Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Broken missionary


This is hard. Bear with me. I’m trying to articulate, to force down into words the past few years, the events that have me now sitting here in Michigan, still reeling a bit, still trying to process. But even months later some of this stuff is still hard to talk about. Not events specifically. Just the accumulation.  The heaviness from swallowing days, months, years of sadness, anger and depression, suppressing feelings of powerlessness, frustration and emptiness because they hurt too much to process.  Because I was afraid that feeling them meant I didn’t really trust God.  Or maybe eventually I wasn’t trusting His sovereignty. Or worse, His goodness.
In the past months I’ve been given words for some of it, which help a little. Compassion fatigue, burnout, even clinical depression. Which initially made me angry. Angry at God. I was doing HIS work, how did he let this happen?!?  Angry at myself. If I have faith, how did I let this happen?!?  But the definitions gave me a place to start in recovering, even forced me to admit that I needed recovery.
Some of the biggest challenges: How do I explain how my faith was pushed to the breaking point?  How does one advocate for themselves when they are hurting so badly they can’t even recognize what they need?  How to learn again to be content in all circumstances? To deal with shame and guilt. To reconcile the cognitive dissonance between what I know to be true but what feels true.
So, I’m just asking for more grace, more time.  I’m still pretty wrecked. But at least I’m acknowledging it now.  I’m going back through the past two year’s posts that I wrote and never shared. Some of it is still not for sharing. But maybe some of it will get posted. We’ll see.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Community

(Oct 22, 2018)
This blog nailed it for me.  I've been searching for, hurting for, longing for community since day one back on US soil.
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Sabbath Rest

(Oct 20, 2017)
At the Obule youth conference I spent some time teaching about Sabbath rest. I feel like I need to write about it again because it seems like a big lesson God is trying to teach me.  I mostly write here to process and occasionally I post it for you to read.  I hope this one helps you and proved easier for you swallow, and more importantly do more than just change your thinking, than it was for me.

Sabbath isn't a formula. It isn't a list of does/ don'ts. It is a relationship.  It is the creation of a sanctuary in time to be with God. It is the pushing back the noise of the world in order to better hear God.
It is a gift. The gift of rest to restless people. If we look at the traditional Jewish sabbath.....
Sabbath, is a time to remember and observe and celebrate and anticipate. Remembering God's deliverance. Celebrating Jesus' work on the cross. Anticipating someday having full Sabbath rest in heaven. Looking at these things that God alone can do.  But in addition to those it reminds us of who we are in perspective to God. God did rest. He did not have to. But we do. So God led the way. He stopped, rested and invited us to do the same. Sabbath rest is imitating God's own rest in order that we might become more like God while yet seeing that we are not God. 

At the conference I asked the kids to try to describe to me the difference between noise and music. Considering kids in Soroti see and do this on a regular basis, they understand, possibly better than I,  the key rhythm plays.  Rhythm is knowing when to be on, and when to be off. When to make noise and when to be still. God gave us an innate desire for rhythm. Both in music and the rest of life. six day on, one off. Six on, one off. Or rather, one off, six on. One off, six on.

But is begins to feel like a burden laid on us.  We begin to see it as a day stolen from us rather than a gift we are blessed with!

Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop because we are finished. We do not stop because we have completed our phone calls, finished our project, gotten through this stack of messages or sent this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop....Sabbath liberates us from the need to be finished. Sabbath says: "Stop now." - Wayne Muller

Hold fast

(Oct 19, 2017)
Where to begin..... I head back to Uganda in 7 days. Really feeling the pressure today of things that "have to" get done. Yet, just still trying to do one day at a time. Not demanding to know what the future holds. Just trusting God. Learning to lean into Him in a different way. I want to write about "my plan" for the coming weeks and months. But the truth is I just don't know what they will look like. I need to be done in Soroti, but just for a while or indefinitely?  What does that mean the next few weeks will hold? What do I tell you my faithful supporters? How do I serve God well in this season?
Maybe that is where I wanted to start this post, I feel sad, bewildered and insecure. 
So I'm just hanging on to the truths that God does his best work in the dark, in our weakness.  And I know He has reminded me over and over lately that I'm anchored firmly in Him. No matter which country, what job description, even in this time that feels a bit dark and stormy. 
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I'll finish with this quote from John Piper: "What Christ bought for us when he died was not the freedom from having to hold fast but the enabling power to hold fast. What he bought was not the nullification of our wills as though we didn't have to hold fast, but the empowering of our wills because we want to hold fast. What he bought was not the canceling of the commandment to hold fast but the fulfillment of the commandment to hold fast."




A song that is speaking to me: He will hold me fast

Eggs

(July 10, 2017) I've been struggling with this mental picture of my work in Uganda. Like I have this handful of eggs. My job is to keep the eggs.  I put some more eggs in my hands. Too many to hold. And I started to fumble them. Some got broken and I feel really bad. And God also added some eggs. More got broken. I feel weary and overwhelmed trying to keep from dropping these eggs. And they just keep breaking. I got to the point where I said "I just can't do it anymore! God, aren't you watching?  Your eggs are breaking!  I thought you were going to help me with this! These are your eggs right?! Don't you care?!" And now I'm sitting here crying and wondering what I did wrong. I want to be an egg holder but am not sure how anymore.  I hate all the broken eggs, the times I could have done better. And God looks at me and says "But I wanted an omelet." Part of my problem is I'm trying to hold eggs alone. I need a team. Part of it is expectations I place on myself. No one never breaks eggs. And not only can God use broken eggs. He wants them broken sometimes.

This feels like a deep valley. Not as dark as three weeks ago. I think I can see the sky. But I'm still not clear of the way out. I want to make a plan. To try to start climbing. But I've been told to just sit in the valley for awhile. And part of me is saying What about the eggs?  I'm an egg holder, it is my job. And another part of me is saying I actually don't even like eggs. Maybe it is time to hold something else for awhile.

I know God uses dark places. I've been reminded of that a lot lately. So just bear with me. God is doing some work.


Sitting in Mbarara with a truck that won't run.....

(Jan, 13, 2017)
Where to begin this morning?  So many thoughts and frustrations and nearly overwhelming feelings running around in my head. Sitting in Mbarara with a truck that won't run.....

Right now I'm resonating with "Even if" by MercyMe
Right now I just can't...... What will I say if I'm held to the flame like I am right now?  I know you are able but sometimes you don't.  Give me the strength to stand.... I know the sorrow and pain would just go away if you just said the word....

And "Stay"  by BigDaddyWeave
Give me what it takes to stay. Break my heart with what breaks yours until you're all I'm living for. Show me what it takes not just to believe but to stay.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Will you pray for me?

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and natureWell, would you look at that. This blog is still here. I though I'd neglected it to death by now.  But, here it is and I'm headed back to Uganda tomorrow so seems like I should revive it.  I know I've talked to very few of you (as if I have any readers left) about this trip. But mostly because that is all that it is, a quick trip. But if you are actually still reading, I do want to try to update you. Hence this blog revival. Wow, I'm writing in circles. It's like I'm out of practice with this blogging thing.... mostly it's because I don't know what to write, I guess.

I loved being part of what God was doing in Obulle and most days I was up for the challenges of life in Soroti. But then suddenly it all seemed like too much. And I couldn't do it anymore. I tried to tell myself that a break was all I needed. But I'm finally at peace (sort-of) with the fact that I can't go back to Soroti and do what I was doing.  I may someday live in Uganda again but the work will have to be on a medical team and look a lot different.  I thought by now I'd have a plan for that. But I still don't know where that is or what it will look like.  I think God is still saying not yet.

There is a quote by C.S. Lewis in his book "A Grief Observed" after the death of his wife where he is talking about a feeling, that many have, in the midst of suffering, of how quiet God can be.
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” 
I have felt this so strongly for so many months now.  In Uganda some of the problem was my own suffering and grief from the hardships that just come with being a missionary, but some of it was also being constantly surrounded by other's grief and loss. Young babies and children dying of illness that are so preventable, nothing I could do for debilitating, painful injuries and disease. The endless hunger and hopelessness that the poor, vulnerable and neglected of my adopted home struggled with daily.  Being in a position that I knew God put me in, a having resources to offer, but still feeling like what I was offering was a drip in the ocean. And calling on him, desperate, wanting to help people.  AND WHY WASN'T HE ANSWERING ME?!?
I got angry at God. Why was I hurting so much and he wasn't answering?! Why couldn't I do more?  Was I trying to work in my own strength?! I didn't want to be, but felt like I didn't have the strength to make it through the challenges of the days.  And He is a God of endless strength. So the disconnect had to be on my end, right?
Even after being away from it for a year now I still get mired down in hopelessness and discouragement more often than I'd like to admit. I don't even like to confess that because of the shame that always comes with it. But that is a topic for another post (or seven.)

Tomorrow I'm climbing on plane. I'm packed, international driver's license in hand, several currencies in pocket. Physically ready. But scared. Sad. Afraid. However, I really, really want to do this at the same time. Will you please pray?
I'm not even sure what to ask you to pray. I'd love to come back at the end of this short trip with a clear idea in mind of a place God is calling me to serve (or even a possibility or two that are divinely ordained, or even at least a sense I'm supposed to be living again in Uganda in the near future). But I'm not sure that is from the Holy Spirit. I need to learn again to trust, listen, wait. Be content in these circumstances. Be satisfied in God alone.  Thanks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

So I really want to update this blog, not really because I have anything to share but it has been nearly 3 months so it seems like it is time.

I'm working regularly at Saint Mary's freestanding ER. I'd forgotten the joys of flu season... though it still isn't as bad a malaria season.

Rather than read my random ramblings anymore I'm just going to post some pictures from my brief visit to Uganda in December. Enjoy!

Jackfruit

For my birthday I was given a jackfruit. It was a 20 pound fruit that took us literally hours to clean and prepare. Jackfruit is currently popular in the US as a "super food", though Ugandans just see it as a cheap staple. Usually it is just eaten raw but I'd wanted to try some other things with it We had so much that made four different recipes.  The pie was my favorite. We also marinated and stirfried it and BBQ even more. We were all a bit sick of it and I'm pretty sure there was still some left even after three meals and giving it away to 20+ people. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My favorite christmas tradition

Decorating cookies!
One hot afternoon in Gulu we decorated several dozen cookies for them to eat but also to let their Ugandan friends experience for the first time!

Making salsa in Gulu

Christina, the kids and I spent several hours chopping, slicing and simmering in her small 100+ degree kitchen, You can kind of tell in these pictures how sweaty we all are. However, at the end of all our hard work we had 14 sealed jars of salsa (and a few bowls for dinner) to show for it. Hopefully it lasts them a few weeks!

Just a few more pictures

Making snowflakes to stay cool.

Izaac made dozens of snowflakes. We had them hanging all over the house.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Changing


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Going from this to this might take me more than a week or two of orientation.  But I'm glad I have a job. I'm also glad for well trained co-workers and actual physicians calling the shots. I'm glad for adequate pain control for my patients so quickly. And what feels like unlimited resources. (Actual lab work?! A CT scan within 30 minutes of arrival?! ) I don't think we are in Kansas anymore Toto!
In other news I'm trying to stop carrying a water bottle in my bag all the time. Did you know you can get clean, safe, free water practically anywhere here?! And I think I can take my Leatherman out of my bag too. I haven't used it in weeks. So I guess that means I can also stop carrying it around. But we've been through so much together.....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Newsletter

Well, in the HTML publishing the newsletter is there. But seems like it isn't actually there. So maybe it is easier to just follow this link?  By the way, if anyone knows how to help me actually make this embedded feel free to let me know.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Always thinking about Uganda.

I've been I've trying to send this last newsletter out for a while now but I realized part of why this is proving to be so difficult is how final it feels. (Side note: If you didn't get my newsletter and would like to let me know, otherwise I'll try to put it on a post tomorrow.)
Anyway, I'm having trouble right now with these things that feel so permanent. When I first arrived back in MI I had to purchase a few things but I realized that in the back of my head I was always thinking these will go back to Uganda with me whenever I go, for example running shoes or underwear. But now I need to start to get some winter things, or other things that I'll never need in Uganda. Like a belt.
I desperately need one here for the pants I had in storage but none of my Ugandan skirts have belt loops.  So I'm having a terrible time bringing myself to purchase one. I'm using a piece of paracord right now, which I think is fine, but my mother rolls her eyes at every time she sees it and if even she is judging my fashion choices I guess I might need to reconsider.
Same with warm clothes. And work uniforms. Seems like I can go back to work at Saints Mercy Health with the 2.5 old uniforms I have remaining from eight years ago, right?
This block is for pretty much anything I need to purchase that I won't ever need in Uganda. Which is the same issue as this newsletter. I'm having such a hard time bringing myself to do it. To admit that I can stop thinking about returning to Uganda for a bit. To stop having Uganda impact all my decisions, purchases, etc...  But I want to know when I'm going back. I want to have a date, even if it is six months down the road. Because this all feels so permanent.  And I really don't like it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Medical scams

A missionary friend just shared this video, discussing one of the many problems facing health care in Uganda. The video discusses how Chinese "clinics" are opening up around Uganda, telling people they can diagnosis and treat all their problems but are nothing more than scams offering fake but believable (for uneducated, inexperienced people) diagnostic testing and very expensive supplements as though they are medicine. This news reporter is right on.  She doesn't address the problem in locations outside of the capital where it is far worse because people have even less understanding of physiology and disease.
I've encountered these "clinics" in Soroti, not run by Chinese, but by Ugandans who are part of the scam. The patient gets hooked up to a "machine" which is nothing more than an electrical tester, and gets a very thorough and very bogus diagnosis. The practitioner then gives them a list of "medicines" that the patient "has to" take.  One family spent more than 500,000 for this (keep in mind that this is about $140.00 for a family that probably makes less than $20.00 a month) went home with a bottle of weeds. (and not the good kind of weed)
 But people are attracted to the testing and the confidence.  I often had to tell people the testing they needed was not available to them or that there was actually no treatment possible. (The best laboratory is 8 hours away by bus for my patients and even that lab can't reliably do things like liver enzymes or ABGs at all. There are about 5 CT machines in the whole country and one MRI. There are  only two places in the country people can receive chemo so needless to say we don't treat much cancer.  And people don't understand that there is no fix for things like cerebral palsy or downs syndrome.) People want to grab on to hope, no matter how unrealistic is is and this huge scam really preys on the most poor, most desperate and most uneducated.




Friday, October 13, 2017

Obule Youth Conf

200+ youth from around Soroti, singing, games, dramas, teaching, baptisms... it was a busy three days but well worth the work!