Wednesday, December 31, 2014

7 More Days

It’s only 7 more days until I’m on a plane back to Uganda. After 9 months, it hardly seems possible. People keep asking me if I’m ready. My answer? Not yet. But that’s what the next 7 days is for, right? ;) I knew these last weeks would fly by fast, as they always do. And as always, I’m left scrambling till the end! But I think I should be packed more than I am. I’ve only been doing it for 9 months!  

I can’t remember ever being so nervous-excited to go back. There is so much I’m happily anticipating and thrilled about, but as you might imagine, there’s also a good bit of nerves. I know there are awkward, painful reminders waiting for me when I get there. I’ve seen some of the hard, the painful, the scary of being on the front lines of ministry, and I know things don’t necessarily just get easier from here. But I have walked with Jesus through suffering, and I know I just have to look beside me to find Him there again. I’ve never had to do that so constantly ever before in my life. Or maybe I just didn’t know how. I guess that’s why now I’m so grateful for the pain of 2014. Without it, I wouldn’t have fully enjoyed the perfect peace that Jesus’ presence also brought in 2014.

My counselor told me at my last meeting with her how at the beginning, she never expected me to be able to go back. Maybe to Africa, but not to Mbale again. How incredible is my God who can make the unlikely, and even the impossible happen!

Entering 2015, like the rest of you, I have no idea what lies in store. A year of blessing? A year of suffering? But whatever combination of the two comes, I have reason to celebrate! Because I have a God who heals! A God who restores! And I have seen just how much blessing He can bring from every kind of suffering. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Holidays are so different here. I know, understatement of the year, right? But it’s true. There’s a part of me that after living with the extreme poverty and suffering of third-world Africa just cringes with the amount of consumerism and greed shown by our culture, especially around the holidays. Right now, the stores are filled with an odd mix of leftover Halloween costumes, turkeys, and Santa Claus figurines. They’re symbols of the frenzy of the American holiday season. 

But there’s also something really special about the hoopla around holidays, especially in the church.  Most churches really try to take advantage of the constant reminders of consumerism to focus on what the real value and point of the holidays is. Being in America you just can't get away from the reminders of the holidays, whereas in Uganda it's easier for one day to be just like another. This year, I'm cherishing the opportunity to savor the festivities, always remembering what is most important. I really love that we make such a point to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. After all, a feast to remember the goodness of God is totally biblical…way more than the extent we actually observe!! If we were really following the example set in Scripture, we would be having these kind of feasts many times a year! But the beauty of remembrance (at the very least on this one big day a year) is so special. 

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I’ve never known a year before that I had so many hardships and sufferings to be grateful for! I know most people think of all the good things, the blessings, the positives of the year to thank God for. But I have seen yet again this year how blessed I have been through the pain. How much joy and peace Jesus has afforded through the suffering. How many smiles have been born out of the tears. I wouldn’t have been able to see His face quite so clearly if it weren’t for the grief, or heard His voice so clearly if not for the pain. I think C.S. Lewis’ said it well in his book, The Problem of Pain. He said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” How true it is. If it weren’t for the darkness, we wouldn’t fully appreciate the light! Without the pain, we couldn’t fully enjoy the blessings. It is through the shattered glass of suffering that the light of grace can dance in all its colors!

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget to thank Jesus for each and every blessing: even the painful ones! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Invitation

This Tuesday evening, HUM is holding a super fun event for those in the Dallas area.  Come for your chance to win and bid on great prizes, enjoy fun (non-alcoholic) drinks, and yummy deserts. It is open invite, so if you're in the area, just let me know that you're planning on coming! And come with friends!



Monday, November 3, 2014

To Be Really Satisfied


Photo credit: Gap Adventures

They are the shopkeepers, the hawkers of wares, the sellers of everything imaginable. They call out, shout, demand for attention, thrusting their goods in my face. Demanding that I purchase. But it is money spent for that which is not bread. It is a purchase of that which cannot satisfy. 



Photo credit: Atlas


But deny them once, and they will pursue every louder. They are desperate for even just a piece of me. I must flee. I must get away. Back to the One who offers wine and bread without cost. I must drink deeply of His waters. I must incline my ear to His voice, running into His presence so that I might live. For He offers what they can only fake. Steadfast love. Change. Purpose. Joy. True peace. He is the only source of life. He is calling: “Come, be filled again.”





In the midst of the craziness that is travel and fundraising, Jesus brought me to Isaiah 55:1-3. This precious passage immediately summoned images of the Ugandan markets to mind, but even more, my everyday here too. Throughout each and every day so many people need something from me.  Emails, documents, budgets, time, encouragement, phone calls, texts, and more. They call out for their needs to be met. And I am tempted to just give in. With the subconscious belief that with this one phone call, I will purchase goodwill. With this one email, I will buy affection. With this one document, I will gain admiration. 

But Jesus says it is in vain. If I am looking to them to fill me up, I will only be drained of every resource I have, to buy what will never satisfy. But the beautiful thing is that when I actually stop to listen to the call of Jesus to come away and be filled up again, He does it! He pours His life back into me, refreshing and renewing me so that I in turn can go back out. This time, not to buy what everyone is pushing, but to instead offer back the sustenance that Jesus gives so freely.  It's amazing how so very much comes back to heart attitude and focus. 

It’s a daily struggle though. I’ve travelled to Baltimore, Denver, St Louis, Chicago, and will soon leave for Dallas and Austin. My road-legs are shaky, and there is so much more to be done. The struggle to keep my eyes and heart fixed on what is really important can be overwhelming….until I step back into Jesus’ presence. There He meets me and re-adjusts my heart attitudes, focusing my attention back on Himself. 

I have 2 more months before I’m back in Uganda again, and I’m so eager to be home. But I know there won’t be too much different from here. It will be the same inner battles (but more with the extra spiritual warfare!), the same struggles and efforts to rely not on myself but on Jesus. So will you please pray for me? Pray that I can continue to develop the patterns and habits that I so desperately need for godly, healthy living in Uganda. Most of which include running back to Jesus, in each moment seeking His heart and desires for me. J


Isaiah 55:1-3

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Your Fears Come True

People say I’m brave for living in Africa. I don’t feel brave. In fact, a lot of times I’m downright scared. Before moving to Uganda, I had several major fears that I recognized and had to purposefully surrender to Jesus. The list wasn’t very long, but included on that list were an assault and being rejected by people I so loved. It was a bit of a shock to realize that 2 of my major fears came true within months of each other.

I’m not going to lie and say that I realize now that I had no reason to fear those things. Let me tell you, actually experiencing them was just as painful as I had feared. The loss, grief, depression, anger, and deep aching pain were all very real. No, I don’t believe God tells us time and time again “Don’t be afraid” because there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, there is so much to rightfully fear that comes from living in a broken world and surrounds us every moment. Loved ones agonize through cancer. Jobs are lost. People lie and stab us in the back. Cars crash. Affection is won and lost again.

So how could God expect us to act in defiance of our fears? How could He really ask us to be brave and not fear the things that will cause us so much pain? What kind of sense does that make? It doesn’t. But that’s exactly what makes faith so beautiful. Faith stands in the face of disaster and says, “You will not conquer me, for Christ has overcome.” Faith shouts to love lost and says, “I will still love again, for Christ’s love is more powerful than rejection.” Faith stands and shouts for all to hear, “ What you meant for evil, God has used for good.”

That is the truth. By faith our fears are conquered. By faith, they have lost their power. By faith, I can choose to look through all the darkness and suffering and find the bright gems of hope, peace, and contentment that Jesus will provide. And by faith, I can be grateful for even the things I feared most.

Some of my greatest fears have come true, and I have seen they are small in Jesus’ hands. There is nothing too big that He cannot overcome. There is nothing too painful that He cannot heal. There is nothing too ugly that He cannot make beautiful. My faith is not unfounded or foolish: it is proven right every day. When I was broken and at a loss as to how to heal, Jesus pursued my heart and brought one thing after another to convince me of His love. When I was grieving the loss of so much, Jesus led me into an even deeper connection with God, and showed me a glimpse of what it is to be totally satisfied in Him. Jesus demonstrated that all my fears become nothing but a tool for Him to bring blessing.  

That is why I will again choose to surrender my fears to Jesus. I will choose to live in a place that is not completely safe. I will choose to give of myself to people that could reject me. I will choose to love people even if they don’t deserve it. I will choose Africa again, because I know that is God’s choice for me and His choice is perfect for me. I will choose faith.


What fears have you seen conquered by Jesus? How has His power been demonstrated in the things you have feared the most? 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When They Don't Love You Back



As a missionary, I believe my single most important role is loving on people. In Uganda, that can look like a huge variety of things on a daily basis: verbal encouragement or praise, paying for school fees, listening to someone’s story, giving someone a ride, teaching a truth from God’s Word, tight hugs, a trip to the clinic, or even just a cheerful ‘How are you?’ I just love the myriad of opportunities I get to love on people, but love that has impact must also be very intentional. It takes thought, planning, praying, and sensitivity to the Spirit. And when Jesus binds hearts together with His love, it’s an incredible thing!! But what happens when the person you so intentionally loved, doesn’t love you back? Or even worse, stops loving you?

Over last year, I developed an amazing friendship with a Ugandan family that I just adored. I spent hours in their home, sitting on their bed laughing, crying, cuddling their baby, trying new foods, and sharing the work of God in our lives. It was amazing. I had hoped and prayed for a friendship with Africans just like this my whole life. I learned so much from them, and I shared so much of my own life with them. I loved their children like my own, and cherished every opportunity to be with them. They welcomed me into their home, and I welcomed them into mine. They even came and lived with me for a time, and it was such a dream come true for me. But one day, everything changed. I discovered I had been lied about and lied to. When I confronted, that led to even more lies and deceit. In the end, the friendship was broken, and the family moved away. I grieved for months. I still grieve that loss. I loved them so much. I still love them so much. I miss my friend. I miss my children. I miss that sweet bond.

I wish this story had a happy ending. It doesn’t….yet. But I believe in a God of miracles. I believe in a God of restoration and reconciliation. I pray they will repent and we will be restored. I pray continually that even if I can’t see them again on earth, that one day we will be re-united in heaven. I pray for their healing, physical and spiritual. I pray for their provision and comfort. I pray for them because I still love them.

You might ask, was it worth it? Was it worth giving so much time, energy, emotional investment, and care, only to lose them? Yes. It was worth it. It is worth the pain now. It is worth the grief and loss, because I know Jesus has used every moment for His good purpose. Jesus Himself loved freely, even knowing the ultimate betrayal and loss was coming. If this is just one way I can join in the sufferings of Christ, I will rejoice in it.

The natural reaction to pain is protection. When we are hurt by someone, we naturally curl up into a ball and try to protect ourselves from that kind of pain ever happening again. It would be only natural for me to shy away from investing my love into others like that again. But I thank God that there is nothing natural about His love. His love defies logic. His love breaks down walls. His love empowers us to act in ways impossible for our weak natures. His love relentlessly pursued me in the face of rejection and fear, and I know it is that same love that He will continue to pour out through me to others.

Please pray for this precious family. Please pray for me.  Please pray for the power of the love of God to have its effect. I know He is at work!