Dishes, Lesson #1

Doing dishes.

Sheesh.  It’s a daily task–well, multiple times a day–that I just don’t love.

But recently I’ve been learning lessons from doing dishes.  And I am not referring to discovering the best dish soap, or tips on keeping your hands from pruning up.

I’ve been learning lessons about myself.  Spiritual lessons.

I think I could write a series.  In fact, let’s plan on that.  I just went up to the title field and changed my simple title of Dishes to what you see above, Dishes, Lesson #1.

A few weeks ago I decided to attack the ever-growing pile of plates, cups, silverware, and saucepans littered with remnants of meals that had been eaten.

While wiping them clean, I followed the personal procedure I’ve developed. I wash the plates first.  Well, unless I have cutting boards or cookie sheets in the sink, in which case they will take priority.  I work through my flat items, from biggest to smallest.  I take the time to make sure they are standing up straight, allowing the water to drain off.

Then I go to tea cups (they are not coffee cups, because I do not drink coffee….though I did recently buy some coffee in case visitors ever want it.  But I never even think to offer it to visitors.  I’ve only opened the canister to use some grounds for a demonstration I did for some children, creating dirty water…Ok. Back on topic….).  I was those tea cups next because they are heavy and breakable, and I want them to be on the bottom of the drying rack.

The next priority is the light weight things such as plastic cups, disposable containers, etc.

My drying rack has two compartments for utensils.  So I use one for the daily silverware (forks, spoons, table knives) & the other for the things I use for cooking, serving, etc. (knives, cheese grater, garlic press, serving spoons).

It is all very neat and organized.

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But many times I have too many dishes for my system.  I have more dirty cups than the bottom of my rack allows.  Several saucepans need to find a resting place.  Random and awkwardly shaped items have been washed and do not fit into my system.

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My organization that was once nice and neat is now covered up with chaos.  My plates which were once standing tall and straight, have fallen back, touching each other under the weight of countless new items on top, causing their chances of drying well to decrease significantly.  The plastic containers on top are balancing precariously, making me hope that no one walks too heavily as they pass by the sink, which would make them all topple.

As I was washing these dishes and observing how I went through the process, I realized something.

How I was dishes is really a picture of how I live my life.

I plan.  I do things systematically.  I have a reason for doing what I do and the way I do it.  I like organization.  If things are not in the place that makes most sense in my mind, it disturbs me.  I mean, sometimes I do something crazy like put my sieve for tea leaves in with my forks and spoons, but after washing a few other items, I find myself putting that sieve on the other side of the utensil section, where it belongs.  I just can’t handle the misplacement.

But the reality of life is that it doesn’t always get to stand up straight in the proper order.  Not everything drip dries perfectly as I intend.  Sometimes, ok most of the time, chaos happens.  (Or at least it seems like chaos in the moment when it is attacking my plans, my intentions.)  Power goes out again, when nothing is charged.  Water runs out when I’ve stepped in the shower just long enough to dampen my hair and get my mascara to run down my cheeks.  The children don’t seem to be succeeding in school the way I would expect.  Friendships are hard to maintain.  More and more people are going through challenges, and somehow they are put in front of my face with the hope of solutions.  Family is going through struggles, but I’m too far away to do anything.  I often have questions and confusion about how to do both the daily tasks and solve the unique issues in this culture and place that is different from where I grew up, yet don’t seem to know where or who to turn to in order to find the answers.

And so much more.

Unexpected items are getting piled on.  Precariously piled on top.  Messing up the organization underneath.  Distorting my original intentions.  Making me nervous for anyone to walk by too heavily, for fear that things will topple.

When things get overwhelming, I often feel like quitting.  I just want to give up.  I want to spend the day in my bed watching movies, and maybe it will all sort itself out.  I get a form of paralysis that doesn’t effect me physically, but it does mentally, emotionally, spiritually…it keeps me from moving forward with things that require me to take action.

When things are not going as I would expect, or according to what I know, I am a mess.

Then I had a saucepan that needed some extra scrubbing.

I was really struggling to get the scars from its last job on the stove to come off.  After several minutes, I looked up.  And there it was, hanging in the window: my Norwex kitchen scrub.  (I’m not a Norwex salesperson…but seriously, get on that bandwagon if you haven’t already.)

I realized that I had been wasting my time with the wrong tools.  The whole time, I had something that would easily remove the problems in that pan.  So I got that blue cloth wet, put in a little effort, and it was quickly finished.  Shining and ready to go on top of the tower of dripping dishes.

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In the midst of my chaos I often forget that I already have the resources I need in order to make it through.  To overcome my internal paralysis.  I just need to look up.

God is the best resource I could ever ask for in the midst of all the craziness that life throws at me.  He is the source of my strength.  He is my Counselor.  He is not overwhelmed by any of it.  I can put my trust in Him.  He walks with me.  In fact, He holds my hand.

For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

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Building A Road

Sometimes the potholes just become too much and you need to take matters into your own hands….

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Especially when you realize that the vehicles that pass on the road most frequently belong to you and your boss, or someone coming to your ministry.

So, a coworker helped me arrange having three truck loads delivered along the way.  I came with shovels, a hoe, and a rake.

The driver dumped piles of stony dirt in the problem areas, and we followed with our tools to spread it out as needed.

IMG_0868Some neighbors got involved, lending us by lending us a wheel barrow or even taking a turn at shoveling the dirt.

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Soon some of our boys came home from school and they were eager to take part in the work as well.

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Now driving to work is a bit more pleasant, and a lot less muddy.

Sandy Roots

“…I go to the beach and dig my feet into the sand, feeling the graininess, remembering that this is the place my feet are at, the place I get to love for now. And I watch those waves come in and out, in and out…”
 
This excerpt from a blog I’ve read, really spoke to me.
I like the image of planting/rooting my feet in sand. It may seem foolish…but I’m not talking about the parable Jesus told. I am talking about the idea of allowing myself to be rooted where I am. To be fully invested, even if I know it is temporary. The truth is anywhere we go on this earth is just temporary.  This is not our home.
Yet somehow, I struggle to keep this in my mind sometimes.  The need to put in roots and fully invest where I am can sometimes be difficult if I have in my mind that it is temporary.
I have realized that it is difficult for me to just enjoy the moment sometimes because I am too often looking beyond to the long-term.  I’ve observed it in myself in simple things like choosing to buy a simple treat of mangoes for the children at a random time or as complex as investing in friendships if I have doubts about their longevity.
The blog opened my mind and took it a different direction…
I need to be a bit more relaxed in my thinking about the things in the distance that I may not be able to see very clearly.  Instead, I need to let my feet sink into the shifting sands I find myself in.  I need to enjoy and take part in what is surrounding me, regardless of how long it will take for the natural ebb and flow of the tide to wash the sand away and force me to make a change.
I’m praying for God to guide me in this. To help me embrace the moments more frequently instead of always subconsciously analyzing the value of my investment of time, effort, etc.  I want to really be more intentional about making the journey meaningful and enjoyable, just as much as the destination I’m headed to (or hoping for).
This goes against various aspects of my personality, but I believe it is good and right.
Here I go, doing more than dipping my toes in the gritty sand, but pushing them deep.  Digging my feet down into it.  Allowing the thickness to go beyond my ankles….

Home

That word, home, has multiple meanings these days.

I’m at home in Uganda.  I’m at home in America.  I’m not really home at all…waiting for heaven.

But recently I had a visit to my first home for a few weeks.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need to a trip home until you have already arrived.  (Truth be told…I felt it when I got back home to Uganda too.  And I pray it feels like that to an exponentially greater level when I reach my ultimate home.)

This is just a glimpse of that sweet time…

I was able to visit a several churches.

I had a really special time in Grand Rapids with my good friends from my Cornerstone University days.

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Where our friendship all began… (Me, Bethany, Kristin, & Cassie…missing Erin & Jen)

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We discovered many open buildings, helping us to reminisce all the good times.  This was our room sophomore year.

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Cassie’s old room with Erin.

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  When the children are the photographers… Why are the outtake pictures always my favorites?

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Kristin’s kids joined us for part of the day….good thing, because we needed their photography skills a few times!

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Because only in America would a festival include a place designated for you to leave your balloon at pick back up at your earliest convenience.

Another sweet reunion was with my girls who used to live in The Oasis with me.  What a treat that Megan and I were both home from the mission field at the same time!

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Melissa, Alison, Me, Megan

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We met up at Endiro Coffee…a Ugandan restaurant in Aurora.  Gloria was in the USA to help get the place up and running…I’m hoping to run into her in Uganda sometime!

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Sometimes I remembered to take pictures while hanging out with friends that I met up with at homes or coffeeshops.

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I spent a few days in Texas for training with CTEN, my mission organization.  A friend of mine, Bethany, was home from Tanzania for the training as well.  It was good week!

I had some good ol’ family time with things like graduation and Father’s Day.

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And I even spotted some glimpses of my Ugandan home in the grocery store!

Thought it was nice to be home for awhile, engage in deep conversations with friends and family, wash my clothes with machines, not think about the possibility of power outages, experience the convenience of drive-thru’s, go to church services fully in English, watch Netflix, eat good ice cream, and more….It’s good to be back home in Uganda again (dust and all).

What a Difference

Last weekend The Shepherd Center boys went to their homes for a visit.  (Well, most of them anyway…)

Some didn’t want to go, others were ready to spend the night with some family.  But everyone who was able, went home.

Sunday afternoon I was driving to TSC, and as I drove through town, some of my boys spotted my van.  Seeing their big smiles and hearing them shout my name, I pulled over and picked them up.  They were so excited to see me and have a free ride the rest of the way.

One of the first things they told me was that they were hungry.  Most likely they didn’t have lunch, or at least missed some meal since they left TSC.

I stopped and bought a cluster of bananas to share with the four boys I had with me, and whoever we would find had already returned to the house.

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After I’d pulled over at a small shop that sells bananas along the road, I sent one of the boys out with a little money to make the purchase.

A police officer was sitting outside the shop.  He recognized the boy from his days on the street.

He came over to my van and greeted the other three boys from the windows.  They had quite a pleasant exchange.  Then the officer turned to me.  He thanked me for taking care of these boys.  (Of course I took the thank you on behalf of everyone at TSC, not just myself.)

Of course he knows that they are no longer on the streets in town, and all the trouble that comes with it.  And he saw that they are happy.  They are in good hands…They are in God’s hands.  We at TSC are just thankful to be the tools God is choosing to use at this time.