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:

Friday, June 20, 2014


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?

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.