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Women’s day…everyday am I right?

Last weekend I was blessed with the ability and opportunity to have a weekend away with some amazing women. I knew a few of them but the majority I had never met as they were coming from all over Uganda and even South Sudan. As I was reflecting about that weekend I am amazed at how strong God made us women. Throughout my life I have come to know and cross paths with some of the strongest women that God is using for his Kingdom. I truly believe after hearing stories of trials and tribulation that women face, it is only through God’s grace that women can turn a tragedy into a triumph for His glory. I am so thankful for the testimonies and the amount of prayer that went on this past weekend. God has a world full of amazing women who are faithful to complete the work that He has set before them. I wanted to highlight a few amazing women, ones that I won’t name but want to give the Glory to God for the impact they make in my life and in the lives of countless others around the world.

One woman came into my life through her amazing music. I always love hearing her sing and all for the glory of God. You can tell when someone has passion for what they are singing it radiates through them and just gives you goosebumps. I only found out about her life story years later when she was open enough to share with the world the horrible life she led as a child. But even though she had to deal with a whole lotta crud she is dealing with it and she is make a difference in the lives of others who also have dealt with abuse.

Another strong woman is a friend I made when we first returned to the United States and God intentionally put our lives together for a reason. We did life together and it was wonderful to have a friend and a fellow mom who also was just doing her best to raise tiny humans. Then for a reason we will never understand her son died and the heartache that followed at times seemed unbearable. But what I know is that she has never wavered in her love for God, and she is brutally honest about how hard life is, but she still lives it and loves in it. I am proud to be her friend.

Another woman who probably never knew how much she meant to me because she left this earth too soon for me. She was caring, friendly and a bit of a rule breaker. She was a great mother and wonderful grandmother and even got to be a great grandmother. She fought through injuries, cancer and a whole lot of responsibility. She loved to travel and meet new people and I believe that is how God used her. God used her outgoing caring personality to reach people wherever they were and she didn’t even have to mention God because they saw it in her. She was a witness of how amazing God is just through her presence. She was social, she was relational and that is what made her special. She has taught me to be okay with who I am and to take risks by how much I love others, even strangers.

God has placed so many women in my life who I can learn from and grow because of. I am eternally grateful that women in my life have been the ones who led me to Christ, taught me how to be a mother, a teacher, a leader, a speaker, a singer, a missionary, a friend, a mentor and much more. This journey that God has placed me on is not an easy one but He has placed women along the road to help me, pray for me and guide me into being a woman that God can say…”Well done my daughter, you good and faithful servant.”

 

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Called me Higher

Today we sang a song in church that really challenged my heart. It made me think about all the times that I have wanted something to happen, but didn’t want to put the effort into seeing through; like self-sabotage. But then I also thought about times where I was feeling like I was supposed to sit and wait for His goodness and feel His presence. In the silence, he was revealing his plan. Times when He has told me to just stay where I am and eventually it would feel good again. But He is always changing me on the inside and I have obviously heard Him tell me to leave home (more than once).

The chorus sums up my life, He has called me higher, deeper and to go where He leads me. And I will be His for all my life and I really do want His mercy to shine a light onto the path that He is leading me to.

I am thankful for this message today! Artist-Sons and Daughters- “Called Me Higher”

Lyrics

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence

And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside

And I could be safe, oh
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

Where You lead me

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy

Oh, and I will be Yours, Lord
And I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me

And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
Oh, ’cause You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord, where You lead me

Where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

 

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“Be the Church”

Today was a great example of how amazing “the church” is. Flashback to 2008-2010 when we were first here in Uganda and I was seeking so much to find connection with fellow Christians. It was hard because we were the only missionaries in our area and to get to church with fellow missionaries meant we would need to travel to town, we didn’t have a vehicle and town was more than an hour away. When we decided to come back to live full time in Uganda I knew that life would have to look different. I knew we would need support from a solid church family that understood the stresses of being away from one’s home country and the tough ministry life.

It took some time, but we found KIC-B (Kampala International Church-Bugalobi). We found our church family that we knew we would need to help us when life gets tough. Today the pastor was preaching in Daniel and he had a “radical” idea, he asked his people to stand if they needed prayer, if this week didn’t go as planned. I stood and as uncomfortable as it is to be open and vulnerable it was freeing, because I knew one, I wasn’t going to be the only one that would be standing and two, I would be prayed for. What he asked next was that those around us would lay hands on us where we were and pray for us.

I thought back to a moment when I was first in Uganda and we went to Watoto church a “mega” church in Kampala and one Sunday we went when we had just been broken down and something similar happened a woman prayed for me. She had no idea what was going on in my life, but God did and used her to pray exactly what I needed to hear. God does that for us and it is so amazing! I can remember hearing the song “Stronger” that Sunday and thinking yes He is stronger and I will be okay.

This church family is from all over the world gathered together to worship and to be the church for each other. We come from all different backgrounds and religious groups, but one thing remains true is that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. How amazing it is to go to church each week knowing that people have each other’s backs; that during the week I can connect with someone from church and they will offer love, support, prayer and just a listening ear. I am so blessed!!!

The ”church” is not perfect and maybe you have been hurt by the church; but I want to encourage you to find a place that is not caught up in the politics of church. I beg you to give it another shot, because when you find a place that feels like family, you can make it through all the crazy that life brings you. If you are a part of the body of Christ- the church I challenge you to pray for people when they need prayer and to allow yourself to be prayed for when you need it. I am so thankful that through-out most of my life I have had people from the body of Christ who have prayed for me. The power of prayer is unmatchable and amazing to give and to receive. Take time today to pray for someone or ask someone to pray for you. Let me know how I can pray for you, I promise I will lift you up in prayer if you just let me know how I can be praying for you.

 

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The Journey thus far

Our journey through fostering and adoption is reflectively not that long in the grand scheme of things. However, it has been a slow, painful, frustrating, heartbreaking, challenging, new, happy and learning experience. We are supposed to care for the widowed and orphaned, but often times it is those who are neither that often need some attention. I think though why did God pick us and prompt us to take these kids into our home? I mean we see neglect, poor, needy, abused and the whole list of children that need a better home life. We don’t take them all in, we try and work with them and their families to get it together and get it right. I was a social worker when we first got married and my job was “Family Reunification Worker”. That’s what I did I worked on reunifying families that for one reason or another had been separated by the state and now were ready to try and come back together and live. So it is interesting to be on the side of the foster parent who might have to give up on everything they have worked toward to help these boys and basically say okay mom you want another shot here you go. There is a huge difference in the process though because in the U.S. you are provided some funds and legal protection from the government. Here in Uganda we literally have done everything out of our own good will and with no support from the government actually because they are not technically from this country.

So right before Christmas we had just made a year of the boys living in our home and we had come to the time that we were looking at adoption. We had been given the paperwork and the go ahead to move forward from the Rwandan embassy. Then we got a message that changed everything, one of the boys sisters sent a message asking if the boys could come and visit because their mom had come back to Uganda and wanted to see them. We were shocked, their mom the last we had heard was very ill and still in Rwanda. This all happened right before school was being let out for the holiday break and everyone who we had worked with on this fostering process had left or closed for the holidays. We were able to get in contact with a social worker through our church family and she helped us break the news to the boys. Happy was “happy” as he said he thought his mom was dead and it made him happy that she was alive. Kitibwa had no reaction besides shutting down and even refusing to see a picture of mom. Tendo was worried that it meant he would be leaving our family and “things” but was still anxious to see her. The next week we met with a translator that could help us with the communication barrier between three languages. She was great being able to get Tendo to open up and talk about his past with mom. Also finding out that Happy said he would not recognize his mom had we not shown him a picture and wouldn’t even know if he passed his father on the street.

All these feelings as we approach the meeting with their mom tomorrow and I am feeling so many emotions because I have so many questions and am not sure any will be answered. Mostly I want there to be lots of talking between everyone and I want open and honest conversations, no matter how hard it might be to hear. One thing that Matt and I are is united, we have sorted through emotions through this past year all the ups and downs and we have become stronger together through it.

Today we met mom, it was basically what I feared would happen an instant connection from the boys and a total disregard of responsibility from mom. She was grateful, she thought they were dead, she has been trying to relocate them for the past 7 months and is happy to find them in a good place. She has no plans to care for them or herself really, she is still dependent on other people to take care of her. We did get some answers, some history, a glimmer of hope for the future. I am going to have to use my social work background to get some things in place for mom, steps and goals in place. I am forever these boys advocate and as much as it is way more personal than anything I have ever done, I will fight. When people don’t know how to fight for things, you have to sometimes point them in the right direction, push them, show them, and be there to help them when they mess up.

What I am not going to do is be someone’s scapegoat, excuse or reason to not do their best. I won’t allow it. I thought 2017 was hard but I have a feeling it was just preparing me for the challenges ahead.

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From Boxing day to New Years

Boxing day- there is not much that I understand about what Boxing day really is but I do know they honor it as a holiday here in Uganda. For me it meant that I decided to take down the Christmas decorations. There is now a big bare area in the corner of our living room, I spent the morning cleaning and got Matt to hang my new picture frame. Matt is finally taking the time to finish our picnic style kitchen table…a project started in the summer. I am hopeful it will be completed before the new year (fingers crossed).  When I think of boxing day it actually makes me think of two things actual boxes and punching someone. When I looked up the meaning I gathered these facts: A box- a present; servants were given the day off and possibly a “box” from their master; kind of like “black Friday” in America where stores had Big sales; celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other commonwealth countries (originated in England 19th century).

It made me wonder what are some traditions or “public” holidays that don’t really mean what we thought? There are holidays that are strictly American Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, (Independence day is universal but is specific to each country), Labor day, Columbus day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving day. In fact, the only two holidays that are celebrated pretty much universally are Christmas and New Year’s. It made me think about how people from all around the world celebrate differently. We hold different beliefs and traditions not only related to public holidays but also a whole list of reasons. The beauty in our world is that God created us all differently and it is evident in the variety of ethnicities and various backgrounds that we come from.

In this new year many people around the world think about what they want their new year to look like. Some have a word they choose to express what they want their year to represent. Resolutions to get something done or to start something new. I made a plan…a bit of a dream board style with goals and ways to get them accomplished. One thing that I want to do a better job of doing is to celebrate other people better. I want to be able to look at their culture and see it for what it is; invest more time in exploring people other than myself.

One way I am planning on doing this is with a project that I have dreamt about doing for a long time. I am working on making a children’s book to inspire children to explore the possibilities of doing anything they can dream of. I will travel around Uganda documenting jobs of people in Uganda and telling their story of how they got where they are. The real life stories of people they can relate to and allow them a way to dream bigger. My hope is that it will also inspire those who are doing a job they didn’t really want to do as a kid think how they can too dream bigger.

So what do you want to do this New Year that is not only for yourself but also for someone else? Maybe make this new year about getting to know someone else, celebrate a new culture or tradition, dream bigger and do something that you always wanted to do.

Have a Happy New Year!!!

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Good Good Father

Getting real with you again. I struggle with race. I struggle with why it matters. I know people will say it is because I am white, I have white privilege. Yes, true but when it comes to being a human being I can honestly say I care what race you are, what nationality you are, what religion you are. I care because you are a child of God. When we came to Uganda it wasn’t the first time that I helped people different from me. I don’t help people because of where they come from or what they look like. I help people because they are in need. I don’t help people because I am white, I don’t help people just because they don’t look like me. I help people because Jesus tells me to and because I love Jesus I love people.

Why am I writing this because I know that people won’t always understand why we are adopting 3 boys from another race, country and tribe different from our own. People won’t always understand why we are living in another country other than our own, helping people from a different race, religion, country, tribe, tongue than ours. Simple, because Jesus did. You see I am proud of who I am what God created me to be and I can’t change that. I embrace who God made me to be because I don’t want anyone to feel they need to be ashamed of where they come from, who God created them to be.

Adoption is not an easy calling and often I feel people who adopt get a bad wrap. The stories of the children often are the ones people hear about. The stories of the parents who adopt are often forgotten or not even heard. I am not trying to discount all the pain that a child who is adopted goes through, but open your heart to the heartache that someone who adopts goes through. People who adopt do so for a variety of reasons and some can be selfish, but most often it is because they feel a calling to help.

An adoptive parent has to handle all the emotional trauma that the child goes through. Raise a child that is not theirs, often one that doesn’t look like them. Raise a child who may never call them mom or dad, a child who always longs to be with their “real” parents. Raise a child who they couldn’t have, raise a child along with their biological child, raise a child after they have already raised their own. An adoptive parent has to balance what is emotionally healthy for the child to have interaction with biological relatives, learn a culture that is not naturally theirs, learn a language or traditions that don’t come naturally. Worry that they are raising a child who will one day leave them to live with someone else, reject them, resent them, never grow to love them.

Very rarely is there a child who literally has no one still alive that has their blood. Unless their entire family was killed in war or accident they have someone who has relation to them. The idea that you should place a child with a relative sounds good in theory. To place a child in their own culture also sounds great in theory. To place a child with someone who can relate to them because they “look” the same as they do also great it theory. But what happens when those people who are related to them, looks like them, comes from their same culture are the same people who tortured them, abandoned them, enslaved them, abused, neglected and rejected them. Then is that still the best placement for them. What if no one wants to help three boys and keep them together. What if their own family can’t provide for their basic needs to live. What if their own family left them, sold all their things and abandoned them.

Adoption usually isn’t a beautiful process, there is always hurt involved in adoption. Always financial strain, emotional strain, marital strain, and relationship strain. Adoption is a beautiful thing but the road and journey is not easy, the reality is that adoption happens only if there is something that has been lost. The hope is that adoption can work only with intervention from Jesus, healing can only happen through Jesus.

I will leave you with this if you are someone who has adopted, thank you for taking that leap of faith. If you have been adopted, understand that everyone’s story is different and I hope that you have been able to find healing in Jesus’ name. If you are considering adopting, I will let you know it is not an easy road, but if you are doing it for the right reasons then it is something you should do. If you are a sceptic or critic of adoption I hope that you will attempt to look at adoption from all sides of the story. The way that I look at life is that Jesus is my “adoptive” father, he is the one who will never leave me or hurt me. Jesus is always here for you and for me no matter what our earthly father means to us and our story.

*I must say I am thankful that I have an earthly father who has always loved me, cared for me, prayed for me, supported me and disciplined me. I am thankful that my earthly father has pointed me to my heavenly father so that I knew no matter if my earthly father left this earth I would always have a father with me.

I love the song- “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and can honestly say I have been blessed.

 

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Grandma Deeeeee

This holiday season we are away from our extended family and I will admit the memories come flooding for me. My grandma Dee (my mom’s mom) always brings back great memories of Christmas time. The travel to Beatrice, Ne wasn’t long and so the time spent in the car wasn’t torture like when we would travel to Iowa. I can’t compare the two places for Christmas, because they were different in so many ways. One thing was the same though memories. The memories I made were generally with my cousins and sleeping in sleeping bags or on sofas. We would play games, we would make up songs, we would talk about how lame it was to play with younger cousins (who now we totally would hang out with). Grandma Dee always made every child feel unique even if they got the same gift as their cousin who was in their age range. She always had Christmas cookies, we ate pizza at least once, because when you have 14 grand kids you order pizza.

The reason I decided to dedicate this blog to my grandma Dee is that she used to send out emails updating us on her many adventures. She would literally tell us at times everything she did. I was just looking through my emails and saw that I had saved some old family emails from my grandma. It was an email from 2009 when she was travelling in Colorado. She was so funny when she wrote often laughing at her own jokes. My mom does the same things now a bit shorter stories (and usually about Nebraska sports and weather). I will probably do the same when my kids get to the age of emails…if that is still something that exists when they are older.

Memories are something that can bring joy and a bit of sadness. I miss both my grandma’s a lot during the holidays. My grandma Ruby passed away on Christmas eve when I was a freshman in college. It changed the holiday for all of us because Christmas was one of my grandma Ruby’s favorite holidays.  She literally would have a pile of presents surrounding her chair and she wouldn’t open them because she was too busy watching everyone else open theirs. She didn’t want to miss any joy from her loved ones. She would then have the grand kids help her open hers so we wouldn’t have to wait forever. She always cried every single time that we had to leave to go back home, she just wanted her kids and grand kids to live near her so she could show them love all the time.

My grandma Dee was on one of her adventures when she passed away in her sleep. She always said she didn’t want to die old like her mother who lived until she was 96. She wanted to live life to the fullest never wanting to be any burden to anyone. She was a giver not a taker, I would say she also loved Christmas, but more for the family time and servant hood that she could provide.

This Christmas season is difficult for many, but what I have tried to remind myself is that each year we can reflect on the things of the world or we can reflect on the things of eternity. I am so thankful that both my grandma’s are in heaven and putting all the traditions and family time memories aside the reason for Christmas is only Christ. It is not about what we gain from the season from the people on earth, but what we gained on ONE Christmas which was Jesus. I am so blessed to come from a long line of followers of Jesus and one day when my grand kids think of memories of me I want them to remember one main thing… Jesus!

Merry CHRISTmas.