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10 August, 2016

Reflecting in Gratitude

August 10, 2015, a date etched in my mind. The day of my open heart surgery for aortic valve replacement and repair/replacement of the ascending aortic aneurysm. The first day on my road to recovery from a failing valve and growing aneurysm. I can’t believe it is already August 10 again!
As I reflect on the past 13 months, memories of preparation for surgery, going through surgery, learning to live with limited movement for several weeks, regaining strength, healing from pericarditis and cardiac rehabilitation work all swirl through my mind. And overriding it is the
realization, “All is well.”

My brief time in the hospital for surgery and four nights after surgery was filled with learning…
day 2 post op
how to control nausea caused by the drugs, how to move correctly, how to manage pain, how to rest when I needed it and how to use my "best friend", a heart shaped pillow, which was a necessity for movement in the early days following surgery.

My early days at home were filled with wonder that I could be THAT tired so easily, that I needed to rest THAT much and that I was prayed for by THAT many people. The words of encouragement and assurance of prayer poured in from around the world. Our WGM family, African friends and many others assured us they were traveling the road of recovery with us. Christine and I were strengthened and encouraged.

The onset of fever was an enigma to many, but perseverance in pursuing the cause led to proper treatment for pericarditis, a common occurrence following heart surgery. The right drug brought rapid relief. I was able to work hard in my cardiac rehabilitation classes and my recovery continued on a steady course from there onward.

3 mos post op 
Four months after surgery Christine and I boarded the plane to carry us home to Uganda. We arrived in Kampala December 31, an hour or so before midnight. On our way home from the airport, just as we crested the hill into Kampala, the clock struck midnight and the fireworks went off all over the city. We could see them all around as. Our hearts exclaimed, “All of Kampala is celebrating God’s faithfulness with us, His goodness to see us home to Kampala!”

We continue to proclaim God’s faithfulness. Surely, the Living God is among us! We rejoice in His provision for our return. His healing touch restored me fully. All is well.

Today, August 10, 2016, Christine and I are taking the day as Sabbath rest. Time to reflect, time to praise our God, time to rejoice in God’s faithfulness. We are remembering His provision through His people. Prayer, meals, words of encouragement, cards, text messages, hugs (very gently at first), housing, help at every turn. The Body of Christ ministered to us. All is well.

I am fine. I have no restrictions. I feel good. I play basketball for a couple of hours once a week. I completed my first run/walk 5K. I have no problem walking the hills of Kampala, Uganda. I work hard and I play hard. I am fine. All is well. And I am forever grateful.


05 July, 2016

Building an Altar

This was a weekend of milestones. We are carefully considering each one, using the stones to build a mental altar of worship to God as we see how far the Lord has brought us. Throughout the Old Testament we read of stones gathered and altars erected to commemorate God's faithfulness to his people. Here are some stones gathered for our (mental) altar.
July 1st marked six months since our return to Uganda following our homeland ministry assignment and medical leave last year. Hooray! Jeff’s health is great. He is not experiencing any heart problem. God’s has faithfully provided for our every need here. This stone we added to the altar.

We mentally picked up another milestone as we remember that one year ago we were waiting for the first appointment with the cardiac surgeon. We were eager to know the plan and timeline for Jeff’s open heart surgery, recovery and our return to Uganda. Admittedly, we were still navigating varying measures of uncertainty as we tried to wrap our heads around the news that Jeff’s heart valve was rapidly failing and he had an aneurysm growing close to a dangerous size.

During that time we had so many thoughts rolling around in our minds, some of them rising and receding like a tide but never leaving completely. “Will we ever get back to Uganda?” “In what ways will our lives change forever because of this condition?” “Should we travel for other surgical opinions?” “What if this is Jeff’s last birthday here on earth?”

But praise God, Sunday we celebrated Jeff’s birthday at our home in Kampala, Uganda! God provided for our every need along the journey of Jeff’s surgery, recovery and return to Uganda. In recent weeks, over and over we have talked of God’s faithfulness. It is still fresh in our minds how God miraculously carried us through all of that. We find it hard to believe that we have been in Uganda six months already.

Celebrating God's Faithfulness
So we had a party on July 3, Jeff’s birthday! Friends gathered with us to celebrate God’s faithfulness and wish Jeff a happy birthday. Our hearts were greatly encouraged as we shared evidence of God’s faithfulness in our lives. We heard of God’s faithfulness in provision, in protection, in comfort and in giving direction. We laughed together, wept, sang and prayed. We are still basking in the blessings of that corporate worship of our God. Another stone piled on the altar.

The third milestone in our mental altar is participation in a 5K fun run/walk here in Kampala. July 4, we joined several of our WGM colleagues and ran/walked a very user-friendly 5-K route in solidarity with a church in Indiana that is also doing a Fourth of July 5-K fun run/walk as a fundraiser. They are raising money for WGM Uganda to provide school scholarships for orphans living on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria.   

Completing the 5-K run/walk
We remember how last year during Jeff’s rehabilitation from surgery we would encourage ourselves by planning to get Jeff’s stamina back to the point where we could participate in a 5-K run/walk. And yesterday we did it, in the hills of Kampala, no less. Jeff was able to run/walk for an average speed of about 12-minute-miles. Hooray! Way to go, Jeff! One more stone gratefully placed in worship of our God.

What milestones are you using to build your mental altar of worship to God? Please share your story so we can rejoice with you.

God is faithful and we praise him!

Jeff and Christine

26 March, 2016

Pondering so many things . . .

"Pondering so many things, so many emotions, so many life events. Remembering the birth of our firstborn and all the joy she is in our lives; melancholy with family in the reality of missing our sister; celebrating the advent of our granddaughter; longing for the reality of heaven; leaning hard into Jesus, knowing he is enough; grateful we are part of the Family of God and appreciating their care in our lives. Pondering so many things…"

The words above were penned on March 26, 2012, a day after our daughter’s birthday, several days after the sudden death of Jeff’s sister, a little over two months before our grandaughter’s birth and in the midst of being overwhelmed with God’s good provision for our transition into Uganda. I was pondering so many things.

And I still am. Dad Stanfield is celebrating Easter in heaven this year. The father of Ugandan friends and colleagues is having his first Easter in heaven also. Will our two fathers ever find out their sons love each other and work together so our Father’s Kingdom is proclaimed here on earth?

 These four years later we celebrate our grandson reaching his one-year birthday. How is it that God has chosen to bless us with these two dear grandchildren? Who am I that I should know such love?

Palm Sunday I joined many Ugandan children and adults waving palm branches and singing praise to our King of Kings, tears dripping from my eyes as we expressed our love in worship of our Lord. My heart was overflowing with God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice for me. Then, as we left the church a few hours later I felt bothered with the heat, annoyed at the bugs and frustrated by the people and animals in the roadways delaying our travel toward home.

Palm Sunday service in Jinja
 I ponder, whom did I love and worship then? Whom was I serving with those attitudes? If I had cried out, “Hosanna!” in those moments, like the fickle crowd in Jerusalem, would I have been seeking a savior to make life easier and more convenient for me? I ponder how my heart can be full of love and worship for Christ alone in one moment and shortly thereafter include self-worship.

And I ponder Love, offering grace, in exactly those moments when my, “Hosanna!” is so broken and my “Hallelujah” so self-serving. The Way, Truth and Life comes to me, extending grace, bringing forgiveness. I fall on my heart knees and I remember the message of the cross.

I ponder again the first four chapters of First Corinthians, where I first discovered that the word of the cross is foolishness in this world but in God’s kingdom it is power. As I read and ponder I realize all over again that I belong to Christ! I do want others to regard me as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. And more than anything, more than wanting ease in travel or comfort for me I want to be a steward that is found trustworthy. I want to reflect Christ accurately. I want God Himself to be able to trust me.

I ponder. I confess and I find forgiveness and grace, wrapped in unending loving kindness. I lean hard into Jesus, experiencing He is enough. I am grateful to be part of the Family of God that helps me follow The Way and The Truth as I ponder and learn.

And today, my “Hallelujah, He is risen!” knows no bounds. My heart is full of gratitude, knowing my very life is dependent on His resurrection power, the power of God.