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).
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.