Sunday, October 19, 2014

We look to YAHWEH

A few weeks ago we sang a simple chorus in church that keeps coming back to my heart, like a hungry child who cannot seem to get full.  Those words sung by a few hundred people with rhythm only done right only in an African church.
             
                 "We look to Yahweh, Yahweh. Forever Yahweh, Yahweh."

Do you hear it? I still do. I decided to look deeper and let my hunger, God's hunger, lead me to more.

Yahweh is God's proper name, derived from "I Am", another favorite of mine. My curiosity with the Name propelled me to the words of John Piper, commenting on the worth and value bound into this great name:
God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe.
In all reality, there is nothing in the universe more important and exciting then looking to and beholding Yahweh. Why do so many other things seem to compete with my heart gone hungry, shouting their supreme satisfaction? Why do I end so many days feeling like I have simply beheld myself or my burdens from the day?

Recently I heard one of my Ugandan father's say that the way he judges a day as successful is not according to what he has accomplished or failed to accomplish, but by whether or not he has enjoyed God.  

After mulling those words around for a few days, I was in my kitchen rolling tortillas for dinner to come, arms deep in rice flour.  My thoughts, like my day, were only on my work until our Ugandan son quietly stepped into my domain. We had a simple exchange of how are you's, then he gave me food for thought with his parting words as he walked away, "Enjoy your work, Auntie." Instantly I was reminded of how enjoying my work entails enjoying God.  Look to Yahweh. Enjoy Him.

My thoughts return to the rhythms in my heart, choosing to look and gaze at Yahweh in spite of a messy home with guests due to arrive and flu wracking my baby-man's chests. When I look to enjoy Him, I give my time, my heart. Even this mama-gone-busy, in a world swirling with more chaos then I'd like to embrace at times, can look to and enjoy Yahweh, especially revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. It's in these moments, with my ears open, when I suddenly catch and hear my daughter belting out with reckless off-key abandon, "Behold our God, seated on His throne, come let us adore him! Behold our King, nothing can compare, come let us adore Him"

  Enjoy your work. Enjoy your God. That's a successful day.






Monday, August 25, 2014

"First we have coffee..."

When I was young, my mom had a special biography among her stacks of home school books called "First We Have Coffee" by Margaret Jensen.  I remember seeing her read it more then once, savoring its pages like they were some of her own story. I remember asking to read it as a child and heard her say, "One day Honey. You're a bit too young.."  Twenty five years later, she handed me and my three other sisters a copy. Keith and I were about to leave Illinois with our car packed to the hilt.  I stuck it in the pocket of the door, hoping perhaps I'd get time to read during the nine hour drive. Traveling with five children means little to no book-for-mama time, due mostly to the "Mama, my tummy hurts" (to which I whip out the peppermint maneuver) or the "Mama, can you play 'I spy' with us?" time beater. Best of all is Keith's don't-leave-me-to-a-book/nap plea. I am certain my Dad must have told Keith early on that the way to a successful road trip was to never let your wife take a nap or get lost in a book, unless she's reading it out loud to you. Of course, Keith uses the "I'm so tired plea" to keep me engaged with him. Alas, somehow this trip was different. I slyly pulled out my book and was whisked away to the 1930's, drinking coffee with a beautiful Norwegian family, who's blood, sweat, and tears were real and true while serving our living God.  I was reminded of the importance of taking time to care for people over our family table, with care and with coffee.  Not just other people- this included my little people.

There's something beautiful about sitting around the table over a steaming cup.  Thoughts, feelings, emotions, sorrows and dreams tumble out.  Ears seem to open and hear. This is what we call "Family Tea Night". Yes, sorry to disappoint. We are not serving our children coffee. Just. Yet. We started this tradition after we returned to Uganda, following our anniversary day trip to Kampala. We were sitting in a gorgeous restaurant, drinking tea, thinking, remembering, and envisioning for our future.  Our children's hearts were discussed, especially in light of the recent transition back to Africa. It dawned on us that we needed to set aside time at the table to ask safe and heart revealing questions over a steaming mug of tea.  We realized that we can't go farther into their hearts if we don't know the beginnings of their thoughts and questions.  First we have coffee/tea, then we can (Lord willing) know their hearts.  Thanks Mom, for making our home the same.  May we hear the hearts of our young ones and all who sit at our table.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August Update

Have you ever dreamed in another language? I think over the years my (Keith) dreams have included smatterings of Spanish, Luganda and even Kinyarwanda. It gets even stranger when my worlds collide in my dreams. It often happens during times of approaching cultural transition. I can find that I am with Ugandan friends doing Ugandan things but in American places, or vice-versa.

But have you ever dreamed for another language? It happens to me quite often these days. I’m wide awake, but I find myself dreaming for the Luganda speakers all around me. It is probably connected to the current Luganda Institute class. Many have been unable to attend the Institute over the twelve years of its existence because the teaching is in English. Instead, they have been “teased” by the testimonies of friends or family who have been able to attend. Now that they are walking through “the journey of transformation and relationship,” they are eager to see what they are learning explode out into the villages all around them. I’m eager too.

Will you pray with us that every church around us will be able to offer its own Institute (which is simply intensive discipleship) in the days to come? This is a central part of our church planting/strengthening/multiplication movement that is on the horizon.

                                             Paul Kusuubira teaching on the Orphan Heart

One other area that we are inviting you to pray with us on is our support. This is a topic that I do not enjoy bringing up and am typically reluctant to discuss. In fact, our desire is to mention our direct needs and our ministry needs once in a year. Our hearts are not to burden anyone in this area. We are aware that our heavenly Father knows our needs and cares for us completely. We also recognize that many people do genuinely want to know our needs, both for prayer or for contributing to them. We understand  and submit to the beauty of II Cor. 8-9, recognizing that genuine partnership is both a give and take on both sides in various means, both for blessing to one another and thanksgiving to our Father!

So what are our financial needs?

Monthly Support: We definitely need monthly supporters. Our monthly support is just level with our monthly paycheck, at times below and at times just above. We do not have separate “ministry” and “personal” accounts, so when any needs related to the work we do arise, we have no way to reimburse them. So things like work permits, travel, plane tickets, maintenance, or any ministry purchases (like books, etc.) either comes out of our pockets or has to be raised separately. Quite a few months this year have found us taking less than half a paycheck because of these things. 

Because we are a small mission, we do not have things like retirement, kids education, etc. planned into our support. Having anything at the end of the year to put toward retirement rarely happens. Increasing our monthly support would help with some of these things.

Personal Ministry Needs: As mentioned above we have specific needs related to living and working here in Uganda. As of now, we have $0 for these expenses.

Work Permits: It’s a bit complicated and includes various fees, but I’ve tried to simplify it all here. $925 for a 3 year work permit for Keith (if they grant 3 years); Dependent Pass for Laura Beth: $275; Dependent Passes for Elliana &Malakai: $550; Student Passes for Elisha, Noah & Isaiah: $1350

Plane Tickets: While we will not need these until the end of 2016, the cost for our family to fly one-way is normally around $5000. We would love to begin saving towards this now so that as the time approaches we are not scrambling for the funds. Plus, it’s nice in case of an emergency to have this amount on hand with New Hope Uganda Ministries.

Construction and Maintenance: After we got back to Uganda, Laura Beth said to me, “How many more years do I have to wait for hot water?” Of course, it was with a smile on her face, but I hear her heart. I like the cold showers, but she freezes (graciously). This would be a bigger project as we’d have to re-pipe the house and add a solar hot-water tank. We would also love to add on a small bedroom to the house. These are special projects and would need to be raised as specifically designated funds.

If you are interested in any way to partner financially with us, here's the info:

For online debit or credit card giving, designate missionary giving and the McFarland Family via newhopeuganda.org or click: https://www.givedirect.org/give/givefrm.asp?CID=11859

For direct giving, checks can be made out to New Hope Uganda Ministries. Include a note designating McFarland Support and mail to:
New Hope Uganda Ministries (NHUM)
PO Box 154
Belle Fourche, SD 57717-0154

Thank you for praying for us and for caring for us in so many ways!

Your Partners in Him,

Keith and Laura Beth

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Family July Update

                              (Woodland Kingfisher with a Gecko- taken in our front yard)

It is beautiful this time of year. The rains are upon us, the air seems cooler, the ground is being worked, and our sweet corn seed is in the ground. Everyone is busy digging and planting, all in the hope of a coming harvest. I love how the Gospel abounds with these images- labor, planting, watering, growing, harvest. In many ways it is exactly where we are at as a family and as a ministry.

                             (Keith's Cousin Kelsey Learning to Ox-Plow with Samuel Family)

We are settling well into our Ugandan home, now that we've been back for more than six weeks.  Our children are enjoying their summer, playing Risk and Bang, collecting and counting bottle-caps which they make into a battlefield, climbing trees, reading hundreds of pages daily, and speaking in thick Ugandan accents. We are enjoying our children here, making and developing new patterns of growth as a family. A few we have continued or just started are- family tea and sharing night, before bed dance parties,  Monday night tacos and worship, and Friday family night. These traditions have and continue to bind us together no matter where we are on the globe. Pray that our children's hearts would continue to be soft toward God and toward us as we shepherd them through these days.

We have officially moved into our post-ten year phase of ministry here in Uganda. While we're not yet sure exactly what that means, we feel the significance of the season that we are entering into. We have labored intensely, planted, and watered. We ourselves have grown and matured as a family and individually, all unto something that is yet unseen. Pray for us that our Father would lead us clearly in the ministries He has called us to here in Uganda. Pray for wisdom and insight as we walk forward in what He has put on our hearts and before us.

Strategic planning is something that I (Keith) absolutely delight in. I am wired to dream, envision, and think strategically about moving towards those ends out of a firm foundation and consistent vision. We are at a place in the ministry here where we are strategically re-evaluating everything, with the hope and firm belief that greater things are yet to come. As we look at the Childcare and Family Institute, the Pastoral Training Institute, and the Church and Church-planting/multiplying/strengthening ministry, we are convinced that God is preparing us for significant growth and changes. Pray for clarity as we look ahead, and pray that God would give all of us in leadership unity of heart and mind in the things we are to pursue and change.

Our first ever Luganda Institute is under way. No foreign students. No English (unless translated). Fifteen students from our ministry and the community around us. We are just finishing up moving through worldview foundations, African worldview, and Western worldview. The plowing has occurred, the soil is soft and is now ready to receive the good seed that promises a harvest yet to come. These students are excited and wide-eyed! Pray with us for transformed hearts and minds, marriages and families, churches and communities through these lives being deeply impacted. Also pray with us that God would graciously allow this discipleship-oriented, life-impacting training to be offered THROUGH THE CHURCHES all around us in the days and years to come.

Thank you for praying for us and being a part of this journey of following Jesus.

For His Glory,

Keith and Laura Beth (and the Mc-F-Clan)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014



Today I'll be sharing a guest blog, written by my dear friend Mary Britton. I had more then a few giggles reading it,  as she featured our family in her writing. Take a few moments to read Mary's perspective into our daily lives (at NHU) in community and living with the unknowns always at our doorstep that can determine the outcome of our heart posture for the day.  If you want to hop on over to her page to find more of her heart out on the blog sphere, it's here.
I didn’t know how I was going to get through this day. 

I had a roughed out plan, but looming large over me was not knowing the “unknowables”. Will I be able to handle the interruptions with grace, find joy in the required interactions, bring peace when I feel I’m lacking? I thought of my friend Susan and wondered if I should call her to pray with me. The phone rang and Susan’s name filled the screen display. I smiled, encouraged that God would speak to my friend to call me. 

Of course she first asked about me and I gave a vague, non-detailed answer, “not really ok.” I deflected attention and asked how she was. Her inflection fell a bit, “Not really ok, well, fine physically, but the rest is troubled. My uncle died this morning.” Immediately the focus shifted from “HOW can I get through this day?” to, “God, You are with me in these moments in which I must use your strength to comfort and encourage another.” 

Fortunately, I was already dressed and ready for the day and was able to be with her on site here at New Hope within minutes of the phone call. We talked briefly, she shared a little about him and I prayed for her. I’m thankful for our faithful God who gives us, broken and wounded vessels, the words and wisdom to strengthen others in their sorrow--even when our weakness seems overbearing and immovable. 

As we finished she stated that she needed to see Uncle Keith, her supervisor, to tell him about the death and her need to travel to the burial. I wanted to visit with LauraBeth, his wife, so we set out together for their home. On the path we were joined by Betty, another staff member who was also making her way to the McFarland home. Three people representing different areas of the ministry in which the McFarland’s lives intersect, arriving at their front door before 8:30 am. 

No wondering about whether or not they’d be awake, up and around--they have five children from the ages of one to twelve. No surprise that there was plenty of noise flowing out of the screened windows as we approached and lots of activity throughout the house, even spilling out onto the veranda. Still, it was early and obvious that not all the basic preparations for the day had been completed. I noticed that LauraBeth quickly moved to a back room and donned herself with the acceptable clothing for visitors. I felt a bit uncomfortable calling on someone so early; for my Ugandan friends, it was just life--what we do. Life’s struggles mean that we live and move among our friends at all hours of the day and night--no need for fitting within acceptable social parameters for when to call on someone. Life is lived and death is processed 24/7.

As Susan pulled LauraBeth and Keith aside to deliver the news, I interacted with the McFarland’s visiting cousins who’d come from Florida for a 3-week visit. And I couldn’t help myself when Noah, one of the young children in the home, misidentified the placement of the stomach---right then and there we had anatomy class and everyone was enlightened. Ah, molding young minds to know where sit the liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines--such bliss, and all before 9 a.m.!

As the cousins excused themselves to go tutor at the primary school, the children ran outside through all available doors, and I felt I was in the middle of a live “Family Circle” cartoon--you know the one with the criss-crossing paths of dotted-lines of the kids movements ALL OVER the cartoon picture? 

Then, suddenly I was drawn back to the room when Keith called Betty and I into their circle with Susan for prayer. Here I was gathered close and holding hands with believers, calling on the Living, Holy, Loving Father, the One who never sleeps. The privilege of the interaction was not lost on me. Me, so weary just an hour ago and now being built up by words speaking the truth--even though the catalyst for their utterance was grief.

It was a still, peaceful, connecting time with the Father of all comfort. And I was grateful for the powerful ways God fills us with what we need to live and move and have our being in Him.

And as quickly as we’d come, Susan returned to work, Keith took one of the kids with him to where he was going, Betty left and LauraBeth graciously invited me to sit and talk awhile. I wish I could be so gentle and welcoming when numerous people descend on my abode! 

As if she had time to shoot the breeze, she did. We talked of homeschool, visitors, house activities, recent events and we prayed together. I am thankful to live where we live, among the people we live among. Challenges? Yes! But, the sufficient means in relationships given by God to thrive. Grateful and humbled at the Goodness of God in His people. 

As we spoke “Amen,” her young daughter arrived to reiterate the happenings at the playground. Once we surmised that one of her brothers sustained a wound (large or small we weren’t sure), and that he’d cried (but wasn’t crying now), and that they needed mama and a bandaid (and the bactine, which she reached up on her tip toes to grab from the desk), we realized the rest of our day was upon us.

We walked together until the paths diverged and spoke our blessings over each of our days as we parted.

I wanted to keep an attitude of thankfulness alive in me and so I remembered with gratefulness how full my morning had already been. I spoke to the Lord in prayer as I walked home, overwhelmed with His ability to turn the tide of a seemingly sorrowful day into one of strength and contentment.

Once home again, LauraBeth texted to say that it was a good thing she went to tend to the wound as there was also a big, hairy, stinging caterpillar in her toddler’s hair! A few texts later she marveled that all of this had happened before 10 a.m. And in one final text came the revelation that “ALL” EXCLUDED BRUSHING HER TEETH! 

Yup, some days are like that. The “unknowables” you pondered at 5:30 a.m. disclose themselves as a lack of ability to get the basics done due to unexpected, early interruptions in the daily schedule. 

And thank God for it, because without such interruptions we’d all have moved into the day without the richness of relational interaction that fostered encouragement for us all.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The act of giving thanks

 I realized that I often write and bear my soul when I've walked through a grievous, heart wrenching or soul seeking experience.  Those are my moments when God pushes, provokes even me into writing until I sit and pound at these keys until something is birthed out of what is swarming around me or churning inside my soul.  Today is not one of those days.  Instead I want to share a few peak moments from our week here in Uganda.  I'm going to try to do this more at times, so you can have eyes into our regular life.  This is also a gracious grace to my heart as I look ahead to the next week.  Sometimes I can think there is too much mundane, too many trips with a child to the potty for my life to be exciting.  But as I look through these moments and remember, I am made full again by the act of Eucharisteo. The act of giving thanks.



This was last Sunday! Our New Hope Thanksgiving, where we take time to celebrate what our Tata (Daddy) God has done through this past year. It was glorious! This is us with Samuel family and some of its associates. Our kids made it through a 4.5 hr day of church!  Lunch was at 3 pm, and boy did we enjoy it!


We do a thanksgiving "march" with all of New Hope before entering church.

 

Sometimes a little girl just needs a few creative moments with her mama. And even boy #1 joined in and strung himself a necklace! 


This picture represents how life here is not always that simple.  When we travel into Kampala, it is a 1.5 hr hour drive in with traffic usually waiting us on the other end.  It can easily be 2.5 hrs in the car before reaching the grocery store.  The roads are long and gorgeous, with no Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts on the way. Back in the gluten filled days, we would grab a chapati on our way through Kiwoko, but those days are long gone. Instead I usually bake something like this in order to have breakfast on the road.

Yes, that is a bird in his container next to him.  This week he found a delicate baby bird, sitting in the stroller.  Of course, Isaiah made him feel at home in our home. :)


This does not really need any comments, but this is for cute factor.  I love his hair after a bath!


This week was our mini-Envisioning, so Keith and I were gone in sessions two days this week.  One afternoon I came home to 5 stir-crazy kids wanting a water fight. So they got it! I enjoyed sitting with a cup of coffee, savoring their energy and excitement. 



Get ready for this one!


These are the flying ants of Uganda! They are literally a local delicacy. It's cracked me up to see how excited Isaiah and Elliana have been to eat them again! Zae collected this all on his own and put them in the frying pan. Most people eat them raw and squirming, but some like my kids saute and salt them!


I let him do it himself. Ewwww...those ants were doing a crazy dance when we turned on the burner!!!

Loving their snack!!! Even Malakai enjoyed his ants!


Last month, we had hundreds of mangos falling off our trees. Keith did most of the cutting and froze them for the day I'd be able to make something out of them. 


My sister-in-law gave me an old fashioned apple sauce maker, which turns out some mean mango butter!!! Thanks Angie!!!


Mango butter, in all its glory. Does it not just make your mouth water?! I made a batch with cinnamon too, for some added dimension. 

Just one week, so many special moments in which we can lift our hands and say "How great is OUR God!"  Thank you Daddy for these moments, clothed in simple grace. Eucharisto.  Once again my heart is changed by giving thanks. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hoping for Heaven

Over the years I've been to many funerals and burials.  In fact, I believe I attended 21 funerals by the time I was 22 years old.  Then we moved to Uganda.  Death here is not foreign. In fact, it seems as common as paying one's school fees.  It is an unwelcome visitor that comes knocking on the young and the old, unbiased by age, status, or prestige. Today was one of those days where we sipped the bitter gall of a life now gone, hoping for Heaven. 

This morning Betty came knocking before 7 AM, bearing the news of a double death.  We lost one of our past 'daughter's' and former Childcare and Family Institute employee. She was one of those young ladies who's smile and deep round eyes bring joy to my mind as I think of her.  She was quiet, gentle, and loving.  She left New Hope a few years back, with her womb full of her first born son and her heart seeking love in places gone wrong.  Four years later, her second born, a daughter, died within her.  It seems from what I understand, toxemia took her life along with the baby.  

In these moments of culture and burying people, true lineage is most important. In this case, the body of the mother went west to be buried with her family, and the baby was brought out here to rest in the ground near the home of the father's family. It seems so odd to my western mind -mother and baby, both two in one flesh just yesterday, torn apart and buried nowhere near one another today.  So with this in mind, we knew we were going to the burial of this precious nameless baby girl.

After a quick lunch and in the heat of the day, I gathered my little Malakai into my arms and carefully strapped him to me with my sling. I cautiously climbed sidesaddle onto Keith's boda-boda (moterbike), tucked my skirt around me, and held on to Kai's head while we bumped along the dusty path until we reached Mama Jane's house.  Mama Jane is our friend and employee at the Institute- she is the mother of the "husband" and grandmother to the baby. 

All was quiet around the simple brick house, as the body had not yet arrived from Kampala. I removed my shoes and stepped into the silent house, carefully whispering greetings to the women seated on the floor and in the few chairs around the home.  Mama Jane stepped out to greet me, holding on to me like only a mother would for more then the brief moment or two a normal hug allows. Malakai squirmed within the sling, but he was gracious enough to give us this time.

Within a few moments, the baby's body arrived. I had stepped out of the house to greet newcomers, then returned to where a group of woman were dressing the body.  As I peered into the casket, the baby's tiny face appeared. Resting peacefully in the arms of Another.

Mama Jane and another older Jaja (grandmother) carefully dressed the babe, putting her into a sleeper with snaps down the front. Dressing her like they'd dressed their own babies now grown. 
Blanket after blanket were handed to them by the three women next to me, until she was carefully swaddled like every newborn I've ever held.  Hearing sniffles next to me, I looked at the three blanket bearing women.  All three of them are close to my age, in the prime of bearing children and holding them on their hips. All three have wrapped a baby and buried him or her deep down in the dirt. Given back to the One who gives. I hugged Malakai's sweet blonde curls close to my neck, savoring his life, his breath.  My mind wandered to his little form, His life bound to my side pricked my heart. God's gift. Malakai -God's messenger. All these babies are God's gift. I won't let the world tell me otherwise.

We all shuffled out to the garden, where weeds and plants had been hacked away for our feet to trample next to the small hole that had been dug in the rusty African soil. Familiar Jesus-loving songs were sung as we listened to God's name being lifted up while tears tugged at our eyes and our hearts.  Such heartache and tragedy to partake in.  It's too much at times to understand the loss, the grief, the pain of death. This world is tainted, groaning for it's redemption.  It's only in the future glory we can hope and cling to without disappointment. 

I read through this writing by Charles Morris (via Ann Voskamp) this afternoon while processing all of this. I cannot say it any better: 
   "To see His face, to have His hand wipe away every one of those tears we still weep, to be remade in Him, to enter into His joy—that’s our hope.
      And it’s more than just our own personal hope; it’s the hope of the entire world. It’s more than knowing we’ll go to heaven when we die; it’s knowing the day of the Lord is coming when Jesus will remake the cosmos."

Until then, we wait.  Not as those without hope, but with a hope that cries "Maranatha!" Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Family Update

Written by my favorite guest writer, Keith McFaland

  If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Lk. 14:26

                The call of the Gospel comes to each one of us in different ways and in different circumstances, yet it always comes powerfully with the same foundational calling- die to yourself, count the cost, lay down your life and follow. Our Lord’s words have hit us in our complacency over and over again on our journey of faith, revealing our comfortable self-seeking hearts, while gently drawing us back to the place of surrender, even of those things that we hold dearest.
                When we left the States ten years ago with our ten month old, ten bags, and anxious hearts, we felt deeply the rending from family and cultural familiarity. I remember Laura Beth crying as we sat on the airplane as she thought about her Mom missing out on Elisha’s growing up. She shed tears because she couldn’t even say ‘I’m sorry’ for taking away the joy of a grandparent watching their grandkids grow up. The rending we felt was painful, yet the joy of surrender and following Jesus was before us.
                Over the years we have had the privilege of growing into two families, one on each side of the world, as we have experienced the reality of God’s Kingdom, where we are adopted into this beautiful cross-cultural, multi-ethnic bride, and given the gift of Family. When we left Uganda a year ago to return to the States, we felt the rending from family on this side of the world more powerfully than ever before. It was genuinely difficult to return to the States for the year, a testimony to God’s grace in our lives and the depth of relationships that He has gifted us with here.  We both found ourselves saying “I’m so glad we’re not leaving permanently”.
                Now, after a year in the States, incredible time with both of our families, the birth of a new niece, the wedding of a precious sister, weekly taco night with cousins, the healing touch of the life-giving community at our church, we sat on the airplane with that ol’ so familiar feeling of rending. But this time, as we count the cost, we know the beauty of the gain that accompanies it. We are looking forward to what our Father has for us in this season that He has us planted here in Uganda. Will you pray with us as we settle back into life here? Pray that our Father would give us clear leading and direction- that we would be a blessing to the family here, as we labor to live the Gospel and bring God’s Fatherhood to the fatherless and to the families of Uganda.
                After probably the best flying experience we’ve had as a family (which of you were praying for God’s grace and covering as we traveled?), we arrived safely in Uganda and back in Kasana almost two weeks ago. We have settled in well, even as we had the joy of hosting a team from Alpine Church in Utah. It was a great week with them, even as we were upside-down trying to adjust and unpack. It was fun to be back with the children of Samuel Family, and of course a Saturday of fun, games, and a pig roast was just what we needed to feel back at home!
                Finally, for those of you who have been praying for Laura’s little cousin Gabriel, thank you. If you have not seen the updates on Face Book, here’s the situation in a nut shell.  After seeing his life nearly slip away, God has graciously in his mercy been healing him day by day.  He’s completed his first round of chemotherapy and has been responding very positively. Please be praying for God’s grace to him and his family.  He has a long road ahead of him. If you wish to follow their updates or give to them financially, here’s their blog via Caring Bridge: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/gabrielfleming/journal/view/id/53a9d70cab28b96517bd8bdb.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Transition

The cicadas sing their familiar melancholic tune, stirring my emotions and thoughts with their every note.  What has just happened? I find myself sitting on a dusty and faded old couch on my cracking veranda, sipping strong African coffee with my homemade half-n-half. My aging Ridgeback just sauntered past, moving at a slower pace then years gone by.  Ugandan sounds, songs and smells meet my every sense, telling me, reminding me, that I've leapt across the globe in less then 24 hrs, back to my home of the last decade.

The kids are so alive here, including Kai. His cheesy grins and ultra-light spirit in the day hours were only shadowed by a few days of interrupted sleep.  The boys are climbing, running, playing hard 'til sweat pours from their brows and laughter cracks their lips. Elliana has a renewed love for babies, growing seeds in the dusty soil, and climbing trees. I think the third could stay dead, honestly. :)

Where is my heart in all the mix? Delighted, peaceful, tired, and confused.  In a mere day, we left a year long home assignment to return to life in Uganda. I've been struck again with how life here just takes more time.  This is simply a reality.  There are so many "luxuries" in the US that eliminate extra work, something I forget until back in the throws of daily life. A short list includes things like power (when I want/need it), clean water from all taps/sinks (at least clean enough that parasites are not a concern), hot water for washing dishes/my face/shaving/dirty children, internet access when I want it and fast enough to do what I want with it, a nearby supermarket to pick up forgotten shaving cream, a washing machine for a baby blanket gone sour, etc. etc. etc.  I won't even mention things like triple washed spinach, and new bags of rice that rarely EVER carry rocks and bugs..

But, lest these quiet moments among the dusty cushions focus only on the losses, there are many great gains I am delighted to experience. Like relationships and faces we've missed for more the 365 long days. Our children, fully alive.  Clinging to Him alone in our sadness and frustrations. African worship. African sunsets. Being where relationship is far more important then getting the job done. Big chubby brown babies that smile into my heart.  Uncle Jonnes. Seeing myself and my children get so caught up in being outside that media is an after-thought.  My husband, up at 4:30 today, has already lived the day forwards and backwards by the time I wake.  He's seeing through new eyes this morning (as the jet lag releases the fog on his brain). He is also fully alive. Excited. Expectant. Do the gains far outweigh the losses? Yes, undoubtedly.

A good friend handed this verse to me before we left and I've found myself meditating on it amid the chasm of sadness I have felt in all the good-byes to both of our families:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:20-21

God is with us.  Emmanuel. I know He has more in store for us then we can imagine.
I choose to begin this next term with expectation. In Eucharisteo. With joy.

What did God assure my heart that this was the year of?
                Shalom. 

Cling to the Rock, Laura Beth, walk in the Spirit where you with find life and peace. 
In the midst of the world-change, we continue to choose to trust him with our hearts and our lives, no matter the loss.  He counts the cost and knows.  Selah.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The clock ticks.

My mind whirls.

The lists grow inside my head, then are forgotten once I find paper and pen.

Too many tasks...too many piles of clothes.

The walls glisten with new paint and the shelves are no longer full.  My temporary-now-home will once again become someone else's place to lay their head. Packing a family of seven and heaven knows how many suitcases is a dubious job that I sometimes wish was not my role. It's in these moments that I dream of the day when I won't have to figure out 2 1/2 years of clothing and schooling for my children and determine what is and isn't important enough to carry to Uganda.

This walk through 'the Matrix' of good-byes and hellos, exiting and re-entering culture, is like a steady thumping in my head. How? Will we manage yet again?  Will it take me six months to re-adjust to our home overseas where I'm left thinking about how my every word and action is perceived? Yes, I will once again be a western woman in an African world.

Will I really be back home again?  With sweet bird songs to wake me and African sunsets to warm my back? To hug my dear people who call me "Auntie" and "Mama Elisha".  Yes, it is soon. Gracious is our God to allow us the privilege to call Uganda home and make her people ours. Soon I'll be eating g-nuts and matokee, wearing skirts, singing in Luganda, riding moterbikes side saddle, running in "the bush", and enjoying the land where relationship is more important than getting the job done.

My eyes fill with tears as I try not to think ahead of the good byes that are looming, waiting. We are not strangers to these partings. Twelve years of life as a missionary breaks little chunks off of my heart with each parting hug for the umpteenth time. The wonder of when we'll kiss little ones cheeks again or hug old necks? To miss so many seasons and changes in these dear lives. These pits in our stomachs fade with time, then return with another good-bye. Oh the longing for Heaven, when we will no longer wonder if a funeral will bring us back together again. When we will behold Jesus, surrounded by those who we love, never whispering "I'll miss you" again.

It is too much for these earthly beings...BUT God. He is good.  In these moments where I feel everything pressing in, He takes my hand and leads me. My heart is turned and is expectant. He fills in the gaps and points my eyes to Him! He reminds me this is not about me and my comfort. It isn't about piles of clothes, paint cans, or another list.  It's about living for something greater then myself.

The moments whirl. My heart soars. My mind remembers. Oh yes, I'm going home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I've come to grips with the fact that life is full of hum-drums and emotional lows, work and more work. At this moment, the laundry folding is about the height of my 4 year old, the floor needs mopped again, the rooms need sorted out for guests and my eyelids tell me I've been up since the wee hours. Aye-yai-yai. It's never ending.  But in this never ending cycle of work, there are gifts that I'm taking the time to be thankful for. And in this moment, I give thanks to The Giver. Here are a few gifts my heart celebrates today (ok, it might be more then a few).
All that hard work, paid off in little moments like this. Precious, aren't they? Each one. Elisha, straight shooter of truth. Noah, tender boy-man. Isaiah, joyous energy. Elliana, feminine little mama. Malakai, energetic and animated. Best. Gifts. Ever.  I never want to regret these seasons or labors of love. It's worth it folks. Don't let the world tell you otherwise.

Little Mama loves her little bro

Marriage. Almost 13 years. It's a gift that I sometimes take for granted. I forget to breathe prayers of thanks for the unity and intimacy we have in our relationship. For the few arguments. For the groundwork we laid in the early years. Learned lessons of lifestyle repentance that continue to bring forth a harvest of shalom.  I adore this man.
A couch-full of Ugandan missionary kids. We love our friends and partners, the Vogt's. Thankful for their lives, the word of His testimony in them, and the opportunity to "do life" on both sides of the globe, even when Isaiah falls out of a tree and breaks his collar-bone.

Kai-guy's little snuggles.

Boy-man #1 still snuggles too. ;)

Blessed by extended-Florida-family with a day at Disney World!


Sunrise on the beach with precious Aunt Audree (one of my heroes)- though her eyes are failing her, she sees things more clearly than most.

Pictures don't even do this justice!


Yes, they got in, even in the early morning hours. It was a moment that will be forever etched into my memory.









Ok, I'll stop with the beach pics there. They're just too precious.

Ellie and her cousin, Ruby. In Uganda, cousins are called cousin-brother or cousin-sister.  I love that. This is one of those sweet bonds, forged in love.
                    Easter Egg fun -thankful for family to make it a special time of the year!


Celebrating Laura (Renfro) Barr and her journey into motherhood. She's a mama of 2 now. I love this woman of God and where God's taken her! She went through the Institute in 2007. What a gift.


This baby man #4 made his 1 year mark.  He is such a delight to our entire family, bringing us joy and delight with each passing day.  We can't imagine life without you, little buddy. Thank you Jesus.
They don't come much cuter



He knows how this goes
Thankful. Overflowing with thanks. This is where my heart is at the end of this reflection. It's powerful how the act of giving thanks actually fills us with joy and appreciation for all He has surrounded us with.  Eucharisteo truly precedes the miracle.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A New Year

I've finally been able to embrace something about myself. I'm more of a small picture person. What's happening today and this week? Beyond that, it's hard for my brain to plan too far ahead. I need to be here, now, doing the now, or I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and even anxious and fearful. Those who know me well know that I often work best under pressure. In the moment, I'll figure it out, create, and make something beautiful (hopefully) in the process. Does that mean I always fly by the seat of my britches? No. I do plan. But what it does mean is that I love to embrace the moments I am in, whether that is cooking, cutting hair, or forgoing my exercise to stop at a friends house for a cup of coffee. But on the downside, it means I don't always remember to dream and look up from the present moment.

This is the beauty of a new year. It is a fresh breath of air into my body, my being, that is God ordained. He knew I needed a new year every 365 days in order to regroup and refocus.

At the beginning of each year, I ask God what His word is for me this year. Sometimes it's a scary request. Especially the year I heard the word "Surrender". After I made it through that year, my Dad prayed over us and prayed we'd learn "more surrender". He had no idea I had just spent the last year learning the difficult task of opening my hands. I about had a melt down. Really? More surrender? But to my surprise more surrender wasn't excruciating. It was beautiful. It even meant baby #5. Our Malakai -'God's Messenger". 

With that said, I was looking forward to another new beginning after the last 6 months stateside. This season has been so life-giving for us.  Health and life have filled our beings, and we are very encouraged.  I do not feel the bone-weary sensations that come from ministry wounds or pressure that I had grown accustom to feeling, or the frustrations that come with culture and community.  I have new breath in my chest, and new joy in my heart.

So, I asked again. And this little word is mine for 2014. 
Shalom

 As I've dug around a bit into the meaning of shalom, my heart grows excited about this year.  Here's a simple definition: Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) is a Hebrew word meaning peacecompletenessprosperity, and welfare and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.  

I love how Strong's Concordance brings in 'absence of discord' into the definition. Boy, this missionary mama could use that this year!  The presence of peace and completeness are longings of my heart, but they are only satisfied by His shalom. Jesus is shalom, and only He, through His Spirit, can grant it to a person.

The year is before me, so I choose to lift my eyes up off of the present and gaze at the cross. The place of perfect peace.
                                                          
                                                       Shalom!