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. But, 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).