Monday, November 25, 2013

Maybe You Know Her

Photo credit: Inspirationfalls.com

Photo credit: Inspirationfalls.com

I have a feeling you know her. Maybe not all of you, but I would venture to say that most of you do.

She’s the worn-looking lady down the street with the three rowdy children that frustrate you frequently.

She’s the sweet white-haired woman that you faithfully find at church in the same seat on the second row.

She’s the one in line in front of you at the grocery store spending the last of that week’s paycheck and scrounging for one more dime.

She’s the white-collar executive that drives the fancy sports car yet never looks happy to be living that carefree life she loves to display.

She’s your child or grandchild’s teacher at school they always complain about, because she’s running low on patience.

She’s the greeter at church that flashes her pearly whites each Sunday to mask the flood of tears on the verge of spilling out of her eyes.

She’s the teller at your local bank with the scowl across her forehead.

She’s the blogger who has openly shared her challenging journey.

She’s the one you cut off on the interstate the other day, because she was daydreaming and driving a bit too slow for your liking.

She’s the one spending Thanksgiving alone this year.

She’s the one who volunteered to work at the diner Christmas Day, because she has nobody to spend it with anyway.

She’s the widow often forgotten.

I know her well. I used to be her.

I’ll never forget the first Christmas after becoming a widow. I dreaded it with a passion, because families everywhere would be enjoying that special time together, and my daughter and I would be spending our first Christmas without my late husband.

I begged God to allow me to smile that first Christmas even though everything within me didn’t know how to show happiness. I asked Him to allow my daughter and me to feel His love in tangible ways. I prayed that although that first Christmas was expected to be quite hard, I wanted to experience true joy within the season.

God answered each of those prayers exponentially!

Most of the smiles I displayed or the joy I felt or the tangible love of God that surrounded me came as a result of others taking time to love on us. I wrote about a group of “angels” who, to this day still remain anonymous, blessed us immensely (you can read that post HERE)! These “angels”, as I fondly call them, became Jesus with skin on to my daughter and me. They helped to make each of the twelve days leading up Christmas something we looked forward to waking up to greet. They allowed us to know that we were not forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyone else’s busy season.

As Christmas nears again this year, my mind returns to that first Christmas as a widow, and I think about “her” – another lady experiencing that first Christmas without her husband. Or – perhaps – it’s a precious lady who’s been a widow for twenty + years but continues to dread this holiday season, because it brings nothing but sadness.

And so…I challenge you. I challenge you to think past the busyness that you’ll encounter this season and try to find a widow to bless. A neighbor…a co-worker…a church member…

There are so many things that you can do to help make her season a little brighter:

1) Invite her over for a meal (especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day).

2) Take her a basket of homemade goodies.

3) Make her a stocking and fill with little mementos or gift cards to show you care.

4) Offer to help decorate her house for Christmas and bring a tree if needed.

5) Be a Christmas “12 Days of Christmas Angel” anonymously – read more HERE!

6) Take her to an area Christmas program.

7) Fill her pantry for the rest of the month.

8) Invite her over to spend Christmas with your family.

9) Take her to a Christmas Eve service.

10) Do something else creative to let this precious widow know she’s loved and not forgotten this season.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget those who are hurting around us (especially during this season). Allow God to use you and your family to bless His precious widowed daughters this Christmas. I promise…it’ll be a Christmas neither of you will ever forget.

~A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5, NIV)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Update from Uganda!

It’s Saturday! I’m excited about that for various reasons, but I’m especially excited today, because it means I get communication from my daughter, Anna, in Uganda! She’s already over half-way done with her month-long mission trip, and communication has been very minimal. I knew it would be, but it’s still hard for this mama to adjust to that. Anyway…I received a nice long email from her this morning, and we were able to “chat” briefly via instant messaging. I told her that I planned to share parts of her update with you, as well. So…out of the mouth (or the typing fingers) of Anna herself…(I’ve explained further where I thought explanation might be needed)…

UgandaHello from Uganda! I’m finally feeling 100% better!! (She had been very sick and ended up going to the clinic in Uganda for medical treatment, so this is a BIG praise!)

I can’t wait to see you and tell you all about my trip! You’d be the best person EVER if you had a fruit tray waiting for me at home. I know they are expensive, but I’m craving fruit. Whenever we get fruit (which is rare) it almost makes us cry tears of joy!

PLEASE don’t worry about fixing rice, beans, plain noodles, hard-boiled eggs, bread with butter, or freshly plucked and killed chicken for me anytime soon! 😉 Oh and if you cook fish, please do not include the head, tail, and spine chopped up in it. Thank you. 🙂 Besides fruit, I’m craving Chick-fil-A, something to drink besides water, and a toilet! 🙂 I don’t have many mosquito bites, just bed bugs. We were able to walk to Lake Victoria this Wednesday…which was beautiful! I will make chapati for all of you at one point. You’ll love it!

Here is some Ugandan lingo for you:
Slippers- Flip Flops (that’s what Liberians call flip flops too, by the way)
Blue Band- Butter
Malik- Milk
Buusa- Butt
Ovacado- Avocado
Moo Moo- Cow

Random Ugandan Facts:
1. Animals aren’t respected, especially dogs.
2. Everyone calls us Mzungu (crazy white person)
3. African men blow kisses at the girls on my team.
4. Three of my team members (including me) have already been proposed to.
5. All Africans want you to take their picture.
6. If your money is not from 2006 or later, you can’t exchange it.
7. Smaller bills equal worse rate while exchanging money.
8. It is a normal sight to see Ugandan men walking their cows down the street.
9. Sweet potatoes are white.

Highs and Lows of each day:

Sunday (High): I don’t know if you can call it a high, but it was the funniest thing that has happened to me this whole trip. Our water was out, so Helena (one of Anna’s leaders) was showing all the girls in my house how to manually flush the toilet with a bucket. I went into the bathroom to use the squatty real quick. All of a sudden, the door is flying open led by Helena and followed by my 5 housemates. It was so funny! Helena said “good position!” And walked out. I laughed the rest of the night about it!
(Low): Two other girls and I were sick, so we had to miss church. I was really upset, but I had to rest so I could get better.

Monday (High): We went to a primary school and six of us, including myself, spoke. We also sang a few songs. When we left, kids were jumping up and grabbing our hands like we were Justin Bieber on stage at a concert. Then we were attacked by an insane amount of hugs! I’ve never felt so much love before!!! As we drove off, kids chased our bus for at least five minutes!
(Low): I’m still feeling sick.

Tuesday (High): We went to another primary school today. They brought us water during the service, gave us seats in the shade (well except for mine…I ended up in the sun), and we got to hang out with the kids at the end! I took lots of pictures, and the kids giggled when they saw a picture of themselves. Afterwards we went to the market. I only spent 14,000 shillings ($5.45)! I bought toilet paper, 100 baby wipes, and 4 packs of kleenex), a new toothbrush, orange Fanta, and Pringles!
(Low): Each morning I’m awakened to the Muslim call to prayer. Remind me to sing it for you because I have it memorized! People let their cows roam around, so they moo all morning too. Roosters crow as well. Mornings are not in our favor.

Wednesday (High): Monday was laundry day, so I put in 6 things to be washed. We finally got it back today. I felt like I was on a shopping spree going through everyone’s clothes to find mine. I felt like I had a whole new wardrobe. We are going to Jinja, Uganda on Monday!
(Low): We don’t have water to shower with or flush the squatty with. Our house smells of poop. TIA. (This is Africa)

Thursday (High): We went to the beach! Only five of us walked in the water though, because everyone else was scared of the parasites in Lake Victoria.
(Low): I fell an twisted my ankle during ministry and it really hurts.

Friday (High): When I was sick, I didn’t really eat. Even after I was better, I only ate my American snacks. I’m finally able to eat African food again! So delicious!
(Low): I have a really bad heat rash, which is quite ugly. I have a bunch of red, itchy dots on my hands, arms, legs, and feet.

Common meals we have:
-Beans and Rice
-Bread and Blue Band (breakfast)
-Beef and weird African noodles
-Potatoes – LOTS
-G Nuts (ground nuts boiled with water)
-Chapati

Our Staff:
Pastor Henry- in charge of everything!
Ruth- chef and does our laundry
Baboo- driver
Isaiah- fixes everything we break
Jessica- Ruth’s daughter who helps out
Martin- our night guard
We have many more wonderful staff members, those are just our main ones!!

Overall, we’re having a great time here in Uganda!! I can’t wait to see you all! Miss you guys! Love you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 20 Already?

Can you believe day 20 of my little 40 day consecutive blogging journey is already here? Interestingly enough, the last day of this 40 day run coincides with my daughter’s return from Africa (no I didn’t plan it that way).

Normally, I run my blog posts first thing each morning, so that those of you that are subscribed will get it on that same day. However, if I wait and post it later in the day (or write it later in the day – like today), it may not run the subscription until the next day. Quirky…but, I’m not techie enough to figure that out (at least not now). So, you may not be reading this until Sunday, but I’m referencing things that happened this morning (Saturday). Got it? Yeah…me neither. 🙂

My morning started out kind of bleh. Saturdays are usually wonderful. I get to sleep in. For me, that might only be 7:00 or 7:30, but that’s a couple hours longer than normal. 🙂 So, as planned, I slept in until around 7:30 today. Usually, I’ll turn over, look at the time on my phone (a/k/a my alarm clock) – oh, I have to grab those pesky glasses first (ah…the joys of aging). I digress. Anyway, as I was saying, I check the time and usually head straight to the bathroom for my morning liquidation (TMI).

This morning…I never got past staring at my phone, because it also showed me I had missed lots of activity that occurred around 5:15 am. I typically turn off the volume at night so that only the alarm clock rings through. Keeps all the other bleeps, chirps, etc. from emails or texts from waking us up. Well…because of that little habit…I missed Anna trying to get in touch with me from AFRICA!!!!! She had texted, tried to FaceTime, emailed, and sent Facebook messages. I couldn’t believe I had essentially “silenced” my baby girl!

If that wasn’t bad enough, as I read her email update…she explained how she had been sick for basically a week now (since before she even left training camp). She thought it was just her allergies flaring up, but she never got any better. Eventually, her team leader felt that Anna might have an infection and need to be seen at the clinic in Uganda.

The host pastor they are staying with ended up driving Anna, her team leader (Helena) and another teammate to the clinic. They wanted to draw blood, but Helena advised that didn’t appear to be necessary at the moment (another whew!), so Anna declined the blood test (whew!). I know they are probably very sanitary, but you just never know.

They ended up treating her with an antibiotic to help her ear/nose/throat infection, but it ended up making her throw up each day. So, now they’re adjusting her meds to a different time of day to coincide with food intake a little better.

Will you please pray for my girl as the Lord prompts? It would do this mama’s heart good!

On a brighter note, she is in love with the country of Uganda and their treasured people. Here’s a pic of a new friend she’s made while there. What a cutie-pie! Look at those big eyes!

Ugandan child

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Hardest Prayer

My girlie and me - saying "goodbye" at Training Camp.

My girlie and me – saying “goodbye” at Training Camp.

As I shared just last week, my daughter, Anna, is spending the month of July serving as a short-term missionary in Uganda, Africa. At the young age of sixteen, Anna’s chosen to “give up” a large portion of her summer to live among some of the poorest in our world to teach them about the love of Jesus.

I think it hit me Friday night as we worshiped together…Anna and her fellow missionary team members and the parents that were present. We spent some time offering up songs of praise to the God of the Universe. Afterwards, the students were asked to line up in the aisle that formed between some rows of chairs. The worship leader asked the parents to come pray over their children – a commissioning prayer, of sorts. In return, the students were asked to pray over their parents. It was then that I lost it.

I’m not sure I’ve heard a sound more beautiful than my daughter praying over my husband and me, with tears streaming down her face. It was almost as beautiful a noise as the first time I heard her cry on January 23, 1997. Tears streamed down her face then, but for entirely different reasons. As I held that little newborn baby in my arms for the first time, I knew God had great plans for her. Little did I realize that as I held my 16-year-old “baby” girl last Friday evening, I was beginning to get a glimpse of some of those plans.

I’ve had parents tell me over and over, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never let my daughter or son travel to Africa at the age of 16.” I understand what they’re saying. I really do. In my own skin, I could never let Anna go either. But… Anna doesn’t belong to me. She’s God’s child, and He’s simply blessed me immensely by “loaning” her to me for as long as He chooses. He’s given me a great responsibility in choosing me to be her mother. And, it’s something I don’t take lightly. But, I also know that apart from Him, I would not be capable of parenting the way He intends.

In my flesh, I didn’t want her to go. But, in my spirit, I couldn’t be more proud of her for going.

In my flesh, I think of all the horrible things that could happen. But, in my spirit, I’ve placed her in God’s hands to protect. He loves her more than I ever could.

In my flesh, I wanted to go with her. But, in my spirit, this is something that she needs to do without me.

In my flesh, I’m afraid she’ll come back changed. But, in my spirit, I want her to come back changed.

I’ll never forget something a former Sunday School teacher of mine shared with a group of us. During class, she posed the question, “Have you ever prayed for God to take your child?”

What was she talking about? Was she out of her mind? Why would I do such a thing?

She explained further…

“When my first son was an infant, I prayed the hardest prayer over him I could ever imagine praying. In short, I asked God to call him home right then if there was ever a chance that he would one day reject Him as Savior and Lord. I didn’t want him to live an eternity apart from God, so I asked God to call Him home before he had a chance to reject Him.”

Gulp. I remember sitting there thinking (in one thought) how harsh that sounded but (in another thought) how much that mother loved her son to actually “risk” having God take him from her so soon. But, the agony of a lifetime apart from Him was too great.

And now…my Anna is spending the rest of the month in Uganda…sharing about her Jesus with those that are willing to listen. Maybe…just maybe…there’s another mama ready to pray a similar prayer over infant, but she wouldn’t be able to unless she already first met Him. Maybe…just maybe…Anna was called to be His voice at such a time as this. Maybe…just maybe.

My heart is so full with anticipation over what God is doing through my girl. His girl. Will you please continue to pray for her? Pray that God would bless the ministry work of the team in such dramatic, miraculous ways that there’s no mistaking His calling on their lives. Pray for continued safety and good health. After a weekend training camp and two days of air travel, the team landed on Ugandan soil yesterday afternoon around 3:00 pm. The work has begun. May He receive all the glory!

Now – for Monday’s book giveaway winner: Sarah C. (6:52 pm 7/9)! Congratulations Sarah. May Natalie’s book be a blessing to you. Please email me your mailing address so that we can get the book right out to you: leah@outofdeepwaters.com. Thank you!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kathy

KathyI remember the first time I laid eyes on her. My eyes were red and swollen from crying, and her smile was full, yet tender. Her eyes spoke to me…they knew my pain. She opened her arms, and we hugged for the first time. I knew who she was, even though I’d never met her before. We had a mutual friend, who told her about me. She wanted to be there for me on this day, in particular. This was the day of my late husband’s funeral.

Just nine months prior, Kathy also said goodbye to her husband, Fred, following his tragic suicide. She was already that much more ahead of me on Grief Road. She knew the awfulness of the days ahead, and she could pray for me like few others could. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit drew us together.

I remember when she drove to the house one evening to visit with me. It had been several weeks since Chris had died. She knew the time would come when we would need this time together. The time had arrived indeed. She stayed and talked/prayed with me for hours, but yet it only felt like a few minutes. When she spoke, I felt as if the Lord God Himself was speaking to me. I knew He gave her the words to share. Again, such tenderness…yet boldness (an example of the lion and the lamb rolled into one)!

Kathy had her share of bad days. I remember several times the Lord prompted me to pray for her, and without fail, I would discover later (often just in reading her Facebook posts) the very reason for the prayer prompting. At the same time, I could see and sense the Lord brewing a mighty work in Kathy. You see – Kathy also spent her share of time in “deep waters”, much like me. God had already reached for her…He had already rescued her…and, He has restored her and is continuing do so until He calls her home!

Fast forward a couple years, Kathy is this very day in the nation of Pakistan! Yes…you read that right…Pakistan! She’s teaching these hungry people all about Abba! She’s living out a restored life! I’ve been following her status updates, looking at all of her pictures, interceding in prayer for her while she’s away. Just yesterday morning, we were chatting on Facebook, and Kathy made the comment, “Would you have believed what He is doing through both of us?”

In my finite mind…definitely not. But, in my Spirit-filled mind…absolutely!

God is Who He says He is! He will do what He says He can do! Kathy (and I) are living proof of His miraculous power! Only God, my friends. Only God!