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American Pride

When we study History, one would think that we would learn from it. I just got done watching a movie on the Olympic athlete James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens, called the “Race”. Find out more about him… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens

You would think that it would make me reflect back on how the Nazi’s were so horrible. What is really horrible is that fact that we were doing the same thing and some respects still are on a subtle level. At least the Germans were not hiding their hatred, Isis is not hiding their hatred. But why are Americans still struggling to admit that they are prejudice of those who are not White, Male, and Christian?

The Olympics is a time when we are all about USA, no matter what that looks like. People cheer for the USA to win. It becomes everyone else is the “bad” team and USA is the best team. I will admit we at this house have been cheering and celebrating the victories of the Olympics. My kids even are pointing out the American flag and cheering for the “good” guys. But are we the good guys?

We have so much diversity in the USA and we put the blinders on when it comes to sports. We forget about all the obstacles that athletes of different race, gender and economic status have to face. We forget that many of these athletes have to work twice as hard as others just to get recognized. They only can complete because they are so good, one would be stupid not to have them apart of their team.

But what happens when they miss the mark? What if they don’t win the Gold or the trophy, or the title of Champion? When they don’t have their uniform on, how are they treated? Before they are “discovered”, how were they treated by the masses? Human beings, Americans who have families, bills, and responsibilities on top of the immense pressure to be the Best.

Every four years people watch on television and cheer for USA. We need to be cheering for more than just the athletes, we need to be proud of more than just winning. We need to be “proud to be an American”. Right now I don’t know that I am that proud of anything that Americans are doing or have been doing over the years.

How can we as Americans be worth rooting for fulltime not just every time there is an Olympics on TV. One thought would be to respect each other, pray for each other, forgive each other and listen to each other. I still hold onto the hope that America will one day be a nation that truly is united as “One nation under God, indivisible with justice and Liberty for All.”

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Contradiction or Adaptation?

This thought came to mind while Jacob was playing soccer, “He doesn’t take charge and get after the ball.” Then I thought, “He is always taking away things and taking charge in other situations.” It made me think of how confusing it is to be a child (okay and an adult), to reason out when to act in the right accord. We are taught to share, through taking turns and being kind when we play. Then we are told to take charge, go get the ball and fight for it. We are told to wait in line and not to push ahead, hold the door for someone and let them in first. Then we are told, you have to take a chance and pull out otherwise you will be stuck and go nowhere in traffic. Be proud of who you are, but not too proud, putting down what other people are.

There are many more examples in life where it seems life is a constant contradiction; but is it really? I hear all the time that the Bible is full of contradictions, but is it really? In life we are constantly put in different situations and we have to decide what the best response for that specific situation is. You can have a different response to the “same situation” if even one factor is different. Life is not full of contradictions, it’s full of endless possibilities and we have to prepare for them all. We will fail and pick the wrong response, but we will have another opportunity to learn from those past mistakes and react differently.

We can dwell on all the mistakes of the past, worry about the mistakes in the future OR we can allow past mistakes to shape us into the future and keep daily working on not making the SAME mistakes. Because face it we are going to make mistakes, it’s how you deal with those mistakes and change them into something great. My hope is that I continue to teach my kids to make choices based on the situation at hand. To learn from their mistakes and to live a life full of possibilities, not blame the world of contradictions.

 

 

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Uganda year one recap

 

Two weeks left until school is out for the end of the year holiday. Our family starts back up at the end of August. This past year has been an amazing experience for us all. Jacob will be starting kindergarten and he has benefited so much from being in preschool. He can read and write, is so creative, grown taller and has made many friends. Parker will be starting school in the 3 year old classroom part-time. I will be her teacher along with 8 other students. She also has grown and is so imaginative, playful, friendly, and looks up to her brother. I have enjoyed balancing all things educational, from creating fun learning experiences at Rising Star, to volunteering two days at Jacob’s school and studying for my teaching certificate. Matt has been on the field and out in the field with Rising Star Ministries. We have seen so many blessings and opportunities for our ministry and feel the kids are benefiting greatly from the necessary improvements this past year.

What I can take away from this past year is that you can never plan for everything. I don’t know why we think we can. Parker has lived in 3 different homes in her 3 years of life, we hope that only one more move is in the future. We have done a lot of work to the future Rising Star Ministry site and it truly is taking shape, minus a major feature the building. We hope over the next year or two that we will start utilizing that space more effectively as a space for ministry. My plan in the next year or two is to be working 4 days a week at school and 2 days a week at Rising Star Ministries. I am wanting to hire an Ugandan teaching assistant to work during the week to help with the after school program. This will allow for me to not be overwhelmed by all the hats I have been putting on, and allowing for more staff to help with any language barriers.

One major accomplishment on the part of my side of the ministry is the new books that my mother helped purchase for me. I first learned about “Bob Books” from Jacob, he was learning how to read with these great books. So I have about 10 kids that range from Kindergarten to 4th grade that I have been teaching how to read. They came to me not knowing how to use Phonics to sound out words, but by guessing what the word was by either pictures or repetition. Dauda makes me the most proud, he started the year in 3rd grade and got demoted mid term back to 2nd grade. He started learning the sounds the letters make and then quickly was able to blend. He has enjoyed coming and reading through as many “Bob books” as we will allow. We are impressed not only with his reading ability, but also his ability to help his peers. He can explain what a book means in his native language Luganda, and we are working on him being able to speak more English.

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Children and Church

As I sat in church today my mind wandered to many different places, I was distracted, big surprise. I had brought coloring books and markers, I thought I was prepared. After 5 minutes it wasn’t working the plan that I had prepared, was no longer working. The sermon had finally started and now they wouldn’t be quiet, they wouldn’t sit, let alone sit still. So it was off to “children’s church” (Sunday school), lately not their favorite place to be. When we go to our home church, we are the only non-Ugandans, Mzungu’s (yes even after attending this church for almost a year with the kids and on and off for 6 years, we still are not considered “normal”) But that is not the point of this particular blog, it has something to do with why my kids don’t like going to class, but not all of it.

So back to the story, Jacob has experienced being apart from me, being with all different types of kids. His reason for not liking class is the organization of the class, the way it’s structured and taught. He gets bored with the way that things are done by the locals. I don’t blame him, but if he can’t sit quiet in church, then he needs to go where he can sing, dance, play, and learn at his level. Parker is just not good at being by herself without me, unless there are swings, sand, toys or food. It is just Parker, she loves her momma and is very selective with what she will leave for. She also hates being looked at, touched, or babied by her peers.

Onto the real heart of this blog, children and church. My personal take on the topic. Church service has some amazing parts that children should be a part of like corporate worship, prayers, testimony, offering, and communion. However, the sermon itself is not usually something that is child appropriate. I don’t mean appropriate in the sense that they shouldn’t hear it, but rather it is not being presented in a way that a child can understand it. I strongly believe that children should experience the teachings of the Bible at their levels of understanding and presented in a way that allows the children to interact and ask questions. During the service it is very hard to explain topics to the kids when they ask them, and it’s better to be able to explain the lessons at a later time. I think that it is important for us as parents to share what we learned in Church and then allow them to ask questions.

My personal experience with children in church, my own and other people’s kids, is that it is very distracting. Even when the kid is super cute and quiet writing, drawing, playing quietly they are distracting. As a parent it is hard to listen to what the preacher is saying when I am constantly making sure my child’s needs are met, that they are quiet, do they need a snack, do they need to go to the bathroom, they are kicking the seat in front of them, they are singing, they are playing with the other kids….you get the picture. I get distracted by cute babies, kids moving around, even sleeping kids can be so adorably distracting.

But what to do? Possible solutions? Have an amazing children’s program that your kids love and want to go to each Sunday. Leave the kids at home. Go to class with them. Put the fear of God in them to behave (we all know that doesn’t work, because we are not God, and they do not fear us long enough to make it work.) Seriously, I personally am in a quandary and I am pretty sure I know what I need to do, I just don’t have the strength to do it. I know that I need to sacrifice a few weeks or months to teach the teachers, beg for volunteers, and show by example how a program for kids in church should work. Selfishly I just want to be able to sit in church, distraction free and be feed by the Holy Spirit. Instead, I am sitting there in church only hearing kids in and out of church, my kids, other kids, and wondering does anyone else see and hear these kids or is it only me?!

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Are you ignoring Him like I am? Is it working? For me it’s not. I have tried running away from it, going to a different church, one with a better program. But still the Holy Spirit is leading me to not run but to use the gifts He has given me. To teach, to give, and to inspire. What are your Spiritual gifts? Are you using them? As we approach this Easter weekend, think about what Jesus sacrificed for us, what do we sacrifice for Him?

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Merry Christmas from Uganda

It has been way to long since I have posted a blog.  Much overdue, but life has been so busy as of late and when I do get time to sit down, I am doing something else overdue. I had to make the time though to write about some recent life events that are making me grow spiritually. I was chatting with a new friend about all the recent obstacles and she was so encouraging when she said, “Well you must be doing something right.” I really hope that is the case, Satan is definitely trying to steal our joy these past days. But always praise be to God, things are looking up for us as of today.

Without going into all the dramatics of the past month, little and big things have been happening to discourage us. From theft, to things breaking due to lizards, two year old tantrums and Bilarzia. But this week was hard, leading up to Christmas when already emotions are high missing home. We had no power starting from Sunday and previously we were losing power more frequently especially at night. Sunday we had just bought groceries for the week so we could do our best and not travel around leading up to Christmas. The days were not bad we occupied ourselves with things to do, but at night it was hard. Our kids don’t do well in the dark and I don’t blame them it is pitch black and when it storms that brings a whole new component. Our prayers every day included, “Jesus, please bring the power back.” All our food spoiled, and today I had the fun task of cleaning out the fridge and freezer of now raw meat, unfrozen leftovers and curled milk.

Through the midst of the various struggles, God continued to show us His light. Glimmers of hope through answered prayers, memories to reflect, new memories made, and solutions to life’s obstacles.  In Uganda it is way too easy to get discouraged if you let it, we often play games like #SoUganda. It helps us laugh off the crazy that we see each day. The hope that we cling to is those moments when you treat your staff to a night out at KFC and they think it was the best thing ever (even though you ate 2hrs later than expected). When you are trying to teach kids to read and your own kid is learning faster than kids twice his age, so you get the idea to teach what he has been learning in school. When you are struggling because its Christmas time and nothing around you makes it seem like Christmas, but a friend sends a package with wrapped gifts for your family to open. When your kids are constantly fighting but then they make a deal to share the responsibility of the Advent Calendar to remember why we celebrate Christmas is Jesus. When your daughter sings two songs over and over at the top of her lungs but she is singing all about Jesus, songs she learned in Children’s Church. When your son is still battling health issues but is still extra sweet and kind. I can go on but those are just a few of the things that we are going through here in Uganda.

So please take away this from all that we are going through, whatever you are going through, God does have a greater plan to show you His love on the other side of your pain. God is always there, He is always listening, He has a plan, He loves you, and He is in control.

Merry Christmas, for Jesus is the Reason for this Season and every Season in your life!

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My kids aren’t rude…

My kids aren’t rude…

It’s hard being in a different culture that has its own “norms” for greeting each other. However, it gets more complicated when the social norms are different for non-locals. The kids are often overwhelmed with people calling out to them to come and “greet them”, kids touching them, adults grabbing at them, young and old asking for them to “share” give them what they have.

I gave a scenario to one of the locals that I have known for a long time. I asked him if a Ugandan child would just go to a stranger that was calling out to them. Or if was the norm for someone to pass by another person and start touching them and picking them up. He said no and chuckled, understanding what I was getting at.

When my kids shy away and stay quiet not saying anything, it’s assumed they fear and I quote “black people”. The adults ask why my kids are rude, they even grabbed my kids’ arms, picked them up all in an attempt to get their attention or a response. I have had kids ask, grab and even lick my kids’ candy. I think the part that really bothers me is it’s because they are different.

If this was the cultural norm, I would still be bothered but it would be something that I could understand and teach my kids more about. However, not EVERYONE acts this way.

I had someone yesterday compare us to Albinos which I am not offended but that is way off base. Just because of skin tone. In response to my kid not wanting to say hello, they asked, “What do they fear blacks?” My response was no, they just don’t like rude people getting in their face. They actually don’t judge who they like based on how they look, but on how they are treated. I said they have a very kind aunt who is “black”. That of course got a whole new confusing look, of which other ignorant questions pursued. It was like I was in a time warp going back to the 30’s.

Uganda has come a ways with some things, but there are so many things that they are just fooled about. Interracial marriage is assumed that it must be about money, which in Uganda is also a common misconception about “white foreigners” buying brides. Sure it happens that someone might marry for money, but it is not limited to color. The question was posed, about who my kids can marry, I simply said they can marry for love. It was a simple answer, but really I want to instill in my kids to marry someone who they love, who loves God, who loves others before themselves, who is respectful and trustworthy to name a few.

My kids do know they are different, but usually it doesn’t matter to them unless it matters to the other person. For instance, at school Jacob has an international classroom, kids from, Uganda, England, Australia, America, Canada, Iceland and other African countries. He plays with them all, he struggles with sharing with all, he has his favorites, and he doesn’t point out differences, but similarities in interests.

It comes down to exposure and education, when you are exposed to things that are different and then open your mind to learn about them. After that then make your judgment, but don’t judge an entire culture or group of people based on that one person.

My son told me yesterday as we were leaving, “I don’t like that guy” (he used his name). I asked why, he said “Because he is always taking my stuff.” I just chuckled and said, I bet that makes you mad, just try and be nice, even when others aren’t. To be honest, this kid is book smart, but lacks truth and is easily deceived by what he sees on television. All we can do is try and teach him truth and help him see something different than what he has experienced in the past.

It is such a world problem we have when it comes to preconceived misconceptions. I am just telling my story from just the other day, and unfortunately it happens more than I like. However, when people are willing to open their minds and hearts and look past what they see on the outside and look into the heart of people amazing things can happen. Our world would be a better place if we would all put away our judgements and educate ourselves in the beautiful differences that God has made us to be.

I read a book just the other day “Nobody likes me” by Roy and Doris Nichols. It’s a great story about how a bunny named Rusty is a bit different and gets made fun of. He runs away to find someone just like him, he finds that no one is just like him on the outside. He meets the Elephant who explains that we look different because God made each of us special, but he made us all the same on the inside. We all want others to like us and we all need friends.

I am so thankful that we have found friends, for ourselves and our kids. We have similarities and differences. The book goes on to say that we need to feel special and loved. Rusty the rabbit says he doesn’t feel special when he is teased, and the wise elephant says you are special whether you are teased or not. Rusty realizes he misses home and that he will give them another chance, his friends missed him and when he told them that he didn’t want to be teased they listened.

So in life not everyone is going to “get it” but it is important that we teach ourselves, our kids, and others around us that God loves us and we should love one another. All that to say, my kids can be rude but not always on purpose.

Love someone today, BECAUSE they are different!

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Settling In

As some of you know we have been waiting “un-patiently” for our shipment of three pallets that we sent in May to Uganda. Well after much stress and craziness the shipment is finally here. I will spare you the details of the entire crazy process. So since Monday we have been sorting and settling in. Today it hit me the most that wow we are in our new home. It’s crazy how “your” stuff can make a house a home. I love it, pictures on the walls, books on shelves, even the toys for our kids that have already been strung out all over the house. It is also a bit scary, we have been here in Uganda for only 4.5 months, but it does seem a lot longer. It brings a feeling of home away from home, but it also makes me miss home a bit.

It is definitely a weird feeling.

Now that the house is feeling more like home the next task is to re-organize the ministry center/office. I bought stickers and colored them and will be using them to organize the books. Our kids have a tough time with putting things back how they found them as well as picking books at their reading level. The idea is to color code the books so they can put them back on the matching colored shelf, as well as follow the color codes to pick books at their level. It is wishful thinking I am sure, but my organizational and a little bit OCD self loves the idea. The other big task is to go through the shoes for football (soccer). Again, I am going to organize them by size and then they are getting numbers put on them to keep them organized. I also might have the kiddos that regularly “earn” boots to borrow have specific shoes that they wear. It may help with keeping them from getting ruined, another ambitious thought but one that we will test out.

Jacob has been settling in to a great routine of school. He is definitely growing leaps and bounds socially. Some great things that we are working on is sharing, accepting not being chosen, and following all directions. He is making friends and even has his first birthday party this Saturday. He earned his first merit the other day and he was so proud! He is praying at dinner every night, and is really thoughtful about what he is praying for, not the typical thank you for the food, amen. If he can’t think of anything toward the end of the prayer he will simply say, “Thanks for everything else.” So funny! He is often making us laugh and is still our little firecracker.

Parker is also adapting to spending a day with our neighbors and friends who have a 3 year old who she loves playing with. Innocently she refers to Emily (their mother) as her “new” mom. So funny, because we always just refer to Emily as Seth and Simon’s mom so she thinks that must just be her name. The past few days she has been fighting a fever and sore throat so keep her in your prayers that it will clear up once and for all as it keeps coming and going.

We said farewell to our “Muzungu” friends today as they head back home to Kentucky, they will be missed. We are thankful for our neighbors and new friends for the blessing they have been, the friends to our kids, and the sense of family that they bring to our lives. We are truly blessed and feel the love as we have gotten some lovely care packages from family, and enjoy skyping weekly. God is good and we are still settling in but we know that this is where we are meant to be at this time and for this season in our lives. God is always blessing us and keeping us motivated to continue to make His name known in this world.