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...

Monday, October 28, 2013

a day of rest...

Well, yesterday, Sunday, I had a day of rest.  Literally.  I didn't do much!
In the evening I started feeling guilty for not getting anything done.  And, someone I love reminded me I needed rest and that it would make me feel ready to get back to it.   Hmm, wise words.

So, the alarm this morning started the get-ready-for-school thing.  It's Red Ribbon Week with fun things to dress up in at school to get conversations going about the purpose of the Red Ribbon
Red Ribbon Week is a United States education and prevention initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. During the official Red Ribbon Week -- celebrated from October 23rd to 31st of every year --, the initiative promotion encourages students nationwide to make a pledge to live drug and alcohol free.
The red ribbon became the symbol for prevention in order to reduce the demand of illegal drugs in around 1985.
This is similar to one wearing a pink ribbon in honor of breast cancer awareness.

And, today the dress up at school was SHINE BRIGHT (wear neon colors)

Having Daddy paint neon fingernail polish on his not-so-little little girls has to be a highlight of the early morning, right?

Since I have not written here in 5 months, maybe I'll try a quick catch-up...

In May we welcomed a newly graduated Elementary Education (& Special Ed certified) teacher to our small home-school co-op.  She has done a great job of loving on and guiding the kids at our school, as well as beginning her own ministries to children in a baby home for children with disabilities, and a Saturday Kids' Club teaching through some main stories of the Bible.
June had another new group of students at seminary, another month of school for the girls...  and a highlight retreat!  A group of volunteers with friends in Jinja had a plan.  They wanted to include in their trip to Jinja, a small retreat for missionary wives and their children.  So, they had fun things for the kids to do in the daytime.  And we ladies had refreshing time, and some fun crafts they brought with them too!

July started off with fireworks for a big 4-0 party!  It was a full month that didn't stop there!
We were preparing to leave Jinja for our Stateside Assignment of 5 months.  Wow, not an easy task to get things organized to keep the dogs happy and fed, house security people prepared to be paid while we are gone, things put up and cleaned up for a great house-sitter to have a home of her own...

Then off to a great week at our Annual General Meeting in Kenya - cool weather, friends from around the region, and *great meeting times too, right?

The girls both got opportunities to face any fears and play some music for our mission family!

After that week, we were off for our "Medieval Times Field Trip" that led us to London.  :)

 St Paul's Cathedral, begun in 1675 actually just after the Middle Ages time period, but we didn't mind that.  We had studied a bit about the architecture of the early Gothic churches and how the arches developed and improved the structures during the Renaissance so that walls could be thinner, and allow for windows that could let light in.
The Tower of London was begun in the 1080s...

The "Traitors Gate"    weebee-jeebees.

THE  Rosetta Stone
Amazing -and the girls could identify 2 of the types of script (not read, of course)

And we didn't mind passing through the Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the British Museum

 I was so proud of my girls...when we went through the ancient Mayan and Aztec rooms, the (real) glyphs were amazing to see!  And, the girls were able to recognize some of the letter sounds since they had made their own names into glyphs during our Middle Ages study of those cultures.

                                    I THINK this says "Mi-si-tee"
And the end of July came with another celebration!

Could August compete with the adventures we had just had?

The Ross Perot Museum with cousins...and many more fun days playing with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and...!
Rangers game with PawPaw and a neighborhood pool with a friends.  Wow, neighborhood pools have changed since I was a kid...

Fun last of summer days at Gran & Grandad's

 Their favorite driver- Uncle Troy.  After several runs, Karis figured out how to turn them all over (after doing it by accident and finding out they were all ok)
So, she thought it was fun to do it again, since they were all ok!  "just" hop back on!

Soon, September was upon us, and a busy new pace to schedule in the U.S.
And a friendly reminder left behind on the London train from dear friends...

And to be honest, the shock of U.S. television has been great.  We used to enjoy watching commercials to catch up on the life of Americans.  Now, I turn the TV off when I can or at least change channels.  It is disgusting what is now normal commercials during kid appropriate shows.
Anyway, a favorite of ours is the cooking shows.  And, one weekend the girls were quite busy at Gran & Grandad's with picking fresh produce, cooking soup and sauteing, to present a fresh meal...of sorts!

Yes, I think I did need that day of rest...
       I haven't mentioned anything of why this time is called "Stateside Assignment"...  I'll save that for another day.

"...through the eyes of parents and two growing girls..."

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