Saturday, December 29, 2012

The end of 2012 is fast-approaching, and 2013 will be here before you know it!

Some of my highlights from 2012 were

  • celebrating Pancake Day (a British holiday) for the first time
  • going to Rwanda for the first time
  • visiting with Jane, a Ugandan girl, that I sponsored
  • meeting my dear, sweet friend Laura
  • going on a safari for a school field trip
  • returning to the USA (I'm still enjoying and appreciating our many luxuries!)
  • the precious, new friends and church community the Lord has blessed me with here in Iowa City
  • getting accepted as a full-member of AIM and getting the go-ahead to move forward with pursuing long-term missions

I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that all gifts made to Africa Inland Mission are tax-deductible. And for those of you who choose to give on or before December 31st, you will be able to
take advantage of year-end giving tax benefits.

AIM has made it very easy to give one-time or recurring gifts online. Clicking the button below will allow you to give toward my current financial support needs.

But I still love to get good, "old fashioned" snail-mail, too! Rather than giving online, you may choose mail a check made out to "Africa Inland Mission" to my home address in Iowa City (contact me for address).

I hope the last few days of 2012 are wonderful ones and that 2013 gets off to a fantastic start for each one of you!

Monday, December 24, 2012


          "God with us." 
It is hell's terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, "God with us," back he falls, confounded and confused. 
"God with us" is the laborer's strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor, if that one word were taken away? 
Luke 1:49"God with us" is the sufferer's comfort, the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, the sleep which God gives to his beloved, their rest after exertion and toil. 
"God with us" is eternity's sonnet, 
heaven's hallelujah, 
the shout of the glorified, 
the song of the redeemed, 
the chorus of angels, 
the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.
- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Celebrate Light

As some of you may know, I am half Jewish by heritage. Growing up, we celebrated Passover and Hanukkah at my mom's parents' house each year. This year was no different. Hannukah, also known as The Festival of Lights, began at sundown on December 8th and lasted eight days.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history behind Hanukkah, here's a quick recap:
Antiochus was king of the Syrian-Greeks in 165 BC. He wanted the Jews to stop worshiping Yahweh and bow down to the Greek gods instead. The Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of Zeus. They desecrated the Temple and killed many Jews. Eventually, against all odds, a small band of Jewish soldiers (called the Maccabees) defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth. They drove the Greeks away, reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to God. 
When they found the Temple's menorah that was supposed to burn eternally at the altar, they saw that all the holy oil used to keep the lamp burning had been poured out. All that remained was enough to keep the lamp lit for one day. They lit the menorah and, miraculously, the lamp stayed lit for eight days... which was enough time to purify more oil to be used in the Temple. 
And so we celebrate the miracle of light.

This year, like always, we celebrated at my grandma's with the traditional meal of latkes and applesauce, a game of dreidel, chocolate gelt coins, and of course the lighting of the menorah candles.

The first Shamash candle is lit, and the blessing is sung.

hanukkah blessing 1
Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe, 
Who made us holy through Your commandments 
and commanded us 
to kindle the Hanukkah lights


Later, after the meal, we played dreidel. This is game using a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei, and shin. These letters are an acronym for Nes Gagol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there."

A great miracle, indeed.

And now we prepare to celebrate Christmas. A celebration that is all about Light. We decorate houses, trees, and porch railings with strings of glowing lights and twinkly stars as we marvel in wonder at the Light come down to us. The Light's name is Immanuel, which of course means "God with us." Our hearts are the altar of worship, and it is His light that shines eternally within us.

And so we celebrate the miracle of light.
Which was a great miracle, indeed.

But in the midst of all this light, there is still darkness.

The recent tragedy from which our nation is still reeling and hearts are still breaking is only one evidence of this ugly truth.

Before parting ways for Christmas break, I hugged each one of my darling preschoolers a little tighter than usual. And I had a thought that I know I share with many teachers across America, "I would indeed lay down my life for any one of them."

When hearts are too heavy to bear... and when all of our questions boil down to just one: "Why?"... I'm reminded of a simple truth.

Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world... They are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children.

In fact, he loves each one of us.

He loves us so much that He was willing to lay down His life so that we might be saved and live. He chose to leave His throne in Heaven, give up His power as Almighty Creator, and be born as the most helpless, dependent creature on earth: a baby. Born to die so that we might live.

And that's Christmas, folks.

Jesus came into the darkness to be a light. In fact, He is the light of the world, and in Him there is no darkness. And there is no darkness in whoever believes in Him (John 12:46).

And God's plan for the Light in our hearts is that we go find darkness.
Take our Light and spread it all over until there is no more darkness.

That's a reason to celebrate!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Film Premiere - I Like Adoption. from on Vimeo.

"The pure joy that will come from the rescue and ransom of a child's life 
is probably the most satisfying thing you can imagine."

Oh, how He loves us.

Oh, and that this vision of redemption would catch our hearts.... Like Christ caught ours.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Not My Story

Guess what?

I never wanted to be a missionary.


I know. I know... But it's true! I don't come from a long line of faithful missionaries. I didn't grow up reading missionary biographies and dreaming of far away lands. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

From an early age, I can specifically remember thinking, "God, please don't ever let me be a missionary. That is just not for me." Adventure. The unknown. Unfamiliar places. Leaving friends and family. These are things I don't seek out.

But God. Oh, but God.

He already had me walking on a road that was going to be full of experiences involving missions... from low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, to orphanages in Mexico, to high school students in Ukraine...Little did I know I was already on the path that would one day lead me to full-term service in overseas missions. God graciously allowed me to take one small, manageable step at a time knowing that this was the way to make my will His will.

Another confession.

I never wanted to do foster care.

I've had a heart for adoption for many, many years and hope to adopt children one day, but foster care was never a consideration for me.

I've always been an dog lover, and when I was a child, I learned about those seeing-eye-dog programs where dogs are raised and trained to be service dogs for blind people. For the first year of those dogs' lives, they live with a foster family who teaches them basic obedience and gets them used to being around all kinds of people. At the end of the year, the dogs are given back to the training program. Even as a child, I knew that foster care was not for me because I would be heart-broken giving up a puppy after a year, much less a child!

But God... 

Over the years, God has been teaching me that our children are not our own. He has given me opportunities to work alongside and learn from other missionary families who are involved with short-term emergency foster care in Mbarara, develop a relationship with my dear friend Laura who also cares for abandoned children, and cross paths with families here in the States who are involved with and passionate about foster care.

The little girl whose heart broke at the thought of giving away a puppy now spends free time time learning about foster care in Iowa. (Iowa alone has 4,000 children needing a foster family.) 

Fifty percent of the population in Uganda is under 18 years old and there are 2.5 million orphans* in Uganda (please visit this website to understand what that number actually means). And though my heart would certainly ache each time a foster child moves on, I now know that God goes before these children, advocating and fighting for their hope and future. He sets the lonely in families who will teach these babies "to exchange that inch-deep love for the unmeasurable, unending, my-heart-would-never-mend-if-I-lost-you love." Because that is the kind of love that each child deserves. The kind of love that Christ modeled for us and continues to pour out on us day after day.

And that's why I am planning to return to Uganda to serve vulnerable mothers and children.

And that is why this isn’t my story.

It’s God’s. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Version of Psalm 23

The Lord is my pace setter…I shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind 
and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, 
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by 
anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours 
for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord 
and dwell in his house forever.

(from Japan, quoted in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I'm Reading and Loving

Click on the links below for some good reading!

Children know how to approach the manger.  They have a way of taking all the frill, the fake, and the phony reverence out of the Christmas story... They see Jesus as approachable, someone who would want to jump on the trampoline with them, someone who would welcome the Darth Vader Lego guy to the get-together.

The truth is, the story of a King born a baby in a barn is not something we need our best clothes on to hear, or something we need to place on the highest, unreachable shelf.
The reports from the agency had told me that she is extremely attached to her nanny. This is good. The fact that she has chosen one person and not every person means that she will probably be able to transfer those feelings of attachment over to me, to us. It's best that she's not "shopping for a new mommy" as a friend put it. It's good. Great. Yea.

But today? Today it stunk.

...the TOMS brand has established itself as a way for conscious “good Samaritans  to believe purchasing a pair of TOMS is somehow contributing to the global fight against poverty – except it isn't.

This is what I know to be true about raising black boys: it will be imperative for me to teach them that some will look at them with suspicion or stereotype based on their skin color.  I HATE THIS.  I hate that it’s true and I hate that I have to burst their innocence and I hate that it may shift their view of the world.  But it’s a part of our role as their parents, and we can’t do it alone.

...this Jesus Advent Devotional, this story that begins in the beginning, in Genesis, and sweeps across His Word and His-Story, that winds through some of the highlights the Old Testament, stories that keep murmuring it — He’s coming, He’s coming.

And we’ll feel the divine breaking into here and we see the light shattering dark and we’ll find what we’ve looked hard for, everything we’ve ever yearned for -- Christ...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'm So Glad You Asked

In light of my recent acceptance with AIM, I have had many people wanting to know more about what that means for me. Here is a quick overview of some of the most frequently asked questions. I would love to share more details with you in person, though! Or please feel free to comment with any other questions you might have.

Are you going back to the same place?
Yes. My desire is to return to Mbarara, Uganda.

Will you be with the same people?
Some of the same team mates will still be there. Others have moved on. But there are many other missionaries and locals in our community that I'm looking forward to being with again!

Will you be teaching? 
Not in the sense that you're probably imagining. I don't plan on teaching children in a classroom as I was before. My desire is to disciple single, young women in University who are pregnant or have an infant or toddler.

What will that look like?
Some possibilities include: Working with the local church to provide child care while the mothers are in classes, training Ugandan women in providing quality child care, offering parent education (teaching basic child development, parenting skills, health/safety/nutrition, etc.), and biblical discipleship.

Please ask me about this. I'd love to share more with you!

When will you leave?
AIM sends out full-term missionaries four times a year. My desire is to leave in July 2013, but I must be fully supported before I can leave.

How long will you be there?
Members of our team are encouraged to serve two-year terms with a four-month furlough. So I plan on being there for two years, for now.

Will you come home during that time?
Probably not. Compassionate leave is available, if needed, but a visit home is not in my budget. Visitors are always welcome though!

Do you have to fundraise? 
No. AIM does not promote or encourage fundraising.
We are support-raising, though. "Information, without solicitation."
Although this might seem like splitting hairs to you, there is a big difference. My desire is to have a team of supporters who'll join with me now and into the future. Supporters can give financially, be prayer partners, and/or help me network with other individuals or churches. We're all on a team together working for His kingdom!

How much do you need to raise?
$12,293 outgoing (one-time) expenses
$2,151 monthly for two years

How can I give?
Checks made out to "Africa Inland Mission" can be mailed to me at my Iowa City home address (e-mail me or comment if you need it).
Or even better...
Use AIM's on-line system where you can quickly and easily set up monthly or one-time gifts.

As always, I'm so thankful for you!
Those of you who I've known my whole life and those of you I look forward to meeting someday...
I couldn't do it without your encouragement and support! I am blessed to have you along for the journey.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sign Up

Have you received my email updates in the past?

You haven't? Would you like to?

Because I would sure love to have you along on the journey!

Please click this link to sign up for ministry email updates.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Official

Last week, I traveled down to Peachtree City, Georgia to spend five days at the Africa Inland Mission U.S. office. I was attending Candidate Week, which was the next step in the process of becoming a full member of AIM.

Honestly, it was a very long and tiring week with late nights, early mornings, and constant training sessions and meetings. Fortunately, the supply of coffee was endless, and it was a joy to spend time with the other people attending Candidate Week. Many of them were missionary kids (MKs) in Africa or have spent significant time in Africa already, so there was plenty to learn from one another and incredible stories about how God brought each of us to this point in our lives.

(I have a beautiful photo of all who attended Candidate Week, but unfortunately I can't share it with you. Many of these wonderful people desire to live among unreached people groups in Africa or in countries that currently don't welcome missionaries or the Gospel.)

On Friday morning, I was given the official word that I have been accepted as a full member of Africa Inland Mission! All the glory goes to God.

This is exciting news, but it also means that I'm about to step back into support-raising. A daunting task that requires a lot of time, energy, and endless faith! Please join with me in praising the Lord for his faithfulness and in prayer as I continue on this journey of returning to Uganda

Monday, October 29, 2012

These beautiful ones are on my mind tonight.

Please remember to pray for Laura as she faithfully serves the Lord by caring for "the least of these."
James is still in her loving care.
Innocent is gone. I'm not sure to where... Please pray that she would be connected with a forever family soon and that God protects her little heart.
Laura is now also caring for a 2 month old boy, Emmanuel.
She is struggling financially, but says "God is able."

My heart couldn't agree more. Thank you for remembering them in your prayers!

"You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful"

Friday, October 26, 2012


Africa Inland Mission's ultimate goal and mission statement is...

Christ-Centered Churches Among All African Peoples
...With a priority for the unreached
Or, more simply, "C3A3P." 

So why are we doing missions in a country that is said to be predominantly Christian? Aren't there countries that need to hear the Gospel more desperately?

When you look at statistics from websites like Joshua Project, you see that 85% of people groups in Uganda claim Christianity as their main religion. After living in Uganda for nearly a year, I can verify that this is true. But it's also false.

Yes, I would say that about 85% of people in Uganda go to church on Sundays and will tell you that they believe in God.  But I quickly learned that Christianity is deeply rooted in the culture. This sounds like a good thing, right? Children growing up in the church participating in worship with their parents and elders. Constant youth rallies and retreats put on by local parishes. All-night praise services once a week. Mudflaps on busses proclaiming salvation and stores named after Bible verses.
In theory, these are all excellent and beneficial things. But the reality is that while 85% of people profess Christ as Lord, it's a much smaller percentage living their lives like they believe it.

The "Prosperity/Name it and Claim It" gospel, which is no Gospel at all, is rampant in Uganda. Truth has been exchanged for lies. Freedom for captivity and manipulation. Grace for hoping to be "good enough." Assurance for uncertainty and doubt.

85% is just a number. What the Lord wants is hearts and souls committed to His glory and Kingdom. 

I've shared this before, but I feel that I can't share it enough! This video was filmed on location in Mbarara a little over a year ago and explains why and what we're doing there.

While the Gospel is still desperately needed in Uganda, there are still many places in Africa with people who fall into the more classically defined unreached people groups. Places with doors opening to the Gospel for the very first time but not enough people willing to go...

This video was created by some AIM missionaries serving in South Sudan. Please take a moment to watch and gain a better understanding of the deep need for Light in this country and the doors God is opening for the Way to come. Pray for the life-changing relationships that my friend Jacob, featured in the video, is building with the Laarim people.

You can learn more about how to pray for Africa's unreached people groups with the help of AIM's ministry called Pray Africa:
"Pray Africa is a ministry developed by AIM to equip men and women like you with information you need to learn about and pray for Africa's unreached peoples.Through a dedicated website, Pray Africa provides information about specific groups -- where they live and what their lives and cultures are like, so you can gain broader understanding of who they are and how you can pray."  

Will you be a part of reaching the unreached...whatever that looks like in your life?
  • Pray for the missionaries currently serving and preparing to serve all over Africa.
  • Pray that more people are receptive to the call to "go" and respond with obedience... especially to the hard places. In the places that are still unreached.
  • Pray for Christ-centered churches among all African peoples!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Song of the Redeemed

You have redeemed my life.

You make all things new.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Remembering How to Play

The following is a conversation I recently had with a preschool student:

Preschooler: "My cousin is coming to visit me this weekend!"
Me: "That's wonderful. You must be so excited. What will you do with your cousin?"
Preschooler: "Play Mario."
Me: "Fun. Will you also play outside?"
Preschooler: "No! We can't play Mario outside!"
Me: "That's true. What do you like to do when you go outside with your cousin?"
Preschooler: "Well...we mostly just don't go outside."

Unfortunately, the bigger issues presented in this brief conversation aren't specific to this child. Frequent media input, lack of creativity, and limited time spent in active and outdoor play have become standard aspects of our culture in regards to children.

I recently finished this book by Dr. David Elkind and would highly recommend it! It's a call to remember the importance of spontaneous, unstructured, self-initiated play. Elkind reminds us that play is crucial for social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development and is what gets children ready for learning in the first place.

He spends a few chapters talking about media input in the lives of children today and the pros and cons of the various television programs, computer games, and "lapware" programs frequenting the homes of the modern family. But this is what I found shocking. In a recent survey of 1,065 parents with infants and preschoolers, it was found that:

  • 25% of children under two have televisions in the bedroom
  • Two-thirds of children under two use some kind of screen media for about two hours on a typical day
  • Children under six spend an average of two hours a day with screen media -- three times longer than they spend reading or being read to
These numbers make my jaw drop and my head ache. Can that be true?! It would explain so much, but there's a large part of me that doesn't want to believe it. 

And then I see things like this... A commercial that I haven't been able to stop thinking about in over a week:

[insert jaw-dropping] 

I would say something here about the carefully placed, not-so-subliminal messages about parenting...
Or the way they pose the question "How does your baby learn?"... and answer with "Laugh & Learn Puppy"...

But I think I'll let Dr. Elkind share his thoughts with you in a much more eloquent manner instead!
"...these educational toys for young children are another example of how toys have become part of the consumer culture. Parents are encouraged to buy such toys to give their children an educational edge. And there is a subtle message that parents who do not buy these toys for their children are really not doing a good job as parents." (Elkind, 36) (emphasis mine)
"Parents who talk, play with, or sing to their young infants or toddlers give them much more than any DVD or television program ever could. The most important stimulus to healthy growth and development for infants and young children is affectionate human interaction." (Elkind, 47) (emphasis mine)
"The sheer number of toys owned by contemporary children weakens the power of playthings to engage children in dramatic thinking...[Children appear] to look to toys for amusement and distraction, not imaginative inspiration." (Elkind, 16) (emphasis mine)
I'm thankful that this certainly isn't the case in all families.
I'm thankful that we have so many electronic resources at our disposal for the times that we really do need them.
And I fully understand the benefits of media for the busy parent who just needs to keep their child entertained for a bit while they get some things done.

But as parents, educators, and advocates for the youngest, let's remember the importance of spontaneous, self-initiated, creative play.

Let's let them be little. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Home Is Where?

She said, speaking from personal experience,
"That's the problem with loving your life.
There is always going to be something that you miss."

These words my sweet friend offered up as encouragement couldn't be more true in this season of life.

My heart has never had roots in so many places at once. I'm completely enjoying being back in my hometown again, and I'm so thankful for and blessed by my friends here (old and new!) and the many opportunities to serve. God has provided in ways I never would've dreamed, and I wouldn't ever want to miss out on these opportunities!

But I seriously miss living in Minnesota. I got to visit one of my wonderful former roommates in the Twin Cities recently, and it felt like home. It felt so normal to be back. Being with her up there just felt right. The Twin Cities quickly grew on me over the four years I lived there, and I always pictured myself moving back if I were to come live in the States again. It's where I have all of my professional connections, where I became a part of a beautiful church community, and where I made my home.

And all the while, not a day goes by that I don't think about my precious friends in Mbarara and the incredible life God gave me there. I'm thankful for blogs and Facebook and ministry updates so that I can follow some of the big things happening there now. It's a life that takes place in something that can feel like a completely different world, but it's a life that I expect to return to one day.

They say home is where the heart is.

That doesn't mean much to me anymore. My heart has many homes.

They're all comfortable.
They're all full of wonderful people.
And I miss them whenever I'm not home.

winnie the pooh

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One Thing Remains

This very week last year I was writing about living in a place where it's always summer. I was missing some of my favorite things about autumn but thoroughly enjoying the benefits of living on the equator. Now I'm back in the Midwest of the United States, and autumn is in full swing. Trees are changing colors, pumpkin flavored beverages and treats are back, apples are picked, and I don't leave the house in the morning without a warm jacket.

Fall is officially my favorite season. There's something about sunshine filtered through orange leaves on the backdrop of a cerulean blue sky that makes me breathe more deeply. Makes my heart soar with gratitude.

Gratitude for the blazing reminder of God's steadfast love.
That He is who He is.

This fall, the changing of the season serves as a reminder to me that my God never changes.
He was,
and He is,
and He is yet to come.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,'
says the LORD, who has compassion on you."
Isaiah 54:10

The brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds that cover the trees also remind me that through death comes life. As the trees surrender the last of their leaves, so must we fully surrender our hearts and lives. It's through surrender that we find freedom.Through dying to ourselves that we find life.

This fall I will remember that in the midst of ever-changing circumstances, God never changes. His deep and steady love for us remains. As the trees are falling asleep for a season, let us be renewed and...

Pinned Image

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Discipling Children: The Biblical Model

"There is clear biblical warrant for acknowledging
the lifelong implications of early childhood experience."
Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a foundational passage for Biblical parenting. It gives us one of the best and clearest pictures on how to create multi-generational faithfulness in families. We must be active and intentional in passing along our faith in Jesus Christ to our children.

It's clear from what we read in Deuteronomy 6 that while church plays an important role in spiritual development, it cannot stop there. The parent is a child's first and most important teacher. Spiritual discipleship must start and continue in the home.

Personally, I love this passage in Deut. 6 because of the clear and beautiful picture given to us of how children learn. Scientists, researchers, and child development experts have been studying children, the human brain, and how we learn for centuries. But here it was all along. Plain as day in the very Word of God. In modern times, scientists have conducted experiments and found evidence that gives proof to the wonderful truths God set out for us long, long ago. Researchers have confirmed the words of Moses and validated the methods the Israelites used to teach their children. 

Hear, O Israel:
"Listen up! Pay attention, kids! This is really important, and you need to hear it..."

The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
We are to teach our children that Yaweh, the LORD, is God. He is the all-sufficient, eternally perfect, infinite Ruler over all. There is no other god than Yahweh, and though He exists in three persons, He is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 
We must teach and show our children what it looks like and sounds like to love God with all our heart. We teach them how to worship. No one and nothing should take God's rightful place on the throne of our hearts.
God must come first.
Every time.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  
"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). We must store up God's words in our own hearts so that as we converse and interact with our children, we are speaking life and truth into their lives.

Impress them on your children.
Clearly Moses believed that every mother and father was well-equipped enough to understand God's word, teach their own children, and teach them diligently. This is how we create multi-generational faithfulness. Parents who realize how much they have been given want to carefully pass on such a good thing to their children and therefore to their grandchildren.

Talk about them when you sit at home
Learning about Jesus, salvation, and God's grace aren't conversations that must remain in the context of church or Sunday school. Discipleship is meant to happen in the home. Teaching God's Word and what He requires of us should be everyday conversation. 

and when you walk along the road,
Children are kinesthetic learners. They learn through movement, action, and "doing." I often hear parents say, "I can't get him to sit still for a whole story. He always wants to get up and move around." That's okay! While there is a time and a place for learning self-control, children naturally want to be on the move. Rather than fighting it, use it to your advantage. Act out the story. Talk as you walk and play. The playground is the perfect place to practice compassion, obedience, and selflessness. Children learn by doing!
This also teaches us that traveling is the perfect time to chat with your children and use your conversations to impress God's truths on their hearts. Rather than turning on the radio or talking on the phone when you're driving, start a conversation.

when you lie down and when you get up.
This implies that discipleship happens all day, every day because children learn through repetition. It also points to some important truths about how God has created us. Research has shown that the times we retain the most knowledge are first thing in the morning and right before we go to sleep.
Make the most of how God has created us by letting the first and last thing your children hear in their days be about the Lord.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Historically speaking, the Pharisees took this command literally and seriously. They created little boxes, called phylacteries, in which they placed small pieces of paper with Scripture written them. They would tie these boxes to their hands and on their foreheads. The Gospels reveal they were worn all day long by the Pharisees to give the impression that they were pious men, constantly praying.

But God certainly didn't give us this command in order for us to become proud and pious. Rather, He knew something about how we were created that science had yet to discover.

In Deut.6, God is telling us to bind His commands to our foreheads. Fractions of an inch below your forehead is the part of the brain that we now know as the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain associated with making decisions and taking action on a thought. God asks us to keep his word in our prefrontal cortex and on our hands as reminders to live by the Word and not sin. God is teaching that it's all about doing so that we remember.

Again, children are kinesthetic/tactile learners. They love to touch, hold, and manipulate objects and materials. They learn by actively exploring the world around them and through hands-on activities. Playing with toy animals as they learn about Noah's ark, holding their own picture bible as a story is read, and acting out what they hear are all ways to actively engage your child and help him or her learn more effectively and fully. 

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 
Let our faith be evident to all. Every guest who enters our home should know that we are living for something bigger than ourselves. That our hearts are utterly consumed with love for God, who is God alone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is This Crazy?

Do these incredibly popular lyrics by Carly Rae Jepsen ring true in the hearts of adoptive parents? I think they must!

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so, so bad

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing,
but to pursue anything but the full measure
of the glory of God's love
is a wasted life.

-Joshua Eddy

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Do What I Do With Deep Conviction

It's been awhile since I've written, but I haven't forgotten about y'all. In fact, it has been just the opposite!

Over the past month I've been able to reconnect with some of my wonderful friends and faithful supporters, share about my incredible and challenging experience in Uganda with one of my supporting churches, and network with some people about how to connect with Ugandan families and African students in our community. It has been great to be in the same place as some of you!

Minnesota friends, I'll be up there the end of this month and hopefully in October or November, too! I simply cannot wait to reconnect with y'all!

In the last month I've starting working at a Christian preschool, joined a small group at my church where I've also starting volunteering as an intern of Family Discipleship, been connected with a family who has a sweet little boy I get to babysit on an infrequent but regular basis, and have enjoyed spending time with my few dear friends in town. There is also talk of puppy-sitting for some friends who'd like to get a dog soon...!

Multiple times a week people will inevitably ask, "So now that you're back what are you doing?"
And I give them some rendition of what I just told you.
It's usually in that moment that I see a somewhat confused look come over their faces. I can see their wheels turning and the look flash across their eyes that says, "Wait... that's it? That's all?"
And sometimes I think, "Trust me. This is not what I had planned for my life at 23 either."
Sometimes they'll go on to give an encouraging smile and say, "Wow, that's great..."

Usually, though, I'll just jump in and explain that since I might only be in the States until next summer I'm not really using this year to
      build up my savings account ( but I could still totally use your support this year!
      get another professional degree
      settle down and establish a life here
      pursue a career...

Nope. I'm not focusing on anything of those things right now.
I realize this is not helping me achieve the American Dream, and it totally goes against the typical American lifestyle.
But as one of my co-teachers said the other day, "And that's not such a bad thing."

So what am I doing?

I think this week I finally narrowed it down from the vague "doing some random stuff here and there" to "using my time and talents to serve others wherever possible and meet needs however I can." My flexible schedule allows me to say "yes" to the family without a babysitter (or puppy-sitter!), "yes" to the unexpected need for a sub in sunday school, and "yes" to a visit up north to reconnect with precious friends! 

Although living in Uganda was good practice, this is by far the least structure in my schedule and the most free time I've had in many years. But it's such a joy to be able to focus on serving others and building relationships without worrying about whether or not I'll have time for all of it.

And it's not such a bad thing.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after;
and changed my ideas;
they have gone through and through me,
like wine through water,
and altered the color of my mind."

Emily Brontë

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I've been back in the States for one week now. Amazingly and wonderfully, jetlag hasn't been an issue for me at all! I kept expecting it to catch up with me, but it seems like my body figured out what to do in no time at all. I'm so thankful for that.

People have asked and wondered how my transition back into life in the States is going. Often people experience "reverse culture shock" as they return to their first-world home country after spending time in a developing country. The contrasts between lifestyles are extreme, and this can be hard to accept and difficult to process.

So how am I doing? Honestly, I know that life is just different depending on where you live.

Life in Uganda became my new normal for the past year. What I had available to me was enough, and my expectations were different. The culture required certain things of me, and I had many freedoms that I never had before as well as multiple new restrictions. But that was life, and it was normal.

And now I'm back to my old normal. I have much more available to me, but my expectations are different. Again, I have new freedoms and new restrictions based on cultural norms. It's not better; it's just different.

Although, at the moment, life in America does feel a little bit like Disney World. Everything seems so fun and wonderful and exciting!

I love that it's still light outside at 9pm.
I love that I can be out after dark.
I'm giddy about having my closest friends only a short drive or a phone call away, and I'm taking full advantage of that.
And I love that I don't have to worry about my airtime running out when I make that phone call.
I enjoy the freedom of having a vehicle to drive and appreciate the clear rules of being on the road.

I'm very happy to be home now. Summer seems like a great time to transition back into life in America as people are little more relaxed in their daily schedules. But Mbarara also became my home, and I will be happy when I go back there too!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home Again

After a crazy 48 hours of traveling, including a quick overnight stop at the new AIM headquarters in Georgia, I'm home in Iowa City. I'm slowly but surely getting unpacked and organized and spending time with dear friends who are still around.

It's actually not very weird to be back. A year went way more quickly than I could've imagined, and it seems like I was just here! Life in Uganda is simply very different than it is here in the States, and I appreciate aspects of living in both places. But there are some things that I'm extra thankful for and enjoying more than usual. Right now I'm loving...
  • berries and peaches
  • free drinking water at restaurants
  • my very soft bed and great pillows
  • fast internet
  • breakfast cereals... Although who am I kidding? Cereal is wonderful any time of day!
  • soft water
  • wearing clothes that I actually like
  • good coffee
  • a washing machine that finishes in half an hour! While we were incredibly blessed to have a washing machine at our house in Uganda, it didn't clean clothes very well, it took 2-3 hours to do one load, and it would often just stop half way through a cycle. Today I actually walked into the laundry room to check on the machine because I didn't hear it washing. Turns out it was done already! Amazing!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Time Flies! {2012}

My teammates and I rang in the New Year at a local hotel's celebration, complete with live music, dancing, and fireworks.

Some of us took a trip out the Queen Elizabeth National Park for a safari day, and the rest of the team joined us the next day for a team retreat at the most scenic pool I've ever seen in my life.

The biggest thing to happen in January was opening myself to the undeniable realization that this year that I've spent in Uganda isn't the end goal. God hasn't placed Uganda on my heart for so many years for me to spend one year serving on the mission field and then go back to life as usual. I began to accept that He was calling me to something bigger. Much bigger.

I continued teaching Dade, full time now that I wasn't at the local school. Although this wasn't what I planned to do in Uganda, it became a huge blessing and gave me so much joy. It provided me with more flexibility in my schedule that allowed me to build relationships in the community, spend time with other missionary families living in Mbarara, and explore possibilities for serving here in the future.

I was honestly terrified at the thought of pursuing long-term missions and was often overwhelmed with the realization of just how big God's plan was for my life. Sometimes it was a joyful realization and other times it shook me to the core. But I kept seeking the Lord, praying for direction, and beginning to really dream about the possibilities for working with young children in Uganda.

We had an unexpected three weeks off of school when the Skinners went back to the U.S. for a family emergency. While we missed having them in Mbarara, I took advantage of the extra free time and took another quick trip down to Kigali where I learned more about the international Christian school where some AIM missionaries were serving. Then a friend from Kigali came stay with us for the weekend and experience a little bit of what life is like in Mbarara. I'm sure she'll never accidentally get tear-gassed in Kigali!

I met an older Ugandan women who I quickly discovered shares my heart of hearts for children. Laura moved from stranger to acquaintance to cherished friend in a matter of days. She immediately impressed me with her openness and love for the Lord.

I also traveled to Kampala to visit some babies' homes and pick the brain of another AIM missionary who has been working with vulnerable children in Uganda for many years. It was an educational experience, and I appreciated the chance to make those contacts. The highlight of my time there was seeing the girl I sponsor who has grown from a darling little girl into a beautiful young woman since the last time I saw her in 2008.

This was a month of refining the dreams I had begun to dream based on my new knowledge and understanding of what's happening with children in Uganda. It was also a time of wrestling with the realities of what it would mean for my life if I committed to long-term missions. I was constantly reminding myself of God's promises and enduring love for me.

I spent a lot of time listening to challenging sermons and studying the Bible. I felt desperate to saturate my mind with God's truth and appreciated the ample free time in my schedule to do so.

Trust and obedience became the most challenging and important words in my life. The two things I felt God continually calling me to, and the two things I feared the most...

I was blessed to go on two separate trips to beautiful locations that showcased Uganda's wildlife and landscapes. The first was a women's retreat for the missionary women in our community at Lake Bunyonyi. The second was a field trip to Lake Mburo with the Skinner family and Kelsea. Both trips provided great opportunities to further relationships, learn, and encourage one another!

When I finished teaching Dade for the day, I would often spend my afternoons at Laura's house. It was in those times that our friendship deepened as we shared our lives with one another, laughing and crying and telling secrets. Her life a beautiful picture of the Gospel at work! When you look at Laura, you can't help but be attracted and drawn to the Jesus in her.

We finished school on a great note and celebrated our accomplishments!

Some of my team mates and I rafted the Nile River before attending our AIM Central Region annual conference in Jinja. It was at conference that I was so encouraged to continue in the good work of going out and making disciples. Africa isn't the easiest or most desirable place to live, but the Lord loves His people here and calls them by name. He desires to be in a saving and sanctifying relationship with them and to see them resting secure in His promises as they too learn to go into all the earth and make disciples. Talking with and hearing from other AIM leaders and missionaries helped me to gain more perspective and encouraged me to keep seeking God's desires above all else.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time Flies! {2011}

As I look back on the past 11 months that I've spent in Uganda, I'm amazed at how much I've learned, experienced, grown, and have been able to try.
I'm overwhelmed by the support I've received from back home.
I'm humbled by the many encouraging relationships I've have developed here.
And I want to take a moment to look back and reflect on what the Lord has done in me, in my life, and in Mbarara.

I arrived in Kampala, Uganda on August 5th. I had three days of orientation at the AIM Central Region office and guest house, a week of language learning class, and a whole lot of time to sit around waiting to travel to Mbarara. I was delighted to be back in Uganda and loving it just as much as I remembered.

On August 19th, we arrived in Mbarara, met the team, and began settling into our home and learning to navigate town. One week after moving into our house, Kelsea and I left to go to Kamwenge, a rural village more than 2 hours away from Mbarara, for our home stay with a Ugandan family. The family we stayed with taught us how to cook, clean, wash, and garden. At the end of our time with them, they generously declared us to be "real African women."

I slowly but surely began settling into a daily routine. Three afternoons a week I met with a dear friend, Sophie, for language lessons. Not only was she a naturally-gifted teacher who helped me tremendously in learning Runyankole and the culture, she was constantly making me laugh with her bizarre stories and good nature.

I began observing at Ruharo Infant School each morning trying to learn about the Ugandan school system and preparing to teach there. I was shocked, sickened, and deeply saddened by many things I saw and experienced in the classroom, and I began to put some pieces together about Ugandan culture. I also began homeschooling Dade two mornings a week.

And of course there was the Great Power Outage of 2011 in Nkokonjeru when we went 20 days without electricity. Candles, lanterns, flashlights,and early bedtimes were the norm. This was an unforgettable experience that I hope to never repeat...

I began teaching in middle class and top class three mornings a week at the local school. I focused on literacy and math skills and play-based learning with these little ones. I found planning lessons for such large classes and such young children in such a developmentally inappropriate environment to be difficult. I prayed a lot, came home exhausted, and praised the Lord for the little successes and small victories.

Dade and I continued to get to know one another in second grade. I gained a better feel for the dynamics of homeschooling and transitioned from managing a whole class to just one student. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to do some elaborate and time-consuming projects with him that couldn't normally be done in a regular classroom setting.

And Martha, our new team mate and house mate, joined us! What a wonderful addition to our family!

I noticed some marked improvements in the phonics skills of my students at the local school, and I continued to plan lessons that involved hands-on, kinesthetic learning as much as possible. Sometimes this caused the class to break out into total chaos as the children never had opportunities for this type of learning, but I pressed on. Some days I cried. Other days I just laughed... And every day I asked the Lord to give me wisdom.

We kicked off celebrating the holidays by having not one but two Thanksgiving feasts! One at our house and one at the Skinner's house with over 80 people, ex-pats and locals, representing seven countries. I felt incredibly thankful for God's protection and provision in this new stage of life. He is faithful.

After finishing out the Ugandan school year, I made the difficult but right choice to step out of my teaching role at the local school. Looking back, my time there was so valuable because I learned a lot about the Ugandan education system, views of children in Uganda, and the challenges teachers face here. I am no longer under any disillusions about teaching in Uganda. I'm still deeply passionate about education and teaching, but in the end, I needed to step away from my role there.

We took a month off of homeschooling, so Kelsea, Martha, and I traveled by bus down to Kigali, Rwanda for the first time. There we met a wonderful family who was also serving with AIM, enjoyed sightseeing and some shopping, visited the Genocide Memorial, and drank lots of really good coffee!

When we got back to Mbarara it was time to celebrate Christmas! Most of the singles on our team spent the night at the Skinner's on Christmas Eve, and we spent Christmas day opening gifts, relaxing, skyping with family, and building a huge fort in the living room from which we watched Elf (a favorite movie any time of year!).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Please forgive me...

With only 8 days until I land on U.S. soil, I'm trying to prepare myself for re-entry in little ways.
I realize that returning to life in America is going to be an adjustment. I enjoy living in Uganda, and life here has become quite normal to me. Sometimes I forget how strange things here must be to people experiencing life in Uganda for the first time.

I often find myself asking silly questions trying to remember something about American culture or terminology.
"What do we call Irish back home?... Oh yeah. Idaho potatoes."
"Do we say 'take away' at home?... No, it's called 'carry-out' or 'to-go.'"
"I hope I don't say 'It's over' or 'It's not there' when we're out of something."

I anticipate missing the slower and simpler way of life in Uganda. Fewer options can be freeing and being home before dark most evenings leaves me with plenty of free time.

But for all the little Ugandan habits and sayings I've picked up, I haven't completely forgotten what America is like! I really think that I'm going to appreciate the organization, health codes, and abundance of systems and structures in ways I never have before. I can't wait to shop at a real mall and go to the gym as often as possible.

So please forgive me...
  • if I am giddy about the extremely wide aisles, shopping carts, clean floors, and selection at the grocery store.
  • if I spend a lot of afternoons at the mall enjoying brand new clothing and aesthetically pleasing shopping experiences.
  • if I am appalled at the price and quality of produce. I might have a hard time understanding why we can't get gigantic avocados for 15 cents, four green peppers for 25 cents, or a pineapple for 50 cents. Or why bananas taste like plastic and pineapple is so sour.
  • if I spend hours at a time browsing the Internet and watching YouTube videos just because I can without worrying about many megabites I'm using.
  • if I rave about how comfortable the furniture is and how nice it is to have carpet.
  • if I get overwhelmed with and can't keep up with the go-go-go of the typical American lifestyle.
  • if I spend a lot of time at the gym. I've missed it a lot.
  • if I say strange phrases that totally don't make sense in American English. I'll figure it out soon enough!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Celebrate Life

Yesterday I celebrated my 23rd birthday. Hard to believe really!

I never could've guessed, dreamed, imagined, or even hoped that this is what my life would look like at 23. But the Lord knew all along. He ordained each one of my days and worked so mightily and wonderfully in my life to bring me to where I am today. He changed me and grew me in order to prepare me for the past year of my life.

And yesterday I got to celebrate life with a few of the people who have enriched it so greatly this year!

I couldn't think of a better way to begin my day than dropping by to see Laura and the babies. They are always a bright spot in my day!

Afterward, I went into town, and Martha treated me to a birthday manicure and a delicious chapati. The "firsts" here are endless... my first birthday chapati! I also had a birthday package from my family waiting for me at the post office. The timing couldn't have been more perfect! You just never know with the African mail system, but they've really impressed me this year.

I also received the most wonderful phone call from Dade! Their family is flying home today to begin their three month furlough, and we already miss them so much. It was a treat to chat with him because I'm sure going to miss that kid.

But certainly the highlight of the day involved my dear team mates! They threw me a birthday party complete with pizza, cake, games, and prizes. In my opinion, the best kind of party is one that I don't have to plan, so I loved it. Our team has become like family to me, and it was a blessing to celebrate with them!

I've been introduced to so much British culture this year, and one thing I've learned is that the British know how to party and will find any excuse to have a party. So Zillah was in charge of preparing a hilarious British party game called "pass the parcel" in which a wrapped packed is passed around the circle. When the music stops, whoever is holding the package has to unwrap one layer where they'll find a prize as well as a dare. In order to keep the prize, they have to complete the dare. Some of these included wearing a chicken outfit, doing a headstand, pushing a matchbox across the floor with your nose, and giving a speech about me without hesitation or repetition. Needless to say, there was so much laughter involved!

And that was probably my favorite gift of all. Laughter. Real, true laughter is something I adore, and there was plenty of that last night!

Year twenty-two was an incredible time of growth, change, adventure, and learning to serve more graciously and love more deeply. I honestly can't imagine what year twenty-three has in store, but God knows exactly what the coming 365 364 days will hold. Undoubtedly, there will be many more surprises and twists in the road, but I trust and pray that they'll all serve to bring Him more glory and to make me more holy for the sake of His eternal kingdom.
"...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
Philippians 3:12