“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nathan's Momma

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Nine - The Baby Whisperer

 Me and Baby Nathan
Mbale, Uganda - February 2014
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

We were in Mbale, Uganda.  Our first opportunity to meet with the church planters from Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.  As I began to sit down, I noticed one of the church planters.  A woman.  And I felt compelled to sit right next to her.  It felt awkward, but I got up from where I was sitting and sat next to her and gave her a smile.  You get to a point when you are in Africa that you better just go ahead and be obedient when you get a nudge from the Holy Spirit.  (Of course, we should follow that nudge anywhere, right?)

The local Ugandan pastor, John Wandera, was encouraging us to say hello to those sitting around us.  I introduced myself and was surprised that she spoke English.  It wasn't unusual for a Ugandan to speak English... it was just that all the women I had interacted with in Ethiopia had not.  It was like a breath of fresh air being able to communicate with her.  With Evelyn.  (Pronounced Eve-lean.)

We sat beside each other and listened as the pastor spoke.  Later I had moved to another area of the sanctuary as the official teaching began.  Christopher had been taking photos and showed me a photo of a baby that was sleeping in the building.  Soon I found out it was Evelyn's baby.  Nathan.  (Pronounced Naa-thaan.)  

Precious Nathan was 3 months old.  Born September 21st of 2013.  Actually born during the time of the last church planter training in Uganda.  Evelyn was still breast-feeding and brought Nathan to the church training.  She had ridden about 15 miles on a boda boda with Nathan.  Boda boda = motorcycle for hire.  She would have sat side saddle with Nathan between her and the driver.  I couldn't even imagine.

And then I wondered... could I hold Nathan?  And then I wondered... is this why I am here in Uganda at this church planter training?  Is this my ministry?  To care for Nathan while his mom was receiving training? 

Yes.  Yes, it was.

 Evelyn, me, Nathan and Jade

So, here I was.  Ministering to one.  Doing for one.  Helping one person.  Loving on her baby.  Praying for him to become a man of God.  Singing to him.  Wondering in song if the fox speaks the same language in Uganda?

And then Sunday afternoon we visited Evelyn's church.  A congregation of 200 sitting under a tarp waiting for us to arrive.  And I see Evelyn leading her church with her husband beside her.  She is the pastor.  He is the teacher.  And I see Evelyn... I see her clearly as a leader.  Leading her flock.  A woman who has been moved to give up any form of a comfortable life to reach the lost in this village.  To share hope.  To share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Dwight giving his testimony at Evelyn's church
with her husband translating for the congregation

And as I cradled Nathan and as Evelyn shepherded... I realized that my little ministry of holding a baby... wasn't just for Evelyn.  It wasn't just for her.  It was for them.  It was for these 200 people.  It was for the ones who weren't here yet.  For those who would be drawn to Jesus Christ because Evelyn cared.  Because she wanted to plant a church.  Because she wanted to attend a training that would give her wisdom and encouragement and leadership skills.  And she needed a little time to concentrate.  She needed her hands free to take notes.  Some time to participate.

And here I am, again.  My Type B personality.  Deciding to hold a baby.  For hours.  Over a couple days.  Something that may have seemed insignificant.  That may have gone unnoticed.  But God showed me what He saw.  What He saw in the importance of what Evelyn was doing.  What He saw in the importance of what I was doing.  How kind of Him to show me.

Nathan's Momma, Nathan and Me

She had no hesitation with me holding him.
Which I did for hours.
Like his second momma.
And it may not make a lot of difference in the whole world.
But it did for her...
and for her husband...
and for her other children...
and for her congregation...
and for her village.


But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! 
For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those 
who are like these children."  Matthew 19:14




For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a most highly treasured gift

We were at Bible Study yesterday.  Talking at our table.  Discussing how women in the church hurt one another.  So much so that we walk out of a church.  Or all churches.  Or put up a wall so high that no woman will ever be able to hurt us,  again.  Or so we think.  We are hurt within our isolation.  We shut ourselves out of receiving fellowship and healing and discipleship. 

Someone asked, "Where is it that women meet in a group and don't get hurt?"

Honestly, I don't know.  But what I do know is that we need each other.  We bumble and fumble and make mistakes and bring along our past garbage. (Hippocampus, right?)  But what I want you to know is that I think it is all worth it.  It can take time.  And sometimes a chunk of self-examination.

Another friend recently reminded me of this blog post. 
She is giving her sisters-in-Christ another opportunity.
And her friendship is a most highly treasured gift to me.



But she has decided to wipe the tears away. 
Reapply her mascara.
Get in the car. And drive.

photography by Anthony Kaetzel

She is going tonight.
It is a fight for her.
She would much rather stay home.

But she knows this is good for her.
And perhaps...
Just maybe...
She'll meet someone.

Someone who will make her feel
Included.
Visible.
Befriended.
Not alone.

But as she packs her suitcase...
Tears flood her eyes.
Because she is not sure.
Because she is insecure.

Why would she think
It would be different this time?
That it is worth the risk?

She fears that she will sit alone.
And others will notice, but not reach out.
They will all be content to stay
In their warm cozy cliques.

And she will tell herself...
"See, I told you so.
Enough!
I am not trying anymore."

But she has decided to wipe the tears away.
Reapply her mascara.
Get in the car.
And drive.

She prays silently as she drives.
Asking God for something...
Wondering if it is wrong of her for wanting...
A friend.

And I have been praying for her.
Because I have been her.
And I will be there...
Waiting for her.

And I want her to know
There are others praying for her.
And they will be there...
Waiting for her.

She is going to a women's retreat tonight.
It is a fight for her.
But she will be glad
That she did not stay home.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Precious Ethiopian Knitting Protégés

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Eight - Knitting in Ethiopia

My Precious Knitting Protégés.
Don't you love how they picked yarn colors to match their outfits?!
One of the gals is wearing my pink hat because she hadn't completed hers yet.
She wouldn't pose for the photo without one!
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 

I knew from the moment I was going to Ethiopia that I would be teaching knitting.
Linda told me so.

I remember e-mailing Linda in November of 2012 while she was in Ethiopia.  She said something about needing me to come to Ethiopia.  I laughed.  But she meant it.  And so I began to ponder it in my heart.

Linda is our Vice President of Petros Network and the Redemptive Lift / Relief and Development Director for Petros Network.  She is also Portland Christian Center's Communications / Adult Education Pastor.  Our senior pastor's wife.  And a friend.  She and Anthony have traveled with a team from Petros multiple times together.  Now, it was my turn.  And she knew what she wanted me to do.  She wanted the widows to be able to knit a hat so that they could keep warm on the cool nights that 10,000 feet provide at Gojo.  And perhaps even make knitting a trade that they could market.

As I prepared for my trip to Ethiopia I knew I needed to find a pattern for a knit hat that would use straight needles.  Normally, hats are knit on circular needles and are specific to hat size, yarn type and pattern.  And they are beyond a beginner knitter.  And they are beyond me teaching them through an interpreter and beyond me being able to communicate how to keep all the stitches straight and not twisted.


And I wasn't sure how many widows I would be teaching or what materials would be available to me.  So I needed a hat pattern that was easily altered dependent upon yarn and needle size.  Fortunately, we have a knitter extraordinaire at our church, Jan R, who went to work on creating such a pattern.  She's brilliant!  And even gave me a sample hat to take along.  And then I needed donated materials which came in through other knitters at the church:  Jan W, Jan B and Donna L.  And Barb P donated yarn and an easy knit shawl pattern.  I had yarn, needles and finishing needles.  I thought I was set!

One special donation came from Gary B.  At first I didn't recognize the name, but then it came to me.  His wife had passed away about two years earlier.  He had actually gone to Ethiopia about a year ago and dedicated one of the churches to his wife.  She was the mom of a dear friend, Leila C.  Leila and I had shared many memories because our husbands would travel together multiple times to Ethiopia.  And I had always thought she might go before I did.  But now I was taking some of her precious mom's knitting supplies to help widows in their distress.  It was a sentimental moment for me.

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday morning.  We would then head to Gojo on Sunday.  And Monday was the big day for me.  I knew I had 11 widows arriving at 1pm.  Fortunately, I had some time to prepare that morning.  I realized I only had 11 sets of the suggested size 8 needles I needed, but I needed to make a hat, too. So I grabbed a set of size 9 needles and adjusted the pattern easily!  And there was some hot pink yarn.  PERFECT!

Then I realized I didn't have anything to cut the yarn with!  Scissors are not easy to come by!  Fortunately, there are plenty of bottled carbonated sodas that were consumed.  I asked everyone to give me their bottle caps and they became the yarn cutters.  The widows actually laughed about my ingenuity.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Binyam, Kari, Linda and Me
Monday, February 10th, 2014

On Monday afternoon eleven Petros Network sponsored widows arrived at the guest house to learn how to knit a hat.  Linda knew I was nervous, so she grabbed my hand and gave me a warm introduction.  Now, I had to use the interpreter.  I had NO idea how difficult it would be.  Specifically because it was a man.  A man who did not know anything about knitting.  And was a bit baffled when after teaching them to cast on and then knit a row, I needed him to explain how to purl.  Of course, they didn't need to know the word PURL they just needed to know how to do it!

Some of the widows picked up the pattern quickly.  They had remembered what they had learned when Suzi S had went in November 2012 to teach them how to knit a simple scarf.  What a blessing when they started teaching and helping each other.

Me teaching Tolesh how to cast stitches on to a needle

On the second day, the widows arrived at 9am and would be there until 5:30pm.  And this time I would be teaching them without an interpreter.  Some of the widows had completed the knitting portion of their cap, so one by one I showed them how to seam the hat together and then finish the piece.  And then those who finished helped others.  But they were ready for more.

Then - without an interpreter - I began teaching them advance knitting skills.  I started with the widow who had finished her hat first and somehow managed to tell her to cast on 22 stitches.  Pointing at the pattern and speaking English - although they could understand none of my words.  
Cast on stitches.
Knit for 6 rows.
Purl, Yarn Over, Purl Two Together for 6 rows.
Then repeat pattern.
Bind off.
And they did.  And it was beautiful.  I hadn't even thought that they might run out of yarn for their scarves, but they didn't.  And we would sit and knit for hours.  They were content.  And so I sat and knit alongside them.



Tolesh's 14-year old son, Benjamin
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
  
Most of the time I spent with the widows I was exhausted and sick.  
So at the time it was difficult to even grasp and comprehend all that I am writing now.
Linda kept reminding me that I was doing such an important work.  I wasn't so sure at the time.

But one of the most precious moments of the trip for me was when we went to visit the homes of some of the widows on Wednesday.  When we arrived at the first home, Benjamin was wearing the hat his mother had completed just the day before.  

I have to admit I had wondered all along what might happen to the knit creations after I left.  
Seeing him proudly wear the hat 
gave me a sense that I had taught 
a life skill 
that would be a blessing to the widows and their families 
long after I arrived back home.






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A fragrance of my presence...

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Seven - The Fragrance

Guest House, Gojo Ethiopia
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Written on Wednesday 2/12/2014
In Gojo, Ethiopia

Yesterday, I would sit with the widows for hours.  Just knitting.  No interpreter.  Just me and them.  Smiling.  Nodding.  Me giving a thumbs up which always made me feel silly, but I didn't know how else to show my pleasure of their progress.
No words.
Just me
and them
and the sound
of knitting needles.

A gift of my presence.  An American who flew half way around the world to sit with them.  To teach them to knit.  And to knit with them.  The gift of my presence.

But I wanted more.  I wanted to be able to use my words.  Because I am an encourager.  I thought words would be a gift.  But there would be no words.  Teaching knitting through wordless example.

No words - and so I was missing out.  I wanted... me... for me... just some words.

But for them I was a fragrance of Christ.


For we are a fragrance
of Christ to God
among those who are 
being saved and
among those who are 
perishing.

2 Corinthians 2:15

It was written on a 3x5 note card with a heart sticker that my precious 88-year old Jean B. had written and asked me to take with me on my trip to Africa.  And when I looked at it on Monday morning before it all began -- I knew it was a verse I would hold on to and cherish.  And so I did.

And this morning as I pondered an encouragement from my pastor that it was a gift that I could sit and work on the process of knitting all day.  That he himself could not possibly sit still and do the process all day.  Just go buy a hat and scarf, why don't you?  I finally realized that this Type B personality - which in the midst of many Type A personalities didn't seem to show much value at least to me - all of the sudden made complete sense.

There were no words.
But there was a fragrance.
A fragrance of my presence
"among those who are
being saved and among 
those who are perishing"
that would last longer
than the words I thought
I could offer.

No words.
Just me
and them
and the sound
of knitting needles.





For more of my thoughts on Ethiopia/Uganda visit here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lord, why am I here? What do I have to offer?

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Six - BELIEVE

Gojo, Ethiopia - February 13, 2014
200 Church Planters and the Petros Network Team
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


For this thinker-type personality my thoughts are hard to formulate about our recent trip to Africa.  There are so many words and thoughts, but making them land on my keyboard seems a bit difficult.  But I will force them out because if I don't I fear they might be lost.  And that would be tragic.

At the beginning of the trip Pastor Ray Noah tackled the questions that were plaguing almost all of us throughout the trip:  Lord, why am I here?  What do I have to offer?  He admitted he still wondered that himself.  But he felt God had given him a word to embrace:  BELIEVE.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
BELIEVE... that you are here in God's will.  No matter how you got here.
BELIEVE... that you are here for a divine purpose.
BELIEVE... that you are walking in God's provision.
BELIEVE... that God will use you to bless those you come in contact with.
BELIEVE... that God will use those you come in contact with to bless you.
BELIEVE... that this trip will change your life-trajectory.
And also to know that whatever lies before us we should BELIEVE that God has already gone before us.

It makes me think of Beth Moore's study Believing God when she shares - "As forcefully as God has ever spoken to my heart, He said, 'you believe in Me, Beth. Now I want you to believe Me.'”

Believe Me.

And that's what I had to do.  Believe God.  Believe that He would use this suburban house-wife and mother for a divine purpose in Africa.  Whose only assignment was to teach widows how to knit a hat.  Who felt insignificant for the mission.  But believing that He would use this willing vessel.

And now that I have returned home I wonder what God would have me do with all He has shown me.  And I guess I need to believe that He can use me as much at home as He did there.  And that I will pass that message on to those who are willing to hear it.

And that I will encourage those I come in contact with to
Believe God.






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Me and The Fresh Prince

Me and The Fresh Prince
I guess they ran out of time for the ~topher.


I hate keeping secrets.  Especially from those I love.  But I can and I do.

Over a week ago I found out that Christopher had been chosen as the Homecoming Freshman Class Prince.  And he wouldn't find out until today.  It's been a long week of close calls.

They had asked the parents to announce their child's name to the Homecoming Court along with a story about them.  Okay, how was I going to do that without embarrassing him???  I secretly prayed that he would find out, so that I could ask him what I should say.  But, alas... that did not happen.  You weren't to announce their name until the very end, so people could guess, so last night I decided to write out a couple riddle clues that would reveal who he was without sharing too much.

Here are some fun riddles.clues.randomfacts.insidejokes about The Fresh(man) Prince:
For additional insight I've added some information in italics that I didn't use in the introduction.

  1. He would say his claim to fame is that he is the only native Oregonian on our family tree.  We are ALL from the East Coast!
  2. But you would think he lives in Baltimore when he cheers for baseball.  Orioles.
  3. Or Dallas (and Baltimore) when he cheers for football. Cowboys and Ravens.
  4. Or Anaheim for ice hockey. Ducks.  Today was support your favorite sports team for Spirit week so all these clues made sense to me. 
  5. But you know for sure Portland is his hometown when he cheers in the TA "Rose City Til I Die." If you received a Christmas Card... our favorite sports team is our Major League Soccer Team, the Portland Timbers.  We sit in the TA or Timbers Army.  Rose City is Portland's nickname.
  6. And as far as basketball is concerned… he is only happy when Mike & Mike call the game.  They are two local announcers for the Portland Trailblazers.  Win or lose they are on the hometeam!
  7. And the college team in Corvallis is his favorite.  Oregon State Beavers.
  8. Most students wouldn't be interested in getting an F.  But he is.  Well, as a bass (baritone) who wouldn't want to be able to hit an F sharp?  On the TV show The Sing Off there was a country group that sang Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash and one of the guys hit an F sharp so low you could barely hear it!
  9. If you saw the performances of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, you would know “The Butler Did it!” Christopher played the butler in the play earlier in the year.
  10. He hates when his parents call his favorite game “Minesweeper.”  Mommm, it is called "Minecraft"!!!!!!
  11. Some would say he only wears graphic t-shirts, hoodies, shorts and nike elites. Of course, not today when I am announcing him... of all days!
  12. He just went to Comic Con and got to see the man who inspired his childhood superhero.  Yes, despite what others may protest… Spiderman is a superhero.  One of his teachers insists that Spiderman is not a superhero.  But he really is!!!!
  13. He’ll have a new stamp in his passport next week as he travels to Ethiopia and Uganda on a missions trip sharing the love of God to local missionaries and orphans.  Leaving in a week.  Wait, what???
  14. He has never been called shy.  Have you met my son?
  15. He is happy to be known as different.  Have you met my son?
  16. And his final claim to fame?  He is my favorite son.  To which he would say… “Mom, I’m your only son.” And I reply, “True, but you’re still my favorite.”
I was relieved to know that I did not embarrass him... but wait for it!  Because we get to go to Homecoming!!!  And you never know what his dad might do!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Do For One What You Wish You Could Do For Everyone

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Five - The Need


Precious Ethiopian Boy.
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, 
or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you 
a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?   
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" 
 And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, 
you did it to me."  Matthew 25:37-40


Often I am asked how I am feeling about going to Ethiopia and Uganda.  Excited?!  Nervous?  And my answer most often has been "Yes.  Yes, I am."  I think I am nervous and excited.  But not so much.

I thought that it had to do with me controlling my feelings about the trip (ummm, I have been known to do that), but lately I have the sense that God has put blinders on me.  He is only allowing me to see what He wants me to see.  He is not allowing me to look to the side and be spooked or distracted.  Just enough sight before me to move ahead to the next day and no further.  He knows me.  He knows if I have a little bit more in my view that my thinker-type personality would begin to take me over and I would drown in my thoughts.

Because it is overwhelming.  I have heard enough of the stories from Anthony (mind you - not all of them) to know I am going to get my socks shocked off my feet through my shoes.  That I am going to see poverty the likes that I have never seen.  I am going to hear stories of witchcraft and abuses.  I am going to smell smells and taste tastes that are so very foreign to me.

And I am going to meet people.  Lots of people.  Lots and lots of people.  So many people.  And I am going to want to help... e a c h  and  e v e r y  O N E  of them.  I am going to want to save them from the lurid situation that they live in.  I am going to want to fix it.  I am going to want to make a difference in e a c h  and  e v e r y  O N E  of them.  Can I even make a difference?  At all?

Oh, God.  The need is too great.  There are too many to help.  What difference can I make?

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach.   One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer.  As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing it back into the ocean.

"Young lady," he asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die."

"But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference."

The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying,
"It made a difference for that one."  ~~ The Starfish Story

And I guess that is where the blinders come in... I sense that God has prompted me to do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.  Over two years ago I came across a sermon by Andy Stanley that touched on this very thought.  "One, Not Everyone:  How can you make a difference in a big world with big needs when everything you have to offer seems, by comparison, small and inadequate?"

Because when I think of ALL the people who need help, I may just get overwhelmed and do nothing at all.  If I truly see the need I might start to make excuses.  I would realize there's just too many miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it... And who am I? 

"If we all did for one what we wish we could do for everyone,
it might change the world. 
But certainly, it would change one person's world. 
It may even change your world." 
~ Andy Stanley
And so I go.  Looking only at that which God has placed before me.  Reaching out to the widow who is in my presence.  To the orphan who God has placed before me.  Knowing that I may not be able to to help everyone I come in contact with, but that I can reach out to the one.

And I will know that
it made a difference for that one.





For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Did God Really Say...

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Four - The Doubt

Ethiopian boy chasing the team van.  
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


It was November.  A Saturday.  We were scheduled to get our immunizations for Ethiopia and Uganda later that morning.

He came down the stairs and he was upset.  He told us that he just realized he would be missing a couple of competitions in February when we were in Africa.  He was beside himself.  These were competitions that he had been preparing for... one for almost a year.

He wondered to us if he was really supposed to go to Ethiopia and Uganda.  He didn't feel called.  Perhaps God had spoken to us about it, but God had not spoken to him.  He was frustrated.

His father calmly asked him to find out the dates of the competition to be certain that they were conflicting with our trip to Africa.  He went upstairs.  He went to his room.  He shut his door.

And as a mother I wondered... Did God really say Christopher was to go to Ethiopia?  I cried as I thought of the sacrifice we were asking him to make.  Perhaps he could stay home.  Perhaps I was being selfish and wanting him to go with us for the wrong reasons.  He was right.  God had spoken to us as parents, but not to him.  Perhaps I should intervene and we could always change our minds.  I could fix this.

I walked down the stairs full of emotion.  Wanting to take away the pain.

But there he sat.  Calm.  Composed.  Resolute.  Talking with his dad.  He explained to me that he had felt prompted to read the second chapter of the book of James in the Bible.  And when he read James 2:14-17,  he knew what he had to do.  He knew his faith needed action.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:14-17

And that was it.  He was changed.  God had spoke.  He listened.  That was that.

And I was dumbfounded at the thought that I almost saved him from it.  Saved him from hearing from the Lord.  From the opportunity to press into what seemed important to him to what seemed important to God.  I almost protected him from something that would change his life forever.

But God intervened.  God took care of it.  And He will.  He will always take care of it. 
Thank you, God.






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Desert of Depression: Celebrating January 15th...
The Eighth Anniversary

photography by Anthony Kaetzel

...because you know that 
the testing of your faith 
develops perseverance.
James 1:3 NIV 

Today, January 15th, is a special day for me.  It is the 8th anniversary of my "dark night of the soul."  I celebrate this day because I have persevered... and continue to persevere.  My major depressive episode of 2006 brought me to my knees.  Depression was... and continues to be a test of my faith.  And as I look back I can see that my ability and willingness to persevere in the face of depression has grown stronger... has made me more complete... has made me more mature... and has shown me that I lack nothing when I turn towards the healer of my mind, soul, heart and body.


The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, 
 Prepare ye the way of the LORD, 
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
 Isaiah 40:3 KJV

This week I have been studying about John the Baptist.  About how he hung out in the desert and that he prepared the way of the Lord... and not only the way of the Lord, but also he prepared a way to the Lord. 

"And he will go on before the Lord, 
in the spirit and power of Elijah, 
to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and 
the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous
—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 
Luke 1:17 NIV

And it made me think of the ministry that God has placed before me.  That He has chosen for me.  He uses my intimate knowledge and experience with depression to prepare a way for others who are suffering with depression.  I am not the one who heals or the one who counsels or the one who diagnoses or creates a prognosis.  I am the one who shows the way towards the conquering of depression.  I am a living breathing resource.

I am a living breathing resource.  And sometimes I wonder if that is why He keeps her so near.  Because I have not conquered my depression, but I am conquering my depression.  And because it is something that tests my faith almost daily and has developed my perseverance, I am able to pass on to those who don't even know who they are fighting... a sword and a shield.  A fighting chance.  And better yet, I am able to tell them that I have persevered and am persevering... and they will get better... because God is greater than depression.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, 
when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is 
forced into the open and shows its true colors. 
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. 
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, 
not deficient in any way."  James 1:2-4 MSG

A reminder for me that I don't need to run away from the testing of my faith...
that it develops my ability to persevere
and reminds me of the One
who fights for me.

Let me pray for you, friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

They Didn't Want Any Party

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter 3 - The Offerings

Ethiopian Mother and Child
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


Religion that God our Father accepts
as pure and faultless is this:
 to look after orphans and widows in their distress 
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  
James 1:27


It was sometime in October, I think.  Anthony went to the mailbox and came back with a stack of mail.  He handed me a handwritten envelope as he opened another one that was addressed to himself.

He didn't recognize the name.  Perhaps it was the name of a neighbor from his childhood?  But he couldn't be sure.  And as he opened the letter out poured a check for $5 and a note that said,
Hello Anthony & Sheri - Just a little to help you on your mission, far away from home. 
 Huh?  Who would be sending us $5?  And what would have prompted them?

We shook our head and thought it best to call Anthony's mom to see if she knew anything about it.  But before we did I opened the handwritten envelope that was in my hand.
Sheri/Anthony - Congrats and Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary!!  An incredible accomplishment.  Have a great and safe trip in February --
It was from one of my cousins.  And out poured a check for $25.

Double HUH?  Anthony's former neighbor and my cousin?  Both sending checks for our trip?  Um... couldn't be a coincidence could it?  After Anthony hung up from speaking to his mom, I heard all the details.

Both of our moms had wanted to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary in August.  We nixed it.  We're not party people.  The anniversary is just significant to us, so why would we have others celebrate us?  Some of our family gave us cards and gifts, but that was the end of that... or so we thought.

Sometime in September Anthony's mom drafted a letter and met with my mom to discuss it.  They would send out a note to a few family and friends that said,

Sheri & Anthony just celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary.  They didn't want any party.  So we didn't plan anything during their visit in August.

Anthony did mention that they plan to celebrate their anniversary in February with a missions trip to Ethiopia.  While there they will be ministering to a group of Widows and Orphan Children.

Ministering in Ethiopia is what Anthony & Sheri feel called to do.  This is what they are all about.

If you would like to give a gift/donation for this ministry, Widows & Orphan Children, send it to...

This announcement is from Donna (my mom) and Ruth (Anthony's mom).

We were so touched.  To be so loved by our parents.  To have their support for the trip to Ethiopia.  To be understood and validated.  This is what they are all about.  That's what touched us the most.  That our mothers would be so bold as to send a request like this to others is out of their comfort zone.  To be an adult child and to hear your parents say, "Well done."  It was all too much.  We were honored.

At the time our pastor, Ray Noah, had been preaching on generosity.  About how you can't out give God.  That if we give generously towards those things which touch God's heart He will prosper us so that we will give even more generously. 

God's circular law of generosity: 
When we share more, 
We will have more, 
So we can give more 
Which will enable us to do more. 
~Ray Noah

And what it meant was that those family and friends sending us checks would be blessed by God.  It wasn't just a blessing to us.  We were blessed to receive it, but it was going straight to Kingdom work.  And those blessings belonged to those who had given this offering that we were just being the conduits of.  We were excited for them.  For those who were giving this offering not knowing how and when it would be used.

It was a few days later that the card came.  It was addressed to us but Anthony wanted me to open it.  He could tell by the return label that he thought I should open it.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.  ~ Jim Elliot

"'For whoever desires to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" 
Matthew 16:25 NKJV

Dear Anthony & Sheri,
Happy belated 25th wedding anniversary.  May God bless you with many more.

We were so blessed to learn that ministering to Ethiopian widows & orphan children, is your hearts desire.

Enclosed is a check for $1,000.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to give this gift.  We will be praying for you.

May God's richest blessings be showered upon you in ways you could never hope or think.  Love in Him... Please keep in touch.

Tears filled our eyes and we both choked back deep sighs of wonder.  Partly over the generous amount.  Partly because it came from someone who only had faded memories of me of years gone by.  Partly because God must have been doing something in their hearts.  Partly because Ethiopian widows and orphan children were going to be blessed.  And wholly because God orchestrated all of it.  And we got to see Him do it.  For just a moment He gave us His eyes to see a picture that is so huge and beyond what we could ask or imagine...

Even now it is almost too much to share.  The generosity that has continued to pour in over the last few months.  That we get to take these offerings with us.  That we get to present them for you.  To say I am humbled... Well, that is the understatement.

What is it that God will do?  What has He already done?  How much more could He bless?  Who can say?  But we are excited to take you on this journey with us.  

Anthony, Christopher and I will be leaving Portland in February for Ethiopia.  We will also spend time in Uganda.  I'm not sure how much I will be able to correspond during that time, so I am sharing as much with you now as I can.

Wait... I think I hear the door bell.  Yup, it's the nurse.  The final three of eight immunizations and I guess I am ready to go.  A couple more Snoopy band-aids and I'm all done.

And who knows... maybe we are party people after all.  
At least Ethiopian style.






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

No, I insist on paying you for it.

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter 2 - Sacrifice



Linda, me, Beth, Jackie and Charlotte
January 2010 - Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration


Obedience often means sacrifice.  And when you are willing to be obedient to an omniscient God, He may ask you to sacrifice something that you didn't realize the obedience would cost you.  And He won't always tell you why. 

My trip to Ethiopia/Uganda physically begins on February 5th of 2014.  And the physical part of it all costs quite a chunk of change.  Anthony and I had agreed that it would be our 25th Wedding Anniversary gift to one another, so there wasn't a need for me to be focused on the cost of the trip.  Still I kept having this impression from the Lord that I needed to raise part of my funds if not all of them.

God reminded me of 2 Samuel 24 where King David wants to build an altar to God on Araunah's threshing floor. And Araunah offered it freely to David, but David said, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” And that is how I felt. That I didn't want to offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing.

So there were a couple personal "conveniences" I decided to cancel and that would end up covering almost half the trip. And so I thought I was good.

But then God impressed on me that I should sacrifice something else.  Something of my heart.  What is it, Lord?  What would you want me to sacrifice of my heart to you?  The SSMTC.  The Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration in Houston, Texas with Beth Moore.  I have been planning on attending for at least two years.  I have been memorizing the book of James in preparation.  The SSMTC is held in late January.  I would have to buy an airline ticket, rent a hotel room and a rental car.  And although I share these costs with other precious Siestas/sisters... it still costs. 

And I would give up meeting with those precious sisters that I had met in 2010.  And then we roomed together in 2012.  And Charlotte and I were planning on reciting the book of James together in 2014.  The same version even.  The discontinued NIV 1984.

And so it was the SSMTC.  The financial cost of it.  Not just giving up a couple conveniences... but would I give up my heart's desire to go to Houston.  Why, yes, Lord. I would give up everything to You, of course. 

And so there it was.  A sacrifice.  Sacrifices.  A heart's desires placed on an altar.

And of course, an omniscient God would know that me taking a trip to Houston in late January right before a trip to Ethiopia/Uganda would be physically taxing.  And mentally taxing.  (I only have so much grace to give when I travel.)  And the planning.  God knew I would not have the concept of the amount of planning necessary for a trip to Ethiopia/Uganda.  No idea at all... even though Anthony has been multiple times.  I had no idea at all.

And so... lesson learned.  Obedience often means sacrifice.  And when you are willing to be obedient to an omniscient God, He may ask you to sacrifice something that you didn't realize the obedience would cost you.  And He doesn't have to tell you why.  But I trust that He knows why... and that He has an even greater plan to bring Him glory.

 


Praise the Lord!
Let all that I am praise the Lord.
Psalm 146:1 






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God, of course, I would do anything for you!
But just don't send me to Africa.

 The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
 Chapter 1 - Obedience

 Ethiopia 2011
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


"God, of course, I would do anything for you!  But just don't send me to Africa."

Obedience.

When Anthony introduced the idea of traveling to Ethiopia for missions work, I was asked multiple times by many people if I would be going with him.  I would respond the same way each time, "God hasn't called me to go to Ethiopia, but when He does I will go."

Anthony's first trip to Ethiopia with a missions team from our church was in January of 2009.  He has gone six times.  Each time he has encouraged me to go with him.  And each time he has gone without me.

I will go when He tells me to.
I will be obedient when God speaks to me.
And I was so grateful that He didn't speak to me about it until sometime in November of 2012.
But when He did speak, I knew I would be obedient.

The only thing is that I assumed with my obedience would come an expectancy.  A joy.  A willing heart.  But it did not.  And it has not.

I am going.  I am being obedient.  I am not grumbling in my obedience.  (Okay, well, sometimes...)  But I am going.

And is obedience enough?  Or do I need to be more than willing?  More than able?  More than going?

I do know that God has great plans.  That He will use this willing vessel.  That I am going to be part of a bigger plan.

But perhaps it is who I am.  Neither excited or nervous (unless I really think about it).   Controlling my feelings as I have done as long as I have known how.

Writing this down as perhaps my way of saying, "God help me to be willing to be willing to experience my feelings about Ethiopia."

And, now, I say... "God, of course, I would do anything for you!  I will go if you send me to Africa."






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

and I babble...

Half Dome, Yosemite - photography by Christopher
November 2009

Words still escape me. A magical spontaneous trip to Yosemite in November of 2009. Never having been... I wasn't even sure what was in store for me. All I knew was that Anthony's anticipation made me long for the place I had never been.

It was a feast for the eyes. And being the blogger I am... I thought of all the wonderful posts I would be sharing with you... about this hidden jewel. The eye candy photographs tied with words of wonder... but alas... I have been speechless.

But I have noticed, when someone asks me about the trip to Yosemite... My eyes light up, my heart beats faster and I babble about standing around the park and just staring at sights I have never seen before. Sights that I could never have dreamed existed. And I am reminded of visits to the Grand Canyon... and Crater Lake. And how can you describe just how "grand" Grand Canyon is... or how blue Crater Lake is?

And the only thing I can compare it to... is my relationship with the Lord. How often words fail me when I try to explain what the Lord is doing in my life... How I want to describe His majesty, His beauty, His love... All I know is that when I am asked about Him... My eyes light up, my heart beats faster and I babble about how totally wonderfully awesome He is. And how grateful I am.

Especially this time of year... when my thorn starts to flare. And although I would rather run from depression, the Lord has asked me to draw near. He will take care of me. It is a trial. Sometimes a temptation. But I know that He will see me through.

And it makes sense. As I read through Anonymous... and Alicia Britt Chole speaks about Jesus' temptation in the wilderness... in the desert... I realize that is where I am. And it is where I learn the most. And it is where my experiences and weakness tend to show me how dependent I am on the Lord. And it makes me who I am.

And I stand on God's promises. Promises I have memorized this year.

That He will show up and take care of me.
He will bring me back home.
He knows what He is doing.
He has it all planned out.
He won't abandon me.
He will give me a future.
He will listen to me.
He can be found.
He'll turn things around for me.
I can count on it.

This is God's Word on the subject:
"As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before,
I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.
I know what I'm doing.
I have it all planned out—
plans to take care of you,
not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.

"When you call on me,
when you come and pray to me,
I'll listen.

"When you come looking for me, you'll find me.

"Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree.

"I'll turn things around for you.
I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you"—God's Decree—
"bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile.
You can count on it.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 MSG



originally written November 30, 2009

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What Are You Waiting For?


Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  (John 11:17)
A woman in a crowd who had suffered for twelve years.  (Luke 8:43)
A woman appeared with a spirit that crippled her for 18 years.  (Luke 13:11)
A man who was blind from birth.  (John 9:1)

"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 hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

We often wonder... "How long do I have to wait?"
Until my child is healed of leukemia?
Until I get a job?
Until my marriage is healed?
Until my child learns self-control?
Until I no longer suffer with depression?
Until I get over my heart break?
Until my husband is healed of his addiction?
Indeed. How long? Let's look at the verse that precedes Jeremiah 29:11...

This is what the LORD says:
"When seventy years are completed for Babylon,
I will come to you and
fulfill my gracious promise
to bring you back to this place."
Jeremiah 29:10

When seventy years are completed? Huh? Do I have to wait 70 years?

Honestly, I don't know how long you will have to wait for God to fulfill a promise that He has made to you. In the New Testament we see that Jesus performed miracles for people who waited four days... twelve years... eighteen years... or their whole life.

So, I ask you... can you wait? Can you wait for God's timing? And what will you do if you choose to wait? And if you don't want to wait... what other options are there?

Waiting...
It's painful.
It's exhausting.
It's not easy.

But there is...
Hope.
Confidence.
Peace.
...and a Future.



"While I'm Waiting" lyrics by John Waller

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord

Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience


While I'm waiting

I will serve You

While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting

I'm waiting on You, Lord

And I am peaceful

I'm waiting on You, Lord

Though it's not easy

But faithfully, I will wait

Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting

I will serve You while I'm waiting

I will worship while I'm waiting

I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord



John Waller - While I'm Waiting (Official Music Video) from Provident Label Group on Vimeo.


This post is part of a earlier series I wrote on Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Silver Rule

Silver Ice
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


The Silver Rule:
"What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”~ Confucius


I was at the home of a dear friend the other day.  She is in great pain due to a back injury.  I had called her and asked if I could offer a Starbucks delivery.  After some discussion (was I sure I wanted to come over because her house was a wreck... and she didn't have cash to pay me back...), she agreed.

Within minutes of my arrival (with a skinny venti Chai Tea Latte in hand) ... another of her friends had arrived with a freshly prepared meal for the evening.  As we sat and chatted, my dear friend admitted how difficult it is to accept such acts of generosity.  We started to discuss this in great detail. Why is it so difficult to accept acts of generosity?  Was it upbringing?  Was it pride?  Was it humility?  Or all of the above?

I've been thinking more about our conversation lately.  This dear friend of mine is a servant.  She prepares homemade meals ahead of time once a month (and freezes them) in preparation to take to someone -- she may barely know -- who is in need.  When she receives an abundant supply of anything, she passes on what she cannot use to those in need... wrapped with a bow on top!  She makes herself and her home available to anyone who would stop by... and invites young women from her church to her home to be mentored and discipled.  She is an encourager.  She is full of God-given joy.  She prays and God answers in ways she could never ask or even imagine to ask.  She embraces God and whatever morsel God speaks to her... she presses into those who need to hear... who are desperate to hear about hope and promise and future.

No, she is not a saint.  She will be protesting as she reads this because she knows she is not a saint and readily admits it... actually for the whole world to read.  But she has had a hard life and through that hard life... she has been softened and molded into a servant and follower of Christ.  She seeks to do His will.  To follow the first and greatest commandment...

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and 
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 
This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

And the second greatest commandment...

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:39-40 NIV

Which is also known as The Golden Rule...

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 NIV 

And all of this made me wonder... why would my friend expect anything less than what is given to her?  Those whom she has "done to"... are "doing" back to her.  And so I wonder... would she do less so that she would not receive back in abundance?  Would she love less so that she would not be so loved in return?  No.  Not her.  And so she must subject herself to the reciprocity of her actions.  The problem being... her motives.  She never did any of these things in expectation of her own benefit... and yet by receiving the generosity of others it may nullify her pure motives.  But it doesn't.

And so, we must learn to receive from others.  Graciously.  If the Lord encourages someone to love their neighbor as them self, who are we to deny them of their obedience to the Lord?  We, ourselves, must follow the Golden Rule... and do to others what we would have them do to us.  Lest we settle for second best... and follow the Silver Rule, "What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”

It is something I have been mulling over for myself.  Wondering why I do for others... is it in expectation of return?  Is it for the gratitude and recognition I receive?  Does it make me feel like I am more blessed and so I must bless others?  Does it just give me a good feeling each time?  And honestly, sometimes... there is truth to that.  But I feel that in following the Greatest Commandment, I have committed myself to the second greatest commandment... and I end up going for the gold.  And in so doing, encouraging others to do the same.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while 
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, 
which perishes even though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor 
when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV



originally posted January 12, 2011