Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How Was Your Trip?

"How was your trip?" 

We got this question a lot right when we returned from Uganda (yes, over a month ago! I've taken long to check back in!)

This was asked most memorably by a young man from my church. I don't know him well, and I don't think his disregard for personal space was any more than just the crowded church aisle or maybe a lack of social parameters....either way, he asked the classic, "How was your trip?"

I've coached people on how to respond to this question. Most people, when they ask it, can only handle about a 30 second reply. And normally, I have a pat statement for a response because it's a way for me to buffer the fact that most people who ask the question have NO IDEA what I just experienced!

This young guy didn't like what was actually an enthusiastic response from me: "We had a really great trip-"

"Oh, c'mon now," he said, "You took a trip and all you can say is that it was great?!"

He wanted details, and I could appreciate that. Given that I barely know him, I couldn't really divulge that much to him though. 

Because honestly:
How do you explain what it's like to introduce your son to his grandparents for the first time, and see the joy on their faces after so many months of waiting to see him?

How do you explain how wonderful and difficult it is to try and talk to your dearest friends about all the incredibly wonderful and incredibly difficult things that have happened in the past 2 years in the space of only 90 minutes?

How do you describe what it feels like to introduce your natural born son to your "first-born" Ugandan sons and see them look at each other in wonder and pure happiness and love?

How can you really tell someone what comes over you when you see a child that you were sure was going to die...and now they are happy, healthy, and loved? They are an undeniable miracle before your eyes!

And how can someone understand what my heart felt when I scrubbed the red soil off my feet after walking Kampala's streets and for a moment could feel like I was back where I belonged?

It's impossible to explain exactly what happened in my heart when I saw my boys in Ssenge, or how my heart ached for the ones that were no longer there.

Its hard to explain, particularly in words, because there are some things that can only be expressed as tears; some things can only be understood in the heart.

Not the greatest photo, but they're all together! :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stones from the Jordan: Part 1

When the Israelites were crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land, God told Joshua to have one man from each of the 12 tribes to collect a stone from the river:

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them  that that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." Joshua 4:4-7

This blog post is to me just what that pile of stones was to the Israelites that day.

Just over a week ago, on a Friday night, my head was swimming. Here, we were supposed to be leaving in 2 weeks and we still needed almost 1/2 the funding for our trip.

Let me back up: We felt that God was giving us the clearance to go as a family to Uganda at this particular time in order to jump-start our plans for actually moving back there. And, we felt that God was telling us HE was going to provide the funding. Awesome!!! We have faith, right?! God's gonna do this!!

And so time went by.

And then time started to go by a little bit faster. And faster.

And then God provided us the opportunity to move from our tiny little cute apartment to something MUCH larger (if you've seen Corbin in person, you know he's a big boy...he needs some room! :) ). But with a larger rent bill, as well. Ok, Lord, we can handle this! We know You provide and we are excited and very pleased with our new space!
"Mom and Dad, I totally need a bigger tub!"

And then there just some other normal expenses.

And more time slipping by.

And I was getting impatient for God to show us how He was going to provide. I was sharing my impatience with a friend one day and in her sweet, whimsical way, she quipped, "Well, you just get ready, because I'm pretty sure God is just going to pour it down upon you like manna from Heaven!" and I understood her to mean that God was going to do a miracle- because seriously, manna was a miracle, something only God could do, with no human intervention!

I skipped around for a couple of days, checking the ground each morning...

So just over a week ago, on the Friday night, I was lying on the couch in a lot of physical pain because of a silly hurt knee, I was fretting and worrying and trying to squelch a panic attack from getting the best of me. My husband was very gently reminding me of all the times God has provided and come through for us. And, once again, he told me to "Have faith, Honey!"

I wondered aloud when God was going to reward my faith with a reality! 

My phone rang with a number I didn't recognize, so I answered as sweetly as my frustration would allow...and it was a friend who had read between the lines of my wondering when the CASCADE of manna would come. (I know, I know- I'm pretty sure the Bible says something about manna covering the ground like the dew in the morning, not gushing from the sky as a waterfall!) This friend spoke words I needed to hear, words of understanding, words of encouragement, and words of peace. She told me to call her the next weekend if we still needed funding and they would help us out.

I let the tears fall- not only did she help to bolster my faith, but she understood the human part that has trouble believing in the unseen sometimes.

A little over 24 hours later, my pastor sat down beside me and asked how fundraising for the trip was going- I gave a crooked smile, took a deep breath, and told him the truth. He knows me well, and I'm sure the look on my face told him a lot about my worries. So he mentioned that the church was going to support us a bit- with $1500! I think he took a moment to enjoy the fact that he left me speechless, and then he walked away with a grin on his face! (If you know my church- it's not big. We are a small, humble, salt-of-the-earth type congregation. People work hard- and although they are generous and a very giving church, this was about 3 times more than I ever imagined! Thank you, Richville Christian Fellowship!)

(to be continued below...)

Stones From the Jordan: Part 2

Then Wednesday night, a phone call came from the Ugandan Water Project, telling me that several people had donated in the past couple of days...over $1000 worth of support towards our account!! I was so excited that I burned the dinner and when Collins came with our dinner guest (they were moving some furniture that had been given to us into our new apartment, b/c God provides for EVERY need, right?!), I was practically jumping up and down (hindered only by the still-painful knee)!  And Collins again reminded me that faith IS the substance of things hoped for!

(Needless to say, I re-made dinner and we had a great time of fellowship!)

By Friday, the outstanding balance on our account was a little over $600! I was so encouraged, thinking- we got this! God is so cool, He sent us almost the whole amount we still needed!

Today, Sunday, we shared at our cozy little church in Richville. My sister shared about her recent trip with UWP.  And then Collins and I were given the chance to share how God has worked in and through us, and a little bit of where we believe He is taking us.

And then out of the blue, an impromptu, unplanned offering was taken up, and a large portion of the church gathered around us to pray for our little family as we travel next week and as we plan for the future.

During some coffee and fellowship after the service, someone counted that impromptu offering...and combined with a few other things slipped to us during handshakes, God OVERWHELMED us, He sent a CASCADE  of HIS blessing down upon us- $1900!!!!!

And so, these posts are my pile of stones from the Jordan, a reminder of God's faithfulness, of His unending care and provision. It is something for me to look at when my faith is waning in His promises, a steady place for me to gaze upon and reflect back to the way He did NOT leave us hopeless, He did NOT abandon us, and He did NOT give us a false promise. It's a pillar for me to find strength from when the winds are beating me, a place to hold onto when the enemy tries to tell me that it is only superstition. It is a testimony to God whispering in my ear through the prayers of precious, precious brothers and sisters in Christ that we ARE on track, we ARE hearing His voice clearly, we ARE following the call that He has placed in our hearts, that we ARE meant to be His hands and feet serving His children in Uganda.

God is faithful. If you ever hear me doubt that...don't slap me upside the face, please.

 Instead, point me toward this pile of stones.
See the pile of stones to the left?? That's what I'm talking about!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That's the Problem, You See...

Everybody was still a little sleepy-eyed, there were cups of steaming coffee and its aroma swirled in the air around us as we joked and said "Good Morning". Someone mentioned a lunch meeting for the following day.

"Oh, sorry," I said, "But I won't be able to make that. I'll be out of town."

"And just where do you think you are going to be instead, Little Girl?" the friendly gentleman who will remain nameless asked.

"We've got a meeting. About Uganda." I answered.

The look on his almost-perpetually jovial face changed.

"You're not allowed to go, you know, " he said.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You can't go. To Uganda. We want you here...for at least a good 10 years. After I retire, then you can go!"

That's the problem, you see. For those of us that understand how relationship is intended to be, we dig deep. We love abundantly. We allow the connections when we know there must be an end at some point. And we always hope that the "some point" is after we decide to move on, after we retire. When the change in our lives will mask the lonely space of the ones who are missing. It's a risk to allow other in, to develop relationship, to care about another when you know you have to let go.

It is, however, so good to know when you are loved.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If God Wills...

We, as humans, have so much confidence in the future  actually being there. What do I mean by that? 

We are just always so sure that things will happen.

For example: We plan for things a year in advance. After being at a large sale yesterday, I caught myself saying to Collins, "Well, next year what we should do is-..." and then I stopped because it hit me that next year at this time, we won't be looking to take on any more furniture. In fact, we'll be looking to sell all, once again. We'll be preparing for packing up. And my mind raced (as it is again, even as I type this!)...In Haiti, you will often hear people add the phrase "si Dye vle-if God wills" to the end of a sentence that speaks of the future, weather it be 10 years, 6 months, or 1/2 a day from the present. I don't often express that phrase in English, but I do often catch myself thinking it. 

So yesterday, when I cut my sentence short and I thought about selling personal possessions instead of accruing more, the verse that says:
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' James 4:13" (NIV)
 scrolled through my mind as if it were on a marquee. What makes us think that we will even be around to make plans for the next season of our lives? If it weren't for God and His great mercy...

But we have a hope for the future, because as Believers we know that we called to carry on until He returns. HE has created us for purpose. There IS a reason for each one of us to be here. We have something to do. We often try to "figure out" what we're supposed to be or do with our lives, but I honestly think that God puts it pretty plainly in front of us and equips us for our unique special task. 

I know that God has placed me personally in a very interesting position in life to which few people can relate  (although Nyakanzi, if you read this, you are here with me!!!). My life feels very temporary. If you are someone I am around on a daily basis, the truth is that I try to hide this a lot because it is a hard way to live but even harder to try to explain. I know that I am just biding time until God tells us (my little family) that it's the right time for us to go again. When Collins and I came to the US two years ago, we knew it would be for "a time". We didn't know how long that "time" would be. We still don't know exactly, but we know we're past 1/2 way...and so we always have a clause, albeit often unspoken, that any plans we make have the condition "if we're still here then"

All that to say- Keep planning, my friends!!! Live life to the fullest extent you can...but don't be surprised if God throws a twist in there that will bring glory to Him. And don't take a moment for granted because you never know when a season is going to pass! 

(Cousins Sam, Porter, Will, Corbin and Henry)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Learn Uganda As A Family

We're on our way! Collins, Corbin and I will be traveling back to Uganda, from October 14-27! We'll be part of a team (Team #13, actually!) that the Ugandan Water Project (ugandanwaterproject.com/) has put together. If you have followed Collins and I very much in the past couple of years, you might recognize UWP as the organization that we have been closely connected with- we highly recommend that you look into what they're doing to bring water-and life- to many communities and individuals in Uganda. 

We're excited to go. In many ways, we're heading home for a short time. We're also going to be testing the waters (no pun intended!) on what it will be like for us to be in Uganda as a family. No longer 2 individuals who can jump on the back of a bodaboda and go somewhere on a whim- Corbin makes 3, and he's going to help us learn Uganda as a family. 

And we need to learn Uganda as a family. Uganda is still home, and her red soil beckons us to stain our feet again on the dirt roads as we seek out the lives and the souls that God has drawn our hearts toward. Packing up our lives and moving across the globe will never be easy, but this short trip in October will set the wheels in motion for our eventual, indefinite move.

Sometimes I talk about moving back to Uganda with a smile on my face, but sometimes the thought of it produces a rush of salty water to my eyes. Its a bittersweet thing- having family a literal half-a-world apart; having friends and lifestyles that parallel but that shall never meet; and having hearts torn between living in the present and yearning for the time when we can be fulfilling that for which God has uniquely placed each of us here on planet Earth.

And yet- God has always shown Himself faithful, and He has provided so many family and friends on both sides of the oceans and continents that, no matter where our final destination is, the saying good-bye part is always painful, but there are always faces we are longing to see at the other end of the trip. 

We're not moving yet, in case the previous sentences have led you to believe that- this trip is to help co-lead a UWP team, to visit a few people, and to jump start our planning to the big move that we will eventually make, potentially at the end of 2013.

We need your prayers. We need your support. We need your encouragement. 

I know many people reading this will have a sour taste in their mouths that we're taking our darling Corbin to Uganda.  Rest assured, we're taking precautions for traveling with a baby...we're also going to introduce him to his other set of Grandparents, his other Aunts and Uncles, and his NUMEROUS brothers...the boys that Collins and I call our own, the boys that get prayed for on a daily basis right along with our blood brothers, the boys that we miss with a deep aching at the 2 years of their lives that we have missed out on. I get simply giddy with anticipation of introducing Corbin to all of my other boys!

In the next few weeks, I'll try to keep you updated on our preparations for our return visit, and then in the months to come I'll give you a sneak peek into the thoughts and emotions of once again starting a new chapter in this absolutely incredible journey God is taking us on, a second chance to be His hands and feet!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Second Chance

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight

Touched down on the cold black tar
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breathe in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos

All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity

Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the one's forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide what's underneath

There's a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
Too ashamed to tell his wife
He's out of work he's buying time

All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity

Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach?
Give me your heart for the one's forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

I've been there a million times
A couple of million eyes just moving past me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong

Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way you see the people all alone

(-"Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath)

Every single time I hear this song, tears well up in my eyes.
 I want You to use my arms to hold Your broken-hearted. I want to You to use me to remember Yours that are forgotten. 

I'm holding my breath waiting for that second chance, because I know it's right around the corner. 

Use me Lord. Prepare me. I'm Yours.

(to the reader: have patience. this new blog will take shape and look pretty in time. the words are the most important for now.)