Sunday, December 4, 2011

Created for Relationship

I've had these thoughts stewing around in my mind for some time, especially after studying womanhood throughout the first half of this year, and hearing our theme of "Relationship" throughout the entire year. It all starts with the question, "Why are we here?" It can apply to any aspect of life -mothering, parenting, serving, schooling, teaching, working, etc. Our cultures continually communicate we are in a job or a season of life for ourselves, to feel good, to gain success and fame, to climb the corporate ladder. But is that why God set us on this earth and gave us a task to do? Deep down, our spirits say no. We were created for much more the the temporal. What then? His glory is the greatest answer, but the one that follows is the answer I've been thinking through. Relationship.
We worship our Creator through giving Him our lives, and this is done through relationship. What makes our faith different from the world if it were not for our God-man, who came to this earth, related to mankind in relationship, offering life eternal through faith in him and in relationship?

What are you thoughts? Do you long for relationship? To be known and to know others? Please, share your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Small pleasures

Here are a few joys I savor as a mom of my 4 little ones!

Isaiah was begging me to do fingerpaints. His face says it all.

This guy Noah loves art. He went and found his own prop to make his picture more creative.

Elliana's work includes make-up.

Ellie's 'big girl bed' and our second favorite book called "McDuff Saves the Day". P.S."Caps for Sale" is her favorite.

I love how kids don't need a lot to bond and have fun! This moment was "enriched" by the joy of jumping on a table!

Remember those forts you used to build with anything your parents would allow you to use?

Ellie's fort, compliments of Elisha.

I am a blessed Mama! I have creative, happy, animated (Yup! We don't lack any of that in our home!), smart, loving and affirming children! If I could only tell you how many hugs, "I love you Mama" comments and laughs my days are full of! I hope you've enjoyed a little peek into my simple pleasures.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Those busy little ants...

With bleary eyes each morning, I've poured my coffee and raised the lid to my sugar bowl to get a teaspoon of sugar. You'd think after all these years of living in Uganda, I'd remember and get over the shock of seeing all those creepy little black ants, scurrying around in my sugar. Actually, they're not so little. Those are big black ants that share my sugar. Those little guys are quite faithful. Over the years, I have attempted to discourage them by moving the sugar bowl to different places in the kitchen. But after my sugar bowl has rested in its new home for a few days, I have discovered one or two ants. And one or two ants turn into five, and then ten after a few more days. Keith has even tried to remember to put my sugar bowl into a ziplock bag at night. It worked for a few mornings... Then one day I took the bowl out of the bag and found a few ants still faithfully gathering sugar. I laughed as I asked Keith if he had checked the bowl before putting it in the ziplock! They are persistent, and little do they know there is a sugar crisis in Uganda right now. Do they know that the sugar is precious?
I have asked God to show me what I can learn from these creatures, rather then just be annoyed at their presence in my kitchen. I think the big thing is that I can learn from God in any situation, if I'm willing to ask. It's so easy for me to grow weary, annoyed, frustrated, and loose patience with my present circumstances, which can be MUCH greater then just ants in my sugar bowl! Faithfulness, thankfulness, persistence, and seeking after that which is precious, just like my sugar is, is worthy of my time and energy. Thankfulness has been my biggest lesson these days, and this isn't a lesson easily pounded into my heart. When I am looking for things to lift my thanks to God, His joy fills my heart. Wow, what a concept! This has been a missing piece of the puzzle within me for so long! How many things have my eyes actually passed over because I didn't see, couldn't see what there was to be thankful for? How many opportunities have I missed to engage with people or my precious children, because I was too focused on my circumstances rather then rejoice in the simple things around me? Oh, the sheer joy that comes from our Daddy God after having my eyes opened to all the good gifts He's given me! Like my daughter's soft face, kissably sweet, a friend's warm embrace, a bird's song, sung just for his Creator, lightening on a morning horizon, Elisha's heart, the popping of roasting peanuts, and God's peace in a tumultuous situation. This simple things can be missed each day, or they can be noticed, my heart turned in warm thankfulness to God. He is so good.
Then those black ants, their faithfulness and enjoyment of a few grains of my sugar, become something I sit back and think about rather then gripe about. His Word is precious and contains truths that transforms!!
" So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7

Friday, July 8, 2011

“We Carried His Body in Pieces…”

This was yesterday’s quote that caught my heart.  Let me explain.  Every Institute class, we take three days, and then some, to hear each person’s personal story from their childhood to the present day.  These days are so important for each class, as they build vulnerability, trust, and compassion for one another.  I am always struck by the brutality, violence and suffering that the vast majority of our students have endured in their lifetime.  The quote above was by one young woman, sharing the story of her father’s murder, planned out by her dad’s second wife.  The wife got soldiers to murder him, which put fear into the hearts of the children. They didn’t go search for the body for 3 days, and then when they finally felt they were no longer a target, they found him partially devoured by dogs and “ We carried his body in pieces” for a quick burial.  She carried her father’s arm, and when her tears flowed and her body sobbed, I sobbed too.

Her story did not end in tragedy though –She ended with great joy and hope. She even said “I’m not the youngest in my family, but I appear to be so because when I return home I am like a flower! My other sisters look old with sin, but I am beautiful!” I still find myself smiling at this woman’s words!

These stories, these real life testimonies are sometimes so hard for my human mind to grasp.  I want to reconcile the suffering in my mind, to understand how one can endure so much.  I go back to one of my favorite phrases, But God…” Not in the “but” that is like a child, asking for a second chance.  But God, in the sense of “I AM” who I am. Make sense?

It’s common for our Ugandan students to think that we from the West have never gone through much suffering, until they sit and listen to their fellow classmates’ stories.  This class, we have a western woman with GREAT pain and loss in her childhood, and then even into her adulthood.  You would never know it, as joy beams from her face.  She’s lost parents, sister, and her first born child, carried to term.  How is it even possible for this beautiful soul to carry such joy? But God.

Within the last year alone I’ve counted 11 women who have been either sexually abused or raped in their lifetime. There is nothing in this world I abhor more then hearing of one of God’s daughters being taken advantage of. I’ve watched many of them unfold, build trust, learn to forgive and let go of anger towards their oppressors.  This isn’t an easy journey, let alone one I take lightly as I walk with some of them.  But GOD is loving, active, tender, and His compassion abounds to all! 

I love being a part of God’s work. His story. His love.  Without Him, I would be nothing.  Without Him, I’d be in slavery, bondage, and wallowing in my own pit of  self-destruction. These stories aren’t mine, they’re His.  Each story is of great price and  incredible value.  I wrote a song when I was newly married that had a chorus like this:

“Your story is of great price –which is the story of Christ; So let down your fears and tell me what He’s done. Tell me of His death, tell me how He rose again and changed your life.”

That’s His business –changing lives, changing hearts. But God

instituteladies Here are some of the Institute ladies I had the privilege of knowing in the last class!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gluten free life.


For those of you who don’t know, I cook and bake Gluten Free, Dairy free. I’m not turning this blog into one of the many wonderful GF blogs, but rather just want to share a bit of my journey and put up a few of my gluten free creations.  This hasn’t been an easy journey and change, but I finally feel like a few aspects of it have “clicked”, which makes baking a delight once again.  We made the switch right after Thanksgiving, 2009.

Keith was dubious about going GF, but we were at the end of our rope. We had finally gotten a clear bill of health in terms of worms, parasites, and the like, but his body was still a wreck. A wonderful doctor here finally said he thought Keith had a second allergy other then dairy. So after trying to eliminate everything we thought it could be with no success, we finally eliminated all gluten.  After almost 2 years of gut issues, he was restored to a new “normal”. I was excited. I was teary. I felt everything that I had on the menu was now no longer safe!  I found it a daunting task at first, especially with the 4 remaining children in my home that already had developed a taste for wheat products.  There were many tears at the beginning (mine included), but with time, prayer, patience, and the right cookbooks, the switch to a GF lifestyle has almost become normal.  We also discovered at the beginning of this year that our son, Noah, also has wheat/soy allergies.  I am SO glad we had already made the GF switch (did I mention Keith’s and two of the boys have always been dairy free?) beforehand. Noah is now growing much faster then he has been in his first 5 years of life! I am thankful for modern medicine, for God’s wisdom, and for the many people that have given me input into gluten free living (Thanks Gretel!)

I am still anticipating years of improvement on my side,  but also am happy to say that most things I make can be compared to their wheat counterparts! My 3 other kids that have wheat from time to time don’t even ask what is or isn’t gluten free. I knew I’d finally hit the jackpot of pizza crust recipes when I made two of them, served them to my entire family (without a word that they were both gluten free!) and got the thumbs all from all members! Part of the reason why it’s taken me time to get a grip on baking GF is the products I can get locally are much different or don’t exist. Yup, no Fruitful Yield just down the road.  I’ve finally discovered sifting the local tapioca flour about 4 times turns it into a similar consistency as the tapioca starch in the US.  The sorghum flour I get here is also darker and heavier then the type in the US. My favorite GF flour uses sorghum, tapioca flour and corn starch.  For those of you who want recipes, ask! 

So, here are a few pictures from last weekend’s baking. Donuts! I decided a new fun tradition would be to make donuts for Good Friday. There was something fun about the empty middle that reminded me of the empty tomb.


The texture is sticky, but worth the patience.


If you work with gluten free dough, these silicon mats save you the effort and expense of parchment paper usually required to keep the dough from sticking.


I’ve made donuts before and have to say, a candy thermometer is a MUST. If your oil is too hot, they brown too fast and have gooey middles.


Little fluffy goodness! Drooling yet? Yup, gluten free, dairy free, soy free donuts! 

My next gluten free baking adventure entailed making my mom’s Easter kolachi.  Now, this was my 4th attempt at making it without wheat products. My Christmas batch came out good, but this was better yet.  It’s still not perfected, but it will get there one of these days! Keith was in GF Kolachi heaven. Little does he know I still have one in the freezer for a rainy day! :)



I even made a few of them in little buns, which were soft and tender. I think this pic was before they were baked though.  Can you see how dark the dough is?


I have to say, I don’t put these up to get praise and glory –really. I give all the glory to our God and the Holy Spirit who has continued to put a passion in me to care for my family to the best of my ability.  All of these things might seem simple and frivolous, but to me they are a little bit of His work in me and through me. To God be the glory, great things HE has done!

Friday, February 25, 2011


I have a confession to make. I love washing dishes. Well, let me rephrase that. I love washing them when I’m not exhausted and there aren’t a million of them to wash.  Otherwise, I love the smell, the satisfaction of another clean plate, the suds. I still remember the day when I came into my parents' kitchen and saw my Nana with her hands in those heavenly suds, suds that made my 7 year old mind spin. I had to ask. I had to know. What was her secret to such lovely, glorious suds?  She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and responded with an “It’s magic!”  The next time I saw her at the sink, I watched her from behind the corner and saw her sink overflowing with bubbles. I vowed I’d try that one day when I was a grownup. Ironing is another one. I love to iron. Same reasons, same feelings, same results. Clean, smooth clothing, and a nice result (unless the power goes out in the middle!). But I suppose the main reason I love both of these tasks is because it’s thoughtful work. I pray, I sing, I listen, I think, and sometimes I even attempt to wrestle with bigger issues.  Listening has been my biggest challenge as of late.

There are times that I wish working with people was as easy as hot water and soap, or could be smoothed out with a hot iron.  That's not how God works, especially as He's still smoothing me out! But there are times that I wish to myself: ‘Why don’t I have more education? Then I’d be able to understand this better or help better!’  But I am forced to cry out to God, to ask for His help and understanding, and to seek His wisdom. . Then, in the end, the praise and glory is for Him and I am drawn to worship Him, not myself nor my own understanding.

I love the picture presented in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” I have been thinking and praying through this throughout the week. I love the thought that the Spirit who lives in me is always a step ahead of me, knowing where I need to go, wither I will trust and obey - or not. It’s comforting, especially when it comes to mentoring and training my children.  He’s like a father with a wide step, ahead, yet not beyond his grasp or voice.  He’s saying “Keep up, my child. I know the way, I have the words. Just keep in step and listen.”  I wish it was always this clear and simple.  Often it’s my pride that keeps me from walking in step or listening. 

Back to the bubbles.  I think I like them because I like the cleanliness, the freshness.  I’m thankful for His freshness, and His deep love expressed to me this week through His Word and His Spirit. His washing through the Word is such a gift! I am nothing without Him.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Updated Wish list (5/30/11)

This is for all who have asked while we were on home assignment for ideas for care packages! Here's your list! My mom has found that items mailed in a bubble envelope get here within 9-21 days. It is also cheaper to mail them that way. Don't believe the post office people that Priority Mail is quicker- it's the same as regular "air mail". Any box sent our way can take from 3 to 6 months to get here! So, better to send out a few bubble envelopes then to mail a box. Our mailing address is: Keith and Laura Beth McFarland C/O New Hope Uganda, P.O. Box 16, Luwero, Uganda, East Africa. There are also times a team can bring out items for us, so if you're hoping for that, please contact us and we can send you an address for doing so.

-CD's or DVD's of your favorite, recent music or movies! Kid/adult
-Kids books
-Chocolate chips -Gheradelli's semi-sweet is dairy free
-Gluten free beef jerky!
-Gummy worms/bears
-M&M's -peanut or coconut OR Reeces' pieces
-Extracts -maple, coconut,raspberry, banana, mint (put in ziplock)
-Crystal Light -all flavors
-Granola bars (gluten free and regular)
-Fruit snacks
-Walnuts or Pecans
-Chocolate -both dark without milk and with milk
-Seasoning packets -Please please check ingredients for dairy and wheat! Both are not welcome!(put in a ziplock before mailing!
*Taco (Ortega, Trader Joe's and Old El Paso are safe)
*A Taste of Thai -all kinds
*Shredded Pork (McCormicks SLOW cookers) A Favorite!
*Italian salad dressing

-Gluten free Oats, Potato starch, and tapioca flour! These can be mailed in a ziplock bag + a bubble envelope or with a team. These are VERY needed gluten free cooking/baking items!
-Gluten free brownie, cake, or bread mixes. Betty Crocker's new Gluten Free brownie mix is available at most supermarkets now and is fantastic!
-Tea -an assortment of both herbal and regular (also ziplock them as the flavors can permeate other things)
-Coffee -reg or decaf! Decaf is no longer available in the country, so it's a hot item! We love Starbucks via too! We enjoy both Dunkin Donuts (inc. French Vanilla) and Startbucks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to Vibrant Livin’


Packing, sorting, packing, sorting, flying, crying, leaving, arriving –it’s all a part of a missionary life. When we landed in Uganda after being away for 7 months, I noticed Noah had a grumpy look on his face.  When I prodded him for his explanation, this was his answer: “Mama, why did we ever have to leave?” “Leave where Noah? (thinking he was going to say the USA) “Uganda”.  I tried my best to answer his “complaint” with my tired mind, but I had to think about it for days to come.  This child loves his Ugandan home, and to him all he could do when we finally arrived was ask the question, “WHY would you ever make me leave?”  We slept that first night in Entebbe, hearing people blow off fireworks and celebrate the beginning of 2011. When we woke the next morning, rain was falling. Now, this was Jan 1, the heart of rainy season.  Rain - it cleanses, purifies, heals, and brings growth.  All I could do as I took my first deep breath of the divine scent of rain hitting a dry and groaning land was smile.  Smile at God’s providential blessing.  For the next few days, each morning was vibrant.  I’d wake and hear the birds singing and sing with them. As I’d peak my head out the window and see the sun making it’s way into the sky, standing strong with deep shades of violet and auburn, my heart would swell with pride in the God I serve.  Oh, and all the greetings! All the hugs, the comments, the “we missed you so much!” choruses! Nothing is like knowing you’re where you’re suppose to be and that you’ve arrived home.  All my senses were touched by my God and in this I rejoice!

Sometimes I wish it was always this easy. To wake up, hear the birds singing and smile. Simile at the fact that you ‘hear’ them, rather then loathe them, or can’t hear them at all. The celebration of life and His creation is what I speak of.  To see life as vibrant, exuberant, vivacious.  Why can’t each day be like this? I will be honest, the vibrance  of life here also had it’s negative effects on my mind and heart. To already be told I wasn’t parenting right, the strong smells (that aren’t pretty…), the cultural frustrations of communication with people that might not just understand what you meant, a thing or two that is brand new ruined already, etc.  These were vibrant feelings and situations as well, just not the kind I like to feel over and over.  It’s in these little things that I face a choice.  The choice to turn my face like flint to the wind and say “Lord, your arm is never to short for me and Your grace is enough to give me grace for others today…” Or to complain, and miss out on the beauty I’ve returned to.   Really Laura, what do you choose? There’s so much joy in this path of serving Him in Uganda, that it’s quite miserable to chose the latter. Miserable to focus on myself, on material possessions, on well-intended comments.  Have you faced a decision such as this?  One where you knew what was best, but can easily be distracted by small, negative, fleshy things that rob your heart of worship?

He is worthy of all our worship! Today I choose to rejoice in Him. Now a few pics to show off last night’s cultural celebration! We had a big dinner, made by the people of the western part of Uganda! It was amazing, full of rules how how you should and shouldn’t eat, sit, talk, wear, etc! The kids did pretty well with eating on the mat and with their fingers. Keith, lucky dog, got a stool to sit on along with all the men!


Here’s our western cultural night, all on the mat before the meal.

ellie Ellie was warming up to Shalom

matsitting An attempted family pic. Notice Keith’s stool? We have make-shift attire.

 ronnieHere’s the ‘real deal’. This is Ronnie. I taught him the phrase, “get up.” I told him “We’d say in our culture, ‘I like your get up!”