You may or may not have noticed the two week hiatus from the blog and my Facebook page. Why the long break?

Because, dear reader, I was visiting my best friend!!! 😀

As I mentioned in my post about my writing history, Rachel Miller and I have been friends for a LONG time. Almost our whole lives. She spent years in Russia, then caring for aging grandparents, then finishing college and working jobs around Montana. I’ve been having and raising children, going on deputation, and living in Africa. We don’t get to see each other very often but we keep up with each other through messaging and email and FaceTime (if the internet is working). (Thank God for modern technology! In the old days we’d be thankful to hear from each other once a year. Now we can message every day if we want.)

Rachel came to visit us in Uganda in 2012. She’d been in Kenya for three weeks and God provided for her to spend a little over a week with us. We had a blast! We talked, and sewed, and talked, and went for walks, and talked, and shopped my favorite Mbarara haunts, and talked, and…well, you get the picture. The last night she was there we spent several hours constructing a box wherein a large Ankole hide drum could be transported back to the states without being damaged. It worked!

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In September of 2013 my family and I got to spend two weeks in Montana with Rachel and her family. We stayed in the prophet’s chamber at their church and went to meetings in the surrounding area. This meant that Rachel and I got to see each other almost every day. We went for coffee at this wonderful local coffee house in Billings called City Brew. We went for walks by the Yellowstone River. We sat around at the MIller’s house. We stopped at Walmart for things. And we talked…and talked…and talked… 

One morning, we left Billings very early and visited Yellowstone National Park. Rachel went with us. The weather had been warm and sunny — unseasonably so — in Billings. It was freezing cold and rainy in Yellowstone. We would get out and hike and see the sights, then get back in the van and crank the heater up as high as it would go. We also climbed stairs and paths. It felt like hundreds of stairs, maybe even thousands (hyperbole overmuch?) but at least it kept us warm.

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I even got warm enough (thanks to the heater I was carrying on my back) that I could take off my jacket.

Early in 2014, Rachel’s dad passed away unexpectedly. We have never felt the thousands of miles of separation as acutely as we did then. Phone calls are better than nothing in a situation like that. But nothing can make up for not being able to hug a grieving friend and let them cry on your shoulder, not being able to be there for them in their loss because of the distance, bearing their pain, but not being able to share it in person. 

So, when my wonderful husband suggested a visit to Rachel as my birthday present this year, well, to say I was overjoyed would be an understatement. I was beginning to fear we’d go the whole visit stateside without being able to see each other.

I arrived on Thursday and we started talking. We didn’t really stop except to eat and sleep for the next 5 days. We got coffee. We shopped. (She has just released her first novel!) We fixed food. And we talked, and talked, and talked… It was a healing balm for both of us, a treasure of time and wonderful memories.

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I’m not great at selfies, but this picture captures exactly how we both felt.

I’m so grateful to God for this time I got to spend with my friend! 

We Must Never Forget

September 11, 2001

James was working second shift. As usual, he hadn’t gotten home from work until around 11:30PM on September 10. 

Our oldest sons, James and John, were 6 months old. September 11, I got up early with them to feed them, then put them down for a nap and went back to bed. It was around 7AM our time.

A little later, we woke to the sound of the phone ringing. My dad called to tell us an airplane had flown into the side of one of the twin towers. We both thought he meant a small, twin engine plane and went back to sleep.

A few minutes after that, my father-in-law, Jim, called to tell us another plane had flown into the other tower. 

This time, we understood it was serious. These were airliners full of people and fuel. 

Our TV was ancient. We kept it in the basement and used it for playing videos and DVDs. We didn’t even have it hooked up to an antenna, even though we had the antenna wires available. James hurried downstairs while he was on the phone with his dad. He hooked the TV up to the antenna and turned it on. He yelled for me to come see what was happening.

What we saw looked like a terrible nightmare. Both towers were burning. We saw people hurl themselves out of the building to the ground, lives doomed one way or the other. (We later learned they may have been forced out by the heat of the fire burning inside the buildings.) 

Moments after we turned on the TV the first tower collapsed.

We stayed glued to the television all day, along with the rest of the United States. Our emotions vacillated between horror, grief, anger, and disbelief as we watched the drama unfold. These things didn’t happen inside the US. Murder, on that scale, had seemed impossible on American soil. Yet there it was, the nightmare of those terrorist attacks, unfolding before our very eyes.

The skies were silent as all the planes were grounded, the silence eery, a constant reminder of the tragedy we’d witnessed. Little by little we learned what had happened that day. By those same, gradual discoveries, we realized our children, these innocent babies, would grow up in a world that was After and resembled nothing of the world Before.

In 2006 we took our children to Ground Zero and saw the beginnings of what would become the Freedom Tower.

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You could still see damage on the surrounding buildings, even 5 years later.

When the children were older, we told them about Before. Then we showed them documentaries, news clips, and told them stories of 9/11. They cried, just like we did on that day, 15 years ago. They shared our horror, our loss.

Today, we remember those who died. We remember those to gave their lives to try to save others. We remember the sacrifice, the bravery, the pain, the loss, the grief.

We remember, because we do not want to forget.


Friday Funny

Every now and then in Uganda we’ll see a sign and think “I don’t think that means what you think it means.”

Today’s funny is from a sign in Kampala along two main roads through town. (Honestly, I haven’t been past this intersection for years so I don’t know if the sign is still there anymore. We take other roads through town when we have no other choice than to travel to Kampala.)

I’m pretty sure this cosmetics company doesn’t mean this the way it sounds. 😉

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I Am a Missionary

I’ve had people ask “Why Africa?” or “How did you end up in Uganda?” I thought you, dear reader, might enjoy hearing a recounting of that tale.

I was saved at a very young age during VBS at our church. I realized that I had sinned and that Jesus died for me. That night during the invitation, I ran to the front of the church, in tears, and told my dad I wanted to be saved. My Sunday School teacher led me to the Lord.

God called me to be a missionary when I was 6 years old. I spent my life planning to be a missionary. (I’ve always been hyperactive. This was in addition to planning to be a writer. 😉 ) 

When I was 15 God began working in my heart to be a missionary to Africa. I didn’t want to go to Africa. They had AIDS in Africa. So I planned to go to Europe, specifically Germany.

Then God began exposing me to African missions, whether through missionary stories that I taught or people I came into contact with. I remember meeting a man from Liberia and, for the first time, feeling a burden for the people of Africa as I talked to this man.

Then when I was 17, God called me to Uganda. I knew this for certain. I didn’t want to go to Uganda. I was scared of AIDS, and the political unrest that had been so prevalent there for so long. But it was as if God said to my heart “I want you to go there and I will give you the strength to do so.” Then He began to put people into my path to dissipate those fears. I surrendered to go to Uganda and began making plans to go and saving my money to take a survey trip. I took Bible Institute classes geared toward teacher training so I could train the nationals to be Sunday School teachers. 

My dad and I made plans to take a survey trip, had our passports and were reserving tickets when we found out that the missionaries we were going to visit had come home from the field for various reasons (some with health problems others with family issues). That was when God started dealing with me on being willing to stay in the United States. This was a very difficult area of surrender for me. Being a missionary on the foreign field was who I was. God kept dealing with me that He wanted me to be willing to STAY as well as being willing to go. Finally, I surrendered to that, too, not understanding at all what He was doing. I felt like everything I had been working toward for years had been knocked out from underneath me. Yet, at the same time I had peace in my heart.

James and I married in 2000. God blessed us with twins in our first year of marriage and then with two more children right away.

Then in summer of 2004, God called James to be a missionary in Uganda. I was so surprised and overjoyed when he shared this with me. It was a confirmation that God had called me all those years ago but wanted me in a position where I wasn’t in the way for Him to call James. James wasn’t pressured into being a missionary by his wife. He was called by God, just as I was. I was in a position to be completely supportive because God had already dealt with my heart.

Living on the mission field has been a wild ride. It’s been fun in a heart-warming kind of way and fun in a terrifying and exciting kind of way, too. I’m planning to share about my favorite places and people in Uganda over the next few months.

Suffice it to say, I love Uganda. I love the people. I love the place. It feels like I’m living a dream come true!

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