“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, March 17, 2017

The 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 Ethiopian widows for hours.  Just knitting.  No interpreter.  Just me and them.  Smiling.  Nodding.  Me occasionally 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 stay-at-home mom 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 

2 Corinthians 2:15

It was written on a 3x5 note card with a heart sticker that my precious 88-year old (now 91-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, Ray Noah, 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?" he said.  And 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.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This Jar is Cracked

Clay Oil Lamps similar to those used over 2,000 years ago 
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

We now have this light
shining in our hearts,

but we ourselves are like
fragile clay jars
containing this great treasure

This makes it clear that
our great power is from God,
not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

I marvel at the thought that God's light shines within me. And also through me... considering all the chips and cracks in this particular jar of clay. How easy it is to see God's great power when the gaps and crevices allow the light to shine through.

And so I was caught off guard when I came across this verse in Jeremiah:

"This is what the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel, says:
Take these documents,
both the sealed and unsealed
copies of the deed of purchase,
and put them in a
clay jar

so they will last a long time."
Jeremiah 32:14 NIV

The beauty of the Old Testament. The beauty of scripture interpreting scripture.

I had only ever considered Paul's inference towards the fragility of a clay jar.  Not the durability of a clay jar.

photography by Anthony Kaetzel

Anthony took this picture when we were in Israel in 2008. These jars are similar in nature to the jars that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls when they were found in 1947. Jars of clay that protected ancient manuscripts for almost 2,000 years.

Although fragile in nature. 
They were used for preservation. 
Preservation of the word of God. 
Worthy of holding a treasure.

And that is me. 
And that is you.
"And what a awesome thought—
God has always put his eternal treasure
in fragile jars of clay,
and though the jars eventually break,
the treasure doesn’t,
but somehow makes the jars themselves eternal."
- Pastor Ray Noah

Monday, June 20, 2016

You Have Stayed Long Enough At This Mountain

"...You have stayed long enough at this mountain."  
Deuteronomy 1:6

Preface:  This summer I am studying the book of Deuteronomy and I remembered this post I wrote six years ago.  I have moved on from that mountain... but for sure there I times I try to circle back!  Original post is here.

And that's when I felt the Lord say... 
You have stayed long enough at this mountain, Sheri.  
Time to give up that hope. 

For me, my bondage has been to affirmation.  Positive affirmation.  Now, please don't get me wrong.  Affirmation is a wonderful thing.  Very necessary and life giving.  We need encouragement.  But for me it can become an obsession.  I can't have affirmation from just some people.  It needs to be from all.  And there are some people who need to give me affirmation exactly how I expect it and if not I am distraught.  And nothing else matters in life.

In the Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer, One In A Million, I saw it as plain as day.  Priscilla was discussing when the Israelites were leaving Egypt and heading to the promised land.  They craved what they left behind in Egypt.  (Numbers 11:4-7) Because the Israelites had experienced the things of Egypt, they selectively only remembered the pleasure of them and not the bondage of them. They felt that what they knew would have to be better than anything else that could be offered.  They would stick with what they knew.  It worked for them.  And as I read the story I wondered how could you ever desire slavery over freedom?  But the truth be told... I do it all the time.

Early on I would find affirmation however I could.  I wanted attention whether positive or negative made no matter... just notice me.  I grew up trying to find affirmation through grades or guys.  It became addictive.  The Lord helped me to see that the ways I was trying to get affirmation were destructive.  They were not fulfilling.

Then I began to find ways to fill my need for affirmation in ways that were constructive.  Positive friendships.  Trying to change my expectations.  Affirming myself.  And yet, it wasn't enough.  There would always be one or two people who I felt should affirm me, but didn't... and I would be crushed.

I came to a crossroads.  As I began mentoring some of my younger sisters-in-Christ, the topic of affirmation would come up.  And I was stuck.  I couldn't help them.  I couldn't help myself.  Some of them were in the same situation I was.  What was I to do?

So, I decided to force the situation.  That didn't work.  I tried talking to others about it.  That became gossip.  I tried to read books on the topic... that helped... some.  I started to pray for that person to change.  That didn't work.  I started to pray that I would change... now... I began to see some movement... in me.

And I have felt much relief and freedom.  But when I was doing Day Three of Week One of Priscilla's study-- entitled, "Bound to a Memory" -- I realized I was not yet free.  Completely free.  Because I had exchanged my immediate desperate need for affirmation from a particular person into a future fulfillment of that need.  Meaning, I was finding comfort in the fact that one day that person would affirm me.  I was able to be content today with that person... and with that need for their affirmation, because I had finally resigned myself that one day... one day... they would truly see me... and they would affirm me.  And I could be patient... and wait for that.

And that's when I felt the Lord say... You have stayed long enough at this mountain, Sheri.  Time to give up that hope.  Time to not rely upon the hope that I would ever be affirmed by that person.  Not that they won't affirm me... but that I was to no longer cover my symptoms.  I still had that desperate desire to be affirmed by that person... but I had covered it up... and that was no longer good enough.

It is now time for me to stop looking back.  Stop looking longingly back.  Again, let me reiterate that affirmation in itself is not a bad thing.  Nothing is inherently wrong with it.  But I wanted it more than what God wanted for me.  God is offering me an abundant life in Christ... free from bondage... free from insecurity... free from the future hope of someone's affirmation.  Free from the dependence on someone else to meet my needs.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 
Stand firm, then, 
and do not let yourselves be burdened 
again by a yoke of slavery.  
Galatians 5:1

And although there will be times, the allure of someone's affirmation will tempt me... I have resolved to stand firm... and look forward to the promised land of abundant living that Christ has set before me.  And now... as I move from this mountain... I pray my testimony of God's faithfulness will encourage those I influence to do the same.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Take Easter With You" to Detox

"Take Easter with you."

I dropped her off for detox this morning.  She was anxious.  Shivering sometimes.  Sweating sometimes.  Tears one minute and laughter the next.  She couldn't stop drinking hard cider on her own.  And today was the day they had a bed open.  And so we drove to what she called the bowels of the city and chided me that she couldn't believe I would drop her off and leave her there.

The drive from her apartment seemed to take forever and she was grateful for that.  She spoke to me of how good God is.  And the different women who are in her life now.  She used to not trust women she said, but now she is receiving God's love through different ones.  We had been loving on her for years but now she was able to receive it.  Accept it.  Flourish in it.

Yesterday was Easter.  And she was so determined to make it to church that she invited her neighbors and a drinking buddy to church with her so that she wouldn't back out.  And she made it.  She was there yesterday.  Giving me a hug that probably covered years of huglessness.  A hug that signified that she trusted me.  A hug that meant she had hope.

When we spoke later that day she shared how the Easter message given by our pastor resonated with her.  Comforted her.  And not only her but her neighbors and her drinking buddy.  She said they had cried through most of the sermon.  And that her drinking buddy even decided to call his mother yesterday. 

She had asked her friends to come to church to assure that she went.  But here she was in the very midst of her mess bringing people to hear of the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And it made a difference to them.  She didn't have to wait to go to detox and get her life in order before she asked them... she did it in the middle of the mess.

On the drive to the detox center she got a text.  It read "Take Easter with you."  It was from her drinking buddy who knew she was on her way to detox.  Who wanted to encourage her.  Her phone would probably be taken from her in just a few minutes when she entered through the detox doors so these were last words she would be hearing from them.  And I about cried.  My heart leapt.  And I thanked God for His very goodness.

"Take Easter with you."  Four words that hold hope.  That are living water to a thirsty soul.  That mean the difference between life and death.  Our pastor had spoke these words to me, to her, to her neighbors, to her drinking buddy.  Words that signified what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means to those who believe.  That heaven and earth are adjoining spaces.  That Jesus is closer than we think.  That resurrection power will be a real possibility NOT just a future hope.  That what is dead can be resurrected.

Romans 8:11  
"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, 
he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies 
because of his Spirit who lives in you."

Yes, "Take Easter with you" sweet little sister.  Let those words resonate in your ears.  And when I return to the bowels of the city to pick you up we will celebrate (with a Blue Star donut)
and we will know that Easter matters
and experience that what you thought was dead is now resurrected. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Is God Waiting For Us To Win The Lottery?

Lately, people have been posing the question, "What would you do if you won the US Powerball Jackpot?"  And most reply that they would whole-heartedly consider giving a large amount to charity.  But I wonder if we shouldn't wait to win the lottery before we become so generous...

 Darling Ethiopian Princess with Her Treasured Toy
November 2010

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.

Many rich people threw in large amounts. 
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, 
worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 
They all gave out of their wealth; 
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—
all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 NIV


I grew up in what I considered poverty. Some nights dinner consisted of cold cereal. No milk. Just cereal. And it was the non-brand kind. Bills would go unpaid. Eviction would be threatened. We would hide from the newspaper delivery boy when he would show up at the door requiring payment.

But in a few days or the next day, it would be pay day. And we would go to the grocery store and eat out for dinner at Gino's and get our hair cut and maybe go to a movie that weekend. And pay our rent. And a couple bills. But not necessarily the newspaper delivery boy.

My sis and I grew up with a single mom. During a time when dads could get away without paying their child support. We didn't have a car. I wore hand me downs. And there were even times we might "borrow" things (like toilet paper rolls) from establishments, but never repay them.

I thought we were poor. And compared to the American dream... we were.

When my mom married my step-father in my junior year of high school. I started receiving allowance. Weekly. $20. (And there was ALWAYS food in the kitchen... and clothes with tags still attached in the closets... and toilet paper. The brand name kind.)

And it was then, that I started tithing. I don't remember ever tithing before that time. $2 every week. Went right into the offering. And when I started working, I would tithe on those paychecks. And when Anthony and I got married and lived on his one paycheck a month... while I finished college (on scholarships and grants and financial aid)... and we would eat boxed Macaroni and Cheese for dinner, we would tithe. We tithed in what we thought was our poverty.

And before we knew it, we were living the American Dream. Paychecks would come twice a month. We could purchase meat to go with the Macaroni and Cheese. And we would tithe. But now our giving was out of our wealth.


We may think we need to be wealthy to be significant givers. We think... when I have money then I will bless those around me. I will be the one doing the blessing. But isn't that kind of the American dream? We think that if we are able to give more that somehow we are more significant. Or beneficial to the kingdom cause. As if God will be more pleased with us, if our gifts are larger than the gifts of others. Than the gifts of those in poverty. But is He?

Here we see Jesus take a seat where he could see (and hear) people dropping their gifts into the temple treasury. And then calls His disciples over to watch... listen... and learn. He didn't even ask them what they thought. He just went on ahead and told them. Wonder why that is? It wasn't even a parable. He just told them flat out... her gift is of more significance. Of more value. Seriously? She put in a fraction of a penny! And they threw in large amounts! Huh?

God is not concerned with the amount that we give. He is concerned with our hearts. Our hearts to give selflessly. Our hearts to give joyfully. Our hearts to give out of obedience and love for Him. He is not waiting for us to get wealthy or win the lottery so that we can give a huge sum of money to starving children or to Ethiopia or to pay off the church debt. He is not waiting.

But He is watching.
Watching His children learn how to trust Him.
In all things.
Whether in perceived poverty... or received wealth.
Will we give what we'll never miss... or will we give our all?

Sitting across from the offering box,
he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.

Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—
a measly two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said,
"The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection
than all the others put together.
All the others gave what they'll never miss;
she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—
she gave her all."

Mark 12:41-44 The Message

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

His Story to Tell

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Eleven - A Story To Tell

February 17th, 2014
Christopher in Uganda 

When we tell our stories it enables the listener to spend time with Jesus.

Written Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Mbale, Uganda

I stumbled upon it.  A private moment in a public place.  A man praying for another man.  I stood quietly in the stairwell with my head bowed.  Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched, too.

The man praying was my son.  My boy, 14 years old at the time.  Praying for a man who was at least four times older than himself.  The man had just lost his 5 month old granddaughter in a car accident.  His daughter was in critical condition.

Christopher had just happened upon this man in this hotel stairwell.  And the man had opened up to Christopher and the man asked for prayer.  Christopher determined to pray for the man, Stewart, right there and right then in the very public stairwell.

The hotel was quiet really.  We were in Uganda.  On a missions trip in early 2014.  A trip that Christopher had at one time wondered why he had to come with his parents.  Whether God had a plan for him on a missions trip to Africa.

Later as I shared what I had observed to my husband, we were overwhelmed with Christopher's compassion and obedience to pray for the man.  And we would find out later that one of our pastors, Linda, had observed the whole thing.  All of this.  Including me with head bowed.

The next morning as we met for our morning devotional with the mission team, Christopher recounted the story about praying for Stewart.  And as he did someone gasped.  A deep gasp.  Pastor Kirk from the Denver Vineyard Church pulled in his breath so sharply that we all took note.  And with shock he shared that he was late to our morning devotional because he had just checked his e-mail and received a message from a former college roommate.  The former roommate had asked Pastor Kirk if he could find his friend who was in Mbale.  There had just been a car accident.  Could Pastor Kirk please see if he could connect with this friend who had just lost his granddaughter and offer solace?  And we all gasped under our breath.  Could it really be the same man? 

Christopher looked up from where he was sitting.  He could see Stewart across the lobby.   Christopher took Pastor Kirk and introduced them to each other. 

I had went up to the room.  When Christopher returned he was beaming.  It was the same - THE VERY SAME - man and situation.  And Christopher informed me that he was invited with Pastor Kirk to go to the hospital and visit the daughter to pray for her.  For her recovery physically, emotionally, spiritually.

And the rest of us "adults" were full of wonder.  Just thinking of the events that would bring us to this particular hotel.  And a child's obedience to the prompting of God's Spirit to pray.  We are each precious in His sight.  Perhaps all of this was orchestrated for Stewart.  Or was it for his daughter?  Or to build my faith?  Or for Christopher to see God's promise fulilled that he had a calling to go on this missions trip? And I cannot put words to my feelings of watching my son become a man using his unique gifts to be used by God to bring comfort to a family.  To touch others for God.

Earlier in the week Kari had led our morning devotion.  She shared with the group different occasions when she was obedient to the Lord even when it was hard.  She said she wasn't sharing the incidents because she wanted our praise.  She shared them to remind us that we are here for God's glory and we are to be obedient to the Lord and that when we tell our stories it enables the listener to spend time with Jesus.  As if we are unlocking the kingdom for people.  She challenged us to believe that we are here for the moment.  For this moment.  And for this person.

When we tell our stories it enables the listener to spend time with Jesus.

And to realize that I almost tried to SAVE Christopher from coming on this trip.  Remembering these thoughts that I had written before we left for Africa...

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Warning: Somewhat Vague Facebook Post
"I love my church family. Love. Love. Love."

 Little voices praising our Savior.

I wrote a somewhat vague Facebook post yesterday.

"I love my church family.  Love.  Love.  Love."

This particular Sunday I was standing between my husband and one of my precious friends and with another precious friend behind me.  We were singing worship songs.  And the songs were proclaiming how much God cares for us and how amazing He is and that He is good. 

~I had a bit of a rough mental morning.  I love going to church.  I love seeing my church family.  I love hugging and chatting with dear souls.  But I'm an introvert.  And a thinker.  And sometimes (read almost always) can get a bit overstimulated on Sunday mornings and I begin to become agitated.  So when I am standing in the foyer of the church and someone (read teenager) throws a notebook across the foyer as people are coming into the sanctuary I may or may not use a stern voice and an evil eye.  Yikes.  Who am I?

So, I'm standing there worshiping God in song and I feel that heat behind my eyes and a bit of a twitch underneath my eyes.  I recall that I am not wearing mascara so I decide to let the tears flow.

~I had a bit of a rough mental morning.  I had been making plans to visit a friend from church who is in the hospital because she sometimes  forgets how precious she is and harms herself.

The tears flow and they flow.  Cue the Kleenex box.  As my one friend rubs my back to show she cares and the other puts her hand on my shoulder.

~I had a bit of a rough mental morning.  I needed to have a discussion with one of my church sisters about another situation which would need to wait although my thoughts were piling up one upon the other with my brain about ready to explode.
I started to think that during prayer time that I wanted to be prayed for.  Normally, I am up front and pray with those who come up for prayer.  But this day I wanted prayer for me.  I needed prayer for me.  And I knew that if this one particular senior church sister went up front that I was going to run to her for prayer.

~And she went forward and I rushed to her.  I put my arms around her neck and sobbed.  I didn't have to say a word.  She prayed over me with words that only God could have given her.  She knew what to pray.  It was beautiful.

~And then two precious girls who had received my evil eye ended up walking past me... and I asked them for forgiveness.

~And I visited my friend in the hospital and we laughed and shared and prayed and made some plans.

~And that conversation with one of my church sisters ended up with me realizing that God has a much bigger plan for me that I don't have a clue about.

Sometimes people are surprised that we have attended the same church for almost 20 years.  And I think "I love my church family.  Love.  Love.  Love."

And they love me back!

Praying that you find a church family that you can call your own.  I might be able to recommend one!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

You have loved me as only a Father could...


Heavy sigh.  I'm glad Father's Day is once a year.  The emotions and memories that are stirred by the thought that the man who should have been my protector was actually my predator can overwhelm me.  I have forgiven him, but the consequences of his actions are mine and not his. He has since passed away 17 years ago.  And as I take the day to celebrate my most amazing husband and those men who have shown themselves as protectors and as I grieve for those of you who have lost a beloved father I press into my heavenly Father and say a prayer for those of you who totally relate with me. 

This is a psalm I wrote 17 years ago to honor My Heavenly Father.

A Psalm 

My Father’s Eyes

Lord, You said You are the Father to the fatherless.
I have clung to that promise since I was a child.
You are true to Your word.
You have loved me as only a Father could
Is there anyway to repay You?
I fall so short, yet You accept my love, and I am made complete.

When my earthly father abused me
When my earthly father left me
When my earthly father denied me my inheritance
When my earthly father was laid in the grave….

Lord, You were there for me.
You filled the gap.
You held me tightly.
You are a faithful friend.
Yet You do not let me go on my merry way.
You bring discipline in just ways.
I am never out of Your sight.

You fill me with love overflowing.
You give me beautiful flowers to wear in my hair.
You give me love for Your other children.
You grant me peace.
You grant me quiet.
You shower me with friends.
You have given me abundant life.
I can hardly breathe.
I am so overwhelmed.
I am in awe of You.
May my life reflect You.
May I always be found in Your will.
May I hear those wonderful words…
“Daughter, I am so proud of you!”

One day, when my life is but a memory on earth,
I pray that it will be said of me
“She had her Father’s eyes.”

Written June 6th, 1998 at CPC Oceanside Retreat in memory of my Heavenly Father

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Lesson: Barefoot and Frustrated

For 40 years I have believed that it was illegal to drive barefoot.  It happened when I was probably about 7 and lived in the state of Maryland.  My dad had driven the wrong way up a one way street.  The police pulled him over.  And I remember that he wasn't wearing shoes.  And I remember that he said to me they told him he couldn't drive barefoot.

Since that day, I have been convinced that if I drove barefoot I would be given a ticket if pulled over for another reason.  I would have gone to the mat on it.  I would not drive barefoot ever and I would not let anyone drive barefoot. 

Our 16 year old son is taking driver's ed.  I had to attend the required parental meeting.  In that meeting the instructor said that if a student arrived to practice driving with sandals on that they would have to remove their sandals and drive barefoot.  No sandals.  Bare feet... Huh?

So, was that only true for Oregon?  I looked up the Maryland DMV and sure enough... it is legal to drive barefoot.

I was numb.  I was angry.  I was frustrated.  All those years that I rushed to ruin my freshly painted pedicure because I believed it was illegal to not wear shoes while driving.  Humph.

I know it seems trite.  It is.  But the truth is that I really would have gone to the mat on something that I learned in my childhood and believed it was true.  I never questioned it.  For 40 years!

And the lesson of all this AND why I am sharing it with you... What else did I learn in my childhood that isn't true?  What other beliefs have I left unchallenged?  Not driving barefoot didn't scar me for life, but I wonder if there are other things I have adopted as truth that if I took the time to look at them would prove to be untrue.

Actually, I'm a little afraid to let my heart and mind go there.  But I won't go alone.  God will go with me.  And some of you will walk alongside me, too.

And I wonder if you might have something that you need to challenge, too?  Perhaps related to your value and worth.  It might be difficult but it might be life-changing. 

And you can be certain of this - The next time I go for a pedicure you can bet I'll leave the nail salon sans shoes!  Want to join me?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Desert of Depression:
Celebrating January 15th, 2006
My 9th Anniversary

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico 
photography by Anthony

She still visits me
although she is not welcome.

She knows that I am stronger.
But that doesn't bother her.

She's persistent.

She takes advantage of any situation.
A mispoken word.
A hurt feeling.
The weather.
A head cold.

She'll just try to sneak in...
she is slow and subtle.
And sometimes I let my guard down...
and I let her in...
And I become just like her.

But it isn't for long
because I have learned her weaknesess...
and I have learned my strengths.

I have heard that she has been visiting you lately.
And you are having a hard time resisting her.
You are weak.
And she knows it.

But she is no longer a secret.
We don't have to hide her anymore.
Although some do.
I don't.
I can't.

Has been defeated.
On January 15th, 2006
she came for a visit.
And she was ruthless.

But God has comforted me
in my troubles.
So now I can
bring comfort 
to you.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble 
with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surviving Depression at Christmas

photography by Anthony Kaetzel

Dear friend,

I know this year has been hard for you. Everyone is wishing you a MERRY Christmas or a HAPPY Holidays... and you wish that was true. That it was merry or happy.  But it is not.  You are finding no joy in Christmas this year.  Actually, you find Christmastime to be stressful... anxiety-ridden... and depressing.

You are struggling to make it through Christmas.  You know friends and family mean well when they say, "it's okay... just be happy... it's Christmas." And you are trying.  Trying so hard, but you're thinking that you just want to lie back down and pull the covers over your head.

Surviving Christmas.  Sometimes... we just have to survive Christmas.  We know it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  And we are thankful for His birth.  But all the rushing... all the purchases... all the interactions with friends and family... all the EXPECTATIONS... all the unmet expectations... well, it is just so overwhelming.

And so here is my gift to you...
Dear Lord,
I pray You would be with my friend today. That You would give them rest and peace. I pray that You would give sensitivity to those they encounter. I pray that You would plant a seed of hope within them.
You say in Romans 8:11 ...if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  So I pray that You would give life to my friend. Life in their heart, soul, mind and strength.
And that You would be their strength in surviving Christmas.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
I love you, friend.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Without them I would die.

She asked me almost sheepishly, "Do you ever get tired of taking your meds?"  I paused and thought about her question.  I knew she wasn't asking me.  She was trying to tell me something.  It was about her.  About her being tired of taking her meds.

"No, I don't," I said.  "I don't get tired of taking them." 

Then she said, "Oh, because sometimes I stop taking them and I feel better for a while.  But then I sink, again."

"Yes, I know," I thought.  Side effects.  The good with the bad.  Mentally feeling better, but then there is the weight gain or the lack of sleep or too much sleep or the loss of sensing pleasure.  And, of course, there is the shame.

"No, you know I have to take my meds.  Without them I would die."  And it is true.  Without my thyroid medication I would stop metabolizing and without a miracle my body would stop functioning.  But she wasn't asking about the thyroid medication.  She was asking about the anti-depressants.  But the answer was the same.  "No, you know I have to take my meds.  Without them I would die."

You see, I went for a time without my anti-depressants.  I was so concerned with some of the side-effects that I wanted to go off of them or change them.  Not realizing at the time how different anti-depressants are.  Not knowing how one affects this part of the brain and that one another.  But I wanted to be more normal and not deal with the side-effects.  But I had no idea how the medication I had been on was helping my brain to function.

Not my soul.  Not my spirit.  But my brain.  My physical brain.  How the chemistry had been screwed up because of childhood abuse and trauma.  And then Thyroid Cancer.  And of course, heredity.  But that doesn't shield the shame.  Because I should be stronger.  I should be more joyful.  I should have more faith.  Just snap out of it.   Don't you know how wonderful you have it?  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Yes, I do have it wonderful.  I have a loving husband.  An amazing son.  Friends and family.  A roof over my head and so much more.  I have my Bible and my Bible studies and my church and church family.  I have a God who loves me more than I will ever comprehend and has told me I can come to Him with my needs and asked to be healed.  And I have.

And I believe He has.  Just as He has provided glasses for my farsightedness.  And replacement for my removed thyroid.  What exactly does healing have to look like?  Because in this weakness of mine, I am ever dependent on Him.  The anti-depressants don't fix that.  I still have to depend on Him and be thankful for every breath I breathe and every sane thought I have.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to share this today.  But I have a feeling that someone needed to know this.  To know that people who appear to have it all together from the outside don't always have it all together.  That shame is a funny thing whether it is imposed by another or not.  Or whether the shame is perceived.  And that not all anti-depressants are the same.  And there is a balance between the benefits and side-effects.  And that anti-depressants don't bring joy, but they give the ability to help experience it once again.

No, I didn't tell her to take her meds anyway.  That is her choice.  She knows her brain better than I do.  I just answered her question.  And a couple questions after that.  Because she felt safe talking to me about it. 

And even though I take my meds and share about it, I still petition the Lord for my healing. 
And whenever the cloud of shame starts to rain, I ask Him, again. 
And His words of life spill in my ear,
"My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness."  
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

Praying that today you are comforted by the Father of Comfort and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace and peace to you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Ten - First World Problems

February 10, 2014 - Gojo, Ethiopia
Taken just hours after I wrote in my journal.

Yesterday my husband boarded a plane for Africa with a team from our church.  EAST Africa thousands of miles from the Ebola outbreak, but back to my story... He is taking the same trip that Christopher and I took with him in February.  And as you can imagine this trip is stirring up memories from that trip.  Memories that seem like a lifetime ago.  Memories that continue to shape who I am and especially who I am in Christ.

The trip in February was hard.  Just plain hard.  And there is no getting around that fact.  You cannot make 24 hours of travel time easy.  You cannot make seeing things that you have never seen before not affect you.  Like children who have less than nothing.  Just because you are being obedient to what God called you to does not make the trip easy.  It was hard.  And, actually, that is okay.  Easy is easy.  But hard can be the difference between slipping into a life dedicated to nothing and a life that is dedicated to serving the Lord with all your might.  Hard makes you strong.

As I think of the team headed over to serve, I remember those first few days.  A transition from my cushy American life to something I had never encountered before.  And in my weariness both physically and emotionally I struggled.  Little things became big things that bothered me.  Looking back, of course, I can say whole heartedly that it was worth it all.  But that first morning in Gojo, Ethiopia I wasn't so sure...

February 10, 2014
1st Gojo Morning

This is the morning I lost it.  Or should I say I am losing it.  It is as if the first few days were just a wonderful vacation and I have woken up to reality.  No sleep.  No rest.  But for me it is adjusting to the FWP [First World Problem] of not being able to flush toilet paper.  The toilet paper ends up in a bin next to the toilet which is next to the tub where I am supposed to get clean.  I asked Anthony if he could find something to cover the open bucket - which they remove each day - but I am sick over it.  The bathroom floor is always wet, so I feel like I am dragging the potential for my upcoming stomach bug around the floor of the room.

The tears have come, again.  I cling to the words of Tana H. (who had months earlier taken her first missions trip to Romania) "It will get better."  That it will feel like I want to get on the first plane back home, but in a couple days it will get better.  She persevered and so can I.  My middle name is perseverance, right?

At least the coffee is good.  
Pray for me.  
I don't think I care enough about these people to do this.
And Anthony says it is prepping me for the widows' homes.
I can't feel organized.  Everything is in our large duffel bags which can't be spread out.

I am a wimp, right?

I look forward to re-reading this post and thinking "IT WAS WORTH IT ALL."

Raw words and raw emotions.  But it helps me to pray for the team who will be encountering their 1st day in Gojo on Saturday.  I know it won't be easy for them.

But it will be worth it all.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Just a few more minutes, please.

Don't wake up just yet.
Sleep a little longer.
Please delay your acceleration into adulthood just a few more minutes for me.
After today there is no turning back.

It may seem like a small thing,
But getting your driver's permit means that my mom role is changing yet, again.
Tears rush forth down my face as I think of how blessed I have been by God to be your mother.
To be the one to walk you through your childhood and growth spurts.
To see you mature and yet still keep a youthful spirit.

Please just lie there a little longer.
Just a few more minutes.
So that I can hold onto your childhood.
And not have to transfer more responsibility to you.
And transfer the ability to drive away.
And move into your adulthood.
Into a life where mom is perhaps cherished more, but needed less.

Just a few more minutes, please.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Can't Remain Silent

Originally aired November 1, 2009 when I was in the midst of the Beth Moore Esther Bible Study.

"For if you remain silent at this time,
relief and deliverance for the Jews
will arise from another place,
but you and your father's family will perish.
And who knows but that you have come to
royal position for such a time as this?"
Esther 4:14

I sat there amazed.

A Reversal of Destiny. Chiastic Structure. Divine Insomnia. Peripety. A Story Worth Telling.

No, I wasn't sitting there reading the book of Esther or working on my Esther Bible Study. I was at a fund-raising event for our local Pregnancy Resource Center.

I sat listening. Entranced. There she was on the stage... an Esther of sorts. Telling about a hinge in her life that redirected her path.

She had been 19 when her boyfriend sat her down and told her that there were only two options. Abortion or adoption. And truth be told... he wanted her to have an abortion.

She had been raised in a Christian home. Her parents were active in their church. Her heart hurt over the shame she would cause them... so she remained silent.

They secretly set up an appointment with an abortion clinic. After hearing the details, they decided to schedule the abortion for the next day.

The next day? The tomorrow? That sounded familiar.

If the king regards me with favor and
if it pleases the king
to grant my petition and fulfill my request,
let the king and Haman come tomorrow
to the banquet I will prepare for them.
Then I will answer the king's question.
Esther 5:8

And then she said... that in the night... she thought to herself... I need to talk to someone else before the abortion. But who? And then she recalled seeing brochures around her home about the Pregnancy Resource Center.

Not sleeping? Divine Insomnia? Brochures... chronicles?

That night the king could not sleep;
so he ordered the book of the chronicles,
the record of his reign,
to be brought in and read to him.
Esther 6:1

She told her boyfriend that before she had the abortion, she wanted to go to the Pregnancy Resource Center and talk to someone. And so they did.

And the counselor asked her if she wanted the abortion. And she said no. And the counselor asked her why she was having the abortion. And she said she wanted her boyfriend to say STOP! But he wasn't going to stop her... so she decided to do it.

She decided to stop herself.

And my heart is in my throat... because I am so like... PERIPETY! Here it is... here is THE HINGE! The hinge on which the reversal of destiny turns! Can you believe it?

And THEN she tells us that she hadn't told her daughter until recently. She decided to tell her -- after her daughter threw a Tea Party (or a feast/banquet of sorts), and asked that the money raised from the party go to the Pregnancy Resource Center. Her high school daughter didn't know the story. The Story Worth Telling!

And I am so like... GET OUT OF HERE! Chiastic Structure!? The very place (Pregnancy Resource Center) that had rescued her (the daughter)... she is now trying to rescue (by raising money).

The Reversal of Destiny. A precious daughter destined to be aborted...

And there she was... the precious daughter... in the room with us. Standing there. And she was beautiful and lovely. An Esther of sorts. Who had sat through her mother telling us Her Story Worth Telling.

With my heart in my throat, I quietly thanked the Lord that I was privileged to hear this story... and to hear it within days of learning about Reversal of Destiny in session six of the Esther Bible Study. And that it would be seared in my mind. Not just a lesson to be learned, but a story to be told.

A story of life. A story of redemption.

A story worth telling... and I thought... I can't remain silent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quit Helping Others

Even on crutches, I can snap green beans...

I hurt my knee the other week.  I can't put weight on it.  I can't walk without pain.  And when I realized that I would need someone to drive me to see the doctor, I knew immediately who I would ask.  I knew who would want to help me.  It was a friend who had asked me to help her after she was in a car accident.  Well, and actually that was two separate times.  I knew she would have no hesitation to help me in my time of need.  And she didn't hesitate.  She was more then happy to help me.  And she knew exactly the type of TLC I needed because she had experienced it from me.

Yesterday another friend came over and brought lunch.  After a time of conversation she looked me straight in the eye and asked me what else she could do for me.  I could tell she meant business.  That she hadn't traveled the half hour to see me just to be told that I didn't need her help.  Because I did.  And she knew it.  And I knew it.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled with the thought of accepting her offer of acts of service.  Accepting things like quality time or gifts or touch or words of affirmation... well, that just comes so easy to me.  But having to mouth the words, "yes, I was hoping to work on the laundry today" or "there are some dishes in the sink that won't fit in the dishwasher" felt like I was betraying our friendship.  Somehow allowing her to literally see my dirty laundry just might curse our friendship.  And really - don't most people want to just be let off the hook?

Oh, how I wanted to say, "Don't worry about it" but I also knew that she might leave at that moment.  So, I swallowed hard and let her help me.  And each time she asked "What else?" new hot tears would form.  And I told her so.  I kept telling her how hard it was.  And then tears welled in her eyes, too.

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: 
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; 
then grab the initiative and do it for them!" 
 Luke 6:31 in the Message version of the Bible

Oddly enough it occurred to me that I was living out the Golden Rule.  I was doing for her what I want others to do for me.  When I offer assistance that it would be lovingly accepted as an act of service.  How often have I been let off the hook when I truly wanted to serve?  When all I felt I had to give was a few moments of time that could be translated into clean dishes?  But I was told, "Don't worry about it" and so I left feeling that I hadn't helped at all.

And for her.  She, too, was living out the Golden Rule.  Surely, I would be the first one she would call in a time of need.  "Put me on the top of the list, please!"  Because if she left without being giving the opportunity to serve me, how would she feel in her time of need?  Would she feel comfortable reaching out to me?  Most likely not.  But now we are in some type of agreement.  Some type of covenant.  That we will be there for each other in times of need. 

I mentioned to my son that I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of help.  That it was so hard to accept it.  And with true wisdom he said, "Quit helping others, mom.  Then you won't have this problem."  Touché, my son.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clothe Yourself With Strength and Dignity
Even When You Are Hiking the Grand Canyon
and Smith Rock

God's Beauty... captured by my iPhone 
while waiting for Anthony to complete a 50K 
at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon

Beautiful.  Awe-inspiring.  Breath-taking.
Smith Rock boasts of God's handiwork.

Anthony thought it would be fun for him to run around Smith Rock this weekend by participating in a 50K race with 4,500 feet elevation gain.  I thought it would be fun to sit down and wait for him.

And as I waited for him to complete the race, I decided to capture the magnificance of the view with my minds-eye.  And my iPhone.

The next day we would hike some of the trails.  And as I huffed and puffed my way up out of the Crooked River Canyon and I noticed some people watching me... I felt a deja-vu moment.  When there was another time that I was climbing out of a canyon... and felt a little insecure...

Originally Posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
Clothe Yourself With Strength and Dignity
Even When You Are Hiking the Grand Canyon

 Looking Over Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge from Yavapai Point 
(Saturday, almost 24 hours after the hike.) August, 2011
Anthony brings the tripod to capture the three of us!
On Friday, we hiked to Ooh Aah Point (and Cedar Ridge) from the South Kaibab Trailhead in the Grand Canyon.  It was a 1.8 mile hike down into the canyon.  Descending 1200-1500 feet.  And with all the ooohing and aahhing we did... it took about 2 hours to get down to our goal destination.  We took the recommended amount of water per person.  We lathered the sunscreen.  We had hats and light clothing.  We had a lunch and snacks.  And we took plenty of rest breaks and photo op breaks.

Needless to say that this 43-year old mama was pretty durn proud of herself when she reached Ooh Aah Point (and Cedar Ridge).  Success!  What a goal for me... and what a view.  360 degrees of Grandiosa Canyon!  We were IN the canyon.  Seeing vistas that a majority of visitors would never see.  It was hot, but worth it.  We sat eating our lunch and swatting off the very aggressive red ants.  Looking at every detail far and near.

And then it was time.  Huh?  So, what you are telling me is that the real goal... the real success... would be getting this mama out of the canyon!  Still with plenty of water and rest, we headed back the way we came.  I knew it wouldn't be as scenic this time.  It would require every ounce of energy I could muster to get myself to the top.  

Worried?  Yup, he was.  Anthony was worried that I might suffer heat exhaustion.  So he hiked behind me.  Step by step.  Checking me every so often.  And making me rest and cool off as best as he could.  But the inevitable happened... and I was starting to suffer... and we knew it.  Our beloved water was becoming rarer and rarer.  Time to pray?  For sure!

And who would have imagined it?  But that a light rain began to pour down on us.  Just at the right time.  What a gift from God... because we knew without the blessing of raindrops we were going to have a situation on our hands.  It cooled my body temperature and I was able to pull/drag/tug/heave myself out of the canyon. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity... 
Proverbs 31:25

And as I was relishing my success... and dousing myself in water that was now so readily available... I found a rock to sit on as we waited for the bus to take us back to the car.

And as if I needed an example to share about my insecurity... I was about to get it.  Like it or not.  As we were waiting, I overheard a group of twenty-somethings say something about "how tired she looked... how worn out... how ragged."  And I looked up.  And they were all staring at me.

Immediately, almost instinctively, my head went straight down in shame.  I felt shame.  I knew how I looked.  I hadn't brought make-up or a hair curler or even a brush.  Barely any jewelry.  And even my top and shorts didn't quite match.  I knew my face was flushed red.  And I was still struggling to get my breathing back to normal.

And then almost as immediately, I felt this strange urge within me.  Shame?  I have NOTHING to be ashamed about it.  I am the same woman who was so proud of herself for pushing through and finishing this hike.  I am the same woman who decided not to worry with makeup.  Not to worry with my hair.  I was the one who decided to seek comfort over couture.  

And then in my strength and dignity, 
I raised my head.  
And looked them square in the eyes.  
And then I smiled.  
And my insecurity vanished 
as quickly as it came.

I have to admit that I am not sure of which instance I am more proud of... conquering the hike to and from Ooh Aah Point... or so instantly refusing insecurity to get the best of me.  Both things took a lot of hard work to do.  And I will always treasure the day that I hiked with my family and I will look at the photos and have the memories with me.  But knowing that I am getting to a point where I am not allowing my feelings and actions and reactions to be controlled by my insecurity... well, you know... that... is... PRICELESS!

Whether you are taking a hike... or trying to overcome your insecurity... make sure to invite some friends to go along with you!  I am so very grateful for the women who joined me this summer as we said, "So Long, Insecurity!"  We will complete our study on this Tuesday, but we are not finished.  We will continue on the journey, but this time we have one another!  Thank you, precious sisters, who helped me stay in the Word this summer.

Wordle: summer names 2

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
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.
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.