Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's been a long time. Hello again :). 

So much has happened since my last post in August. To make a long story short, we have transitioned at last into a new season of life. We now live in rural southern Oregon, in a handcrafted straw bale home. Our fourth child--the double stuffing in our oreo--was born. 

Quinn Noel: Made in Uganda, born in a Rubbermaid horse trough in our new bedroom in America.

It's hard to believe we now have four...

In light of this new season, I felt it was appropriate to close this blog and open a new one. I now write over here. Please come visit :).

Do we miss Uganda? Oh yes. I still cry over loved ones there. Thankfully, we have in our family two precious daily reminders of our life there...and that Uganda will never really leave us. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

behind us, before us

What lies behind us
and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to 
what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Today God painted my heart in the sky.

Today God painted my heart in the sky. Wisps of dark clouds danced with the dawn, somber gray swirling with sun-fire orange. I walked toward it as I wound through young cassava and old maize and wondered if His painting reflected my emotions or what He was doing within me. I’m not sure. But I know that was my heart in the sky. That was my heart draped above the land I had loved for years. And as I pressed hand into soil to bless it, I knew my blessing was received, my parting gift accepted. I gently dusted off the hand and heard a whisper, “It is finished.” Not His work, of course, but mine. Countless times had I walked between rows of maize young and green, whispering prayers for health and bounty. Countless times had I walked along fields freshly harvested, whispering prayers of thanks. And now it was finished. As I brushed hand over grasses bowed heavy with dew, I whispered my farewell. We have been friends, this land and I. I am thankful for every magical morning we spent welcoming the sun together, listening to the praises of the birds. And we joined in, the land and I, for our Creator is good. He is so good, and He does not leave this place. 

But I do. And I weep. Tears fall on soil soft for the goodbyes I say today: to land and children and friends. I wonder if hearts re-grow like livers can, because I leave so much of mine here. Today words stumble pitifully off my lips and I hope that chunk of heart I’m leaving is heard instead. It says what my words today cannot. I hope the land and son and friends saw my heart painted in the sky. I think God painted it there to speak on my behalf and to let me know He understands and that I must trust He’ll do the rest. I leave but He does not. He will keep the land and children and friends and chunk of heart. 

Today God painted my heart in the sky and carried me through a farewell and assured me He is good. His goodness is big enough to spread over land, sons, daughters, friends, heart, and even me as I leave...and to where I go. His goodness is big enough to cover it all. God painted my heart in the sky, but it was His heart that carried me through this day and made me believe it will be okay. 

It will be okay.

Monday, August 27, 2012

at least we're together.

Amidst the dizzying swirls of goodbyes and emptied spaces and mind-numbing checklists, it's a comfort to know a few things will stay the same. How thankful I am that these precious faces will cross the ocean with me...we are in this together.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

a letter of gratitude, a season of change

To those who have faithfully remembered our work in prayer; 
to those who couldn’t understand why we would move our family so far away yet encouraged us anyway;
to those who braved vaccinations and 20+ hours cramped in coach and wandering airports to personally deliver their hugs and see our life; 
to those who filled bags or barrels or boxes with their blessings;
to those who ‘snail’ mailed a Christmas card or letter with love;
to those who financially invested in the farm and our family even during a tumultuous economy,
we write this letter of gratitude and thanks to you:

We will forever be connected with Uganda. It has shaped our family through experiences of great joy and deep sadness, through cultural diversity, and lifelong relationships. We have learned and lived in community and interdependence.

We came to Uganda five years ago with the orphan-child and a farm on our minds, but it was all just dreams and hopes. 
For the orphan, we dreamt of family
In the past five years we have slowly built relationships with orphans who no longer label themselves as such. They have names like Moses, Barbara, Geoffrey, Sigali, Ibra, and Patricia. And we are humbled to be part of their stories. They have called us family. The love of one such as these is precious and not easily gained, and we hold it as a treasure. We are far from perfect, but we pray they never feel betrayed or their gift of love scorned. 
God called us to fulfill that dream of family for the orphaned even further by bringing two beautiful babies without family into our family forever. Legally and permanently. They remember nothing but us as their parents, themselves as our daughter and son. We have seen them grow secure in the assurance of our love and confident in their position in our family. There is nothing that can separate them from our love, and they believe that. And we learn from them--the security and confidence that is ours because of the unending love of the Father. Being called into adoption has challenged us, grown us, blessed us, and encouraged us beyond what we could have possibly thought or imagined. 
For the farm, we dreamt of prosperity
There was a creative process to Enterprise farm. We started with ideas. We had a vague picture of what we wanted to create. So after finishing up New Hope Institute of Childcare and Family in 2007, we set out to make things happen. We tried to fashion it, form it, organize it, improve it, arrange it. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears as we expended ourselves in this project. We made plans, designed, sketched out, attended meeting after meeting, and eventually what was just an idea became a reality. After the first year we began seeing the farm take shape, but we weren’t satisfied. Now, after five years, we step back and admire it. It has been both an exhausting and exhilarating journey. I am convinced that the farm’s brightest days are still ahead...however I remember the beginnings. 
Isaiah 40 speaks of how ‘Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.’ Leveling and clearing. I’ve learned a lot about both.
During these five fledgling years of the farm, we have strived to conquer all obstructions, from termite mounds to our own preconceived notions about how things should be done. Farming in equatorial Africa is nothing like farming in North America, and farmers in Africa hold a very different way of doing things than farmers in America. Often we were the ones who had to lay down our ways.
Where there was disorder, we have strived to create order. A waist-deep swamp with towering weeds was turned into four large productive fish ponds. A monstrous anthill was leveled, and on top of it was build a 1300 square foot nursery house. The thickest of bush was slashed, and the land was transformed into a 10-stall dairy barn with pasture.  We repaired walls, restored and maintained roads. We built relationships and fences and at times had to repair both. 
There were days of struggle, when I was absolutely spent and thought all was in vain. There were days when I wanted to ignore or neglect the work, and I struggled against my own selfishness. The process of development is exhausting, and it can be draining. In times like this I had to raise my head above the challenge in front of me and allow the people and community around me to give greater context and purpose to my work. The challenge was still there...but it was worth it. And often times it wasn’t quite so big.

Five years of all this. And now it is time for us to move a new season. A new family--my cousin’s, in fact--will be coming next year to usher the farm into its new season. We could not be more confident that they are the perfect people to continue what we have begun. Their stories, experiences, relationships, and accomplishments will be different from ours; but we know one thing: They will experience the beauty of both shaping and being shaped by this place. 
On September 3rd, we will board a plane as a family of five-soon-to-be-six. We will feel empty after all the goodbyes--or the “see you again...when God wills.” We will be so filled with emotion that we might not feel much of anything. Or we might cry...and cry. 
We are off to new places. Oregon, in fact. The story of this is too long to tell, but we can assure you of this: We are so thankful that in leaving a place and people we love, we have such excitement and adventure ahead of us. We are excited to put down roots, invest in a community, and continue to live out our values with purpose. We are eager to be shaped by people we have yet to meet and learn from experiences that have yet to unfold. We are scared of loneliness and doors that have not yet opened, but in it all there is peace. And hope. 

So again, we thank you. Each of you have enabled such transformation in us and, we believe, in the community of New Hope. You are forever part of our story, and you will always be part of New Hope’s story. You are part of Frank’s story and Kizza’s story and Moses’ story and Kikonyogo’s story.
Please continue remembering us in your prayers and thoughts, as we remember you in ours. If you are in Pennsylvania, perhaps we will see you soon. But as Uganda-dwellers, this is our goodbye.

And into the next chapter we step.

Shawn and Family

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I'm not sure how people survive without good neighbors. And I'm not trying to brag, but I'd say we're surrounded by some of the best neighbors ever! When you live where we do, your cooking depends on your neighbors, as does your emotional well-being.

One of our neighboring families has become particularly dear to us in part because they have two boys, both one month younger than our boys. In the morning after breakfast they rush out the door to go ride bikes or climb trees or...sometimes...get into trouble together :). 

Today we celebrated N's 3rd birthday. God made N and AJ about as differently as you could imagine: N is built like an American football player. AJ is built like a jockey ;). But they're cute as pie together!

 AJ and N painting at the party

silly dudes

Tai and N (football N's older brother) are at that age where they both play and fight quite passionately. All in a matter of moments. 

life is good when Tai and N are happy together 

We had a great day celebrating N's life! Below are a few more photos from the day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

6 years filled with life!

She's a miracle...on so many levels.
She sparkles.
And she's all giggles about being six.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

a boy's love for tractors

AJ loves to tell stories. "Once upon a time," he begins, and then he goes on to weave together a tractor tale. Shawn caught one on video. When you watch it, you think, "no wonder this little guy captures everyone's hearts!" It's precious.
This weekend my tractor boy turned three. The highlight of the celebrations? A tractor ride! Thankfully, Shawn has some great tractor connections ;).

Happy Birthday to my Happy Boy--the one who feeds on making us laugh. The one who melts my heart with words of encouragement. The one who blesses us every day with his light heart.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Colorado Springs Fire

My home town is up in flames, and the fire shows no sign of stopping. Thousands of acres of beautiful Colorado land have been burned. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, and hundreds of homes have already suffered damage. Humidity is in the single digits, temperatures are soaring, and the winds are pushing the fire further and further.

If you are inclined to, please pray. For those of you in the Springs, our hearts and prayers are with you.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

adding to the oreo

I actually don't care for oreos.

But i love my oreo.

This one:

And now, Lord willing, we will have a double-stuffed oreo sometime in November :) We're adding some more of that white stuff to the family! But this time, instead of being blue-tinted, the white stuff will be pink. 
Ava is beside herself with the prospect of having a sister. Tai wants to know if the baby, who is swimming in Mama's tummy right now, is wearing "swimmy arms" (those arm floatation things). A.J. has declared he likes girls best and, when asked what color the baby will be (vanilla or chocolate?), said she will be peanut butter.
I am well over my first trimester but still feeling very nauseous. Hence my scarcity here in the past months. 

Anyway, wanted to share the news with you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

new every morning

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end

they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him."

(lamentations 3:22-24)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Like a tree

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes

for its leaves remain green,
and it is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.

(jeremiah 17:7,8)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Family Weekend

Our ministry has a 1,000 acre camp along Lake Victoria. Shawn and I had been there once before with our family group, but our children had never been. When our "son" Moses kept asking about it, we decided to take a weekend and go!

We took walks, enjoyed a giant swing, built a (very) small campfire, and had a few hot showers! Most meals were cooked for us, and we stayed in one of the staff houses rather than a tent. Doesn't quite sound like camping, does it?! Ah, but it was wonderful. Moses even got to go fishing!

It is incredibly peaceful there. At night, you look out into the black expanse and see lights speckled across--a mingling of stars and fishing boats.

even fun family weekends aren't tear-free!

 you can give a boy a thousand toys, but they always go back to their sticks--especially this boy!

As always, it's good to be home! That's the perfect getaway, though, right? One you thoroughly enjoy yet still look forward to home? And so, back here at home we continue to make memories.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Celebrating New Life

purple speckled eggs, found by the children in a pomegranate bush

Happy Easter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Response to Kony 2012

Several people have asked our opinion on the Kony 2012 video. Last week Shawn put together a video featuring one of our "sons" here at New Hope, who was abducted into Kony's rebel army in 2004, and our Ministry Coordinator (and co-founder).

It's a very complicated issue. We don't have anything against the message of Kony 2012, but it is definitely too simplistic. Even insensitive. It has not been received as well here in Uganda as people might have hoped. And I'll end there.

(Farm post coming...I promise!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tis the season for rain (and mud)

Can you guess why bath time was not very fun last night?

We had to scrub seriously hard to get all that caked mud off. I'm still finding it in the ears...nostrils...

One thing we all agree on: We're happy the rain is back!

P.S. I'm going to post a serious farm post soon! I have some great stuff to show you guys :) Hint: have you heard of aquaponics?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

why i need to be banished from time to time.

not related to this post, but had to share this sloth that visited us

Do you know what it is like when you have too much to ponder yet no time no space no opportunity to go that pondering place?

Sometimes I forget I'm an introvert. I am a mother, after all. And I live in community. As in, we are neighbors with the people we work with day after day. It's wonderful. It's hard. It's especially wonderful and hard because we are a multinational-multitribal community. But I digress. Sometimes I forget I'm an introvert because I'm constantly (constantly!) surrounded by people. Little people, big people, people I find easy to love and others who I have to choose to love.

The days pass by, and I feel I'm fine. But I suppose I don't give myself the opportunity to stop and really think about it.

Ah, but then. Then one day I wake up and my kids are suddenly asking waaaaay too many questions. I'm ready to build a wall around my house if I get one more knock on my door. And, bless his heart, Shawn's after-work projects don't feel like a blessing at all (did I ask for a new shelf in the bathroom?). I want everyone to freeze and give me the chance to fly away. Not for ever...but for a few moments. Okay, maybe a day. A few days?

Essentially, I wake up, and I realize it's going to be a lot of work to be a nice person today.

Have you ever been there?

Ah yes. Well that was me this week. It was a lot of work to be nice, and many many many times I didn't exactly reach the "nice" standard. I had to ask my children for forgiveness over and over...and over.

Shawn asked what he could do to help (as a fellow intuitive, it's hard to fool him! and I'm sure my snappiness was a clue too). I think one time I actually said, make everyone just go away. Everyone. (interpret, including the kids...and my trying-to-help husband)

Well, folks, I'm here to tell you that that is exactly what he did. Granted, it wasn't for a few days or even a whole day. But I had several very very VERY wonderful hours alone. I didn't even get a knock on the door.

Yay :)

Do you know what it is like can hear your thoughts again? When you can think? feel? ponder? I need that, people.

In college my dear friend Nancy would occasionally banish me to the woods and not allow me to return until I could think clearly again (interpret, be a nice person and not stress over stupid stuff again). She is a wise gal. The woods were the perfect place to banish me.

May I fast forward to today? Saturday. After having the chance to ponder a chunk of the stuff in my brain that sits on the pondering shelf, I could appreciate the important things once again: the sound of thunder in the distance as I coated potato wedges in spices and olive oil. The sight of tiny chocolate legs marching, buried in rain boots, through wet grass toward his papa. Water spraying my face as I shut wooden shutters, a domino of thuds and clacks. The pure beauty of a favorite song.

How do I keep myself here? In the place where patience is abundant and being nice is so much easier?

If only I could still be banished to the woods. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shifting Winds

So sorry... I wrote this last week. But internet here hasn't been good enough to upload photos (or at least when I'm on) until now.

It's amazing how once you commit to something (like living more in the present, enjoying and treasuring the present), you typically experience an immediate challenge.

Mine came fiercely. In the form of a fire.

During dry season here, it is a common practice to burn. It's an easy way to prepare slashing or digging required. But, as you can imagine, it's also dangerous. The world turns to kindling.

And so, when a "controlled" fire on neighboring land grew out of control, and the winds grew more forceful,  Enterprise Farm lit up. There is really very little you can do when the winds are driving a fire. And it's quite scary when the fire (and winds) are headed straight for your home.

As the flames approached, our eyes began to burn from all the smoke. Ash floated through our windows.

And then the fire was in my back yard. The flames caught the greenhouse.

My pineapples were next.

you can tell how quickly the fire was moving by all the brush that managed to withstand the flames

Our banda's grass roof needed only a single ember swirling in the wind to...

The children and I gathered together to pray. And then the winds shifted. More quickly than the fire had come, it left. And when a fire turns on itself, it doesn't last long. The farm employees beat out the remaining flames with their branches. Shawn doused stubborn spots with jerry cans of water.

Throughout the night, flames would resurrect briefly, easy to spot in the dark. We are thankful the night air was still. The following day we continued to cough from all the smoke from smoldering logs, and ash snowed lightly from the sky.

But it was over.

The back of the greenhouse is gone, several citrus and mango trees are damaged, but it could have been so much worse.

We are thankful for the shifting winds.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Dreamer's Journey to be More Present

A few weeks ago I closed down my Facebook account. Some were irked by it. Only one was emphatically supportive. Many asked why.
My reasons were many, but perhaps on the top of my list was that constant longing to make life more simple so I can more fully enjoy what is true and present and most worthy of my thoughts, emotions, energy.
I'm a Dreamer. I love being a Dreamer, but it also means I struggle to be here. I'm usually a day beyond, if not a year beyond, the today that I should be living. I'm an Intuitive, which means I typically live in another world entirely. A world made solely of ideas and moods and abstracts. I love that world. It's very much home to me.
Yet I have experienced entire days and even weeks slip by without my full and honest presence. I don't need to tell you that children need your true presence, not only your physical presence. And husbands need it too (though they tend to be more understanding and gracious when they too are dreaming intuitives! :)).
As I pondered this (in my home-world of ideas, of course), I became increasingly convicted that the pseudo world of Facebook must come to an end for me. I am not anti-Facebook. But personally, Facebook lured me away from my life and sucked me into edited versions of others' lives. I succumb so easily. And so with very little sadness, I said good-bye.

Just two weeks later, I read this article. "The Joy of Quiet."
Apparently I'm not the only one craving to be more disconnected so that I can more fully connect! I'm not ending this blog, I couldn't survive without a cell phone, I will always have email (because we live thousands of miles away from family and the friends who will always be friends...with our without Facebook), but it's just too easy to escape from the here, the now, the important. Even in the bush of Africa.
Canceling Facebook was a big step. It was the first step. Now I must step again, re-train myself to notice and embrace the gifts before me. To feel, see, taste, hear, smell, be.
And, of course, give thanks. Being present can only be valuable when it leads us to praise the Giver of this moment, of this life. It makes us aware of the holiness of it all, from the undulating patterns of the thatched roof to the teeny curls of little eyelashes to the silence that makes space for the soul to listen to its Maker.

I am on a journey, and this is my challenge to myself.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

House with the Magenta Bougainvillea

As we drove to and from Kampala yesterday, every tree and blade of dry grass bent forlornly beneath its blanket of red dirt. Fields are barren.
Yet even now nature quietly defies this dormant season with splashes of color. 
Our canopy of magenta bougainvillea never relents.

The papaya trees in the backyard don't curse the sun, they celebrate it.

And when we turn them, along with the pineapples, bananas, and passion fruit, into that familiar Friday smoothie, we celebrate it too.

God has a purpose for every season, and so we celebrate this one...and pray for rain. (And, no, I don't think that's a contradiction! :))
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