and challenging circumstances. I want to trust that my loving Lord is working for my good even when I’m trapped in a rambunctious crowd, and I don’t know what will happen. “And we know that God works all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Many days I live like I don’t believe this truth. I’m irritable and complain when things don’t go as I had hoped or planned. I forget that God’s ways are much better than mine. I forget that He even uses these situations to conform me to the image of Jesus (vs.29) But on these occasions when, by his grace, I am able to trust Him amidst the craziness, I praise him for giving me His joy in the midst. It was a blessing to be able to share the gift of a moment of faith and joy with my precious son! Thanks be to God for a date to remember! 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Where am I looking

Growing up, I took gymnastics classes for about 10 years. After that I began teaching gymnastics and did that for another 10 years in various part-time capacities. I always enjoyed floor and vault. Parallel bars were okay, but my least favorite event was the balance beam. It is not easy to stay on that thing! My younger students who were just learning to walk on the beam would inevitably look at their feet, see how narrow the beam is and the distance to the ground below and freeze up a bit. One “trick” I would teach my students is to keep their eyes at the end of the beam. If you look at the end, you keep your head up and it is much easier to move forward. 

I recently read in Matthew 14:23-33, the account of Jesus walking on the water and Peter stepping out to join him. It is amazing to think that Peter asked Jesus to call him to do something that he obviously could not do in his own strength. Peter believed that Jesus could enable him to do miraculous things. And then comes verse 30. “But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” Peter took his eyes off the end of the beam (Jesus). He looked at his circumstances instead of looking to the One who was enabling him to walk! 

Lately, I have felt like I’m sinking in some ways. I’ve spent too much time looking at the wind. When I have a free moment, I often find myself thinking about my mistakes and circumstances rather than looking to Jesus. I leave a conversation and immediately worry about what I said and how it might be interpreted. I fear how I might have failed or disappointed others. I get anxious about the adoption process. I worry about whether we will be able to cross the border with Evie to go to a Global Outreach conference in Kenya, even though we are working to get all the paperwork that would possibly be required. I get anxious about what next school year will look like as we are still looking for another teacher to cover all our classes. I look down at my feet and stop walking. I look at the wind and start sinking. 

In the midst of these times of anxiety and fear, I remember what Peter did when he started to sink. “He cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.” I need to call out to my Lord in the midst of these struggles. I need to remember that He is there to rescue me. I am slowly learning that each time I start to sink, I can call out to my Lord. He will “reach out his hand and take hold of me.” He is loving and gracious! He is working for my good. I want to believe these truths and rest knowing that Jesus can accomplish the miraculous, and even when I get distracted by the wind, he is there for me. What an gracious, kind, powerful Savior! 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rabies scare

Last week Esther woke up with a bat on her leg. No, not a baseball bat. The fuzzy flying mammal. The kind that has been known to carry rabies. She screamed and kicked it off and saw if fall out of her mosquito net and flap down the hall. Of course that woke us and we began searching the house to get rid of it. But to no avail. Finally we settled our two girls back to sleep, and about an hour later Elijah woke and said there was a bat inside his mosquito net. We were still not able to find it. A few days later Ezra found it dead in the boys’ LEGO bin. 

It was a disturbing night, but I didn’t think much about it. We live in a village called Buwundo, which means “bats” in Luganda. Yes, we literally live in a place called Bat Village. I didn’t know the meaning of the name when we moved here. 

In a bizarre series of events, our pediatrician heard about the incident. He highly encouraged us to treat our children as if they had been exposed to rabies. Even though their chance of actually being exposed was very low, once someone becomes symptomatic with rabies, it is too late to treat them.  

As we received this information from our friend and doctor, I was in Kampala with Esther for a mother-daughter weekend. David and I decided that I should borrow a car and drive Esther to a hospital that had the immunoglobulin rabies vaccine. If you are not familiar with driving in Kampala, it can be pretty overwhelming. I asked Esther to help navigate using my phone and Google maps as we set out for the hospital. We eventually found our way there, but since it was after regular hours, it took about 2 hours to get a doctor to say that she needs the shot, take that prescription to the pharmacy, pay for the shot and then go back to the nurse to have it administered. It was quite an ordeal. As we were preparing to leave the hospital, I got another message from David that in addition to the immunoglobulin, the CDC and our pediatrician/friend recommend getting the regular vaccine. I spoke with the nurse and she said that since that is not their usual protocol, she would need for us to wait to see the doctor and go through the whole process again. It was now getting to be late and the hospital was filling with more people waiting to see the doctor. I decided that we would just wait and get the other vaccine in Jinja the next day. The boys were going to get the vaccine too, so it made sense to do that all together. We drove back in the dark to the place where we were spending the night and only missed our turn about 3 times. It was definitely an adventure. 

That night I woke with a panic attack. In the process of trying to decide if Esther was going to have the six injections recommended, we had a discussion about the seriousness of the disease. Soon after we moved to Uganda, a family member of a missionary here died from rabies. As I woke in the night, I prayed for my daughter who means the world to me. I also realized that even though Esther and I were able to joke around together during our two hours in a cross-cultural hospital setting, I was emotionally drained from the experience. As I laid in my bed with high blood pressure and tightness in my chest, all I could do was pray. 

My dear friend in the US just posted the words to a song that we had talked about before, and it was a timely reminder. Here are the words below:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
To teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
By Matt Maher

I was definitely feeling like I was falling apart. But God gave me the strength to persevere through that day and eventually slowed my breathing, and gave me His peace as I prayed so that I could go back to sleep and get some of the rest I needed that night. 

As I am writing now, I am again up in the night. Esther has had 4 of her total 6 shots that she will receive over the course of the month. This time I woke because Evie was crying and I settled her down and put her back to bed. Again I will pray knowing my dependence on my Lord. It is definitely true that without Him I would fall apart. But he has given me His grace through this rabies scare and every hour I see my need for him even more each day. In my weakness and dependence, He is “my hope and stay.”

Here is a photo with my two beautiful girls! Since they were matching I needed to take a photo. I am so thankful that I get to be their mama!