Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Trusting God with My Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Taking the Next Step

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Airplane Reflections on My Final Destination



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

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

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

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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Overwhelmed by Generosity!

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Safely Stateside

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

In Uganda, my children wear clothes with holes and I don’t care. That is normal. Here I begin to feel embarrassed. It is so strange living in these two very different worlds. It is tricky to learn to live with contentment in both of them. I recently read this post written by another missionary serving in East Africa and it really resonated with my experience. https://www.abwe.org/blog/awkward-missionary-%E2%80%98middle%E2%80%99-between-poverty-and-wealth?fbclid=IwAR1FUHQUIXVqMg2Q2-wwm5zn0Q5aMusP_FUozQtr4oAz41Uzys_UuuHJs8Y

I want to learn to live with contentment in both settings. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4 that he has “ learned the secret of being content in every situation... living in plenty and in want.” I want to live this life of contentment on both sides of the ocean. I thank God for the many ways He shows me His faithful loving care for me and those around me in both places. As I arrived in country, my dear friends had a pile of winter clothes and shoes for me that they either purchased for me or lent to me. It was so good to see God’s provision in something as basic as the clothes I needed in order to stay warm. It reminds me of Matthew 6.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew‬ ‭6:25, 28-30, 33‬ ‭ESV‬‬https://bible.com/59/mat.6.25,28-30,33.esv)
As I see God’s provision for each of my basic needs it reminds me that I can be content in each situation. I can choose to live in faith rather than in fear. And I remembering God’s faithful loving care and provision for me is an important part of shifting my focus. I pray that when fears and discontentment begin to take over, I will instead focus on God’s gracious loving care for me and how He has called me to show that love to those around me. Whether I am in Uganda, or in the United States or anywhere in the world, I am in the arms of my loving Savior.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

On my way

Today Elijah and I are on our way for a quick trip to the US. If you haven’t gotten details through our email, either it went to your spam folder or you are not on our mailing list. If you want to join the mailing list, let me know. If you are in the Athens, Georgia area you can come see us at Faith Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Feb.24. If you are near Boca Raton, FL you can find us at Advent Lutheran Church on Sunday, March 3. Please pray for David as he cares for the other four kids while I’m away. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

What a Start!

The start of 2019 has been crazy! I wrote about the incident with the bees attacking some of our neighbors. Since then, so much has happened. One week contained the death of the son of one of our friends, the burial of that child, another friend's child having a strange sickness that caused a temporary total shutdown of her metal faculties, the death of a family friend of many of our students, several families inquiring about our school which led to 4 new students, a home study to prepare for Evie's adoption, a transition in leadership of the Buwundo Beads and Crafts group, working on hiring someone to assist us with cleaning at school and another person to help with caring for Evie while I'm teaching, the death of an elderly neighbor and assisting with details for his burial, and finally, an attack on our ministry by a dozen thieves who entered the homes of two of our missionary families at Good Shepherd's Fold. In the midst of all of this, I have seen God at work in many ways.

I recently listened to a sermon about suffering. This quote caught my attention. "God will graciously give you suffering and faith, so that you might enjoy making much of Him through the fearlessness of faith and the humility of love... In small ways and large ways, you will suffer... The design of this double gift of suffering and grace is humility, love and fearlessness." (John Piper's sermon on Philippians 1) God is graciously giving suffering and faith during this season. I am finding myself less anxious these days in the midst of many challenges. God is growing my faith. I'm sure my struggle with anxiety and fear is not over completely, but God is showing me that I can trust Him to sustain and even grow us through difficulties.

Last week another missionary couple came to visit us here at GSF. They have been connected with the ministry here for many years. As they led our time of team devotions and they shared some words of encouragement  with us. One thing the woman shared was the image of our Lord going before us, preparing the way  for us. It was a good reminder that these struggles are not a surprise to God. He has intended these challenges for our good and gently leads us in and through them. It seems silly for me to be anxious as I walk down the path following my Lord, who loves me, is all-powerful, and is working for my good. Instead I will trust where He leads. I thought I would share this photo Elijah took as a visual representation of that.

We have also seen God provide above and beyond what was needed to replace the things that were stolen. This additional provision will enable GSF to improve our campus security. We also hope and pray that many people are strengthened in their faith through as they hear of the ways God is at work here. And during the week following the theft, some of the GSF staff went to share the love of Christ at a local hospital. They provided some necessary supplies for the hospital and shared the gospel. It was so encouraging to hear that some people put their faith in Jesus Christ as a result of that outreach!

We are thankful that God has given us little glimpses of what He is doing in the midst of this challenging season. Sometimes we just move forward in faith, and sometimes God provides us with a little picture of his good purposes in the midst of it all. Either way, God is good, all the time. And all the time God is good!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Bees

On Friday morning I woke hearing wailing coming from the village. David and I assumed someone had died. Soon afterward a neighbor came to ask us for help as some of our elderly neighbors had a swarm of bees enter their home. David went with a can of Doom (the local bug spray) and found several people trying to get the bees away from them. Once the bees were gone we found that the woman was covered with stingers, hundreds of them. Her husband had dozens. We decided that David would go to school and I would drive them and a few other neighbors to the hospital. Esther asked me what to write on the board for my students to do until I returned. She is so helpful and responsible and such a blessing to our family. 

The women who were coming with me to the hospital to help care for them told me to tie something over my hair in case some of the bees followed us into the van. While I drove to the hospital I could hear that the couple was in a great deal of pain. When we arrived at the hospital the nurse quickly gave them injections of cortisone and pain medicine. The woman kept telling us that she was dying. They are elderly and not in great health in general, so I didn’t know if she would survive this attack. As the nurse took care of these medicines and set up an IV drip, she asked the other caregivers and me to remove the stingers. We read Psalm 23 as we began removing the stingers. The woman knew parts of it by heart and was able to even recite some of it with me and help me with the pronunciation of some of the Luganda words. I was so thankful that the pain medicine had started helping. Her face and head had the most stings, although they were all over her body. Just from her lip to her nose I removed over 20 stingers. That is such a sensitive area that it was difficult to convince her to let me remove them, but the nurse said that it was important. I stayed long enough to help remove all of the stingers, to get her cleaned and dressed in a hospital robe and to apply a topical cream. We arranged for their care because at hospitals here it is the responsibility of the family and friends to provide food and any care other than the medical needs.

 I needed to get back to the school to teach my Pre-Calculus and Algebra 1 and 2 classes.  I was a bit frazzled, but I returned to find that my Pre-Calculus students had already worked together to understand the lesson. I’m thankful for my hard-working, cooperative students. 

After school, David decided to suit up in the bee suit he had gotten from someone who had kept bees here. He wanted to go and make sure our neighbor’s house was safe and bee free before we brought them back from the hospital. He only found about 50 bees near a pile of rubbish, but earlier in the day there had been thousands. 


When the the elderly couple had finished receiving treatment at the hospital that evening, I took two of my boys with me to pick them up. I was amazed that the woman was up and able to walk out of the hospital. I had carried her in that morning while she was telling us that she was dying. Her face was still very swollen, but she was significantly improved. I thank God that he has provided us with a vehicle  to use in these emergency situations. I also thank God for the medicines that were available and quickly administered at a nearby hospital. And I thank God for the many neighbors who came to help these two. When I arrived that morning, I found four other neighbors all working to try to get the bees off this couple. I love the way so many came to their aid, even putting themselves in danger. I thank God for providing us with a bee suit months in advance so that David could go and make certain that their house was clear for them to return home. 

While this Friday did not go at all as I had thought or planned, it was a good reminder that God has all our days in His plans. My years in Uganda have taught me that things rarely go as I expected, and that is fine. Since God has my life in his hands, I don’t need to worry so much about the details. I’m thankful for the way He worked things out for the day and provided for this couple. This day reminds me of Psalm 139:16
“All the days ordained for me, were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
I’m glad I didn’t know what Friday was going to hold, otherwise I would have worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it all. But God provided just what we needed! I pray that these suprisingly unusual days will teach me to trust Him with each day that He has ordained for me.