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. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What does Labor Day Mean to You?

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38 New King James Version

Labor Day is tomorrow, which to most people is seen as the day heralding the end of summer. The creation of Labor Day was however meant to pay yearly tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of The United States. The big city unions of the late 1800’s wanted their workers to be recognized and began to host rallies in support of their members. Eventually the government caught on, and in 1896, President Grover Cleveland declared the first Monday in September to became the national holiday known as Labor Day.

Even in Jesus time, however, the importance of the worker was stressed. I think that now, more than ever, men and women need to answer the call to work for the Lord. Does that mean giving up all that you currently own to become a missionary overseas? Maybe, but probably not. Does it mean that you need to go back to school and enter the seminary? Maybe, but perhaps not. Does it mean you should offer to teach Sunday School, become an usher during your worship services, serve on one of your church boards? Yes, it does. It definitely does. Does it mean you should work at your local soup kitchen, tutor low-income kids, volunteer at a clothing drive? Yes, it sure does.  

Your job is not only to work 40 hours a week to bring in a pay check. Your job is to bring people to the Kingdom of God. How’s that working for you?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to live in a country where I can earn an income to support my family. Help me to use those wages to also support Your Family. Help me to help others give their time and talents to You and Your Children as well. Amen.
A parade in support of the Red Cross in a Nairobi neighborhood the last day I was there in 2013.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Because Every Baby is Perfect

There was a chair in the room, more a loveseat than a chair (I supposed that was for if a couple were there), a table, and a telephone. Next to the telephone was a box of tissues. This was definitely a “bad news” room. A bad news room! I supposed all hospitals had to have rooms like this - a “delicate situation” room, a “knowing nothing else to do with these people” room.

So begins Yvonne Joye’s second book, “Ten Fingers and Ten Toes”. This second memoir, about yet another extremely trying time in the author’s life, again tells it like it is with honesty, reality and the kind of odd sense of humor I can relate to. Yvonne had me crying one minute and laughing the next. Maybe some things we think and do aren’t appropriate, but don’t we all do them and think them?

In the midst of job changes and a house remodel, Yvonne and her husband decide it is time to have a fourth child. When they find out that this baby will be born with severe birth defects, there is nothing to do but push forward and deal with the outcome. Which the family does marvelously, not perfectly, though, because who in this world is perfect?

I love Yvonne’s style of writing. Though she is from Ireland and certain spellings and grammar aren’t what I’m used to here in America, it was just one more thing that endeared her to me. Between this book and her first one about her battle with breast cancer, if you ever want to read stories which will hit home, read these. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why do I do what I do in Kenya?

I've been asked this a lot. And I thought that I answered it here once before. Maybe I have hedged around the question but have avoided it because I am afraid that I won't come across the right way. I will sound like a crotchety crab instead of a diplomatic representative of volunteerism.

So why do I do this? Why do I spend so much of my time and money helping out people living in Kenya in poverty? See? Then I don't know what to tell you because it is beyond my scope to imagine why someone wouldn't want to jump in a plane, fly 12,000 miles, live in questionable surroundings without reliable water or electricity, eat bland meals, and be surrounded by dirt and poverty.

What I really want to do is ask you the question. Why haven't you traveled to a third world country to see how three-quarters of the world's population lives?

Here's why.

Because I can't afford it. How much do you spend a week on eating out for lunch? How much do you spend on soda from the vending machine? How much do you spend on your cable bill? Or light bill? Or fuel for the gas-guzzling SUV you have to have?

Because it's not safe. Have you see the news? Is it safe here in America to go to the mall or your kid's school or the movie theater? Or a military base? Bad stuff happens everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We cannot live in a bubble, live in fear. We have to go out and live, whether in our own hometowns or across the world.

Because we have poverty in this country too. That's true. So, then that means you are doing something about that, right? Good for you. Oh, or no, you're not helping out here at home either? Yes, there is poverty everywhere too. So do something about it - either in Africa, or the Appalachian mountains, or on an Indian reservation in the Southwest, or Harlem, or your own town. But go do it! Work at the food pantry. Mentor a kid in need through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Kinship. Volunteer to read to the residents of your local nursing home. Work at church.

Because I don't have time. This one pretty much leaves me speechless (wordless?). I cannot hardly think of an answer that is going to come out not sounding sarcastic. Coz I want to know first of all how many hours a week you spend in front of the TV. Me? Maybe three or four hours. A week - not a day. Get off your couch and do something. I don't care what. Just turn the TV off. Also turn off the computer. I do have to admit that surfing the internet does waste a lot of my time, but somehow I still find the time to volunteer.

Because I really don't have the time, I have a family to raise. For starters it doesn't take that much time. But more importantly, what do you want to teach those kids you are raising? That they need to get a good education just so they can get a good job so they can have a good house and a good car? Or that it's better to help out someone in need, coz that's what Mom and Dad do? And better yet, take those kids with you when you volunteer, whether it's across town or across country or across the world. There is no better education then seeing how others live. Raise kids who care.

Okay, enough of that. See now why I hate writing about this stuff? Just me on my soapbox.