Thursday, April 26, 2012

Find the time...

To read...

"If a writer can get inside of a reader's head, he has the ability to change him." 
-Dr. John Price

To pick and smell the flowers...
"Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: 
we must fight in order to conquer it." 
-The Count of Monte Cristo

To paint your dreams...
"Nothing happens unless we first dream." 
-Carl Sandburg

To have coffee with a friend...
"It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see." 
-Henry David Thoreau

 To learn a new craft...
"Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter" 
-Tim Kizziar quoted by Francis Chan in CrazyLove.

To write a letter...
"It is when our hearts are stirred that we become most aware of what they contain." 
-Andy Stanley

To bake a surprise cake...
 "Because if I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't be nearly as excited to live it out."

To go somewhere special...
"The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. 
The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has seen before." 
-Albert Einstein

To REALLY be with the people you love...
"Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter?
Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh 
and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? 
Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?" 
- Brennan Manning 

Or even to do nothing for a while...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

This week as I sat sidesaddle on the back of a boda in the middle traffic that apparently had no concept of any kind of traffic laws, I thought about how every day my chances of dying get higher. Clearly, I have the inevitable concept of time and the whole aging process working against me. I’m not really sure if that’s possible to combat. But, then there are so many other factors, too, like where you live, method of transportation, likelihood of exposure to who-knows-what, what you eat and so on. So, as I sat there and said a little prayer for the rest of my ride, I realized that the risk factors in my life for dying continue to increase.

I know that’s kind of morbid for many, but it kind of makes me laugh. Each day I live, I lower my own life expectancy rate. I thought about the alternative of that, which would be playing it safe and taking all the precautions I’m supposed to. But, that kind of made me wish that living that way would actually increase my chances of dying sooner. And, thus I discovered that living life to the full, regardless of the supposed risk factors, is the better choice.

To calm the fears of those beloved friends and family members who read this and have decided that I need to be on a plane home asap and chained to my bed, I feel it’s necessary to note that I do participate in some activities that are supposed to increase your chances of living longer or at least give you better health in the midst of your living. And, one of those is running. For the past several years, I’ve come to truly enjoy the pastime of running; however, that is mostly just what it has been. A hobby. A chance to hang out and talk with my dear friend Pam. An opportunity to race my sisters.  An outlet for letting off some steam. An excuse to not feel so guilty about the amount of ice cream sandwiches I ate earlier in the day. It’s been that kind of thing.

And, it still is. But, living in Mbarara has caused me to take it up at least one notch because the hills in this town are treacherous compared to the flatlands of the Midwest and because one of my main running partners, Justus, is ridiculously better than me and refuses to let me slack. So, not to any credit or effort of my own, but due to circumstances my running has improved, or at least been more consistent since moving here.

Due to the hard work of some teammates, friends, and organizations in Mbarara, the idea of exercise and racing is catching on here, and today I got to be a part of a community 5k race! The race was scheduled to start at 8 a.m., but starting times tend to always be rough estimates. Unfortunately, by about 8:30, a steady rain had begun to pour down with some traces of lightening causing all of us to take shelter before starting the race. 

As is the case stateside, these races also tend to be for the benefit of a local organization or cause and today it was for an organization called Amagara Masya, a rehabilitation and reintegration program for children who have made their homes on the streets of Mbarara. During the time we sat waiting for the rain to clear, we gathered together to hear from some of the organization leaders and listen to a few of the children’s testimonies.

Earlier this year, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a few nights working alongside some missionaries and Ugandans who ministered to street children through a local church’s outreach program. There was a tremendous communication gap between the boys I talked with, and I didn’t get to see them often, but the few times I was able to spend time just being and laughing with those boys there were a couple who really pulled at the strings of my heart. I would occasionally run into them in town, but it had been at least a couple of months since I’d seen them around. Thinking about the possibilities of where they could have gone or why I hadn't seen them would cause an anxiousness in me that only prayer could put to rest. In the depths of my heart I worried about them, praying for the Lord to protect them and care for them wherever they now were. 

Well, as we gathered together to hear from the organization, I recognized one young boy from those very nights of ministry! I called his name and he came over to me where I was greeted with a smile of recognition and a warm handshake. I quickly asked him if he had seen the other little boy for whom I had been praying for. One of the leaders heard me asking for this specific boy, and called him over, too! As he came over to me, I gave him a hug and rejoiced in my inner being at God’s provision. The two young boys who I had been specifically praying for had been taken in by Amagara Masya where they are receiving love, food, clothing, and the chance to go to school again. The light in their eyes, the hope they now have, their clean clothes and healthy faces make me rejoice throughout my entire being. As one of the boys said, they now look like "other kids who have people that care about them." I can’t explain the amount of joy that gives me and how much it causes me to turn back to God and praise His Holy Name. God is so faithful to hear us and hold to His promises. Why don't we ask for the things He longs to see happen more often?!

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives: those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened." 
Matthew 7:7-8

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Heb. 10:23

With the joy in my heart and the adrenaline in my veins, by the time we finally began the race I was feeling so alive! We had already received a lot of rain, and it was continuing to trickle down when we started, making for a muddy course and a cool run. Starting out the run I knew many faces of friends, but as I continued along the course, I kept encountering more individuals from the street ministry that I hadn’t seen in such a long time! Even though I don’t like to talk much during a hard run, I kept finding myself chatting with individuals along the way due to an overflow of joy at seeing them again.

This 5k race differed dramatically from one we’d have in the states for a few reasons. Because exercise is catching on and growing, the numbers aren’t quite as high as what you’d find in America. It also affects the competition level. There were a few serious men who train for races and wanted to compete. Many others do it simply out of natural talent. Luckily for me, many of the competitive “muzungu” racers failed to make an appearance because of sickness or responsibilities. So, I was able to be the first muzungu to finish! J Not a huge accomplishment considering the number of people competing, but I’ll keep that number to myself! I have to admit I was a little disappointed there wasn't a prize for being the first white person to finish, but the free t-shirt I won in the raffle made me forget it quickly. 

At the end of the race, I was filled with such joy and the more I reflect on the events of this morning, the more it continues to grow. God is so good. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." 
John 10:10

I discover more and more that this life is but a blink of an eye, and only a mere fraction of what awaits us in eternity. My life is in Christ, and I have little to lose because of it. Regardless of the risk factors that seem to continue compiling in my life, I'd rather have the confidence and joy that comes with living a life full-out for Christ than live within the safety net of comfort and caution. 

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..." Philippians 3:7-9

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Get Timeline Now

For the longest time, I had a huge internal battle going on. I was reminded of this problem every time I got on Facebook. It was a dilemma for me, and it plagued me every I went to a friend's page. 

I couldn't decide if I should "Get Timeline Now" or not. 

Well, after much debate, many sleepless nights, and some friend counselling, I did it, and I feel like a new woman. It's like I've had a make-over. These internal feelings based on the appearance change of my Facebook page may reveal that I spend way too much time on the social networking site or that I have some severe identity issues. Either way, so far I'm really enjoying it, and have decided that time lines are cool. What a great way of being able to reflect on life and the Lord's promptings and provisions throughout. So, because of the inspiration I received from my Facebook obsession, I decided to make a little timeline of the journey God's taken me on in both bringing me to Uganda and sustaining me here.

July 2008
For reasons I didn't know at the time, God led me to Uganda on a short two-week mission trip that awakened my heart to the world. 
Working alongside missionaries in Gulu.
Meeting my sponsor child, Claire.
August 2010-December 2010
I began intentionally praying about coming back to Uganda, the country that had been on my mind since my visit in 2008.

January 2011
I applied for a one-year contract as a short-term missionary with Africa Inland Mission.

I was officially approved to move to Mbarara and received the go ahead to start raising support for the year. Tentative departure date: August 2011. Date to have support raised by: July 2011

Early April
Sent out support letters.

June 2011
Traveled to Pearl River, New York for orientation and training for the next year of being a missionary. (Only at about 30 percent of having enough support to come)

July 3, 2011
I was supposed to have my support raised, and I didn't. A couple of men from my church helped raise awareness of what the Lord was doing in my life by creating a video for me. Those closest to me rallied around me and continued praying that if this was the Lord's will, he would provide. By July 15th, I'd reached full support!

August 2011
I said my good-byes and headed to the southern hemisphere where I quickly began learning culture by spending time with a family in the village for a few days. I experienced severe homesickness, and asked the Lord how in the world he was going to sustain me for the whole year. (He's been so faithful :) )

My introduction to living in Mbarara was rough as we went for over 20 days without electricity due to neighborhood children throwing rocks at the transformer. It resulted in early bedtimes, cold showers, and lots of reading. We spent a lot of our time out of the house and getting to know the community, which involved meeting our friends Bright and Doreen who owned a little espresso machine and cafe!

Relationships continued to develop as our dear friend Sophie invested time in us, teaching us the language Runyankore, Ugandan living skills, and a whole lot about the beauty of friendship. On another note, Dara and I were hard at work at school, spending more time on developing writing skills and reading than she's ever had to before (my math and science skills just aren't up to par, but she is so patient with me!).

My small group at the university really began developing authentic relationships and we started moving from mere acquaintances to friends. Meanwhile, at the house, Martha, Carolyn and I expanded our cooking and baking knowledge by experimenting with new recipes, baking from scratch, and creating our own Thanksgiving feast with the help of our friend and teammate Stephen.

University students went on break for holiday, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with the neighborhood kids, Santa came to town, and we traveled to Rwanda.

We brought in 2012 with a night of fireworks and dancing at Lakeview Hotel in town, and then the next day we celebrated the new year by killing a rooster and having a feast with our neighbors! It was a month of firsts. A new year, first rooster killing, and learning how to peel matoke were a few of them.

End of January- Beginning of February: Home Trip
On a Saturday night in January, I made the decision to go home for two weeks to spend time with family during a tough time due to some medical problems with my grandpa. Sunday morning I woke up, packed my bags and headed to Kampala, where I flew out that night. It was a decision I haven't regretted. My grandpa's health could still use your prayers, but the time and memories I had with him in the hospital are irreplaceable. Not to mention, the crazy moments of having all eight Kult children together in the same house. I was encouraged and refreshed by my time with family, dear friends, and my Relevant Community Church family.

I arrived back in Uganda safe and sound and made a smooth transition back into African-living, Praise the Lord. Upon getting back into Mbarara, I immediately went on a weekend retreat/camping experience with the university students. What a blessing it was as I was able to form new relationships and deepen existing ones. It was a weekend that really built a foundation for the upcoming months of ministry and discipleship at the university. I also made a new friend in another missionary family who plays hockey! It took me back to the good ole days of my youth :) It wouldn't have been February without our special and much-anticipated Valentine's Day outing with the guys on our team. It was so fun to have an excuse to get dressed up and go out! Due to the interesting multi-cultural environment of our team, I was also introduced to Pancake Day, celebrated by the Brits. I'm bringing it back to the states, so be warned!

Carolyn and I traveled to Kampala where we met with other missionaries and did some networking. While we were there, we also met our sponsor children, Claire and Jane, who we hadn't seen since July of 2008. Time flies! Back in Mbarara, there were rumored lion sightings, which Dara and I decided to investigate for ourselves. Although, our skills didn't yield any discoveries and we received a lot of criticism, the lion was caught and killed a few days later in a neighboring village! It took a lot for us to not say some "told-you-so"s. And, actually, I think we did.

April showers bring May flowers. The same is true here as we are back in the rainy season. Even on this April morning as I write this, I should be in church, but am sitting at home enjoying a quiet morning of coffee, writing and fellowship instead because of the rain!

Easter weekend was such a joy for me, even being away from home, as I was able to spend mostly the entire weekend with my dear friends at university. I introduced them to the American concept of the Easter egg hunt, we enjoyed breakfast and church together on Easter morning, and fellowshipped together at a couple's house after service.

God-willing, there's more to the timeline that remains to be written, and I'm excited to see how it evolves. If I could draw a line to accompany the dates, I'm sure it would flow up and down as there have been times of extreme happiness and other times of trial. But through them all, the joy of the Lord has been present and the strength behind it all. God is good, He is faithful, and He has and continues to provide for me in all realms of life.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 

God holds the plans. My riches are found in the glory that is brought to His name. My hope and my future aren't in the things and wishes that I cling to of this world, but in the desires that He placed in me when He gave me a new heart, a heart that longs for people to know the love of our Lord Christ Jesus. I'm reminded that no matter where the Lord calls you to or what it is you're doing, "the great opportunity is where you are." - John Burroughs

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We'll sing and shout the victory.

The Great I Am by New Life Worship
I want to be close, close to your side, so heaven is real, and death is a lie.
I want to hear voices of angels above singing as one:

Hallelujah! Holy, Holy!
God Almighty, Great I Am.
Who is worthy? None besides Thee, Great I Am.

I want to be near, near to your heart, loving the word, hating the dark.
I want to see dry bones living again singing as one:

Hallelujah! Holy, Holy!
God Almighty, Great I Am.
Who is worthy?
None besides Thee, Great I Am.

He's the Great I Am, Great I Am.


My God is the Great I Am. He is power. He is love. He’s the only one worthy of my worship. All of creation seems to have it figured out, so why do we as humans struggle to acknowledge His greatness and live lives of worship?

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-34

We fall short.

I don't know about you, but I often feel like short is an understatement. And yet, through shedding the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross God made a way for us to be brought back into a right relationship with Him.

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death..." Romans 8:1-2

A relationship that allows us who are in Christ Jesus to have assurance in the promise that we have been adopted into sonship, that we are no longer declared guilty of our shortcomings, and that we will spend eternity with Him.

"...rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:15-16

To share in his glory...

“…So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” 1 Cor. 15:42-44

You know what I’m excited for? I’m excited to worship God for eternity. I can’t wait to hear the voices of peoples from every tribe and every nation singing as one. The thought of the beauty that will lie in the midst of that is overwhelming for me to think about. I can’t wait to dance, and to sing, and to glorify God forever and ever.

I can't wait to be in the very presence of the Great I Am. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Great is My God

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart…”

As I walked arm-in-arm from university to town with my girl friends to have dinner Friday night, we sang. We sang praise songs, we sang kids songs, we sang rounds, we sang anything we all knew or could easily teach each other. We tried singing beautifully, we experimented with different voices and we laughed together in a joyful harmony.

“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree… Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…

The beauty of relationship. Authenticity. Transparency. Joy. Love.

"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." 
1 Peter 3:8

After dinner, we all jumped on bodas and went to church. When we pulled up to the steps in front of the property and were paying the boda driver, he told me and my friend Aidah that we laugh too much. I don’t believe that is even possible, and I pray that I'm able to just keep on laughing all the days of this life. Not long into the Friday evening activities at church, a friend pulled me aside, and we sat outside of our church sharing secrets, laughing together, and telling each other life stories. Even later, and into the morning hours, I lay in my friend’s room pondering life, dreaming about the future, and sharing hope as we drifted off to sleep.   The joy of it all just gives life to my soul. 

In the morning, I rode a boda home, cleaned up, had breakfast with Carolyn and headed back to the church for a workday, similar to a Spring Cleaning day. There was a long, endless list of activities, such as painting, binding books, washing, and cooking, so I caught a lot of grief for spending most of the work day talking with the girls, but I made up for it (depending on who you talk to) when the Skinners let me join in on their work project. I wasn’t much help, and I didn’t do much, but what a joy even the little task was because I got to do it alongside my friends and mentors. I was blessed by the dynamic relationship I have with their children, as both their teacher and playmate, by getting to spend a fair amount of time convincing them that hidden treasure really does lie in the depths of the field next to the church. It’d be a horrible combination in any real-life teaching position, but one that works when you are each other’s family away from family, friends, co-workers, and mentors. 

The afternoon of work wrapped up, and the girls and I decided to work out together. It’s always been a favorite activity of mine to go for a run with a friend. When I’m in Nebraska, it’s most often my close friend Pam who shares those moments with me. They are so treasured to me because not only am I doing something physically healthy, but spiritually and emotionally, too, as I get to share my heart, receive advice and be encouraged. And, now I’ve finally got a small group of my closest girl friends to join me here too. Am I lucky or what?!

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13

I'm blessed for sure. I am, once again, truly convinced that I am the luckiest girl on the face of the earth. I can’t explain the feeling in my heart, and all I can do is give praise to God for the many ways He’s provided for me. He’s provided for me in needs that I didn’t know I’d need met. He’s provided for me over abundantly, allowing me to enjoy things and find pleasure in so much that I never knew I’d get the opportunity to.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." Philippians 4:19

And, it goes even further. Because not only has God been over faithful to me here, but that He’s been faithful to me there, too. I’m so blessed by the Skype conversations I get to have each week, the unexpected letters and packages that make it through Posta Uganda, and the prayer and financial support of so many beloved friends back home. I know that I don't fully grasp the magnitude of how blessed I am to have life and love in so many places. God, I praise you, and I give you glory. 

Today, I got a phone call from my friend Rhona in Kampala. What a joy she is to me and such a blessing that even though we don't even live in the same city in Uganda, we are able to share in such a beautiful friendship. This afternoon, I received a package from my dear friend Jamie. I was able to spend the evening hanging out with a couple of friends from university and then having dinner with Carolyn. This beautiful life I live. 

Last night, I delighted in spending the evening with such a wide variety of friends at our church's Easter production. It was by far the most comical production of the crucifixion I have ever seen for so many reasons except for what actually happened on the night of the crucifixion, but a great reminder to me of who my source of life is, of who it is that I can give thanks to for this life I've been given. What would the foundation of all of these life-giving, joyful, and transforming relationships be without the relationship we each have with Christ? There would be no solid foundation. The level of joy, trust, intimacy and encouragement wouldn't hold a candle to what we share now. And, it's because together we live lives for Christ. This life is hard, and it's even harder when you're alone. There are challenges; there are trials. And, yet with God, there is also joy, and there is peace. 

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you and all the trees of the field will clap their hands, instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of the briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."
Isaiah 55: 12-13