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.”