Monday, April 20, 2015

Becoming A Samuel...

There have been so many thoughts floating around in my head these past few weeks--some are cohesive (and productive); others, not so much.  I know I need to put some tangible words to all these ideas and revelations, but I am pretty confident that I won't be able to do that in just one post.  So, I have taken a few notes and plan to address them at a later time.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to be reminding of the story of David.  Before he was David the King; David, friend of Jonathan; David who defeated Goliath...before any of this happened, he was David, son of Jesse,

A quick review: God had recently rejected Saul as King of Israel and had sent Samuel to anoint a new King--one of the sons of Jesse.  Upon reaching the home of Jesse, Samuel is greeted by seven of his sons.  God reveals to Samuel that none of these young men are the chosen king, which leads Samuel to ask, "Are these all the sons you have?"

And this is where my heart sits so heavy today:
Jesse replies, "There is the youngest, but he is tending sheep." 
This was to be a very important day for Jesse and his family--one of them was about to become the king of Israel...yet David was not even considered for the ceremony.  It is almost as though he was an afterthought--less worthy than his older, stronger, and more capable brothers.  The fact that Jesse left David in the fields and failed to even bring him to the event revealed his heart and diminished expectations of his youngest son.  Little did he know, this left-behind (literally) child would grow up to eventually lead God's chosen people.
Jesse, I am sure, underestimated the power that his words and actions had on his young son.  
For some of us, this story may seem irrelevant.  After all, what is the likelihood that my child is going to become king,,,or president...or cure cancer...or whatever!  But that is exactly my point; we don't know.  And we can't even begin to imagine what our children are capable of, particularly when they walk hand-in-hand with the Creator of the universe!
I am beginning to see the story of David played out in the lives of my students here in Uganda. Similar to David, many of these children are outcasts in their families.  They are often despised and rejected with no expectations to succeed in life.  Their brokenness and physical handicap¹ is simply disgraceful and unwelcomed in their communities.  But like David, these children are rising above the odds and surpassing the limits that have been placed on them.  They are succeeding in school, making friends, raising their own standards, and paving futures for themselves and others that will follow.
It is easy to look at these deaf children and see their disability...but why not look deeper to find their ability?

As parents and as Christians, we need to recognize the power our words have on our children.  We need to be very cautious as to what we are saying to our children and about our children.  Throughout scripture we are told that our words have the power to build others up or tear them down.  It is up to us to decide how our words will be used.
Of course, we don't intentionally criticize our children's appearances or abilities, but what are some of the ways we are unconsciously influencing our children's self-image in our day-to-day lives? Moms, are you constantly standing in from of the mirror, complaining about the few extra pounds you have gained, inadvertently implying to your young daughter that a woman's worth is measured by the size of her waist?  Dads, are you talking smack about the athletes on t.v., throwing out insults based on one man's performance that day? 
This is not to criticize anyone's parenting styles at all, rather to call our attention to the delicate needs of our children.
We need to be the voice of truth in their lives.
We all know the phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me..."  Wrong!  They do.  And we need to stand in the gap and ensure that our children know who they are and Who's they are.  The world will, no doubt, come at them with insults and offenses, tearing apart their character and the idiosyncrasies that make them unique.  Therefore, it is essential that our children grow up knowing that they are made by God, in His perfect image.

So, we have a choice to make: We can either be the Jesse in our children's lives, setting low expectations and standards for our children; or we can be the Samuel in their lives, calling them forward to bigger and better things with Christ at the helm.
While our bodies may not appear to be perfect to the world, He made each of us EXACTLY how He wants us.  And in the end, it is not our physical frame, but our heart, that God is after.

¹While mainstream America and countries around the world view deafness as a handicap, the Deaf community disagrees.  Deaf people have chosen to stand--their inability to hear is not a disability.  Instead, it is a ticket into a beautifully unique culture with its own language and opportunities.
  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Celebrating What I Love...

February 14 is here! And in the spirit of Valentines day, I thought I would dedicate this post to Love. 
Typically, Valentine’s day is meant to celebrate that ‘special someone’ in our lives. 
However, as a single woman, I have decided to re-purpose the holiday this year
and highlight some of the loves of my life.

 

1. Family

Yup, they are pretty amazing.

 

 

2. Friends 

"A friend loves at all times..."  Proverbs 17:17

  

 

3. Uganda

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

  

 

4. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!!

Need I say more...?

 

5. "My" Babies

"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

 

6. Hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
1 Peter 1:3

 

7. Friends

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy”  Job 8:21

 

8. Hot Cocoa

"Every good and perfect gift is from above..."  James 1:17

 

9. Hugs

"Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ..." Eph 5:2

 

 

10. Purple Pens

Sometimes it's the little things in life...

 

 11. Laughing babies...

“Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me'” (Genesis 21:6).
  

 

 12. Butterflies

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Cor. 5:17

 

 13. Smiles

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph. 2:10

 

14. Sign Language

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  1 Cor. 13:13

 

 

 

 Single, dating, married...whatever your situation, I pray that love radiates from your heart this Valentine's Day.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God." 1 John 4:7
 
 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

His Grace is Sufficient...

I have not cried in months. 
But those of you who know me well, know that this is not uncommon for me.  For years, I have had to be the ‘strong one.’  I have had to be the shoulder to cry on and a source of comfort for the people around me.  I have had to restrain my emotions and face uncomfortable situations head-on.  In other words, I’ve had to put my big-girl panties on and just get the job done.  This has been true in my career as well as in my personal life. 

Thankfully, I come from a fabulous home and a wonderful family, full of love.  My heartbreaks growing up were limited to the few instances when we lost a family pet or when I realized that the tooth fairy was not real.  But early on, I was expected to perform well, to get good grades, to excel in life.  Failure was not an option and I feared disappointing anyone.  As I entered adulthood, I had to be the stoic one. Showing strength and courage after a disastrous house fire. Comforting Mom through a painful, unforeseen divorce.    Listening patiently as my sister sheds her own tears and vents her frustrations as a wife and mother.  Calling Daddy, hundreds of miles away, and telling him everything is alright…even when it’s not.

At work, it was all-too-common for my heart to be crushed.  Informing my patient that her cancer has returned.  Watching a mother cry, knowing that she can’t afford the quality treatment to help her daughter detox off heroin.   Telling a young, newlywed couple that their infant child may not survive his 13-hour heart surgery, scheduled for tonight. Hearing hearts break as a room full of people say their final goodbyes to a husband, father, grandpa, and friend.  Explaining to a wife that the doctors did all they could for her husband…but he won’t be going home with her tonight…or any night thereafter. 

All of these situations have contributed to the building up of my emotional walls and reinforcing them year after year.  It is not something that I am necessarily proud of. Rather, it is more of a defense mechanism—a way to protect my heart and ensure that I will be strong enough to handle the next heart-breaking situation that is right around the corner.  Because, truth is, this is a fallen world and pain is inevitable. Some people may interpret my lack of tears as being insensitive, but that is not the case at all.  I see your tears and I feel your pain.  I WANT to cry with you, but I can’t.   I can’t let my guard down and risk being crippled by the pain.  I can’t be vulnerable or show weakness.

Vulnerable.  Weak.

What is it about those words that sting so badly? What is it that makes them echo and pierce us so deeply?  It is almost as if such qualities are shameful…as if opening myself up and admitting that I ‘just can’t do it’ is somehow admitting defeat.

But what if that is exactly what we are supposed to do—Admit defeat.  Admit failures.  Admit short-comings.  Admit my need for a Savior.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us a story of the prodigal son—a boy that wants to be grown.  He wants to do life his own way and prove that he is mature enough to make his own decisions and take care of himself.  But as the story unfolds, we see that the boy begins to fall apart.  He has reached a dead end and begins to recall and appreciate the safety and security he once had with his father. And the most beautiful part of the story is the picture scripture paints for us of a father who longs to care for his son.  His arms are open wide, anticipating the reunion with his son and the opportunity to, once again, be the father his son needs. 
This father’s desire is not a foreign concept.
God created men to be leaders of their families. Therefore, it comes natural that men want to effectively execute their role as a father.  There is something in the chemical make-up of a man that he desires to be the backbone of his family and provide for his children, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

The same is true of God.  As our Heavenly Father, He wants nothing more than to have His children run to Him.  With arms open wide, he wants to hold us tight, comfort our hurting hearts, and wipe away all our tears.  He longs to embrace us with his unconditional love and strength.  He wants to counsel us, lead us, and make our paths straight.

So, it is okay to show weakness.  We don’t always have to be the ‘strong one.’ I don’t have to always be the strong one. In fact, I am beginning to see that it is best that I stop striving to be strong because when I don’t measure up, which is more often than not, I can find strength and comfort knowing that He is able.  It is okay for me to ‘fall apart’ when the pain is just too much, because as a child of God, I belong to the One that can restore me and rebuild my heart. He will be there in the pain to pull me up and strengthen me to continue His call.

All that being said, I realize that it is easier said than done.  As my time here in Busega continues to dissolve like the sand in an hourglass, I can feel my walls beginning to reinforce.  I don’t want to leave my family behind.  I don’t want to say goodbye.  I don’t want to experience the pain that is bound to come…


But I can hear His still, small voice reassuring me that He is here. 
And He will continue to be here.
He sees my fear and my pain and He is quietly reminding me that it is okay. 
And then He whispers,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Being Made New...

As my first year here in Uganda begins to draw to a close, I have been spending a lot of time evaluating (and reevaluating) the past few months. 
What has God accomplished?
How have lives been eternally impacted?
Where has God made the biggest changes in my life?
What about the ‘little’ changes?
What changes still need to be made in me?

That last question is one that I can’t seem to shake this morning.  God has done so much in my heart over the last year.  There are countless times when I just stand in awe of Jesus and all that His name represents.  Other times, my heart has been broken into millions of unidentifiable little pieces; shattered beyond repair.
But then, it is as if God reaches inside my chest, grabs hold of all the pieces, and tenderly molds my heart together again. 

The Bible reassures us that he makes everything new.  There is no doubt that I have seen my share of ‘new’ this year…but today I feel like God is saying, ‘I’m not done yet.”  There is still more that He wants to accomplish. 
The only thing stopping him? 
Me.

As many of us know, choosing to walk with God leads us into the middle of a battlefield.  Our adversary has an arsenal of weapons he uses in an attempt to weaken us and dissuade us from walking in righteousness with Christ.

Several months back, this battle became very real for me when someone I thought I could trust, joined forces with Satan and spoke awful accusations against me.  I wish I could say that the slanderous lies went in one ear and out the other.  I wish I could say that I wasn’t affected by the whole mess. 
But words hurt.
The situation caused me to question the intentions of the people around me. 
It made me keenly aware of my ‘outsider’ status and it was a painful reminder of the sinful nature of people—even those that claim to follow Jesus.
When the drama struck, my people-pleasing nature shifted into second gear.  I immediately wanted to do damage control and win over the heart of my accuser.  I wanted to defend myself and make the person understand that what they had said was a lie straight from the deceitful mouth of Satan.
I wanted to do and say a lot of things…but I didn’t.  Instead, God caused me to be silent. 

Looking back, I can now see how much the attack affected me.  In the past few months I have seen myself holding back, in more ways than one.  I have been afraid of exposing my heart—afraid that my sincerity and genuine desire to love the people here and serve God will be misinterpreted and used to damage the ministry God is doing here.  I have been afraid that Satan might seek to deceive others.  I didn’t realize it, but I have been afraid of being rejected by the ones I am called to love.

I have been walking in fear of what Satan might do rather than walking in the TRUTH of Christ.

This morning God has really poured out his love on me.  He has been revealing my faults and has extending his grace and forgiveness.  There is still plenty more that He desires to do in and through me.  He has made it very clear that His work is not finished.  Likewise, the work He has put before me is also incomplete.  He has not called me to be timid; He has called me to walk boldly with Him.  He wants me to run this race with perseverance while he secures my steps and make straight the path before me. 

This road that God has called me to travel is not easy but He promises that I will never have to walk it alone.  As a follower of Jesus, I have become a new creation.  But becoming ‘new’ is not a one-time event—it is a process.  The woman I am today is not the woman I was last year.  And I am thankful for all of the ways He continues to make me new.  Walls are being torn down, bridges are being built…and I am becoming the woman He desires me to be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Melanda...


Do you have that ONE person in your life that just ‘gets’ you? 
Someone that knows your hopes and your dreams?
Someone that encourages you and inspires you to be a better person?
Someone that knows your deepest secrets…and loves you anyway?
You consider this person your ‘best friend’ but in reality, she is more than just a friend.  She is your sister, your advocate, your partner-in-crime, your confidant, and at times, your conscience. She knows what makes you tick…because her heart beats for the same thing. Her house is your second home.  In fact, you don’t even knock any more—you simply walk in and announce, “Hey! I’m home,” and make yourself comfortable…because you know that you are probably going to stay a while.  The two of you have more in common than any two people you know, while at the same time your unique differences perfectly compliment the other.  When people see her, they expect to also see you—it is like a packaged deal. 

Such a person does not enter your life accidentally. All the match-making credit is due to God.  He has woven your hearts and minds together in such a special way and your relationship has His fingerprints ALL over it.
I pray that everyone is able to find a friendship like this—it is a sweet gift from God.

My gift from God is a woman named Randa. 
We met around three years ago (I think).  It is hard to remember because it seems like I have known her forever.  While living in Raleigh, God grew our friendship out of our shared interest in children’s ministry.  We taught Sunday school together in the two-year-old classroom and soon began attending the same Bible Study on Thursday nights.  I don’t exactly remember what happened from there—all I know is that for the past one to two years, we have been nearly inseparable.  Before moving to Uganda, she and I spent most of our ‘free’ time together, which meant that we were together almost EVERY day.  As a result, she and I know each other very well.  There is no one else that understands me the way she does.

She is the only one that will spend hours with me perusing the isles of Michael’s, followed by several more hours camped out on her living room floor crafting our latest Pinterest project. We share a love for children and chocolate. And we will never pass on an opportunity to test out a new recipe. (Some make it to the making-this-again pile while others…not so much.)  She is the only one who will play princess and airplanes with me in the church hallway. And when something funny happens (or happy, or awkward, or anything, really) she is the first one that I think about calling or texting.  When my life is turned upside down by a terrifying phone call, she is the only one I run crying to.  We have a million and one inside jokes…and I’m sure they will stay that way because I am confident no one would understand our humor.  The two of us together is called “Melanda” and/or “The Melanda Show” and we can spend hours at a time talking about anything…and nothing, all at the same time. She can finish my sentences (probably better than I can) and I am pretty sure we can read each other’s minds. Sometimes all it takes is a look and the two of us burst into laughter.

I find it without surprise, that even though we are separated by thousands of miles, living on separate continents, on two different sides of the world, our hearts are still being burdened for the same things. 

There are days when I feel like my heart is being shattered into a million pieces. I see my kids trying to manage a pain that is so foreign to me, yet cuts me so deep.  I try to pray, seeking God for answers and comfort, but it has become all-too-common that the words are just not there. Instead, I pray that God sees the brokenness both in my heart and in the situations that have caused the tears.

Then, during our precious Skype time, I learn that Randa’s heart is also unsettled —for the immense pain that she has discovered in the lives of her children.  She, too, is struggling to understand how someone so young can be asked to carry such a heavy weight.  Overcome with grief and affliction, she prays for God to intervene because the suffering that lay before her is just too much for one woman to handle.

Being a follower of Jesus is not always glamorous—in fact, most times it is just the opposite. But even in the valleys, God’s love overcomes.  His faithfulness prevails and we are able to smile, knowing that He has never left our side.  Sometimes His presence is revealed via a scripture.  Other times, an early morning sunrise displays His glory.  Then there are times when He sends an angel to meet us on life’s path, lift us to our feet, and walk with us on our journey to eternity.  
 
I know that Jesus loves me; he has proven it by the way He has intricately woven Randa’s heart to mine. I am thankful for her and for the way God uses her to encourage me, sharpen me, and spur me on to run the race with endurance until we finally see His face.  I pray that I am able to do the same for her.  And I pray that God will continue to be glorified in our lives, whether we are t

Monday, September 22, 2014

In Ten Years...

Last Sunday, Pastor posed a question to the people seated in the second service of King Jesus Church.  He asked us to turn to the person sitting beside us as describe to them where we see ourselves in the next 10 years.  A fairly simple enquiry, right?  I am sure all of us have been asked the very same question numerous times before.  I can personally think of at least a few instances—during conferences and trainings at work; on ministry and job applications; and while lying on my living room floor, laughing and pondering life during girls’ night in with Randa.

Many of us have spent countless hours contemplating and planning our future.  I have even known someone that has gone as far as typing out a detailed timeline of events—self-determined deadlines for marriage, children, career change, etc.  Now I have been known to be borderline Type A, but I just can’t imagine my life revolving around such time restraints, human-generated time limits at that.

 My view of this topic has not always been what it is now.  If someone would have asked me ten years ago where I expected my life to be when I turned 30…there is not a chance under heaven that I would have said, “Oh, you know, living somewhere in Africa; mentoring eleven deaf children; leading Sunday School at a church that barely speaks English.” And I probably would not have said anything about having to deal with the effects of child neglect, witnessing widespread poverty, or facing uncharted territory in the area of international cultural barriers.  And I would definitely not have said, “Oh, by the way, let me quit my $50k interpreting career for all of this.”

Ten years ago I was a ‘typical’ 20-year-old girl. I enjoyed hanging out with friends, catching movies on the weekends, and I was not the slight bit interested in all that “God stuff.”  Growing up in 20th century America, I had fallen victim to the “American Dream” propaganda that plagues the minds of citizens across the nation.  The only way to live a fulfilling life, I thought, was to accomplish the checklist of requirements that had been handed to me from society.  So, I was pursing the college degree and I imagined that in the few years to follow, I would settle in a nice house located in a quiet suburb somewhere in the Tennessee/Kentucky area—not so cold, and not so far from home.  At some point, I was hoping to marry and begin a family.  You know, accomplishing the things I was ‘supposed’ to accomplish.

Well, besides the college degree, NONE of that has happened.

But before you (or I) get discouraged, let’s reexamine where life has brought me in the last 10 years (the CliffsNotes version):

·         I began a degree in radiology…and finished seven years later with a degree in Sign Language Interpreting.
·         On my way to acquiring my degree, I moved to Indiana, attended a Christian college and found Jesus.
·         At the end of my college career, I took an internship with a company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Upon graduation, this same company hired me in their Raleigh office.
·         There, I got connected to an amazing church—one that believes in and lives out the Gospel; one that helps people follow Jesus; one that partners with friends in Uganda.
·         In July, 2012 I joined Journey Church on a mission trip to Jinja, Uganda.  God used that trip to capture my heart for a population of people desperate for His love.
·         After much prayer and extensive planning, I moved to Uganda on February 16, 2014.

And that is where I find myself today—thousands of miles from home (approximately 7585 miles, in case you were wondering) and light years away from where I thought my life was going to take me.

I mentioned above that I would never have envisioned the struggles that I face living in Uganda.  But now is a good time to add that I also did not envision the peace, contentment, and joy that He has given to me either.  I am thankful that my life didn’t turn out the way I had planned. Had my plans come to pass, I would be missing out on so much. Like watching my babies begin to discover themselves through the eyes of God.  And watching them transform physically and emotionally as their newly-found language begins to open doors for them in school, at home, and in the community.  Had God chosen not to intervene, I would have missed out on an amazing extended family—Aunties and Uncles at church that encourage myself and many others to run this race with perseverance; brothers that make me laugh til my tummy hurts because the joy of the Lord overflows abundantly from their hearts; sisters that genuinely love Jesus and have allowed Him to consume their lives for the sake of knowing Him more.  If my life was left up to me, I would have missed the opportunity to experience God on another level. I would not be seeking his heart the way I am now, nor would I be able to discern his hand at work in my life.  Many years ago I had decided that I only wanted to have two children but, instead, God has given me dozens of them.  I look forward to seeing their glowing smiles each day and hearing them giggle as we share Bible stories and play red-light-green-light and the ‘stick game’. Without this life-altering detour I would have missed the daily molding and sculpting that God is working in my heart to make me the woman He wants me to me. I would be missing out on this incredible journey and also missing out on the call He has for me. 

I know for sure that living in Uganda is not the fulfillment of my own dreams—if that were the case, every day would be a fairytale. There would be less tears and fewer frustrations because I would be doing exactly what I wanted to do. 

No, this was not my dream.  This is and always has been His dream.  But somewhere along the way His dream and His will has become the desire of my heart.  Ten years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am now…but now that He has brought me here, I cannot imagine my life anywhere else. And in another ten years, who knows where I will be?  Only He knows and I pray that even then, my life will continue to be lived in obedience as a reflection of Him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Escalator Kind of Day...

Have you ever had one of those days where you are staring at the face of an impossible mountain?  But instead of climbing up the mountain it feels like you are running against a fast-moving escalator? Every step forward takes you three steps backwards.  You are out of breath and exhausted, but you look around and realize there are only two ways to exit the moving stairs.

You could just give up and be dragged back to square one. That would be okay, except that you are not the only one climbing the stairs.  There are people behind you.  So as your lifeless body is overtaken by gravity, those that are in your path would also be taken down with you.  Most likely, you and everyone else will experience a less-than-soft landing on the solid, unwelcoming, ground below.  People will suffer injuries—bumps and bruises, scrapes, and perhaps some broken bones. 

As you continue scaling the agonizing stairs you realize that giving up is really not a possibility after all.  The only option you have is to keep going.  Even then, it is likely that your body will sustain injuries—possible weak or torn muscles, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, nausea. 
The only way to conquer this challenge is to tap into an alternate energy source.  In other words, reach deep into your soul and find some type of inspiration to keep your body from collapsing. It may be the toughest obstacle you have ever faced, but imagine the feeling when you eventually reach the top.  Joy. Relief. Excitement.  Accomplishment.

Today has been one of those conquer-the-escalator days.  And I will be honest: it is not the first time I have experienced this.  And I am confident that today is probably not the last encounter either. Each day brings its own set of challenges but there are some days when it is just too much.  People’s unrealistic expectations, the negative comments, the mounting to-do list, the surrounding desperation, the schedule, the sleep deprivation, the language!  It is all just too overwhelming. 

I think the main reason all of this is so difficult is because I am somewhat of a perfectionist.  I am a people-pleaser and I don’t like making mistakes.  In my ‘previous’ life, these characteristics were advantageous.  I was a sign language interpreter, working full-time in hospitals and medical clinics.  Making a mistake was highly discouraged, to say the least.  A mistake could mean the difference between an appendix surgery and a leg amputation.  Okay, so maybe that is a little far-fetched, but a slight mistake could mean that my patient gets 200 mg of tramadol instead of the prescribed 20 mg of trazodone.  So, my perfectionism was appreciated in the hospitals. 

Now it is a different story.  I have been called to a place that I know nothing about.  I am not a trained teacher.  I have never been to seminary.  And I don’t speak Luganda.  That is a whole lot of NEW all at one time.  Needless to say, there have been a lot of mistakes made.

Currently, my biggest frustration is the language.  As if learning one language isn’t difficult enough, I am learning two new languages at the same time: Luganda and Ugandan Sign Language. The sign language has not caused me much of a headache.  I am pretty sure my brain was wired for it.  Plus, I have studied ASL—its grammar, syntax, morphemes, lexicalizations…all that linguistic stuff.  Granted, ASL and USL are very different from each other, sign language seems to come pretty natural for me. 

Spoken language, on the other hand, does not.  For the past six months, a friend from church has been helping me learn some vocabulary.  He has been amazingly patient and we have had a lot of fun.  Recently, I have begun hearing comments from people at church that I should be able to ‘understand everything in Luganda now’ and that I should ‘only speak in Luganda.’  My initial thought to all of these comments is, “Umm…excuse me. Did you become fluent in English in only six months? No? Okay, didn’t think so.”  (Most times I exercise self-control and just keep that comment to myself…most times.)

But in order to become fluent in Luganda, I have to practice speaking it, right?  Well, every time I attempt to practice, people laugh.  Whether I pronounce words correctly or incorrectly I am followed by a cloud of laughter.  And this is where the whole ‘perfectionist’ dilemma comes in.  I don’t like being laughed at.  Especially when I am trying my best to adapt to their language, their culture, their everything.  I now find myself avoiding Luganda conversations.  When people rattle off a ton of Luganda to me, knowing that I don’t understand but simply wanting to laugh at my reaction, I casually say, “Simanyi” and do my best to duck out of the area.  I am essentially allowing the Luganda escalator to drag me down.  Now I know some of these people probably have good intentions of forcing me to learn, but little do they know, it is not encouraging. 

For the past week or two, I have been harboring a bad attitude about learning Luganda. 
Today, God convicted me of my attitude. He reminded me that He hasn’t called me here for my own enjoyment.  He has called me here to serve Him. 
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Sometimes that means my day will be filled with giggling babies, laugh-til-your-tummy-hurts conversations with friends, smile-til-your-face-hurts experiences, a focused agenda, and a confident assurance that I am walking hand-in-hand with Jesus.  Other times, it means that I will be extremely insecure and distracted, pondering serious self-doubts, and consumed by emotions and unanswered questions. Whether my eyes are filled with tears of laughter or tears of frustration, one thing remains the same—God’s faithful promise to never leave me or forsake me. (Deut. 31:6)

Therefore I do not lose heart. Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day.  For my light and momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
That right there is quite a reality check, but I have also been reminded of this: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23 
Though my instinct is to satisfy the desires of others, I must keep focused on the mission that God has entrusted to me, and to you.  He has called all of us to worship Him and Him alone, making no room for idols in our lives.  I have identified and recognized my weaknesses.  Now I must guard my heart from the intrusion of idols and the relentless distractions from the world.  To do this, requires daily surrender and an intentional decision to seek God’s face.  Every thought needs to be taken captive and every decision needs to be scrutinized to be sure that I am walking in the will of God.

It is often said that “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I will be the first in line to tell you that that is a lie—He WILL and DOES give you more than you can handle.  There are a lot of things in life that I am not so sure about, but that is not one of them.  Recently, I asked God to draw me in and teach me a deeper level of dependency on Him.  Well, folks, that is exactly what He is doing.  And it is uncomfortable and awkward and painful.  There are days when I just want to curl up in bed with my snuggly, purple snowflake, fleece blanket and cry.  (Today is one of those days, but there is no time for crying now.) But through it all, good or bad, I know that Jesus is standing alongside me, hand-in-hand, showing me the next step to take.

I am currently running up the ‘Learn Luganda Escalator.”  My mind is exhausted and it is tempting to just give up.  Fortunately, I am not scaling this travelling staircase alone.  God is with me and I cannot wait until I am able to experience the magnificent view from the top.