Monday, February 22, 2016

You Know That Feeling...

You know that feeling where you get all tight in the chest, your heart decides it wants to run a marathon all of a sudden and your head feels kind of fuzzy like you just woke up? It’s what you feel just before you step onto the stage in front of a hundred people. It’s what takes your breath away and makes your body go hot all over as you begin to speak the words “I love you” to someone you’re not certain will love you back. It’s the feeling that goes along with the scary thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this’. 
It can be described as ‘nervousness’ or ‘uncertainty’, maybe ‘insecurity’ or even ‘excitement’. 

But could it be that these are all synonyms and symptoms of ‘mistrust’ and ‘unbelief’?

This was the feeling I got last week when I received an email from my boss. My chest tightened up and I found my head buried in my arms after my brain kind of came out of that ‘oh my gosh what am I going to do’ fuzz.

Hey, let me tell you all right now that it was some pretty great news. I mean come on, a promotion (of sorts). Awesome news.

Then why was my face buried in my arms, groans emanating from the very bottom of my soul (and yes. I was feeling a tad dramatic at that moment)?

Well, that’s an easy answer.

I was scared.

Because for some reason, when you get a promotion you are expected to take on a whole lot more responsibility! Who’s ever heard of that concept? (Ok, there really needs to be a font for sarcasm. Come on smart people)

To be completely honest, I was totally expecting to walk into this job knowing almost exactly what I’d be doing. For once, I was ready to not be the ‘newbie’ on the job. I was ready to go do this job and finally not be questioning myself every day wondering if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing… and doing it right. I was ready to feel like I wasn’t failing every time I tried to do something that was required of me, because at least now I know what I’m getting into.


Now, I know all the right answers. I know that it’s my silly pride that tells me “you can at least look like you know what you’re doing!”. I know that I’m expressing my unbelief when I express my fear of failure. I know that God works through a weakened vessel. I know I know I know. 

But that’s head knowledge. Right now, my heart is simply screaming,

DON’T DO IT, you won’t do anything right.
DON’T DO IT, you won’t make an impact.
DON’T DO IT, you’ll be too stressed, too tired to be any fun.

Basically, don’t do it.

You’ll fail.

That’s what it is. I’m scared, because I don’t want to fail. I think I can do everything that’s required of me, I think I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength. But that’s the thing. I think I can.

But I don’t know I can.

And you know what- that’s ok right now. I’m human, and I’m not ashamed of it. I sprawl out on the carpet in dismay like the rest of you (or maybe it’s just me). I bury my face in my hands and my chest tightens up and I am nervous like h-e-double toothpick like every other person in this world is at one point in time or another.

But what it really comes down to is this: Do I believe what I say I believe?

Do I believe that God will give me strength and use me where I don’t have any left? Do I really believe that God will work through this broken, weak, fearful vessel and touch others no matter what I do right or wrong? 

Do I truly trust that God has a reason for placing me in this position? Do I trust Him?

At this point, I’ve written so many sentences and deleted them because they reveal how much I don’t trust Jesus. Right now, I don’t believe that He is so big and so great that He could do a miracle through me. That’s why I’m so scared. 

I have a bad case of mistrust and unbelief. 

You know what- I hope that instead of fear being the reason my breathing speeds up a little and my heart tries to run laps around my stomach, I hope it’s excitement. You know, the nervous kind of excitement that looks a little like expectation. I hope I can look forward to this job and instead of dreading it, look for ways God is going to show up. 

Especially in my weaknesses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A New Normal

Whenever someone moves, things are different.  Somehow you have to find a way to adjust to a new community and a new way of life.  But when you move from a small missionary community in rural Africa to a big city in Canada, it’s a little more drastic.  This happened to me about seven months ago.  I’ve received a number of comments from people since I’ve come back.  Questions like “Are you happy to be back?” or comments like “That must have been such a great experience!”  To be completely honest, my life in Uganda was not an experience.  It was quite simply…well…life.  To me, it was completely normal.  It was normal to have people in and out of my house every day.  It was normal to know all of my neighbours.  It was normal to hear a different language being spoken all around me.  It was normal to go to three-hour church services where everything was translated.  It was normal to walk everywhere I went.  It was normal to have water fights on Christmas day.  It was even normal to be stared at because I looked completely different from the people around me.  But it was definitely different from my life in Canada.  And when we moved back seven months ago, that became very clear to me.  Suddenly I realized that all the things that had been normal to me seemed strange and exotic to all the people around me.  No one thought of coming to the house to ask for a cup of flour when they ran out.  No one stopped to ask me how I was doing as I walked to the mailbox.  The majority of people spoke English.  Church services had barely started before they were finished. And no one shouted “Muzungu!” at me as I walked into the grocery store.  Strange… But in the past seven months I’ve learned that these things take time.  And although it can be difficult, eventually a new normal develops.  Normal means putting on a coat before I go outside.  Normal means hot water and school in the basement and playing piano.  Normal means driving to friends’ houses and choosing between 20 different brands of six different varieties of butter.  Normal means planning activities and singing English songs at church.  Normal means fast internet and electricity all the time. (Amazing!) While all these things have become normal to me now, I still miss the old normal every day.  I miss chatting with little kids in Luganda.  I miss having a friend come for a surprise visit.  I miss the warm weather and the number of times I’m saying, “I’m fine and how are you?” But for now, I’m still learning to be satisfied with the “new normal” and I keep trying to find it every day.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

24 Names

A list of 24 names. All dear friends. Some are older than me, and some are younger, and some are just my age. And I have to say goodbye to all 24. Some of them I may never see again.

And so I write, pouring out my appreciation of their friendship and how much I’ll miss them. Trying to describe seven years of friendship in a few words…just fitting my life on a page. I try to capture all those songs sung at practice, all the laughter, all the walks, all the basketball watching, all the mistakes made in primary school. I try to hold onto all those moments of fun, and the hard ones too, because this is my life, and it’s some of these people that make it so special.

I tell them that friendship crosses oceans. I tell them I’ll pray for them. I tell them God is with them and with me too. I tell them I hope to be back someday. I write it, in case I don’t have time to tell them. In case when I’m hugging them goodbye, my words are stuck in my throat. I hope they’ll read my words and they’ll understand how much they mean to me.

I hope they’ll be waiting for me when I come back. But the truth is time goes on. They’re growing up. And they’ll graduate and go on to courses, or universities. And some will get married, and even have children. And they won’t be quite the same, but still just as special.

But what gives me hope truly is that even if I don’t see them ever again here, I will see them in heaven. And that still seems too far away for me, but it helps to know that we’ll sing more songs, and laugh some more minus the mistakes!

And then I deliver the letters. I smile as I say, “I have something to give you!” And I squeeze them in a quick hug as I hand it over. I don’t wait for them to open and read it. In fact, I walk away quickly. And some of them aren’t even around right now so my letter is specially important. I hand it to their sister or friend and pass on the hard job of delivery.

And then come some replies. And I smile and fight tears as I read sweet words of friendship and appreciation. I laugh as I remember old jokes they retell and old events they mention. I’ve never felt so loved. As I read I know I’ll never be able to repay them—every time I try they just overwhelm me with more and more.

I love them, these friends of mine: three girls two grades ahead of me who befriended me in primary school and never forget my birthday; one girl whom I met through email but soon became a close friend in the flesh; a girl whom I call sister and she always introduces me as such; a sweet neighbor lady who let me help her in the class she teaches…and so many more.

So I’ll leave. And I’ll change. But these 24 names will always be special to me, because of the people and memories they represent. And as I go I hope that our words will live on, that our friendship will not rust over years, and countries, and changes. Regardless, packed away, there sits a list of 24 names: 24 people who have changed my life and whom I will never forget.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Be. Thankful. Always.

Golden spheres holding memories slowly freeze to blue. Tears stream down the girl’s face as she finally voices her longing for better times. My face is also wet as I watch the exchange between her and her parents, because the truth behind the scene reflects the state of my heart exactly in the past few months. Happy memories are slowly turning sad, because soon the people and places in them will be gone. Pixar did it again. (the scene is from Inside Out, the newest Pixar movie if you hadn't guessed)

But I think I’ve discovered a way to keep these memories from turning completely blue.

“Be thankful in all circumstances.” Yep. That’s my secret.

Be thankful, whether sharing a funny moment with a friend, or watching a family member deteriorate from a sickness, or hitting that high note perfectly, or leaving your home in Africa after living there for almost six years.

Whether happy or sad, be thankful, “...for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  I fully believe God cries with us when we cry out of genuine sadness. And I fully believe He laughs hysterically with us (oh what I would give to hear what God’s laugh sounds like!) when we can barely breathe because we’re laughing (or cry-laughing?) so hard.

We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving last week, and we’re already moving on and looking forward to Christmas. What happened to being thankful? Do we really limit it to one day a year, a week a year, or a month a year?

Or do we limit it to happy times? Do we limit it to the people who gave so much of their lives for us?

Some of my friends in Uganda (2010)
Some of my first friends in Uganda (2010)

Here’s something to chew on:
Can we be thankful for not getting that perfect gift on Christmas?
For realizing we may not have enough money to last us through the month?
For a miscarriage...
For a friendship turned sour…
For a person we despise?

You know what, I’m choosing to be thankful for every moment, every second I got to  spend here in Africa; and still get to! I still have a little more than five weeks left to go!
I’m choosing to be thankful for every cultural misunderstanding, every tear I’ve cried or caused to cry, every drop of sweat accumulated in a stuffy building during a long, African event, every bump and bruise… I’m choosing to be thankful for those. And I’m so so very thankful for the amazing times as well, so many I can’t even begin to write here.

Some of my besties (2015)
Though my memories of this place will always be tinged with blue, they will stay golden.

Because, for them,



Thursday, November 26, 2015

And It Goes On...

The day is almost done. It was full of studying for a biology test. Negative feedback mechanisms and the structure of the eye run through my mind.  The words call out from downstairs, "Come and see what came in the mail."

Thankful for the break, I go downstairs and there are papers-pink, yellow, and purple lying on the counter-top. A smile crosses my face as I see the familiar handwriting of my friends half a world away and I finger the pages with excitement and joy.

I turn back to my books but something pops into my head and I scribble it down on the corner of my notes. Four simple words.

And it goes on...

A little reminder that the legacy of the past few years is not over.

Mom reads out bits and pieces of letters and I save my personal ones, tucking them into the pages of my Biology textbook, as I wait for my Biology exam to be done the next day to read them.

At the end of my exam, I wait to be picked up and eagerly turn to the letters that I had waited to read. The words brought smiles to my face and memories of three beautiful years of friendship come back

"And it goes on..."

That phrase echo in my brain as I think of the words in those letters. The words of encouragement, of laughter, of preparing for exams again. Of a little boy in a wheelchair saying that he misses us and the one who wants me to teach him guitar.

You see, it isn't that much different than it was when we lived in the same country. That girl still encouraged me every time I saw her, and that little boy was always asking me if he could play my guitar.

So it goes on, this friendship of ours.

It goes on through pictures on the wall of little boys smiles.

It goes on through letters in my bedroom that I read one by one, picturing the faces and hearing the voices speaking those words.

It goes on through emails, notes, letters. Through the basketball advice and the updates on the books that they are reading.

It goes on through the nicknames, the "I miss you's" and the questions about when we are coming to visit.

Our friendships aren't over, like my deepest fears had always imagined. No, they may not be the same but they are still there.

Because we have a bond that is stronger than time. Stronger than distance. It is stronger than words on the page and days gone by. Even stronger than death. The few years that we spent together knit us together as family, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are brothers and sisters that won't be torn apart by trials, sadness, tears, goodbyes, and death because we belong to the eternal family of God. A family that will never be broken.

And it, this friendship, it goes on...over cultures, over oceans, over prayer and good memories.

It goes on.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Even Then…There is Joy

When we’re surrounded by hard circumstances, and the sky just keeps falling, and the waves just keep coming, we can become so swamped in our own problems that we miss the joy.

But there is so much joy waiting to be discovered!

In the month-old neighbor baby who is learning to smile

In walking through wet morning grass to kneel in soft dirt and plant trees that will one day be taller than we are

In 26 children saying in unison, “You are welcome, Auntie Kasana!”

In overflowing plates of matoke and g-nut sauce

In peaceful morning Bible readings up on a water tower

In waving to everyone you pass on the road

In dancing and whooping in church

In knowing that God never leaves nor forsakes us

In cheering crowds welcoming boys home

We can’t wait for that “perfect time” to find joy, because that time will never come. We will never be entirely problem and stress free until we reach Heaven. Thus, we need to be able, with God’s help, to see the joy even in the hardship, hurt, and disappointment, because that’s when we need it the most.

Psalm 27: 5-7 reminds us that joy is not dependent on our circumstances when it says, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;at his sacred tent, I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.”

When we we’re struggling financially, we can know the joy of God’s provision. When we’re struggling relationally, we can find joy in God as the everlasting friend and father. People around us can also spread God’s joy through their words, actions, prayers or even a smile.

Sometimes, when I don’t feel there’s much to be happy about, let alone joyful about, God will drop a a little sweet something on my path for that day and I will remember that He is with me, and He is in control. As the giver of joy He can replenish us over and over again without ever becoming empty. And His presences provides yet another reason we can always be joyful! With Him before us, behind us, and walking with us, we can’t help exuding His joy!

Joy also lies in looking past the suffering to what lies ahead: everlasting peace and joy.
Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Even when we’re bombarded by hardship on all sides and no hope is in sight, we can still find joy through it all. Indeed, perhaps that is the truest joy of all as it is lasting, not relying on our circumstances. That is the joy worth having.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Forget Not

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (Psalm 103:1-2 ESV)

If you have read our posts, you have probably noticed a running theme going on.  Living in another country is difficult. Having your parents serve as missionaries is difficult.  Moving across the world multiple times is difficult.  So often we forget all the good things God has done for us.  It is easy to forget and to dwell on the tough things.  But time and time again, God’s Word tells us to “remember”. 

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and how God gave them freedom. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.” (Deuteronomy 15:15 ESV)  And yet, there seemed to be a pattern. The Israelites continuously forgot.  It’s easy to judge the Israelites.  We may think, “But God freed them from slavery. He parted a sea so they could cross through. He gave them food in the desert. He gave them victory after victory. How could they forget?”

But am I really so different? The truth is that sometimes, too often, I am like the Israelites.  I forget all the things that God has done for me.  I forget the friends and family He has given to me. I forget that He has been with me in every moment—the good and the hard.  I forget the time He gave me with the people I have had to say good-bye to (some for a while; some until heaven).   Instead of taking time to reflect on what God has done for me, I ask Him why He would let something happen.  It seems backwards, since He loved me so much He sent His son to die for my sins, but it is so easy to do. 

Psalm 103 is a psalm that comes to my mind again and again.  It’s one that seems to pop up everywhere I go.  I don’t believe this is a coincidence. God is trying to tell me something.  I’m supposed to remember, to forget not, all of God’s benefits. 

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.” (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)

This psalm has so much in it, but one thing that struck me recently was the “benefits” that are mentioned in the first few verses.   These verses don’t deal with God giving you good, safe, happy, healthy, easy times.  They actually talk about God redeeming and bringing His people through the hard times.  He forgives our sin, heals all our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit. I personally don’t think sin, disease, or the pit is anything that people want.  However, these are the first three things that David mentions.  Because God brought him through those trials, crowned him with steadfast love and mercy, satisfied him with good, and renewed his youth. 

I want to learn to remember.  To forget not God’s benefits that I do not deserve in any way. Because if I forget not, the natural response will be praise to God.  I will be able to “bless the LORD” with my whole heart, not because He has given me a particularly easy life, but because He has been with me the whole time and will bring me through every trial.