Friday, March 30, 2012

God's hand in our move

purchase print here

I also love the NIV version of this passage:"You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me."

I've been reading through Psalms at night and last night I hit chapter 139, a passage I've heard and known since a child. It's funny how you can read the Bible over and over and every time it will speak to you in a different way. Verse 5 jumped out at me and I had to smile at God's perfect timing.

This week has been rough. My chest hurts so much that it's hard to breathe. I'm overwhelmed and anxious and sad. This is my last post from Harrisonburg! Tomorrow we pack up the U-Haul and make our way to our new home.

Even though it's hard to leave, we have joy knowing that our God has gone before us and will be with us. He has laid His hand upon us and blessed us. We will praise His name.

Monday, March 26, 2012

now you see me, now you don't

my couch doesn't look pink in person... and all of these "before" photos were taken a long time ago :)

We have four days to finish packing up the house. FOUR DAYS. FOUR DAYS!!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

buddy garrity, a birdcage and our new home

I had to pause FNL and take a pic of the screen, b/c that box
of mac and cheese is the size of a cereal box. wha??
p.s. current fav FNL quote is "please don't whisper yell at me."
I went to Richmond with my friend Amber and came home
with this friendly little brass birdcage

that sign should read SOLD!
I blogged about our house-hunting experiencing last month. This townhouse was the last place we visited, and it was love at first sight. Actually, that's not true... it was dark and we couldn't really see the outside. But we loved it the minute we walked through the front door. We put an offer in that evening and waited for two and a half days before finding out we got it. I left for Uganda the next day. 

Today I drove up to Frederick w/ my friend Holly to walk around the house again and get some more pictures and measurements. Unfortunately the sellers were moving today, so there were people everywhere. It was still great to see the house and know it's OURS.

Side story: A while ago an old co-worker (who has long since left Hburg) messaged me on Facebook and said she had a friend moving to Harrisonburg who didn't know anyone in the area, and would I please get together with her? I remember being so nervous the day I first met Holly for coffee. I shouldn't have worried. She's pretty fanfreakingtastic. We were together for 9 hours today and never stopped talking and laughing and getting lost and laughing about getting lost.

Downtown Frederick is dangerously fantastic. We ate scrumptious burgers at Cafe Nola and browsed many, many shops. I think our favorite was Silk & Burlap

We move NEXT WEEK. Yeah.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

eating in Uganda

Well, I told you I'd fill you in on what I ate in Uganda. It's not very exciting - I had milkshakes, sandwiches, pizza, pancakes, french toast...

Not even joking.

Our team leaders didn't want us to eat anything unsafe, so we stuck to restaurants that were recommended by other Americans. I was a little disappointed, actually. I love trying new foods! We ate rice and beans every day for lunch and I loooved them. I was really excited about the two nights that we tried actual African cuisine - one night we went to an Ethiopian restaurant and another night we went to a Ugandan buffet. The buffet included a lot of potatoes, posho, some amazing stewed meat (preeetty sure it was beef, not goat) and a really interesting nut sauce that you could eat w/ rice.

What surprised me about eating out in Uganda was that it would take at least 45 minutes, usually an hour, for the food to arrive. But you might not get your food. The waiter might come up to you and tell you they are sorry but they are out of whatever you ordered. This happened ALL the time! It was insane. It would take about an hour for them to realize "oh hey, we're out of chicken! oops!" One night I tried ordering chicken, but they were out, so I ordered a burger, but they were out of meat. Guess how long it took for all that to be figured out? Two hours. That's typical, though, so we just went w/ the flow and ate off each other's plates. I never went hungry. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

uganda: the picture post

big thanks to everyone who so graciously shared their pics w/ me!

en route to Addis Ababa
the a-team on Ugandan soil!

crazy huge birds
the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda

home sweet home - our "veranda" at the guest house
view from the Watoto guest house
a common road-side scene
one of the many markets 
driving through Gulu

eating our daily lunch of rice and beans in the day-care tent
at the counseling center
your arms are never empty in Uganda...
children getting water - the inscription says "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink"
beading necklaces w/ the Imani women
Hanging with Charlotte and Naomi at the children's home
freeze tag!
reading with Jackie and Vanessa

going on my first boda ride w/ Tony
all the girls posing for a farewell picture - taken seconds before the waterworks started
this lil monkey wanted to come home w/ us

Friday, March 16, 2012

in plenty or in poverty - praying in the slums

I will not take my love away / When praises cease and seasons change / while the whole world turns the other way / I will not take my love away. I will not leave you all alone / When striving leads you far from home /And there's no yield for what you've sown / I will not leave you all alone. I will give you what you need / In plenty or in poverty / Forever, always, look to me / And I will give you what you need / I will not take my love away. - "I will not take my love away" by Matt Wertz 

Just nine days ago I was in the slums outside Gulu, Uganda. The Imani women lead us there, welcoming us into their homes and laying their prayers at our feet. My husband beats me. My children are sick. I do not feel safe. I am HIV positive.

These women know what it means to be in need. They make jewelry for people like me and you to wear so that they don't have to sell their body in order to feed their family. They desire a better life. They desire to see their husbands accept the Lord. They desire good health and a safe home for their children. They desire to obey God.

I was so touched by their hospitality, their openness and their faith. I hope I'm never so vain and proud that I can't invite someone into my home and share my struggles with them.

I didn't go to Uganda because I wanted to gain something, but I really believe the people I interacted with gave me more than they received from me.

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by the needs in this world that we end up doing nothing at all.

We have so much to give.

Pray, pray, pray!
Click here to read about the Zion Project and to learn how you can sponsor a child. Click here to read more about the Imani women and what benefits they receive from the counseling center. Click here to learn how you can provide a woman w/ counseling (and receive a monthly present) for a mere $25/month.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

manis and pedis under a mango tree

two of the Imani women during morning worship

The tears come out of nowhere. Yesterday morning I bent my head over to blow-dry my hair and all of a sudden I started sobbing. I'll be in the car, doing the dishes, playing with the dog... then BAM! Tears. My body is tired and confused and my mind is scattered. I hate it, but at the same time I hope I never fully "recover."

We did a lot of neat things on the trip, but one of my favorites was giving the Imani women manicures and pedicures. There are ten women who work for Imani making paper beads and fashioning them into bracelets and necklaces. Some of the women have been bought out of prostitution and now make their living from the jewelry. Others are still in prostitution but trying to get out of it. Each day they walk to the counseling center to work on their jewelry, carrying babies on their backs. Their children get free daycare while they work.

One of our team members had the brilliant idea to bring items we'd need to wash and massage the women's hands and feet and paint their nails. We had the women sit in a line under a mango tree and worked in teams of two - two people washing, two drying, two massaging and two painting. I painted. 

The women were deeply touched. Some cried. I probably could have cried, but I was so happy! These women have never experienced being pampered before, and I felt beyond blessed to be a part of it.

It gets even better... later that morning I was chatting with Lucy, the daycare teacher. She began gesturing at her feet and saying "please, paint." She wanted pretty nails, too! I got my hands on a bottle of bright pink polish and set to work. As soon as I was done she put her hands in my lap and smiled brightly. She would frown and point if I missed a spot. I understood. I'm very particular when I get my nails done, too. When I was done she laughed and laughed, admiring her hands and feet. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, little girls appeared in front of me! They practically climbed on top one another to shove their hands in my face. All morning I painted - hands, feet, boys and girls. I showed them how to gently blow on their nails. They took it very seriously for about ten seconds, then they took off running to show their friends.


When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

John 13:12-17

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"do not forget about us"

They stepped forward to greet us as we came off the bus, the air heavy with a heartbreaking foil of eagerness and hesitance. Sixteen girls, all with a history of abuse, offering shy smiles and hugs. We would bend down, straining our ears to hear a name being whispered. 

I wondered if it would take them long to warm up to us. It didn't. Giggles began erupting when we played "Miss Mary Mack" and "Down by the banks of the hanky panky." We went from being strangers to being "aunties" and "uncles." We had another Lora on our team, so I told the girls to call me "Auntie Sunshine."

Over the week we held hands, played games, read, colored, sang and danced. The girls have devotions every evening and worship and pray for about an hour. One girl expertly beats a drum while another leads the songs, and the rest move their feet and hips to the music. As the songs go from loud and catchy to quiet and reverent, girls fall to their knees or to the floor. They close their eyes and cover their faces and pray aloud. I only understand one word - "Baba" (father).

Can you imagine? Can you believe that sixteen little girls (ages six to fourteen) who have been beaten and molested and told they are worth nothing... worshipping? I felt like any minute the amount of hope in that room was going to knock me to the floor.

You may think these girls don't have much to be grateful for, but oh, they do! They are now in a safe place. They have their own bed. They go to school. They do not go hungry. They are cared for and loved. They get to play. They get to be little girls.

playing with gliders
get ready to have your heart broken into tiny little pieces...

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. Psalm 31:7

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

what I expected and what really happened in Uganda

I'm probably not going to sleep well. I'm probably going to get car sick. I'm probably not going to like the food. I'm probably going to wish I had my own space. I'm probably going to get eaten alive. I'm probably going to have to touch a lot of dirty things and a lot of sick people. I'm probably going to have sweaty pits. I'm probably going to have frizzy hair. I'm probably going to struggle with having a consistently positive attitude. I may not love Uganda.

I wasn't trying to be negative or self-centered. I was only trying to prepare myself for what could be a reality. I had been hoping to visit Uganda for nearly four years and I was beyond excited - but I was also wary of being naive. I prayed and prayed, asking the Lord to prepare my heart and to protect me. Most of all I prayed that God would help me to have a joyful spirit and positive attitude. I wanted to have a smile on my face even if I was uncomfortable.

I didn't get car sick, even though the roads were awful. I slept well, even though it was hot and the bed was funky. The food was never bad (at times it was fantastic). I did touch dirty things and sick people, but I didn't care. I didn't get much space to myself, but I adored being with the team and took advantage of the times I did have alone. The first time I caught myself struggling to have a good attitude was last Wednesday, which means for SIX whole days I was completely and utterly happy. I won't lie and say I didn't get frizzy and sweaty, but really... how insignificant is that? I l-o-v-e LOVED Uganda.

I'm still processing through the trip and trying to put everything into words. It's a lot harder than I thought!

Monday, March 12, 2012

apwoyo matek, Baba

apwoyo matek (pronounced afoy-oh ma-teck) is Acholi for "thank you very much." baba means father.

children of the Imani women (photo by Allison Stefancin)
As I'm writing this post, it's around 9:30 p.m. in Uganda. If I were still there I would be at a restaurant waiting for dinner with the eleven other members of "The A Team." I'd be passing my packet of baby wipes around the table and we'd all be making faces at the amount of dirt that has clung to our hands and burrowed under our fingernails. I'd probably be resting my head against someones shoulder and gently scratching their back, reflecting on the day and expressing silent gratitude for this evening communion.

I think I know a little of what the apostle John was experiencing when he was writing letters to his brothers and sisters in Christ. "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete (2nd John 1:12)."

I have much to write to you. I came home carrying 75 pounds of luggage and a treasure chest of stories - stories of friendship, joy, hope, humility, faith, love, forgiveness and redemption. I wish I could tell all my stories to you in person, but many of you are across the state, across the country or over the ocean. This coming week I'll be posting about the trip at least once a day, filling you in on what I saw, ate, did, prayed, etc. I hope you'll be encouraged and inspired by my words, and even more than that I hope that your heart will be overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord.