Saturday, October 15, 2011

As the Tan Fades

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


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.


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


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.

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…

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

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

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?