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Life Matters-The success of our Future

Why is it that sports are the key to success in the lives of so many? Why if you are good at a sport that equals success in life? We give scholarships and recruit people to play for “our” team. We want to win! You see it all over the world, where someone who without a sports scholarship would have “failed” in life. Why is that? Why is it that we as a society think that we should only be helping those that essentially can help us? Why is it that we push kids through high school and college to get their education, but only if they are the top performers at their sport or talent?

Why do we not invest in everyone regardless of their talent? We find that here in Uganda with Rising Star. We can fairly easily find support for children who are good athletes. Schools will pay for their education in order to get the “star” athlete to compete for the pride of their school. But what about those that do not have an athletic bone in their body, sure they may like to play but they are not at the “top” level of performance. Well one might think they can focus more on their academics to make it further in education. Study harder to get good grades and earn scholarships that way.

I want to challenge our thinking as a human race. A profound thought….what if we treated everyone as equal when they started school. Picture this you are the teacher of a classroom of 3 year olds and you know everything about these kids, what country they come from, how much money their parents make, what kind of house they live in, what kind of meals they get at home, and a multitude of other information. Then you decided that no matter what obstacles they start out having because of whom they were born to, that you would cater to their every need. That you would make sure they succeeded in life because you invested in their life. That you in fact leveled the playing field of sorts; that every child was given the opportunity they needed to succeed. You went above and beyond the norm and you made sure that when they left your class they were set up for success.

Imagine that every single person in their life, invested in their life. Their parents, their educators, their doctor, dentist, coach, pastor, neighbor, relative, policeman, store manager, and stranger. Imagine that no matter their relationship to one another, everyone worked together to make sure that child succeeded. That child and every child that crossed their path. You see it is not impossible for us to enrich each other’s lives, to make a better future and successful nations. It takes individuals to invest outside of the “stars”, to make everyone a star.

At Rising Star and at Acacia my goal is to treat every single child with the respect and decency they deserve. To learn their story and to make sure that I give everything that I can offer to make sure that when they leave my care they are set up for a brighter future. What is your role in making the future brighter for our children? My prayer is that we can lead by example and start a new way of thinking that every life is valuable, that no matter the predisposition they may have that we make it a level playing field of opportunity for success.

#livesmatter #dosomethingaboutit #changetheworldforgood

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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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Jeremiah 7:22-28

 

They say that when something happens over and over and you expect different results you are crazy. Well call me crazy! Driving in Uganda is what makes me crazy. It is a way of life to drive with just yourself to care about. They say when a Ugandan gets into a car they lose the ability to fear death. When I get into the car I fear death might come. A police officer once told Matt that the guy who was cutting everyone in line was just doing what Ugandans do. Her exact words, “Ehh, that’s what they do, it’s just expected.” In my opinion, even if something is wrong, if a culture does it enough it becomes right to them. So yes, it is wrong to speed, overtake cars, turn in front of others, knock people and keep going, make three lanes when there is room for one, and I could go on. However, if it has become so normal to do those things; so normal that even the police who know the law don’t stop you; then why would you stop? I find it very difficult myself, to do the right thing, when everyone else is doing the wrong thing. Even more when it means I might never get to my destination, let alone on time. Is the answer if enough people start doing the right thing THAT might be the new normal?

I think it might be the hardest thing to teach someone who sees something as normal, but explaining that just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it right. That “everyone” might be doing it wrong. Something might be really hard to enforce if a majority of people are doing it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enforced. If a rule or a law was put into place, but now no one follows it, does that mean the law itself needs to be changed? If you change a law shouldn’t you then put a new one in its place?

All that I am posing is that we as Christians have a responsibility to act in such a way that is pleasing to the Lord. So what that looks like? For me it means that I need to keep myself in check, with what the Word of God says. I need to understand why I was instructed to act a certain way. Truth be told law is a good law if it was put into place to protect the person following the law. As a mom, and a teacher it is my responsibility to put rules in place, and enforce them for the benefit of the child. All that being said, obey the law set before you, because it is there to help you, protect you and guide you to a life worth living.

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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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Words are powerful…so you should know their meaning.

*This post is dedicated to my late Grandma Dee, the woman who I swear knew everything.

I do not claim to know everything, quite the contrary, I am always seeking new information or rather the definition of old information. I remember I used to be so annoyed that my mom would use big words around us as kids. I would say, “Mom, what does that mean?” She would tell me the meaning and I would respond by saying, “Why didn’t you just use that word, I knew that word.” She was teaching me a wonderful lesson, never settle for what you already know; seek to learn more.

I know that I am not perfect, quite the contrary, I make mistakes and make poor choices. However, I know that I am perfectly and wonderfully made. I don’t always do the best at it, but I am supposed to take care of the body that God perfectly and wonderfully made. I enjoy the fact that here in Uganda my kids get to experience the joy of playing outdoors. Great exercise for the body, mind and soul. Some of my favorite times were when we used to explore our farm; I have a scar on my wrist that is a little reminder of that fun.

I try to speak the truth that I believe from the Bible, in love, even if that means that it may be perceived as the opposite. I don’t hide behind the Bible, quite the contrary, my Bible is open. The song we sang as children in Sunday School, “…hide it under a bushel, NO!, I’m gonna let it shine.” When you meet me, you should know that I am a Christian by the words that I speak, and the actions that I display. I don’t stand on the street, shouting to the masses, but I do allow God to speak through me, in everything I do.  Driving in Uganda, well (that’s a whole other topic.)

From Dictionary.com

Observation– noun

  1. an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.
  2. an act or instance of viewing or noting a fact or occurrence for some scientific or other special purpose
  3. something that is learned in the course of observing things:

Judgement-noun

  1. an act or instance of judging.
  2. the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good-sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.
  3. the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind: Our judgment as to the cause of his failure must  rest on the evidence.

Prejudice– noun

  1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
  2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.

Injustice– noun

  1. the quality or fact of being unjust; inequity.
  2. violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment.
  3. an unjust or unfair act; wrong.

Criticism– noun

  1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
  2. the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.

This is my prayer for myself, my family and the World.

May my observations be pure, my judgment be objective, and my criticism be based on merit. May I never show prejudice for that is without knowledge, and may I never show injustice as that is a violation of the rights of others. May I always be growing in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as that will guide me in my knowledge of life living. May I know when to step up, step back and step away. May I know when to speak up, shut up, or pray up.