Sunday, February 26, 2006

Aunt Nora Belle

This is not a woman you will read about in Time or Newsweek. Her life was not marked by fame or wealth. She lived a simple life. In a simple place.
She never married and never had her own children. But she was ALWAYS taking care of people. Her brother Carl. People in the church. My Granny.

Granny started having strokes when I was really young. She slowly lost the use of her legs, arms and body. She spent her last years bedfast.

Granny was the anchor of Dad's family. There would be no nursing home for her. No sir. The family couldn't stand that. A hospital bed was purchased and set up in the living room. And Nora Belle, Granny's sister, came over every day to bathe her, change her, clean her house, wash the clothes and cook some meals for Grandpa. Grandpa eventually took over most of those tasks...but he wisely knew to leave some of them for Nora Belle. She WAS coming to help. Might as well leave her a task or she would make something up! :-)

What I remember most about Nora Belle was that when she showed up...we all started laughing. She was funny. And she could make her sister laugh even in the most difficult and humiliating of circumstances. (that's something I respect in a sister.:-))

I also remember that everybody loved her. Everybody I knew anyway.

She was easy to be with. Like an Aunt should be.

If you listen close, you might can hear an etheral giggle fest taking place...Aunt Nora Belle went Home last week...and I'm sure that when she arrived on the scene...the Heavenly Chorus was was filled with more laughter. At least from where Granny was standing...

Won't the reunions of Home be splendid!

Where Am I?

It feels like this country has been holding its breath for a week.

The Uganda Presidential Elections.

In Uganda, much information is gathered word of mouth. It is a difficult way to gain understanding. Over time, you can surmise an 'abstract painting' of a given situation but never a clear picture. We've been warned and heard threats of complaints no matter which side won. We were encouraged to stay at home.

Which we dutifully did. Until yesterday. I had a Bible study in town.

I have it every week. Atwooki and I meet at a restaurant. She drinks soda. I drink hot tea. We greet each other, ask about each others children and home and then we study. We are working our way through the Women of the Bible. The restaurant is across from the bustling market.
Everything felt normal.

We were talking about Tamar. Quite a story to tell. To be honest, I never know exactly where to go with Tamar's recounting. What point to make.

Married to a foreigner. A wicked foreigner. No children. Widowed. Given to wicked brother. Deprived. Widowed again. Blamed. Virtual Abandonment. Scheming. Posing as prostitue. Sleeping with Daddy-in-law. Facing cruel death. Saved. Twins. A place in the lineage of Christ. Huh?

I was just making the point to Atwooki that God is always seeing us and paying attention. Even if our life is not in order. And following up with the point that we may not know what God has in store for us or our children even if our life feels humdrum and usual...

And three gunshots punctuated a chorus of screams.

Atwooki and I and the gentlemen at the table beside us were immediately on full alert.

The screams and shouting were taking place at the corner, across from the market. People were running and a scuffle had ensued.

After a few seconds of observing the chaotic crowd, the man at the table next to us said, "they are arresting someone."

I scanned the area for a barricade to hide behind and my mind raced to determine if the man's analysis was accurate.

There was a police truck at the center of the struggle and two piki-piki drivers were yanked into the back of the truck and raced away. (piki-pikis are motor scooters used as inexpensive public transport)

We all let out a collective breath and tried to regain our composure. I think my heart pounded for a good 10 minutes.

We prayed together and calmed down tremendously. I finished my tea. She finished her soda. We paid our bill, sent greetings to each others families and went on about our day. The market sellers were shouting out their prices. The remaining piki drivers were discussing politics and calling out for passengers. Atwooki went to the market to see her friend. I got in my car to check the mail.

And I couldn't stop thinking, "WHERE AM I?"

A gun was just fired into a crowd of people at the market. Two men were roughly beaten and hauled away. My danger sensors were already on high alert because of possible rioting due to the results of free democratic elections. And yet we all drank tea, studied the Bible, went to the market and checked the mail. Life going on as normal?!

I've lived here awhile now. But the revelation never fails to be shocking. I am a foreigner in a very different world. Whew.

As I drove home from the post office I wrestled with the surrealness of it all.

And through the fog of the surreal Tamar's story emerged again.

She is listed (a woman?) in a very important family lineage. No one is quite sure how she got there. A foreigner in a different world. No rights to speak of. Succumbing to and even choosing one undignified situation after another.

Forever linked by blood to the Messiah.

Life is foggy sometimes. No clear understanding of why. Maybe not even a place to lay blame.
Even worse, sometimes, the blame placement is crystal clear!

Nevertheless, the question "how did I get HERE?" very often demands to be heeded. Processing and analysis follow. Sometimes answers. Sometimes acceptance. Sometimes silence and a void.

How incredibly grateful I am that despite the fog and whatever the processing brings me to,
the Lord steps in to remind me. Often, chapters after the initial question is posed.

"You matter so much. I'll join you, wayward one, to Me. In an unquestioning and irrefutable way. By Blood."

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ....Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household...with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." Ephesians 2:13,19-20
(you can find Tamar's complete story in Genesis 38 and her name in Matthew 1)

(President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner last evening. There were no riots in Ft Portal, only jubilant celebration. Thank you for your prayers.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We Laughed

We had a Jeff and Cheryl retreat this week. We got a room overlooking Lake Victoria. (Even with 8 feet of her missing...she was breathtaking.) We read, talked, absorbed the silence, napped, ate....and laughed. A whole lot.

I forget how truly great that feels. To laugh. There are myriad opportunities for laughter in this third world. The steak we ordered that oddly resembled French Toast. The horse statue that made us think....what WERE they thinking?!?!? Indian soap operas. My husband's stories. And, probably my favorite of the chuckling repetoire, the late night--I'm exhausted--EVERYTHING is funny--"my side hurts" laughter.
Ahhhhhh....the satisfaction.

It is healing and replenishing. Invigorating and cleansing.

And, just plain fun.

Sometimes, from surviving the crushing defeats to celebrating the air punching victories--and cruising through all the blissfully regular in between---I forget to embrace the hilarity.

I think its always there. You just have to be watching.

May God bless you, blog friends, with side splitting laughter today.

Chuckle on!

Special thanks to JSC for "observing" some hilarity with me this week. And for providing much as well. I love you.

And MANY MANY WEBALE's to Destiny and Doug--our treasures from California :-). We know God brought you here to proclaim Him...did you know He meant to us? We are so thankful you Calhoon-types are sojourning in Fort Portal. (especially when you offer to wrangle our four rowdies for three days and two nights:-)) Treasures--indeed!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Break it Down


It's rap music. (Christian) Ike and Kaelea left it on my MP3. And I like it. Alot. In fact, I can't stop listening to it. In the car. In my kitchen. First thing in the morning. Just before I go to sleep.

I'm a mom. A missionary. I was raised on country music which includes the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw ("Salute!")

And somehow rap music has bounced its way into my soul.

This isn't a new development actually. I have secretly loved this stuff for a long, long time. (a jambox and the Permian band bus come to mind:-)) Unfortunately, I have not been able to indulge my love of this music because of the awful themes and language rappers in the secular world choose to "share about". Thankfully, Christian rappers have stepped up with better words and messages. And now, thanks to Rockin' I and K I am in possession of some poppin', hip hoppin' quality tunes!

They say confession is good for the soul.

"My name is Cheryl and I love rap."


Friday, February 17, 2006 Cheryl

What is it about stacks and lists that eases my burden? Nothing truly gets finished with the stacking and the listing. But somehow...the dividing up of the insurmountable into seemingly manageable units makes me able to sleep better.

Our dining room table is covered with stacks of receipts which will, with a little help from Quicken, become a detailed finance report in the next few days.

My guest bedroom closet has four stacks of drawings, birthday cards and other treasures that will become four sentimental and heart tugging scrapbooks for my children.

The corner of my living room has two picture boxes with pictures in sequential order that will fill the two empty picture albums they are stacked on.

My refrigerator has three lists running right now...
*to do before furlough
* to buy while on furlough
* to buy in Kampala next week

My desk in the school room has four stacks:
Kinley's work
Alex's work
Lesson books for next week
And letters to be answered

In my bedroom, by my glider rocker are three stacks:
magazines I love (Real Simple!)
Bibles, journals and current study book
thank you notes and list of names

To my left, right now, is a list of 5 tasks I MUST get accomplished on the computer before the power clicks off again. (nope. Blogging isn't really on that list. Sigh)

And to be completely honest...just writing this "list" of all my organizing efforts...well, it leaves me with an odd sense of...tranquility and peace.

In truth, it is that whole "intention vs actual behavior" discussion that is worthy of our time. But, not right now. It isn't on my list and I have a foreboding feeling that it would wreck my temporary feeling of accomplishment.

So for the moment, I'll revel in the facade of manageability. With aspiring hope that soon...I can bask in the glory of actual completion.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pulling My Hair Out

After 6 weeks of sporting the Africa-do... I have been de-braided. I worked on my braids for about three days and on Wednesday my friend Florence came over to help me finish the job. It took us three hours ...but we got them all removed. My children enjoyed the 'fro I sported until my hair was washed. I was...lovely. Sort of like the eighties and a new crimping iron run amuk. After a good hairwashing...I am back to my own soft locks.

The Homeland

On Monday, we hosted a meeting for American Citizens in our home. There were 15 of us gathered...including the Consular from the Embassy. He drove in just for the meeting and shared information on several important topics.

Here is my summation:

1. Stand Fast--I think this phrase sounds so military and important. It basically means "stay home"....but that sounds so ordinary.
This was the reccommendation concerning the day of the Presidential Election next week and the days following...especially the day the results are released.

2. Sell the Poultry Farm--We don't actually have one...but there could be very tough times ahead for those who do. The Bird Flu has reached the Africa Continent (specifically Nigeria) task forces are being formed, money is being doled out and precautions are being taken. We were advised not to handle live poultry and to prepare to (ahem...) Stand Fast in case of quarantine. There is a large CDC (Center for Disease Control) office in Kampala so Uganda should be well equipped to handle problems if the need arises.

3.Electricity Joy--We were told it would probably get worse before it gets better. Apparently, diesel generators have been brought in to provide the little power we are currently receiving which in effect means--- diesel shortages. No generators...less power. That is unless God graciously dumps eight feet of water in Lake Victoria soon.

I have been about this international living for over 10 years now. And I always enjoy the dynamics of American gatherings overseas.
In our living room were:
-- four 20-something Peace Corp on nothing, serving, sharing, volunteering, missing home.
--one single woman, who in her 50's decided to take all of her money, leave her home in Hawaii and move to Fort help orphans. And she has...
--seven missionaries...from California, Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Africa...from different backgrounds, doctrines and training...but (check this out) One Christ
--one Catholic sister...she came to Ft. Portal for 3 years and has stayed 34. Amazing.
--and one American Embassy consular staff person...willing to drive to our town to give us information....

We shared something. Citizenship.

We are all foreigners, stand-outs, Mzungu (white men). We exist and cope in surroundings and world views that will never be our own. We came because we CHOSE to. We stay, because we feel we have something to offer. And yet, we all maintain citizenship in a place that means the world to us. Home.

For one hour on Monday, we gingerly stepped back into the bounds of American politeness and greeting. We told American jokes. We wallowed in the joy of information...true, factual and precise. Our greetings were shy at first. We were shifting our minds back to our American rules of social order. But we got there and in many ways, relaxed into the social acceptance we understand.

I love the diversity our life here allows. I love the international understanding I have gained.

But I adore the American-ness of me. I am a West Texas born girl. Who always sings the National Anthem at football games(though I haven't been to one in awhile). And whose heart races everytime she sees Old Glory waving in the wind.

I'm glad for all the flavors of this life. And for the joy of being a Citizen.

"Ohhhh, Say,can you see...."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rain, rain, come our way...

Scheduling, predictability and time conciousness....non existent in a Third World country...FYI.

I am feeling the love today...with kind regards from our Uganda Electricity Service.

There was an official announcement two days ago. AFTER three weeks of horrible power outages, our Electricity Experts declared "we have a problem."


The hippos are drinking Lake Victoria! Or something...

Because five feet of water from the mammoth lake have disappeared. Evaported. Gone...

So now, the generating dams are not...generating that is.

We are without power for 12 hours a day...or WITH power 12 hours a day...depending on your outlook. Or your hold on reality.

Because, what they don't tell you... is that your 12 hours will be delivered in any increment they deem appropriate....

For instance, last night our power went off at 5pm. Came back at 5:10. Went off at 5:20. Came back at 5:45. Went off at 6:00. Came back on at 6:15. Went off at 7:00. Came back on at 7:05. Went off at 8:15. Came back at 8:30. Went off at 8:45. Came back at 9:15. ...whew.

To give you the visual. Power clicks off. I huff and look at the clock (why?). As I hunt for the matches that mysteriously walk away from where I last put them, my mind clicks off 12 hours from time on clock. Before I get one candle lit, power clicks back on. Sigh. Wait for everything to click back on, settle back in with movie. Power clicks off. Louder huff. Matches? Candle...Discuss generator option. Walk out to generator room...power clicks on before generator turns on. Deeper sigh. Back to the house. Settle back in...power off...Huff and special words :-)...skip candles...straight to generator...many kind comments floating about...generator won't start...check oil...fiddle with wires...power clicks back on. While power is on...quickly locate flashlight...more matches and candles...light them and leave them lit for the duration...beg husband to please take a look at the generator...starts right up for him (argh! and Yea!)....settle back in with movie...can't even remember what we are power we turn off the generator or just run off generator?...generator dies...back to town power...prepare for bed...crawl under covers...power clicks off...children begin to cry...out of bed...WHERE ARE THE MATCHES?!?!?!....light the lantern...pull blankets off bed...try to sleep in the heat with no fans to cool you...

Are you feeling the love too?

We have been told that this power service will not change until it rains in Jinja. I'm not sure if that is the Ugandan equivalent of "when donkeys fly"...but I'm kinda scared that it might be.

So for now, we resign ourselves to the inevitable. Try to laugh about it. Apologize to our family when we forget to choose a good attitude:-)...dutifully pay our electricity bill...and wait for the rain.

I sure hope its coming...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Broken Heart

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17

When we were preparing to leave for Uganda, many precious souls passed on interesting, humorous (and on rare occassions--helpful:-) tidbits of advice to insure survival in a third world country.

Of all the wonderful bits I gleaned, one morsel has proven to be the jewel.

The sage comment came from someone I barely knew. She was the preachers wife at Jeff's home church. At one point she pulled me aside and said, "Sometimes, the only thing there is to do is lay down across your bed and cry. So when you need to, I give you permission. Just cry it out!"

The wise voice of a veteran. In these East Africa years, everytime I have opened the floodgates to release the pent up mess inside me...I have thought of her generous gift to me. Understanding and validity.

Tonight, I am exhausted. Completely depleted, can hardly lift my arms, brain dead---exhausted.

My heart is broken. And I have laid across my bed and cried.


Why do we do it?

The specific details are really not that important in the end. The basic framework is usually the same. Someone seperates himself from God. Doesn't trust. Starts with a little bit... Rationalizes. Becomes entangled....begins to die...

This week the smell of death overpowered us in the Fort Portal church. But after three days of confession, repentance, accountability and God's Grace (deep sigh)...I perceive Revival has begun.

One man. Poor choices. Anger. Accusation. Confession. Guilt. Promises. Betrayal. Tears.

And many broken hearts. Not the least of His.

But in that Mysterious and Mind Boggling Way...He actually has us now...right where He can meet us.

Broken. Hurting. On our knees. Needing...

The Healer. Saviour. Compassionate One.

In our moments of shattering confession...we are real. Pretension erased. Hearts laid bare. And He begins to Heal. Painfully. Gently. Faithfully. Healing...Hearing...Watching.

It's not what this third world has come to expect. Shame. Accusation. Blame and Abandonment. That's what accompanies the darkness.

How unbelievably brilliant is His Revealing Light. Waiting, hopeful, flood the gloom of a dying heart. And Revive.

Please pray today for the heart of my dear brother here. Pray that he will be strong to stand, in a different way than anyone around him. Revealed. Imperfect. Forgiven. Fought for. Redeemed.

"Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:10-12

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Two Years and Counting

We hit a milestone this week.

Our baby turned two. And we are NOT expecting another one! :-)

Two is always a memorable marks the beginning of what will be some intense years of parenting. These boundary testing oh my.

The irony of a two year old is that the complete joy and delight of one moment can instantaneously transform into the most difficult test of patience and temper you have ever experienced....and then, before the time-out is're back to joy and delight.

Quite the ride.

And I have to I'm glad to experience...all told.

Silas was our true surprise. My first months of carrying him were filled with astounded shock. I COULD NOT be pregnant. But, alas. The nausea over came me...and the stick showed two lines.

His arrival took place on this soil...Uganda. His first months were full of colicky fun (?). His first year included travel to four different countries, a trip to Disneyland and so much attention from his doting siblings he still thinks the world revolves around him.

He is....a sign of how well God knows me....and keeps on giving anyway.

My birthing days have been a whirlwind. Four kids in 5 1/2 years. The baby years have felt like a blur. But through this last one...I've been able to actually hold on to the moments a time or two.... and I have so cherished those times. I think with number four...I was trying really hard to pay attention.
My Father must have known I needed that.
One more opportunity to open my eyes a little wider. One more baby to have our features and personality traits (egads!)--with all the joy and humility that demands! One more precious awareness of the constant need to re-evaluate what I value.

On his birthday this week, he actually let me rock him for 20 minutes. We had guests coming for a party. I had lunch to get ready...cakes to ice...a floor to sweep. But it was time for his nap and I was trying to make it a little bit special. He cuddled in my lap and we sat in the silence. Just the two of us. Rocking. I guess because I know from experience that these moments rush away...I WAS paying attention. And it was delightful.

Several of my friends are already at the letting go stage of parenting...and I'm starting to believe them when they say it will be here before I know it.
But it's hard to think about that now. Tomorrow lies on the other side of a few hours of sleep...and with tomorrow comes sippy cups to fill, diapers to change, potty training to master, more than one battle of wills, books to read,pacifiers to locate...

Through the blur, the "moments" emerge. I'm striving to savor and experience...not just "get through".

A milestone.

For me, Silas' two year mark, signifies the longest stretch I've gone in 7 years without being pregnant. (Could it be we FINALLY figured this out?!?!?)

But more than that. Silas' big day signifes God's all knowing and yet remarkably merciful care. He KNOWS what we deserve and yet lovingly gives us something way better. It's pretty stinkin' great, if you ask me.

I always wanted to be a Mommy.

God blessed me four times over. He is good.

Happy Birthday Silas. I am so glad you are here!