Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Breaking the blog silence...

It's been so long since I've blogged that I couldn't remember my sign-in password...that's pretty sad!

Thankfully I had it written down along with the 37 other usernames and passwords for various accounts, so here I am once again...back in blogging action.

Things have been CRAZY the last couple of months, so much so that I was too exhausted to blog! I was already tired from months of dealing with the aftermath of the theft, plus various other crises that kept popping up, so when we hosted and staffed a 6-week Leadership Development Course, it just finished me off.

Instead of getting refreshed, like I had hoped, the LDC just took every last little bit out of me. By the time everyone left, all I wanted to do was stay in my house and have time with God. I was really really really finished.

Now, almost 4 weeks later, I'm doing much better but still needing space and a lot of time with God to process this year and try to learn the lessons He's been teaching me through all this. Maybe one day I'll be able to share some of those things on this blog.

In the meantime, here are just a few pics from the past couple of months:

My baby girl turned 5 in early November
and wanted a Princess birthday party.

I was stoked at how well the cake turned out...

...and Kezi and Elsie Jayne (who shared the
b-day party...she turned 3) loved it!

We borrowed a ton of dresses and let all the little girls pick out the one they wanted to wear, then added a few accessories. They came out in pairs and did a little twirl to show off their princess attire. They were adorable!

My big boy turned 9 a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't so impressed with my cake this time around, but he was happy with it so that's all that matters.

Aidan wanted a campout/sleepover with a bonfire, so he and his friends pitched
the tent, then roasted hot dogs,
marshmallows and sweet potatoes in
the bonfire. The dads slept out with them
and did a great job!

They also played water balloon games which brought lots of laughter and quite a few drenched clothes. But hey, December in Africa is dry season, so they didn't stay wet long.

Otim almost popped his balloon just from laughing so much.

Noah and Ogeno race to the basins with their balloons.

We also got into the holiday spirit
and made about 130 Christmas cookies!
I was so thankful for Kezi and Kenzie who
rolled, cut and colored with me.

John, Noah, Aidan and Cheryl (Kenzie's mom) also got into the spirit and helped decorate.

But the real highlight for me of the last few weeks is this right here...
Someone told me at the end of the LDC
to try to do something fun for myself every day.
So when Kenzie came around with her
nail polish kit one day, I took one look and said,
"There's a rainbow in there."

So there you have it...when you're down in the dumps and need something fun to do, spice up your life with some rainbow toes. There is no way you will not smile at least once (or many times!)

We're off to Kampala tomorrow for the holidays, so stayed tuned for more pics...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reflections on battle

"Tenacity is more than hanging on,
which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off.
Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe
that his hero is going to be conquered.
Remain spiritually tenacious."

Oswald Chambers

I was reflecting the other day about this last year and the many many challenges we went through, and are still going through. I've never seen a year like this....tons of sickness in our family and on the YWAM base, lots of 'pastoral care' issues that needed hours of conflict management and counseling, and then, of course, the BIG THEFT that blasted our world and kept knocking us with all the aftershocks.

We, as a base, never really had time between blows to get back on our feet and resume fighting stance. It was more like we would begin to push ourselves up, and just when we were straightening our legs and lifting our heads, we'd get another right hook to the jaw that would knock us back into the ropes again. And again. And then again.

So many times this year I've thought, "What the heck is going on?! This is crazy! This is too much!" and the inevitable, "God, what are you thinking?"

I wish I could say I handled it all like Moses who "never wavered through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised." No, I'm afraid I wavered. And ranted. And raved. And indulged in a few pity parties along the way.

Yet somehow my faith has grown and deepened through it all, even though we never found the thief, even though we're still bruised and a little sore emotionally, even though we're still quite tired and wrung out.

I read back over some of my journal entries from earlier this year, in the weeks preceding the theft, and I discovered how God had tried to warn me and prepare me for the coming trials. On the 13th of June, during one of my quiet times, I felt God saying, "Things are changing. Be ready. Be alert. Stay very very close to me. The battle is heating up, and your shield of faith must be high and strong. Your faith will be tested like never before. Remember I am with not be afraid."

Exactly 2 weeks later the thief struck.

The following days and weeks were hard. I was up and down, up and down. One minute praising God and believing with all my heart that He would show His power, raise His mighty right hand and save the day. The next minute asking Jesus, "Where are you? Are you praying for me that my faith will not fail? 'Cuz if so, You need to pray harder. It's hanging by a tenuous little frayed thread and feels like it could snap at any minute."

It was tough.

But here we are, 3 months later, preparing to host a Leadership Development Course, and I'm rereading a journal entry from the 9th of July where I quoted:

"We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized;
we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do;
we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side;
we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken.
So we're not giving up. How could we!
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,
on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times,
the lavish celebration prepared for us.
There's far more here than meets the eye.
The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.
But the things we can't see now will last forever."
2 Cor 4 The Message

So...tenacity. Not just hanging in there, according to Mr. Chambers. But refusing to believe that my hero is going to be conquered...refusing to give up hope in the knowledge that Jesus has already won the battle, and He's on my side.

I like what Beth Moore said about William Carey...after listing all the troubles and loss he endured as a missionary in India, Beth said, "William Carey became the devil's nightmare. Every time Satan knocked him down, the man of God stood back to his feet again, more determined than ever."

We've been knocked down so many times this year, it was tempting to crawl over to the corner and nurse our wounds, or even slither under the ropes and get out of the ring. But God's grace each and every day has been enough to keep us fighting the good fight, refusing to give in and give up, because we know that our Saviour WILL one day come riding up on His white horse to save the day.

In the meantime, He fights each and every battle with us. He never leaves us alone.

No matter how hard it gets, Jesus is my hero, and I will never let go of Him.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An African parable about Belonging

This is the story of Mr. Bat

Once upon a time, in the Animal Kingdom, a new law was passed requiring all animals to pay tax. Mr. Zebra, the newly-appointed tax collector, went from animal to animal to collect the tax.

When Mr. Zebra reached Mr. Bat's tree, he said, "Mr. Bat, I have come to collect your tax."

Mr. Bat flew down from the top of the tree and landed on a lower branch. Then Mr. Bat stretched out his hand to display the webbing connecting his arm to his body.

"I am not an animal," said Mr. Bat proudly, and he flapped his arms and flew up a few feet in front of Mr. Zebra. "Have you ever seen an animal with wings that can fly like this? I will not pay your tax because I do not belong to the Animal Kingdom."

Mr. Bat flew back up to the top of tree and left Mr. Zebra to carry on his way.

Some time later, a similar law was passed in the Bird Kingdom requiring all birds to pay tax. Mr. Owl, the newly-appointed tax collector, went from bird to bird to collect the tax.

When Mr. Owl reached Mr. Bat's tree, he flew up onto a branch at the top of the tree near Mr. Bat. "Mr. Bat," he said, "I have come to collect your tax."

Mr. Bat looked at Mr. Owl, and then he opened his mouth wide and bared his fangs. "I am not a bird," said Mr. Bat proudly. "Have you ever seen a bird with fangs like this? I will not pay your tax because I do not belong to the Bird Kingdom."

Mr. Bat then ignored Mr. Owl until Mr. Owl flew off to visit the rest of the birds on his list.

One day, Mr. Bat got sick and fell to the ground at the foot of his tree. No animal came by to visit Mr. Bat. No bird came by to visit Mr. Bat. That night, Mr. Bat died alone on the cold, hard ground.

The next day, Mr. Fox was passing by and discovered Mr. Bat's body. He ran to the birds to tell them about Mr. Bat's death.

"You better come and bury your friend," said Mr. Fox to the birds. "He has died and his body is just laying on the ground near his tree."

"He is not our friend," said the birds to Mr. Fox. "And he is not even a bird. Have you ever seen a bird with fangs like his? We will not bury him because he does not belong to the Bird Kingdom. You better bury him."

"We cannot bury him," said Mr. Fox. "He does not belong to the Animal Kingdom. Have you ever seen an animal that can fly like him?"

Neither the animals nor the birds took responsibility for Mr. Bat. And so, Mr. Bat's body was left to rot at the foot of the tree.

The End

Moral of the story: It is better to belong and contribute to the group, than stay apart and suffer alone.

In Africa, I have seen this communal spirit played out over and over. When someone is getting married, everyone in the community pitches in with whatever they have to see the wedding come to pass successfully. When someone dies, everyone in the community pitches in with whatever they have to pay the costs of burying the person. If you don't contribute to someone else's need, no matter how little you have, you will also be shunned when your time of need comes.

The "Mr. Bat attitude" has no place in Africa.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chicken Pecks

Right in the middle of our holiday (vacation) in Mombasa, Noah came down with Chicken Pox.


After a few nerve-shredding days of Noah crying and wailing in frustration, pain and itchiness, we discovered oatmeal baths, and everything changed. Whatever is in that oatmeal, it really works.

I would set up the portable DVD player, and Noah would soak in the bath washing with the oatmeal in a sock. Kezi and Aidan would keep Noah company and watch the video with him.

Soon Noah started healing up, and we managed to enjoy the last few days of our break.

Now, 2 weeks later, Aidan has come down with the virus. This morning he said it must have originally been called Chicken Pecks because it feels like a chicken is pecking his skin.

We're still in the throes of the nerve-shredding crying and wailing, but I'm thinking tomorrow we'll get the break through.

Not looking forward to the Little Princess Drama Queen getting hers, though.

FYI...if one of your kids get the dreaded Pox, try the oatmeal's the only thing that really helped mine.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The incredible world of nasal baths

It's amazing what opportunities there are for those who happen upon them.

My most recent amazing opportunity has been the discovery of Saline Nasal Irrigation (SNI), or simply 'nasal baths'.

According to Wikipedia, SNI has become widely accepted as a home remedy to relieve conditions such as allergies (such as hay fever), colds and mild sinus infections. Preliminary research indicates that SNI could also be an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis.

So far so good. As a chronic allergy sufferer (hay fever, dust mites, mold spores, children) I seem to constantly be sneezing and blowing my nose. Inevitably, all the gunk gets tired of simply clogging up my sinuses and decides to invade my lungs as well, so I end up with a nasty cough that lasts for weeks.

A friend of mine suggested I try a nasal bath to help with the allergies.

"A what?" I asked.

"A nasal bath," she repeated. "It's all the rage. Oprah Winfrey even had it demonstrated live on her show."

Well that sold me on it! With Oprah's stamp of approval, it surely must be a good thing.

So I Googled 'nasal bath' and sure enough, there it was. A popular home remedy for allergies and chronic sinusitis.

Great! So how do I get started?

Apparently a nasal bath requires the use of a neti pot which is a miniature teapot-looking thing. You mix up a saline solution, put it into the neti pot and then pour it through the nasal passages.

How do you do that, I wondered. Turns out you stick the spout of the neti pot into a nostril, turn your head to the side and let the water sluice it's way through the sinuses and come out the other nostril!

Gross!!! Are you serious?

Oh yes, they were very serious, and there are lots of videos available to see for yourself, if you don't believe me.

Now, I understand that this whole neti pot thing is probably very old news to most of you. But you have to remember I live in the middle of Africa, and news gets here very slowly...even with internet access.

So this information was front-page headlines for me. And I knew I had to try it.

But I had no neti pot. And the nearest Bed, Bath and Beyond is several thousand miles away. But improvisation is the key to survival out here, and sure enough, after digging around in my kids' bedroom for a while, I found what I was looking for....

...the doll house teapot. YES!!!
Thank you, Keziah!

Unfortunately, the doll house teapot is round and chunky and not at all slim and pointy like the real neti pot. And do have to get that spout right up there in the nostril for it to work.

So after a bit of tugging and shoving, I managed to get it up there...started pouring, and like magic that saline solution started dribbling out the other side! How cool is that!

You do have to remember to breathe out of your mouth, though, or you end up coughing and choking on salt water....not that I had that problem, I'm sure.

So for any of you allergy sufferers, or just plain neat freaks who like everything as immaculate as possible, give the neti pot nasal bath a try! You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

His mercies are new every morning

A week ago today I was in quite a state....sick, depressed, unmotivated. I was scheduled to teach starting Monday for a week on the Discipleship Training School. Topic: the Holy Spirit.

I'd started loading up on vitamins and lemsips, and slathered my chest and throat with Vick's. I had a scarf wrapped around my neck and was huddled up in bed with my teaching notes, propped up with 3 pillows, sucking on Strepsils and trying not to cough. Let's just say it: pathetic.

I looked pathetic,
I felt pathetic,
and I was within seconds of calling Bosco and asking him to get another teacher.

And then Sunday afternoon, I started losing my voice.

Great. Just what I needed.

But then I realized...if God really wants me to teach, it's totally up to Him now, 'cuz I can hardly even speak.

Monday morning rolled around and I tested my voice...cracky and scruffy but audible. So I got myself organized and went to class. That first session was a tough one, but as the morning went on I felt lighter, happier. Physically, though, it shattered me...I went home, took 2 ibuprofen and slept for 2 hours.

The rest of the week was more of the same, with every day God giving me just enough strength to get through the teachings, and although it was physically draining, I felt a breakthrough spiritually and emotionally.

Hope had returned.

And then Thursday evening, on my way to the dining hall for supper, I was blessed with the most beautiful double rainbow arching it's way across the side seemed to disappear right into the classroom where I'd spent the week teaching. My heart just filled with joy and awe at the majesty of God.

The rainbow reminded me that God's promises never fail, and He doesn't delay in keeping them.

But I also had my part to play...

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what He has promised.
For in just a very little while,
'He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.'
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but of those who believe and are saved.
Heb 10: 35-39

It's another Sunday, today...this one is bright and shiny. I'm making cookies, listening to music and thinking, 'Though the sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.'

I don't want to be one of those who shrink back and are destroyed...I want to be one who perseveres and does the will of God, especially when I'm sick and depressed. I don't want to be a fair weather Christian, but one who believes and is saved, no matter what the circumstances are around me.

But only with God's thing I've relearned this week...I can't do it on my own. I don't want to do it on my own. I want to live my life led by the Spirit and empowered to do God's will as I live beyond my own abilities. It's a scary place to be, but He is worthy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Faith, or lack thereof

A Scottish preacher in the last century lost his wife suddenly,
and after her death he preached an unusually personal sermon.
He admitted in the message that he did not understand this life of ours.

But still less could he understand how people facing loss could abandon faith.
"Abandon it for what!" he said.
"You people in the sunshine may believe the faith,
but we in the shadow must believe it.
We have nothing else."

(Philip Yancey Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 61)

I'm in the shadow right now. I'm struggling with the waiting, with the trusting, with the hoping.

Why isn't God shining His light and revealing the thief? Why has He left us to suffocate under this massive crushing weight of depression, suspicion, fear and uncertainty? When is He going to vindicate His people and show us His salvation?

I know, I of little faith. Not even as big as a tiny little mustard seed...certainly nowhere big enough to order a mountain into the sea. Sorry to disappoint you all...I'm wallowing today.

"Storms are the triumph of God's art."

said poet George Herbert

Sorry, can't see much of the artistic value in this particular storm...just the big ol' muddy mess.

And yet, I don't want to give up. I'm not a quitter by nature...too stubborn.

"A living faith is nothing else than a steadfast pursuit of God
through all that disguises, disfigures, demolishes
and seeks, so to speak, to abolish him."
Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Though my enemies surround me, I will trust in the Lord my God. I must have faith because there is no other way through this storm. In this shadow I choose to continue believing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A YWAM base crippled by theft

This article has just been published on YWAM's international website about the recent theft on our YWAM base:

A YWAM base crippled by theft / News / News & Stories / / Home - YWAM

My heart's desire is to write a follow-up article reporting that the thief came forward on his own accord to confess, repent and return the THAT would be a story! God is a great big God and quite capable of making that dream come true.

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Theft at the YWAM Arua base

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to
sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail.

And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
Luke 22:31-32

I don't know if this is God allowing Satan to sift us, or just negligence on our part, or a spiritual attack (which would still be Satan sifting us, I guess) or what it is, but this last week has been one of the most intense times of my life.

From Monday morning, June 28...when we discovered the theft of nearly $27,000 from our YWAM base accounting office...we have lived in the midst of the longest daytime nightmare I've ever experienced.

You'd think the loss of the money would be the biggest blow, but actually that was just the beginning and less malignant of the experiences that followed. When some of our YWAMers and other people connected to the base were taken in for 'questioning', the greater cost of this experience on the emotions, security and reputation of these people started to be really seen. Many of us will bear lifelong scars, some of them more deeply than others.

For days I walked around with a lump of dread in my stomach as another challenge came up, and another, and another. John was pulled in 20 different directions as each person gave his/her opinion about what should be done, who should be investigated, how we should respond. The pressure on him has been crushing.

I found myself crying out like the psalmists did, "How long, O Lord, will you hold back your right hand of judgment? How long will our enemies mock us? Vindicate your children, Father, and show us your salvation."

But He has chosen to remain still.

And I believe He wants us to be still, as well, and know that He is God.
But this waiting period is HARD!

People's futures and reputations are at stake, and meanwhile someone is busy spending money sacrificed for the work in Sudan, and for the DTS in Arua.

No wonder patience is a fruit of the Spirit...I certainly don't have it on my own.

And I thank God that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us day and night, praying that our faith will not fail. I don't want to fail this test. I don't want to doubt my God, no matter what things look like around me.

In the midst of it all, God has been so good to us. Many many people around the world have been praying and sending us encouraging emails and text messages. With all this prayer cover I find it hard to believe the thief has any chance of getting away with this.

We've also united as a base in a special, family kind of way. We had a powerful, healing time of grieving on Friday that bonded us closer than ever before. There is something about crying together that unites people in times of trouble.

I'm still a bit raw, and very very tired.

But God hasn't changed. He's still good, and all He does is good. And we are trusting Him to bring good things out of this.

I'm believing God that He will do something BIG through all this...something God-sized.

And we will shout His name from the rooftops and wave our banners, because He is worthy to be praised.

And we will strengthen our brothers and sisters when it's their turn to walk through the fire, because these trials purify us and bring us closer to our Father. Yes they are painful, but the end result is so much better than before.

God reminded me of a birthday cake I had made for one of my kids a year or two was quite big, and I hadn't left it in the oven long enough. When it had cooled and I started cutting and shaping it, I realized that the middle was still gooey and would ruin the cake. So I reheated the oven and put the cake back in.

It took twice as long to cook that cake thoroughly the second time around.

God said, "Don't try to get out of this fire until the work is complete. Otherwise, the work will be ruined and you'll have to go back through this fire, but for twice as long next time."

Although I want to beg and plead for this to end, and for God to do something NOW, I would rather be patient and trust in Him, and see His deliverance in His good and perfect timing.

Because no matter what it looks like, He is faithful, and we can trust Him.

To God be all the glory.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Noah's 6th birthday

Noah decided to have his 6th birthday party at home this year, instead of the usual pool party at White Castle.

The advantage was that we could include more of the YWAM base kids.

The disadvantage was that it meant more work!

But lots of friends helped out and we all had a great time.

Louise (L) and Kenzie (R)
help paint faces --->

<--- Moses, Noah, (Joshua), and Otim a.k.a. "Spiderman, Tiger, (Vampire) and Curious George"

Junior and Noah --->

<--- The kids

"Happy Birthday to Noah..." --->

<--- Blowing out the candles...

...and blowing them out again
when they relight themselves --->

<--- Praying for Noah

Hip hip.... --->

<--- ...Hooray!!!

Pastor Sam brought his gift to Noah at night...
Noah named the sheep 'Rocky' --->

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seeing God's heart for the deaf like never before

After 13 years in Uganda, I'm experiencing a whole new world for the first time...the world of the deaf.

This may sound strange to those of you who know me because you will know that my husband is deaf, as is his older sister. However, with the help of hearing aids, we live a pretty normal life, albeit a bit louder than most.

But this year, for the first time ever, our YWAM base is running the annual Discipleship Training School with 4 deaf students. No hearing aids. No talking a bit louder. Deaf as in 'no communication apart from sign language', which I don't know.

<--- Adam and Helen Fielder are the impetus behind this new experience. They joined YWAM Arua last year and started up the Deaf Connections ministry. Both of them will be interpreting on the school.

Yesterday I was leaving my house on the way to pick up my kids from school, and I came across the DTS staff and students doing a tour of the base. I stopped to introduce myself and greet everyone, and had my first experience of needing to be translated for into sign language. Instead of spelling out V-I-K-K-I, Helen, who was interpreting at the time, told one of the students to give me a sign name. The female student studied me for a few seconds, then made a sweeping motion with 2 fingers down the bridge of her nose and off the tip up into the air. It reminded me of being little and people saying I have a 'ski-jump' nose.

Then, of course, nosey me (no pun intended) I wanted to know everyone else's sign names, so the deaf and hearing alike signed their names, all of which highlighted some unique feature on the face or head. One guy pulled on his ears, making me think of Dumbo (except his ears weren't exceptionally large or funny-shaped...not sure why they chose that sign for him). Another lady ran her thumb across her forehead because she has a kind of line across there (not sure if it's a wrinkle or a long scar...will have to examine it up close later).

It makes sense to identify someone by a special characteristic they have, but I could see how it could be awkward if the feature chosen is something the person is ashamed of or embarrassed to have pointed out. Guess you have to have or develop a thick skin, but maybe it helps that they can't hear the rude comments or the mocking laughter.

They can see it, though.

I wonder how they feel. I wonder what they think. I wonder why I'm just now wondering this while all along I've been married to a mostly deaf guy for 10 years.

Maybe because the deaf in Uganda are, in Adam's words, an 'unreached people group.' They tend to be shunned by society. They are marginalized. Hearing aids are available in Kampala...for a very hefty fee, far beyond the average Ugandans financial capability. So none of them have hearing aids.

For some reason these students are affecting my life differently than John's hearing impairment ever did. I'm the first teacher on the DTS, and I'm asking myself,

"How does their deafness affect my teaching style?
How will they take notes? They can't listen and write at the same time.
Will they just absorb it all and remember it somehow?
How will they participate in small group discussions?
How will they pair up with others for 'getting to know you exercises', or for prayer?
How will they bond with the other students if they can't communicate?"

So many answers yet. I'm trying to figure out how to adapt my teaching style so they don't miss out. Thankfully both Adam and Helen are secondary school teachers, so I'm sure they'll be able to give me some pointers on how to teach inclusively.

Helen signing with a deaf boy --->

I'm on a steep learning curve, and without a doubt, so are the students. One of them wanted to go back as soon as his father dropped him off. But he's still here, and I know God is going to bless that guy.

I have a sense of expectation and excitement...I believe God is going to show up Bigger and Better than I've known Him up 'til now...and we're all going to receive new insights and revelation into the nature and character of God as we walk this journey together over the next months. What a privilege to be serving here at such a time as this.

Thanks, Abba.