tents

A year and a half ago I named my mission to Uganda, Journey to Jinja because alliteration is cute and catchy. I really had no idea what a journey I was getting myself into. This morning I started Beth Moore’s study Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent. I was excited to study Psalms, not realizing the emphasis of the study is the songs sung by Israelites during their pilgrimage to the temple. The girls joined me for the audio introduction. We marked out the chapters [psalms 120-135] we would be studying, staining the pages with their red-dirt fingerprints.

Psalm 120 In my distress I called to the Lord, What misery that I sojourn in Meshech that I dwell among the tents of Kadar. Too long have I stayed in my dwelling among those who hate peace.

Of course I had to Google Map these places, to find out they are opposite directions from Jerusalem- both far journeys to the city of God, to the temple. I thought of my tents, the two countries I now call my dwelling places. And by the next chapter, The Maker of Heaven and earth who is my Keeper, made it very clear that He is in Both places. He knows the place I am leaving and knows the place I am going. Just as Meshech and Kadar were literal places so were my dwelling places.
But Jesus also wanted to be the Keeper of my heart tents.


What misery that I sojourn in uncertainty that I dwell among the tents of anxiety.
What misery that I sojourn in insecurity that I dwell among the tents of fear.


And so my prayer was this ( I wrote this prayer on the page you are supposed to keep covered so your neighbor doesn’t see)
Lord please take these places of wandering through uncertainty and insecurity and turn them into adventures of beauty. Of journeys to know you. Travels with my One Romance. Help me to trust you.

And this is what happened after I put my Bible down and my coffee cup in the sink. One day of the journey. I headed to town to pick up a lab result. With our vehicles currently out of commission, I walked to the main road, about 2 km. The small ones too small for school grabbed my hand and walked with me. More red-dirt fingerprints covered my hands as they continued munching their sugarcane and I kept walking. I made it to the road, and not a single boda (motorcycle for public transport) was coming. Finally a man stopped; he was driving an ancient boda that you could hardly classify as a motorcycle. I would have declined, but I really didn’t know if another would come by. So I hopped on the back. I fumbled my feet around attempting to find the foot-pegs nervous I would bump the muffler until I got off at the footbridge crossing the Nile (built in 1954, history note by my 55 year old driver). I noted the muffler was under the seat and the size of an electric pencil sharpener. And it made the same sound. We reached the clinic. Since were both nurses heading to the same place, he considered us friends and would not accept transport money, only a small bit for fuel. Refusing payment for transport is unheard of, rather I am usually haggled into higher price. If there had been other bodas on the road, I never would have chosen this one. I probably would have chosen one that didn’t look like it was going to fall to parts. But I was so blessed to have traveled with a such a kind- hearted man.

I finished at the clinic and walked to the bank. My debit card was declined. The only option for transaction was “return card.” I tried the next bank, the armed security guard kindly informed me that this ATM was not working. And bank number 3 was closed. Apparently it had moved clear across town. I called my bank to make sure my card had not been blocked, but I was on hold when I ran out of Airtime. I couldn’t make another call, or access my account. I went into the grocery store and had enough cash in my wallet for a cold coke and $1.50 worth of Airtime. There across the street was another bank- the security guard directed me to the ATM. I walked into the small ATM building, and it hit me. It was Air Conditioned! And had the microchip technology nonsense the new debit cards have now. I was standing in the only 4 foot square of A/C in town (except the fancy restaurant with the cheesecake)! This place was called Diamond Trust for a reason, it was a piece of heaven. Jesus heard my crying in the street, but instead just an ATM machine, he brought a box of pure refreshment and relief.

I now had cash to go to the market. I entered the open-market through a different entrance than usual and I was a bit disoriented. But I was not going to tell the two boys that insisted on escorting me through the market that piece of information. But Nick and Earthquake (his name translates in English to Earthquake) made a convincing argument when they offered to help me bargain my way out of muzungu prices. Provision and even some interesting company while I completed my morning shopping, So I boda-ed home with produce filling my backpack.

I made it home, and the half-day school boys met me on the porch requesting to play beads and threads. I was adorned with beaded necklaces and bracelets. One pure boy became bored with beads and started stringing ants. He successfully tied 5 live ants onto his necklaces. Boys. Treasured boys. It was this very boy that Lord used to show me months before, why I was dwelling here. And proved to me He would remember his promise to keep and love his children. Maker of Heaven and earth who keeps these boys. That day there were miracles and so today there were tortured ants.

The boys stomp their red-dirt footprints through the house. The kitchen was flooded with the defrost from the igloo of the mini freezer leaking onto the floor. While the taps are without running water elsewhere on the compound, and kids rush to fill their cups at my house. When there is no water: my floor is covered with more water than I wanted. There is no water, and yet there is overflow. I enjoyed watching the boys fill their bellies with cold water and hack ice to pieces despite the melted, muddy mess that was my house. The satisfied children left and I mopped the mess. The day was complete with one more trip to the clinic for a malaria test. I returned home in time for evening medicine rounds and devotions. And I was back in my dwelling place.

In everything today, the Lord provided in ways I could not have thought in my own mind. Thing after thing went wrong, and provisions came that were just hilarious. Reminders all day long that the Lord was by my side. The Lord is my Keeper. He is there Before and Behind. He is there, no matter where my dwelling place is. The Lord wants to take my tents, my insecurities and uncertainties and bring me to a tent of trust and peace. And day by day He is making me into a dwelling place for him. Where can I go from your Spirit, if your Spirit is living in Me? Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure joined together, grows together into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit [Eph 2:20.] What a thought! As much as I want my dwelling place to be in Him, He wants his dwelling place to be in me. He is removing these broken tents and building a dwelling for himself. We are His dwelling place, His people. And He laid the first most beautiful stone: Jesus to be the Cornerstone.


For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent we groan, being burdened- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. Yes we are of good courage and would rather be away from the body and with the Lord. So whether at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-9

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dripping grace

It was just that kind of day. Everything was wrong. The first wrong thing was waking up. 6:15 and we are late. The kids running out the door so they won’t miss the school van with muddy feet across freshly mopped floor. The milk arrives and with my brain planning and plotting all the things come in the day I turned on the stove and moved on to the next thing. They say don’t cry over spilt milk, but this was milk so far beyond pasteurization, not a drip remained. It was charred, burn-the-house- down milk. I pulled myself together best I could and headed to town. I was taking a very sick boy to the clinic, to the market, to the pharmacy, back to the clinic, back to the pharmacy. It always seems like a long trip when you make every stop twice. We returned home to eat a late lunch and prepare for our next trip: a blood transfusion. There is a new hospital with a blood bank, we were dropped off there. The van headed off to pick up the children from school only minutes before we were informed the blood bank is not functioning yet and has no blood. I rushed to catch the van, it was gone. A hospital plopped there in the middle of a village and maize field. We started walking towards the main road, bare foot children followed with their mangoes. We jumped on the first boda (motorcycle) we saw headed in the direction that seemed right. We went to another hospital in search of blood. Blood was typed, and out of stock. We found boda number two and hospital number three. Veins too small for the cannula, blood dripped so slowly. Drip by drip. I watch the blood, hope. Hope for healing. This blood holds energy and hope. Someone donated their blood. They were wounded so in his weakness he could receive new blood into his fragile veins. It brought life back to his face. One small bag of donated blood drips, and I am thankful to the stranger who sacrificed it. How gracious! How much more did our Saviour’s blood drip! He was wounded for our transgression. He bled so that we would receive hope and grace in our veins.
All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ- through the shedding of his blood- to be received by faith.
His blood dripped down from the cross.
Blood drips down. Grace drips down.
And just as the milk arrives fresh tomorrow morning so will His grace!


spilt milk
spilt blood
spilt grace


Turn

I lived a short time in Tennessee, a time of waiting to hear God’s voice. While waiting, Mr. Bill taught me turn wood. His past time he shared with me while I pasted the time of waiting. Standing in the shop smelling sweet cedar and covered in sawdust and potential beauty. The fence post ragged and old placed on the lathe. The spinning begins and the tools dig into the wood. Pieces fly off in every direction. Scraps of wood quickly cover the floor. For the wood, everything is spinning. Rapidly spinning out of control. But the wood is secured in the lathe as it turns. The creator holds the tools guiding the wood. The creator controls the spinning and digs gently at the wood. When the spinning, turning, cutting stops, the smooth wood is exposed. The turning removed the ugly, the jagged, leaving only the smooth, sweet, beautiful interior. The creator is covered in the mess, but the wood has been turned into the shape intended. The Creator turns ugly to beautiful, turns water to wine, death to life. The Creator turns our heart. Turning our hearts spins us rapidly out of control, but the Creator holds our hearts in secure position while the jagged pieces fling off.

Let us be turned. And returned.

And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see the is great sight, why the bush has not burned.” When the Lord saw the he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses!”

The bush was on fire, Moses responded by turning to see if the Lord was in the bush. Moses was waiting to hear God’s voice many years guiding sheep in the desert. Moses was ready and he turned. When he turned the Lord called out to him. What if Moses did not turn to see the bush? What if he tried to keep his sheep away from the fire? How much do I miss when I don’t turn aside? Do I miss the opportunity to hear the Lord’s voice?

Let me turn.

Repentance: to change directions; to turn
Let me turn and be turned and returned.

“For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord , to keep the commandments and statues written in the book of the law, and when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. But the Word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in you heart, so that you can do it.” duet 30


“Come let us return to the Lord: for he has torn us that he might heal us: After two days He will revive us and on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord.” hosea 6


Let us return to the One who turns us.

Inhale Yahweh

Years ago in the pool, toddler sister on my shoulders, we were splashing and playing. And one more step and I was in over my head. I treaded and struggled to take one step back. Somehow underwater there is no concept of space or even time, where am I and how much breath do I have left? I could have swam to get myself out of this situation, but having my sister on my shoulders I had to keep my body upright to keep her face above the water. My dad was on the pool’s edge watching. When I got out I asked, “Dad didn’t you see me struggling, why didn’t you come and rescue me?” I genuinely thought I was going to kill my sister. His response made me a bit angry. “Sarah’s face never dipped below. And you had it completely under control.” All the time he was watching Sarah’s face, I wasn’t breathing. Underwater I was panicking, my feet could not find surface. But Dad could see the whole picture and knew I was one step away. He knew the amount of time that had actually elapsed, not the false eternity of my breathless mind. Dad was there, he would not let me drown. I felt further away than I really was from my Dad. But that’s the thing about drowning, somehow you lose footing and awareness of your surroundings. You lose oxygen from your lungs. You lose control. You panic.
Anxiety feels very much like drowning. A wave of fear crashes over your face, and suddenly you feel in over your head. Your heart races and breathing seems difficult. Try to regain control, try to step back onto familiar ground, but fear binds your failing feet falling deeper into unknown waters.

You call me out upon the waters, and the great unknown where my feet may fail.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters.
Your sovereign hand will be my guide, Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me you have never failed and you wont stop now when oceans rise My soul will rest in you embrace.

The Lord has taken me to a place “where my trust is without borders” and I have prayed to “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” In my prayer I somehow didn’t realize my feet were wandering into the deep end of the pool. One single wave, and crash. Fear. I try to control my body in waves, But my Father controls the waves. I have chosen to Rest in His embrace, I will not drown. I will breathe. I know my heavenly Father is here, and I have chosen to rest in his embrace. To breathe his presence. To breathe life. My Father has not given me a spirit of fear. Peace beyond understanding
this recent wave, this tsunami of a wave crashed, I felt peace. Peace that even I cant comprehend, Jesus closer than my breathe. Regardless of the outcome, of the tidalwave, the Lord holds it all. He restores the water damage.
I know the risks are great, but I know my Father called me into the waters. I know He will preserve my life. He is my life preserver.


Inhale Yahweh

Exhale Praise

Precious

The flu swept through the compound. I awoke to the daily routine but it was quickly interrupted with cries of, “Mommy, I am sick.” And so it began, each child came with their set of symptoms. Others reported for the ones too ill to make it out of bed. Before I could finish assessing and medicating one, the next would appear. I wrote down names and the time of their first dose. And very quickly my white-lined page was filled with names numbered to 25. My office circulated with kid after kid. I tried to quarantine; the small girl’s room was 6 beds full, the older girls room 4 out of 6. The boys swarmed the office. I tried to keep them separated without avail and manage the temperatures, some as high as 105. Medication around the clock, times 25: Day One. 7AM to 3AM marked the end of the first day of the epidemic. I looked at my list: overwhelmed. I can’t keep up. I can’t do this alone. I can’t delegate to anyone; All are sick. I consumed Airboure and prayed for my own health. How can I treat if I am infected? I pleaded. The Lord heard my request and I only got a mild case. Day Two and the wretched flu had reached the baby room. All the tylenol in the world could not reduce this fever. Constantly bathing the flaming hot babies. The names continue to be added to the list. The morning round of medication lasting until the start of the afternoon one. And the afternoon round flowing into the evening and through the night. List lengthens. Will this end? Just when I think I can take a breath, another one vomits near the bathroom. I pray for endurance. I don’t have time to cry. My prayers: desperate, my quiet time lasting only seconds and my messages home: a plead for prayer on my behalf. I was dependent on the prayers of those at home. Mine were moments of shouts for help. In the middle of my plead was a psalm:

For He delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and PRECIOUS is their blood in His sight. Ps.72

I expected the answer to my prayer would be healing. Yet the Lord revealed His heart. He was entrusting me with His beloved children. The Lord would sustain me in my weakness, but He wanted to show me how deeply He loves these kids. He has rescued them, and their blood is precious to Him. We sing O the precious Blood of Jesus. And blood is the source of life. Jesus’ blood brought redemption and salvation. The contrast is great, the precious, pure and redemptive blood of Christ; the blood of the children unclean, weakened, and infected. For these kids, blood is the source of their disease. It is their blood, their HIV infected blood that causes the flu to be slow healing. Viral loads high, long lasting infections and secondary ones. The flu will heal; their blood remains infected. Their blood is feared by many, the risk of being infected. Disease is carried through their blood, and yet it is their blood that is precious. Precious: of high value, of worth, treasured. Their hearts pump precious blood. He revealed the depth of His love, so much more than I can measure or grasp. In that moment overwhelmed by the long list, I saw a glimpse of His great love. Instead of names on a page, a inked medication list; it was a list of His Beloved children. How could my heart not swell? In my hands, I held a list of precious-blooded children with precious hearts loved by our Father.


They are precious in His sight

 

Rain

Rain pours from the sky. Rain delays plans. Morning Mommies can’t walk to work, night Mommies wait. Red puddles collect and soften the earth into a sloppy, slippery mess. Shoes sink, clothes get soggy, hair unmentionable. Rain disturbs the schedule. 8 kids scheduled for the clinic at 830. At 11, rain is still pouring,the driver still stuck. When we finally arrive, the doctor with whom we had an appointment and I had emailed labs to the night before decided not to come to work. 8 soggy children waiting on the clinic porch. 3 soggy diapers (my diaper- changing-while-kid-is-standing skills come in very handy at this point, while there is no family stall with fold-down changing table. It’s a room with a flushable hole in the muddy floor and bring your own TP.) Frustration wells like the rising water. But..
The Lord controls the weather and calms the storm, Oh you of little faith, why do you doubt? He uses the water to show his power to prove himself trustworthy. The heart of man plans his ways but the Lord establishes his steps.
Plans are upset, but the seek His presence. It will come like rain.
Rain wonderfully cools the heat of the day: Relief. Rain provides nourishment for the plants to grow and consequently food for us to eat: Provision. Rain eliminates the red dust from turning up on everything: Cleansing. The sound of the roof: Rhythm for rest.
Presence pouring down from heaven. Allow it to pour. Allow it to provide, to cleanse, to renew and refresh.


Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; he will come to us as the showers , as the spring rain that waters the earth. Hosea 6: 3

Heart transplant

Quiet time in my mosquito netted bed, I am protected from unfamiliarity. I find comfort there, because the moment I lift the net I am surrounded by the unknown. I try to plan so that I feel prepared: prepared to take on clinic trips, to manage money in shillings, to assess kids pains, to diagnose them with an opportunistic complications or a tropical disease, or just heart burn from the mookane they just ate. I lie in my netted bed and I read words by Sarah Young “Give up performance anxiety and receive in its place My unfailing love. Turn to me. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed with your limited human perspective… when you are shaken out of your comfortable routine grip my hand tightly and look for growth opportunity, instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort invite Me into your day since I have already planned it.” I try to plan out the day, so I am prepared, so I won’t fail. I try to adjust, to treat the kids, to have all the knowledge so I can treat them properly, perfectly. I can’t.

I think back to Sunday morning before I flew to Africa, a friend spoke words from the Lord to me. He whispered in my ear, “you feel like you don’t have enough. Enough strength, knowledge, enough capability. And you are right. You don’t. But you are not going on your own strength or grace but God’s. Strength, capability, grace comes as manna just as it is needed. No less, no more. New, fresh every morning. He has asked you to go, He will provide manna, strength, grace.” Listening to the words I wept into Jim’s armpit not realizing those words would mean even more today. Why do I try to make it through the day on my own when I can access His strength and enjoy His presence and grace all day?

I lie in my netted bed and think back further to my Tennessee bed, where I prayed for direction. That sleepless night I wrestled with the Lord to know his plan, and to be content with it. When I realized the direction was Africa, I wrestled harder: I am incapable. The Lord spoke directly that night. “you are trying to preform heart surgery on yourself. Cutting your own heart is suicide. You will kill yourself trying. Hand the scalpel to the Surgeon, Stop trying to do this on your own. Hand Me the scalpel.” A sleepless night of open heart surgery. He has cut my heart open and is turning it into a heart of flesh that beats for him. That pumps life. I handed the scalpel over to the surgeon and the transplant began. Transplant: to remove and relocate. To relocate my heart to Africa. He will transplant slowly and gradually by removing natural self and replacing it with Him, with grace. I transplanted to Africa and I thought it was finished. And it was finished, but those words belonged to Christ. And He holds the scars. God allow His Son’s blood to pour out so that mine can pump life, pump grace. And with our gentle Surgeon, heart surgery it is not day surgery. He will continue to transform my heart until He returns. I need to allow Him. Though I feel weak from transplant, I am learning to rely on His strength and grace. He is transplanting and transforming my heart and mind and renewing a right spirit with in me.
But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1