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Where’s your green grass?

Is it possible to have a midlife crisis in your thirties? I find that I am in a weird time in my life especially now having three extra kids that I didn’t ever know I would have. I look at my colleagues and they are in their twenties and they literally have nothing tying them down and can do seemingly whatever adventure they want. I feel at times there are no other families that have the same dynamic that we do with kids ranging from 4-13 and three of them being only part of our family for a year. There are adventures that I still want to do but financially can’t for a variety of reasons…family of 7, missionary budget and living in Uganda. So I have been on the hunt for cheap local things to do that are different and unique, fun moments that will fill that silly midlife crisis I am experiencing.
I really shouldn’t complain too much because I do have some amazing family adventures coming up in April and over the summer. I think that I am just jealous of the seemingly freeing part of life where you don’t need to find a babysitter or bring along 5 kids and all the “things” they “need”. I am trying to be content with where God has placed me in this time of my life and see the true blessing it really is to be right where I am.
I think it is important to dream but to also realize that there are other people out there who are looking at my life and wishing they had “parts” of it. (married…kids…missionary…Uganda…teacher…soccer mom) I am truly blessed and at times in the thick of it things can get kind of foggy to see all the blessings.
“The grass is always greener on the other side…” If you are feeling some of the same feelings, I want to encourage you to take a closer look at all the blessings you do have instead of looking at the “pictures on Facebook” of other peoples seemingly better life. It is hard and that’s why I am typing out my feelings so I too can see that I am more than blessed to be where I am in life at the ripe old age of 33 and 11 months.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Kitibwa Ashraf

In this blog I wanted to feature Kitibwa in his biological family he is the second youngest, Happy is the only one younger than him. In our family he is the second oldest, Tendo is the only one older than him. Next month he turns 11 and he is in Year 7 in his British school which equates to the 6th grade in American schools. I would describe Kitibwa as an observant child, he does better watching something first and then trying it for himself. When he is comfortable he is outgoing and not afraid to volunteer. He is a people pleaser, so much so at school they call him by his other name Ashraf because they were not able to pronounce (chi-tee-bwa)Kitibwa.

It was the first Sunday of the month and at our church that means the kids stay in the service and the preacher includes them somehow in his message. We also always have communion at the end of the service. The preacher was asking the kids why they came to church today, and both Kitibwa and Tendo spoke up and said something very holy. (I promise we did not pay them or bribe them to say anything brilliant they just did on their own). At the end of the sermon it was time to pass out communion and they needed volunteers and Kitibwa was quick to put up his hand to volunteer. It was a proud mom moment for sure.

Kitibwa like any of our kids, has had his moments where we are frustrated with his choices. It usually involves him not fully understanding and not asking before he does something, or forgetting something (at school, at football, in the car, upstairs etc.) Our lives are busy nearly every single day we have somewhere we have to go, something we have to do and inevitably something we will have to plan ahead for. I try to always check homework, house chores, reading, spelling, laundry, snacks, breakfast, dinner and so on and so forth. I was noticing that homework was not coming to me to be checked and more often than not “reading” was not being checked by myself. Kitibwa has not had a good educational experience, he has missed school in his life a lot. Kitibwa reads at a low level to the extent that we got a tutor to help him learn the basic sounds that letters make.

Kitibwa is a child who desires to learn he desires to gain knowledge and to get better. He does great at participating in school and athletics but there is a gap. We haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is exactly that makes Kitibwa do so poorly in his test taking and ability to stay mentally strong and organized in even day to day tasks.

Kitibwa is a caring child, one who wants to help others. He is looking out for others and thinking about others instead of himself. We are trying to get him to understand that self-care is also important, when he needs something that he needs to ask. We are also working on each of the boys to reflect on where they have come from, where they are now and where they want to go in the future. We want our kids to have hope and to find that hope not in us but in Jesus Christ.

Update on our journey of fostering is we are still waiting. We have found out their birthdates, nationality (Rwandan) and are working with the Rwandan Embassy in Uganda to move forward with “inter-nation adoption”. We are waiting for the Embassy to tell us what else we need to do to move ahead with the process and in getting them the documents that are necessary for passports and eventually visas. We hope that this matter is resolved by this summer as we have big plans in the works that involve travelling.

Please pray for a diagnosis or solution to Kitibwa’s learning, documents to be given to the children, his faith to be strengthened, and for his bond to grow stronger to his brothers, sisters and us. Thank you!

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Kitibwa before living in our home. Fall 2016

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Kitibwa winter 2016

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Kitibwa summer 2017

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Kitibwa fall 2017

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Go into all the world and preach the Gospel

So yesterday when I left school I went out to Gayaza to help in the distribution of ice cream to the students who had earned it. It was then that I asked three of the older children if they wanted me to lead Bible Study tomorrow and they nodded their head yes. I said okay what do you want me to teach about? I had told them a while back that I wasn’t going to be teaching them the same old Bible stories that they had heard for years. I wanted to get out of the baby stage of their faith and really challenge them to want to learn more about the Bible. So I got what I asked for that day, they gave me a list of some really deep lessons that I could talk about and I was able to teach a lesson on the Holy Spirit (I felt very underqualified) it was only through the Holy Spirit that I was able to teach that day.

That was a great day and I had one young man who was searching and I was able to tell him about Jesus Christ and I feel he really got it. See, he was worried about doing the right things and wondering how he would know if he had the holy spirit. What a great opportunity God gave to me. This Friday the three boys said they wanted to 1. Learn how to be a Christian in today’s society. 2. What prophecies have been fulfilled in the Bible? 3. What are miracles that were performed by people other than Jesus?

Again, I thought really; how am I going to be able to do this by tomorrow. I got home and there was no internet to bail me out either; but I did google it this morning and printed something that I thought could at least give me a start. I decided on prophesies and focused on the prophesy that Jesus and others talked of regarding the signs that the end times were coming. I had a larger group than normal due to the many activities of the day and I started out with two questions what is a prophesy and who are some prophets? We had a pretty good list, and then someone said Muhamad. What an opportunity to talk about false prophets too.

Again God provided me the opportunity to share the gospel as one of the prophesies is that the world will have heard the Good News. So I was challenging them because I said that obviously there were still people who have not heard the Good News and that is why I am in Uganda. I also told them a little bit about “The Case for Christ” and his testimony. Challenging them to collect the information, to find the facts, but that ultimately they would have to have the faith to believe it all to be true. I stood on the bench and said to them that I believe in Jesus, that he is God’s son, he died for our sins, and rose again and that he is preparing a place for me and he will return one day. I said to them that I can only tell them the truth and it is them that has to make a decision either accept or reject.

In essence I actually was able to answer all three topics in one lesson as the miracle that Lee Strobel who was an atheist came to believe in Jesus Christ, prophecies of the end times and how to be a Christian in today’s world; tell everyone about the love of Jesus.

I put some kids to sleep, I had some kids never take their eyes off me, and I had kids giving me a hand clap and a hallelujah. I felt good that I had done my part and that I didn’t have to worry that God would do his part. Pray for these boys and girls as they are teenagers who don’t really have any other program targeted for them. They are a forgotten age group and we have a huge responsibility to reach them and to equip them to reach their friends for Christ. I must say though God knows how to motivate me after a week of some frustrating adults, he refreshes me with these crazy kids.

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What a year can bring

I am in awe right now of how great our God is. Last year around this time we had our two Ugandan worlds collide, but in a good way. Matt had agreed to volunteer at Acacia and he wanted to prepare his team for what was coming ahead, so he brought our Gayaza Rising Star team to play in a friendly match to give them a taste of what they could expect in games to come. Rising Star destroyed them, I mean it was not even close. The way that the Rising Star team was playing was just a beautiful sight of a family of players who knew how to play together. That day one of the parents of the Acacia team talked to Matt and asked how are they so great? I want to come and see your program out in Gayaza and I want my boy and his friend to come and see a training. Matt agreed and they came out to Gayaza and were humbled by the fact that these kids who come from nothing could be so happy and good at playing the game of soccer. That time came and went, but then God orchestrated something that day that is now so much bigger than we ever had envisioned. Rising Star Elite was created because this mom insisted that an opportunity like the one in Gayaza be offered to people in Kampala who could pay to have a program like the one in Gayaza. We were reluctant it would mean so much work and it could fail and really that’s not what we do; we are here in Uganda not for profit but to minister through soccer. But God had a bigger plan through her persistence and God’s approval we saw how this Rising Star Elite could benefit his kingdom.

Today the families and players from Rising Star Elite came to Gayaza to play in friendly matches and to donate equipment, clothes, books and other gifts to the kids in Gayaza. See God has used this Elite team various times to bless our ministry. The coaches we use for Gayaza are also used for Elite and now are getting paid from the money we gain through the Academy. A burden off of the shoulders of Rising Star. We are getting much needed donations, kids are getting opportunities to travel as the Elite team pays for players from Gayaza to compete with them in tournaments in and around Uganda.

Today ended the holiday for the Gayaza Rising Stars as they return to school Monday, some of them will be going to school with school supplies and backpacks. Over this holiday time they were given an opportunity to come to the Rising Star center and read books, research and give a presentation on a famous person and complete Math exercises. Yesterday they earned and ice cream party; today they got to play in matches, eat a great meal and enjoy meeting new people. Blessings were in abundance today as God continues to provide from amazing people from Uganda and abroad. So thank you to those who impacted us today and to those who impact us every day. We are truly thankful!

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View from Parker

A while back I decided I wanted to hear from my kiddos what they thought about their lives in Uganda. Their perspective of what we do in Uganda. I can’t help but laugh when I hear Parker because honestly she is always talking like she does in this video.

Remember that show “kids say the darndest things” well sometimes I wish I had a recorder at all times with this girl because she does say some of the oddest, funniest and cutest things. She definitely gets her vocabulary from her great grandma Dee and my mom (grandma).

I do wonder and pray that her experiences in Uganda will be filled with blessings. She has a love for Jesus and the knowledge of a 4 year old of who God is and his son Jesus. Along with the desire to go to heaven, the idea that Jesus died for our sin and forgives us. My prayer is that as she gets older that curiosity and desire to understand more grows and turns into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Parker is someone who can make friends with anyone. Talk until you can’t handle anymore. Gives great hugs and kisses and would love for you to carry her or hold her hand everywhere she goes. She is smart and can memorize scripture and retell stories with great detail. Don’t tell her a secret because she won’t be able to contain her excitement and will just have to tell someone. She makes cards for literally anyone she can think of and can pray the sweetest prayers for people. She hates getting her hair brushed, but wants it to be nice and long. She wants to dance and be a ballerina “but I need ballerina shoes and the costume too”. She has a contagious laugh and the funniest facial expressions. She is dramatic in every sense of the word which can be good and frustrating at times.  I think she has a tinge of car sickness only because she has thrown up in the car at least 3 times since living in Uganda (2 of those times we were in a traffic jam and she vomited out the car window).

My prayers for her is that she continues to love education, cares about others, loves Jesus and is protected from harm. I love my little snoopy…Parker bean.

 

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Family time

My parents have been here for about 5 days and it has been fun. We have all had a great time together and our boys have done a great job connecting with my parents. We have experienced some amazing things and the fun is not over. This is our stay-cation and we are enjoying our time around Kampala/Gayaza showing all the fun places we enjoy. The weather has been great and health has been pretty good with a few upset stomachs here and there. We have a fun water day planned on Sunday, my dad will get a massage while us girls treat ourselves to a pedicure…looks like Matt gets to play playstation with the all the boys (thanks to some generous friends donating a new one). I don’t often put pictures on my blog but there are a few cute ones that really capture the pure joy that we have experienced together as a family. What a blessing it is to have such wonderful people in our lives.

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Childhood Memories

You know when you have good intentions, but then sometimes the reaction you get you aren’t so sure it was a good idea; well that was me today. I was trying to get the kids to work on writing projects today and Matt gave me the idea to have the kids reflect on this past year, where it started and where we are now. The thought behind it was to help improve their writing, to provide an opportunity for reflection and to be thankful for what this past year God has been doing in their lives. Let’s just say Tendo the oldest eventually got it and did a great job, however Happy and Kitibwa were in tears and still didn’t put together a cohesive piece.

During my quiet time I was reflecting on that moment from earlier today and it made me think about childhood memories. I think some memories are made up of what other people have told us through stories. Through those stories that they remember we then imagine in our minds what it would have looked like and replay it for ourselves how we think it would have looked like. Other memories we remember because they were happy, painful, scary…just like that movie “Inside Out”. I don’t know that it is healthy to relive those moments but I do know we should recall moments to help us make decisions in the present and future. I think there is a purpose for recalling that God gives us to help us along the journey of life.

My memories- This one I heard (more when I was approaching driving age) and put my own visual recall. I lost my tooth at an amusement park “Peony Park” on the go cart track. I knew how to go but not how to stop. See I was a tall 4-year-old and I put the pedal to the metal in the wrong direction and ran into the attendant straight into the tires. I lost my tooth when I came to a halt and that was the last time that I drove a go cart until I was a bit older.

Praying to receive Christ with Betty Garrett and sharing it with everyone, even my friend Becky whose mom didn’t like that I was telling her daughter about Christ and then we couldn’t be friends anymore.

Cutting my wrist on broken glass when I was out collecting “treasures” to play house in my tree house out on the farm. My mom put butterfly stitches and I still have the scar today.

Selling my doll house back to my grandma when I had out grown playing with dolls.

Playing “college” with my cousin Bethany whenever we felt too cool to play with all the younger cousins.

My first “boyfriend” in middle school who asked my friend to call me for him to ask me out. Mind you I had no clue who she was talking about but to have an 8th grader ask me out “well sure”. Needless to say that lasted about 2 days when he had someone call me to dump me, because I wouldn’t hold his hand anymore. Almost as bad as the date I had with an 11th grader as a freshman where we couldn’t go to an “R” rated movie because I was too young, he wanted to take a romantic walk around the lake but I wasn’t that into him and I said it was too buggy and just wanted to go home. (he took someone else to prom, and got food poisoning)

There are so many childhood memories that I remember and most of them were pretty great. But I do remember the hard ones that taught me lessons and the ones that I reflect and realize God’s protection. Memories can be hard especially with our kids who have had more difficult ones, but it is always important to remember how God has protected us and shaped us into who we are today. Memories are stories that can help others learn and heal, protect and guide. Don’t be afraid to share your stories-even the ones that may hurt because how wonderful is the journey that God has delivered us from and how amazing is the journey we have ahead.

I challenge you to remember something today that may help you or someone else find hope and healing in Jesus name.