Saturday, May 31, 2014

I challenged myself to write a post every day for a month...

Today I forgot.
I spent the day with my husband.
He's been gone for a long time in East Africa.

He came home yesterday.
He went to bed and slept for 13 hours straight.
It took him 2 days of flying to get home.

We stayed in bed until 1 pm today...
talking, connecting, catching up 
filling each other in on missed time.
Missed experiences.

We went for a walk down the Ascension Trail with the dog.
Then stopped for a bite,
watching the children play in the fountain.
It was lovely.

We walked home, uphill mostly.
It was gorgeous out.
We putted around the house, took a shower,
then went back to bed.

He's asleep.  I'm on the computer.
I lay here hearing him snore beside me.
I am content. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Christian Nonprofits, Missions Trips & Bloggers: Part 3

My upcoming outreach to East Africa will be different 
than the two I did in 1997 and 1998.
I can feel it in my bones.
And the nonprofit is different,
as I am different.

The organization has grown, to be sure.
And I?
Well, I've changed,
maybe it's growth, 
I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Going through trauma, 
hard ships, 
they impact a person,
either for good or for bad
and often both.

I won't be traveling with my husband this time.
In fact, he is arriving home from his own trip today.

I won't be under his shadow.

I shared my confusion from those trips sixteen years ago.
I have considered my concerns carefully,
been in prayer.

I won't be taking antimalarial medication, 
instead I'm taking Chinese herbs,
which have proven to work well 
 keeping the malaria parasite away.

My goal is to focus on the national staff, 
the ones who do the grueling,
emotional work day in and day out.

I plan to 
serve along side them 
as they feed the hungry children one cup of porridge 
in the Katwe slum, 
also as they work with the kids,
teaching them chess skills and stradegy,
which translate well in their real life of day to day survival.
Phiona Mutesi, is a fine example of this.

I hope to visit families with staff,
encouraging them
praying with them
sitting with them in their huts.

I hope to toil with the national staff
up north,
working the red dirt of the garden
on the Koro Property.
A place where they teach people how to farm, 
a necessary skill lost from years of war
and hiding from Joseph Koni.

I hope to be of assistance as the northern staff
provide trauma care for those who were kidnapped and forced to fight,
then somehow escaped.

May God's Will be done, 
May the Holy Spirit work in me.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Christian Nonprofits, Missions Trips & Bloggers: Part 2

Laura and I met volunteering with Candlelighters For Children With Cancer.
We both had survivor children.
We both found healing through hiking.
Naturally, we started climbing mountains together too.
We both love Jesus.

We had talked about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro some day.
Laura had served in South Africa when she was 17 years old.
And I had my Africa connection.

We talked about it a lot.
And now we are BOTH going back!
Laura is fearless.
Laura is confident.
Laura encourages me when the fear of heights begin to set in as I'm ascending an open, 
steep snowfield.
Laura is strong.

I remember our first hike together.
I took her to Kings Mountain on the coastal range.
A 3,260 foot elevation gain in 2.9 miles.
It snowed
We laughed a lot,
all bundled up forging our way to the top.
Snow swirling all around,
biting our noses, blurring our vision.
Inhaling deep
the cold air.

And Laura said, "You are my kind of friend!
You are crazy enough to be out here in this snow and love it too!"

Since then, we have climbed South Sister, 
Middle Sister, 
Mt. Adams 
and Mt. St. Helens twice!   

We have trekked many miles through out the Columbia River Gorge, 
Mt. Hood, 
Mt. St. Helens, 
and the Deschutes River area, 
talking about God, 
sharing our families, 
 our lives. 

Now we have a grand adventure a head of us.
Mt. Kilimanjaro
19,341 feet

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Christian Nonprofits, Missions Trips & Bloggers: Part 1

I am not a famous blogger, 
but this lady is: Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.

Jamie is a rebel and I connect with her.
She's not the typical status quo "Christianeese" Christian.

She questions things. 
She points out hypocrisies in Christian culture,
in Christian nonprofits, and in ministry today.

I admire her.
She makes me laugh.
She's real, vulnerable and not perfect.
Much like me.

She says things I'm thinking
 She's gutsy.

I follow Jamie. 
Did I mention, I am not a famous blogger?
Jamie's latest blog hit home.

In my blog post yesterday, titled FEAR...
I challenged myself to write everyday for a month.
And Jamie's post today inspired me.

In 1996 my husband quit his "real" job, 
 started raising our support, 
gave up our health insurance
and began taking teams to East Africa.

In 1997 and again in 1998,
 I went on a summer missions trips with he,
and this fledgling nonprofit. 

I left my four young daughters with friends, 
puddle jumping across the Middle East,
because it was the cheapest route. 
I wanted to know what my husband saw, felt, smelt 
and experienced when he traveled for work.

The trips were amazing, 
but very challenging.

Culture shock, 
"funny tummy",
strong smells of diesel, 
rotting garbage, 
and BO ,
extreme poverty. 
I struggled with the mental side effects from antimalarial drugs,
and pure unadulterated exhaustion as we worked from dawn to dusk, 
often eating dinner at 10 or 11 pm.  
(As a morning person, I am useless after 8 pm)

I questioned a lot of what I saw
and did.
The testimonies given invoking a "show of  hands of those 
who had "asked Jesus into their hearts"
bothered me.
Somehow the numbers were very important.
(How else will the people back home know their money was well spent?)

The feeling of complete futility as we tried "to make a difference."
The various conflicting theologies of the various churches we worked with:  
"you can lose your salvation and burn in hell for all eternity", 
to the Pentecostal 
"Jesus wants EVERYONE to be wealthy, healthy and prosperous."
"Just have faith."

The Americans we led on the trips 
posed their own challenges.
From immature, to defiant, 
to downright ugly American aggressive
"Those people need to do it our way!"

It was confusing.
I came home unsure.
"Is this really how God works?"

My husband LOVED his work.

And then our son was born,
 I couldn't leave an infant.
I kept the home fires burning.

And then my boy was diagnosed with cancer,
and sixteen years have flown painfully, agonizingly by.

My husband didn't travel for almost two years as he and I focused on our son's health.
And when he finally went back,
everything had changed.
new national staff, 
new bosses in the states,
new programs.
He was no longer connected,
he didn't seem to fit in anywhere.
He wasn't second to the founder anymore.

Slowly, by slowly he began connecting again.
And the nonprofit had some amazing, successful programs,
due to the sacrificial work of the national staff.
The programs are now beginning to blossom.
Feeding programs in the slums.
Slum chess programs which produced a three time Jr. National Champion, 
Gardening and Trauma Care in the north where the Invisible Children tried to hide from Koni.

Now, sixteen years later, I am headed back,
I am pinching myself.
I was called to childhood cancer work.
I wasn't called to Africa.
But I've learned to live by the motto:
I'm willing to be willing.
Because I believe God asks us to be OPEN.

And after I serve,
my Summit Sister and I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro!

But that's another post...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


A friend called me brave, the other day.

But I've spent my life time wrestling FEAR, 
as far back as I can remember, it was there.
It crept into every area.
Little by little I've seen it take over parts of me,
trying to destroy the essence of who God created me to be.

I've conquered some of it...
by traveling internationally,
climbing high and challenging mountains,
solo backpacking.
And I haven't let it win my mind.
 When I contemplate my children and their futures,
 fearful thoughts peek around the corner,
I see them,
sometimes they seem to be winning.
Then I allow the LIGHT,
 and watch them scurry away like cockroaches.

I have found fear in my relationships.
Sometime I've had to conquer it by setting healthy boundaries, 
even with the pain. 
Sometimes I've had to change the dance steps.
Sometimes I've had to risk openness, vulnerability 
and trust. 
It's a work in progress.

I've wrestled hard to rid myself of fear in these areas.

But now I have found it in my writing.

"Why write?  You have nothing to say."
"No one will want to read what you write."
"Your story isn't important."
"Everyone's writing stuff." 
"What do you know?"
"Someone else can say it better."

And so I don't write.  
I am paralyzed.
I waste time.

Lies feed Fear.
Fear steals life.

I vow to starve fear. 

I have found it in my art too.

"You cannot even draw a stick figure!"
"You are not artistic. Your mother, grandmother, and children all have the gift, but not you!"
"Why bother?"
"No one will want to see your pieces."
"They will think they're weird."
"Anyone could do that."
"They won't understand."
And so I don't work on my art.  
I am paralyzed.
I waste time.

Lies feed Fear.
Fear steals life.

I vow to starve fear. 

I vow to write something here on this blog everyday for one month!

I will write.
I will work on my art.

I vow to eradicate fear with light and truth.

I will be brave...

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Son Earned His Black Belt And Spencer Died...

This was written around Christmas 2012...

Black Belt

He's worked...hard...almost three years
to reach this goal.

There were times,
when I picked him up from school and he begs me,
begs not to go to class.

"I'm so tired.  I hurt.  I feel like crap. I hurt everywhere. Please mom."

But I push him.
I remind him of his goal.
I remind him he'll feel better...after class.

Building His Character
Fighting Through His Chronic Pain

He wants to spar...desperately.
But I know.  I know how dangerous it would be.
So I let the neurosurgeon tell him.

"Josh, your neck is not normal. If you were kicked just once...
 the wrong way 
you would be paralyzed from the neck down
probably having to breathe with the help of a machine.
Is it worth that?"

The tears silently slide down his cheek.

But the day comes
and he tests with three other Poom Belts...
Kids he's trained with almost the entire time.
Kids who believe in him
and he believes in them.

And he passes his forms, his kicks, his push ups, crunches, 
he breaks his boards with ease
and then attempts 3 boards at once.
Faltering with the first attempt
but then tells himself...

"I beat cancer.  I can do this."
And breaks all 3 with one powerful kick!

We celebrate with the three families.
Dinner out.
Lots of food and laughter.

And we come home
And I read about Spencer.

Spencer and him mom Lynnette  
a son and mom
the same cancer

We did Story Corps a couple years ago
the sharing of our hearts

And I read
Spencer is paralyzed from the neck down.
He's dying.
They can no longer stop the cancer.
So I celebrate my son
and I grieve for Lynnette.

And two days after Josh earns his Black Belt
Spencer dies
peacefully at home.

Spencer a senior in high school
from a strong loving family.

And I remember back
when I first met them...
a nice Mormon family.

And I went to bed one night
and early in the morning I awoke with a start
sitting straight up in bed
a question burning inside me...

"Don!" I exclaimed
"From all of my church teaching if Spencer dies
he's going to hell."

"And with all of Lynnette's teaching in here Mormon church
WE are going to hell when we die."

"So what's the truth?  How can that be?"

"Well, that's why I'm glad God is the judge, April. Not us."

Why do we judge like this?

And peace flooded my soul.

Josh earned his Black Belt.
Spencer is gone...from this earth, his family.