I think the experience of snorkeling for the first time is a great analogy for moving and living overseas.
Excitement, anticipation, and perhaps a little fear arise in setting out on the new adventure. Upon arrival to the destination, the awkwardness in wearing flippers and a mask, breathing through your mouth with a snorkel instead of your nose, and trying to maneuver off the boat is a bit anxiety producing (even before entering the water)!
These mixed feelings arise in entering a new culture: your ability to communicate, job, way of doing life, and clothes are often very different and awkward!
But with a burst of courage, you jump in (or plop over the side of the boat in my case). The realization of not having a life jacket becomes real when waves hit you, and by default you try to breathe through your nose (but can’t). And the prior subconscious activity of breathing now receives your full attention and effort!
All this is happening while treading water, swatting away unknown sea life that bump into you, and watching the boat float further away while longing for solid ground. Multiple people around you seem to be just fine, but you feel like you’re drowning! After a few minutes of freaking out (on the inside, of course), you calm yourself down and start to self-talk/pray (it’s gonna be ok, just breathe, relax, Jesus, help!). Or as Dory would say, “Just keep swimming”.
Miraculously sanity returns ushering in curiosity to actually snorkel. As my face became immersed I was so astounded that my jaw dropped open, and you guessed it–salt water poured in! I came up sputtering, but the beauty and majesty beneath the water’s surface was glorious!! It really looks like it does in The Little Mermaid (minus mermaids, of course). Schools of fish, multi-colored coral, sea shells, and beautiful sea life abounded below the surface.
Above water, all I experienced were the wind, waves, and sounds of other people having fun while I felt like I was losing control and sinking, but as I relaxed and engaged, I saw glimpses of glory that were truly stunning.
Longings to see more filled me! But, as life would have it, my mask kept fogging up, causing visualization to only be present around the periphery. Cleaning the mask while getting hit again by waves and swallowing my weight in salt water, I thought, “this is much more difficult than it appears, there’s gotta be an easier way”. But there’s not.
Experts soon came along to point out what they were discovering. I NEVER saw those amazing things; only the things I was meant to see. Once I got the hang of it, I actually had fun and enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t without struggles (at one point later on I was cleaning off the mask again and lost the snorkel!!! whoops!), but I learned to improvise and work with what I had. 🙂
It was exhausting, yet exhilarating, and an experience that made me trust the Lord’s provision in ways that were often uncomfortable. I think life is like that more times than not—fuzzy, unclear, and confusing, but when we look back we realize how those circumstances bring deeper and fuller life (often underneath the surface)!
I am convinced there is only one way to truly live a full and free life. It sounds like a paradox, but that freedom comes through dependence and surrender to the Holy Spirit within me. I wrestle with living this way as I was raised to be independent, self-sufficient, and strong (qualities which served me well in achieving great things). But as Paul said, I count it all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Jesus alone has filled the deep void in my heart for meaning and relationship in this world. I pray He would do the same for each of you.
You are able by my power
You are able by my grace
You are able to remember
You are able to embrace
Your heart will fully open
As My Spirit dwells within
Humbled and beloved
Bound together life begins
Chosen for this moment
Stepping forth My glory shines
Listening close for My instruction
Peace develops joy sublime
Holiness replaces evil
Unity dispels disgrace
Forgiveness for each other
Lightens burdens, lifts your face
To behold the One most worthy
Of affection and your love
My all consuming Passion
Brought redemption from above
Jesus, fill us with Your goodness,
patience, love, humility
May Your peace be ever flowing
Drawing us to harmony
We are able by Your power
We are able by your grace
We are able to remember
We are able to embrace
Move us out to love the lonely
Fill the weary with Your hope
May we see Your image clearly
In Your gentle, humble yoke
You walk beside us kindly
And bear the heavy load
Your Spirit tends with mercy
Reconciling all below
Spring always reminds me of new beginnings. Easter brought us the ultimate “new beginning”–>eternal life when trusting in Jesus. I have been reminded eternal life for believers starts now, on this side of heaven. Death is just a breath away from our new and perfect home.
Hope soars when I think of that heavenly time and place: where there are no more tears, sorrows, goodbyes, sin, pain, suffering, or death. And where there is perfect fellowship with God, endless joy, love, and sweet community. Where we’ll be fully known and fully loved.
I long for that eternal perspective to soak in deep and color my every thought and deed, for when it does I am free. Free from trying to fulfill those good longings now in selfish ways. Free to love people lavishly. Free to risk in relationships by being vulnerable and honest. Free to dance and sing. Free to be myself without excuse.
I’m thankful for the beauty of nature which reminds me of the power, beauty, and promises of God. Here are a few glimpses of His glory from Uganda this past month:
Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth”
I ate my first insects the other day–Fried grasshoppers!!! They were crunchy and salty. Fortunately the legs and wings are removed prior to cooking. I just tried to not look as I ate and thought of it as a potato chip 🙂
People point with their lips here–this is super helpful if your hands are full!
A “yes” is indicated with an eyebrow raise or sharp intake of breath rather than a verbal “yes” (the first can be missed if I’m not looking at them, and the second often scares me as it’s the sound we would make if someone fell!!)
Bundibugyo is feeling more like home each day. As I have continued to process transition (and all the emotions involved with settling in a new place), poetry continues to flow. Thankfully, God is faithful to provide perspective and courage to engage!
Here’s another poem and a few pictures from the last few months:
Open Wide Our Hearts
(Reflection on 2 Cor 6:11-13)
Open wide our hearts–
Let the love spill out-
Entering in with vulnerability,
Fighting hard for each other’s faith
Speaking truth, even when it hurts;
Wounding to call forth more life and love
Allow us to feel the pain, bitterness, and disappointment
And cover us with Your soothing balm
The days are short this side of eternity.
Open wide our hearts–
To receive love unyielding from Your hand
Though it may feel like emptiness, loneliness, despair;
It is creating a space for Your glorious Presence
And You promise to fill to overflowing
Open our clenched grip on the seen, to receive the unseen–
That which fully satisfies the depths of our soul
Uplift our eyes to the Heavens
To the infinite hope we have in You.
Come in power to change and transform the broken
Restoring life and peace with You.
Today I have been reflecting on the abundance of blessings poured out on me the past 2 months. Care packages from the states, new friendships forming, the breath-taking beauty of the Ugandan countryside, surprise gifts from teammates, deepening intimacy with the Lord through sin being continually exposed, my heart moved to repentance, and faith strengthened. These are just a handful off the top of my head.
The list is truly endless as my eyes are lifted off of myself to my Gracious God. He is faithful and delights in bringing good gifts to His children. I long for my heart to continually rest in this place of wonder….to have faith like a child.
Packages of Love
Notes to Encourage
Kindness from Above
Friendships being Forged
Laughter Full and Sweet
Surprises are Found
Tears of Joy Released
Restlessness is Stilled
Impact Gently Shown
A Heart Surrendered
Makes All Beauty Known
Begins from the Place
Where we Bask in His Love
Then Pour Out His Grace
Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.
Revive–bring back to life, start again.
Moving to a new place calls forth a new beginning: challenges and joys, adventures and discoveries. Comfort zones are stretched, life is hopefully embraced, possibilities of growth are endless! Unique sounds, sights, and wonders converge.
Adjusting to life in Bundibugyo, Uganda has awakened a longing for revival in my own heart for deeper intimacy with Jesus, and a longing for my friends to experience the same. I know He has promised “life abundant” (John 10:10) as we live in Him, and I am eager to understand this in deeper measure.
Stepping forward in faith, knowing and relying on God in all situations, finding how to rejoice and give thanks each day. Knowing what it means to have Him walk with me through times of weakness, failure, fear, discomfort, adjustment, joy, and connection to others. He is my Peace. He is my Joy. He is my Strength. I rest when I am in Him.
Life is messy–literally (when four of us were covered in mud as we were exploring this new place trying to find the river), and figuratively (when my heart is missing life/friends in the states and frustrations of adjustment come out toward my teammates). But God–He is constant and faithful to tend to His children, to draw me back to repentance and faith, show how to move forward in love, trusting He is at work in my heart and life.
As a team we have been praying for revival. We have been praying for the Holy Spirit to move and change our hearts. We have been praying for the Gospel to go forward in power in this community, country, and our world. The following poem was written with the above things in mind and is my prayer. Please join me in praying for God to move and renew our hearts:
Mercy and Love
Filling this Place
Hearts being Softened
Awakened to Love
Eyes Opened to See
Apart from Thee
Lord, stir the Nations
By Your Spirit Move
Bring Hope from Despair
Through Your Loving Rebuke
Call Your Church to Action
Bind up the Wounds
From Worldly Destruction
May we Love and Soothe
Your Compassion and Kindness
Cover our Shame
Through Trust in Your Name
The past 72 hours have been quite an adventure. I was met at the airport by an entourage of people to see me off. Tom Patton (our missions pastor) encouraged me by reading Psalm 43 and praying over me before I departed. Many tears and laughs were shared with sweet friends, then the first leg of the journey began.
I sat next to a mom of missionaries on my first flight. She prayed for me before we even took off from the ground!
The second flight from Dallas to London was filled laughter as I sat next to a hysterically funny couple from Nottingham, England. She (Angela) was quick witted and he (Kevin) had a dry sense of humor…..at one point the passenger in front of Kevin reclined the chair rather quickly and the Angela commented (in an English accent) “It looked like she was ejecting from her seat the way it flew back!” The conversation turned toward spiritual matters mid way through the flight, and I was able to share a bit of my story and how God’s grace has impacted my life and they shared where they were on their journey. Needless to say, the flight to England went by quickly.
The final leg of the trip I met up with a fellow teammate (Ashley). It was good to see a familiar face who understood where I was emotionally, physically, and mentally in those hours, as she had just gone through the exact same process.
Two of our teammates met us at the airport on our arrival (huge surprise) with signs and smiles to welcome us to our new home. It has been a “soft landing” with all of their care in welcoming us here–answering all our questions, helping us get Ugandan shillings, setting up our phones, taking us to yummy places to eat, visiting an expat church so we could worship in English, etc.
We will head to Bundibugyo on Wednesday. I can’t wait to see the rest of the team!
Glimpses of God’s Provision:
1. Extra bag cost 1/2 what was expected
2. My heavy carry on (I love books) was able to be checked free from London to Entebbe
3. Rainbows reflected on the plane wall on the first flight and a rainbow on the jetway as I was boarding the flight to London (God has revealed Himself to me in really difficult times in the past through the appearance of rainbows, hence the significance of them)
4. Encouraging people to sit next to on each plane to Uganda
5. Quick adjustment to the time change with very little jet lag
6. Worship in Uganda in English with familiar songs which encouraged my soul, and the reminder that life begins at the end of your comfort zone
It’s been a wonderful few days, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store over the next few months. For now, I praise Him for the soft landing and am excited for what’s ahead.
The past few months have been a blur. It’s hard to wrap my mind around all the endings and new beginnings taking place in my life. I finished work at Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic the end of February, packed up the house I’ve lived in for the past 6 years, moved into a friend’s house, attended multiple missions conferences, and gave away my sweet dog, Cricket, to her new family.
Processing has come about slowly, but as I grieve the loss of familiarity and friends, excitement is also stirred for the journey to come. God continues to provide for my every need, and is meeting me in the hard places, helping me to lift my eyes to Him. I know moving to another country and culture has it’s challenges, but there’s also great beauty and adventure in the mix.
I am currently in Colorado at MTI (Mission Training International), for language acquisition and cross cultural training. I already feel better equipped for entering into this next phase of life. Here’s a poem to give you a sneak peak into how I felt entering into MTI (a bit of a mess ;)), and what I’ve learned:
Daunting and large
No grid to contain
The depth of language
To learn and retain
The process is looming
The task soon to come
Of entering new culture
I’m feeling undone
My mind full of wonder
How do I begin?
To embrace the changes
And be settled within
I rest in the promise
I’m never alone
I have a Great Teacher
Who equips from His throne
The Maker of language
Placed inside of my mind
The ability to learn
So, input the data
Listen in full
Wait long to speak
‘Til each word is mulled
Pick out some props
Engage with all senses
Ponder the meaning
Let down all defenses
Then mimic each word
Take it all in
Retention will grow
Sitting with people
Relationships are built
Language is learned
To learn a new skill
Takes effort and time
To connect at the heart
Will be sweet and sublime
Straight the course
Fan the flame
Bring Your Kingdom
In Your Name
Here I am
Hands open wide
Into Your life
Clinging to Thee
Peace pours over
Stills my soul
Draws me near
To Heaven’s shore