Monday, September 4, 2023

Trusting God with our children

One of the things I find the most difficult in life, is that I cannot protect my children from pain. As I write, one of my children is recovering from malaria which is a miserable disease. Another child during his first case of malaria in Uganda said that he felt like he was going to die. Since many children in Uganda do die from malaria that was not just an overly dramatic statement to laugh off. It was terrifying. Thankfully he recovered from that case after receiving treatment and the one who is sick now is on the mend as well. 

While physical ailments can be scary, we have always had access to the medical care needed and were able to do something to help them recover. Walking through the challenges our children experience in other ways can be even more challenging. My older two children are learning to be young adults in a country where they did not grow up. Figuring out cultural norms and how to do life in a different place where you do not yet have community is definitely challenging. My younger children are learning to make friends in a new culture. They are used to living on a large compound with other missionary families and children in residence who play outside until dark most days after school. We are working to build relationships with our neighbors here, but we don't really see most of them. It can be lonely. The challenges of adjusting to living in America during this season are not as easy to "treat" as malaria. My heart aches when my youngest cries because she is missing her friends in Uganda and does not yet have many friends here. 

As each of my children face different challenges in adjusting to life on this side of the ocean, I often feel overwhelmed. I wish I could make it all better. I wish I could take away the pain of the losses they are experiencing. I find myself waking in the night wondering how to love and support them well. But what I am learning is that I cannot make it all better. As our children walk through challenging seasons of life, maybe my role is not to make it all better, but to just be there and lift them up to their Heavenly Father who loves them more than I do. I want them to find comfort and joy in Him, not in a comfortable, easy life. Even as I write that sentence I struggle with it. I do want life to be comfortable and easy for my kids. I hate seeing them suffer. What good parent really likes watching their child suffer. But what I am learning, is that God has a bigger better picture in mind. 

In my life, God has always used my most difficult struggles to draw me nearer to Himself and then to give me opportunities to minister to others. Yesterday I sat with a friend who reminded me that our deepest hurts often lead to our greatest opportunity for ministry. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. 

"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. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

Our Lord suffered in this life so that we could be comforted in Him. My prayer is that my children would each know comfort from their Savior as they walk through challenging times. I regularly need to remind myself that I am not my children's best hope. Their Savior is. And I pray that each of them would find hope in Him. 

I am learning that as my children grow, my role is becoming more a ministry of prayer. And maybe, God is teaching me to trust Him with the ones closest to my heart. Maybe, God is reminding me that I never was the One in control and that is a good thing. He is God, and I am not. I don't see the whole picture. I just see a little snippet. And He who loves us enough to die to bring us into his family, also loves us and our children enough to work for our good even in challenging seasons of loss and change. I am learning to trust Him, slowly by slowly (as we say in Uganda), with some sleepless nights along the way. But He is good and I am clinging to that. And He loves our children better than we ever could. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Giving Thanks in Rainy Season

This rainy season I have been reminded that I often need to choose thankfulness. We have been given so many blessings, but it is easy to lose perspective. In most situations I can choose to give thanks or to grumble and complain. I was reminded on Sunday, how the Israelites often saw the miraculous works of God like the parting of the Red Sea to save them from the Egyptians and then just a few days later began complaining again. (Exodus 14 - 15) I am too much like that. I see God at work in amazing ways and then soon after, I begin wondering if he will take care of me. I often forget to focus on all he has done and the many ways he has provided. 

As theses last two weeks have been exceptionally rainy and cloudy, we have been running out of electricity at some point in the night. The house gets very dark and I often wake when the fans stop. I also often wake to the rain which means we need to close the windows so that the rain doesn’t blow in.  It is easy to get frustrated about not sleeping as well or the extra time it takes to find and light candles and dry everything that has gotten wet in the rain. But I am also reminded how much I have for which to give thanks. 

Instead of being annoyed at the 4 hours at the end of the night and early in the morning without electricity, I can thank God for the 20 hours I do have it. Many friends in our village do not have any electricity in their homes. I am also reminded that other than for a few weeks during rainy season, we are blessed with consistent electricity in a country where that is often not the norm. When we were living in a house on the grid during our first two years here in Uganda, every time someone would turn on a light, Zeke would shout “Power is back!” It was the norm to lose electricity and every time we could turn on a light switch we gave thanks and Zeke celebrated. 

As the sun comes up this morning and I look out at all that is growing this rainy season, I am also reminded of God’s provision through the rains. The land is being watered and people are able to grow food to feed their families. These rainy days are a gift from the Lord! I pray that the Lord will help me to see the blessings in the midst of the struggles. That I would give thanks more than I grumble. And this morning I am thankful that there is a bit of clear sky to literally recharge our batteries. And God is giving me a thankful heart to also figurative recharge. Many you also see God’s good gifts in the midst of your rainy seasons! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

School Fees Gave Birth

 Recently one of our neighbors told another woman, "School Fees gave birth." We were all a little confused when we first heard the statement. When asked to explain, she told us that she had named the piglet she received at Christmas 16 months ago "School Fees." She had built a pen for the pig and taken care of it for that time. She named the piglet School Fees because she has 3 children in school and she planned to use the proceeds from this pig to benefit her children's education. It was a good reminder of her goal. 

I was so pleased to hear that this pig grew and gave birth in time for her to sell 4 of the 8 piglets in time to pay her children's school fees this year. One piglet did not survive, but she still has 3 more piglets growing to expand her business. The next time her pig gives birth, she is planning to give one of the piglets to her mother in order to help her start up her own small farm. It is such an encouragement to me to see your gifts multiply in such beautiful ways. Thank you for your partnership in our ministry here. It is bearing fruit (and piglets). 

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Maundy Thursday Service Day

On the Thursday before Good Friday, we often try to do a service project with our students. While our students all live here in Uganda, many of them live in the city and do not have as much exposure to life in the village where most people don’t have running water and electricity. While we are called to serve others in love every day, we choose this day in particular to do a school service project in order to remember Jesus’ example to us. 

On the night before Jesus was crucified, at his last meal with his disciples, he washed his disciples feet. On the church calendar, this day is called Maundy Thursday, meaning “mandate.” The mandate given to followers of Christ is pretty clear. Love one another. Serve one another in love. After washing their feet Jesus said this his disciples, 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
‭‭John‬ ‭13‬:‭34‬-‭35‬ ‭

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if that is what followers of Jesus Christ were know for? Love 

As our village Bible study group has grown to nearly 100 women, we wanted our students to be able to serve this group of women in particular. The women’s Bible study has been reading in the book of John in preparation for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We joined their group this week and washed their feet. Since it was such a large group we had the students working together at 10 different washing stations, washing and drying feet and fetching and changing water. Washing feet is a very practical need here, especially during rainy season. Several of the women walk a distance to come to the Bible study. Sandals are commonly worn here just as they were in Biblical culture. It is fascinating how many things from the Bible make more sense to me after living in Uganda for 10 years. One highlight of this time was that David had the opportunity to wash the feet of our neighbor, Miriam. There was much laughter as it is highly unusual in this culture for men to serve women. 

After serving the women from the Bible study, we took the students to a nearby primary school where they cleaned the classrooms, planted flowers, played games with the students and then read to them about Jesus life, death and resurrection. Our teachers had opportunities to answer questions and share the gospel. It was such a blessing seeing our students and teachers serve in so many ways. 

After lunch the high schoolers went with me to the home of one woman from our Bible study group who lives in a small rented room with five of her children. Our students cleaned her room, fetched water, washed some of their clothes and visited with her family and neighbors. 

This woman is wanting to start up a business selling Chapati, a local flat bread. She had been in this business before, but after having her last child, she has not yet had the resources to start back up. We were able to take her some of the items needed for restarting her business along with a few other necessities. It is our prayer that her business will be successful and she will be able to provide for the needs of her family. 

That evening as we talked about the day as a family, some of my children’s comments convicted me. One of my kids said that we should not just be thinking about service on this day, but we should think about it always. Another one of my kids asked about Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, where Jesus told him to sell all he has, give to the poor and follow Jesus. My son asked if we should be selling all of our things to give more away. 

I am thankful that we follow a Savior who not only told us to serve one another in love, but also did that himself. He humbled himself not only to wash feet, but to die for us, that we might be raised to new life with Him. I pray that we will deeply know the love of Christ for us and that will motivate us all to serve one another in love. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Still Learning Patience

I’m back at the mobile service center again growing in patience. I have been able to get my old phone number back working, but it is still the older, slower SIM card. I am trying to be thankful that at least my old number works and I can receive messages and phone calls. 

The woman helping me needs my passport and visa and has to take pictures of everything along with a picture of me holding a SIM card and upload them  to the system which often fails. After taking all the photos twice with 30 minutes of waiting in between, she held onto my passport along with the 8th form I have filled out at this place in the past month or so. Then she told me too ok sit and wait while she helped another customer. After helping him she called me up and asked for my old SIM card and then started looking for my passport. She couldn’t find it. After looking at her desk and going to the back several times for several minutes she told me I needed to be looking for it, because she probably gave it back to me. I emptied my bag several times, but I also knew that I never received it back from her. I asked if it might be possible that the previous customer took it from the desk since I had seen it there just minutes before. She showed me that he did not take her phones or cash that was lying around, so why would he take my passport. 

After waiting for quite some time, I began asking other employees to help in the search. There was no manager around to ask for help. At this point I had been in the service center for over two hours and my patience was wearing thin. I also was asking if someone could at least check the security camera to see what had happened to my passport. I had begun thinking of all the implications of a lost passport while living overseas. Buying plane tickets, going to a hotel, even getting a SIM card, require a passport and proof of valid visa. As I tried to keep my mind from spiraling, I decided to dump my bag out once again to look in case I had somehow missed it. 

As I was sorting through all the things in my bag, the woman who was helping me told me I just needed to sit and wait. I explained that I was rechecking my bag as she had told me to do. She then told me that the man she helped right before me had taken my passport by mistake. Apparently she had actually handed it to him on accident along with his other papers. I was so relieved and thankful that the passport was found! 

She told me again to sit and be patient while she figured out how to get it back. I took a deep breath and tried to just be thankful. The man she gave my passport to was traveling and had gone more than half an hour away from town before realizing that he had it.  She told me I could sit and wait or follow her to where she was going to pick it up. Since I had been sitting in the same place for almost 3 hours already, I decided that we would drive along. So David and I followed the service vehicle as it drove ridiculously fast, weaving in and out of traffic for 30 minutes heading away from town in the opposite direction of our home (30 more minutes.) 

As we reached the taxi park, we drove up and were handed my passport through the truck window. This was not how I planned to spend my Friday afternoon/evening. But I am just very thankful to have my passport back. I guess this was another opportunity to grow in patience. I am praying that when I go back to the service center, God will enable me to be gracious, patient and kind. Please pray that I could reflect the love of Jesus to this young Muslim woman with whom I have had the opportunity to build quite a relationship through this SIM card saga. I’m asking God to give me his perspective even in the midst of stressful and frustrating situations. That is not my natural tendency or thought process. But I believe God has to be using this ridiculous series of events for some good purpose. That good purpose may be to just grow me in patience, or it may be an opportunity to show His love to others. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

My Lament

Over the past few weeks I have noticed that I have been increasingly easily angered. I am still trying to “be patient” about my SIM card not working. I am sitting at the service center for the 5th time as I write. But that is not the reason for all of my pent up anger. I realized that there were several things I was constantly anxious about and several things that, quite frankly, I was angry about toward God. A good friend encouraged me to take time to write out a prayer of lament to deal with some of my pent up anger and anxiety. 

I knew this would take some time to process, so I decided that I needed an afternoon alone. On a day that I did not have any afternoon classes to teach and our house was going to be empty, I scheduled time to lament. My friend gave me an activity from a Trauma Healing training to work through. It talked about the different components of a lament in Scripture. Looking at Psalm 13 as an example, It walked through the various components of a lament. There are basically two essentials. The first is that you are talking to God directly and the second is that you bring your complaint. Often there is repentance and an acknowledgment of God’s goodness, but not always. 

Growing up as a “good Christian girl,” the idea of complaining to God just feels a bit weird. I often think I’m supposed to “rejoice always.” I’m supposed to believe truth about how God is good and uses all things for our good and His glory. I’m supposed to speak truth to myself and believe it. The problem is that I struggle with all of those things. And when I try to take a short cut and jump right to what I am “supposed” to do, think and feel, I end up stuffing my true struggles and faking that I am fine. But when I end up shouting at my kids and am angry at the world, I realize that I am not “fine.” 

So I wrote out my lament, my complaints to God. It was good for my soul. I told him all the things that feel so wrong and grieve my heart. I told him that I sometimes feel like he hasn’t heard my concerns. After exhausting myself with writing my lament, I rested a bit. Then I decided that I needed to actually speak the words aloud to the Lord. For me, sometimes I am not able to fully process without speaking aloud. I was thankful that I had found a time when others weren’t around so that I could feel free to speak my complaints and concerns to God. Even as I spoke my concerns, truths about his loving care for me and my family came to mind. After writing and then speaking my own personal lament, I decided to use the psalms to further express my feelings to the Lord. 

As I read through several of the Psalms, I was sometimes surprised at how bluntly David spoke to God. The Bible tells us that David was a “man after God’s own heart,” and he often brought his complaints to the Lord. The Trauma Healing material says that more of the psalms are laments (67) than any other type. I took some time and wrote out all the things I read that resonated with my soul from several psalms. I also wrote the truths about God that I wanted to cling to even when I am struggling to believe. It was very helpful to me. I don’t feel like I am “all better” and over the grief and struggles I have, but I do feel less angry. And I do believe that God has heard my cry. 

I don’t know what you may be struggling with right now. In this broken world, we all have struggles. But I want to encourage you to pour out your heart to God. He hears you. He sees you. And he wants your heart. 

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemies say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13)

Thursday, January 5, 2023

“Be Patient”

I have been getting a message lately that I need to grow in patience. Yesterday as I tried to figure out why the cell phone company shut off my service, I was asked to re-register and then wait. At first, I was told that my SIM card will be turned on within the hour. Since I made a special trip to town for that purpose, I decided to wait in town to make sure it actually turned on. After 2 hours of waiting, I came back to the service center and inquired about why it was still not working. They told me that it was moving more slowly than usual and I was told, “You be patient. Wait the whole day. It will come on. You just be patient.” This is a pretty common phrase here in Uganda. I am often amazed at how patient Ugandans are in general. I could not stay in town all day waiting on my phone to start working since we were hosting our team devotions that evening and one of my kids was at home sick with malaria. 

During our team devotions we talked about God being faithful to keep his promises. I thought, “that is different from the cellular service center.” When God promises that he will do something, he keeps his promises! But it is also true that I often need to be patient to wait on His timing. 

As I was driving to town the next day, I got stuck behind a very slow-moving dump truck on the dirt roads. Because of the rains, much of the road is not wide enough to pass. And big trucks usually stay in the middle to avoid getting stuck. So as I was creeping along the way to town, frustrated that I could not pass, I realized once again that I needed to be patient. 

When I reached the cellular service center, I found out that the reason my phone never started working was that my SIM card was still registered under my husband’s name and he needed to come with his passport and visa to update it. Of course we live about 30 minutes from town (40 when you are stuck behind a dump truck). I decided that I would get a temporary SIM card so that I could communicate until I can get my phone number switched back on when we are both in town on Saturday. This time I waited in the store until I received the message that my phone now had cell service. I am thankful that I do have a means of communication and that God is teaching me to wait on his timing. 

These little things, that take days longer than I think they should, remind me that even when I don’t understand, God is at work. Not having access to my phone or internet helped me realized that I needed more focused times of prayer and meditation on God’s faithfulness. And it also helped me see little ways that he is at work in other areas of life. As I continue to learn to be patient, I am thankful for God’s faithfulness. He is at work and I will trust in Him.