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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.

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Full tank

A few months back I signed up online to enjoy a day trip to Fort Portal to relax with other missionary women. When I filled the questionnaire out I thought that it was just another one of those things you just fill out, but no one really looks at. They asked what I would want if I could have one gift for up to $100, I thought well I don’t actually need anything.  I would like a lot of little things like makeup and food items, but I had never really been able to look at things that cost that much; let alone one thing. I admit I googled items that cost under $100 for women. I picked a Kindle white book… fast forward a few weeks later and we were robbed my list suddenly was larger than one item. But another thing that I didn’t expect was that when they asked me to share about myself and what I needed prayer for…they would actually hear me and mean what they said. I emailed my “prayer partner” and told her what happened and she prayed for me.

I got to meet her this week and it was evident more than ever that not only was she praying for me, but so were hundreds of other people…people that I had never met; people I most likely will never meet.

The drive to Fort Portal started with me taking a boda to meet a woman who I had never met who would be driving me and another person to Fort Portal.  I ended up riding with an amazing Australian lady who is passionate about conservation, people and God. I also rode with an equally amazing Brazilian woman who has two sons that I actually know from teaching at Acacia. We talked for the 5-hour car ride about some of our amazing adventures in Uganda and other nations we have served. After a very bumpy ride with no lunch and using the side of the rode as our commode we arrived at our retreat. We were greeted by smiling faces of women wearing matching shirts and handing us a new shirt, telling us we could sign up for two of the three services a massage, pedicure or haircut. We were then gifted with an envelope that was later to be explained that would be worth $100 to shop at the gift shop. (I thought oh great some African knickknacks) I was wrong there was makeup, jewelry, clothes, housewares goods, food, lotions…Then I met my prayer warrior, she gave me a hug and asked me how things were going at home. She then gave me a bag full of goodies and I mean full included was the Kindle that I asked for. Now if I stopped there one would say wow how amazing is that! Right.

But God is so good it wasn’t about the stuff. We got to have time to talk and share about ourselves and people listened and people prayed. We laughed together, prayed together, worshiped together and cried together. I met other missionaries with incredible stories of their ministries and what God is doing and their heartaches. I was able to lift of the name of Jesus Christ in worship with other women who understand what it means to be a wife, mom, missionary and woman in a land away from home. I was paired with a lovely lady I had never met, but when we met; we clicked.  We started laughing together from the start (we also had an early mishap with our glass door shattering all over the floor, and me not being able to figure out how to open the other door to get out). We sat together at the dinner table where the vets would have the stories and the visitors who were blessing us would ask us questions. It was nice to have inside jokes that only people living in Uganda would know (funny thing is we were from all over Uganda, but we all had similar experiences with the people, food and muzungu mentality).

The next morning, I got sick, it might have been something I ate or the big bug bite I got on my butt the night before; but I was not well. I had so many women praying for me, serving me, nursing me back to health. We were blessed with day two of gifts, services, food, fellowship, worship and prayer. We had a great morning together before it was time to say farewell to the other missionary women from around Uganda.  The women that I rode with were staying an extra night in a hostel that was also hosting the team of ladies that had been blessing us. This is where I want to share about some amazing people, organizations and accommodations that we encountered this week.  The host was “Go Be Love” and they were awesome this is the first year that they did this “Be loved” retreat and their plan is to be full time missionaries starting next year and they will be doing more events like this one in the future. We stayed at an amazing place in Fort Portal called “Kluges Farm” and it has amazing wonderful accommodations, buffet style food, pool (it was rainy so we didn’t get to use it, but it looked nice) and the staff was so amazing! Mercy for Mamas was our sponsor organization and they brought women from the U.S. to serve more than just us. They are a wonderful organization that work with expectant mothers and mothers by giving them medical help, information on prenatal services, “momma kits” and much more. These amazing women had so many skill sets and they have been serving Uganda for years. Check them out at http://www.mercyformamas.com Melissa Busby is an amazing woman! The hostel we stayed at for one night was also run by an amazing woman who could be my grandmother and kind of reminds me of her. She has been in Uganda for over 20 years at Y.E.S. Uganda where she serves HIV/Aids orphaned children and youth check out her ministry here at http://yesugandahostel.weebly.com/about-yes-uganda.html

Basically it was amazing, highly recommended especially for those of us that don’t get to visit home very often, it was a touch of home with the benefit of everyone understanding how exhausted you are, not expecting anything from you and loving on you the whole time! (oh and 5 hours wasn’t much in comparison to the 2 days it takes to get “home”) A big thank you for everyone that made it happen and for all the people who helped by donating the goodies that we received from the oils, popcorn, clothes, books and much more that were donated I am so blessed and thankful.

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Soccer mom

Sometimes I find myself complaining about all the soccer training’s, mostly when it means I have to take kids, equipment and sit in traffic. Lately though I have been reminded that soccer is a main component of why we are in Uganda. It all started with a ball and a bunch of neighborhood boys who everyday would get together and play with a ball that was beat up, flat, or made of plastic bags. You see 9 years ago we came with a group of strangers and played games in the neighborhood we were staying in. We then decided that we would commit our two years in Uganda to stay in that very village that we gave a soccer ball to. It was the village ball; we gave that ball to a kid named “dudu” later we gave him jersey number 2 for obvious reasons. See, when we played games with these kids we were building community, we were building relationships. 9 years later we are still active in the lives of those very kids we met 9 years ago. Our ministry is complex a lot of times people overlook the importance that soccer brings. Without this aspect of outreach, we wouldn’t even be in existence. Don’t get me wrong, like I said our ministry is complex we use the love of the game to give opportunities in education and most importantly to show the love of Christ. When you build a relationship with someone and in this case with an entire community it allows you the opportunity to show Christ in real ways. Rising Star started out as just a fun thing to do with the kids in the neighborhood and now is an amazing ministry that has lead children to a relationship in Christ, scholarships to complete school, travels around Africa, ability to read and so much more. You see those days that I don’t want to lug equipment, sit around in the hot sun and cheer on the teams; I am reminded that all of this is worth it because this is what community building is.  “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1

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Full timer

I was inspired to write this blog after having a visitor start doing some mission work for a few months. She has only just begun and she had been having a hard time seeing her purpose, why she had given up her summer of making money to come and “seemingly” do nothing. The problem she had was that the only “missionary life” experience she had was from hearing from other friends about their week in another country and how amazing all the kids were and how they were spiritually impacted. I wanted to say well welcome to the “real” mission field. But honestly she will be here for 2 months and she will take back experiences and memories and she will be impacted in some remarkable ways.

I am what I like to refer to myself as a “full-timer”, a career missionary. Granted I am only now 2 years in this time around and life is extremely different than my previous stents with missions. Uganda is home for me as in “we do life here”, I have 5 kids now that I have to raise. I sometimes wonder if people just think I am hanging out talking to cute little black babies about Jesus all day long. When in all actuality recently I am dropping kids off at school, going to their end of year programs, taking them to birthday parties, soccer practice, making them dinner, washing (way to much) laundry. I also teach international students from over 7 different nations who are 3 and 4 years old. I have meetings for teaching, meetings for my kids and meetings for parenting. I also am taking on a role of volunteering at Kampala International Church somewhere in the children’s department.

I didn’t realize that my life would turn into a supportive missionary role. I am a mother and a wife to a missionary. Matt takes on leadership roles for Rising Star Ministries, he is the one who makes everything stay on course. My job title changed when I had to be a mother first and a missionary second. Last year as most of you know I got my teaching degree and so now to be able to send my kids to school I am working. I am putting my kids through school, but I am also teaching and pouring into the kids of other missionaries. I didn’t know that would be my role when we decided to live as “full timers” in Uganda.

My role is just as important as it was in 2008 when we began ministry in Uganda. My role is to tell people about Jesus and I am doing that every single day to beautiful children from all parts of the world, right here in Uganda. God is so great…he is so faithful. While I take a break from teaching (for the summer), I will be traveling more to our ministry center in Gayaza and supporting the staff as they have been doing such a great job taking on my previous job responsibilities. We are blessed to have Emily here working for 2 months with our newest RSM staff member Olyvia taking on the role as librarian and after school tutor.

But to be honest, I need a summer holiday time to recharge, read and spend more time in the Word of God, do fun stuff with my kids and my parents (yeah!). After all God did rest one day, right. 😉

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Empowered to Connect

We just concluded our 8 week course on how to better parent “children from hard places”. I will say it was hard to commit to this class it meant rearranging schedules, babysitters, late nights and time away from our kids nighttime routines. It also meant we would be reading a lot, and having to rethink everything we ever knew about parenting and as a good friend puts it “deal with some of our own crud”.

I will give you some great books but I would also suggest taking this class, so let me know if you would like more information. I found out after that the class is the only one in the whole of Africa and it was taught by people we met through connections at school and church. God orchestrated for sure!

Let me start really with this quote from Dan Allender author- How Children Raise Parents. “Our primary focus as parents should be not what to do with our children-which activities, what type of education, which discipline approach, not even their spiritual development- but instead discovering what it means to become a good parent. God intends to use our children to change, transform, and redeem our lives.”

On night one I knew that uh oh I was going to be changed and that through this process I could change for the better or the worse it was up to me to have the right attitude and the heart to do what was best for everyone.

To sum up the last few months they have been challenging, we moved homes, schools and added more to our schedules for the betterment of other people and it has been at times exhausting. We have questioned ourselves, like are we crazy taking on this challenge. But I believe that God made it all possible to give us the right connections to the right people at the right time to help us get through this learning and adjusting curve.

The whole idea of this class is how to connect to your children and that they come with a story and you come with a story and how to balance it all to provide a nurturing and structured environment. To stop having to give consequences, threats and correction all the time and instead be intentional, educated, trusted… “when we shift our perspective from the outward to the inward, from rules to relationships, our parenting will change.” Leslie Fields.

The question we get most is what next? Are you going to adopt them, foster only, for how long etc. The answer is unclear, up to this point we have just known that we were put in their lives for a reason and a season. We however through these last months have gotten more information about their citizenship and ages, names etc. through some documents. So the road may be rough ahead and legally we may never be able to fully adopt them or travel with them. This we do know that they are loved by many, getting a great education, healing is taking place and I will leave with this amazing quote that provides me with great comfort…

“HOPE…it’s that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are yet to be.”

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Why we give an allowance

Today was a perfect reminder of why we give allowances at our house. We started this process of giving money for completing chores about a year ago. The idea was they would be given required house work daily and at the end of the week they would get payment for the work they completed. They then had to tithe each week 10% and they couldn’t spend the money until the end of the month. For discipline problems they had to pay money as part of their consequence. If they broke, lost or damaged something it was them to pay for it.

The value of money is something people can easily take for granted. For Tendo it has helped calm down his anger problems because there was one week he had lost everything he had earned and came to the realization that if he didn’t make some changes he was going to be broke. Happy is learning that he needs to listen more and also talk more as he struggles with understanding, guesses and then when corrected doesn’t always take that correction constructively. Today we were getting ready for the start of school tomorrow; last term we purchased all new items for the boys. Kitiibwa did not return home with some of the items that were purchased, so today he had to buy the replacements. He started sobbing as he handed over 26,000 shillings the cost of his school sweater (about $9 but when you get 7,000 shillings a week that is almost 4 weeks of work gone). Sure we feel bad when they feel bad but then we remember in the long run it is building character. For the littlest ones they understand that if they want a new toy or a treat it is them to buy it.

This Christmas all the money earned during the month of December went to the purchase of a gift for someone else. When kids get money they can learn to give back, to give to God what is His, to give a gift for a friend, teacher, sibling or parent. Sure they could choose to spend it however they want, but if we show them how blessed they already are, they may see that they should want to give back to others. What we are trying to help them realize is that we are meeting all their material needs with food, shelter, clothing, shoes, schooling, water, transportation, recreation and more. More importantly we are trying to show them love, Christ’s love and unconditional love, the type of love that focuses on the overall well rounded human being that God has entrusted to us to raise into God fearing, caring, selfless human beings.

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Common Sense isn’t so common

I haven’t posted in a while but I have been jotting down my thoughts in a journal through this fostering process. Here is a look into my head and heart.

You know the saying common sense isn’t so common. When you haven’t been shown by example how to problem solve or maybe shown the wrong way to solve a problem you just accept things as they are. Fostering day 4- If I dwell on the absence of knowledge and don’t teach correct behavior I will foster continued ignorance. 17th December- They don’t know the joy of Christmas, never received gifts, they don’t even really know their birth dates. It hasn’t bothered them, but it bothers me. What traditions do you have, any? I don’t just want to push American tradition on them, but if they have no tradition can’t we make our own together? 19 Dec. I feel like the honeymoon period is over, which is a good thing as we can start to try and build real relationships. Communication is our biggest obstacle not only through actual language, but the idea that the proper way to deal with problems is through talking it out. Culturally in Uganda the child should not talk to the parent, just accept everything and hide their emotions. We knew this because we see it everyday, especially in the school setting. The teacher talks you listen and you only respond when called upon. If you don’t understand then too bad, it is up to you to figure out a way around that problem. How then to we teach them to exhibit good speaking and communication skills? Eye contact, voice control loud enough to hear without raising voice disrespectfully, speak clearly, listen to the question and respond appropriately (even if the response is “I don’t understand.”) 20161225_185229

We are trying to help by playing games as a family that incorporate some of these skills, talking to them the way we want to be spoken to, allowing them an outlet to speak their hearts and minds to both the social worker and our male mentors (coaches). This process is one that of course is difficult for all members involved, it hasn’t always been amazing. However, as we allow GOD to work in our lives, hearts, minds and entire being we will find answers to questions and peace in knowing the right things to do and say.

Pray for us as we start again a new phase in this process of fostering. The boys begin school next week Tendo is in P.7 (last year of primary) Kitiibwa (p. 4-5) he failed to pass last year due to many factors but mostly he is a very poor reader, we are trying to work on his reading ability to increase so he can show that he knows the material covered from P.4. Happy starts P.4 prayers that he also improves with speaking, and understanding written and spoken English. Pray for Matt as he runs two programs and manages the fundraising and leadership in our home. Prayers for Jacob and Parker as they progress through their education and adaption to having older brothers in the home. Myself as I balance life as a teacher (and head of Early Years), tutoring, parenting and spiritual walk and health.

To be continued…