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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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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.

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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.”