Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Raindrops on Roses..."





The Cashlings. J'adore. 


My Starbucks Thermal Coffee Press. Imperative and delightful. 


The cup I use is a very important component to my  'Coffee Experience' every day. Currently these are my two favorites. My Mom gave me the striped one. I bought the black and white one in Kampala.


The Icing of the Christmas Cookies. Wouldn't be Christmas without this!


This is on the cabinet in my kitchen. Love the picture of my cowboys. Love the Texas boot. Love the picture of the ENORMOUS Christmas tree compliments of the Galleria in Houston. Merry Christmas Y'all!


The Generator.
 I. Love. The. Generator.
 Christmas lights, the blender, television/movies, Wii games and the charging of batteries are all made possible by this wonderful machine! 


Gingerbread! Yummy!


Kali (kawlee). She is exuberant, feisty and LOVES attention.


Simba. He is somber, easy going and very loving. A wise old soul. 

Baxter. He loves me and I love him. 



One of my favorite pictures of all time. My Mam-ma and Granddaddy. I miss them.


Mam-ma and me. Some years ago :) I feel loved when I look at this picture.


Kinley, Peace and a Christmas Tree cake :) These girls have known each other all their lives. 


Joy, indeed! This picture of my niece (and all the stories of her escapades that it brings to mind) reminds me to have fun!


Our Santa collection. Jeff's Mom has given us most of these and the Santa/Mrs. Santa mugs are reminiscent of the Cash family egg nog mugs Jeff remembers every year. We miss you, Cash family!!! 




:) This little treat is a rare find. Dairy products (cheese, sour cream, cream cheese etc) are either not available, not affordable or not tasty in Uganda. This product (from South Africa) tastes just like American sour cream. Delightful! We danced a happy dance in the Kampala supermarket when we saw it on the shelf. 


A bag of white sugar! 


Because our sugar (on the right) isn't white. This doesn't matter much until you want to make Christmas candy. We were so happy to find white sugar in our store in Fort Portal! A Christmas miracle! (The Cashlings keep tasting the white sugar because they can't believe it isn't salt.) 



My man. Bring me some mistletoe! 


These are a few of my favorite things!!!! 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

To Wait

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7: 7

This week I have waited:

At the grocery store—for tomatoes

At the oven—for food to warm

For the generator—so we could enjoy the Christmas lights

For the thermometer—so I would know if the fever broke

For the tea kettle—so I could make coffee

For the sunshine—so the clothes would dry

For my children—to finish math

For my husband—to feel better

For the parking attendant—so I could pay my parking fees

For the internet—to connect

I. Have. Waited.

Sometimes hopeful. Sometimes with GREAT impatience (I’m looking at you, Mr. Fort Portal parking attendant!)

Most often, with an underlying feeling of irritation.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

We have entered the season of Advent.

By it’s common definition, advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

In Christendom, Advent signifies the arrival of Christ.

The Israelites had been waiting for a long, long time.

(Many struggled to recognize Him when He arrived.)

(He was not what they expected in a Messiah.)

Some knew EXACTLY Who He Was.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2: 25-32

As we lead our children through the remembrances of the promised Christ and His arrival in Bethlehem—

I am convicted of the ‘waiting’.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

He is coming again.

How will He find me waiting?

“Keep yourselves in God’s love  as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 21

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Every Season

(Grief is a difficult topic to write about. The experience of it is so deeply personal and unique to each individual circumstance and type of loss. I do not know how you approach this reading today. I only know that if you are flesh and blood, you most likely carry grief somewhere in your heart. Grief is not comparative or quantitative. But it does demand acknowledgement. This is my current awareness of what is a part of every person’s story. What happens when we lose?)


“I’ve learned so much about grief in the past few years, and the one thing I know is that it isn’t a linear path. It doesn’t seem to follow any logical pattern and the only thing I know to do is to feel it.” Angie Smith from I Will Carry You

When I was fifteen years old, one of my best friends moved away.

It was one of the earliest goodbyes I can recall laboring through.

My entire family went with me for the final send-off. We all stood, very early in the AM, at the airport gate (WAY before 9/11 and the rules we stride with now) and hugged.

There were tears. Promises of letters and calls. And more hugs.

After the airplane flew, we made our way to pancakes and coffee. Everyone talking, laughing and trying to ignore.

I was ordering and sitting and hearing. But from a very deep well, it seemed.

The voices and clatter of plates seemed to echo down from up above my head somewhere, even though the faces and food were immediately in front of me.

It was the longest breakfast of my young life.

I remember feeling a threatening numbness. I was afraid to talk or even look someone in the eye. I needed the numb to remain until I could risk releasing the torrent churning in me.

Broken Hearted. This friendship I treasured had every opportunity to be lost.

We finally made our way home and I escaped the beckoning ‘regular’ of the day by retreating to my room. Door closed, no eyes watching. I cried.

The ugly cry.

My dear friend had flown and I knew everything had changed.

It was a stark contrast to my comfortable, peaceful, physically abundant, predictable life.

This type of pain was new to me. And I did not like it.

Loss. And change. And goodbyes.

I was done with all three of those things that very day. On the floor of my sage-green bedroom. Done.

I had so much to learn.

It was the same airport eight years later and it was me and my husband boarding the plane. My husband of 6 months was hugging and smiling and watching nervously down the corridor for our freshly visa-ed passports to be delivered to us at the eleventh hour.

I would not go with my family to pancakes and coffee at the end of this round of hugs. Instead they would leave the airport together and I would fly to Africa.

I had never imagined feeling this broken. This jagged. So snotty and blubbery.

In front of people.

It was awful.

There was no sage-green room at the end of this series of goodbyes. No school, friends or even recognizable food.

This was a hard stop on the normality of my life.

Everything would be different.

The plates of my ‘earth’ were shifting. And while there were physical changes such as distance and separation that others could see and feel with me, the seismic shift, the more catastrophic breaks in my deepest places were not physically visible with tremors or tsunami waves.

They were silent. And I could not find the words to shape around them and give them form and acknowledgement.

My tears filled the gap around the jagged edges creating a seemingly impassable moat. A moat that in moments felt protective, but most often simply separated me and my brokenness from those I longed to commune with again.

Honest grief both cushioned and encapsulated my existence.

And would, for a very long time.

The displacement was immense.

Thinking back to that first airport parting, when I was fifteen, and the interminable breakfast that followed, makes me chuckle now. I really had, only just begun. In typical teenage fashion, it was all about right then and my experience. I was overwhelmed by that very normal, non-traumatic change. If only I had known.

Many, many times, in my adult life I would sit over goodbye breakfasts, choking down food that refused digestion. I would spend hours standing at airport check-in counters, tears streaming down my face with a sick, hardened lump in my stomach. Saying goodbye.

Over the last eighteen years, this has been a large part of my story.

“Goodbye” has become common in it’s occurrence but never ‘common’ in it’s effects.

The compelling call that convicts us to be in this venue of service is accompanied in droning voice with grief.

And I continuously resist and writhe underneath it’s tone.

I desire to wrap myself up in all the obvious good I can see and experience. And there are unbelievable moments of miraculous care at His generous Hand.

But, even the experiences that emote positive joy, are continuously accompanied by the companionable grief.

One can never cancel out the other.

This was/is reality.

I can experience a miracle and PRAISE with joy, all the while still feeling the undertone of loss somewhere too.

This dichotomy, is repugnant. I desire to wrestle it into submission.

I want the pain to depart. And the joy to remain.

The‘goodbyes’ of our life choice have not been limited to the excruciating moments at airports, but seem to spew like a geiser from even the most unexpected places.

*Moments and memories—every holiday, birth of a nephew or niece, birthday celebration and school program. We, simply, are not there. We can’t go back and retrieve the years we’ve spent so far from family.
*Esteem—we came to serve in an honorable cause, but have reaped suspicion and accusation more often than my brain can comprehend.
*Death—we live in a world full of HIV Aids and poor health. Most women I walk with here have buried more than one of their children. Parents are dying in droves, leaving parentless children to extended families. We have buried many, many friends and stood beside hundreds more as they buried their dear ones.
*Friends—we have poured our lives into many loved ones in this place. Longing for something better for each of their lives. Longing to be a point of rescue from their brokenness. To point them to Him.
How excruciating it is to watch them walk away. In fact, it has almost become a relief when all they do is walk away. It is much more brutal when they go mocking, disdaining and misrepresenting us.
*Robbery—Living in a land of corruption costs us. We have had so many clothes, tools, shillings, and car parts stolen from our care.

At each of these losses (goodbyes), grief not only ensued, but seemed to ignite each past grief burning a fire stronger than each fire before.

We are not forced to walk this trail.

I do not list these losses to derive pity.

I am humbly aware of all the losses we have been saved from.

I only share, to put this version of the story into the mix.

So that maybe in the sharing, we can find some harmony in the shared experience.

One of grief’s deceptions is the feeling that you are alone.

When the Truth is, no one is immune.

Not even Him. (John 11:33-36;Luke 22:41-44)

I mark this grieving as I move through it. With it.

To acknowledge and acquiesce the fact that I’m not really done yet. That the option ‘not to lose’ does not exist.

To attempt, beyond my failing ability, to thrive in thankfulness in the midst of the losing.

In the midst of the tears.

To feel it.

This is courage.

And this is Faith.

He sees and knows our losses. He gathers our tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8 KJV)

He always knows what is ahead of us. And that He will be immediately by our side.

Let me Stand. And proclaim. “You are there! In every season of my soul.”

And, Lord, please. Let that make a difference in this world.




Wednesday, November 09, 2011

For These...

These are the days that disappear too quickly.

Every kid around our table. Funny. Making memories.

They still like us and aren’t embarrassed by us (too much).

We can have actual conversations about meaningful things.

We can laugh. Their jokes have morphed (seemingly overnight) from ridiculous and nonsensical to ironic sarcasm that makes us laugh until tears flow.

We’ve graduated to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones for family movie nights.

They help with the dogs, carry in my groceries and remarkably ‘roll with every punch’ this crazy third-world existence throws.

And the praying. Their growing awareness of God’s plan and purpose in their lives.

Staggers me.

Upends me in the most marvelous way.

In this season of celebrating Harvest—I long for the elusive Pause. The Freeze Frame switch.

Because in our home, around our table and reverberating down our hall are fruits of a harvest more bountiful than I could have ever dreamed.

The Cashlings.




I am so thankful for these.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

As the Tan Fades


I spent a lot of time in the sun during our beach stay.

Fabulous.

As I soaked in the rays, I was reminded of my junior high years.

‘Laying out’ was a favorite pastime among our middle school crowd and I was an eager participant for a certain season. Usually at Laura’s house. We would lay on her cement sidewalk on towels, with Big Gulps, a radio and a Seventeen magazine. We loved to take the quizzes in the magazine. “How Good of a Friend Are You” , or “Are You Prepared for True Love” or “What Your Hair Style Says About You”
Weighty issues that could clearly be dissected and analyzed through a series of multiple choice questions. We were eager for the results to define us and thus offer some understanding and validity of our very being. We would gasp over “how accurate!” the quiz was. Or discuss all the reasons the quiz was wrong. It was good fun. And so enriching.

We sometimes even got tan.

I abandoned ‘laying out’ in time. Despite the aesthetic benefits of a lovely brown glow, I grew weary of the sweaty, sweatiness lying in the sun produced. It made me grumpy. And let’s face it, at age 13, I didn’t need one more thing to make me grumpy.

My next extended foray with sunshine was the summer of my junior year of high school. I went with dear family friends to the Texas Coast. I spent a lot of time in the sun and got very, very brown. I also was pooped on by a seagull. Funny the things you remember. I enjoyed that trip very much (despite the seagull) and my tan impressed my friends back home. Their admiration almost convinced me to revisit the discipline of ‘laying out’. But the desire faded, as did my tan.

In recent years, our family trips to the beach involved toddlers or young children. So lying around on beach chairs didn’t really happen for me. I will confess that I kind of felt like sitting and lounging (and sleeping) were lost to me forever. Those early years of childcare are not for pansies, y’all. Those years can kick your tail. Kicked mine.

But, GOOD NEWS!!! Kids grow up and learn to swim and can be allowed more freedom and independence. Amen.

Our children are older now, all strong swimmers, and after the establishing of healthy boundaries, didn’t have to be watched at every second. I could lie on the beach chairs and soak in the sun.

I loved the still, quiet times. I loved the time to think.

The book of Hebrews was an anchor during these two weeks. My mind, left to it’s own devices can quickly lead me astray. I’m learning that I must have the boundary and protection of God’s Word planted daily in this head of mine or my thoughts bound in directions that defeat and plague.

Endurance. Eyes fixed on Christ. Faith.

These were guides charting the course of my thoughts.

A few things I came away with:

*Hebrews 2:10—even Christ was perfected thru suffering
*Hebrews 4:12—the word of God is living and active—His words are DOING something in me
*Hebrews 5:14 & 6:1-12—constant taking of ‘solid food’ trains to distinguish good from evil (there IS a distinction—it really isn’t a world of ‘greys’); ‘solid food’ seems to be very tied to the experiencing of the Holy Spirit
*Hebrews 10:38—when we shrink back, God’s soul has no pleasure in us
*Hebrews 13:12-14 Jesus suffered, ‘outside the camp’ bearing disgrace and we are to join him there

And this from John, dominating my prayers in many ways:

John 17: 14-17: especially: “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.”

So rich. SO nourishing.

And while I was pondering, I even got tan.

As the brown glow inevitably fades, I pray my soul lessons don’t.

The color and warmth of His Spirit’s shine deepens and intensifies.

The radiance that doesn’t fade…

That’s the glow I’m really looking for.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Gift of October 8th

The suitcase made a tap-tapping sound as I bounced on it’s hard case. I stood on my tip-toes on the wobbly case, peering out the bedroom window. Mam-ma had just announced their arrival and I was eager for a glimpse.

I could see the car. And Daddy. But Mom was still sitting in the car, and she was in her pajamas and robe.

My hair was combed and tidied in barrettes. My clothes were clean and fresh. This moment was important and the joy of the impending introduction was reverberating through my tiny frame and making me jump and wriggle and hop.

I bounced down the hall and out the front door, with Mam-ma holding my hand. Warnings to be careful and quiet played in my ears.

Mom was just sitting and holding and I was curious about that. I pulled up on Daddy’s car door as he unloaded things from the trunk.

Mom smiled at me as I strained to see the bundle everyone was making such a fuss over.

“Come around over here, Cheryl. Quietly.”

I stood at the opened passenger door, relieved that Mom seemed to be just fine.

She pushed back the blanket with these words, “It’s YOUR baby, Cheryl! She’s here!”

It was... A Sister!

From moment one, I was enthralled.

She wriggled and stretched. I gasped, wide eyed.

My VERY OWN baby?!?!

I could hardly contain my joy.

I was called back to Mam-ma’s hand as Dad helped Mom inside. Everyone paraded down the hall to Mom and Dad’s room where Mom lay the tiny baby in the middle of their bed.

I was bounding with excitement.

Mom nodded at me and I (oh so carefully) climbed up beside the waking bundle.

The blanket was falling back and her legs and arms were squirming. She was tiny. And she didn’t have ANY hair. I smiled down at her and our eyes met for the first time.

She reached out towards me and grabbed a handful of my hair. And tugged. I startled with the sudden pain of a hair pull. Everyone laughed and calmed me, assuring me Sweet Sister meant no harm.

Despite the adult take on the situation, I was pretty sure I had seen the first smirk pass across that sweet baby face. (smile) I , to this day, adore that smirk.

It was the first of many moments that would be for us alone. Instantaneously, an understanding. We would know each other in a way no one else ever would.

Sisters.

My world changed forever on that day.

And I am so glad it did.

Happy Birthday, Cherise.

I am forever thankful for you.



Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Glorious

Songs often get stuck in my head.

As if someone has scanned the music library of my brain and hit repeat on a long forgotten melody.

I’ve noticed lately, for instance, that every time I drive into town for groceries the song “Please Don’t Wait Until Dark” plays in my mind.

Remember that song?

“Please don’t wait until dark.
Don’t wait for a rainy day just to pray.
Find time to pray when the sun’s in your life,
And the skies are all blue.”

It’s an old song, that I never hear anymore. But when I drive into Fort Portal town, that song flows through my mind and out my mouth.

After shopping, as I drive home the song changes to “Lord you are more precious than silver…”

Also, an older song that we rarely sing or listen to.

But it streams in my mind automatically at some stimulus or nudging from somewhere I’m not conscious of.

I sing these songs and feel moved by the memories evoked. Poignant memories of my childhood, my Dad's quartet concerts, college and crazy-talented friends.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning from those songs right now, but when a church song sticks in my mind, I always feel like it might be a message. A way God is directing or reminding me of something important. Something I need to recall.

For three days prior to our beach vacation, ‘Everything Glorious’ by the David Crowder Band locked on repeat in my brain and poured out at all times of the day. When I woke up, as I fell asleep, driving, walking, packing…the chorus replayed over and over and over.

(chorus)
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours
What does that make me?


The words and melody settled pleasantly into my subconscious providing a steady background soundtrack for every amazing memory we were making.

Such hope in those words.

We had one very long day of travel from Uganda to the Kenya Coast, but we safely reached our ocean cottage and immediately donned swimwear. With only a few hours of sunshine left, we had to put our feet in the sand and the ocean.

As I made my way towards the roar of the waves, tears welled up. The Cashlings were diving into the waves with their Dad. Their shouts, smiles and laughter filled my own heart with such emotion.
I stood on the beach, taking in the moment and tears flowed. Grateful.

We so needed this.

We spent fourteen amazing days with no agenda, schedule or plan. Just being together with the lull of the ocean waves soothing and nurturing our tired souls.

We walked the beach, played in the sand, explored the coral at low tide, swam, read, played games, talked, napped, snorkeled, sailed in a dhow, ate amazing seafood and Italian ice cream…

Divine.
And, indeed, Glorious.

It wasn’t a stretch to sing that song as we lived life in cadence with the tides. Glorious, fit. The waves, the sounds, the breezes, the walks.

It was amazing and sublime.

But it spoke more deeply to me than just the fabulous moments we were experiencing.

Life’s circumstances aren’t always so obviously glorious.

Brokenness, pain, betrayal and loss are jagged and difficult.

Will I sing of His glory in the midst of all that? Will I celebrate His amazing splendor when the view isn’t so easy to bear or cope with? Will I hold confidently to hope and faith that He is at work and in control?

The last day of our vacation was terribly sad. We reluctantly packed our bags and began our long journey home. So thankful that we were given the time to renew and reconnect with each other.

But even as we drove away, still longing for more of the same.

We are back home now and well into our routines & the responsibilities of work and school. I am reminded daily of the simple lyrics and confident truth that He makes everything glorious.

Simply because, He, is involved. He is here. And He. Is. Glory.

What amazing mercy! That He would not only endure the likes of us but so graciously pour that Glory into our broken, wounded weakness.

“And I am YOURS!!!!”

“What does that make me?”

“Everything Glorious”
David Crowder Band
The day is brighter here with You
The night is lighter than its hue
Would lead me to believe
Which leads me to believe

(chorus)
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours
What does that make me?

My eyes are small but they have seen
the beauty of enormous things
Which leads me to believe
there's light enough to see that

(chorus)
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours

From glory to glory
You are glorious You are glorious
From glory to glory
You are glorious. You are glorious
Which leads me to believe
why I can believe

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours

Saturday, October 01, 2011

On Resources, Reserves, and Cool Accents

One of our first friends in Fort Portal was a young lady from England named Kate. (shout out to you, Kate, if you ever happen to read this!)

Kate was working at a village school near Fort Portal. She often talked about how difficult it was to motivate learning among her pupils when they were so “under resourced”.

I wish at this point in the post for a sound button so that the term ‘under-resourced’ could be heard with a British accent.

It’s quite lovely to hear actually.

(for discussion purposes: American English pronounces 'resource' with the stress on the ‘re’, whereas British English would stress ‘source’ and the ‘s’ has more of a ‘z’ component to it in British English. Clear as mud? Excellent! )

Kate had trouble gathering enough pencils and paper in those days to ‘resource’ (British accent) the children she was loving and serving. This limitation was a weighty burden that wearied Kate and hindered many of her generous goals for those kiddos.

This was a discouraging problem that we discussed at length over dinner in our non furnished concrete house. Kate left many years ago, but every time I say or hear the word resource, it sounds British in my head. Because it is simply more lovely in the lilt of the United Kingdom.

Over the last 11 months our family has sacrificed a very wonderful resource. Electricity.

If you are new here at Gently Led, I’ll catch you up by saying that the electricity company and I are no longer friends. We never have been. And this is because they are not so very nice. Or honest. The end.

So, instead of laboring on in the dysfunctional relationship with the providers of electricity, our family has chosen to go off the grid.

And as noble as that sounds—well, it’s not.

And we are not.

But we have done it successfully for 11 solid months.

My husband, who is the more able to survive in extreme conditions (like no hair dryer, have mercy!) has diligently worked to provide us with the resources he can.

We have solar lights and enough batteries to charge our computer once a day. He has spent countless hours on generator repair and wiring which left us poorer and without a working generator for several months. (Not my husbands fault by the way. Mechanics in the third world most often break more than they fix. It’s kind of an unwritten corruption rule that supposedly keeps the repairmen in a job.) An angel of mercy gifted us with a generator that we can use once a week to enjoy delights such as Wii, the coffee grinder and occasionally the blender. But still no blow dryer. (deep sigh)

As we neared a break from this off the grid existence, I pondered the toll this change has taken. We sacrificed one resource, which then affected many others.

Laundry I waited a long, LONG time to have electric appliances to aid in the eternal mountainous task that is the washing of dirty clothes. I CELEBRATED the acquisition of a new washing machine and a new dryer. I have never taken them for granted.

We thought they died once (in a power spike—hats off to you again, dear electric company!) but we prayed them back to life and joyfully danced at their resurrection party.

I miss them now. They sit, silent and unused in our laundry room.

Handwashing clothes for a family of six is overwhelming. Especially in the rainy weather. In the rains, nothing gets completely dry, so the stench of mildew permeates everything.

I do hire help for this task. But that bears a cost as well. Not just the salary I owe, but the wear on our clothes. They are stretched and wrung and will soon be too misshapen to wear.

Food Storage For years, I have purchased our meat in Kampala, the capital city. I would buy meat to last us 8 weeks in Fort Portal and then store the meat in a deep freeze.

We bought a full size American refrigerator from a departing missionary just last year. I used it for exactly three weeks. I loved those three weeks. Our food storage capability increased and all was joyful in the Cash Kitchen!

Losing electricity, meant losing the deep freeze and the refrigerator.

We are back to a propane fridge that is small in size. I cannot buy such a large amount of meat in Kampala. I can fit enough meat in our small propane freezer to last our family a week or so. With visitors sharing our food, the meat doesn’t last even that long.

This cost has been most pronounced in our health. We have had to buy our meat locally. Our family has been battling stomach illness for this entire term. We do not have as much control over the healthy storage of our meat before it gets to our table. This can lead to issues that are manageable but create a sort of lingering blecky feeling that weighs us down and won’t go away.


Cooking Our food preparation has always been ‘from scratch’ here. This takes a long time, but I have grown used to the process. I have enjoyed the blessings of mixers and food processors that greatly aid in the baking process and in chopping vegetables especially.
The absence of these tools has drastically slowed an already slow process. I’ve been surprised at this but am adjusting to even more time in the kitchen to keep our family fed.

Hair Care Utter vanity, tis true. But, dearest blog patrons, a girl needs a good hair day every now and then. It changes her life. And my good hair days this term have equaled exactly One. The day Sunel (God bless Sunel!) cut and styled my hair in Kampala. It was a glorious day. I could conquer the world that day. I was a terrific mother. A beautiful wife. A willing missionary. It was truly a golden moment.

All because of the hair.

I’m not even embarrassed to say this.

I miss my blow dryer. And I’m pretty confident that tucked away in the mildew-y cupboard, my blow dryer misses me too.

There are other costs. No fans at night which renders our amazing boy loft bedroom totally useless because of heat. Cold baths. Less computer time. More obstacles to office work.

Feeling successful for me, is all tied up in the completion of a thing. Each of the changes listed above leaves me with a feeling of ‘incomplete'.

Over time, this burden of the incomplete begins to paralyze me. In each task or area of responsibility, I can endure and cope with being under-resourced. But, eventually, the combined incompleteness has emptied my reserves at a much faster rate than normal.

When our generator runs out of fuel, it stops making energy. We must pay something to get more fuel to operate the machine.

Unfortunately, we humans can hide our empty tanks for awhile. Sometimes without recognizing it, I find myself trying to generate energy from a completely dry reserve. I’m coughing and spewing and even causing more damage, when what I need to do is pay a price and refill my tank.

One very effective way to ‘refill’ is, simply, to rest. We typically do this resting thing better if we can be physically removed from our work and responsibility for a time.

So recently, we paid a price and flew away.

From Mountains to Coast.

We settled for some days on the shore of the Indian Ocean.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our time away. But, I was hoping for stillness, rest, laughter, memories and God willing, electricity.

Of all the renewal God had waiting for us, I hoped His plan included a working blow dryer and a good hair day or two.

Under-resourced. (British accent)

Spoken with a lovely accent or not, the effect is eventually debilitating.

And must be addressed.

What empties your tank, blog friends?

What practical things renew you?

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Time to Write

I love to write.

Ever notice, in the whirl of life and responsibility, that the fun things can get squished of their life? Suffocated, if you will. Ignored. Left out.

I do this all too often. Choose not to engage in the fun stuff because I’m too busy being responsible.

This system fails me. Fails everyone, actually.

Because….drumroll please…..

I cannot be responsible for everything.

(ahem)

I know!

I keep trying. But, I am unable.

I am learning to accept this truth. And face the consequences of it.

One day at a time.

So, today. A time to write.

Delight!

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Walked Through Fire

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. I was at the end of a fabulous read and continued turning pages to find the conclusion. My head ached a bit and I could not stop thinking about the candle in the kids’ bathroom. Had they blown it out?

I would dismiss the concern and go back to my book, but the flame of the candle was very present in my mind.

Finally around 2:45AM, I put the completed book down and went to double check the candle. The children had obediently blown it out as directed. I was thankful and headed back to my pillow to find sleep. Jeff had been resting for about 45 minutes and I could tell by his breathing that deep sleep had found him. I closed my eyes in the stillness but could not drift off.

Just after 3AM, my phone beeped that a text message had come through. I did not get up immediately, wondering what meandering text was finding me at so early an hour. I was still wide awake though, and Jeff asked about the noise, so I got up to check the message.

My heart began to race as I saw the Johnson’s name (missionaries with World Harvest Mission in Bundibugyo) on the message and not the Sports Report on soccer scores I expected to quickly delete and go back to bed.

It seemed to take forever for the message to display. The first sentence read,
“The Chedester’s house in on fire….”

I called Jeff’s name and read the alarming words. My husband stood up immediately from the bed and said, “I’m going.”

He was in gear and out the door before I could find a sweater and shoes.

I handed him Kinley’s phone and kissed him goodbye, then began to pray.

My heart was pounding, but there was silence and stillness around me. The house, vacated by the Chedester family two years ago was to be the new home for their teammate and our dear friend, Pat Abbott. I was not aware of anyone sleeping in the home currently, but did not know for sure.

I knew Jeff would not be able to call me, but I longed for information and prayed for the safety of everyone on the scene.

After two and half hours, my phone rang and Jeff’s voice told me everyone was safe, but the house had been destroyed.

He was winded as he talked and heartbroken that he couldn’t save the house. He said that as he drove up to the house several hours ago, every room already glowed red.

He had arrived at the same time as the fire truck from town. (The fire truck is a new addition to the Ft Portal community. Jeff has petitioned for fire services, gathered fire gear and taught fire safety for many years. We currently await funds to ship a donated fire truck from the States.) There were two men with the truck who eagerly accepted Jeff’s offer of help. They entered the house with a hose and fought the fire, working to quiet the hot spots as the flames died down.

Jeff said that he was coming home to refresh, call Bundibugyo and that we could return at daybreak to begin salvaging what we could.

His call to the Johnson’s was short. We were all shocked and sad.

Jeff’s adrenaline was still pumping full as he relived the firefight and I made him tea. How many times we’ve played this scenario. He paces the kitchen telling me every detail he can recall from the latest happening. I stand over the kettle, praying and praising and beseeching our Father who never fails.

As I found clothes and thick soled boots, Jeff showered, changed into new gear and found gloves and tools we might need. My heart weighed so heavy.

With every prayer a plea for us to find that which would matter to Pat Abbott. Her belongings filled the home in preparation for a new life and ministry in Ft Portal. She has lived in Uganda 17 years and so her history had awaited her home-leave return in plastic trunks, suitcases and boxes.

I knew we needed to talk to the Chedesters too. And my heart broke for them. We watched them plan and birth this home from the grading of the land to the foundation to every detail Bob meticulously toiled through. This would be an emotional loss and I hated that pain for them already.

The house felt like an oven when we entered. The ground was charcoal and ashes. Some places even glowed red where heat smoldered. The walls could not be touched and standing within the walls had the effect of a sauna.

We started in the office. Jeff quickly uncovered, beneath the ashes, some melted stacks of pictures. We were encouraged to find something. I put on my gloves and began to gingerly sort through the charcoal and ashes at my feet.

Cards, letters, the charred remains of books. We made stacks of what we might salvage and laid aside that which was unidentifiable.

With every sifting a prayer. ‘Lord show us what matters to Pat and help us know what to keep. Protect the precious things from looters. Help us, here.’ As we dug, I pictured the room as it was when the Cheds lived here. We wrote emails at the desk in the alcove when our computer broke or phone was down, Bob and Jen served their team with countless administrative tasks in this space, and once during a dinner party I found one of our baby boys (Alex?) swallowing Uncle Bob’s pills on the floor of this room. Alex was fine, but we spent some tense minutes assessing the situation here.

Jeff found more and more letters and cards. Our stack of salvageable grew. We uncovered a few clay pots and some cast iron pans.

People were walking into the home now. We had a constant audience. Everyone expressed sadness, but there was hunger in their eyes. I was disheartened by this; this trait of taking from those who have already lost so much. Jeff and I started announcing as we worked that we were saving these things for the owner. We spoke warnings about the hot coals and encouraged people to wait outside. Children from the school walked in bare feet around the house. I pointed out all the shattered glass and asked them to please return to school. A teacher finally took up my cause and shooed the children away.

We dug. And I remembered.

So many celebrations took place in these walls. So many conversations. So many memories. Bob and Jennifer welcomed into their name, heart and family six children here in this space. They housed and nurtured many more.

I remembered the decisions, choices, hard labor spent on each detail of this home. It was used well. To the glory of the Lord.

We have dutifully recorded many of those moments with cameras through the years. But on this morning, when I pulled out my camera, I recorded a loss and it felt very opposing to me.

Picture taking is most often a celebratory practice. Christmas, birthdays, baptisms, marking the growth of family.

This moment was quite the opposite emotion. Each snap felt heavily somber. But I reminded myself that the pictures would be helpful and continued to record the scene.

In yet another irony of life in this place, I hated this moment, and felt equally grateful to be there for our friends. To mark this passing with tears of remembrance. Of honor.

We worked for a couple of hours. Jeff continued putting out flames that would emerge from the coals at our feet. We dug, we salvaged, we prayed.

I was loading a scarred load of Pat’s history into the car when Jeff came out carrying two books. They looked almost clean compared to the soot that now covered everything else. Jim Elliots journals and a book titled “He Has Made Me Glad”. We smiled and chuckled amazement at God’s hand clearly redeeming this moment. Jeff flipped through the books and pulled an unsinged postcard from the inside pages. Bwamba Road. An aerial shot of the road to Bundibugyo, where Pat and a World Harvest Mission team have worked for many years.

It would not be the only thing unsinged, but it would be one of few.

After lengthy discussions with Pastor Sam, and a phone call with Bob Chedester we headed back home, our bodies, awake all night, now hungering for sleep.

We shared the news with our children and the Goodes and then succumbed to slumber. After resting, we spent the evening spreading out the documents and pictures we had found. Carefully cleaning and separating, praying that the few things would be a comfort to Pat.

We peeled pictures away from stacks, spread and dried papers. The next morning, Jeff was out early to remove the solar panels from the roof so they could be stored. Just as I left our home to join him at the house, I received an email from Pat. There was one document she asked us to look for.

When I reached the house, I could see Jeff had been uncovering more papers and had a large stack in the back of the car. I quickly described the document she needed and he told me he hadn’t found it. This was now two days after the fire.

We went into the office, and I asked God, out loud, to please take us to the document if it was still there. Jeff bent down, explaining to the Goodes, “it will be similar in color to (pause) this,” and pulled out the document! Praise the Lord. It was badly damaged but some marks were legible enough for her to use the form for what she needed.

It has been a week now. Our living room, full of papers and pictures still drying, smells like fire. Pat and the Chedesters are all doing well, full of God provided faith and coping with the loss.

Pat wrote on her blog of beauty from ashes. Only time will tell the losses Pat will number as she resettles here. But it moves me to look at what God mercifully allowed us to find:
pictures and letters from Pat’s Mom, pictures and cards from Pat’s team, documents for Kim and Lydia, an aerial shot of the road to Bundibugyo, three books: Jim Elliot’s journals, “He Has Made me Glad”, and The Art of Christian Healing.

A solid representation of some of the richest beauty of Pat’s life: family, team, daughters, mission, ministry, Christ.

This world is not our home. I am honored to serve alongside others who can celebrate that truth even from the ashes of loss.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Prayer, Relationship & A Strong Tenor Lead

(This post has been sitting in drafts for a bit. It didn’t feel complete, and I also couldn’t release it , so I’ve returned to it almost every day. This afternoon, I pondered a Father’s Day entry and began perusing Daddy memories in my mind. And finally, this post found completion. The reason I had to wait was evident. God’s timing is perfect.)

I followed a recent online discussion about Prayer Life.

I feel my spirit pull away from that phrase a bit.

Common phrases begin to impart their own meanings over time. We lock on to what a thing looks like and how it functions and can forget the deeper truths.

‘Prayer life,’ for instance, is a living organism that grows and changes and is active.

I sometimes long for a rewording so that the term would grab my attention as it should, not immediately throw my mind into a conquered pattern.

The online discussion concerned balancing one's prayer life and led me to these thoughts.

Too much of my spiritual journey has been focused on the “do-ings” of my life.

Too little time given to the “be-ing”.

God IS. And He asks us to BE His. The schedule, timing, clock, list, plan… are not wrong at all. They are fine. They just aren’t IT.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the methods…

Prayer is relationship. And when we confine relationship to method or schedule, suffocation often results.

I’ve commented before about my maternal grandparents. One of the safest places I can remember is their home.
A few memories of their household:
Unrushed. Lots of sitting and being together. No schedule. We played. Games, dolls, crosswords. I never one day had the thought, “How do I act like a better granddaughter?” There was no list or process in my brain. I was their granddaughter. And I was beloved. I knew this by the way I was welcomed and embraced. I knew this because they had time. They expressed their love for me verbally and with actions. With their facial expressions. And the way they talked about me when I was out of the room. They worked hard to have my favorite foods available. They were profoundly interested in my stories.

And I loved being with them.

They were a concrete example of safe, cherished relationship. They were practicing, Christ's love.

But, how easy it can be for me to not experience Christ this way.

My prayer focus can become: What I Am Saying. And, How Long I am Spending. And, What is Expected of Me.

Instead…

How does God look as I approach Him? What is His response to me? Where is He sitting? Where is Jesus? Where are His eyes? On me? Looking into the distance?

To keep this relationship ALIVE in my broken brain and heart—I have begun intentionally taking God with me to a “place” I never have.

An intense moment of conflict. A bad parenting moment. In the middle of a pity party. Extreme joy or raucous laughter.

Not just desperate pleas (though, He certainly hears and accepts those). But also, a considering of where He is in those moments. I am choosing to open new doors in my perception and be more deeply intimate with God.

Not just in moments I have patterned to be Holy. But every moment allowed to birth holiness because of His Presence.

I had to work at this. I couldn’t picture Him at first in stressful, difficult circumstances. When I felt like I was failing.

I asked for help. Faltering words.

“Lord, where do you sit when I talk to you? Do you sit? When I’m messing up, or in pain, where do you stand? Do you touch me? Can you help me see you in my mind’s eye?”

This visualization became gradually more distinct.

The intercession, the confession, the listening…grew in authenticity as I became more aware of Who He Is. Where He Is. (everywhere, all the time…)

And How He Loves. The two are directly proportional.

God is Love.

Change was effected. There is no other way.

We cannot control, or direct or manipulate the outpourings or effects as a result of being with God.

The outpourings (whether they are ever seen by human eyes or not) will Glorify and Testify where it matters. He will see to that.

We should only continue to pursue him, pressing in.

Seeing Him. Being seen.

A personal relationship with Christ. It thrives, grows and never stops giving, filling and renewing.

El Roi, praise—

(And there it was. That phrase. ‘Personal relationship with Christ’
What to say to honor you, Dad? Just this.
Everything to me now, is just what you told me it would be.Christ in me, in you.
Is All. And promises our family Forever. Together. With Him.

You consistently testified and taught that Knowing God far surpassed knowing about Him. In my ongoing cycle of relationship with God, my heart reawakens to this truth and thrives again in His Love, over and over again. Each time more authentic than the last.

This Truth that can never be conquered, but always gives from an unreachable depth, has been a soundtrack of my life.

What sweet awareness to realize,your voice still carries the melody.

The melody, of this, most resonant of Life Songs.
I continue to pursue the One you told me loves me most.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day--)


Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Time to Remember

Some seasons in life meander. Some just come crashing in.

Both speak Him, when I listen.

Faith Quest: God brought me to Revelation 3 and the church of Philadelphia just before Faith Quest began. The church in Philadelphia was few in number. Weak. Bearing wounds and constant persecution from the “religious” and “righteous”. The “righteous” who had more money and more “solid” history. But were missing something.

“I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”


This was God’s Word to His people. Not greater success. Or less struggle.

His love and adoration for his enduring people. Will be acknowledged.

What sweet, sweet assurance. What we see isn’t It. How He loves, Is.

We welcomed youth from different parts of Uganda and a team of 6 American visitors to this year's Faith Quest.



The theme was 'Under Construction.' And it was a great year. Learning. Prayer. Celebration. Worship and New Life.

All because of His Love for us.

Thank you to everyone who prayed us through this endeavor. Your prayers were answered in remarkable ways—good weather, open hearts, Glory to God.

May 5th, 2011: I never expected to feel this way, but I was dreading turning forty. Four Zero. (pause) Still not too happy about it. I can not explain it or analyze it or even apologize for it. Just wasn’t ready for those numbers on my cake.

So my dear family and sweet friends creatively spoke the truth (the number '35' was on my cake with five tiny candles hid behind) and it brought my heart such joy. My sweet girl works hard each year to mark my day with beauty. This year she baked my cake in an outdoor brick oven. The smiling faces of exuberance of my family made me so grateful that I have been graced another year to know them. Even if I’m not so thrilled with the actual numbers. Another year is a very good thing.

Keeping Moment: I was born on this day a few years ago but now share the birth day with my third born. Third born from my womb—third born-again in the Lord.

Nothing compares to sweet, simple faith expressed in the words, “I believe.”

“Jesus is the Son of God.”

He really has always known this but with frightening joy we will see it proven in his journey. As I hear his confession, experience his resolute decision and celebrate with the angels over his covenant love with Christ, I know the years ahead will rock him more than he could ever know. But this anchor holds.

He ponders deep and long over everything. And every so often, when I least expect it the depth bowls over and spills out into our awareness leaving me breathless and grateful.
I know my offspring well but only God knows their inmost beings. And He is there. Ever there. Loving, knowing, guiding and saving. Precious Savior—thank you.

Broken Hearts: Home from Faith Quest with exhaustion weighing heavy and a Facebook status alerts us to sorrow among our Tyler, Texas family. A fatal car accident has taken the life of dear friend.

I remember the first time we met. Jeff M. was carrying Cade in a baby carrier. Alicia was carrying food. I was pregnant with Isaac. We were at the Burnett’s for care group. I thought Alicia was beautiful. And she immediately began asking questions. About my pregnancy. About Uganda. About my life.

She asked me if I needed anything.

Tears.

She always asked if I needed anything.

We talked about baby needs and she said she would get some stuff together for me.

Boxes and boxes of clothes and blankets and toys.

Playgroups. Lunches. So many hugs.

Shopping. Packing. Watching my kids.

Laughing. Crying.

We are blessed when friends come along side us and, despite our frequent and long separations, open their lives and hearts to us. Jeff and Alicia were such friends.

She sent an email just after we arrived back in Uganda this time. Letting me know she missed me. Asking if I needed anything. (smile) And saying that she loved me.

I responded to her email. Lots of news from here. My love and constant prayers.

It was the last communication we would have. If I had known that, would I have said something different?

Our hearts are with Jeff, Jeron, & Cade daily as they walk through the grief of losing Alicia. We long to do more.

Valley of the shadows: In the wake of grieving with the Morrisons we hear of other friends and families facing loss. A young man passes quietly in his sleep, a Dad placed in hospice care while the family gathers, traumatic accidents shattering hearts and hopes.

Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Volcanoes.

A woman is assaulted just outside our fence.

Weighty. Heavy happenings.

And that empathetic weight makes the daily walk more cumbersome.

The daily facts of no electricity. The unused washer and dryer that would make it all so much easier. Homeschooling three active boys, on my own. Pre-algebra with Kinley.

The assaults on ministry here—lies. Deception. Brokeness.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May YOUR UNFAILING LOVE rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22

Each moment reminding me—
Beauty and pain coexist.
I should fear neither. Embrace both.

For everything He can make them.

“I know the plans I have for you,”

“To give you a future and a hope”

Precious Lord. Come quickly.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shall We Pray?

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1. Thank you Jesus for the land, lake and gorgeous view of the mountains at Camp Saka.
2. Thank you for the safety and protection you have provided through these years.
3. Thank you for safety on the roads.
4. Thank you for food to eat.
5. Thank you for voices to sing and pray with.
6. Thank you for the youth who travel to meet with You, with us.
7. Thank you for each American brother and sister who travel far to encourage youth during this week!
8. Thank you for Hannah, Sarah, Jessica, Shannon, Dusty and Cecily.
9. Thank you for Kinley, Alex, Isaac and Silas and their joy during camp.
10. Thank you for Jeff’s work and perseverance.
11. Thank you for Derricks tireless efforts and boundless energy.
12. Thank you for our Calvary Chapel brothers willingness to work, serve and teach.
13. Thank you for a message to proclaim!
14. Thank you for food to eat and water to drink!
15. Thank you for sunshine!
16. Thank you for rain.
17. Thank you for hearing our prayers!
18. Thank you for forgiveness and grace.
19. Thank you for another day of living!
20. Thank you for the hope of heaven.

“ Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord, may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” I Thessalonians 3:1-3

Faith Quest Prayers:

1. Spiritual:
A. Truth—Satan speaks lies and deception. Please pray for each leader, teacher, guard, cook, grounds keeper and participant to be freed from the bondage of deception. John 8:43-44
B. Confession—This is inextricably linked to Truth. We must speak the truth to each other and we must speak the truth about ourselves. Confession is paramount in this. Please pray for courage, honesty and strength for leaders, teachers, guards, cooks, grounds keepers and participants to CONFESS their sins and be forgiven. James 5:16
C. Protection—we tread on satan’s (temporary) territories. From the land we physically walk and sleep on to the hearts we seek to minister too. The Saka land was used for many years and generation to honor/respect/serve demonic forces. We have, in Jesus Name and power, reclaimed the land and seek to reclaim the hearts. Please pray with us in this struggle, thanking our God for His continual victories and for hearing our prayers.
D. Boundaries—we ask God to draw protective boundaries around the camp—protection from witch doctors, difficult neighbors, and any evil that would be conjured or sent out against this effort.
E. Courage—“the cowardly” are listed among those who will be outside of God’s eternal kingdom. Pray for the heart of God’s warriors to exist in all of us as we teach, serve and learn. Rev 21:8

2. Physical:
A. Jeff’s back—last week Jeff’s back was hurt as he cleared a road on the way to camp. He is in constant physical pain. Please pray for healing and endurance as he continues to work and serve.
B. Health of the Cashlings—these next few weeks are full and busy for Jeff and Cheryl. Our kids are also passionate about Faith Quest and serve alongside us. Part of their service is “sharing’ Mom and Dad’s time and energies. Please pray for our kids to be well physically. Alex is having allergy issues and Kinley’s stomach is not well. Pray for healing and endurance.
C. Cheryl’s headaches—tiredness and overwork increase the occurrence of migraines. Please pray that Cheryl will be migraine free during this season.
D. Hannah, Sarah, Jessica, Shannon, Dusty and Cecily: These are our American support staff during camp this year. Please pray for their endurance, health, and protection.
E. Snakes—please pray for physical protection for everyone involved with Faith Quest. Snakes exist in the bush and we pray they will stay away completely during this time.
F. Distracting critters—ants, bees, wasps, fuzzy caterpillars, etc- pray for this to be a time of physical peace as well as spiritual peace.
G. Water—pray for the water pump system to work and for healthy water to be available for each participant
H. Transport—there is a lot of driving involved in Faith Quest. Pray for the roads, for the cars, and the drivers. Safety! Efficiency! Working mechanical parts!
I. Food—food prices have skyrocketed in Ft Portal and we need to buy a lot of food. Please pray for grace and favor as we bargain and purchase. Pray for the cooks to be a blessing and to be blessed.
J. Youth—pray for each participant to arrive safely and meet with the Lord during these days.
K. Protection—pray against thieves and anyone who would even attempt physical harm of any kind to any participant or leader (or property) at Faith Quest.
L. SUNSHINE!!—rain hurts us, especially as we set up and travel to camp. Please pray for sunshine for the next two weeks!

3. Emotional
A. Encouragement—Please pray for emotional encouragement to abound among the leadership this year. Pray that we can thank often, forgive quickly and communicate well. Especially, pray for emotional encouragement for Jeff and Derrick as they direct and make MANY decisions.
B. Protection—it is easy to “feel” discouraged and depleted. Please pray for our emotional well being to be strong in the Lord!
C. Distractions—please pray against any emotional distractions our enemy would toss our way. Also pray against his conniving usage of basically good things, to distract or pull our minds and hearts away from where our true focus should be.
D. Joy—pray for our hearts to have joy in serving!

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops.” James 5: 17-18

Holy Father, Almighty God-
Thank you for using us. Thank you for the incredible Grace of entrusting your GLORIOUS message to broken jars of clay.
Will you rain down on us—Your Spirit. Your Might. Your Glory.
We want these youth and each leader to meet you and know you better.
While we ask that you hold back the water rain—will you pour down the Spirit’s fire and make our hearts ready to receive all you have for us?
We thank you now for all you are doing today in our hearts and lives. We praise You for your plan and purpose for this week of Faith Quest.
Thank you, Faithful Father, for each brother and sister who is petitioning, interceding and standing with us in this endeavor.
We stand firm because you said to.
We stand firm because of You.
Faithful. True.
We run into your name, your strong tower. And we are safe.
Be glorified, Abba. Be glorified.
In Jesus Blessed, Powerful Name,
Amen.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mama Yeshua

(On this eve of another celebration of Jesus life, I am drawn again to thoughts of Mary. Below are my own humble musings concerning Mary's experience on that painful Friday.)

Not what I expected. Again.

His arrival had been so simple. Three of us. Joseph, me, Yeshua. The shepherds had come. The sweetness of his breaths. God’s promises. The angels.

Ending here??!

The chaos of the moment overwhelmed. The shouting crowds. People shoving past me, screaming insults. Pockets of people laughing in derision.

“Who is this, who has gotten himself into trouble?”

My mind could not comprehend this. This mayhem.

As I stumbled along with the other women, tears pouring down my face, my mind was back in that first ethereal encounter.

The angel. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you….Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“He will be great…”
“his kingdom will never end.”


Holy Abba, my eyes see 'ending' here. Our son carries his own cross! My heart is ripped in pieces for the child of my womb. His suffering. His blood. His agony.

He needs water. He needs help! Abba, do you see?!

Each nail, each cry pierced my soul. Oh that I could die too. Take me Father.

The women’s hands hold me up. We must struggle on. I watch the carnage hoping as only a mother can for the miracle!

You promised, my Abba! He will be great!

I do not understand.

They set the cross upright. He cannot breathe. I run toward him and am forced back. My agony permeates my joints and limbs.

My son!!!!

“Dear woman.”

His voice and eyes find me.

Precious eyes. Precious face.

“Dear woman, here is your son,”

His eyes find John. John crumbles but listens—“Here is your mother.”

John looks at me with the love and desperation we are all strangled by.

John nods.

No! My heart cries, NO!!

You. Yeshua. YOU ARE MY SON!!!!

DO NOT LEAVE ME HERE!!!!!

Simeon’s words crashed in on me then.

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

“A sword will pierce your own soul too.”

I scream in agony.

“It is finished.”

There are no words to describe this. When your child departs the earth. My own soul crashed, shattered on the blood spattered earth. Spittle from the mouths of these murderers still wetting the ground around the wooden cross.

Events swirled around me. An earthquake. Darkness.

News from the temple that the curtain was torn in two. Burial.

We have no ground here.

A stranger to me. A prominent man. One of THEM buries my son.

John’s protective presence. Yeshua’s comfort, even here.

I am lifeless. Unable to move.

Unable to think.

Broken.

“It is finished” my son said.

Finished?

Almighty God. This is not what I expected.

(Luke 1:28-33;Luke 2:34;John 19:25-27;Luke 19:30)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Books

Here's a sampling of some of my favorites over the last six months.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Deeply meaningful each and every day.

Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
Eye opening and convicting. Greatly impacting my choices and decisions daily.

Paul 90 Days on His Journey of Faith by Beth Moore
I have been very blessed by this Beth Moore series of books. She has the 90 Days series for David, Jesus, John and Paul. These are shorter daily lessons than her weekly Bible studies and provide a wonderful lead-in to deeper study as I always experience with Beth Moore's work.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Overall, an amazing book! Absolutely loved it. I was discomforted by one segment involving a disturbed individual who also happened to be unclothed. Just a forewarning, and something to keep in mind if younger readers are reading the book. Might be a part to skip or at least discuss. I skipped most of that section and it didn't mess up the storyline for me.

Decision Points by George W Bush
Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
I read these books at the same time and loved that. I was reminded of the great cost of leadership and inspired by the dedication to lead with honor. Highly recommend both books!

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleeza Rice
I was inspired and fascinated by Dr. Rice's memories and family heritage. I have always been a Condoleeza Rice fan and only respected her more after reading this heartfelt dedication to her beloved parents and family.

Upcoming reads on my Kindle:

Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

Finally a quote (from Interrupted) that speaks my heart right now--

When Jesus told us to “take the lowest place” (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place. Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted

Be blessed!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pain of Healing...

(journaled thoughts following our family's visit to a genocide memorial in Rwanda)

Piles of clothes. Piles. And piles.

The stench of decay is strong.

The entire area is hushed. Somber. We speak in low soft tones.

Agonizing stories. Memories.

Plaguing and oppressive.

Horrors. Bones.

I’m breathing in and out. But I feel suffocated.

I want to apologize to our guide. I’m sorry she has to tell me this.

I’m sorry there is such a story to tell.

Tiled, tidied graves.

Jeff remarks that things are more organized than when he was here before. Trees have grown.

I shield my children from the stories. The stories, seem too much for the ears and minds and eyes of my beloved.

Father God. How these seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. The reality, not just the stories.

How you must have longed to shield your creation, your children. Each heart and thought and hair of the head. That you have numbered. Each soul you designed.

I am overwhelmed.

Throngs of people quietly fill the road in front of us. We somberly pull aside on the road to wait for their passage. Memorials and gatherings at every town and village along our route.

Never Again!

Our hearts join that cry.

His Spirit intercedes in our weakness with groans of the inexpressible.

Before us, a stark contrast. Life is full of this.

The unbelievable beauty and majesty of the mountains and hills. Vast expanse of hills and valleys. Gorillas. Green. Lush. Forest. Lake.

God’s creation declares His Glory. Declares His Love.

Here. Where evil reigned for that awful time. God’s declaration goes on.

He loves. Oh. How. He. Loves.

To proclaim so unceasingly. The I AM.

We never deserve You.

Father God forgive us. Forgive us who did nothing. Forgive us, humankind, who did everything.

We cry out for your mercy. Your healing and your peace.

Please start in my heart.

Cleanse the prejudice that hides or camouflages itself in the corners.

Cleanse any resentment and bitter root.

Yank and pull. No matter the pain.

I turn my eyes from the vastness of this place. The natural splendor and the wounds that remain.

And look inward. To what I can effect.

My forgiveness. My love. My heart.

And from there. The world changes.

One surrender at a time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Praying...

Our Lord has graciously bound our hearts to others on this journey. He has promised to never leave or forsake us and many times He keeps His promise through the hearts of dear friends and sweet fellowship.

Today, I am praying for two families on different sides of the world. Please pray for them too.

**One family came into our lives many years ago. They were ending an amazing adventure of Africa travel and they stayed in our home for nearly 6 weeks. We were forging a life and ministry in a difficult place and they came along side and helped in every possible way. They served, traveled, cooked, peeled beans, played cards, laughed, cried and prayed with us.

Chad and Jennifer Huddleston.

God called them to Japan and multiplied their family and His Kingdom in that place.

Today, they walk along-side a people they love so very much, through pain, suffering and unimaginable loss.

Please pray for them today. And the team of Christians who are serving and giving in the wake of disaster. Their website has current updates and information for donations.

**Another family has been so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives, we feel like we are blood kin.

Ben and Trisha Wall.

When we were teenagers, Trisha was a hero for me. I grew up around her and her family. I knew her mostly from summer camp. She loved God. And she inspired others to love God.
I lost track of her for some years, until she and Ben took a job in East Texas. They served at a congregation with my uncle and aunt. My uncle often asked if I had spent much time with Trisha. He said he had a feeling we would be fast friends.
God took us to that congregation in 2002 and not only did Trisha and I quickly bond, but our husbands did too. Both West Coast boys. Both passionate God-followers.
Over the years, God, by His Spirit has anchored us to each other in indescribable ways. Many miles separate us, but His Spirit will not let us part. I am so thankful for this.

Over the last months, Ben and Trisha have labored under the weight of physical illness. Ben's body has suffered and both their spirits, though enduring, are weary.

Ben has surgery today. Pray that beyond the hands of the surgeons, God's healing miracles will defeat this physical malady. Pray for Ben and Trisha's hearts to be stronger, more tuned to God's voice than ever before.

Nine children are represented by these two couples. As Mom and Dad labor for Christ, please pray for Anika, Josiah, Caleb, Katia, Gideon, Alex, Katy, Elijah and Olivia. May their stories explode with relationship with Christ and may their hearts grow fearless in the Love of their Creator.

So today. Two families. Two different worlds.

One Lord. One prayer.

Be glorified, Abba Father. Be glorified!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Proclaiming in the Dark

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12

We are told that Satan has dominion in this world. And we can sometimes see signs of his cruel and unjust treatment.

Last night, around midnight, a woman’s cry punched the quiet of our home. The blows of her pain continued for over one hour. No other sound accompanied her shrieks. No other women joined into the chorus, which indicated no physical death.

No shouts or male voices reverberated. No sounds of physical abuse.

Just a wail. Pain.

We prayed. I asked for God’s angels to come and meet her. Free her. I asked for any allegiance in her heart to evil or Satan, to be turned. Confessed. Changed.

I don’t even know her name.

But I heard the bondage of her heart.

She proclaimed her pain into the silent hours of slumber.

Her current truth contrasted neon against the black night.

We had no choice but to hear.

And so we pray.

And we believe.

“…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” 1 John 3: 8b

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16: 20


We proclaim the One who has Overcome the World.

Right out loud, in the dark.

Maranatha!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

As Evening Fades...

"Atwooki, Bye!"

Araali's call resonates through the house, signaling the end of the work day. Our compound becomes only ours for a brief respite of time.

I hasten through the food prep eager for a moment outside. During this fleeting moment.

This perfect time of day.

The noisy hordes of school children have passed our fence and found their way home. Dinner warms in the oven. The boys explode outside for a few final hours of running and energy spending in the coolest hours of the day.

Evening.

The sun begins to lower dramatically over the mountains that sit majestic guard over our town. The sky displays the spectrum of colors our Creator is choosing for this particular evening. Oranges, red, purples, blues. I am awestruck at the visual and breathe deep of the ever cooling air.

6 PM.

In our first year of life in Ft Portal, 6 PM poured loneliness and despair into my soul. The early evening triggered the impulse to meet with others ending their day of work in our home culture. I missed my parents, our friends, restaurants, malls, Mexican food.

In my first year of adjustment to a completely new and uncomfortable way, 6 PM ushered me into enough stillness to remember all that was left behind.

I cried often, then.

And I prayed. Pleading prayers, asking God to make this my home and comfort my soul.

Somewhere around year three of our sojourn here, I realized that my mind was anticipating the evening hour, not dreading it.

My awareness of this miracle shaded over me much as the shifting colors of the sunset. Gradual. Breathtaking. Awesome.

And now. I long for 6PM. I find my walking path, fill my ears with praise music and drink in the abundance of this place and this life.

His plan and purpose for me. All day, I settle quarrels and hug sweaty boys, encourage math prowess and pray long over ministry. I cook food and clean and organize and plan.

But for some minutes as the sun falls, I walk in the cool air and am embraced. By the arms of my Father who designed this painful, healing time, just for me. Because He knows.

The boys scheme grand adventure and ride bicycles around and around. Sweet girl revels in the quiet house and conquers one more chapter of a book. Too, embraced, by a Creator Who loves them well.

Hungry tummies beckon and darkness drives us into the light of the solar bulbs. Fully loved. Fully known.

A perfect moment.