Sunday, October 4, 2015

Last Post From Home

Today is our anniversary, 18 years of wedded bliss. I should not be leaving for Africa today. Everything is pointing against it. My hip is still aching, my mom is being needy (no fault of her own, the poor thing), I wasn’t able to check-in for our flight ahead of time, my suitcase is eight pounds over the limit. I do not see any signs that I am supposed to make this trip. I keep asking God for guidance, for a sure message, but I haven’t gotten anything.

Surely this is all Satan working against me, trying to undermine my confidence, working to my very core. Like Job, he is trying to drive me away from my faith, not only faith in God but faith in myself as well.

When I went in on Wednesday for therapy on my hip, I told the physical therapist that he is Rudolph. I am Santa and I am about to cancel Christmas, cancel my trip, disappoint our host there as well as the kids he works with. I need Rudolph to show me the light, guide my path, provide the miracle that will allow me to go to Kenya and not cancel Christmas.

My physical therapist laughed and said, “I’ve never heard that analogy. I hate to tell you this - I can help your hip pain a lot, but I can’t do miracles. You will still be in some pain come Sunday morning.” Yet, I told him, nope, you are Rudolph and you can save Christmas.

In reality, I know there is only one Rudolph. That would be Jesus Christ. He not only can save Christmas, He’s the One who made Christmas!

And I get that. Yet I sit here, knowing that I still need to finish packing, take my last long hot shower, eat my last bowl of Cheerios, change the dressing on my mom’s infected finger for the last time and leave my house in three hours. And I just don’t want to do any of it.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I don’t know when I will be able to blog again, but I will try to keep you posted, as time and internet access allows.  
My bags as of 8:00 last night

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Prayerful always"

“God doesn’t hand you stuff you cannot handle.”
“Don’t pray for an easy life; pray to be a strong person.”

These are two sayings which people like to throw around in times of trouble but I have to admit that I disagree with them.   

In general, I don’t think God hands anybody bad stuff. Maybe once in a while, for reasons only He understands. But I think bad stuff happens to us because we live in a sinful world and we mess up and sometimes Satin just wants to mess with us. If it were true that God didn’t hand you more than you could handle, people wouldn’t commit suicide, have mental breakdowns or turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.

I also don’t think we should pray to be strong. I think we should pray for God to be strong for us. I think we should pray to be weak so that we turn to God to lift the burdens that we bare. If we are strong we won’t have the need to ask for God’s help.

My week has gone downhill considerably since Dino wrote here on Wednesday. At that time, I didn’t have a clue what pain was or how bad this was going to get. I did not anticipate writhing in pain three mornings in a row, trying to figure out how to get out of bed when my hip was so cramped up that I got into awkward positions from which I could not extract myself. I didn’t think I would be calling the ER doctor at seven o’clock Saturday morning, asking, begging for him to give me something. (There are perks to working in a medical clinic, and if I have lost every chip on the table, I am not above playing that card.)

I’ve been praying, negotiating, begging, bargaining, you name it. Trying to find God in this. And terrified that the bursitis in my right leg will not be gone completely by a week from right now. From right now. When I get on that plane for an eight-hour flight to London, followed by an eight-hour flight to Nairobi, which anyone who has ever flown, knows can be physically draining when you are in top shape. Get on a plane when you are already gimpy and you are asking for trouble.

Which of course leaves me asking, am I really even supposed to go to Kenya?

I keep telling God, hey, Big Guy, just send me an email or a text. I’m really not a fan of pain and I am not so good at subtly. You gotta send me a clearer sign than this.

There’s so much riding on this trip and I know that the stress I am putting on myself is part of the problem. Hakuna Matata. I just need to relax and stop fretting. Everything is going to be okay. The trip will go off without a hitch and we will accomplish all our goals.  

We’ll do all kinds of research and come up with a great plan for helping the kids at the school at the IDP camp. We’ll get a budget together to bring home and share with area businesses who will want to sponsor the next trip that Tumaini Volunteers takes. We’ll set the bar for the future of Tumaini Volunteers as a caring organization making a difference in East Africa. And see, right there, all that pressure I put on myself.

Argh. So what exactly does God have to say?  

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. (Romans 12:12 Living Bible)

So, there ya go. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dino Here

Mom has been kind of getting stressed out, so I thought I would step it up a notch and write for her this week. She feels guilty when she neglects her blog, but she has got enough on her mind. Really, Mom? Just take care of yourself.

If you read Sunday’s blog post, you maybe remember that Mom had a really bad week last week, taking Granma to the ER, Dad’s back went out and Mom’s hip was hurting her again. I did not help out at all when I went lame on Wednesday. I tried so much, just like Mom and Dad do, to suck it up. But, I’m telling you I just could not jump up on the bed to sleep on Mom’s feet like she likes me to. So, they had to take me to the doctor on Friday.

Amazing how those pills they are giving me has turned me into a puppy again. It is so great to have my energy back. I just want to play! But then there’s poor Mom, with a headache again. She hasn’t had one in a really long time and I know that it is not the pain that makes it bad for her, she is just bummed out about everything. She leaves for Africa in less than two weeks and I am sure she wants to feel in perfect shape for that, and she is worried that she won’t be able to make it. Well, she’ll still go and she will suck it up, but I want her to have a good time and do lots of good work.

You can do it, Mom. Do it for me and for all those little African kids. Ok? 
My pills are almost making me feel as lively as Buddy the puppy. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Two More Weeks

At the last meeting with the Bells, Jen told us that in the weeks prior to departing, many things could go wrong. For past participants, it was as if Satan worked to get them to second-guess themselves and the mission trip entirely.

My cousin, my sister-in-law, and my father-in-law were all having medical problems. What if something happened to one of my loved ones while I was gone? I had spent so little time with Nick the past two years since he had graduated from high school. How fair was it that I was taking off with Val and leaving him home? How fair was it that my husband had traveled very little? (From “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven”)

Just as happened a few weeks before my first trip to Kenya in 2006, all kinds of stuff is going on in my life. I had my mom into the ER one night last week. Nothing super-serious, but at her age and with her medical problems, she seems to be walking a very thin between okay and crisis. 

We had Dino the Wonder Dog into the vet on Friday. I think he has a tick-borne illness. On Wednesday, he suddenly went lame, was lethargic and lost gusto in eating. The vet started him on antibiotics and he seems to be doing a lot better already, but what if he takes a turn? He just can’t tell us where his pain is or how bad it is.

The bursitis is back in my right hip. It’s not bad if I keep moving around, but if I sit for more than a few minutes, it locks right up on me. Two sets of eight-hour plane rides will really work wonders for that. Not.

In two weeks, I will be getting on that plane, whether I am ready or not. I know that the good Lord will take care of my family (which includes my dog!) while I am gone and that He will be with me in Kenya as well. But that niggling fear and doubt still creeps in.

Dear Heavenly Father, be with me in the coming weeks as I prepare for this trip to Africa. Be with my family while I am gone. And Lord, God, if it be Your will, please keep me out of pain while I am there. Please allow me to follow Your wishes and do good for the people I meet in Kenya. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Never Go Hungry

“ They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
    they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
 For the Lamb on the throne
    will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
    And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:16-17 New Living Translation) 

One day last week I had to go to the lab for my routine fasting blood work. Because I sometimes think I would leave my head somewhere if it weren’t attached, I stuck this note up on the cupboard where I keep my cereal bowl. I could so see myself getting halfway through my morning Cheerios before I remembered that I was supposed to fast for twelve hours.

I remembered though and didn’t even get close enough to that cupboard to read my note. How blessed I am to always have cereal in my cupboard, milk in my refrigerator. My freezer is full and it has been a very long time since I had to skip a meal because I didn’t have any food in the house.

I take so much for granted.

Lord, God, thank you for blessing me so greatly. Thank you for the food I have to eat, the clothes I have to wear and the house I have to live in. You have blessed me beyond measure. Lead me, Lord, guide me, so that I may help those who are living without these things. And Lord, God, grant me the courage and strength to carry out this work in Kenya next month. Amen. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Flashback Friday - 9/11

Our entire world had changed on September 11, 2001. Living in the relative safety of northern Wisconsin, things like terrorist attacks were a distant tragedy to me until that day. I prayed for the victims and the survivors and all of the affected families. I cried that evening when I drove into our yard after work and saw that Nick and Val had lowered our flag to half-mast. I called my friend in Minnesota just to hear her voice. My brother-in-law had been in Washington that morning on his way to the Pentagon. My prayers included a tearful thank-you that God had kept my loved ones out of harm’s way.
Five years after that, I felt safe in Africa. Except for the quilt-fetching incident in the slums, I was confident nothing bad would personally happen to me or the team. While we were in Kenya, however, just days before we were to leave, fourteen suspected terrorists were arrested in the London airport. With the liquids they planned to carry onto their planes, they hoped to construct bombs. Security worldwide went on high alert.

It was a final leap of faith. People with different morals, a different religion, and a different code of living could declare their own personal war on Europeans and Americans and Christians worldwide. They could threaten us and, unfortunately, kill some of us, but that didn’t mean I had to live in fear. My God was going to take care of me and my loved ones and the entire HEART team. Our plane would touch down in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I would walk off with nothing but the clothes on my back and God’s love in my heart.

This is an excerpt from my first book, “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven”. As I prepare for my third trip to Kenya, I never fail to be amazed by God’s plan for us all. Horrible things happen in this world, and this side of heaven, we will never be able to understand why. But God will never leave us or forsake us. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"It Will Work Out"

I just found out the other day, while reading someone else’s blog, that Wayne Dyer had passed away on August 29. I really didn’t know that much about him, except that he was quite the self-help guru, writing more than 20 books and lecturing across the country, teaching that each person can become what they want. The only thing that limits us is our own negative thinking. Or something like that. I only own one of his books and I have never read it. Yikes.

I guess some of his quotes I found on-line say it better.

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.”

“With everything that has happened to you, you can feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

"Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

"Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

"When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."

"When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace."

“You may have convinced yourself that giving is impossible because you have too little for yourself. If you are not generous when it is difficult, you will not be generous when it is easy. Generosity is a function of the heart, not the wallet." (Which would probably be my favorite quote right now. Yes, I am still looking for donations towards my trip to Kenya in four weeks, but as the first quote says, “It will work out”.)

Have a great week and find the good in everything. 
Along the wall outside of the volunteer house where I will be staying while in Kenya.