Friday, February 20, 2015

A different kind of side-line bench

I’m at a week long “Mentor Training” with my company.  We have focused a great deal of time on Millennials – as many new personnel are in that generation.   I saw them called YOLOs and only found out yesterday what that stands for.  Maybe most of you know, but I live in Africa!   You Only Live Once

This week, it was funny for me to realize I was sitting in the ‘mature’ group when the ‘young people’ came as a panel for discussion.    The young people want mentors, but don’t know how to ask or what that would look like.  The old people don’t really know how to ‘be a mentor’ either.    Some things it should not be, we all agree, is another task on our plate to juggle or box to check off.  That in a company, it is very difficult to have ‘mentor-vision’:  a mentor relationship combined with a supervision job expectation.     Mentoring is perhaps done on a more casual – albeit intentional – way.

And another familiar statement was made again this week: about how in the recent 10-20 years all the little league kids get trophies, even the ones on the side-lines who never get out and actually make a play.

It got me to thinking about a side-line kind of life metaphor.

My family’s job is to be off the bench, on the front lines playing. 
Many colleagues are in a rough field like American football, or the lonely track of a distance runner or swimmer, or in an understated game like chess that requires a great deal of planning and calculating of every move or conversation or risk literal knocking out of the game or worse.

Often the audience sits, watching, waiting, for the player to make a shot, make the time, make the great move.  Then replay and talk about how their favorite player did such a great or lousy job or how the odds were stacked against them.

I have recently felt like I’ve been ‘sent to the bench’.  Like a book that’s been useful and is now being put back up on the shelf.  I’ve heard lots of times that the 3 big things that take my colleague out of ‘the game’  are problems in marriage, in team, or medical.       We personally have dealt with marriage struggles, and both knew that ultimately we had a lot of control over what happens there.   We have struggled with team issues – when we only could work on our side with no control over the other.  And both were hard.  Whether it’s all up to you to do what’s hard sometimes, or when half of it is unknown and not up to you.  In so many life issues, it is our choice to learn how to die to self.  And sometimes we do better with that than others.  Millenials are termed selfish.   We older ‘mature’ people may not show it so unabashedly, but we are all selfish too.
And now, it seems my little family is dealing with the last of the big three in that list: medical.  And this one, we have so little control over.
The question that hangs is ‘will it take us out of this particular ‘game’?’  We have to wait how the plays go, how the moves are made, and a lot more is on the line than just a scoreboard or winning streak statistic.  What will the team do if it looses some players?    What will the players do if they loose their team?

I’ve been pretty mad, and sad, and resistant to being taken out of the game to sit on a bench for a while.
My girls ask me why I can’t just take good medicine and get better?  Why did God do this or let this happen-for what purpose?  Will I ever be able to do this or that again?  The simple questions that they whisper out loud, and which I have to admit that I have screamed in silence.
My medicine is poison.  I’ve finally gotten off all the 10 years of what we like to term ‘baby weight’:  a silver lining to weight loss due to my body not liking taking poison.  And now, I am forced to sitting around and eating bonbons.  That sounds like fun, but not to someone who wants to be on the playing field and thought that was their position on the team.

So how do you sit on the bench when you thought your place was out with the team?

Or maybe for you the question is how to do more than just cheer from afar?

Or how do you keep up with a team when you have a secret problem?

Or how do you get those around you to respect you in your position?

Or how do you start really caring at all, really?

How desperate are you?   Are we?   Will we move from wallowing in the questions?

We have had 3 mornings of powerful encouragement at this conference from different men on our global team. 
1     1.     We have to die to self. 
2     2.     Be desperate
3     3.     Pick up after hard times or failures or disappointments, allow grace in our lives, and get on with tending and feeding His sheep.

In His infinite grace, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
He didn’t chastise for Peter only thinking of him-self and running to hide.
      “….tend my sheep”
And two more times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”     ME:  Jesus.  Are you desperate for ME: Christ?

Yes?  Then allow His grace and pick up from where you are and find your way to loving Him with all that is in you.  And find your way to tend and feed.

God has shown me that I may be sent to the sidelines for a time, and that I won’t get a trophy for sitting around waiting and feeling sorry for myself.   Even on this bench, He is calling me to be desperate for Him and to find some unique ways to still be part of the team.  Part of the Body.

I don’t like it.  My team doesn’t like it.   But it’s not about me—really.  
I think it is all about me…what if I get a secondary infection and can’t fight it?…what if this little poison doesn’t get me to where I need to get and I  need more poison?  What if this rest doesn’t work for me?   Do you hear me God!?

The question above and around and foundationally is:  Do you love me: Christ?

He has grace enough.

We need grace enough.

We need to extend grace,
      encourage with grace,
            and receive grace.


I have not mentioned yet what this medical issue is.  
It is an auto-immune disease.  My body has an over-active and confused immune system, such that it thinks my cartilage is enemy.  So I attack my joints by destroying the cartilage which produces pain, swelling, and often disfiguring and irreversible damage.  The treatments are aimed at lowering the immune system so that it stops attacking joints – to prevent full disability.   The side effects other than a large number of aching joints are from the medicines themselves, and the risk of other infections that your body is not able to fight against.
Not being around sick people is important.  Having good medical care is important.  And getting a bothering amount of sleep is important for the body to recover every day.  Being an $800 plane ticket away from a specialist is not high on the wanted list when things are still out of wack.

My goal is to get enough rest that hopefully will work in conjunction with my current medication and modified eating plan, and that will in turn get my system to settle down.  In the past eight months, my swollen joint count has dropped from over 30 joints to under 20.   That is the right direction, but not far enough.

This is Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm trading

Jan 10, 2015

I might call this coming out of hiding, or out of a long snow.  It's been a while since I've written here!

The sub-title I gave this blog 8 years ago:  Living in East Africa—though the eyes of parents and two growing girls.

I’ve mostly written about the girls growing up, adventures we take, ministry and things we do that we are passionate about.  Yes.
I have spent a few months reading many other amazing professional or trained writers/bloggers and been inspired by them.   Laughed.  Cried. Felt deeply touched.  Compassion.  Agreement.  Outrage.
And also found myself unable to feel I have much to offer when there are so many amazing writers out there with thousands of followers.

I handed, this week, a stack of teaching books to someone else.  I handed the particular stack in the subject I am most qualified professionally and have 18 years of doing, and learning, and experience in.  One of the things I love.  And while it felt like a weight was going along with the stack, I also felt like one thing I do well is literally walking out the door.

And I read again the newly familiar tune that, among many other recommendations, I should be sleeping 8-12 hours per day.

“I’m trading my sickness.  I’m trading my pain.  I’m trading them all, for…”
        what is it?
         “…the joy of the Lord.”

My meandering thoughts began with a page of a book I haven’t been able to get past.  For two months.     And it’s a borrowed book I need to get finished with and return!  It’s a book with a cover that does not make me interested to read, but was recommended before a trip I took so thought I’d see for myself.

And here is what I have read over and over and not been able to turn to the next page: 

“Your yes won’t look like anyone else’s yes; it will be completely one-of-a-kind, just like you.  Beth Moore explains it perfectly: ‘Who are you supposed to look like in your calling here on earth and in the way you follow Christ?  You’re supposed to look like the version of you that loves Jesus with everything in you.’
That’s the real you.
And that’s the road on which you will find what He put you on the planet to do.  You don’t have to figure out what to surrender to.  Just surrender your heart to Jesus.  Every single ounce of it.  Ask Him to give you a love for Him that surpasses anything in your human experience, a supernatural capacity.  Ask Him for it every day until He does it, and then ask Him to do it some more.”

My word for the year that has filled my soul:  Desperate.
Can I dare to be desperate enough?  Can I follow through with not thinking about the what, but replacing it with Christ?  Replacing it with the joy of the Lord.  His joy.  Not mine, ‘cause I don’t always feel it just because I should.

And, can I be desperate enough to make some major changes in my life for my health?  I have the affliction of making sure to take care of things here and there, and people here and there, and often ‘run out of time’ to do anything out of the way to take care of my health. 

Now I can’t open a new jar, can’t pour from a glass pitcher, can’t write by hand more than a page, can’t take a pot out of the oven without wincing…or even cookies. If I scrub the layer of dirt off my potatoes, then I can’t cut them up.   I can’t choose to take the stairs, or walk barefoot in my home.  I have to ask someone else to open my water bottle, to occasionally cut food on my plate.   No more gum, ice, or biting into an apple.

And also,
I can’t write about a road like the blogger of “Mundane Faithfulness” either.  (recent post is titled “By Degrees:  Living and Dying” about her husband having to call hospice for her that day.  That growing is a process, living is a process, and even dying happens sometimes in small degrees.)

What do we do when we feel stuck in the middle of kindof crummy personal circumstances that aren’t anywhere near the struggle of so many others?

Well, maybe it’s let go of my stack of books & responsibilities,
  let go of our preconceived notions of how we thought it was suppose to be, 
     let go of comparing ourselves to others either above or below our own circumstance,
       let go of wishing things were different either out of you or in your own soul,
          let go of the sorrow brought on by others,
and trade them all for the Lord’s joy that can flow into us.  And ultimately through us.

“ ‘Who are you supposed to look like in your calling here on earth and in the way you follow Christ?  You’re supposed to look like the version of you that loves Jesus with everything in you.’
That’s the real you.

And that’s the road on which you will find what He put you on the planet to do. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

What we are here for

Yesterday, we stopped by an Indian run grocery shop.  We assumed they would be open on Easter Sunday for a last minute lunch item.  We shop there often, and Anthony has been intentional about being friends with the man who runs the shop.  Last Christmas we were here, he gave us a gift:  a bottle of cheap champagne.  =)   The thought was nice.

So, as I am paying out, Anthony asked this man if he knew that this was called Easter.  He said yes, but didn't know much about the holiday other than it was about the Jesus.   For the next several minutes, standing in the entrance area to the shop, Anthony naturally told this man about the history of Easter.  It was like friends talking and learning.  There was also a hindu conference that day with special speakers from all over Uganda and Kenya in our town, and we learned a little about what that was about.

As we girls were waiting for the conversation, one of the girls leaned over and said, "Let's wait.  This is why we are here in Uganda."

It is awesome to be able to think that this man knows a little more about Christ--a short gospel presentation, and why the day is so important for us to remember.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter traditions


I only have one real memory of an Easter Egg hunt during my childhood (though I am certain there were more, maybe moving a lot blurred my memory of some things).
When I lived in Mauritius, the marines who guarded the US Embassy were unique.  They invited the kids (mostly US but other international kids came too) every week for a game day.   These men helped us kids put on a full play of The Jungle Book.  I was Kaa.  They hosted a family fun day with sack races and egg tosses and three legged races...   And a marvelous Easter Egg hunt!
I grew up getting a new dress for Easter Sunday, probably slept in those pink foam rollers a few times.  White shoes were allowed after the silent ban during winter.  We dyed eggs.  I looked forward to an Easter Basket with chocolate and candy.  I have cherished memories.

Here in Uganda there are no egg dye kits with the little tablets of color to drop in cups.  I saw 2 different kinds of little egg shaped chocolates while in Kampala yesterday.   None in Jinja, though I didn't look for them anyway.   There is no mall with a dressed up Easter bunny.  No big egg hunt at church or in the park or with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.
There are also no sound ordinances, so I sit on Easter Sunday at the computer--looking out to my beautiful green back yard--listening to someone else's music.   Two houses away the compound turned into a kids play place, with one slide, a little jump castle, a couple of little tricycles that would make you think of the 1920s era, and big speakers.    Adult style local music with a thumping drum is interrupted by someone in a microphone talking about something.  I can't understand because it is SO LOUD.  Every now and then a child's voice comes over the thumping music to sing along into the microphone.  This will go on all day.

Distractions are everywhere.  Maybe it's consumerism and a culture that tries to take all significant meaning from this day with cuteness and fun.
Maybe it's the blaring music that begs me to anger,

At some point as a teacher in the States, one of the writing prompts I was suggested to give my class was, "write about a family tradition you have, try to think of what is unique to your own family".  I thought about my new family of 2...then 3...then 4.    What traditions will we make in our home that are significant?

Put glitter and oats in the yard for the reindeer on Christmas eve.  Yep, did that one time.
Gran sent an Easter dye kit a few times for us to do here in Uganda, on our brown eggs.  (no white eggs here in Jinja).  They just aren't as pretty, though we still had fun.

The past couple of years, I have been restless to make what I believe to be real in my home.  My kids are old enough now that they say Christmas isn't as much fun as when they thought Santa Clause was really coming.   It's not spring time here--though close, it's rainy season.  No baby chicks hatching around, no tulips or Easter lilies.    We do know someone who raises rabbits here and cuts the ears off like docking dogs' tails.  The bunnies are for food.

 I don't believe that Santa is real.   I don't believe Easter is about plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies.

Last Christmas, I challenged my family to open presents on Christmas eve morning.  Why?  so that the anticipation of Christmas morning is on what I say I believe.  What I have moved my family to a different country because of.

(Interestingly, I am reading that the word Christmas comes from either latin 'Christ-dismissal' [of his disciples to go on after the Last Supper] or Old English 'Christ-festival'.)

So, getting back to Easter...
    This year I left the little white baskets up in the closet, the plastic green strings of grass, and even the plastic eggs--still in the package.   They are all carried here in suitcases and planned for months in advance.   But this year,  leaving them in the closet began because we have been traveling and I just forgot to get things out.  No front isles and isles at the grocery store to remind me for the past month.  And last night, I decided to leave them alone.

A couple of years ago we tried to have a modified Jewish Passover Meal at Easter week.  It was a lot of fun to prepare, and read about and share with my family and a friend.  But a lot of work. (goat meat, salt water, egg, home-made unleavened bread, bitter vegetable.........)  I'd like to do it again someday.

I often read something somewhere, linked to something else, and get to a new place I couldn't find again.  But my clicking led me to something I am making a new tradition!

This year, we had an Easter lunch with simple things I can find pretty easily here, that remind my children of the story we believe.

A vase of flowers  sitting on a palm branch all from our yard.  Braided bread dough (homemade) shaped into a crown with thorns from our bougainvillea bushes.  Oil & vinegar to dip the bread in--to remember the taste of vinegar, and the costly oil poured out.   Chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar (the rooster will crow...).  

Salad like the leaves in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Flat bread (unleavened) with homemade hummus dip just because we love it.  Real red grape juice.  Olives. Thirty little silver cake decorating beads and white chocolate meringue cookies for dessert to be as the clouds (Are you The Christ?  I will find me seated at the right hand of God and coming again in the clouds of heaven.)

I got the basic ideas from here:  Shower of Roses

So I am actually quite glad that we are away from the consumerisms of the West, I can tap my toe to the kid in the microphone blaring 'number one, number one, number one, number one...'

While I miss my family terribly, I choose to remember why I am here.  So far away.   I choose to think of putting what I believe into what I do and teach my children.

They did ask if I was going to hide plastic eggs this year, to which I answered, 'not this year'.

We are starting a new tradition.

Next year, they will certainly be able to tell what the food analogies are,
as we remember the story that we celebrate 
because we believe it is true.

Friday, December 20, 2013

light for the next step

So I just held my 10 year old, us both in tears.  
She realized the imminence of our departure and having only one more full day with my parents to herself to do nothing else but all kinds of fun projects that the “Grands” are so good at.
She felt paralyzed, and not able to know what the very next thing she was supposed to do-- actually was.  So I cried too and told her what that next moment held, and that we had to get through the moments one at a time.  Tonight is a sleepover with The Grands, so the next moment for her was to snuggle next to Gran in the backseat.

The gifts in life that she (we) experience are so indescribably amazing.  Missing a field trip to a park due to bad weather ultimately does not compare to our World History field trip to London together.  Or our search for snow landing us together on the ski slopes in Colorado.  Or spending hours making a wooden jewelry box together with Grandad…sewing a doll dress together with Gran…making a gourmet ‘meal’ for their uncle from items collected out of the front yard.  Going to our school co-op together, beside the flowing Nile River.  Showing the delight of bubbles to Ugandan children who had never played with them before.
Those things are true—and many more!
But the debilitating reality of spending the next 3 or so years away from our family puts us in a tail spin for a bit.

If you love one place, do you hate the other?  How can I miss one place but not want to leave the other?

During a conversation with my sister-in-law 3 years ago—as we were preparing to leave then as well—I realized something.  Our calling and choice causes us to sacrifice things much more important that Walmart (ie time and experiences that bond our lives with family) while at the same time my choice demands that our family that lives in the US sacrifice us as well.  And they likely didn't choose that.

starting the 50th year together, celebrating 49!
I don’t like it (I dare not say “it’s not fair!”). 

It only gets harder, not easier. 

It doesn’t help me when I’m crying with my daughter, to think of how many people have done this already.

So that’s when all I can find comfort in, is that it’s ok to only have enough emotional strength for the next step.  That it’s ok to cry in front of my kids—the reality is hard for them the same as hard for me and we will walk through these next steps together.

Isaiah 42:5-7
5 This is what God the LORD, YAHWEH, says-
       He who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
       who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness, in accordance with the righteous purpose;
 I will take hold of your hand.
 I will keep you and will make you to be a pledge and promise for the people,
 and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Were these words to Isaiah, or telling of the Messiah to come, or perhaps even reach through the ages to apply to you and me?

The next weeks for us hold dear and precious days.  The holidays bring family together, and we will relish every moment.   But that’s jolted here and there by hugs and tears of saying goodbye again.  And mental and paper tallying of estimation of shoe sizes for the girls for 3 years, and (not counting house-hold furnishings) can we reduce what we need and want for 3 years into those 12 trunks?  Am I prepared for my 9 & 10 year old kids to come back at ages 12 & 13?

I have spent so much time and energy planning and preparing for the road ahead.  I have figured out how many toiletries I need to take of this or that x 4 people x 3 years.  
And now, I am reminded by  my precious girl that we need just light for the next step sometimes.

I ran across some words that I don’t know where they came from, sounds like A Voskamp:

“You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.
You are changing the world – when you are changing one person’s world.
You aren’t missing your best life – when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.

Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.
It’s about realizing– Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place – wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa or side street America.

Because it isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love. 

Radical isn’t as much about where you move – but about looking into the face of Jesus – and letting Him move you where you are.”

tail spin - roller coaster - multi personality  season of life...

At the time when we give gifts to many of those we love, and ultimately remember and celebrate the Life who gives me life.

One moment at a time...

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