Saturday, September 24, 2022

It has been a week since sweet 10 year old Grace breathed her last and inhaled the Glory of Heaven.  I've found myself wondering here and there what her first moments were like...her legs that could no longer hold her up had instant ability to run and the struggle to breathe was instantly met with what must have been the most amazing breath.  Was she surprised by the sudden strength that surged through her new body or was it the last thing on her mind as her eyes lifted up and felt the physical touch of Jesus and their eyes met for the first time face to face.  Did her soul inhale in wonder or was it an exhale of relief?   Relief from the physical suffering that had so defined the last several years of her life.   Death often brings questions and walking with a girl so young only seemed to stir up wonders in my own heart.    

My first memory of sweet Grace was simple.  There were hundreds waiting for care at a medical outreach deep in the village and this young girl sat alone on a cement step waiting to be called for care.  She caught the attention of another nurse and I.  She was notably swollen and just as
equally quiet.  And yet.. even in her quietness, there was a notable resolve.  No one accompanied her.  No one sat next to her to wait to be seen.  She had simply come because she knew she needed help.

She was far more patient than me.  

Let's just face it... after an hour of waiting, my leg would have been dancing... some extra blood would have crept into my face and my eyes would have been a bit tinged with annoyance... and by hour 5 or 6.... I'd be embarrassed by what I would anticipate my response to be.  

And yet Grace waited.  Along with so many others who simply wanted and needed care.  

Once Grace was seen and examined by a provider, it was organized for her to be admitted to a hospital about 20 minutes away down a dusty, bumpy road.   Her momma came and through the bumps and dust, another team member and I engaged with this little girl and her momma.    Simple words.  Simple smiles.  Simple Hope.  

Several days later Grace was discharged from the hospital.  A boda boda (motorcycle) dropped Grace off with her momma at the outreach location and it was more clear than anything that Grace was far more sick than when she was admitted.  Instead of walking to the examination room, Grace had to be carried and before we knew it, her condition was deteriorating before our very eyes.  An ambulance was organized and she was driven with her momma to the main referral hospital in Kampala.  

It's not a place I would want to send anyone.  

And yet, it was one of the only places in Uganda that has working dialysis machines.  

And that is what Grace needed.  And so we trusted and we sent her and we prayed.  

And Grace, with her momma at her side, stayed at Mulago Referral hospital for weeks.  

Her Creatine level was nearly 13.   Normal Creatine Levels are 0.3-1.3 mg/dl.  Creatine measures the health (or lack of) of the kidney.   At 13, it was a miracle she was alive.  

She received Dialysis regularly.   

And her condition declined.  

And so after discussions and prayers, the decision was made to shift the focus of care.  

On a Saturday, Grace was discharged from the referral hospital and after a five plus hour ambulance ride with lights and sirens, we made it to Joy Hospice.  

The room was simple... and yet so welcoming.  Grace and her momma (and her baby brother Ivan) had a large room to themselves.  Two beds.  Mosquito Nets.  Nurses that were attentive to Grace and her momma.  

And as simple and welcoming as her room was, there was NOTHING simple and/or welcoming about the present circumstances.   Grace had been the victim of a crime.  Someone had given her and her younger sibling poisoned porridge.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Poisoned porridge.   Who gives a perpetually hungry child POISONED porridge?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Pure evil.  Pure something.  

And Pure opportunity to love this child as FULLY as possible.  

Her momma stayed at her side.   And her dad, historically out of the picture, was present for the last near 48 hours of his daughter's life.  And her grandma came dressed in her best outfit and sat quietly, yet present.  Grace was surrounded in her suffering.  She was not alone horizontally and neither was she alone Vertically.  

Every 30-60 minutes, increasing dosages of morphine would be drawn up in a syringe and carefully given to Grace.  She was in pain and her breathing was labored.  Initially, she would swallow and yet as her body weakened, the concentration of the morphine was changed and drops were carefully placed in her mouth knowing that her body would absorb.  

I shared the bed with Grace.  Her momma was hesitant to be that close.  I would rub her back and would find myself whispering into her ear....letting her know that it was ok to go.  I would tell her Jesus was with her.  I would let her know that she was safe and that she had fought hard.   Boy, had she fought hard.  

Death is private and to be honest, it is quite vulnerable.  Even as I type away, I am finding myself cherishing both the hard and the good, I am hesitant to share much more.... even tempted to withdraw some of my words.  

And yet, I will let the words remain.  Through the vulnerability of her death, I... no... WE get to see the beauty of her life and as biased as I might be... I see how Jesus truly cared for her... even in the struggle of active dying.

I see a team back in the States that waited patiently to come to Uganda to offer their skills, love, and care.  They waited long and by the time they reached, the make-up of their team looked different... and yet their timing and the makeup of the team could not have been more ordained by God.   Their team was not just them, but joined alongside by a team of Ugandan medical providers.  Together, they loved and poured into hundreds of lives.  

Grace arrived at the outreach at the time ordained for her.  That timing allowed her to be connected and to receive medical care.  She knew the kindness of touch and the kindness of eyes that let her know that SHE mattered.  She was prayed over.  The love of Jesus was whispered in her ear and boldly shared over and over.  

Grace had time with her momma.  Time to be loved on and even time where her body was better than it had been in.... years.  

Yes, her body deteriorated.... but I would venture to say that Grace left this world knowing love in a deeper way.  I believe that her face erupted in more smiles in those weeks than they had in a long time.  Her tummy was more full than it had been.  She had clean water.  Clean sheets.  A momma at her side.  The list goes on and on... 

And I suspect that she knew. 

Deep down in the privacy of her heart. 

That she mattered.  

That she really, really mattered.  

And so even as her body crumbled and swelled and pain filled her every breath.... 

Grace was not healed how I wanted her to be... or how anyone wanted her to be.   She left this world and walked right into the arms of her Jesus knowing what she could not have known had she not walked the previous steps in the journey.

And I believe that no matter how I or anyone feels about it, the truth is that Grace was Healed.  

More and more I believe that true Healing comes by walking through the fire.   And healing so often looks so different than what we want or what we envision.  

And what an honor it was to walk with this precious, spicy young girl and her momma.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Paper Cuts and Jesus

 It's Sunday morning and I am sitting on the roof of a building overlooking what is either the Nile or Lake Victoria.  The humor in it is I should know which body of water is staring right back at me... and well, I don't know 100%.  And I guess it doesn't matter.   The wind is blowing cautiously.  There are three donkeys roaming around just below me eating their morning treats and the roosters are trying to prove to each other that the sun is about to come up.... too bad for them that they are all wrong and the sun has actually been up for hours.  

My feet are propped up and it is very clear that my toes need some serious love and attention.  I'm hoping that tomorrow when I go to Kampala, there will be a pause in the agenda and I will be able to get my feet cheese-grated and painted... and while that's happening... hopefully my fingernails will also be worked on and I will once again feel a bit more.... well, maybe put together.  ( :  

The place where I am right now is called Prayer Mountain.  And it's interesting to read the history of this place.  This mountain used to be the mountain where witchcraft doctor's worked and trained the next generation of witchcrafter's.  About 7 years ago, it was claimed by a Christian couple who have turned it into a place of respite and reprieve for any who need to connect with Jesus and to be cared for.   I've been checked into a small room named "Goodness" and my heart has slept, inhaled, exhaled, and quietly connected with my Jesus.  I've also had time to bring my fingers to paper and process this thing called life with the Author of my life.  It's been deeply needed and I suspect that He has more even in this day for us to process together.

And this is where I am.  Late yesterday afternoon, in half gest, but not really, I asked God if He would consider sending an angel to come minister to me.  I so desperately wanted a physical presence.  My heart was weary and I was beyond exhausted.   And instead of an angel, a deeper sense came to me that it was God Himself who wanted to minister to my heart.  To be with me.  And He did... and He is.  

For those of you who know me closely, I rarely walk away from what is in front of me and that's not always a good thing.  And this season has been a season of many needs and not so great intentionality on my part of being filled by God consistently as I face what is in front of me.  It's best to just be honest than paint an inaccurate picture.

Earlier this summer, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing both chemo and radiation.  Thankfully, Josiah and I were able to be with my parents the weekend that he got the official diagnosis (God-ordained timing).  I spent just under a month in the States where God and I did some deep heart work and then I returned to Uganda at full speed prepping for a medical outreach that has been in the making for months.   The outreach was amazing..... it was deep in the village and over 2,000 individuals received medical, dental, and/or vision care.  We had a room set up as an Emergency room, multiple consultation rooms, a laboratory, a fully functioning pharmacy and a "tent" that served as our HIV counseling pre/post testing area.   

So. Many. Opportunities. 

        To. Love. 

             To Do.  

                 To Love. 

                     To Do. 

                      And I wish I could say with integrity so many opportunities to Just Be.    

                           But Busyness and my flesh left me not making enough time to "Just Be" as I should have.  

I forgot about the paper cuts that come with serving.  Call it ignorance or something else, but I forgot the internal shaking that happens when you find yourself looking at a 19 month old baby girl weighing in at 6 kg... or a 5 year old boy who weighs 9 kg.  Lack of food being the main cause.  Momma's who cannot provide more and have been watching their children waste away for months.  Seeing a young woman who is a social throw away carrying a stone for self-protection exposed and a frequent victim to violence at all levels.  Touching her hand and giving her biscuits and seeing a smile break on the corner of her lip... and wishing so deeply that more can be done.  The list could go on and on and on.  

Those of you on social media have heard about 11 year old Grace.  A sweet girl who waited patiently all day the first day of the outreach to be seen....she was bumped in the line and it was clear she needed more care.  We brought her to the hospital where we were promised she would receive blood that very night.   She didn't.  Four days later, she was discharged.  Yes, she had gotten a blood transfusion... but as to what else wasn't super clear.  What was clear was that she could barely lift her head.  Her condition was critical.   Our head doctor was able to secure an ambulance.  We met it in town and Grace was driven with lights and sirens into Kampala.  As she sat and tests happened more slowly than my heart would have preferred, more of the story came out.  Grace and her two other siblings had been given presumed poisoned porridge 3 years prior.  The siblings fell sick, but recovered.  Grace did not.  Last check of her creatine was just shy of 13.  Thankfully, she has started dialysis.  Movement and conversations are happening.  

A seemingly impossible task.... BUT not impossible.  

And the truth is each of us find the paper cuts.  Anytime our hearts are turned to what God has for us in a given moment, the risk of paper cuts are present.  To engage fully is to experience.  And while I don't want to speak on theology, I will say that I think the paper cuts are (or can be) inevitable.   Feel free to process that with me if you have a different take.  I'm still chewing on it myself. 

I didn't (and don't) like the paper cuts (if that is even what one should call them), but I wouldn't trade them out.  Because, in the absence of the paper cuts, I would have missed out on rubbing the head of an elderly man scared by his difficulty breathing and pounding heart.  I would have missed out on getting a glimpse of a smile on that young woman as somehow she knew, even for a few minutes, that SHE mattered.   (I won't lie... I saw her smiling from the side mirror as she walked away just looking at the biscuits).... or the little boy who was brought in gushing blood from his eye and nose....the tenseness in that room palpable and the safety of all at high risk (though later absolved)

What I continue to realize or maybe better said, what I am continuing to learn is what to do with the paper cuts.   A small paper cut here is manageable... 3-4 a little uncomfortable... but when the number or depth of the cuts reaches a certain amount... no amount of personal strength or resilience can silence the pain or the effects of the paper cuts.  

The cuts need attention and they need care. 

And maybe even deeper is the realization that even with one paper cut, I need to do a better job of leaning into my Jesus.  Letting Him show me the cuts in my heart.  Instead of letting them accumulate.    And so I've been leaning my head back and just inhaling and exhaling.... sometimes whispering to Jesus about the cuts and sometimes letting my heart somehow share.  And sometimes, He's showing me the cuts I don't even realize are there.  I don't exactly know how it works... but pausing and being with Him is helping.  

I'm not a big throw out a Bible verses kind of gal.... Don't get me wrong.... I LOVE my Jesus... I just know sometimes when verses are given to me without a lot of rootage or connection, they can sometimes feel a bit insensitive or trite....  and yet even as I type that I know there is Power in His words.  

And yet these Words, grabbed my heart today... and since it's my blog.... I guess I'll write them to myself.  If they bring encouragement to your own heart, then be gifted.  And maybe,  if you find yourself sitting in your own pause with Jesus about paper cuts,  He will whisper something different to you... a different passage or a different nudge.  I don't know... BUT what I do know is that He is respectfully stubborningly faithful.   And He wants to help us with our paper cuts.  And I'm also learning that it's often helpful to look at the paper cuts after a LONG, GOOD nap! 

Isaiah 41: 17-20

When the poor and needy seek water,
    and there is none,
    and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
    I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
    and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
    the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
    the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
    may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Rat toilets and Hut building...

 Ha!  I've learned a LOT of things in the last 6 weeks of my life... and today, I think I learned something new..... something that caught my attention.  I'm pretty sure RATS are cleaner rodents than we think they are... I am pretty sure that I have been driving my current car for the last 6 weeks with a rat toilet in the glove compartment.  Like Literally.  Full stop.  I haven't seen any poop anywhere in the car.  The remnants of Urine... yes, that smell greeted us the first time I opened the car door and has never fully gone away.  The smell often sneaks up on long drives or early in the morning when the rain is pressing out the sun.  And so, in preparation for trading out our current car for a more reliable car, I decided that I would clean it.  I pulled out the brush (no vacuum) and a spray bottle first of thieves (I love that smell!) and then a bottle of half vinegar/half water.... and I went to town.  To be honest, I'm not sure that thieves, vinegar, and stale rat urine are going to make for a very good car ride that is going to happen in about 10 minutes... but nonetheless, I tried.  And then I thought, I should clean out the glove compartment.  I knew I needed to grab the registration book.  And shortly after opening it, I found it AND also... The RAT toilet.  There was POOP everywhere.... EVERYWHERE! It was disgusting to say the least.  I grabbed my thieves and I sprayed like crazy... and then I grabbed my roll of paper towels that are so expensive one must save them for rainy days... and by golly, this was a rainy day moment.  My mind kept thinking of the diseases that rats carry and then it hit me... for the amount of rat poop hanging out in the glove compartment.... there were either a LOT of rats making this 1998 Toyota Rav 4 home... OR there were a few that lived there for a LONG time... Either way.... my big learn of the day is that Rats are more something than I thought.  

There you go, the deep thought of the day.   And I'm sure there should be a deep thought forming in my heart connected to the rat poop.  I'm letting it simmer inside my heart to see if any profound thoughts happen.  But in the meantime, I've since returned after dousing my car with thieves and vinegar... and well, neither of those products do miracles in rectifying a rat bathroom problem.  Just saying.  No need to try it yourself.  

But in all seriousness,  here I sit at the near end of another week. It's been just over 6 weeks since Josiah and I landed into Uganda.   Our house is becoming our home.  My feet are more than dipping into work and Josiah has finished a MUCH better week at school.   He is currently outside discussing with his friend, Manday how to construct a HUT.  He wants it not only for himself, but also in preparation for when his cousin comes to visit.  Ha, I hope his cousin reads this post... because Josiah listened to him and he has already cleared the land.... the debate has been on whether or not it should be a mud hut or bamboo.  Bamboo is not preferred by Josiah.  Mud is not by me.... Ha, there is no Oxo-clean here.  But hey, whatever joys his heart.  

I still haven't quite come up with a good connection between Rat toilets and our transition to Uganda.  So alas, I'll share some of the highlights of these last weeks in Uganda.   

Our landlady is a gem.  She often brings us traditional Ugandan food and one night came to wash our feet.  Josiah wasn't up for having his feet washed, so JaJa (term of endearment similar to grandma) washed Josiah's hands and spoke words of affirmation over him.  

Josiah is absorbing the warmth of the sun and while he seems to be a bit (k, a lot!) flustered by boiled chicken feet, he spends hours chasing monkey's, birds, and other such things... 

Rachel is a young women from my days at New Hope.  She came to Jinja for a visit and stayed for a handful of days.  We were able to catch up, pray together, and live life.  It was great having her be with us and I look forward to more visits! 
Josiah has become fast friends with Manday.  He is our security guard and he and Josiah spend hours running the yard doing all the things mentioned above.  
Hadassah Sue spent the first 3 weeks with us.  It was great having her.  She was such a help and a presence in the early days of being here.  She and Josiah got on like siblings and Hadassah and I shared sweet conversations, laughter, and all things in between. Hadassah is currently in nursing school... and who knows... may one day find her way back here.... 

I have two weekend trips organized to connect with ministries out in the "bush".    Medical outreaches will be held later this summer.  I LOVE medical outreaches.... well, to be honest, LOVE might be a bit of a tricky word.  I DEEPLY appreciate the opportunity to connect with people through medical care.  So many do not have basic, needed medical care.  The amount of work in organizing... well, that is not necessarily my most favorite part.  But it's part of the process and I am so thankful for the fruit of the work.    The following pics are from a medical outreach from years back.... 

And here are a few pics from our new home.  It's coming together and is super cozy and comfortable.  I LOVE it!  And PS..... there IS a guest room! 

I love you all.  Sorry, I have no deep connection to make between rat toilets and our current state of being. These days have been SUPER rich and there have been some hard parts to it.  Transition is hard.  It's hard to always put words to the emotions, the feelings, and under the heart processing that goes on.  The potholes are numerous as are the green plants that bring life deeply to this area.  Both figuratively and in real life!  And the people.   They are beautiful.  And so we walk.  And live.  And I'll go out and spray my car with thieves and check on Josiah who is deep in preparation of his hut... and keep walking this thing called life.  Thankful to be here.  Thankful.  Deeply. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

It's a warm evening here in Jinja, Uganda.  The bugs are warming up for an anticipated stellar performance tonight.  Prayerfully, their performance will win out against any man-made DISCO that could threaten the harmony of the night.   I will take chirping bugs any time over a DISCO that waxes and wanes throughout the night.  Earplugs have been received like a Long lost friend.  

It is hard to believe that it has been TWO weeks since Josiah, Roxy, and I took off from Fort Wayne, Indiana and journeyed halfway around the world to the pearl of Africa... to our new home in Uganda. 

There have been so many things familiar... there has been the quick transition to driving on the other side of the road, having fun speaking Luganda with the locals, picking fresh fruit from the market, and once again prioritizing ensuring that the red dirt is no longer tucked between the toes.   A drop of bleach into the rinse water and quickly being reminded that things move at quite a different pace here are all familiar realities.    Case and point with the internet that was installed, but not turned on.  ( :  

And just as there have been lots of sweet familarities and reunions with friends so has there been the bumps of transition.  

Our "new" car welcomed us with the smell of rotten, aged rat urine.  If you aren't sure what that smells like... that's a good thing.  With that, clear evidence that our car is not in as good of condition as had been believed and/or hoped.  

          Missing people back home in America has been a reality for both Josiah and I.  There isn't any way around it.  Deep relationships are not easily forgotten or dismissed.  Many dear peeps ARE missed.  That's the reality.  And just because our physical bodies have found the warmth of the sun doesn't mean our hearts have made the full transition. 

                             A bit of an unexpected bump in the transition is that Josiah and I are on different pages in our comfort with the culture.  And both realities are valid and real.  Not one is wrong or right. It is what it is. And navigating that is hard.  No way around that one either.  I've lacked patience and grace in the transition.  I've been as human as it gets with a side of exhaustion.   

And God. 

         He is faithful.  

Yesterday,  a man was looking at my car with keen interest.  As we approached, he asked if I was selling my car.   I was already wondering if I would try selling my car and start over.  Knowing that I will often be driving alone,  I knew that having a solid car is hugely important.  And this man's interest and question was a very clear reminder that even though there are parts of this that feel hard and lonely, I am NOT walking alone. 

Even in the hard of the transition, Josiah and I have had a few really pivotal, key connections.  In both of our vulnerabilities, God is working and doing His thing. 

I sat with an adoptive momma yesterday of two daughters and as we were talking, I found myself thinking how amazing it would be to gather adoptive momma's here in Uganda together to have time to process, share, encourage, and be with each other.   Stirring at the possibilities. 

God brought a friend with us to Uganda to help Josiah and I settle.  Hadassah Sue has been with us from the second day we were on the ground.  It has been such a gift having her here.   We have played games, swept, organized, shopped, and reminisced.  

And so we walk.  And when the weakness of my heart finds me, I will stand up and keep walking.  

I can both inhale and exhale.  I can both savor the sweetness of normalcies here and keep walking the hurdles of transition. 

For this of you who know me deeply, I am committed to living this life as authentically and real as I can and that means sharing the bumps of joy and the dips of hardness and all the bits in between.  

It is So good to be here AND it is has been a bit hard AND I also have no doubt that God opened the doors wide and clear for us to come... 

And so I walk leading my son along with me.. trusting that God is walking alongside us both.