Sometimes a River Is Not Enough

Do you remember those moments in your life when you felt like you could cry for days and, somehow, it would still not be enough?  That is how I feel when I hug my friend Rehema.  We dampen each other’s shoulders and hold onto each other until we can stop shaking, because, for the first time in my life the words of the hymn, “If we never meet again this side of heaven,” are very real.  The Lord has closed a door for us here in Uganda.  He has made it clear that the best thing, the necessary thing, for our family is to move back to our home in Kentucky.  We have lived in Kampala for seven months now.  Seven months?  How can it be only seven months, I wonder, when I think of Rehema–my neighbor, my sister, my friend–and how we have called to each other over the wash line every morning.  How we have sat in the dark and cried for each other’s sorrows.  How we have huddled in the dawning chill with unbrushed hair and “lasos” around our shoulders and prayed.  When I think of her contagious laughter and how we have mothered each other’s children.

How can my heart not break when I think of Natasha picking me up off the floor when I had collapsed from blood loss?  When I remember how together we have mourned the lost who saw the narrow way and determined that the cost was too high.  How we grieved with young Janet over her sin and gloried in her new birth.  How we have helped each other grow through hard conversations and shared both the laughter and agony of motherhood.

Is seven months enough to have gained a brother/son of 25 years?  We sat across the table from Brian last Sunday night.  His countenance was heavy with grief as he said to Greg, “I just can’t imagine it.  How can you go when you are the one who showed me the way?”  And a river was not enough.  Nor was it when Hassan sat on our couch and asked, “Why?” with eyes disbelieving and full of hurt.

There are tears for the past and tears for the future.  For the moments we will miss in the coming weeks and months…When Peter and Mary, who so much desire repentance, make their relationship right in legal marriage and are washed in the waters of baptism.  Watching Evas and Aysha and the other “mamas” from the savings group blossom in their faith.  The growing up of all these little ones to whom I have been “Mama Lorna” the past seven months.

img_0164I will not get to say good-bye to Wanda, who has been a mother and friend to me for so much longer.  With whom I have shared the hope and despair of counseling young women, girls barely more than children, bearing children after the horror of rape.  Wanda, who has been my rock.  No, a river is not enough.

But I wouldn’t trade it–this time, and even these tears.  I would not trade all that God has taught us.  I am not strong right now.  I struggle to pray and am often distracted when I read the Bible.  Greg and I fumble over how to comfort one another each out of our own sadness.  Our children are, once again, revealing the stress of transition in their behavior.

But I have to laugh at myself also, because I see that the lesson is the same all over again.  No, I am not strong.  I am weak.  I am broken.  I am hopeful, but I am afraid.  Yet I, like the frightened disciples, can cry out to my Lord and know the blessed, “Peace, be still.”  “Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons, or men, or whatever it be, no water can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies.  They all shall sweetly obey thy will.  Peace, peace, be still.”  And I find that I could sing crossing the ocean once, and will sing crossing it again, “Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he hath the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.  All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still my, soul.  The wind and waves still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”

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The Shower of the Soul

Dry season is upon us here in Kampala.  Dusting has become a daily job (not that I actually do it everyday 🙂 ).  The broad leaves of the plants that grow by the roadside are heavy with a thick, red-brown coating, and I wouldn’t recommend riding a “boda” without sunglasses.

Last week, though, we got a good rain.  I felt the satisfaction of knowing that the gates, the walkways, the shrubbery and even the dirt roads were getting a wash.  It reminded me of something that has long encouraged my soul.  The Bible teaches that when we are baptized, oIMG_2097ur sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).  We are clean and new (2 Cor. 5:17).  Yet sometimes, truth be known, even as disciples walking the narrow road, we pick up some dust.  That is why God has given us the glorious gifts of repentance and confession.  The scriptures reveal that when we repent and turn to God “times of refreshing” come “from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-21).  We are told that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Sounds a lot like cool rain on a grit-weary traveler.

Many believe that when the Bible speaks of confession it refers only to confessing to God, but James 5:16 teaches us to confess our sins “to one another.”  As a young Christian I dreaded the confession of my sins.  I felt overwhelming shame, fear and stress whenever I realized that I had done something or harbored some attitude that ought to be confessed.  I would put it off until just the right moment, and carry the weight of it in all my interactions.  Somewhere along the way the Lord impressed on me that confession is a blessing and not a trial.  Baptism is the great bath of our souls.  Repentance and confession are our daily showers.  Somewhere along the way I also realized that, while all sin is shameful, the shame is before God more than other believers.  If he already knows about the angry tone I used with my children or the fearful doubt that I allowed to pervade my thoughts, why would I hide them from my fellow-sojourners who also battle their own sinful natures?  I learned instead of stewing and procrastinating to seek the refreshment of confession as quickly as possible.

Two more blessings that we receive when we regularly cleanse our souls through confession are depth of fellowship and power over sin.  1 John 1:9 says that “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”  I believe that the primary meaning of “walking in the light” has to do with living a godly life, but I also know that sin thrives in the dark.  When brought into the light, much of its power simply vanishes (James 4:7).  Our fellowship with one another deepens as we humble ourselves and allow others to minister to our need.  Finally, we pray for one another, and, as James tells us (right after his admonition to confess our sins to one another), “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 

Waiting for Love

I named her “Baby Love,” because it was too early to tell if she would have been a boy or girl.  I say “she” because that is my hunch, and I can’t stand “it” for a baby, no matter how small.

It was a Friday morning when the ultrasound showed no heartbeat and we began to wait. The doctor wanted to repeat the ultrasound after a week to confirm, but I knew.  It was not like any of my other pregnancies to bounce back from the first trimester at ten weeks.  So, for two weeks I considered it a blessing, but when the bleeding started, it was a heavy knowledge.

The waiting was such a strange place to be.  The fifth-pregnancy belly that I had fondly laughed at still showed.  The bulging veins still ached, but all the body of joyful anticipation was gone.  How could I be pregnant and not pregnant at the same time?

We told the children right away because I am not good at hiding things, and walked with them through their various levels of understanding.  “Will you still be pregnant?…  Where is the baby now?…  Will we have another baby?…  Can I still sing to the baby?…”

That afternoon I lay on my bed silently wiping away tears, when Elodie crawled in beside me.  As she chattered and played she kept sticking her doll under my shirt and saying, “Look, now there’s a baby in your belly!”  Watching her play through her confusion brought comfort.

Praying was hard.  I asked the Lord to help my body do what it needed to do quickly, but as I said the words, they were not what I wanted.

Looking back, those four days were a gift.  When the moment came, I was physically prepared and my heart was surrendered.  I spent two agonizing and beautiful hours with the Lord learning that when we are most broken He is closer than any person ever could be.  “[His] strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  That strength carried me through the next few days when unconsciousness due to blood loss led me into the world of painful and confusing medical interventions.  We will probably never know how much of that was necessary, but through it all there was peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:27

As a good friend who has grieved deep loss said to me, “Another part of our hearts reaching heaven first.  We shall see them and get to hold them there in a moment.”

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“Pray That I May Have the Grace to Let You Be My Servant Too”

I had not idea how strong I thought I was until I recently found myself very weak.  Our family arrived in Kampala, Uganda nine weeks ago.  As I mentioned in my last post, we felt like the timing could not have been more perfect.  Our good friends, the Sweazy’s, had just welcomed into their family a sibling group of five abandoned children.  Vulnerable children and adoption have so long been on our hearts that we were thrilled to be able to walk alongside them in this journey.

After taking a few days to recover from jet-lag, we hit the ground running–adapting very quickly to life in Christian community and on a new continent.  I felt prepared for the adjustment having lived three years in South America as a young adult.  My neighbor and sister in Christ, Rehema, began right away teaching me to make simple Ugandan staples like “posho” (a cornmeal base served with beans and other sauces), “binyegua” (I have no idea how to spell that, but it is a delicious peanut sauce) and “matoke” (cooking bananas).  By the second week I was enjoying independent walks up to the neighborhood fruit and vegetable sellers, had been to the local market and even ventured out on a “boda-boda” (motorcycle taxi).

By the third week, though, I was starting to feel extraordinarily tired and asked my sisters for prayer.  The daily tasks of hanging out the laundry and cooking our meals from scratch began to feel burdensome rather than joyful.  I tried to make sure I was drinking plenty of water and getting to bed on time, but when, by the fourth week, I had even less energy, I began to suspect something more was going on.

You may have guessed (as did several of the sisters around me) that there was, indeed, more going on–a whole new life!  During our fourth week in Uganda, I discovered that I was four weeks pregnant.  We were excited and overwhelmed.  A recent letter from a dear friend summed up our feelings pretty well…”My timing, if I had my choice, would be to plan out our lives so that one manageable thing happened followed by another one once the current situation was under control.  Our dear Lord, on the other hand, seems to specialize in overflowing us with his blessings and activities so thick and fast that we soon realize there is no way we can manage alone!”

Then came “morning sickness” (the all-day kind), migraines, a flu-like virus and a very nasty G.I. infection caused by contaminated food.  Morning sickness and migraines in the first trimester are not new to me, but I was unprepared for the emotional impact of adding these elements to such a major life transition.  I found myself constantly struggling with discouragement.  The normal feelings of homesickness and missing dear ones were compounded so that I often questioned whether we had done the right thing in coming to Uganda.  Mentally I could see God already beginning to accomplish the goals for which we had strayed so far from home–neighbors seeking the Lord, “savings groups” coming together in impoverished communities, foster children thriving in our midst…but my spirits continued to sink.

Every meal became a dreaded obstacle.  I have always cooked very simply, and, for the past decade, mostly from scratch, but I had not realized how much I depended on that ability to “cheat” when sick or overwhelmed.  In earlier pregnancies we ate quite a few frozen pizzas ;).  I could throw on an organic salad in one of those plastic bin-y things and feel pretty good about myself.  No such option exists in Kampala, Uganda.  Both the energy needed to prepare another pot of beans and the ability to digest them seemed completely out of my reach.  And yet, a family must eat.

Perhaps most difficult for me emotionally was that, instead of being in a position to serve, I found myself desperately needing others.  Other sisters fed my children while I lay in bed with a migraine, washed our clothes while I was curled on the couch with G.I. symptoms, scrubbed our floors and did our grocery shopping.  Greg and the kids stepped up to serve in so many ways, and, while I certainly felt grateful, I also felt guilty, helpless and even a little left out.

I began to realize that there was pride involved in my mixed emotions.  I wanted to be the one serving, going, doing, not the one needing to be cared for.  Things were not going the way I had planned them.  God was speaking to my spirit.  I am very work oriented–valuing my time and even myself and my relationship with God by what I can accomplish.  God was showing me very clearly that He does not need my work to accomplish his purposes.  My role is to be grateful and content either to serve or to be served.

We are not past those first 12 weeks yet (believe me, I’m counting ;)).  Two of my worst days nausea-wise were within the last week, but for the last several days I have been able to eat and keep it down, and I am enjoying that blessing.  I hope that I am on the up-swing, but I also feel that the Lord is making progress in my heart–teaching me, first of all, that I am not strong.  Anything I am able to do is a grace from Him.  And secondly, to rest content in my spirit when my body feels lousy.  These words of Thomas a Kempis resonated when I read them a few days ago, “When a man is not troubled it is not hard for him to be fervent and devout, but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is hope for great progress” (The Imitation of Christ).

The Servant Song

Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let me be your servant too

We are pilgrims on the journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born to all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.

–Gillard

Miracle in Makerere

There are multiple ways to use the word “miracle”.  In one sense a miracle is an act of God that defies the laws of nature as we understand them.  The parting of the red sea.  The walls of Jericho falling.  Water turned to wine.  Loaves and fishes multiplied.  The blind seeing.  The lame walking.  The dead raised to life.  I have yet to personally see this kind of miracle.

Another kind of miracle happens within the bounds of the natural laws, and yet presents a clear demonstration of the power of God bringing about victories that could not have been attained by human power.  The story of Gideon is my favorite example of such a miracle.  Gideon, who had lost faith in God’s power and presence with Israel, and who describes himself as the weakest member of the weakest clan in his tribe, is called by God to lead his people and defeat the Midianites.  Judges 6:34 says that “the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon”, and he called the people to gather and join him in battle against their oppressors.  But, since God did not want the Israelites to think that they had won this victory by their own hand, he instructed Gideon to tell any who were fearful to leave.  22,000 returned and 10,000 remained.  10,000 was still too many, so God told Gideon to take the men down to the water and had him divide those who lapped from their hands from those who kneeled down to the water to drink.  Only the lappers were aloud to stay—300 men.

I can only imagine but that all the men thought Gideon was a little crazy, yet by the grace of God the chosen ones stayed.  Then, after a personal word of encouragement from the Lord (I love that God did that!), Gideon arms the 300 men with trumpets, empty jars and torches.  They surround the Midianite army during the middle watch of the night with their torches hidden inside the empty jars.  At Gideon’s command they break their jars, blow their trumpets and cry out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”  The Midianite army is thrown into confusion and attacks itself—fleeing before the 300 men who are later joined by the rest of the people.

This is the kind of miracle I am seeing this week in Kampala, Uganda.  Several months ago the Sweazy family received confirmation that we and the Buxton family would be joining them in the work here.  As I have written about before, they began to look for suitable housing for four families, several singles and frequent guests.  The goal was for the community of believers to live as close together as possible while maintaining distinct family living space.  I won’t go into much detail about God’s provision of housing as I already did that in another post, but I will say that when I told the story to a cousin of mine, he responded that the four townhouses (all available March 1) seemed to have “popped up like mushrooms,” which pretty well sums it up :).  When Elodie and I visited in December, we were able to see the houses.  It was also on that trip that the group made contact with Ivan and Melissa Bennet and visited the Sonrise Baby and Children’s homes and Mirembe Cottage for the first time.  Following that visit, the Sweazy’s began volunteering regularly at the homes and communicated their desire to foster and adopt.  Non of us even dreamed how quickly God would fulfill that desire and use and transform their family.

Within a month of working with the children’s home, the Sweazy’s were asked if they could consider bringing a sibling group of five into their family.  The three girls were already living in the baby home and cottage, but since the children’s home was too full to take the boys, this was the only hope of keeping the siblings together.  After prayerful consideration, this family of five embraced the plan to become a family of ten.  The children were to make the transition in mid-March—about the time that we were due to arrive.  I thought that this timing made sense, because the Sweazy’s would be moved into their new home and we would be there to help and support them.  But God had other plans.  Perhaps, once again, he wanted to make very clear that this endeavor would not be accomplished by human strength.  The very week that they were scheduled to move, Charlton and Natasha received an urgent request to take the children right away.  Moving (or “shifting” as it is called here in Uganda) is very stressful for any family—especially with small children.  Adopting five children at one time—thus going from having a five-year-old, three-year-old and one-year-old to parenting an eleven-year-old, seven-year-old, two five-year-olds, two three-year-olds and two one-year-olds—is something that most of us can hardly fathom.  To do both in one week is utter insanity—something like confronting an entire army with 300 men.

That was God’s unthinkable call, and our friends obeyed.  We knew all this was happening as we prepared to come, and (along with many others) we prayed fervently for them.  Wednesday night somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m. we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, and there were the smiling faces of Charlton, Natasha and Joseph Ssemanda waiting to greet us, load our many boxes into a rented van and drive us an hour to our new home in the Makarere district of Kampala, Uganda.  The next morning we were told to sleep in, which we did, and awoke to find a breakfast cake, fruit and an array of teas waiting in the kitchen that the sisters had cleaned before our arrival.  Lunch that day at the Sweazy’s was when I knew that I was seeing a miracle.  Natasha, who had only gotten about four hours sleep, cheerfully served us rice and beans while all twelve of our combined children chattered at the table.  A peace and joy filled the house that could only have been the work of the Holy Spirit.

Since then we have been served non-stop.  The Sweazy’s and Ssemanda’s have taken turns cooking delicious, simple Ugandan food (tonight I am breaking the trend and making spaghetti since I don’t yet know how to make Ugandan food, and Natasha told me that noodles are a huge treat for the kiddos).  Charlton has spent hours taking us on errands to get our home up and running—internet access, propane for the stove, household items, etc.  Wanda and Rehema have helped me clean and unpack and Natasha showed up yesterday morning and asked for all of our dirty laundry!

I look forward to being able to serve these dear brothers and sisters as they have so abundantly served us and to reach out to the local community, but at this moment, when we are jet-lagged (it’s currently 3 a.m. and my body has no intention of going to sleep) and disoriented by the details of “doing life” in a new country and culture, I am so grateful for the Lord’s tender care through this Christ-led community.  Some of the highlights for me so far have been…The moment at the airport when Greg (exhausted and overwhelmed) realized that the man helping him stack his boxes was brother Joseph.  He lit up with joy and they threw their arms around one another…Unpacking boxes in my new living room with eleven children contentedly playing around me… Watching AnaSofia and Carol (the oldest of the Sweazy’s “new” children) knit together on Ana’s floor, walk from house to house together, etc… Micaiah’s precious bond with our new dog, Lester… Calling at Natasha’s door and never knowing what smiling face will appear at my door… The children, oh the children!  Running red-faced and sweating in the sun, playing happily for hours with legos spread across our living room floor.  Parents letting each other know who is where as they roam from house to house.  Ethan and Boaz occasionally getting into a little mischief like turning on the outdoor spigot and getting their clothes wet.  The big girls letting us know when someone needs a little instruction ;)… Meals together… Singing together in English, Luganda and Swahili… Setting up my new kitchen (at 2 a.m., of course :))… Hearing sister Rehema say, “Bambi!” (Luganda for “Sweet!” or “Poor thing!”) and watching her draw Elodie out of her new-to-everything shyness… Elodie calling Blessing, who is four days younger than her, her “baby”… Elizabeth popping in with a smile on her way home from volunteering at the crisis pregnancy center… Meeting “Mama Junior,” a beautiful young woman who runs a shop across the street.  (In Uganda “Mama” is a title of respect for women.  She is “Mama Junior” because her oldest son is named “Junior.”)… Greg and I and the older kids singing the little ones to sleep in a new place that seems suddenly scary at bed-time…Praying for this place and its people who I already love.

Praise be to God that he searches the earth seeking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully his!  (2 Chron. 16:9)  Thank you for your prayers.

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Home, Home on the Road

Three weeks ago we left our home.  It’s hard to say if it was three weeks to the day, because we sort of left in stages, but it was that Friday that I drove away from an empty house with a four-year-old in the back seat crying disconsolately about never seeing his friends again.  Those last few days took more out of all of us than I had ever imagined.  I knew it would be a lot of hard work emptying and cleaning our house, packing and loading our Uganda-bound possessions, making last minute trips to the doctor, dentist, etc.  I knew that the kids would feel the strain of how busy I was with all the “extras.”  But I did not anticipate the emotional impact of Greg leaving the job that he loved and saying good-bye to family and eight years worth of relationships.  As we finally drove away the next Monday afternoon—initiating our five-week travel tour before our departure—I turned to Greg and confessed, “I don’t know if I can do this.  I don’t want to see anyone.  I just want to crawl in a hole somewhere.  I have nothing left to give.”  Fortunately, the reserves of the Holy Spirit are not so easily drained.

The Lord had plans for these weeks of travel that I knew nothing about.  We have been served and cared for, cooked for, cleaned for.  Families with many children of their own to care for have shared their lives, homes, meals, hearts, struggles, fellowship, communion and family devotional times. IMG_1025_3 We have been humbled by their generosity and inspired by their examples.  We have been prayed for by so many, sent on with practical gifts (hand-made dresses for the girls, vitamins, essential oils, seeds to plant…) and strengthened by words of encouragement and wisdom.  The Lord is good.

There have also been moments of challenge.  Two days after we left our home I stopped to buy diapers.  When the smiling cashier asked for my zip code I responded with a blank stare.  Nothing at all came to mind.  For at least a week I had to pray constantly for God to renew my vision.  I felt not only uprooted, but aimless.  Yet God has been faithful, and my feet feel grounded again—even without a zip code ;).

We began almost immediately to see the affects of upheaval of routine and home-life on our children.  Our mature thirteen-year-old became loud and attention-seeking.  Our almost eleven-year-old “little mama” was completely focused on her own desires.  Four-year-old Ethan tantrummed frequently and became the target of his little sister’s frequent hitting.  Their sinful natures, always present and in need of discipling, got turned on high.  I was grateful that a few weeks before a friend had warned me about the temptation to discipline out of embarrassment when staying with other families.  Greg and I prayed for right motives and for wisdom to train their hearts with grace and consistency.

Jeremiah 12:5 has frequently come to our minds:  “If you have raced with men on foot and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?  And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”  The words of the Lord to Jeremiah have reminded us that these challenges are small and that, if our hearts are right, they will serve as training ground for greater ones to come so that, whether settled in a home or on the road, we can “run and not be weary,” “walk and not faint.”

“They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord”

I remember singing these words from Zechariah as a teenager, and the refrain has come to my mind over and over during the last month.  It has become something of a theme for me, and the Lord is proving it to be true day by day.

Let me explain a bit…When, at the end of last Summer, our family made the decision to move to Uganda, we set what seemed to us an ambitious, but “do-able” goal of heading out mid-April.  We began to make plans–clean out closets, research visas and medical care, etc.  On the other side of the world, the Sweazy family searched for housing for four families amid the teaming streets of Uganda’s capital.  Their progress and ours at first seemed slow.  The Sweazys hoped to find four homes to rent that would be, if not on the same street, at least in very close walking distance of one another.  The few possibilities that appeared were for sale rather than for rent and would have required significant investment to house four families.  On our end, we had preferred to rent our home rather than sell at this time, but when the prospects for reliable renters fell through, we prepared to put our home on the market after the New Year.

In early December, our timeline  was recalibrated with the news of two startling provisions.  First, the Sweazys, who had been told that such a thing as townhouses did not exist in Kampala, were directed to a group of four townhouses surrounded by a safe area for children to play in the very part of the city that they had targeted as the focal point for the ministry.  All four were available March 1st.

Next, we were surprised by a phone call from some friends in another state who had just accepted a job in Kentucky and were interested in renting our house.  After a visit and discussion of details, we all agreed that it was a perfect fit, with one small catch–they needed to move in by early February.   We decided that we would spend the month of February traveling to visit and bid farewell to friends and family on the East coast and fly to Uganda in mid-March.  Our three-month plan suddenly became a one-month plan.

For several months prior to this I had been postponing a series of surgical procedures that I needed to have to correct painful varicose veins.  I had put them off because I knew that the medications they would give me would not be safe for a nursing child, and so I would need to wean Elodie.  With the change in plans there was no more time to postpone.  The surgeon was able to schedule all three procedures with just enough time for me to fulfill the travel restrictions before our February departure.  That meant that when I arrived home from Uganda on December 13th I had a month and a half to (together with my husband) pack to move our family and homeschool across the ocean, empty our home of possessions and undergo and recover from three surgeries.  When I detailed our plans to a veteran missionary cousin of mine, she laughed and said, “I don’t know whether you are brave or crazy!”

Thus we entered the month of January a bit intimidated and very much aware that our strength would not be sufficient for the task at hand.  Those who know us well (and even a few strangers) can testify that Greg and I tend to be challenged by details.  As young marrieds we would be about to leave on vacation and suddenly remember that we had a dog that needed to be looked after while we were gone.  Thankfully we had gracious friends, and through the years we have grown in this area, but it is still not our strength, and we are both tempted to feel stressed and overwhelmed when we commit to too many activities in on time period.

That is what makes this month such a testimony.  The Lord has provided grace, peace, strength and reminders of His leading at every turn.  Friday was a perfect example.  The day was packed unreasonably full.  I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. for the final (and biggest) of the three surgical procedures.  Greg had taken off work so that he could drive me there and back.  We thought we would be home by late morning so that Greg could get me tucked in bed and finish organizing a few things for the on-line estate sale pick-up which the Everything but the House company had scheduled for 2 to 7 p.m.  He would then feed the kids and take them to his mom’s so that they would be safely out of the way while dozens of strangers tramped in and out of our house carrying away our (now their) belongings large and small.  It was too much for one day, but we had planned as carefully as we knew how to make it work.  The monkey wrench came when I arrived at the hospital, got checked in and found out that I had missed a message from them which would have informed me that my surgery time had been changed from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  The sweet nurse was not prepared for my tears.  She handed me a box of tissues and said, “We’ll get you a nice warm blanket and make you comfortable.”  I blubbered a bit about four kids waiting at home, people coming to get all our stuff, moving to Uganda and how I don’t do well without food.  Then I took a deep breath, regained my gratitude and made a new plan.  Greg headed home to tend to the children and prepare for the auction pick-up.  A precious friend offered to come get me after surgery and bring me home (and do anything else I might possibly need!).  Another friend welcomed three of our children for a play-date so that Greg could stay sane.  After the re-planning hustle died down I found myself in a dim hospital room snuggled under several warmed blankets with the Bible on my smart phone.  I finished Hebrews and read through James.  The Lord strengthened my heart with these words:  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).  This was not some great trial, but even small ones test our faith and build our character.  Joy.

When the surgery was over and I was carted groggily home, I thought my day was pretty much over, but the Lord had more blessings in store.  Within an hour the anesthesia wore off and I came shuffling out into the kitchen.  I was unexpectedly greeted by a string of friends and acquaintances who had purchased from the on-line auction.  I found myself telling our story to strangers and seeing their eyes sparkle with excitement.  I was given contact information for a Louisville couple who started a goat farm in Uganda to provide milk to malnourished children.  A woman who I had previously known only by name came to pick up a refrigerator.  She listened eagerly to our plans, shared about her son’s work in Uganda and asked if she could pray with us.  So she, my mom and I gathered in our bare kitchen while she prayed unity and blessing on this mission.  My heart was filled.  Another man asked if I was Lorna and said that his wife is a friend of my friend’s and they are praying for us.  Yet another friend brought us dinner.  The Lord poured his strength into us through so many vessels.

This is how our month has been.  God has protected our family from illness, sustained us through back injuries, blessed us through his people, strengthened us through his word, given us patience with one another, peace in the midst of chaos and joy within uncertainty.  We are not done yet.  The furniture is gone, but there is still much to be done in our home and to prepare for our journey.  If I looked at all that remains with natural eyes, I would be overwhelmed.  462463But, graciously, God has given me new eyes.  Eyes to see that even we who are challenged by the details of everyday life can move mountains when we “keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and protector of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

 

 

Enough

As many of you know, I just returned from 10 days in Kampala, Uganda.  ILorna-girls traveled with Elodie, two members of the other Kentucky family planning to join the mission and three others from Followers of the Way Boston. The purpose of the trip was fourfold-to encourage the young Kampala church, to strengthen the bonds or brotherhood between the Boston and Kampala fellowships, to serve the community in ways that required more “man power,” and, for a few of us, to “check out” our new home. This last was my main purpose in going. I was daunted by the prospect of leaving Greg and our three older children for nearly 2 weeks, but we felt that the benefits of getting a “real feel” of the land that will soon be our home outweighed the challenges.

As I said, this was my main purpose, but God has many purposes. One of these began to unfold in my heart during our first full day in Uganda. Our hosts (and dear friends) had planned for us all to have a day of rest and adjustment upon arrival, but since we Kentucky travelers missed our first flight, thereby incurring a 14 hour layover in Dubai, we jumped right into activity. The day’s plan was to travel to the nearby city of Jinja, take a boat ride around Lake Victoria and then spend the remainder of the day serving at a home for disabled adults. At this home (which is really more of a community, where adults with serious physical challenges and their families live and work together) we had two projects planned. First, since one member of the team is an occupational therapist, we would spend the afternoon assessing some of the daily challenges of the residents in order to explore possible ways to help. Since I have no medical background, my role was to follow the assessment team and pray with each individual-a cherished privilege. Upon completion of the evaluations, we would serve a dinner (which had already been prepared by a couple of sisters from the church and a group of local widows).

joseph-crippled-manThe plan was simple and was well carried out, but the workings of the human heart are complex. I believe that we all struggled in different ways with the magnitude of the needs before us, and the inadequacy of our own ability to meet them. As I moved around the circle taking one hand after another, listening to their stories, watching their labored movements (most of the adults had been crippled by polio as children), looking into their eyes and praying for their bodies and spirits, my heart cried out, “Oh Lord, this is not enough!”. After praying I massaged the shoulders of several of the women whose lower body disconfigurations put great strain on their arms, shoulders and necks. One dear woman’s muscles were so tense at first that a light touch caused her pain.sweazy-hand-wash I longed to be able to straighten their legs–to ease their daily struggle, and grieved that I could not, but the Lord spoke gently to my spirit. The solving of all these problems is not in my hands.  It is enough, in this moment, to pour myself out in love.

Later in our stay we were privileged to meet a young couple named Ivan and Melissa. They (along with others in Ivan’s family) have spent their first five years of marriage establishing the Sonrise Children’s Home, Baby Home and Mirembe Cottage of Street Girls (http://www.sonriseministriesinc.org/). Elizabeth-SonriseWe were able to spend our last full day in Uganda visiting these homes. Our hearts thrilled to find three large household full of children who were obviously loved and well cared for. Children who would otherwise be on the street struggling for basic survival. I loved the T-shirt that Ivan was wearing that day. It said, “153 million orphans minus 1.” Those words offered me a choice. I can be crushed by that first number.  I can be paralyzed by the impossibility of it. I can distract myself or harden my heart in despair. (I believe I have done each of these things at one time or another.)  Or, I can surrender the impossible into God’s hands and trust that by his grace it is enough to love one child at a time.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

Don’t Despair in the Middle Years

I looked across the kitchen table yesterday at my 12, 10, four and two-year-olds and thought what a delightful stage we are in with homeschooling.  So delightful that I had almost forgotten about the middle years.

We began homeschooling eight years ago with an eager four-year-old and an even-more-eager new-to-homeschooling mama.  That kindergarten year was an exciting combination of challenge, discovery and accomplishment.  I experienced for the first time the wonder of guiding a child through the steps of learning to read.  The curriculum that we used (My Father’s World) was so gentle and creative that he never even realized he was learning to read.  We explored aspects of God’s creation connected with each letter–leaves, sun, moon, water, butterflies, colors…practicing the letters little-by-little along the way, and, suddenly, we had a simple, phonetic reader.

Buoyed by this kindergarten success, I strode confidently into first grade with my now five-year-old.  I was soon disheartened by his resistance and frustration.  The work that had been a joy now brought tears.  Since five is young for first grade, I decided to slow down and let him finish the curriculum over a two-year period.  That helped, though by the end of the second year he was thoroughly bored by the material.

I chalked that up to “mommy error” and moved on, but the next three years felt like an uphill climb.  My expectations were often met with complaints.  My math lovers turned into math haters.  I frequently second-guessed myself.  Was I expecting too much, using the wrong curriculum, giving in too much…?  We definitely still experienced moments of wonder and built strong family memories, but I was not at all convinced that my children loved to learn–and wasn’t that one of the reasons that we had chosen to homeschool?

Looking back it makes so much sense.  From first through fourth grade learning is hard.  The child can read and is expected to read, but reading is is still hard work.  The mechanics of writing still take great effort.  Basic math computations still tax the young brain.  In retrospect it is no surprise that art projects, acting things out and being read to were the only things that seemed to excite them.  At the time I found it distressing.

I wish I could go back and encourage my struggling self and children with the knowledge that the “middle years” are a temporary state.  My older children have now come out the other side.  The oldest, with excitement reminiscent of his four-year-old brother can’t stop telling me about pulleys and mechanical advantage, while his sister amazes us at the dinner table with facts about a bower bird that makes its nest from anything blue.  I listen to detailed accounts of books that I may never read, watch them take pride in carefully organizing their notebooks and realize with joy and relief–they do love to learn!

Even though my experience is limited, I am fairly certain that these “middle years” are not an anomaly unique to our family or to my two oldest children.  I expect to pass through the same struggles with the bright four-year-old who is now so proud that he can make an “S,” with his younger sister and any other children that we are blessed to receive.  This time I think I will be more relaxed and more confident when I encourage them that, though the door they are working to open is heavy, it leads to worlds of exultation and adventure that are worth every minute of the effort.

 

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Bye-bye Bees

They came to get the bees last night–a family from Henryville, Indiana.  I’m sure they were excited, just as we were that Spring afternoon five years ago when we drove to Pleasureville to pick up our first “nuke,” then carefully settled it into the hive we’d prepared.  The bees are not attached to us, of course.  They will not like the ride, but will re-orient in the morning.

I was not attached to the bees in a traditional sense.  I never even opened the hives (I let Greg do all the dangerous work), but I was so pleasantly accustomed to their presence–to glancing over when I passed to gauge the temperature by their level of activity, to note which hive seemed strongest, to wonder how much honey was quietly combed away behind each set of white walls.

It was not hard to let them go, since I didn’t even know it was coming.  We were on our way back from evening church service–just crossing the railroad tracks and rushing to get home before our friends arrived for supper, when Greg mentioned, “Someone’s also coming for the bees at 6:30.”  We hadn’t seen our dear friends in months, so their arrival was all hustle and bustle and, “I’m sorry Greg’s got to go take care of the bees.”  And then there was so much to talk about, so much to pray about…

So it wasn’t until this morning that I felt the loss of that sweet, heavy, growing cluster of colonies that had been part of our family these five years.  In a week or two we will load Buttercup into a trailer to become part of the daily routine of another family.  This will be a relief amid the many pressures of preparing for our move to Uganda, but it is also another layer of letting go.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 19:29–“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”  This lifts my spirit and fills me with hope.  From what I’ve heard about African bees, though, I think I might pass on that one ;).

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