Saturday, December 05, 2009


I stood by the grave with Agnes and some friends. Moments earlier her tears had poured as I stepped out of the car. She couldn’t say much. Just two words repeatedly.

“So sad. So sad.”

She shook the hands of each person exiting the vehicles. We were all silent.

After a brief moment of no one knowing exactly where to look or what to say, Agnes led us to the freshly filled grave. There were several flower arrangements on the moist earth. Agnes stood closest to the burial site. She was stoic. We all gathered around and a prayer was spoken. Young Anna Marie, stood back from the rest. She didn’t take her eyes off her mom. Her normally happy eyes filled with deep concern each time Agnes’ tears overflowed.

The next hour ushered us into a grandmother’s sitting room and into Scripture.

We weren’t looking for answers.

I do not know of any answers in the face of such sorrow.

I sought to offer Ivan’s family a response.

Jesus stood by fresh graves too. He saw burials and heard the wails of the grieving.

We are told that Jesus was deeply moved or troubled in spirit when he witnessed the grieving. (Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-44)

According to the Lazarus story, he even wept.

Yet, in both of those scripture references, He was going to conquer the death. He was going to raise the person up. Amazement and joy were coming, and He was burdened by the death anyway.

We offered to Agnes that Jesus sees her tears, hears her wails and aches for her loneliness.

Even though He knows that good is coming. And Life awaits those who believe.

Our current pain is still His pain.

I long for people to meet this Jesus. This One who knows us so well.

The One who has cried real tears and felt real heartbreak. The One who had to wipe his snotty nose.

Our King.

I believe young Ivan walks with Him now.

The holidays are a painful time to grieve. But inevitably, grief comes. Or returns. The lights, the decorations, the songs and the food can ignite memories of those who have passed on.

Dear Ones, who carry such a weight, Jesus knows. He completely understands the pain and stench of death. He went, even there.

Death could not hold Him. Nor will it hold us, if we believe in Him.

I am certain of that life on the other side.

But my tears sure flow freely right now.


Ivan passed from this life on the morning of November 17, 2009. He was hit by a car on the road near his home. He was not yet 10 years old. He is survived by his mother Akiiki Agnes, sister Anna Marie, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins and a church family who loved him so much.

“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thankful Mondays

-pretty toes
-girl's day out
-good friends
-good news
-hot coffee
-a great series of books
-oreo ice cream
-new football games to watch
-hearing my niece's sweet, sweet voice for the first time

(Join the crowd! )

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Cutter, Cutter, Peanut Butter"

The school term begins this week in Uganda. Which means that school fees are being paid en masse at banks across this land.

I have been paying fees for awhile now. Start early. That’s the secret.

Unfortunately, “early” is not an easy thing for me.

So, it was with firm resolve that I walked up the stairs of the bank last Thursday at 11AM.

Yep. Almost midday. The line was all the way to the door.

Resigned to my fate, I joined the queue.

A queue full of two faces: The Stare and The Gawk.

I have mastered The Stare. The trick is finding nothing to look at. No person. No one thing for a very long time. Just an indifferent sort of gaze.
Most of my fellow queue-ers were already well into The Stare mode when I entered. I broke their reverie with my arrival.

The long line, to a person, broke wholeheartedly into The Gawk. This is enabled by my very white face.

I pretend not to notice. But The Gawk actually seems to burn holes in my back.

I ignore The Gawk and with a deep breath I enable my own Stare hoping that the effort will somehow, magically make me blend in.

Everyone’s attention is drawn away from my pale skin by the first cutter.

She is smooth. She walks past all of us with her heavy bag and stack of papers. She, in mastery of The Confident Gait, takes her place well in front of me.

I am silently annoyed. But I say nothing. Everyone's attention was just drawn AWAY from me. I did not want to call that attention back. Several of my Queue-mates raise their eyebrows and snicker. It seems they are almost thankful for the break in the endless staring. Her misdeed is a sort of distraction. (telling) We all quickly settle back into The Stare.

Two more self serving individuals place themselves conveniently at the front part of the line.

I decide, that the next time I will speak up.

And in walks E. The sweetest older woman you’ve ever met. I have only had two opportunities to speak with her through the years, but she is deeply respected and valued in this community.

I felt my Stare morph into Gawk as sweet little E greeted her way to the front of the line.

I imagined myself calling sweet E out. And I shuddered a little bit.

With a sigh, I kept my mouth closed.

The woman with the crippled leg grabbed my attention next. She limped her way to the front of the line and no one complained. I momentarily felt proud of the compassion and patience we were all exhibiting on her behalf. Of course SHE can go to the front of the line.

She approached the teller. Finished her transaction and then left.

A few minutes later she was back. With another transaction.

And again.

And again.

Seems she had a bit of a hustle going on. ☺

Meanwhile, I barely moved for another half hour.

All of a sudden (I must have dozed), I was near the front of the line. There were two in front of me.


And then.

The Nun.

She jumped in front of the first gentlemen. He was caught off guard, lost The Stare and looked annoyed for a quarter of a second. Then was jolted back into reality by the fact that she was A Nun.

She sidled up to the teller and pulled out a huge stack of papers.

Gracious me.

I think she was paying school fees for the entire tribe.

More unfortunate than her stack of papers, was the teller she chose. In over an hour of waiting time, I had carefully observed the tellers. There were four at work. One was for business customers only. Three were for the rest of us. Two of the tellers I had begun to think of as MH1 and MH2 (“MH” stands for molasses hands). The teller at the first window would be our savior. He worked quickly, relatively speaking. And I loved him.

UNTIL…and in the third world there is ALWAYS something else…

Mr Bank Employee in is stylin’ tweed jacket comes to complain to the tellers about the line. After talking their ears off for several minutes, which only served to slow them down, (have mercy!) he came out to address the crowd.

He said something like, “This line is too long!”

Thank you. I will now refer to you as Einstein.

So Einstein begins to peruse everyone’s deposit slips. In some seemingly arbitrary way, he pulls people from the line BEHIND me and puts them in a direct line for teller #1. The savior. Which, in effect, made him lost to me forever.

Now, thanks to the brilliant categorizing of Einstein, I am stuck behind Pushy Nun and my entire day rests in Hands Made of Molasses.

At this point, I began to huff. I couldn’t help it.

It did no good.

Twenty five minutes later, I dragged my weary bones to the teller window and handed her my papers.

She languidly went through the motions. I held my breath lest she decide it was tea time and leave me standing there. But, with a million slamming slaps of her official stamps, she finally completed my transaction.

Painful. Long. And able to reduce my maturity level to that of a 1st grader.

“Cutter, cutter, peanut butter!”

Next time I’m going with that!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thankful for...

---a moment alone on the porch with a cup of tea and a cool breeze
---American football
---long conversations with my husband
---chocolate frozen desserts
---my daughter cooking breakfast
---older siblings leading younger siblings through reading and math
---completed tasks
---new school books
---speaking Rutoro to children

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mojo Magic

I went to a wonderful high school some years ago.

20 years ago.

I know! I can’t believe that either. ☺

But nevertheless, the time, it passes.

As I perused FB photos from the reunion this last week, I remembered many things about high school. The memories are random and in no particular order. Which is pretty much life for me these days.

So. High school.

1. My graduating class had @650 graduates. I can’t remember the exact number.
2. At graduation I did not know either of the people sitting next to me. (I had to count down the row 10 people before I came to someone I knew.)
3. My sophomore year of school I never saw my best friend at school, ever. We had different lunches and class schedules and so had to meet up on the weekends.
4. I was in band and choir.
5. I loved band. They were like family during those years and some of my best memories are with those funny, funny folks.
6. Our band was really great!
7. It took 6 buses to transport our band and equipment to games and contests.
8. MA was always my seatmate on band bus trips. Unless she had a boyfriend.
9. I had a boyfriend every year of high school but rarely had a date on the weekends. Unless it was a holiday. (it’s like a riddle)
10. I did not go to prom and I’m still okay with that.
11. My dad heard about more of my friend’s parties than I did. (clarification: he was never invited. He just always heard about them.)
12. I was only offered drugs once. (I stared at the young man in shocked silence and he immediately shoved the goods back in his pocket and sulked in the back of our chemistry class. I never saw him in class again.)
13. I cannot stand KFC because of a very ill-fated meal on a cross country band trip at a Moose Lodge in Arizona. Yucky.
14. I loved football season.
15. I was a Pepette my senior year.
16. My track runner was Shane, my basketball player was ?, and my football player was Tag. (why can’t I remember my basketball player? Shawn Almond? Did he play basketball?)
17. I first got to know Tag in 8th grade. In junior high, the football players joined home economics class for laughs and Tag was placed in my cooking group. I cooked. He made jokes. We got an A.
18. An author followed our football team around all year and told our student body at a pep rally that he was going to write a book about Permian like the story “Hoosiers”.
19. He did write a book.
20. It is nothing like Hoosiers.
21. The book made me sad. The movie was weird to watch. The TV show is one of my favorites. Go figure.
22. The first time I took a computer class was my junior year.
23. We learned MSDOS code. We thought we were so advanced.
24. We often wrote words and messages on each other’s car windows with white shoe polish.
25. I remember the first time I heard the brass section play in a rehearsal at the band hall. It was impressive.
26. Mr Nail called me a slug once over his bullhorn.
27. I remember all the girls curling our bangs in the dressing room after early morning marching. And the smell of hairspray that permeated the air. Bangs were so important then. (Okay. Bangs are still important. We just don’t make them so big.)
28. The invention of the butane curling iron revolutionized life for the band girls.
29. The last time I ever marched, it was rainy and cold.
30. My dad always played Santa Claus at our half time show at Christmas.
31. Hawai 50!
32. I can still play part of the Mojo fight song on the flute. (powerful ☺)
33. Arlington High vs Permian was the best high school football game I have ever seen. Maybe that was ever played?
34. The Arlington High band got aggressive during our pre-game march around the track thing. The band. They marched into our band and hit us. Meanies. I thought we were really going to see Mr Nail’s head explode.
35. My friends gave me a surprise party for my 18th birthday.
36. I made a bet with my BFF that whoever married first had to buy dinner for the other at a very expensive restaurant when we turned 40. We got married within a month of each other. (after college, not in high school) I owe her dinner. Soon.
37. I loved sitting next to Karina in band. We were funny. (even if no one else appreciated the humor)
38. There was this one intersection of halls at Permian where you could barely move through between classes. You just sort of smooshed into an obscure sort of “lane” and inched your way in the direction of your next class. It was noisy and crowded and always made me nervous.
39. I think of that every time I drive in Kampala traffic.
40. I made first chair in the PHS band flute section exactly one time.
41. I never sat first chair because, well, Denise and Stephanie…but I told my dear friend Mary and she celebrated with me.
42. TACO VILLA!!!!
43. Before I got my car I rode to school in a white mustang with Jill. We were always running a wee bit late, so Jill had to drive fast. It broke her heart to do so because she was such a safe and conscientious driver. ☺
44. Open-campus meant we got to eat out for lunch. I thought this was so cool but it was also the most stressful time of day. Drive somewhere. Eat. Drive back. In 25 minutes.
45. Eating at Wendy’s always makes me think of Danny, Mary and a brown Honda.
46. I was president of the National Honor Society.
47. I was chaplain of band and choir.
48. I led a lot of prayers.
49. I had a Physics teacher named Mr. Hare who was completely bald. And he was a contortionist.
50. I started and ended every school day in the band hall. It was home away from home.

Our class became somewhat famous. We are the class from Friday Night Lights.

It was exciting to think of someone writing a book about our school. Until it was published. And then most folks were underwhelmed or irate. It is difficult to be scrutinized publicly.

I never played football. (shocker) But I was an active part of many other aspects of Permian High School. So, for me, the very public analysis of our football program, school and town never felt complete. Did Mr. Bissinger really do all his homework?

He never interviewed me.


Go MOJO! Keep supporting your kids.

I loved being a part of your tradition and memories!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Remarkable things follow that familiar cry. Sometimes love. Sometimes tears.

And sometimes…

“He peed on my stomach and now I HAVE to take a bath.”

“We were playing the game where we hit our heads against each other’s knees…”

“There are nine rats in our closet.”

It’s never boring around here!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Glimpse

Glimpse: a momentary or partial view

Silas stopped by the kitchen for his snack break. It had been a whole 5 minutes since his last request for chocolate. A request that scored a banana. He was back to try again.

He could not stand still. Arms tugging at his shirt and hands tapping the table and eyes darting around the room.

“Mom. Could I have something to eat….like chocolate?”

I pause to take in this sweet, sweet boy. Growing seemingly before my very eyes.

And I catch a glimpse of something odd around his waist.

“What is that around your waist?!”

Head ducking…

“A rubber band.”

“Why is it around your waist?”

“Well, these shorts are too big and keep falling off, so I put a rubber band around them to keep them up.”

Matter of fact. Eyes searching my face for an explanation of my concern.

“Please take that off. Rubber bands can cut off circulation and cause problems. Belts are for your waist. Rubber bands are for…something else. NOT any body part. Ever.”

“Yes mam.”

And then up over his head (!) comes the rubber band and still in tact, he hands it to me and runs off to play.

Tugging at his shorts and shouting to his brothers…

“She said no to the chocolate.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

106. Silas and Jotham laughing over a silly joke.

107. Isaac reading a book.

108. Anticipation of fellowship.

109. Healing.

110. Enough Velveeta to make Queso.

111. Sharing Queso with friends!

112. Praying with brave women.

113. Comfy jeans.

114. Helpful kiddos.

115. A very hot cup of tea.

Thankful for all of these...

Monday, July 20, 2009


"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." 2 Samuel 22: 17-20

I pray this scripture often throughout my recent days. Seems this is a season of "deep waters" for many.

My appreciation to all who prayed for our friends, Kevin and JD. Their story is so amazing and has brought much hope and thankfulness to our hearts. JD’s recounting is moving and God glorifying. Read and be blessed.

Our hearts labor in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Cochabamba, Bolivia. A terrible bus accident has rocked the church family there. Please go here to read the details and updates and lift these dear ones up as they struggle through grief and the emotion of trauma.

And then...

Jobs, sickness, death, relationships, choices, decisions, ministry, war...

"...he rescued me because he delighted in me."

Reminded of his unfailing love and delight in us.

Emboldened by His victory.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." 2 Cor 2:14

Triumph is good. And "always" boasts pretty great odds.

So, I'm sticking close to Christ. Praying His scent emanates.

And lifting up the names, the precious spirits God lays on my heart.

Love to you, my friends. Whatever deep waters you find yourself in today. Or witness others treading through...

Fight the good fight.

Stand firm.

Spacious places await.

I'm counting on it.

For all of us.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Prayer Cover

UpdateKevin regained conciousness Friday evening and is sustaining breathing on his own. Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray for his complete healing.

Will you pray for our friends today?

Kevin and JD are friends who served as missionaries in Bundibugyo for over a decade. They founded a secondary school. Their four children are the ages of ours.

They relocated to the US last year and recently announced Kevin's new teaching job at a wonderful school in the Northeast.

Yesterday, Kevin collapsed while on a jog with their oldest son. JD found him with no pulse or breathing.

He was revived and is currently in very critical condition.

Please pray for Kevin, JD, Joe, Louisa, Savannah and Nate.

Father, please hold these, Your dear ones, tight. Please heal Kevin, for Your Glory. Thank you for the medical care that was near him and for restarting his heart. Please comfort Joe and JD through the trauma they have faced. Hold them all through the trauma they continue to walk through. Please pull your Body, your Church around them to help them function and thrive through these days. Thank you for hearing us. In Jesus, Amen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodbyes and Grace

And here we are again. That word.


In January of 1995 Jeff and I arrived, with our vehicle and 9 rubbermaid trunks to Kagote housing district, Ft Portal. We had no beds. No table. No stove. No furniture.


We also had no friends. In our pockets were two letters. One was for David and one was for the LC5, a local government official. We would eventually meet those two men, but for some weeks, it was just us, two german shepherds and a very foreign place.

Sometime during those first months, on a Sunday, an American drove into our compound. His name was Bob and he and his wife were planning to move to Ft Portal permanently. They were building a house and in the process of adopting their first baby. We quickly made plans to meet up for a meal.

Over the next months we shared many candlelit dinners with Bob and Jennifer. Candlelit because we had to. No power. We lived for those debrief times. Bob and Jennifer were living in two tiny mud rooms. We were carving a niche in a rat and cockroach infested concrete house.

We would talk late into the night about this foreign culture we were trying so earnestly to learn about and survive in. We always had hours of stories between us. Marriage. Language. Electricity. Water. Construction. We laughed a lot. Cried some. Prayed for each other. And hoped. We had so much hope during those days.

We were unlikely friends. Presbyterians thrown together with the church of Christ. Theological differences, varying backgrounds, contrasting personalities.

One Lord.

And that was enough. He is always Enough.

Twelve years and 9 children later, we stand on the other side of our goodbye.

Thankful for Grace.

Because that is what made it all possible. Grace for our differences. Grace for our shortcomings. Grace in a million big and little ways.

How do you summarize 12 years of births, adoptions, burials, birthdays, holidays, victories and defeats?

I don't think I can.

Instead, I take all that those years have given. Give thanks.
And move forward.

Looking towards Home.

God be with you, Chedesters. We love you.

I know His Grace more for walking with you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Wedding Ring

I love my wedding ring.

It is, just what I wanted.

Jeff and I were poor when we began wedding plans. We were poor and set on living our life in Africa.

I decided that a plain, simple wedding band would suit me just fine. I love diamonds but financially and practically it didn’t seem the time for diamonds. We could save and invest in some gems later.

Jeff decided differently.

One time he asked me what kind of ring I would want if I could choose. Shape of diamond? Yellow gold or white gold? Solitaire or in a larger setting?

Honestly, I answered, “Heirloom.”

I had developed a fondness for antique/old jewelry. Especially, if said jewelry came with a story. A happy one, preferably.

But, I quickly brushed this discussion aside. Plain bands. We had decided.

About a week before my birthday, Jeff began to verbally “stress out” over my empty ring finger. He said that every girl deserved an engagement story. An engagement ring.

He said that he felt like a bum.

I prayed for him. I asked God to help him be content.

My birthday rolled around with big plans for a whole day together. Jeff asked me to dress up and said that we would have a nice lunch at a restaurant of my choosing. He was to meet me after chapel. (I was still in college).

The singing group I was in was singing that day in chapel and towards the end of our presentation, I noticed Jeff walk in the back of the auditorium. He was dressed in a suit.

This made me very happy. It was going to be a nice date!

During announcements, I tried to leave out of a side door, anxious to meet up with my knight and begin our day of romance. Just as I reached the door, my roommate grabbed my arm and shoved me in the chair beside her. I complained and she said, oddly, “Don’t you want to hear them wish you happy birthday?!” (birthdays were announced in chapel daily)

No. I did not care to waste my romantic day waiting to hear my name said over a microphone. And then, I noticed Jeff. He and his roommate were walking down the aisles of chapel. They were both wearing suits, dark sunglasses and had earpieces, like the Secret Service.

I began to feel very nervous. And if my roommate hadn’t had such superhuman strength at that moment, I would have successfully escaped out the side door.

I was scared, all of a sudden.

Jeff went up on stage and called me to the front. Things began to go fuzzy. My face felt on fire. What in the world was he doing?! I was handcuffed and escorted outside for “questioning”.

I don’t remember specifics of the next bit of time. Humiliation blocks memory apparently.

I was blindfolded, driven all over Lubbock Tx, switched from car to car and finally told to remove my blindfold to discover I was in the middle of nowhere West Texas being driven by Jeff’s roommate, also named Jeff. We were turning into a private airfield and there was a helicopter waiting.

A helicopter? We were quickly informed that the helicopter couldn’t fly today. Too windy. (In Lubbock? Wind? Shocking.)

Roommate Jeff shifted to Plan B and drove me to Boyfriend Jeff who was waiting on a dock near a pond in a park with a table, chairs and birthday cake.

I chastised my love. He had shared many elaborate date stories from his own college experiences. But our dating life had, up until this moment, remained pretty low key. I accepted the events of the morning as they were meant. A birthday surprise and a lot of hoopla to cement a memory and have some fun. My embarrassment was just icing on the cake.

Cake. Jeff had made a strawberry cake and we sat down to enjoy it. I assumed all the excitement was over. Jeff served my piece and it looked a little odd.

It was not a piece of cake at all. But a ring box, iced into the strawberry cake.

I was shocked.

And my mind raced. Where did he get the money for this? How did he do this? What did it look like?!?!

He ceremoniously got down on one knee, opened the ring box, took out the ring and began to speak.

“Will you….”

The world seemed to stop for a minute. THE moment was before me.. The words and event romanticized and play acted by little girls for generations.

The Proposal. It was happening. I was trying to take it all in.

I was wrapped up in the exhilaration of surprise and expectantly held my breath.

In that flash of an instant…my dear suitor… dropped the ring.

In slow motion I watched the ring bounce off the deck and into the water. With a tiny little plunk that seemed to echo for several minutes.

Jeff tore off his coat and tie and jumped into the pond. I stared in disbelief.

Who does this? Who drops the ring? Who loses THE moment?

Was it a sign?

I felt sick.

The water of the man-made pond was as thick as the silence around me.

We were supposed to be celebrating by now, tears of joy pouring down our love struck faces. But instead…

Jeff came out of the water overwhelmed with apology. He said we needed to go get his scuba gear. I didn’t have the heart to speak the obvious truth. The ring was gone.

Why did I feel such loss when I didn’t even have my heart set on it in the first place?

We began to load the uneaten cake and the small table and chairs into the car. There were two other presents under the table, wrapped with beautiful bows. He had asked my shirt size the day before and so I figured he had bought me clothes. (he does a great job at picking out clothes for me, BTW)

He asked me to open those presents, at least. He continued to apologize and lament.

I unwrapped the first box, pulled back the tissue paper to see…

A ring box.

A. Ring. Box.

I looked up to the twinkling eyes of my very mischievous boyfriend who innocently said, “What’s this?!”

He took the box, opened it and got down on one knee again.

He said something about me never losing his love and then “Will you marry me?”

I paused longer than he expected.

But then I decided it was safer to get the ring on MY finger before he dropped it again.

I said, “Yes”, which was a decision I had already made through a series of long talks, heart sharing and prayers. Good thing for him. This proposal was turning me every which way but loose.

He gently placed a beautiful, old fashioned, heirloom ring on my finger and then I punched him in the arm. Repeatedly.

Jeff confessed that the first ring was a set up. A Walmart $3 ring he purposefully tossed in the water.


Well. That’s just how he rolls.

The writing was on the wall for me.

This man was a mess. A MESS. He would always surprise me, never be boring and never outgrow his propensity for losing things. (sigh)

But he wouldn’t lose me. True to his word. He has held on and persevered and somehow managed to treasure me through this life.

The ring was gorgeous. Perfect.

His grandmother’s. She was one of our first phone calls after my heart started beating again and I had quit punching him.

She was thrilled to share the story of the ring. As I remember, she said the ring was given to her and AJ (Jeff’s grandfather) by a friend. AJ served as a minister and they never had a lot of money. Her original wedding band was simple and inexpensive. When their friend presented them with this ring, she and AJ were so thankful and thrilled. Grandma Rose wore it for many years.

Jeff’s Mom shared with me once about her Mom and Dad (Rose and AJ) enjoying a cup of coffee together every day when AJ came in from work. Phyllis remembered that as their time. The kids were not allowed to interrupt. Phyllis saw their friendship and their adoration for each other in those coffee moments. And in many other moments too.

When AJ passed away, Rose, grieved so much. Their relationship had been faithful, deep and precious. Losing him was devastating to her.

Some years later, Rose met Francis and he asked her to be his wife. At that time, she passed on this wedding ring to Phyllis. Phyllis had in mind for the ring to go to her daughter Kristi.

When Jeff decided to marry me he asked his Mom if she knew of any heirloom jewelry in the family. Phyllis asked Kristi, who said she would be happy for Jeff to have the ring, and sent the ring to Jeff.

And that is how I came to have Grandma Rose’s wedding ring.

It represents love, faithfulness and the generosity of loved ones. It also represents many sweet moments over coffee.

Jeff and I have been incredibly blessed by the heritage we have in our grandparents. All four sets, loving each other “til death do us part.” Their marital faithfulness and devotion has encouraged and spurred us on as we continue to learn and grow together. We don’t take this heritage for granted.

Grandma Rose was buried last week. She was our last living grandparent. We grieve her passing, and long for heaven. Where hugs, reunion and peace will reward those of us redeemed by Grace.

Until then, we have many wonderful things to hold on to as we journey.

Grandma’s ring and what it represents is one of those things for me.

A heritage, that we will never lose. An heirloom ring with a story.

A happy one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Tent

Not enough words in the world to describe the journey to this moment.

Fort Portal Church of Christ. Worshiping on their land. In the tent.

Of course, there will always be a next step. The church land committee is working towards the laying of a cement floor.

The full length tent will be set up on this floor.

But for now, in true Ugandan fashion, we set up what we can. Meet on our land. And, mpora, mpora, (slowly, slowly) we complete the place for the full tent.

The first morning brought me to tears. Long awaited. Much appreciated. Well received.

Please, Holy Father, be honored in this place. It is truly our deepest desire.

Thank you Glenwood.


How deep our grateful hearts feel love for you.


Friday, May 01, 2009

And Then There Was April...

Isaac sighs with a glance at the calendar.

“April has been a long year.”


Some months feel that way don’t they?

We’ve had much to celebrate and rejoice over this month. So much activity, in fact, that sitting to write about it has been impossible. Too busy living it. There is much good in that too.

So now, on this last day of a “long year”, here are the bullet points of the Cash family April.

1. Easter—What a week we had. So busy. So full of good things. Family from America and Rwanda arrived midweek and spent the holiday weekend with us. We dyed eggs, decorated cupcakes, perused old pictures, talked late into the night, enjoyed Starbucks (!), celebrated a Seder meal, hunted Easter eggs and shared dinner on the grounds with our town church. We even managed to give Evan Martin his Empako (nickname and important ceremonial “welcoming” of babies in the Tooro culture).

2. We all awoke early on the day after Easter to depart in different directions. Our Rwanda visitors headed home by bus. Our American visitors rode to Kampala to fly out (to Rwanda) for more time with their kids. And Aimee Jo, Cheryl and baby Evan driving to Kenya for the East Africa Women’s retreat in Kakamega rainforest.

3. Driving in Africa—by leaps and bounds THE most dangerous thing we do. I do not like driving here and thank God daily for Jeff’s proficiency and willingness to shoulder this task. But among the girls, I was the most experienced so climbed behind the wheel with constant prayers for God’s mercies and protection.
We had two close calls. Two young girls walked in front of our vehicle sending me skidding and drifting into the other lane. And a dying lorry (semi truck) blocking traffic on a hill locked us into oncoming traffic.
We were carried through the incidents successfully, but their memory robbed me of sleep. And flooded my heart with thankfulness. We had one flat tire. Which was discovered while still in a major town. We were directed to a terrific gas station and with the help of able men, our tire was repaired and we were on our way.

4. We didn’t get lost. We went a new way (for me) to cross the border between Kenya and Uganda. Which means new roads and new turns. All of which had been described to me by my husband, but a bit of risk, nonetheless. I was so thrilled to make the trek with no missed turns at all. A miracle to be sure!

5. Ladies Retreat. Wonderful. There is a camaraderie among women who share this type of life. Shared struggle. Understanding hearts. Much laughing and always some tears. How sweet the fellowship.

6. The delight of home. I love hugging my kids. Hearing their fun memories with Dad (hide and seek in the night time!) Sleeping in my own bed. I’m thankful that coming home is such a wonderful feeling.

7. Back to it. There are meetings, school lessons, Bible studies, goodbyes, a little thing we call Faith Quest….all around the corner. So I breathe deep, cling to His hand and forward we go.

Hope your April has been blessed!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Honoring the Miracle--Conclusion

March 20.

After a long night of intermittent labor and an early morning of excruciating work…

One little girl changed our world forever.

The cord was wrapped around her neck and tied into a knot. The doctor worked quickly and expertly cut the cord, loosening its hold on our baby’s airway. She took gasping breaths, while the rest of the delivery room held theirs. Her pinking up and loud wails brought cheers and tears all around.

Our doctor, glanced at Jeff to say, “You have one lucky girl here.”

Jeff replied, “Blessed, Dr Patel. She is blessed.”

Once Kinley started to wail she didn’t stop. She was in the baby warmer being checked over by a pediatrician while Jeff held my hand and we offered prayers of more gratitude than I had ever felt. The doctor asked Jeff to come and comfort our baby girl, until I was able to take her.

Jeff walked near to the baby warmer and leaned in close, Kinley’s wails filled the room. Jeff said, “Kinley, honey. It’s Daddy.”

Her cries immediately stopped, and her head turned towards his voice.

My big strong hubby broke into tears, looked at me and said, “She knows me!” And, my friends, that was that. She had his heart. Forever and for always.

I could not stop looking at her. Could. Not. Stop.

I watched her chest rise and fall. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

I put my ear to her chest to hear the thumping of her heart.


I’ve been given many things from my Lord. Many things.

But those early days of motherhood, with the memory of sickness and fever in the recent past, were some of my most grateful days ever.

Why did He do this for me?

She turned eleven last week. She has a passion for God that is astounding to me. She loves people. She loves her family. She is a terrific artist.

Our days are full of school and cooking together and hearing her dreams and plans. We’ve painted her room pink and blue and stenciled and picked out curtains. We’ve taped her ballet classes and enjoyed sleepovers and movie nights. We have lively discussions about fashion and what she can (or can’t) wear. We’ve heard her confess Christ as Lord and seen her be baptized. We’ve pierced her ears and cut her hair.

We’ve lived.

But I always know in my mother’s heart. She is His. His.

He decided to let me know her on this earth. I may never understand all the reasons why.

I drink in the fear of those early months. The desperate prayers. The understanding that at any point it could have gone the other way. The knowledge that for many it does.

I swallow all of that and let it refine and remind me of Him.

My Kinley does that. Testifies to Him. Without saying a word.

I love you my girl. God sent you here for a purpose. Never stray from His side. He loves you more than I do. And, sweet girl, that is saying a lot.

Thank you Jesus.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Honoring the Miracle Part IV

At month 5, I turned a corner. I began to feel hungry again and managed to keep food down. I moved from my bed to the couch. I bathed.

Praise Jesus, I felt that baby kick.

I cry even now.

Months passed and I gradually gained more strength. I rejoiced at my expanding middle and celebrated every movement in my womb. We made difficult decisions about where we would birth this child. We chose Nairobi, Kenya and made detailed and complicated arrangements for housing, transportation, physicians and hospitals.

The week before we left for Nairobi I traveled to a nearby village to say goodbye to a group of women I had been studying with. As my language helper and I drove into the village, we saw the women moving en masse towards Akiik’s home. The mood was somber and we immediately knew that a burial was imminent.

We drove into Akiiki’s compound and were informed that Akiiki had delivered a baby boy and that he had quickly died. Burial was today. The community of women gathering took in my heavy form and quickly moved inside to scurry and speak in hushed tones. My language helper explained that the baby’s body was laid out in the sitting room and that they were covering it because I shouldn’t see it.

I’m sure there were some animistic principles I could have addressed, but my head and emotions were swimming and I took this act as a mercy from friends and quietly entered to sit near to Akiiki’s weeping form. I held her hand and cried with her. And somewhere in the hour I managed to publicly word a prayer. I remember my baby kicking as I prayed.

After an appropriate time together, my language helper and I departed for home. As I drove us over the bumpy roads I could hardly think straight, let alone speak.

When I dropped my language helper at her home, I asked why the baby had died. Joy solemnly replied, ‘Akiiki had malaria early in her pregnancy and did not treat it. Her fever took his life.”

I managed to reach home before falling apart.

Honestly, without the expertise and science of an autopsy report, we could not know for sure what sickness had taken Akiiki’s son. But the reality of what God had mercifully carried me and our child through so far was heavy and convicting to me. Treatment or no treatment…God had saved our baby up to now. It was in His hands as to our story’s conclusion. The mourning and grief of Akiiki and her community flooded me with the unanswered questions I was growing accustomed to in the Third World. So much devastation. So much brokenness.

I walked through the irony of my friend’s grief and my own preparation for our baby. I wish I could say I was optimistic. I think I was just resolute. One day at a time. Baby is okay for now. Don’t worry about tomorrow.

(to be continued...)

Honoring the Miracle Part III

By God’s grace I completed the second cycle of malaria meds over the next week and slowly felt the malaria symptoms subside.

There was no sonogram at that point in our town. No way to check on the baby. I panicked at every tummy cramp and longed to feel the baby move. Just to be sure.
I began living in constant fear of another relapse. When the days would grow warm, I would fret. Was my sweating from a fever? Could we survive it again?

I continued to struggle with nausea and vomiting and I remained very dehydrated. We called doctors and prayed and I barely moved from my bed.

I recalled the story of Adoniram Judson and his wife Ann. They are known as the first American missionaries and they served in India. Ann suffered long with fever that ultimately took her life. She spent nearly two years alone with her sickness. I pathetically wondered if that was in fact my fate. It was a strange cycle of emotions. I lay on that bed because I could not physically move anywhere else. I missed my family so much during those days. There was little TV to watch (power was sporadic), no distraction. Just hour after hour of staring at those walls. And listening to that cow.

One evening, I sank lower than ever before. My spirit cried out to God with groans that words cannot express. I thought that maybe I was already insane. I spoke out loud, “God I feel so alone.”

The words were not even completely out of my mouth, when my phone rang.

Now, you could not fully comprehend my astonishment over this fact unless you had driven our muddy roads and viewed our phone lines. Draped through trees, tied in bows around wooden poles…cut and stolen. Phone lines were a delicate matter and rarely ever worked. Phone calls were a test of endurance and patience. And calls from the States were unexpected and usually impossible.

I stared at the ringing phone in shock. I wondered if it might be God. ☺ Only He could make those silly phone lines work!

The voice I heard was my Mam-ma’s. She said, “Is that my Cheryl?!?!” I couldn’t answer well because of my tears. She rattled on about the weather and her menu for the week and Granddaddy’s lawnmower repair and her own pregnancies and she made some joke about pantyhose that had me in stitches…Mam-ma.

Yep, God was definitely in on that call.

Mam-ma talked for 45 minutes. I gently laid the phone in its cradle after the “I love yous” were said.

And the phone rang again.

I kid you not.

With reverent tone, I answered.

Amy. My best friend, Amy. She had just had her first baby boy. Twins were around the corner for her (though I don’t think we knew that yet?) She talked about pregnancy, and medications, and she encouraged me. She was always encouraging me. I cleaned out a box of greeting cards recently. Cards we received during our first years in Africa. Probably every third or fourth card was from Amy. Can’t say with words how much she means to me. That evening discussion was fellowship I drank in like a dry sponge. My best friend. Forty five minutes of love, friendship and laughter.

I hung up, astonished at God’s abundant provision and perfect timing.

And that phone rang for a third time.

I answered to a fellow missionary who told me I had been on her mind all day and that she was praying. Was I okay? I told her the truth. And I praised God.

He Sees.

I slept well that night. Not insane. Not alone.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Honoring the Miracle Part II

We were in Kampala and had a very difficult trip ahead of us. I was holding in more liquids than before the malaria, but I was still feeling constant nausea (due to pregnancy). The bumpy, six hour ride home did not seem inviting. But we struck out anyway.

We reached our house in Ft Portal on a Sunday morning, and found our town church waiting on the porch. Jeff led them in worship in our living room and I went straight to bed.

I expected my strength to return over the next days. But it didn’t. I stayed in bed. I cried. I prayed. And I threw up. A lot.

I remember white walls. Our room didn’t have any pictures hanging in it yet. And the cow. Our next door neighbors had a sad, loud cow, that wandered the length of our shared fence mooing so loudly and so persistently I was nearly driven over the brink.

After another week in bed, throwing up 7-8 times a day and growing weaker and weaker, I felt a fever again. Jeff was out helping feed a small displacement camp in town and I again felt waves of hysteria engulf me. My fever was back. What could this mean?

Jeff came home and drove me to the Catholic hospital in town. I could barely walk to and from the car. A European doctor examined and diagnosed me.

Malaria. Again.

The doctor brusquely prescribed my medication and harshly informed me that I had to drink more water. I explained that I was vomiting everything that went in. She told me to try harder.

I cried all the way home.

The malaria treatment increased my nausea ten-fold. My days were agony. We found out that it would take my body one hour to absorb the medication and begin circulating it through my system. So I would swallow the pills and will myself to not throw up. It took all of my energy. I would have Jeff squeeze my feet or hands to the point of pain to take my mind off the nausea.

I would pray. Beg really. I could not see how we (my sweet baby and me) could both survive this onslaught for a second time.

I threw away my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. It was too depressing in my current predicament.

I could not keep fluids or food in my system. I was battling malaria again with only chloroquine. Most malaria in our part of Africa is chloroquine resistant but it was the only drug the doctors felt was relatively safe for the baby. A gamble either way. There was a chance the drug would not eradicate the parasite. A stronger drug could eradicate the pregnancy.

I was ravaged by fever. And I was in my first trimester of pregnancy.

I fought desperately to NOT dwell on the impossible odds.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Honoring the Miracle Part I

My thoughts have been overcome the last week with Kinley’s story. Our story. I kept a journal during that time for her, but feel compelled to write the story here to be sure that we never forget what God did for us in those telling times. I sank to depths, physically and emotionally, that I never had thought possible in my blessed, happy life. I feared devastation and often found myself there.

I also found Him. A Powerful God Who, beyond my comprehension, chooses to meet me in the ugliness and drought as easily as He is revealed in times of victory and glory. He is big enough for both. How could I ever be devoted to anyone else?

This from a post written two years ago:

During our second and third years in Uganda, our little corner of the country faced a drastic crisis. A rebel army began terrorizing the villages all through the Rwenzori Moutains.
Jeff and the young men at church spent the better part of the two years delivering food relief and medical treatment to the hardest hit villages. It was a difficult, blessed, exhausting, amazing time.

I experienced this time in a unique way. From my bed.

Just as the rebels marched within 15 miles of our quaint little town...I discovered that one of my greatest longings had been fulfilled. I was officially going to be a mommy. Jeff and I were ecstatic over the news of our first little one. Soon after the nausea and pregnancy sickness began to take firm hold of my being...another sickness attempted to steal the whole show. Malaria.

The first diagnosis came at the International Health Clinic. Just a few days earlier I had celebrated at a doctor’s office. We were pregnant. Our circumstance less than 72 hours later was more somber. I found myself at another clinic in another town and I could not even bear to sit in the waiting room. My constant vomiting and the resulting dehydration now coupled with the agonizing cycles of malaria had weakened me beyond exhaustion. Dr Clarke led me into a smaller room with a metal table I could lie on. When the cycle of chills would over take my body, I would shake so much the table would bounce up and down and move away from the wall. Jeff, who himself was suffering from malaria, would put all his weight on the table to hold it steady until the chills and shaking would subside.

Lying on that table, watching IV fluids drip slowly into my system was one my loneliest moments. No one in our family knew yet about the baby. And now we had to tell them in tandem with news of a scary sickness. Did God see us here? Would He heal me and save our baby? What would His sovereign choice be?

The days that followed are a foggy memory to me. We were staying in another missionary family’s home. I drifted in and out of fever-wearied sleep. I begged God for healing. And I begged him for electricity. The fan was our only relief from the fever. Jeff and I faced nearly a week of malaria treatment together. When my fever broke, I praised the Lord, but still felt deep concern over the well being of our tiny fetus.

When I had completed the cycle of malaria meds, Dr Clarke tested my blood and found the malaria parasite gone. He set up the sonogram equipment to double check the baby’s heartbeat.

Some very silent, agonizing minutes followed. Dr Clarke couldn’t find the baby on the monitor. He asked me to drink more water so that the baby would be easier to see. His look was compassionate and resolute. What was…was. We calmly found some drinking water, but inside my brain was in overdrive. Could this be happening to me? Of course it could.

With my heart in pure torture I drank nearly 2 liters of water. Quickly. Feeling about to burst, I crawled onto the examination bed and stared at the blank screen begging God for His mercy.

The little blip we saw flooded the room and my soul with relief. There she was (though we didn’t know she was a she) and her heart was thumping away.

I didn’t stop thanking God all the way home and into the next day.

I felt released from the worry of the previous week. But I had no idea what was still ahead for our baby and for me.

(to be continued)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday Musings

There was a rush to be ready this morning. The thunderous explosions and torrential downpour of the early morning hours disturbed our rest and our response to the alarm clock. I bustle and hustle little ones. All the while digging deep for motivation. Church services with young children when hubby is preaching are challenging experiences.

Despite the late start, we manage our church departure. Everyone was dressed in reasonable Sunday attire. And everyone had shoes.

Worship was good. Songs in three different languages. Warm smiles and greetings. Old friends and new. A baby to hold.

Bible class brought Hilda to the front to teach us a song and a principle. “Don’t worry. Don’t cry. God is near.”

Alex also took a turn at teaching a song. “I Am Not Afraid of 10,000’s of People”

I share a story on the flannel board: Jesus teaching on the Sea of Galilee from Simon’s boat. Crowds were pressing in, eager to hear.

Simon (the boat lender) and his partners were disappointed fisherman cleaning very empty nets. Jesus gives a mysterious directive to go back out on the lake and work some more.

Peter’s reply, “We’ve worked all night for nothing,” is followed by obedience despite the frustrating facts.

Rowing into the lake. Tired, strong arms tossing the nets. Same lake. Same fish percentage.

Suddenly overflowing nets! Ecstatic cries for assistance resonate.

“We can’t do this by ourselves. Come and help us!”

Now sinking boats heavy with fish pull to shore and Peter drops to his knees crying confession and repentance. (Maybe the biggest miracle…)

Jesus calls, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

Peter and his partners left everything and followed Him.

When the flannel figures had told their tale, we wrangled our charges through coloring pages, snacks and a photo shoot. All the while I’m reflecting on the Bible Class story. The Christ given analogy of being “fishers of men”. The discouragement of empty nets. How tired my arms can feel. How I sometimes long for another lake…

The final prayer of corporate worship is said. We gather belongings and enter into the chatter of fellowship.

One precious friend reports she is nearly finished with her teaching assignment for school. She built a café/shop out of cardboard for her students to learn from and play with. My spirit is encouraged much by her creativity and investment in her teaching.

Bent, weak Akiiki shares the loss of a large bunch of bananas. She had purchased her surplus for selling in the village. The transport driver stole her produce. Could we help?

Abooki is exclaiming over Kinley’s 11th birthday.

We inquire of our friends about “all the people at home” and “ the animals” and “the gardens”. We exult over the massive rainfalls and tell our stories of being awakened by the thunder. We thank Abugaba for his success in killing the bees that had attempted residence at the airstrip.

Eventually our noisy tummies motivate our leave for lunch.

But first, a quick stop at the newly graded church land. The muddy upturned dirt marks one more step forward in a long development process. Our family circles for prayer on ground that has most likely been used for unholy purposes in the past. We ask God for His claiming. His Spirit’s presence. A place for Jehovah to be glorified.

Then home. Leftovers. Dishes. M&M’s from Nana and Papa.

Rest. Reading. Puzzles. Games.

There is supper to set out and nighttime reading and prayers ahead.

Sunday will be ending soon. But the remnant for me is that flannel graph story. It has taken form, jumped off the page and landed squarely in my heart.

There is a new week before me. More rowing in a very familiar lake.

Only this week, I’m reminded afresh of His refining Call. “Do not be discouraged. Try again. I’m watching. And I have a plan.”

So we row, and toss the net and hold on to the hope of a miraculous result…

Maybe just the fruit of my own repentance and confession.

Steady on.

(Bible story from Luke 5:1-11)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cartwheels Anyone?

Taking the time to remember and utter thanks for simple, little things makes a difference in my day. I am reminded of an important truth when I mark those moments that bring a smile, a contented sigh or so much joy I think I could pull off cartwheels and back flips! The Truth is God's daily awareness of me and His activity in my life. God is personal. And Persistent. And Faithful. And Good. My friend at Holy Experience introduced me to this particular list and community of Grateful Participants and I invite you to start your own gratitude or otherwise. There are blessings all around us. Today I give praise for these:

97. Anaiah during praise time.
98. Silas still being willing to sit in my lap.
99. Mam-ma's recipes
100. Psalm 25
101. Hearing Isaac read
102. The countdown to a special day
103. Wearing a beautiful necklace bought on a shopping trip with Mom & Dad
104. Satellites
105. The comfort and hope of prayer.

Chime in, my friends. What are you thankful for today?

Friday, March 06, 2009

With Love, From Aunt Cheryl

Dear Presley,
Welcome to the world little girl! Are you aware of the fact that people in Africa were waiting for the news of your arrival?! Eagerly awaiting every tiny detail of You! You have hair! You weigh 7lbs! You are healthy! Every picture that floated over the web was studied and gushed over.

Because, you are our treasure.

And we are so happy you are here.

I have not been able to hold you in my arms yet. I am grieving this, but don't worry your pretty little head over that. Because I am holding you in my heart. And while that may sound a little sappy and weird, it's true. There are no miles, no circumstances and no tomorrow that can change your place in my heart. Your brothers are anchored deep in there too.

If I could whisk myself to your home this evening, I would send your Mommy to sleep, rent your Daddy & brothers their favorite movie and rock you quietly in your room. While you rested, I would speak many wonderful things over your head and catch you up on some important information.

First, God made you. Perfectly. How I wish you could always rest so easily in this, but the truth is, there are many untrue messages out there. Messages and innuendos that boldly insist there is ONE WAY to look and ONE SIZE to wear and anything else is failure. Presley, Love, you are perfectly designed by a Perfect Creator and when you look at yourself through the years you should always remember, it is HIS work you see in that mirror and you should be careful how you speak about it. And how you allow others to speak about it. You are beautiful. Case closed.

Second, Jesus loves you. LOVES YOU. And that will never change. NEVER. He is the most incredible Hero, Protector, Friend and Confidant and He will never let you down. I pray for you and those brothers of yours and all your cousins living here in Africa to know Jesus better than any other. Listen for His voice, my niece. He has a plan and a love for you that is unmatched.

Third, ice cream is awesome. You can call it “mum-mum” and smile sweetly and people will supply it to you by the gallon.

Fourth, organizing and cleaning are fun! (I can keep trying even though this hasn’t worked on any of my own babies yet!)

Fifth, I love your hair and your eyelashes and your perfect fingers and toes!

Sixth, I love you.

Seventh, a prayer: “Holy Father protect this life, protect this heart…soften and nurture and grow this incredible spirit towards You. May nothing hinder or misdirect her gaze from Your Holiness and Your Grace.”

And then I would probably cry. Because my children and husband would be so hungry in Africa without me and I would have to get on an airplane and fly away.

But not without singing first. "Jesus Loves Me." "Who Made the Flowers." And most likely, "Amazing Grace."

Blessings would be spoken over your perfect, tiny head. And your Mommy would be rested. And your brothers would be hugged. And my heart would be at peace.

The final thing I would remind us both of, is that this life rarely gives you EVERYTHING that you want. Sadly, we can’t always have our way. But a quiver lip and pout do nothing but depress. The best plan is to count your blessings, pray with thanksgiving and wait on the Lord. His plan is ALWAYS perfect.

Just look at you.

I love you always. Call me if you need anything.

Aunt Cheryl

Presley Grace arrived safely February 23 to my sister Cherise, her husband Wade and two of the most awesome big brothers a girl could wish for!
"For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Virtual—Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition

In Junior High I was a part of an English Literature program called Great Books. At the beginning of each school year we were given a compilation of ten or twelve stories. We had to read one story every few weeks. During our English class on “Great Books day” we would all sit in a circle and discuss the tale.

One Great Books story that I remember was about virtual reality. I can recall a story about a room that would become whatever you imagined. And then something terrible happened. I don't recollect what, I just know it was terrible. Great Books stories rarely had happy endings.

I do remember that I did not feel positively about the whole “virtual reality” idea.

Until last week. When I fell in love with Facebook Chat once and for all.

See, I have a younger sister. When Mom was pregnant with her, she would always refer to the baby as "Cheryl's baby". And that is how I have always felt about Cherise. Mine.

Mine to boss. Mine to direct. Mine to control. :-) I wish I were joking.

But thankfully, I grew up and relinquished the perceived control and bossiness (oh yes I have!) Now, I just remain with "mine".

Mine to admire. Mine to love. Mine to share life with. Still, mine to take care of.

No matter how many years I live all these many miles from her, that last thing doesn't die away. I always want to take care of her.

Email, phone calls and long, long conversations when I am on furlough fill our gaps to some degree and keep me connected to her. But nothing challenges my desire to care for my baby sister more, than when she has a baby.

You see, there is just something horrifically wonderful about that whole birthing thing that makes a sister want to be there. Hold a hand. Shout encouragement. Pray.

Two times my sister was preggers and delivered without me around to help. Those boys came out fine, but I wasn't there. And it's one of those sacrifices that I can't get back. Or balance out. It's just a sacrifice.

Then, she got preggers again. And I was going to be there. I had been talking to my hubby about it for months. I just wanted to hold that baby and hold my sisters hand.

But, unexpected things happen. In January, my ticket was purchased so I could say goodbye to Granddaddy. Another trip in February was a difficult thing to pull off.

So, my sister had a baby again. Without me in the room…actually.

But, I was there…virtually.

ONLINE. Good grief. I kept thinking, “This is like a Great Books story!”

With Mom and Wade on Facebook Chat, I knew everything. Everything--ya'll. It was awesome! I saw pictures of that baby girl within the hour of her arrival! In Africa.

Of course, it wasn’t a room turning into anything. And I know there is much discussion of how our real worlds are being affected by our “virtual communities” for good or for bad. But Facebook Chat provided a virtual reality for me. And until I can see that baby for myself, I'll take what I can get.

Virtual knowledge with a very happy ending.

Feel free to circle up and discuss that!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Via Satellite and Miracles from God

For many months the Cash Africa home has been enshrouded with the heavy cloak of internet silence. No World Wide Web. Ever. Oddly, a receipt paying for monthly service rests in the stack of paid bills. But no service for the payment. The Cash clan grew weary of that irony and Mr Cash set his sights to solve the problem. Satellite services were located. Negotiations began. Loads of equipment must be secured and monthly fees must be understood and written down and budgeted. Months of work followed and finally on a glorious day in January, a satellite dish was purchased with brackets and bolts and two very sensitive pieces we are to transport in a car with four children and luggage and NOT BREAK. An internet technician (hereafter referred to as Internet Guy) would be sent from Kampala to set up the service. We bought the satellite, but understood that as with all things technological in the Third World, we needed a miracle.

The day began peacefully. A Saturday. No school. Just housework. Visitors were on the way and it was my desire to have our home warm and inviting. And clean.

I was in my pajamas and heating water for coffee. And the phone rang.

It was Jeff. He was informing me that Internet Guy was at our gate. Now.

And Jeff was not even in town.

Which leaves me. And the Internet Guy. To set up and configure a satellite dish.

I hadn't even had my coffee.

I smiled warmly and welcomed Internet Guy into the compound. I began to point out the dish and its brackets and such.

He and I both realized with alarm, that a piece was missing.

A Very Important Piece.

At least from Internet Guy's perspective.

He began to shout at someone on the phone. And I, having lived in a third world country for awhile, realized that if Internet Guy felt fine about shouting at another man on the phone...

The female in front of him has no chance.

He began to say how disappointed he was. How IMPOSSIBLE it was to begin now, without Very Important Piece. "IMPOSSIBLE!" he told me, over and over again.

I encouraged and troubleshot. I offered a soda and lunch. Internet Guy--from Kampala---must be encouraged to stay.

He spent about one hour, yelling and fussing at someone on the phone. He huffed and marched around our house.

I prayed.

Every once and awhile, he would turn his (ahem) attitude my way. I was a dumb, crazy woman and what in the world did I know about satellites and who was I to tell him he could begin on the process without Very Important Piece. His time was wasted, WASTED he told me. He huffed and puffed and I said, "I think you can! I think you can!"

After some time, the tirade outside seemed to calm. I peeked from my hiding place inside and noticed Internet Guy pulling his tools to the back of the house. I stayed out of the line of fire until he asked for me. He, with many sighs and grimaces, was going to begin the IMPOSSIBLE process.

He wanted to hang the satellite in the worst place ever.

Just outside the back door. Where the children play and people walk and we live.

I knew, my directives would not be well received. So I played the husband card.

"Please don't hang the satellite dish, here, Internet Guy. I need to ask my husband first."

As I'm dialing Jeff's number, I hear drilling.

I rush outside to find TWO LARGE HOLES in the wall of our house.

I stare incredulously. He looks at me as if he is interested to see if my head will explode. I'm pretty sure it might.

Jeff answers and gives me two more locations for Internet Guy to consider.

Internet Guy shoots both ideas down quicker than you can drill holes in my wall.

Internet Guy says placing the satellite anywhere else would be IMPOSSIBLE.


I still haven't had my coffee.

Jeff hears the tone of my voice.

He also heard me when I said, "THIS IS TOO HARD! Please get here and do this!!!"

I was only screaming the first part.

Jeff inferred how badly he was needed and assured me he was on the way. With Very Important Piece.

Internet Guy keeps drilling.

Remarkably, he succeeds with hanging the satellite. Overcoming the impossible.

He then transfers his work station into the house. He sits for two hours at Jeff's desk. He attaches wires, types on his laptop and makes a million phone calls. When I eavesdropped it sounded like he was asking someone about lunch plans.

He asked for ladders and bolts and wire...and with the amazing resiliency of a woman who has had her coffee (finally)...I delivered the needed items.

And we waited.

Internet Guy eventually left for lunch. He said to call him when Jeff arrived with Very Important Piece. I was encouraged that he left his laptop on the desk.

Jeff arrived (with roses for me!) and he and a much happier Internet Guy succeed in configuring the dish and getting the signal.

Then Internet Guy leaves. We still don't have internet. Apparently there is yet another step that must be completed in Kampala. Any other way was....impossible.

Monday comes and goes with a phone call from Internet Guy informing Jeff of a technical difficulty preventing our receiving the internet.

Funny. We ALREADY HAD technical difficulties with our old system.

But with a huge satellite dish dangling from our back door (almost) we set ourselves to wait.

Because we don't get to do that very often in the Third World anyway.

On Wednesday, just after Jeff left the house for the day, he called me and with apology in his voice asked if I would be willing to talk to Internet Guy on the phone to get our computers online. (Jeff had already spent one hour on the phone in the early morning with IG trying to get things going.)

Terrific. Me again. As the phone rang I wondered if I had anything in the house stronger than coffee. You know. Like Dark Chocolate M&M's.

I answered the phone, sat down at Jeff's desk and began to try to decipher the Ugandan accent of Internet Guy over the phone while coding our computer.

Good times, my friends. Good times.

It took a mere one hour.

One hour of:

IG "please find the command screen."
me silence
IG "do you know what the command screen is"
me silence
(me pushing buttons and praying hard)
me "found it!"
IG "now hit 'ping' and a million numbers.
me "bing?"
IG "ping"
me "ding?"
IG "ping"
me "ting?"
IG "P I N G"

Only after about 10 rounds of this did IG think to say "P as in Paul". Which moved things along considerably.

Then we had to do the wire dance. "Unplug the yellow wire from here and re plug it there. Is it plugged? What does the screen say? Now unplug the yellow wire again and switch with the black wire. Unplug the black wire while holding the yellow wire but not touching your feet to the floor." Just kidding on that last part, but you get the idea. Complicated and difficult.

And then...

When I thought I was going to lose it in such a way that roses, coffee or dark chocolate M&Ms could never fix...

The Yahoo page popped up.

POPPED UP. It wasn't there. The wires were criss-crossed and I was pinging and then...


Joy, my beloved. PURE JOY.

My tears were real. And flowed freely.

Two mornings later, while drinking coffee and making biscuits I had a chat VIA SATELLITE with my Dad in far off Texas. I explained to Silas the technology we were using. "The message I am typing here in our Africa home bounces off that satellite you keep bumping your head on, into OUTERSPACE then bounces back down to America, to Texas, to Nana and Papa's house."

Silas exclaimed with BIG wide eyes, "It's like a MIRACLE!!"

Yes my dear. EXACTLY!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Marking This Moment

I will not write about politics here. I'm sure I do not know enough. And even more than that, I'm sure someone would get mad.

The discussion of politics can raise ire and great passion in many.

But, I do have something to say about America.

A new President was sworn in today. Reports said over one million people stood and sat within sight of the event. Security was tight. The pomp and ceremony full of tradition and pride.

But I am most amazed by that stage. The people on it.

Behind and beside President Obama sit men and women who have battled it out and publicly stated their disdain and oppostition to the man taking the oath. Democrat and Republican sharing a huge moment in history. The outgoing President applauds the newly sworn in President's speech. Opposing sides sit side by side with no shouts or fights. Only acceptance and resolve.

Over the last weeks, the outgoing President and his wife have welcomed and opened the Nation's Home to the incoming President and his family.

Meetings and discussions are reported in the last months between two men from different sides of the political spectrum. Our President, leaving office, publicly states his congratulations and assistance to our President entering office.

After the ceremony today, President and First Lady Obama, escort President Bush and Laura Bush to the helicopter. They hug and shake hands. They exchange smiles, jokes and comments.

No guns. No death.


It is a moment we should mark. We should notice. We should celebrate.

This is not the norm for all the world. Not the world I live in here.

I am proud of this facet of My America.

The peaceful hand over of power has dignity and integrity.

And those are two things I can embrace and stand behind.

My deepest gratitude to President and Mrs Bush and their family. The decisions of two terms and their consequences have been heavy for you. I appreciate your service and your strength. May God hold you, renew you and fill you with purpose in these days of great transition.

And my prayers to President and Mrs. Obama. Over and above the issues, tasks, promises and decisions that await you tomorrow I pray for your family as you enter what many forget is an office of Service. And Sacrifice. Not just Power. May El Shaddai be a guiding presence in your lives privately and in the decisions of your office. We will not quit beseeching Him on your behalf and on behalf of a country I love and honor more deeply everyday.

Over a year ago, Jeanene Reese shared a phrase she read in a magazine concerning success in marriage. The phrase was, "When in conflict, move as one."

This phrase has intrigued me and inspired many deep thoughts.

The directive is difficult. But it suggests esteeming a higher calling over the unresolved issue in front of opposing sides.

A higher calling such as unity. Integrity. Something greater than ourselves. A bigger picture.

Our standing together, especially in disagreement, is still strong.

Simply because we are standing together.

I applaud that today.

God bless America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nurturing a Grateful Heart

Thank you Jehovah Jireh for:

81. the resiliency of my children
82. safe take-offs and landings in airplanes
83. heroes
84. being with my children
85. my husband's willingness to manage the household solo so I could fly to a funeral
86. healthy closure
87. singing with our children
88. tears with family
89. laughter with family
90. really good Mexican food
91. reconnecting with long-lost friends
92. my Granddaddy
93. a whole night's sleep
94. sonograms
95. a good internet connection
96. the hope of Heaven

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I Choose to See it Positively

I'm so thrilled to be able to post on this blog today. So thrilled. I love this blog. And I love writing stuff here. I also love and appreciate those of you who happen by and read.

"God has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!" Psalms 126:3
The following photos should get you up to speed on several blessings we've enjoyed over the last few months.

Jeff celebrated his 40th year!

And he received his Masters Degree with straight A's in every course!

We reunited with our teammates after our furlough and have worked at learning how to serve each other and the people here, together.

We began another year of homeschool with a 5th grader, 3rd grader, 1st grader and kindergartner all learning together!

We joyfully welcomed FAMILY for our Thanksgiving celebration. Robyn and Amy Crocker came to be with us for a few days! (Amy's Mom is Jeff's first cousin.) The Crockers are serving in Rwanda and made a very eventful trek to our place to hang out for the holiday. We enjoyed great food, warm fellowship and even watched some American football together!

We delighted in a Christmas season filled with lots of Christmas music, tree trimming, time with friends and of course, decorating (and eating) loads of sugar cookies!

We celebrated Alex's 9th year with chinese food and yummy cake!

We woke early on Christmas Day for the excitement of presents followed by a large gathering of our missionary community to celebrate together.

And that should about catch us up. January began with the sad news of Granddaddy's passing and my very quick travels to the States to participate in the funeral. I have arrived back safely to wait with our teammates for the arrival of their newest family member.

I miss you all when our internet is down, and I have grown weary of the heaviness that being cut off from the world brings. So, for today, I choose to see it positively. Not focussing on what I haven't been able to do...but only on what I am able to accomplish today.

Blessings, friends. I love every minute we have together!

Monday, January 05, 2009

"I'll Be Looking For You, Then"

It was January, 1994. Jeff and I had been married for half a year. Six WHOLE months. We had just celebrated Christmas and were now boarding a series of flights that would eventually land us in Kenya. Africa. The Dark Continent. I had no idea what I was getting into.
I only knew, very clearly, that standing in that airport waiting area, hugging my family and our supporters was very easily the most difficult moment of my life.
It was Granddaddy's tears that undid me. I knew Mom and Dad would cry. And Mamma. But Granddaddy? His tears I had never seen. Not until that moment. Recalling his hug and his face on that day still shakes me to my core.
I guess we've been saying goodbye alot since then. When you practice something, over and over, it should get easier. Not so with goodbyes...

It was a simple service. We gathered in a newly renovated chapel.

The flowers were modest and beautiful. The meticulously folded American flag, stirring.

Our family filed in to the sound of hymns. My grownup cousins and brother-in law awaited us in the row with the other pall bearers.

There was not a lot of pomp. Just the expected ceremonies of a funeral service for a beloved man.

We were saying a final earthly goodbye to Granddaddy.

In this world of many words and where ambition is encouraged and applauded,
we met to honor the life of a quiet man. Steadfast. A diligent and hard worker. An honest heart. With deep integrity.

As we raise our four children, I can see glimpses of aspiring adventures on the horizon for them. But I will consider my parenting a success if I can instill in their hearts the integrity, love of family and generosity of this, the dearest of men.

Granddaddy fought in World War II. On my "show and tell" days in elementary school, he would open up the cedar chest and fish out the medals, patches and flags he had as memories of that time. He never told me much about the items. He just loaned them to me for my school because I asked him to.
My dad heard WWII stories from Granddaddy. And my husband also was regaled on one occasion with many tales. Those were rare moments, when Granddaddy opened up about the war.

Granddaddy seemed to have one goal when he returned from WWII. He wanted his family to have plenty of good things and absolutely no pain. I think war and battle had exceeded his brokenness quotient. And now that he was back in control of life again, no one would hurt on his watch.

This was exemplified when my Mom, his firstborn, entered the world. My Mamma was instructed by Granddaddy to "Never let her cry." I believe this directive was a reaction to the pain and hurt he witnessed overseas.

I also think his tears as I left for Kenya were a reaction to this pain. He knew I was headed to an underdeveloped place and that this would be hard on me. Though Granddaddy was the strong, silent type, never interfering in my life or pushing his opinion, when he saw a problem or pain, he would become incredibly, (silently) agitated until the problem was solved.

Granddaddy's desire for his family to have good in their lives, resulted in his being one of the most generous individuals I have ever known.

There may not actually be enough space on the internet to recount all the things Granddaddy gave to me and my family. It was his joy to give. And any child in his life learned quickly that he rarely said no. Thankfully, we were raised right and we didn't take advantage of this (much :-))

Jeff was amazed at this quality in Granddaddy. After our first trip to Kenya, we spent one year in Odessa preparing to move to Uganda. One day over lunch Granddaddy asked Jeff what small engine tools we might need. (Granddaddy had a lawnmower repair shop in his back yard. He could fix anything. This is a known fact.) I knew exactly where his question was going. Jeff thought Granddaddy was just making conversation.

The next day, Granddaddy called and asked Jeff to come over. He took him out to the shop and pointed to every single thing Jeff had mentioned. Granddaddy was set to rebuild and refurbish the equipment and give them to us. Jeff was shocked. We had budgeted to pay for these things. Of course, Granddaddy wouldn't hear of it.

He wanted us to have what we needed. He wanted life to be easier for us.

Being with my family for his farewell meant the world to me. Here is the reading for the funeral that my sister and I composed together.

The smell of engine oil. The feel of his hand as he held mine when we prayed before meals (I sat to his left--always.) Plain yellow cake. (Mamma said it is his favorite) Pick up trucks. Ice Cream. Repaired Barbie Dolls. Dukes of Hazard. The address file under the phone. The Lake House. Trips to Baskin Robbins. Lawn mowers. Bags of goodies from the Oil Show. Nutter Butters.

Strike it Rich, orange sherbert, bologna and cheese sandwiches without the bread, eating vienna sausages and crackers on the boat, "grandpappy's boots on", getting anything we wanted, the quick breath before "amen"....

Gentleness. Honesty. Hard work. Family.

Our love and admiration for Granddaddy are from depths that are hard to articulate. He made us feel treasured. And adored. Usually without even saying anything. Which was his gift to our world. Quiet strength. Be sure, we have all depended on it.

In this big scary world, we were always confident...there was a quiet, steadfast man on our side who really could fix anything.

We will certainly miss you here, but would never in a million years ask you back to your broken body, from the perfect one you enjoy now.

You are our hero. And just as you wanted, our lives are good. We’ll love each other well. And we’ll see you when we get there. We know your mansion will have an open door!

My parents and my uncle and aunt endured together the excruciating moments of his last breaths. His lungs were sick and he himself had decided to just let go. And even as the hope of Home fills our being with joy, the moment of earthly separation is biting and harsh.

The news of his passing brought me to immediate tears. The memories mentioned above and many others overwhelmed my thoughts and filled me with gratitude for having had Granddaddy in my life. One memory played over and over in my mind.

The phone calls.

Anytime I would talk to Granddaddy from Africa he would ask when I was coming to Texas again. When I would answer, he would reply, “I’ll be looking for you, then.” And he was. Always “looking for us” and happy to see us arrive.

I guess that's what he's doing now.

He's finally in that Perfect Place of no brokenness where generosity is unmatched in the reward our Father has for us.

And Granddaddy together with a Father that never fails and a Son who defeated this separating death...looks for us. And will joyfully welcome us Home.