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Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Art Projects

This was our last school day before Christmas.  We opted to just do Christmas art projects for the day!  We are using Abeka curriculum for art and luckily enough there were plenty of Christmas art projects.  The kids enjoyed it.

Here are some pics of the kids working on their artwork and some of the finished product.








Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Tree 2012


The last fifteen or so years Christmas has been a hard time of the year for me.  It's been a lonely time of the year, a month that I've wished on more than one occasion that could be erased from the year.  Having kids the last couple of years has definitely made it better.  Still it was hard and we didn't really do much for Christmas.  Yet, the kids still get excited and count down the days.  

Not sure what has made this year different but I'm really looking forward to Christmas.  I wish I had more energy to do more- bake Christmas cookies, make Christmas candy, and really decorate the house.  But, this year will be different and better and hopefully a springboard to many more fun Christmas memories to come!

So, what started getting me in the spirit of Christmas?  Remember I had a friend visit recently!  One of the projects she did with Jackie and Yosam was to make stockings for the whole family!  They really enjoyed making them and have daily reminded me that gifts are to go in them! 

I was talking with David and told him that this year I really desired to have a "real" Christmas.  That I wanted it to be something the kids will look back on and have memories they treasure.  I (and David too) really desire for our family to have traditions that will keep binding us together and that our kids can pass on to the grandkids some day!  I want them to remember Christmas as a fun time, a time for family.  And of course, we'll be putting up a nativity scene, reading the story of Christ's birth, etc. 

Enjoy the pictures of our first tree decorated as a family!




This was David, Jackie, and Yosam's first time to decorate a Christmas tree!



And what was Jurnee doing during the Christmas tree decorating festivities?
First, the look that says, "I'm about to get into something!"


I'm about to reach it!


Got it!


And away I run with the goods!


The finished tree!  We only had the big kids in our last photo of the night.  Jurnee by this time had her "I need to go to sleep" meltdown.
Notice only the top half of the tree is decorated!  We all decided that it was better to have a half decorated tree than to spend the next week or so chasing Jurnee down to "redecorate" what she "undecorates!"


Can't wait to see the look on their faces when they wake up Christmas morning to gifts under the tree!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Friend Closer Than A Brother

Have you ever had a friendship that you cherish greatly, a friend that is closer than a brother?  I've always wanted a big sister and have blessed to have a sister in a good friend.  I want to share about such a friend.  Although some of you may know her and know who I am speaking of, I'm not sure how she'll feel having her name all over the internet so I  won't mention her name here.........

Our friendship didn't start out in such an obvious way.  We attended the same church for a couple of years but only greeting each other with a simple "Hi, How are you?"  When I came back to Uganda in 2008, her parents were on the list to receive my monthly newsletters.  One day I got an email from my friend asking about child sponsorship after she had read the newsletter at her parents' house.  

She then began sponsoring 3 children (which has been added to over the years).  A few months later, I got an email asking how I would feel about her visiting, meeting her sponsored children, and helping me out in whatever way.  I was all for it as by that time I had had no visitors here in Uganda.

She flew over and we had a wonderful two weeks.  We hung out talking, she helped out at the school in whatever way she saw needed help, and even helped at home doing simple things like washing dishes!  It was the start of a wonderful friendship.  

After she returned to the states we continued emailing.  I've loved it!  I've loved having a friend/sister that I can share life's ups and downs with.  Yes, I have my husband to share with, but there's nothing like having a sister-friend to share with as well!  I look forward to our almost daily emails.

She came over twice more that year.  One of the things that I have loved about our friendship is that she loves Vision of Destiny as much as I do!  It is rare to get a volunteer that can just jump in and help with whatever.  This friend didn't need to wait for me to tell her that something needed to be done.  She could look around and see and do things (and do them well) without even being asked.  She's done things like meet with teachers teaching them how to use our first aid kit, showing them how to clean and bandage a wound, handed out handkerchiefs to all the students and teaching them about how germs are spread.  She's painted classrooms (and chose really fun colors I might add), she's organized shelves, photocopied papers, and been a great advisor to me on what's next with Vision of Destiny.  She's done a ton more but it's a long list and I'm sure you don't want to be reading a super long post!

More than that, she's shared with me when I've grieved, laughed with me over the funny things my kids do, rejoiced with me during the happy times, and what I love most- she can speak into my life when she sees a bump in the road coming up ahead.  She speaks into my life in a way that is not offensive but lets me know that she genuinely cares.  

She knows the desires of my heart for school, for the children, for my family and goes out of her way to make some of those desires a reality.  Like she advocates for new sponsors.  She's helped raise funds for uniforms, food, even rent!  

Recently she really blessed me.  My first experience of having a child here in a different country wasn't the greatest.  Cultural differences were noticed.  I won't go into all those details but it was just plain hard.  So, this year on baby number two, you can imagine the dread I was feeling, worried about repeating the previous experience.

I was amazed yet again when I got an email from my dear friend asking if it would be of help if she came over for a couple of weeks!  Would it be helpful?  Yes, more than helpful.  And it was.  God timed it so perfectly.  She arrived and a day later baby Joelee made her entrance into the world.  My friend stayed with the bigger kids, played with them (read let them get on her nerves for two weeks), and spend hours talking with me.  It was such a refreshing time to me.  It was so much more relaxing than when Jurnee was born!  

And to top it all off, she knows that one of the desires of my heart is that my kids have as close to a "normal" life as possible for missionary kids.  I want them to have some of the simple things that I had as a child, that your children most likely have, but that because of constraints of finances when you live on support, it's just not possible for me to do. 

One of the things that I've been desiring for a long time was for them to have their "own" rooms.  I don't mean just sleeping in their own room (girls in one and boys in the other), but being able to have a room that is decorated for a little girl or a little boy.  Nothing over the top or extravagant, but something like having a comforter on their bed or bed sheets of a color that they like.  

Imagine my surprise!  One of the things she decided to do for us on this trip was to make the kids' rooms look like kids' rooms!  The girls' room now looks like a room for little girls- decorated with pink and purple!  And Yosam's room is now a room for a little boy- complete with Spiderman that he loves so much!  No longer do their rooms just look like rooms that have beds shoved in them just for sleeping.  It's really a room that they can enjoy!  

Take a look at some pictures of the new rooms!










It's such a blessing to have such a friend.  I don't take it at all lightly and appreciate God's gift to me through this friendship.  Words cannot express what my friend's last trip here meant to me, how honored and loved I felt.  It meant more than anything to me that she cares enough about our family to want to be here when our new addition arrived, that she wanted to celebrate with us, and that the desires of our heart are significant enough to her that she wants to make those desires reality.

So, in ending, a very warm thank you to my dear friend and a huge thank you to God for bringing her into our lives!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Her Own Timing

Joelee has already given us a few good laughs..... along with her big sister Jurnee, since she's been home!

First, it was amusing just the way she entered the world.  I was supposed to be induced at 6:30 a.m. and she decides that wasn't the way she wanted to make her entrance.  She decided to come on her own just an hour before.  Just in time!

Then after being discharged from the hospital....... no poop for a week.  We began getting a little concerned (the ped. wasn't as she said that's just normal for some newborns).  Anyway, after paying the consultation fee, the doctor looking her over, and going to get something to remedy her no poop for a week..... the ped opens Joelee's diaper and received an outpouring of poop like no other!  Guess she didn't want the doctor's remedy!

So thankful for this sweet baby who seems to do things in her own timing!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Meet Alice!



Alice entered Vision of Destiny's sponsorship program in 2010.  She's a total orphan and lives with her aunt.  As many children that live with extended family members, she was being used mostly as a housegirl and not given school fees.  The little she had been attending school was in poor schools where her foundation was very weak.

Upon entering Vision of Destiny's program, she began attending a Christian boarding school.  Attending a boarding school meant she would be able to be like other students and focus on school!

After about a year and a half of trying to catch up, Alice realized that she was too far behind.  She came to me and asked that instead of wasting her sponsorship money and failing in school, could she attend a vocational school for a year.  After attending a vocational school she will be able to look for a job and become self-sufficient!

Since it was the middle of the year, it would be difficult to find a school to take her.  We decided that it would be fine.  She then began to research different vocations and schools and decided on hair dressing.  She will begin her course in Jan. 2013.

Her aunt wasn't too happy about her not returning to school for the last term of this year and threatened to send her to the village to get married.  I was able to convince her that this would not be beneficial to Alice.  I then asked her aunt to allow Alice to help me with Jurnee for the remaining months.  Her aunt agreed!

Jurnee absolutely loves Alice!  Most of the time you'll find the two of them playing outside or laughing together as they play with Jurnee's toys.  Alice has been such a blessing to our family.  Jackie and Yosam also enjoy her company and Jackie frequently begs Alice to sleep over at our house- which she often does!

Pray for Alice as she prepares to head back to school.  Pray for her to be able to catch on quickly, remember what she's learning, and for her to be a Christlike witness to her fellow students.

A special thanks to Alice's sponsor for making it possible for Alice to have a better future!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Welcome to the World Baby Joelee!


Joelee (taken from Joely) is Hebrew and means God is Lord made her way into this world at 7:37a.m. November 27.....  after a little excitement and drama.
We weren't real sure of her exact due date.  I kept saying Dec. 6.  But, I was huge and the ultrasounds kept giving us dates ranging from Oct. 31 to Nov. 26.  The doctor went with Nov. 26.  I had an appointment with him the evening of Nov. 26 and at first he was saying we'd wait a bit longer.  Then for some reason he decided to do an ultrasound.  The ultrasound revealed that the amniotic fluid was decreasing and so waiting no longer was a possibility.
He decided that I'd check into the hospital the following morning at 6:30 to be induced.  I was terrified.  Jurnee was such an easy delivery that I was expecting the same this time.  And I've heard so many horror stories of moms being induced, it lasting forever, it being more painful (and no epidurals here due to a shortage of doctors!), and often resulting in a C-section.  None of these things sounded too exciting to me.  But, nothing really to do.  
We went home that night knowing that tomorrow morning we'd be checking into the hospital and hopefully meeting our baby girl soon after that!
I set my alarm for 4:45 and got up.  All was well until around 5:30..... I began to feel a little "weird."  A little bit later when we were entering the car, it was clear that baby girl was coming on her own.  No induction was going to be needed.  Now our worry was if we'd make it to the hospital in time.
We did!  We entered the reception around 6:30, the time we were to be there anyway.  An hour later, Joelee was here.  She weighed 9 pounds and 11 ounces!  A big, healthy baby girl!
After spending the day, night, and most of the next day in the hospital we were released to go home!
 

We drove up in the car and everyone was excited that we'd come back.  The kids all came running over to the car and Jurnee was shouting with joy!  We let her get in the car a big.  Joelee decided to make a little crying sound.  Jurnee did not like this one bit.  She looked over at Joelee and began screaming (crying) as if to say, "Get that baby out of the car!"  Her crying continued pretty much the rest of the night any time she was near Joelee.  


Our strategy then became let's help Jurnee get used to the new baby.  It seems to be working.  She gets excited and says "baby" now when she sees Joelee and wants to sit next to her!  Last night she even wanted to fall asleep next to her on the bed!  I know they're going to be best friends as they grow!  It might be hard in the beginning but I'm excited that they'll be close and always have each other.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Jurnee!

A year with Jurnee!!!!!!  Time has gone by so fast.  Just seems like yesterday that we were bringing her home from the hospital.  She's brought so much joy to our lives.  She loves going for walks with her daddy, playing with her big brother and sister, and swimming with her mama.  She's got her daddy's good nature, his ability to keep a conversation going, and is as friendly as he is!  She's adventurous like her mom willing to try new foods, loves being outside, and of course, anything to do with water!  

We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 p.m. and Jurnee was born at midnight.  She's not stopped going since.  She's always on the move.  She's walking (although wobbly) and prefers going at full speed rather than just walking.  She prefers to spend her days outside watching birds and the big kids play.  We can already decipher when she's saying bye, ball, baby, and quack, quack!  

We're looking forward to what God has in store for her life and feel so blessed that God chose us to be her parents!

Here's a look back at the last few months:  (I didn't get photos in June as that was when our house was broken into and life was just a bit crazy.)  Click here to see the first six months!

July- getting ready to go to church.  
Yes, I know I'm dressed for Christmas but if I waited for December, it would be too small!

August- so glad my big sister lets me borrow her bear to nap with ! 

September-  I really, really love the water!

October-  We spent Independence Day at the lake.
I loved being near the water!

November-  It's my birthday!  I'm a year old!

No birthday party would be complete without my first taste of cake!


I loved it so much I swiped a piece from a friend's plate.
By the time I finished I was decorated in cake.  It was everywhere-
all over me, in my hair.  I even shared some of it with Daddy's shirt!
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou is one of my favorite poets.  Guess I'm in the kind of mood where I just want to read through some of her poems.

Here's one that sort of expresses how I'm feeling today:

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
by 
Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The cage bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks 
of another breeze
and the trade winds soft 
through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting 
on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a cage bird stands
on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts 
on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and 
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Orphans No More

Did you know that U.S. has over 129,000 children waiting for adoption?  The state of Arkansas alone has 500 children that are in foster care waiting for families. 

During various times while working in the states, I've gotten to know some of these precious kids.  I've also gotten to know a multitude of families that have expanded their families through adoption.  Some have adopted internationally (both older and younger children).  Others have adopted out of foster care (also both older and younger children).

Here's one family that I've know for over 10 years that has an incredible story of how adoption changed their family forever.

Click here to watch their story.  (Wish I could have figured out how to put it up here..... but the link will have to do.  It's well worth watching!)



Monday, November 5, 2012

Grafted- A Story of Grace

Grafting is a horticultural technique where tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another plant so that they may join together.

For Christians, grafting takes another beautiful meaning!

"But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."  (Galatians 4:4-7)

Through spiritual adoption, believers are made to be the sons of God.  We are heirs with Abraham and partake of the covenant which God made with Abraham.  As sons of God, we enjoy the full claim to the inheritance of the kingdom of God.

"Yet to all who believed Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."  (John 1:12)

Being a child of God is through faith in Jesus Christ by grace through faith.  It is through spiritual adoption through faith in Jesus Christ that we are made children of God!

In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, "Sonship to God is not, therefore, a universal status into which everyone enters by natural birth, but a supernatural gift which one receives through Jesus Christ..... the gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again."

What an awesome honor it is to be called a child of God.  What a beautiful picture of adoption!  In all my mess, my brokenness, my sin, God still looks at me and calls me His child.  When God looks at me, He doesn't see a second class child, a burden, or an unwanted responsibility.  He only sees the blood of His Son covering me.  I am His child with the full rights and benefits of being His child!  Grace!

I love that picture of adoption.  Take a look at it from a natural perspective.  A child left to die.  A child left to starve to death while tied to a tree.  A child beaten to unconsciousness.  Abandoned.  Born to a drug addicted mother.  Neglected.  Unwanted.  A broken mess.  But, redeemed through the gift of adoption.  Given a second chance at life.  Grace!  A child grafted into a family, made their own.  A child adopted into a family forever.  A family to forever call their own.  Grace!

"God sets the lonely in families."  (Psalm 68:6)

My prayer throughout the month of November (National Adoption Month) is for many more families to be open to the idea of adoption.  For many children waiting for a family to call their own to be adopted into a family.  A prayer of grace in the lives that adoption has touched!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Excerpt from "Tread Softly on My Adoption"

The adoption world here in Uganda is very ......  I'll leave you to fill in the blank.  There are those that are very much for it and those very much against it.  Those that say there is too much corruption involved in adoption and those that have wonderful experiences that were very open and void of corruption.  Many say that orphanages (and adoption- especially international adoption) shouldn't exist.  Others say that, while that may not be the best option for a child, it's better than the alternative.

So many sides to the issue.  I don't think there is any one way to quickly fix the problem.  Some orphanages aren't great.  Others that have grown up in wonderful orphanages will tell you that it saved their life and provided them with a "family."

To me it's not black and white.  I believe we have to look at the gray areas in the middle.  Look at each child and family on a case by case basis.  Can this child be reunited with his family?  Can her family even be traced?  Was there abuse?  Does the family want the child back?  Will the child be in danger if taken back?  What is best for the child?

There are many children that can possibly be reunited with their families.  There are hundreds of thousands of others (all over the world, not just in Uganda) that for various reasons can't.  Take a look at the U.S. foster care system!  How do you return a child whose mother left her for dead back to her without there having first been change in that mother's life and assurance that the child won't be put back in danger.

When I hear criticisms against adoption, I somehow take it personally.  I'm not out to tear families apart.  I'm not out to take a child away from her mother.  I believe any parent that fosters or adopts a child wants what is best for the child.  Yes, God is with the biological family.  But, I also believe God has a plan for families standing in the gap when biological families can't care for their children (whether that is through fostering or adopting).  I believe there can be redemption in adoption.

Recently, I've started reading many blogs...... mostly blogs by other mom's and their daily struggles with life, children, careers, etc.  In one of the blogs that I read, the link below was linked there.  I clicked on it and really liked what the writer had to say.

Here's an excerpt from it:

"Family living doesn't come easy- the tumble of personalities, insecurities and contending wills.  We each struggle with identity issues, questioning our worth, wondering if we can contribute something of value to the world.  What parent, adoptive or not, hasn't had to battle personal anxieties while fortifying the healthy identity of their child?  Isn't this par for the course in family formation?  Iron on iron, friction forging character and undaunted acceptance culling a child capable of self-love- this is indigenous to every family, right?"

Click here to read the entire article and in the meantime, "Tread Softly on My Adoption."

So much more that could be said on this issue (from many points of view) but for the sake of not making this too long, I'll end here with the conclusion that if we are ok with all of us being "adopted" into the family of God, shouldn't it be ok that we "adopt" children into our family?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meet Christine!


This is Christine!

Among Vision of Destiny's students, Christine is the closest to finishing high school!  She's going to be finishing in November!

Christine is a total orphan and lives with her older sister and her sister's husband.

Christine joined Vision of Destiny about three years ago when she and her family were struggling to pay school fees.  She is attending a Christian boarding school.  She will be sitting her final exams for high school (A levels) in November.  These exams are extremely important to students here in Uganda. They determine if and where a student will attend university.  They also help to determine which course a student will study while at university.

Christine hopes to pass her exams well and to attend university studying environmental sciences.

Pray for Christine as she is taking her exams.  Pray that she will have peace, remember everything that she has studied, and that she will pass well.

Pray that Christine will be able to attend the university of her choice and that she will be able to fulfill her dreams of studying environmental sciences.

Also, thank God for Christine's sponsor who has made it possible for Christine to finish high school.  So many girls in Uganda don't make it past primary school and those that do frequently drop out.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Meet Siifa!



At the beginning of the year I sent out an email to begin introducing everyone to the kids that are part of the VOD sponsorship program.  I got a really positive response on it with many telling me to keep sending them out.  I had every intention of doing so.


However, I was not prepared for life with a newborn!  I think I thought that she'd just conform to my schedule.  You know just lay there on the bed next to me while I did my work!  Total shock that she had a mind of her own and wanted nothing to do with laying around.....  So, she's now approaching a year old and a little more independent, at least to the point that I can snatch a few minutes here and there to send out an email (or post on this blog).  At least until baby #2 makes her arrival.  

Hopefully, I'll be able to do this once or twice a month so that everyone can begin to get to know some of the kids that are part of the VOD sponsorship program.

Today, meet Siifa!
Siifa was one of the first students to be sponsored by VOD when I came back in 2008.  She is a total orphan, having lost both parents to AIDS.  She lives with an elderly grandmother in the slum where we work.  Her grandmother weaves mats to sell to earn a living.  They live in a simple mud house in the slum with no running water or electricity.  

Siifa loves playing games, dancing and singing.  I don't think I've ever seen her without a smile on her face!  And she's super helpful, always willing to pitch in to help with any task.

She loves attending school and is thankful to her sponsor for making that possible!  She is in Primary 3 (similar to 3rd grade) in one of the local schools.  She's unsure of her birthday but appears to be around 12.

Please remember to pray for Siifa as she comes to mind.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Decision to Homeschool

We are now a homeschooling family!  Never thought I'd be saying that!

I've known several families over the years in the U.S. that homeschooled.  I always thought I could never do that!  I'm not usually a person who likes staying home all day.  I like being out, around people, busy.  To me it looked boring to sit at home with kids all day.

When my husband and I got married, we knew several missionary families who were homeschooling as well as some Ugandan families who were doing it.  But, we agreed that it wasn't for us......  One of our worries was that the kids wouldn't get enough chance to socialize......  Remember, they'd just be sitting home all day.

Never say never!  In the last couple of years we've been introduced to several kids who have homeschooled their entire educational career.  And they were amazing kids!  Young ladies that were very social, extremely confident and well adjusted, knew who they were, and going on to be successful.  A young man that has traveled all over the world with his parents.  We were amazed at his ability to play with the kids and the next hour be sitting with the adults having a mature conversation!  He even shared a room with my two kiddos on a trip out of town (when they were still young and peeing in the bed).  He never complained.  

A year or so later, the conversation began coming up about homeschool and the subject also had our kids' names in the same conversation!  The largest reason was Yosam.  His behavior at school was atrocious.  He was getting into fights, unable to concentrate, basically he was going to school each day to play and have as much fun as he could.  Learning wasn't in any thought that crossed his mind.  His reading scores for the first term were below passing and second term just 39%.  My child was failing to learn to read.  He's 7 years old and in kindergarten.  Also, his speech was a concern.  We were understanding very little of what he said.  I could continue with the list, but I'm sure you get the point.

Something had to be done.  Something had to change.  He's got to learn to read.  Homeschooling began to look like an option.  I began to research it more.  Ask more questions of friends that are already doing it.  Looking at different curriculums.  It seemed like such a fit for him!

So, we thought we'll be beginning homeschool for him in 2013 when the new school year here started.  But, then we kept thinking...... Why leave him in school another term just to fail?  Why not let him start learning now?  Also, why not put him on the same school calendar as the international schools?  And what if we ever wanted to travel as a family to the states for the summer?  Wouldn't it be easier if that was the kids' summer break as well?



So, then there's the question of what about Jackie?  I didn't really think she'd want to homeschool.  She's such a social butteryfly.  She was doing fine in school and loved being around her friends.  However, we figured that if we were going to homeschool one, we might as jump all the way in and homeschool both.  

When I brought it up to the kids, their reactions were totally opposite of what I thought.  Jackie was excited!  I had forgotten that I had taught her in K3 and we were having class in the sitting room of my flat.  So, it was natural to her that I should be her teacher.  Yosam was a little more uncertain but tends to follow Jackie's lead.  When she began listing all the benefits she could think of: not having to eat posho and beans every day for lunch, not having to get up so early in the morning to get to school in time, more time to play outside in the afternoons because they wouldn't be having to wait for a ride home, etc., he also was thrilled.  More time to play and more time for cartoons!  Sounded good to him!


So, how's it going?  We're halfway through the first quarter and we're all loving it!!!!!  Yosam is starting to read on his own!  He read a short phonics story this morning BY HIMSELF!!!!  That was huge.  His behavior is way over the top improved.  And while I thought Jackie was doing well in school, I've found some holes in her reading ability that we've been able to work on.  

Plus I get to spend a lot more time with them.  That's been fun!  We get to read stories together and talk more.  It's been great for me to have more one on one time with Yosam.  And Jurnee thinks it's great too!  She didn't have to watch as the big kids went back to school and left her home!  


Thursday, September 27, 2012

We Finally Got a Family Photo!!!!

We finally got a family photo!  Ever since Jurnee was born, we've been talking about doing a family photo..... Now we've finally got one.  It took several "takes" to actually get one where we were all actually looking at the camera, smiling without crazy looks on our faces.  And without Jurnee moving and being a complete blur.  Still looks like she wasn't totally still.  Seems one of her hands is missing.  I promise you it's really there but I'm sure she's was waving it at something!


You can't really see Yosam fully in this photo...... But, these two kiddos have grown up a lot.


And no picture would be completely complete without the pacifier.  It's just an extension of me, Jurnee!  And I was still for this photo!


Love these kids!  They've been such a blessing to my life!  So thankful to God for them!

And thanks to "Uncle Mike" for taking all the photos!  We enjoyed your time with us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Night of Encouragement

Last night, Mercy for Mamas hosted a Night of Encouragement for missionary women living in and around Kampala!  Just a little about Mercy for Mamas......  It's a ministry that strives to reduce the number of orphans by reducing mother deaths during childbirth.  They put together mama kits- everything a woman needs to deliver a baby (either at home or in a hospital).  Most hospitals and clinics here do not provide materials, even gloves to doctors.  It's the mother that brings these things to the hospital with her when she goes to deliver her baby.  The cost is too much for many woman, meaning that many women risk their lives and deliver from home without the help of a doctor or midwife!

Back to the Night of Encouragement!  Mercy for Mamas has a small team in from several different states for a little over a week.  One of the things they are doing during their time here are hosting these times of refreshment for missionary women in Kampala, Jinja, and Mbale.  

I wasn't real sure about going.  I've not gone out without the kids at night since Jurnee was born.  I'm not the most social person and felt nervous about being around so many people that I didn't know.  A couple of the volunteers at Vision of Destiny decided that they were going and one is comfortable driving at night in Kampala.  She told me to tag along with them.  This was probably the encouragement I needed to just go ahead and go.  And I'm so glad I did.

Everyone arrived and it was so laid back.  People moved around greeting each other and meeting new people.  I knew a few other ladies that were there and some I didn't really know but had seen at church.  So, it began to feel more comfortable.  Then they served us dinner.  It was a buffet style dinner with a variety of foods.  There was a really nice pasta dish, sandwiches, crackers with meat and cheese, salad, chips with salsa and guacamole!  It was delicious.  

After eating and chatting a bit, everyone introduced themselves.  I was thrilled to hear ladies that had lived in Uganda close to 20 years introduce themselves!  It's possible to survive here really long term!  

Then we had a time of worship.  It was tremendously refreshing to see and hear so many women worshipping God together in one place!  After that there were some door prizes given away.

Next was a time of prayer.  We were asked to break up into small groups of 5-7 people (finding people that we didn't already know) and share openly things that are challenging us and pray together about it.  I was in a group with four other ladies: one that teaches at a Christian University here, one that works with the Church of Uganda, one that works with International Justice Mission, and one that works with AID Sudan.  All really incredible ladies.

I think this was my favorite part of the night!  When looking at these women, at first I felt intimidated.  Each one was beautiful and seemed so together.  I kept thinking I was out of place in that group.  First, I'm almost 8 months pregnant and huge!  And I don't feel like I've got it so together!

The one that teaches at the Christian University opened up first and began sharing.  Each one of us began jumping in.  It was amazing how much each one struggled with similar things that I struggle with- homesickness, feeling inadequate, feeling like what am I doing here- am I even making a difference, and so many other things.  Then we prayed for each other.  It felt wonderful being able to share and pray openly with others who "get it."

Afterwards we were able to mingle a bit more.  I met another missionary that is married to a Ugandan and runs a children's project and lives not too far from me!  She also has a baby girl just a few months older than Jurnee.  We're hoping to be able to get together from time to time, hang out and let the kids play.  I also met a lady that I see every Sunday at church.  We were finally able to learn each other's names.  She's super sweet.  We talked for a while and also hope to be able to get together once in a while.  

As we were leaving we were given goody bags!  They were awesome!  Lots of stuff from the states that we can't find here (or at least not cheaply)- tootsie rolls, starburst, pens, chocolates, ranch dressing, taco seasoning mix, lotion, etc!!!!!  Let's just say the talk on the way home was largely about what was in the goody bags!

So thankful to Mercy for Mamas for hosting last night!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trusting for Provision

This has always been a challenge for me, but more especially since being a missionary.  Ever since I can remember, I've always worked multiple jobs at the same time.  I like the security of knowing that my next meal is provided for, rent will be paid when it is due, and other basic necessities are available when I need them.
It's a little different when relying on support.  It's out of my control.  Some months are wonderful and excess support coming in, making it possible to save for the next month.  Other months are very tight.  So tight that fear can begin to creep in.
The last few months have been those months.  And to ask for support, help, assistance, to me feels like begging.  I hate doing it.  I haven't really made it a priority.  It's not been hard for me to raise money for the school.  Not that all the school needs are met.  But, somehow, I don't feel as guilty asking for sponsorship for a child, money for rent to keep the school going, etc.  For myself, I just haven't been able to do it.
When I was here in 2004-2007, the cost of living wasn't so high and I was single, having only my own needs to meet.
When I came back in 2008, I was still along and although prices had risen a bit, they weren't too bad.  I had enough support to be fairly comfortable.  Not extravagant, but comfortable.  Now, four years later, a lot has changed.
Prices are much higher.  Gas prices can go as high as $7.50/gallon at times.  This makes the prices of everything rise.  Rent has increased.  The house I lived in in 2005 was a three bedroom house (shared by myself and two housemates) and rent was only around $200/month.  That same house now rents for over $600/month.  Food prices have increased.
And now we are a family of five (soon to be six)!  The cost of meeting our needs has grown.  Unfortunately, the support we receive has not grown.  I'm receiving pretty much the same amount of support in 2012 as in 2008.  The same supporters.  This is largely due to my lack of wanting to "beg" for new supporters or increases in support.
But, it has brought fear.  The last couple of months have been tight.  I know that I'm supposed to trust and lean on God for His provision.  He brought me here for a reason.  He won't let me starve or have me homeless.  But, it's hard to trust.  I tend to be more of a worrier.  I don't want to wait.  I don't like seeing my children go without.  I know it's a lesson for them to trust God as well, but it's still hard.
I worry about how we'll pay our next six months rent when it is next due.  I worry about if we will have enough to eat (real fear to a 30 week pregnant woman)!  I worry if we'll have enough money saved by the time the baby gets here to pay for the doctor and the hospital.
So, if you are reading this, will you pray with me that I will trust God for His provision.  Pray that I will be bold enough to speak to people about our need for support.  But, mostly, pray that I won't worry and that I'll be free from fear!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running

I miss running- OK, I miss outdoor exercise of a lot of kinds at the moment.  There aren't a ton of opportunities to participate in sports here or groups that train together.  On the way to church this morning we saw an ongoing race.
Very different from any road race I've watched or participated in before.  All the ones I've seen or participated in were well marked off, lined with people cheering you on and water tables.  Also, road traffic would be halted or diverted during the race.  Not here.  The racers just ran alongside the cars, motorcycles, and taxis flying past them!
Seeing the runners really made me miss it!  I miss the Saturday long runs with friends frequently followed by long swims to cool down.  I miss being able to run in parks and on trails.  I miss the scenery.  I miss the conversations (of course we were solving all the world's problems) while on these Saturday long runs.
I miss late night springs on the track.  I miss roller blading.  I miss hiking and biking.  But, mostly I miss running!
I loved running......  Our Saturday runs were usually more jogs so that we could talk along the way.  But, sometimes they'd last 2-3 hours!  It was a time of clearing my head.  Time to de-stress.  Time to build friendships.
I miss the road trips.  I miss being a part of a team.  I miss the long bus rides singing at the top of our voices until we fell asleep.  I miss the team meals.
I wish I could find someone that lived nearby that I could run with here.  Someone that wasn't taking it too seriously.  Someone that is running just for the fun of it.  Someone that is concerned more with the process than the result.  But, mostly I wish there were places to run here.  A park, a paved road, no potholes, no dodging traffic or inhaling the gas fumes!

Friday, September 7, 2012

When Helping Hurts

I read the book When Helping Hurts a couple of years ago (can't remember the author) and would highly recommend you reading it if you are considering either long or short term missions.

Most missionaries don't go to a foreign country with the intention of hurting.  We want to help.  We want to bring relief.  We want to share.  We want to give. Want people to know and feel the love of Jesus.  Often times though, I think we go about it in a way that brings more hurt than help.  Many times it leaves the missionary feeling taken advantage of and those that we are helping aren't growing, but instead becoming dependent.  I know that has been the case for me.  I LOVE GIVING!  But, I have also felt taken advantage of.  It's made me bitter at times.

Sometimes giving out money or free things is just not the answer.  Yes, there is a time to give out things freely or to pay for something for a family.  Not wanting to build dependency is the reason why Vision of Destiny has focused on education.  We provide education but expect the parents/guardians to pay their rent, clothe their children, provide meals at home, however meager these things might be.  Yes, we step in sometimes on emergency issues like medical care, etc.  However, we stay away from things like paying rent or giving food.

The reason we don't pay rent or give food to families has been based on experience.  Sort of like that saying, "If you give a man a fish you've fed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you've fed him for a lifetime."  From personal experience I've found that by paying rent for a family (or such things) that I've really not helped.  As soon as that month's rent is over, the family needs the next month's rent!  I've found the better thing for me to do is to help that family look for ways of paying their own rent.  That has looked different for different families.  For some it has been telling them where I know there might be a job available (meaning they would be earning regular income and could continue paying their own rent).  For others it has been helping them to build an already existing small business.

(We had a small micro-finance group running for a while that was beneficial to those involved in it.  I wish we could continue to run it but it needs another full time missionary here to run it.  David and I are just stretched to thin and can't maintain everything.  So, although that's another post all by itself, that is a prayer request- that God would send us people that could help run other projects!)

Back to the point of this post........  I've really just learned that by handing out money for every need, I'm not helping.  I was left feeling taken advantage of, which bring bitterness, which eventually hardens a person's heart.  It's not been easy to say no.  I feel bad.  I want to give it.  But, I have to look at the bigger picture.  Do I want my hands feeding this person for a lifetime or do I want them to use their own hands to feed themselves for a lifetime?  Of course, I'm meaning using their own hands while leaning on God for direction and provision.  

This has been a real issue at the school.  A lot of people feel that because their child is being sponsored that they should receive everything for free.  Sponsorship ($35/month) doesn't cover all of a child's needs.  It just can't.  Prices have risen here to a point where that sponsorship barely feeds the child breakfast and lunch at school for the month.  We've not been able to stretch it to cover supplies and other needs the school has.  God has been faithful and has each month provided other large one time donations that have helped us to keep things going.

This term though things look a little tight, tighter than normal.  Impossibly tight.  Stressfully tight.  So tight I question whether we are going to be able to make it to the end of the term.  It's going to be a huge test in my faith.

I love working with the parents and guardians who want to walk next to me and fight with me to see that things continue working out (and they've come up with some really creative ways to pitch in and help).  They are a joy to serve.  They share in carrying the burden.  That is probably 95% of the parents/guardians we work with.  They want to feed themselves for a lifetime.  They know that by their child having education there is a chance for a better future!

Now the question remains, how do we help without hurting the other 5%?  How do we teach them to fish for themselves?  How do we keep them from becoming dependent?  How do we teach them to fight for their own children?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homesick

This may not be an exact quote but I'm sure many of you have heard it a time or two so will know exactly what I'm referring to!
I've heard that as long as we are here on earth we'll always feel homesick.  It's the longing for our home in heaven and not feeling complete until we get there.  It's not those exact words but I think you get the point.

I've been so homesick lately!  It's so odd for me as I've always felt so comfortable here.  I know that even if I went back to the U.S. I'd be longing for Uganda.  Guess it's that thing of never really being satisfied.  But, according to the "quote" above, I'll never really feel at home, not until I reach my final destination in heaven.

Why am I homesick?  I really have no idea.  I know the things I miss, the things that I wish were available at my fingertips here.  Walks in the park, drinking a coffee while reading a book at Starbucks, movie nights out with friends, eating out with friends, hanging out with friends at home, Bible studies, my home church, praise and worship, real friendships (that's another post all by itself), climbing Pinnacle Mountain, road trips, paved roads, electricity and water all the time, etc., etc., etc.

But, I try to remind myself I've what I've gained in being here.  A wonderful husband, three adorable and loveable kids, being more reliable on God than ever before, He's my best friend, swimming with my kids, nights out with the family, the kids at school, the people I'd never have met if I wouldn't have been willing to come here, all the things that I've learned in my time here, praise and worship in another language, baking with Jackie, teaching Yosam, all the laughs I hear from Jurnee, late night conversations with David, date nights...... the list is long!

So, I try to remember I'm where God wants me to be, walking in His plan for me, and that wherever I am that is in His will I am home.  Ultimately "home is where the heart is."  And my heart is here!  I just have to remember that and cherish the memories I have from the years before Uganda, continue to keep those long distance relationships going, and love with all I have those that are around me now!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Disappearance

It seems I've disappeared from this blog........  When I first started it, I was pretty good about posting fairly regularly.  Over the last couple of years, it seems the rate of posting has been on the decline.  Why?

At times I just don't have much to say.  Not that there isn't anything to talk about or new stories to tell.  I just get into a funk and don't want to share.  Sometimes my heart feels shattered.  Sometimes I'm torn between being open and keeping myself closed.  Sometimes I think that what I want to say is too boring or I can't say it eloquently enough.  Other times I'm frustrated.

One of the things that has pushed me to blog less is that when I started this blog it wasn't so much about ministry.  It was a way to keep up with friends who are now scattered all over the world.  We figured instead of emailing each person individually, at least we could have the highlights of our lives posted on our blogs for all to read.  It would be a way to keep up to date with each others' lives- who had gotten married, who had a baby, adopted a baby, deaths, frustrations, joys, tears, etc.

Somehow though, I think I've gotten so caught up in Vision of Destiny and talking about Vision of Destiny on this blog that it's lost its meaning to me.  There's been so much that has gone on in my life over the last couple of years that's never been shared.  Jackie and Yosam are growing up......  Jurnee is almost a year old and I've hardly shared her life here at all......  Funny stories of day to day life........  Thoughts that have been thought...... Prayers that have been prayed.......  So much that hasn't been shared.

I'm hoping that as I try to start back blogging, I'll find it fun again.  I'm hoping that you guys will get to see more and more glimpses into my heart and life.  More pictures!  Hopefully I'll just get back into the habit of blogging again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Still I Rise

Sometimes life gets hard.  Things don't seem fair.  I wonder why.  I wish for a way out.  I want to run away. I want to quit.  But, I think back over other hard times and remember that I've always made it through.  First, with God's help (even when I didn't know it was Him helping me).  And with the help of so many people that He has placed in my life along the way.

This poem has often been a motivator for me.  Many hurdles have been thrown in my path, but I've always risen above them.  And I know that whatever is thrown in my way, I will continue to rise!

Still I Rise 
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An Intruder in the Night

We've been praying over the last few months about moving from our current house........  Here's another reason why added to our list:

Most of the locks on our windows were broken.  That meant that most of the windows in the house couldn't be locked.  We have left it since the landlord wasn't fixing them thinking that since we have burglar proofing on the windows it would be fine.  Also, most of the doors inside had no locks- our bedroom door had a broken latch so couldn't even be closed.

Last Thursday night, a thief climbed over our perimeter wall.  He then went to the kitchen window and used the long handle of a shovel to push the bolts off the kitchen door.  This gave him full access to our house.  We found his footprints in almost every room.

Jurnee has been sleeping through the night for several months.  For some reason, on Thursday night, Jurnee decided to wake up at 3 to play.  While she was playing, David and I were quietly talking.  We heard the door to our room creak a bit.  We just assumed it was the wind.  David got up and decided to open our bedroom door.  He found a masked man standing there peering into the room.  David then chased him from the house.  

This was probably the most frightening thing that has happened to me in Uganda.  It's left fear in all of our hearts.  Needless to say, we feel it's definitely time to move from this house.  We've begun raising support for our move......  Landlords here in Uganda require tenants to pay at least six months in rent up front.  

Pray for us as we are searching for a new home:
-  that we'll find the right place- we're leaning towards an apartment 
-  that enough funds will come in to be able to move
-  enough monthly support to be able to continue paying the rent after the initial six months
-  peace and sleep for the remaining days that we are here.

Thank God with us for:
-  watching over us that night
-  waking Jurnee up to play
-  that no one was harmed and nothing was taken.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

We Love Short Term Teams!

We just hosted our second short term team of the year!  Another really great group!

Through a mutual friend, I was connected to their team leader.  The group was a YWAM group coming from a base in Germany- primarily an art focused school.  The school begins with a three month discipleship training school.  Then ends with an outreaching lasting for about two months or so.

The group spent two weeks at Vision of Destiny.  They were able to do lots of photography for us!  That means sponsors will be getting professionally done updated photos of their kids this year (unless your child was absent on the days photos were being taken)!!!!  They also were able to put together a brochure for us as well as toss around lots of ideas for upcoming projects.

So many times groups come in with their own agenda and want to do things their own way.  Not this group.  They were willing to learn and desired to be a blessing.  And a blessing they were!  We were extremely blessed to have them and are looking forward to them sending more teams our way.


Our family with the team!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not Going to Back Down

I went to church with Jurnee on Sunday (the first after many Sundays out).  She doesn't usually make it through the service.  Actually, not much past through praise and worship- if we even make it through that.

This past Sunday was no different.  Before praise and worship was over, she had to leave the service.  There's Sunday School for children but for the young babies usually a parent has to stay with them......  When they're a bit older (crawling and not crying), they'll keep them without a parent if the room is not too busy.

I usually hang out in there and hear what I can of the service while talking to the other moms that are there.  Sunday was sort of a light day.  Only 5 babies.  All but one were older than Jurnee.  All but Jurnee and that one are mobile- mostly walking!

And of course, as babies do, they like to try to pull everything away from each other.  Jurnee was having none of that!  One of the girls kept walking over and trying to take the toy Jurnee had away.  Jurnee kept a tight grip and made sounds back at the girl.  The girl eventually gave up and sat down somewhat close to Jurnee on the floor.  Jurnee then proceeded to try to remove the child's shoes, which the other child didn't like.  End result- other child crying.  Jurnee gripping a couple of child sized green shoes.

Other kids would have a melt down when realizing mom was not there or when be refused to leave the room.  Jurnee just continued to play and blow bubbles!

It was pretty fun to watch her!