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! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas shopping in Buwundo Village

My Esther loves to give gifts! She likes to make presents for friends. if she knows something a friend wants, she loves to be able to give that gift and bring joy to that person. She enjoys baking for people, but our oven has not been working for a couple of weeks, so we needed to come up with other gift ideas.

Esther heard that one of her friends really wanted a duckling for Christmas. Her friend’s mom said that it would be a fine gift, so we set out through our village asking whose duck has recently hatched ducklings. As we were preparing to go, I asked Elijah if he wanted to come along, but he said that it sounded a little too much like a “wild goose chase.” He said, “I’m sure it will be a fun adventure, but it is a little too early in the morning for me.” At 7:30am Esther, Evie and I began our shopping adventure. Our neighbor, Shaminah, said she knew of a few people who had ducklings, so she offered to come direct us. This was a good opportunity to work on my Luganda as we sat and visited with some friends in the village. The first place had already sold all their ducks to get money for Christmas. The second home with ducklings had ones that were more like teenage ducks. After visiting with some more friends, they directed us to an area with many ducks and ducklings of various ages. After some time of discussing which duckling to choose, we selected two possible ones.

After choosing one, we needed to figure out who to pay. Apparently the owner of these ducks had gone for the burial of a friend. Thankfully some friends of mine were there to help me know with whom to leave the money. That can be a bit tricky. After successfully purchasing the duckling we began our walk home. We were all enjoying the morning’s adventure. 

We drove into town to give the gift to Esther’s friend. Her reaction was priceless! She was thrilled to have this little duckling to love on! 

I have done Christmas shopping in Various places like Boca Raton, FL, Chattanooga, TN, Athens, GA and Jinja and Kampala in Uganda. But Christmas shopping in Buwundo Village is definitely a fun, unique adventure! Merry Christmas from the village! 

Monday, December 18, 2017


On a recent Sunday we heard a sermon about the early church from the book of Acts. We heard how the early church shared meals together, how they cared for each other‘s needs, how they spent time together regularly. The pastor talked about how we should know where the members of our church live, we should share meals together, visit the sick in our community and pray for one another. I was convicted about the ways I have failed to care for members of our church community. I thought about the elderly woman who lives just a five minute walk from my house, but is not well enough to walk to church.

My family prayed for this jajja (grandmother) at lunch. It occurred to me that my Sunday afternoon was free, so I decided to take Evie for a walk and check on the her. Our dog, Penny, tagged along. We found our friend sitting outside her house, and we had the opportunity to sit and visit and pray with her. Next-door to this jajja, a new house has been built. During the process of building, I have been very curious about the family who was going to live there. It is a large brick house with its own water source and electricity. It is probably the nicest house in our village. As Evie, Penny and I were walking home from visiting the jajja, a friend of the family who lives at the new house drove up. Penny walked up to greet the man who had arrived. We began talking I asked if he lived there. He said no, but insisted that I meet his friends who did live there. They came out to greet me and invited me into their home. The wife quickly brought me food and drink. They invited my dog into their house and even brought her a plate of food with meat. As we sat and got to know one another a bit, I discovered that they are business owners who bought land in the village to farm. They have stated a passion fruit vineyard and also own some sugarcane fields and some cattle. We talked about farming and business and faith.

After visiting for some time, I needed to get Evie home so I excused myself and thanked them for their hospitality. I began imagining a scenario in the United States where a stranger of another race walks up to your house. I cannot imagine many Americans inviting that stranger in, offering food and friendship to a previously unknown person. It is almost  comical to think about that scenario in the US. We warn our kids about these situations. And there are sometimes valid concerns for safety. But I was blessed and amazed by the generous hospitality of my new friends here in Buwundo village.

In this Advent season I think of Mary and Joseph traveling and not finding anywhere to stay while she was ready to deliver. What a challenging time to be turned away rather than shown hospitality. I am sure there are many people who would love to be welcomed into a home this time of year. I hope that God grows in me this heart of hospitality that I have seen and is demonstrated by the early church in the book of Acts. I want to learn from my neighbors how to value and welcome people even in this busy season, especially in this Advent season.