Memoirs of a Momma: Choosing Heartbreak

•September 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Just after deciding to begin foster care, a friend of mine asked me over.  She cooked me a meal, gave me a window into her life, and opened up her heart.  At the time, she and her husband were smack dab in the middle of the uncertainty of foster care adoption.

“When you step into parenting biologically,
you know there is always the possibility
that tragedy could strike and break your heart,”
she said, “but when you become a foster parent,
you walk in knowing that
there is no way to leave with your heart in tact.”

Then she shared with me what heartbreak looked like for their family.  For them it meant either losing a son whom they have treasured as their own as he returned to his biological family, or aching over the permanent breakage of that irreplaceable biological relationship for this beloved child whom they have loved so wholly and so deeply.  She shared how they longed to call him ‘son’ forever right alongside her conviction that to pray for his permanence in their home meant to pray failure for his mother and brokenness for his family.

This is the deep ache of foster care. This is where, holding tight to tiny hands, we find ourselves grappling with the slow-sinking reality that no matter how the pages turn – any hopeful, happy ending remains tainted with the brokenness that brought this precious child into our arms.

 
My situation is a little bit different.  One way or another I will have to say goodbye to each child that has entered my home and captured my heart.  Even last fall, as we began to look forward to what we thought then would be short-term, emergency foster care, I didn’t dare imagine our impact on each child would be tangible.  The babies we would welcome into our home would be safe and sound, but they would be far too young to remember the love that would cover them or the prayers showered over them.  At such a young age, for such a short time, surely no amount of preaching the gospel or telling Bible stories before bed would impact their future relationships with the Lord – the only truly happy ending that exists for us all.  But to allow them to wrap their tiny fingers around our hearts so completely that the fingerprints left behind last a lifetime…. perhaps then we will spend not just days or weeks caring for this child, but years and years praying, pleading before God Almighty that they might know the joy that awaits them in His open arms.

The impact I imagined wasn’t to be remembered but to remember.

To welcome them into our hearts unguarded means to watch our hearts shatter as they leave – regardless of where they are headed.  See, it’s the heartbreak itself that in so many ways is our ministry; the unceasing ache that leads to tear-stained prayers at the foot of the cross.  Who knows but that one day I may sit at the table of the Lord, embracing a child whom I held for a few months and prayed over for a lifetime that they might know and love the Lord?

 

…if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;

Isaiah 58:10-11

 

To follow Jesus into the foster care system means to long for redemption, knowing just how broken the circumstance may be.  It means loving each child as your own, unguarded and unreserved, all the while longing wholeheartedly for the reconciliation of their families.
This is the heartbreak we choose.  Willfully.  Intentionally.  Over and over again.  Because to live with authentic abandon to the gospel of Christ means to be wrung out time and again, trusting that the Lord is greater than our grief, and that He strengthens and satisfies in the midst of our pain.

 

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Memoirs of a Momma: Bottle of Tears

•August 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We’d had the twins less than 48 hours when I took them to the doctor to check on the bout of croup D had been struggling with.  As we stepped through the door, I found myself engulfed by an entire team of doctors and nurses and specialists of all sorts who kindly walked me through all kinds of processes that would soon become day-to-day in this foreign new life.  They were thorough in their evaluations and at the end of our now lengthy visit, the case manager walked back in with unfortunate news: we were headed to the ER.

Heart

drop.

 

Hang tight though, it wasn’t as terrifying as it seemed. It turns out that when kiddos get pulled out of a circumstance where they could have been exposed to domestic violence they are taken to an emergency department and inspected from head to toe — just to make sure we know everything possible about where they’ve been and what they may have been through.  It’s supposed to happen before they get placed in a foster home, but somehow this step had been missed for the twins as they came to us, so off to the ER we went.

Little did I know that amidst system slip-ups and kind-hearted doctors, the Lord had in store a precious gift He wanted to root deeply in my heart…

As the doctors went about their tests and documentation, they needed to draw blood from each of the boys.  My roommate and I each took a kiddo, D with her and J with me, and into separate rooms we went to try and speed this unending day along.  11 pm after a long hard week and J was starting to lose it, so much so that it took both a tech and myself to hold down this 17 month old boy so the doctor could poke and prod and finally stick a needle into his arm.  I braced myself for his tears and was doing pretty well, right up until the point when he looked up at me and the pain and fear in his eyes turned to pain and betrayal.

I don’t think I can capture in words the tangible and inescapable shatter of my heart as his penetrating eyes asked me why I wasn’t saving him from this??  There I stood, not just a willing bystander, but an active participant in his pain; not rescuing him as he hoped, but holding him down through the torture.  Everything in me ached; my mind screamed, “Precious child! I would NEVER put you through this if it wasn’t for your good!”  As tears began streaming down my face, there flickered some confusion in his eyes and all I could do was pray that he understood it hurt me too and that I wouldn’t leave him alone in this pain, I’d hold him tight through every moment.  I pleaded the impossible — that he might know it would only last a moment, and that the test would help us save him from immeasurable more pain in the future.

 

It wasn’t until I was driving home later that night that I realized how many times I have sat in J’s position – crying out to the Lord with pain and betrayal in my voice, begging Him to save me from this present suffering.  How many times have I questioned His love as wave after wave of pain come crashing in?  How quick I am to forget the unmovable character of God.  And it’s that same character of God that would waste no opportunity to remind me of His love so that now in moments where I feel overtaken by the pangs of life I hear echoing in the back of my mind the voice of a loving Father which cries out, “Precious child, I put you through this only for your good!  I will never leave you nor forsake you, and I will comfort you even as I ache for you.”

J’s pain was real and present that night in the ER, and it has long since been forgotten.  I, on the other hand, still fight off tears each time I recall that moment.  How much more comforting it is to know that the God of the universe counts our every tear and mourns with us every ache.

 

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8

 

The truth of God’s good and compassionate sovereignty which I have clung to time and time before suddenly had new heart strings attached as I got to glimpse His love for us through my own love of a precious little boy I had only known a matter of days.  And that was only the beginning…

 

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Not One But Two

•August 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a little while since I left you with ‘A Baby on the Way’.  And as is often the case as we walk down the road of life, the way has looked vastly different and in so many ways more beautiful than I could have dreamed when we started down the path of emergency foster care.

After getting licensed at the end of October, we started receiving calls for possible placements of kids.  The first call we got was for a 2 yr old boy.  We knew very little about his circumstance, but we knew his name and over that little boy I cried and prayed.  He was a little bit outside of our original age range, which capped off at 18 months, but how could we say no to a kid in need of a home when we had one to give?  The hours waiting to hear if he would be coming to our home dragged on and on until finally we settled into the realization that we would never meet this little boy.  We received a couple more calls in the coming weeks, but ended up with no precious children in our nursery.  Each call brought a flood of fear and excitement, and while in some ways it was hard to sit in the unknown, I was grateful for the heartache over each child’s broken circumstance which urged me to bring each of those names to the feet of Jesus, knowing He knows and sees and loves them far more than I ever would.

 

Referral just came in for 17 month old twin boys. Interested?” was the text that came in.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, about 1:30 in the afternoon, and we weren’t sure we were prepared, but an hour and a half later we had twin boys in our apartment.  Sometimes looking back I think that the term ‘whirlwind’ was created exactly for days like these.  I raced home from work, picking up a car seat from a friend of a friend on the way, and walked in as the case worker was trying to settle two shell-shocked boys into our home.  She tried to give us as much information as she could, but as is the nature with most foster care circumstances, what you don’t know far outweighs the little bit you do.

 


 

We’ve come a long way from that sunny day in November; changed more diapers, kissed more owies, and cried from laughter more times than I care to count. We thought we had signed up for short term care, one baby at a time, and what we got were two precious toddlers who would root themselves in our hearts and our lives for the long haul.

There may never be enough time nor sufficient words to tell all the Lord has done and taught, but I hope to share with you glimpses of what He is doing in coming blog posts I think I’ll call ‘Memoirs of a Momma.’  For the protection of the twins, I can’t use their names or give too much background, but for the sake of the story I’ll call them D and J and hope that you get to know them from afar.

 


“This is the most painful, most challenging, most beautiful and most wonderful journey we have ever walked.  We wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Last fall as we began this journey to foster, a friend of mine who was fostering as well said to me: “This is the most painful, most challenging, most beautiful and most wonderful journey we have ever walked.  We wouldn’t change it for the world.” She was right, and I couldn’t have worded it any better myself.  We have needed and been enveloped by a community of believers who have loved us so thoroughly and so meticulously.  The Lord has provided for us time and time again, be it in clothes and diapers or meals and hugs.  And I have seen the grace of God carry us through tear-stained days to show me moment by moment the depths of His love for us, even in the imperfections of my love for them.  What a wild and wonderful journey.

 

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Baby on the way…

•October 9, 2017 • 1 Comment

Sometimes life hits you with surprises.
And while my surprise isn’t the first thing that typically comes to mind when you hear the words ‘baby on the way,’ it’s exciting and scary all the same.
Don’t worry, you didn’t miss any big life changes recently – no guy, no pregnancy – just an unknown road ahead as my roommate and I enter a whole new world in becoming an emergency foster care home.

Let’s back-track though for a moment to how this journey began… this round starts with Isaiah 58. If you haven’t recently, maybe take a minute to read through the chapter. It starts out with a cry against God’s people as they claim to draw near to Him while pursuing their own desires and oppressing those the LORD called them to protect.

“…they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God…”  

Somehow each time I’d read this before, I had rested on the other side of the passage – the side with light breaking forth and healing quickly appearing (check out verse 8). But this time rather than finding comfort in the familiar words, I stood face to face with a fear that I was missing out on all that truly matters.  It was almost as if the Lord was saying to me, “Wake up! There is so much more than this!”

I have often thought about what it might be like to stand on the other side of eternity looking back at this life.  What will I wish I had spent my time, my money, my life on? And what will I wish I had just let go?
But then it went a touch further as I tried to imagine what it would be like to one day stand before the throne of Almighty God with no justification for why I had not obeyed.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;  when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

 

Sometimes I think we wait for burning-bush-moments, a voice thundering from on high instructing us in a divine plan for our lives. Somehow we miss that the divine plan has been literally written out before us, that the commands given throughout the entire Bible to the people of God are the grand adventure we are intended to take hold of.  Sometimes I even wonder if having my very name written in before those commands would be enough to catch my attention, or if I would ignore it just the same with excuses of timing or inconvenience or fear or difficulty…

 

There are so many areas where I could have jumped in; a hundred different commands that we the Church are designed to fulfill, and a few of them written specifically on my heart.  To “look after orphans and widows in their distress” was one.

Alright, next step:  See if my roommate just might possibly be okay with me checking out short term, emergency foster care.

The long story short is that the Lord had been doing a very similar thing in her life, with the very same heart to foster, that very same week through another passage in Isaiah.
Go figure.

So… in just a few short weeks there will be a baby in our home.
I don’t know what his or her name will be.  I don’t know their background or even how long we’ll get to hold them in our arms and have them in our home. I don’t know exactly what my day to day will look with a baby and work and life in general.  In fact, if there’s anything we’ve learned throughout this entire process thus far, it’s that nothing is certainBut the truth is that especially in light of all that uncertainty, we simply can’t not give everything we are to love a broken and aching world.

 

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom shall be as the noonday.”

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Snapshots of Uganda

•April 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted a blog, and I’m terribly sorry. Part of it has been due to an unceasing chaos of life, part to lack of power (and thus internet), but mostly I’ve just struggled with having words to say. This season has been both difficult and joyful, peaceful and yet scattered, and as the Lord has moved He’s left footprints too deep through the heart to put into words. So I thought I would instead try to give you a glimpse into the world through my eyes in a slightly different way.

Below are some of my favorite photos, quotes, verses, and some journal blurbs from my time in Uganda thus far.

 

 

 

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“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

 

Isaiah 43:18-19

 

 

 

 

 

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“The world does not need more words.

It doesn’t need a busier church,

nor does it need – God help us – a better-branded gospel.

What the world needs are people who have spent so much time in the presence of God that their very life has become a form of blessing.”

– Punk Monk

 

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“God clarifies that we will never win the war on poverty. But He goes on to command that we should pursue the battle vigorously.

For us, this feels like a paradox. Why fight a battle you can’t win? But to God, His commands are not contradictory.

His economy is indexed to obedience, not performance.”

–John B. Hayes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God who spoke the world into existence,

who imagined the sky before it was,

bring new beauty into the brokenness and pain

that seeks to define this place.

We thank you for not letting destruction and oppression have the final say here, God.

Breathe new life.

Amen

 

 

 

 

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So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 

 

 

 

 

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“Uncertainty and risk are the norm in the world over,

because it is in our desperation that God wants to meet us.”

–Sub-merge

 

 

 

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But now thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob, 

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1

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“Even more than their harshly treated bodies, the eyes of the poor register the internal scar tissue of people who have suffered for years on the street.

The expressions in their eyes vary from desperate scanning to vacant staring to a haunted look that has lost any vestige of life. And there are eyes that appear numb from living private lives in public places.

Even so, long after their identity has been reduced to a category… the eyes retain uniqueness.

Eyes are the fingerprints of the soul.”

– John Hayes

 

 

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Jesus, here are my aches, my tears, my broken heart;

I don’t know what to do but to give them all to You.

 

 

 

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Thus says the Lord:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘we will not walk in it.’”

Jeremiah 6:16

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“The eyes of God see both the smelly old drunk and the misguided young missionary, and He loves us both despite our external – and internal – appearances.”

–Sub-merge

 

 

 

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Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not haughty;

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not walk in things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.  

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

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Lord, show me Your heart – in every moment and with each step.

Let me see Your beautiful heart for each individual,

whomever they may be,

and give me Your mind for how best to display to them Your love.

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“I guess the test of our prayers is when we have to live them out.”

– Andy Freeman

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For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong.

Your restoration is what we pray for.

2 Corinthians 13:9

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“Most days, I have to admit, my faith doesn’t feel revolutionary.

Most days it’s a struggle.

But when the Gospels are taken seriously, I’m convinced that nothing can be the same again –

when put into practice, lives, communities, nations, and the world will be changed.”

-Pete Greig

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“I Love You, Princess”

•January 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I don’t particularly fancy being called ‘Princess.’ I don’t actually very much like pet names in general, but that one specifically calls to imagination frills and sparkles and horrifyingly dramatic tendencies. In all honesty, it’s not something I have to think about or deal with on a regular basis, as no one I know ever calls me by it – all but one – and the first time he said it, I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback. It was my Uncle Dallas, Christmas Day of 2006. My dad had just left our family, though at the time we didn’t know it was for good, and as the holiday festivities wound down for the day, Uncle Dallas wrapped me up in a great big bear hug and whispered in my ear, “I love you, Princess.” Almost before I could even register the words, tears were stinging my eyes, threatening to spill over. This one word was all it took to remind me that I was precious and treasured; that I had someone looking out for me even as I watched my world fall apart.

Another world fell apart this week as Uncle Dallas was taken suddenly to be with his beloved Lord and Savior. One day it’s life as usual and the next he’s gone, leaving behind the beautiful memories and shattered hearts of those who love him most. It’s got me thinking an awful lot this week, about an awful lot of things: About the frailty of life that I still take for granted – I see death far too frequently here in Karamoja, and it’s no less devastating, but it is tragically less shocking. I’ve thought about the things I left unsaid, and the last “I love you, Princess” I missed at Christmas while here in Uganda. I’ve longed to hug and sit and cry with my family, to tell stories and recount ‘remember when’s’ together, and I’m glimpsing what it is to grieve from afar. I’ve been humbled, once again, with the reminder of just how very helpless we are, and along with so many who have traveled through the valley of loss, I can’t help but ask, “God, why?” Why now? Why him? We still need him here.

I guess what it really comes down to is faith; to the time old trials and lessons we’ve learned over and over again. Do I truly believe that my God knows the plans He has for me, plans to give me peace and hope and a future? Can I rest in the promises that He is Good, that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and that one day He will wipe away every tear from my eyes? Do I trust Him when He says I can take joy in tribulation, this tribulation, because He’s using it to draw me closer and make me more like Him?

Can I believe those promises for my family as well?

I don’t know why, but that last question is far harder for me than the rest, it just always has been. I’ve been through just enough in even my short life thus far to know the Lord takes each and every of my heartaches and turns them into holiness. He brings about joy through pain, comfort in sorrow, beauty from ashes. But when it comes to the people I care most deeply about, somehow my heart forgets the refining that comes only through fire and longs for nothing more than to remove the pain entirely. It’s a whole different type of surrender – to relinquish the control I never actually had to ease their pain, and to trust that The Lord still has only the very best – far better than I could imagine – in store for each broken heart. That knowledge is the light at the end of this dark tunnel; a glimmer of hope and a promise that we will make it out of this darkness and one day be able to look back and see how He carried us.

But I also think there’s a special beauty in the sadness; that the joy that comes in the morning is more blessed because of the pain in the night. So while I know the dawn is coming, today it’s ok that the ache is still all too real. Today the tunnel feels impossibly long and each step forward impossibly hard. Today it’s ok just to sit in the loving arms of the great Comforter and long for the reunion where I’ll again hear my uncle say, “I love you, Princess, welcome home.”

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A Christmas Kitten

•December 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I am not a cat person.  I don’t know exactly when this happened because I grew up begging my parents for kitten after kitten and at some point I just decided to no longer like them.  But Elise and I live in Karamoja and have an endless supply of mice in our kitchen, so the necessity of a cat sort of became unavoidable.  It just so happened that one of our friends had some kittens which had just been weened by their mother and needed new homes.  So home came Tobias, and slowly but surely she worked her way into my heart. I woke up one morning thinking, “Why is it that I dislike cats so much? Didn’t God create this one too?” And so I decided to no longer deny that I really did love this little kitten.  But this morning I wished terribly I hadn’t allowed myself the attachment as the playful puppy was just a bit too rough and I found the tiny kitten limp and wheezing in the dirt.  She died in my hands minutes later as I tried to hide their shaking and the rest of my broken heart from my team.  What’s crazy is that as upset as I was about Tobias, I think I was more angry that I was so deeply affected by a cat – especially when there are boys on the street who are hungry, infants without attentive moms who are dying – how many tears have I cried for them? Not enough.

 

My first instinct was to rationalize away why I shouldn’t be upset and get over it as quickly as possible; to resolve never again to allow myself to get attached and leave it at that.  But that isn’t at all what the Lord asks from us, so as silly as I felt being so upset over something so seemingly trivial, into the secret and quiet place I went to pour my heart out before the Lord.  It’s funny to me – no, funny isn’t the word – it’s amazing, beautiful, humbling, to see how He uses little instances to reveal glimpses into His heart, and often our hearts as well.  I’ve seen shards of His justice as we punished the dog partly because he needed to understand the weight of what he did, and partly because I needed it to in some small way atone; I’ve caught glimmers of His grace as He covers us and sees no longer our sin, and a glimpse into His righteous anger toward the enemy whose delight is to ‘steal, kill, and destroy.’  I was reminded again of how saddened is His heart at a loss of life, and still more how deep is His compassion to comfort the broken heart of His beloved daughter, no matter the cause.  A cat, after all, is just a cat, and yet not one sparrow will fall to the ground outside our Father’s care…. How much more precious are His children upon whose head He has numbered every hair?

And so while comforted I was also convicted – first at how I might be distraught over the loss of my kitten and not shed a tear for the life and death circumstances I see every day for the people around me, and second at how quickly my response was not to mourn and love again but to close off my heart to any injury at all.  As we take children to health clinics, see 4 month old babies no bigger than newborns, bring food to the widow whose family can’t take care of her… the circumstances are devastating but have they actually devastated my heart?  Have I become calloused so quickly? Closed up my heart with the knowledge that if I allow it to love, not just in obedient action but with joy and compassion, it will inevitably be broken?

 

I wrote a blog just a couple months before leaving the US about what it is to be a missionary (Missionary Tourists, for those who want to check it out – apparently I am incapable of figuring out how to successfully insert a link).  I’ll encourage you to look back at it with me because I think my heart, and perhaps yours as well, may need a little reminding of that deep desire to LOVE – to dream and struggle and weep and rejoice with the precious people God’s placed around us.  My fear is that my heart has fallen into a trap of ‘showing people love’ while ceasing to actually love them truly and deeply with the same love that would compel God Himself to come and die.  Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 13:

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 

I refuse to allow my heart to be hardened, regardless of how many times or how deeply it may ache; I refuse to allow love to be only a conviction or affection that does not move me to action, and I refuse also to let it be only action and not a disposition of the heart. I refuse, and yet sometimes I wonder if that is yet one more thing over which I have only the illusion of control. And so there is nothing left for me to do but cry out to the Lord, begging that He would soften and mold my heart to His; that I would despair at what breaks His heart and delight in that which His heart delights.

 

As the holiday season comes it brings with it a slew of traditions, presents to buy, and a temptation to get caught up in all the ‘right’ things.  Even good things – the giving of gifts, the family gatherings, the nativity play – that are intended to remind us of the real reason for the season can too easily become tasks on a list and dutiful acts hollow of true love and remembrance. My prayer is that we won’t forget to love – truly and deeply – because life is both harsh and chaotic and people are difficult; that we won’t close off our hearts for fear of being hurt.  I know heartache and break is bound to come, but I also know that painful moments drive us into the arms of our loving Father.  May He heal every wound, mend every heart, and open us up once again to the people that He came, oh so long ago, to love and to save.

 

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With Mug in Hand

•November 13, 2014 • 2 Comments

I think I’ve sat down to write this blog probably 100 times (ok that might be a slight exaggeration), and each time I just can’t quite get my thoughts to combine into words and cohesive sentences. There’s plenty to say, and even more on my mind – the problem is I’m not sure how to share it all with you. I think sometimes I imagine a blog should have something decisive to say, something the Lord has shown, some sort of insight. But right now all I have are mostly wrestlings and questions and ponderings a plenty… I guess the beauty of a blog is that it doesn’t always have to be insightful or profound; sometimes it’s just the cup of coffee I wish I could share with a friend. So, with mug in hand, I guess I’ll just dive right in and hope you can track with my seemingly cluttered train of thought.

 

 

To be white in Kotido means that you’re wealthy, educated, wealthy, affluent, wealthy, probably here to ‘help,’ and, oh, did I mention wealthy? It means we get asked for stuff a lot. “You give me a banana,” in the market as I walk down the road. “You give to me money for my baby,” from the woman who just borrowed someone else’s malnourished child to come solicit. “You give me your dog.” ”You buy for me this land and build me a hut.” “You… … ….” It never ends. In fact, it tends to get more and more extravagant. Sometimes the asking is out of genuine need, sometimes it’s out of a desire to continue drinking the local brew, and sometimes it’s just opportunistic in hopes of seeing what you can get from the mzungu. It’s all a bit discouraging, and the fact is that giving what they ask may actually be the least loving and the least responsible thing I could do. This is something our team has been wrestling through in regards to our Moses project, which was begun some time ago out of a need for milk supplementation for babies whose mothers can’t provide for them, for one of any number of reasons (like being struck and killed by lightning, or having twins but not enough breastmilk). It has been a beautiful thing to see severely malnourished babies, who would likely have otherwise died, continue to not just survive but thrive in their own homes. But like any program, it has its downfalls and it can be hard to know exactly how to handle each situation, even the program as a whole.

What do you do when you find that the alcoholic grandmother of one of your babies is no longer giving the formula to the child but instead is selling it for money to further her drinking addiction? How do you handle the mother of twins who already lost one baby to the ruthless practices of witch doctoring and is neglecting care of the remaining child? There is no such thing as Child Protective Services here, and I can’t very well march in and remove a kid from his home (no matter how much I might want to at times). So what happens to each precious child as he bears the weight of his caretaker’s poor choices? It’s an awful lot to wrestle with as life and death hang literally in the balance, but that’s still just dealing with the practical; what about the core of the issue – the heart? We do a Bible study with the women in the program each week, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting their lives. Is the gospel actually taking root, or are we instilling a ‘once-a-week’ type Christianity that leaves compartmentalized lives and luke-warm hearts?

 

As a team we’ve been talking a lot about our core DNA and how it fleshes out in our lives here in Karamoja. We finally have our entire team in the country (woohoo!) and so we took a few days to have an orientation of sorts and here was the result:

 

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Our heart is to see the individual people as well as the region of Karamoja transformed by the redemption only Christ can bring. That transformation changes everything – from the way health care is done to the way communities take care of each other; from family dynamics to politics, to work ethic, and everything else. The problem is that we come from a culture and a mentality that perhaps prioritizes too much the results instead of the process, and we find ourselves in good company with ministries seeking to see the Kingdom come without the foresight and sometimes the patience to see it start in the heart and move from the inside out. We end up with well-intentioned projects desiring to see the poor fed and communities rid of corruption; but to bring the Kingdom without the King to reign as Lord breeds chaos and more corruption. So with a vision to see transformation start first in the heart and then spread throughout every aspect of a community, we make relationships themselves our ministry. To start from the heart takes a lot of time and it means our lives are our ministry; making disciples that make disciples and planting churches that plant churches.

 

There are plenty more thoughts roaming around my brain, untamed and unkempt, but perhaps I’ll continue to work those out with you over still more cups of coffee in coming weeks and months. To make disciples is a beautiful calling, but by no means is it easy, and still less is it timely. I covet your prayers and love hearing your wisdom as I learn more and more each day what it is to be a follower of Christ in Karamoja.

 

Love,

Eileen

 

Elise and I, about to eat dinner (along with the whole team) on the banks of the Nile

 

 

Let Light Shine Out of Darkness

•September 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

3 weeks away from home. 2 weeks in Uganda. 1 week in Kotido.

Where do I even begin? I don’t feel yet well equipped to tell you about the Karimojong people; they are a bold and vibrant culture, an ostracized people with a million variations between tribes to an already difficult language; they are friendly and kind, and they think it hilarious that I have a Ngakarimojong name but can hardly understand when I’m being called. Trust me though, it’s way easier to tell them my name is Najip (that’s na-jeep for those of you who are not Karimojong) and endure the laughter than to try and get them to say Eileen.

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I live in a one-room hut, which is actually quite comfortable; just across is the kitchen hut with a lovely sitting area where many a quiet time has transpired, and many a morning has begun with prayer. My hutmate, Elise, is wonderful, and I’m excited beyond belief for the rest of our team to return to Karamoja so I can get to know them as well. It’s a beautiful life and I’m soaking it in.

IMG_4375.JPG(Elise and I on our first day in Uganda)

Many of you have sent me notes to say hello, give an encouraging word, and ask how you can be praying for me. I genuinely don’t think it’s possible to express how much I love getting your emails, and how encouraged and blessed each of you has made me. Thank you!
It’s been almost difficult for me, however, to come up with prayer requests that seem at all adequate. I feel like a blank slate, seeing this new life written, ever so slowly, upon a new and empty page. I’ve been asking you to pray alongside me for a heart like the Lord’s and more specifically, a heart from The Lord for the Karimojong people. I’ve been praying that The Lord would invest me here – even if it is only for 9 short months; I want to be all in. It’s only been 1 week in Kotido, and already I can feel Him tugging on my heart and beginning to answer those prayers.

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Elise has this phrase: “Where there is no Jesus, there is evil; where there is no Light, there is brokenness.” And while I have no doubt Christ has always been here, He is not well known; even as we are blessed to see pockets of light breaking through the darkness, there is overwhelming brokenness. And the brokenness I’ve been witness to thus far comes in the form of children needlessly dying at the hand of witch doctors; of women forcefully and violently taken as wives and then expected to provide for their homes. Brokenness is the child begging on the street; the sluggard and the drunk passing away the day and its troubles with the local brew. But perhaps most terrifying is the brokenness that allows me to mount the high horse I have named Righteous Anger and trot straight toward cold, hard distain for those I see perpetrating injustice.


“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

Now, to be sure, there truly is an aspect of righteous anger. Evil is evil, devastating and inexcusable; what a gift to be able to share our Heavenly Father’s heart in that. But it is ultimately never mine to condemn, for “Vengeance is mine…’ says The Lord” (Rom. 12:19). What is mine is to share also in The Lord’s great love and compassion, “for at one time [I was] darkness, but now [I am] light in The Lord” (Eph. 5:8). And after all, wasn’t it “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8)?

And so, being brought once again to the all familiar and lovely place: flat on my face and humbled before Him, I can begin once again to wrestle through what it means to be Christ to the one right in front of me; the broken, the poor, the suffering; the calloused, the abused, and the ones seeking to use. God, grant us the courage to love as You do, and the wisdom to see it through.

IMG_4355.JPG(sorghum – the preferred crop in Karamoja after which I am named)

I know the plans…

•July 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares The Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Ah Jeremiah 29:11… the verse we put in graduation cards and encourage one another with as we make those big life decisions.  And what wonderful opportunities to remember that our God is one who gives only good gifts and has already ordained every day of our lives. But sometimes I think we miss out on the beauty of this verse when we forget what was going on when God said this to His beloved Israelites.  At this point, Israel had said far too many times to the Lord, essentially, ‘We really don’t need you God, nor do we want you. Actually, thanks for your help, we’ve pretty much got it from here. [*ting* insert sparkling smile and a quick wink here].”

Ok, so that was a bit of a paraphrase with some liberties taken, but Israel had once again broken its covenant with the Lord and because He is a loving God who is also righteous and holy, He had just used the nation of Babylon to discipline His children.  In fact, Jeremiah 29:1 addresses this letter to the surviving elders, priests, prophets and everyone else who was carried away in exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.  And it is in this moment that the Lord comforts His rebellious children by reminding them that, even in what seemed like the worst possible situation, He has only good plans for them, to prosper and not to harm them.

Well, I haven’t been exiled to Babylon recently, but all the same – this is the verse the Lord has been using to comfort me over the past few weeks.

 

 

Just a few weeks until departure.  I was wrapping things up, packing things up, and trying not to say goodbye.  And in the midst of what was already chaos, I got a wrench in the gears – or maybe more accurately, (what felt like) a punch straight to the stomach: the Lord said, ‘Don’t go to Kenya.’

 

At first I tried to brush it off as a weird batch of nerves, but the Lord was persistent. And throughout the long process (you can imagine just how long too if you know anything about how stubborn and hard-headed I can be) He kept reminding me, ever so gently and yet firmly:

I have only good things for you.  Eileen, my precious daughter, I have brought you through so much – do you still not trust me?

You know my voice.  It is not fear or nerves or insecurities. Listen and obey.

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So, with such blatant instructions, I’m listening and trusting and obeying.  And to be honest, it’s sort of hard. It’s hard to let go of seeing my friends and family in Kenya – I was so close and I miss them so much.  It’s hard to feel like I’m letting down my Kenya team – Abbie and Aaron are still going, but I threw a wrench in their plans too.  And it’s hard to write this post – to tell you all that I won’t actually be doing as I planned.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”   It’s not really my plans that matter in the end, it’s His.  Maybe part of this process is a necessary and humbling reminder that none of this is mine; not the planning, the resources, the logistics; not this trip, and not this life.

I’ll no longer be leaving on July 7th for Kenya, instead I’ll be heading directly to Uganda on August 26th.  I don’t completely understand, but already I can see His hand moving and weaving and pulling everything together. I’ve now 7 weeks in the U.S. that I wasn’t expecting to have. I don’t know what all the Lord has planned for me in that time, but already He’s using it to encourage and grow and draw me closer to Him. Praise God that we have a loving Father who works all things for good!

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