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29 December, 2015

Where We Live

We are so excited to go! We are so sorry to leave! Herein is the tension where we live.

Our hearts and minds and spirits are eager to be in Uganda, settling once again into the relationships and roles we love. I find myself looking forward to the really big things, like hugging my African friends and working alongside my missionary friends. I find myself mentioning the little things, like getting to use my own kitchen utensils and not feeling cold when I go outside. We are so excited to go!

But we are so sorry to leave. Our hearts and minds and spirits are very reluctant to separate from here, leaving people and relationships we love. I find myself already missing the really big things, like shared prayer times with my parents and hugs from our children and grandchildren. I find myself mentioning the little things, like general ease in completing banking/shopping and in driving. We are so sorry to leave!

But even with this tension, even with the pain of separation from those we love here, we know it is right. We should be in this place. It is life-giving in greater measure than it is life-draining. The joy comes after the sorrow. It is right and we are willing to go through the sorrow, knowing joy follows.

We allow ourselves to feel the sorrow. We don’t ignore it. We acknowledge grief as a traveling companion in our journey of transition. We connect this companion to Jesus and He lightens the burden. He covers for us. He fills the gaps. He is enough.

 So even though grief is a companion, knowing Jesus is even closer allows our aching hearts to find comfort as we remember…
  •  recent time spent with our granddaughter, skipping down grocery aisles hand-in-hand, laughing from the sheer joy of being together; sharing Christmas music dance parties, sometimes even wearing antlers; singing, “Jesus Loves Me” over and over as we drove along  

 
  • hugs and snuggles with our grandson, laughing at his antics and marveling as he discovered independent mobility for the first time; distracting him from tearful thoughts helped distract us from the same 



  • shared conversations, hugs, worship, prayer, activities, meals and so much more with parents, kids, siblings and their families


  • special meet-ups with friends who stick close; shared celebrations, heart-aches and prayers

  • worship and learning with kindred followers of Jesus

  • quiet and beauty as we abide in green woods beside still waters

  • joy in serving, peace in risk-taking, healing after surgery, contentment in following

For all these and more we give thanks. We are excited to go. We are sorry to leave. This is where we live and we count it a privilege. 


Christine

15 December, 2015

Yesterday Was the Day!


The day Jeff’s INR (blood) testing machine was delivered and his training in use of it completed. The day when the cardiologist said Jeff is released to go live in Uganda. The day when we worked with our travel agent to get plane tickets to travel home. Yesterday was the day.

So excuse us, we aren’t taking time to add photos or any fancy stuff. We leave for Uganda on December 30, flying from Portland, OR. We have people to see, places to go and things to do.

But we invite you, in the midst of your busyness, to pause with us and give thanks. Open up your hearts and voices and spirits in praise and adoration to our God. He is worthy. When our hearts feel heavy with sorrow in loss, with grief of separation, with suffering of many and with challenges ahead it is good to give thanks. Good to praise the One who is with us. Let us be heard in resounding praise, making a joyful noise.

Yesterday was the day. We give thanks. Please join us.

Jeff & Christine

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We have just sent out our Christmas news letter.  if you haven't already seen it,  check it out by clicking here.   



12 December, 2015

GRADUATION DAY

He did it! Jeff reached a major milestone along the road of recovery. He successfully completed his weeks of cardiac rehabilitation. Friday was his graduation day. I am so proud of him!

The 32 sessions of monitored exercise provided wise instruction, helpful motivation and camaraderie for us. Jeff quickly made friends among the staff and other participants. He had good conversations with folks while waiting for his heart rate to reduce close to his high resting rate after each class. We will miss those good folks, working heroically toward healthier living. Removing his portable heart monitor after the last class brought to a close this lap on our road of recovery.

One of the “coaches” in the program went through all the “graduation” information with Jeff. We were pleased to note that their assessment shows Jeff increased his exercise
capacity 163% from start to finish. What a great payoff for Jeff. His stamina is back to his pre-surgery normal and his strength has increased.

Jeff received a certificate, piece of dark chocolate, book and papers given to each graduate.  

Unless you saw Jeff soon after surgery it is difficult to recognize the significance of how hard he had to work to get back to where he is now. When he first came home from the hospital it took all his strength to walk from the recliner across the room and into the bathroom. He napped several times a day. Now he works out for an hour at least three times a week. He walks more than 150 minutes per week, in addition to his work outs, and is able to walk at about a 4-mph pace (even including uphill!). He does not need to nap anymore, though we both enjoy the occasional afternoon power snooze.  

These are samples of the type of artificial heart valve and Dacron tube (replacing part of his aorta) that are now working well in Jeff. Amazing to know these are what now enable him to work hard and function well.  

The prayers of many people, literally all around the world, have carried us. Prayers have brought us comfort, infused us with strength, motivated Jeff to persist in his good work, brought healing and filled us with courage. We are forever grateful we are not alone on this road of recovery.

And so we invite you to celebrate with us. As we await his next cardiology appointment next week we choose to use our days celebrating the work God is doing in us. We rejoice in his provision. And I thank Jeff for his hard work in climbing his way back to strength and endurance. He forever remains my Hero of the Scar!

Christine

24 November, 2015

Gratitude is a Discipline

This is the second year that Jeff and I have taken time every evening to write down what we are thankful for. Our journals of gratitude document that for which we give thanks. We find we sleep better when we end every day in gratitude. It is no small task, being grateful. But it is necessary for life and it brings us peace.

So, true confession here.  On Saturday evening, following a wonderful day in the city with soul-mates, we saw Christmas lights and advertisements for black Friday madness in a small shopping center… and I felt angry.  “In this culture, our greed carries us straight from Halloween into black Friday, completely leaving out gratitude and Thanksgiving. That’s just wrong,” I huffed to Jeff.

Later that evening, while watching a sporting event on TV, we sat in great dismay as a commercial touting “Thanksgetting” ran across our screen, seamlessly moving viewers (us included) from Thanksgiving tables to the retail shopping (because getting more stuff is all the “holiday” weekend is about, after all). UGH!

This year, as much as ever, we need our minds set on giving thanks to our Father. The temptations to forsake thanksgiving are heavy upon us. Instead of giving sway to feeling overwhelmed we recount that for which we are thankful. In spite of all that is going wrong in the world near and far we give thanks.

God’s word tells us to give thanks in all things, for it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18) Believing God’s word to be true, I ask God’s spirit to help me give thanks in all things.

When I am frustrated in traffic (a frequent temptation in Uganda) I choose to thank God that I enjoy freedom to move about at will. I thank God for his love for all the people surrounding me in crowded streets and packed public transport vehicles.

I offer thanks to God for the privilege of loving and being loved, even when my heart is sorrowing terribly in separation from ones I love. The pain I feel when others are hurting gives evidence of love and I thank God for love. I thank God that even when we geographically move a further distance from ones we love we aren’t moving apart. I thank God he helps us stay close across the miles.

I want to connect others to Jesus and I thank him for opportunities engage in relationships with others so that connection can take place. Even when the relationships become challenging, draining, busy, frustrating and/or time-consuming I thank God for the blessing of being in community with others so we can notice him among us.

Frequent entries in our journal include our gratitude for God’s word, for family, for the many people praying for us, for beauty in creation and for our marriage. We thank God for evidence of his faithfulness to us, for his willingness to keep on loving us when we fall and when we fail. We offer thanks in response to his transformative work in our lives and in those with whom we share life.

We choose gratitude as it opens us to see the glory of God, and then we proclaim his glory. We give thanks because it is the best right choice. Gratitude opens our hearts to God. It positions us to notice his active Presence. Thankfulness opens our spirits to God’s glory and powers our worship. For this and so much more, we give thanks!


What would be frequent entries if you were keeping a journal of gratitude? Maybe you will get some ideas while listening to this song by Josh Groban, “Thankful.” (click here

Christine

16 October, 2015

Heroes

Nine weeks ago today Jeff came home from the hospital. He heroically endured open heart surgery and has the scar to prove it. Here he is standing beside a photo of his cardiac surgeon.


My husband, my Hero of the Scar. Last evening we spent some time reflecting on our travel and heroes along this road of recovery. Jeff has come a long way in these nine weeks!

When he first came home it was a struggle for him to walk out to the driveway and back. Now he walks several miles a day. He works hard in cardiac rehabilitation exercise classes at least three times a week. Here is a picture of Jeff wired up for heart monitoring, ready to start his rehab work out.


In rehab Jeff is among others heroically fighting to gain strength and stamina of heart and body. I attended class with Jeff earlier this week and my spirit was deeply moved to see Jeff and his classmates all working diligently, against many odds, sweating to regain what has been lost to cardiovascular disease/disorders. They are all heroes for sure.

Jeff is now sufficiently recovered that we have more time to do what feels normal to us. We are able to spend time with friends and family, talking of God’s faithfulness and sufficiency. Today we are excited to spend time with some of our missionary family, heroes of ours, and attend missions-focused meetings.

Our daily rhythm as we travel our road of recovery still includes plenty of “down time” for restorative rest. Jeff is learning ever better to pay attention to what his body tells him. Our conversations during walks and rest periods include discussions of being in Uganda.


Our heads are up and we are looking forward, all the while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus as we live in each present moment. Our hearts are full of gratitude and we delight in recounting God’s faithful provision, much of which comes through God’s people, the Body of Christ. They, too, are heroes every one. Thank you!

Christine

01 October, 2015

Forever Grateful


It almost feels like we have hit a button to turn on turbo boost as we pull out of the round-a-bout where our forward movement was so slow it felt like were stuck. Now we are whizzing ahead on our road of recovery as Jeff makes great gains.

Five weeks post-surgery the cardiologist found the reason for Jeff’s fevers and lack of forward progress. Pericarditis, indicating the problem lies in the sac surrounding Jeff’s heart. Of course, the pericardium had to be cut in the surgery and early in its recovery it reacted strongly, setting up an intense inflammatory response as part of its efforts to heal. Once the cardiologist identified pericarditis Jeff started taking the prescribed medication to combat the inflammation. Ten days later we assessed his progress.

Fevers gone. Heart rate gradually inching down toward normal. Chills less frequent and only very slight. Stamina gradually increasing. Sleep improving little-by-little. At his cardiac rehabilitation sessions he is able to increase the incline on the treadmill, increase the weight he can lift and his pulse doesn’t rise as high during his monitored workouts. On the days off from rehab Jeff is tolerating walking longer distances without “crashing” when done. Today we made it 3.3 miles as we walked outside, enjoying the fall foliage and bird songs.


Our hearts are full of gratitude. Our minds are amazed as we look back to where Jeff was and see where he is now. Eight weeks ago we were going through the pre-op checklist with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we were doing all that needed to be done before surgery. Today we walked miles outside, enjoying scenery and conversation. We are finally at the point where our every thought, every conversation no longer centers on open heart surgery. Medication isn’t the main intake of the day. Pain no longer governs activity. We are forever grateful.

The anti-inflammatory medication will be a requirement for the next few months. Cardiac rehabilitation will remain on our calendars three times a week for many more weeks. Rest periods will continue to punctuate our days. But our eyes are forward, our gait is picking up, our hearts are lightened and our sites are already set on Uganda and serving with our colleagues (by the end of this year, we hope).

Once again we are thinking about luggage, about parting from family, about ending well, about getting home. A strange mix of looking ahead and glancing back, of being excited to go but dreading separation. All very real as we move forward along our road of recovery. Even so, we are forever grateful to be on this road. Forever grateful we don’t travel alone. Forever grateful.



16 September, 2015

Dormant...but not

We are trying to articulate the season we are in. The word, "dormant" keeps coming up. We are waiting, resting and recovering. We are not able to carry on our “missionary endeavors” as we usually do when we are in this country. We aren’t scheduling meetings. We don’t have office work to do. We aren’t planning what to say or show in the next gathering. Hence, we feel dormant. 

Recognizing this, we choose to wait with expectancy. We pray. We dream aloud of what it will be like when we get to go home. We talk of hopes and dreams for our participation in Uganda. We pray, listening. We set daily goals and evaluate at the end of the day. We study in small increments, pacing with activity and rest.

All around us we see creation preparing to enter its season of dormancy. Trees are losing leaves. Flowers are fading. Some gardens are waning. Outdoor temperatures are cooling in our area. Fall is coming on and we delight in seeing the beauty it brings. We know that soon enough this beauty, too, will fade as the trees/plants go dormant, waiting.

And then, in the most unexpected ways, we see that dormancy is really preparation for new beginnings. While much of the plant kingdom is preparing to shut down, others break out of dormancy into a new beginning. Their time to bloom is now. New growth is taking place. God spoke lovingly to us as we witnessed this in our little wooded setting during a recent walk.
 
Our hearts are encouraged. In dormancy good things can come. It is a time of rich preparation for new beginnings. It is making us ready for what comes next. Even as we feel dormant we recognize we are in a time of preparation and learning.

Jeff is slowly moving onward. We aren’t stuck in the round-a-bout anymore, but his forward locomotion feels slow and tedious. Fevers still plague him. Physicians continue to run tests, ruling out what they can as possible causes for the fluctuating temperature. Our calendar is dotted with medical appointments. Jeff does well in getting out and about, then comes home eager to lay down and rest. But he is gaining ground. This week he begins his cardiac rehabilitation class. For the next couple of months or so he will meet to exercise while having his heart monitored, learn more about living with an artificial heart valve and how to maximize his recovery efforts. We rejoice he has reached this important milestone.

We wait with expectancy, confident in God and his work in us. We see his hand in it all and we rest in him. When we feel tempted to be restless we remember the surprising flowers bursting forth in September (rather than in May) and we marvel at the tiny new plants breaking through the rocky soil and into the light. Then we lift our faces to the Son and soak in his warmth that brings healing and hope. We are dormant, but not. Praise Jesus!



Jeff , one month after surgery

  

03 September, 2015

Learning While Waiting


This past week has been a long month. Well, maybe not quite that long but it seemed to take a lot longer than seven days to get into the new week. We spent some tiresome days with a lot of waiting.
Waiting on results. Waiting for answers. Waiting to feel better. A lot of waiting.

We have the mindset to learn all we can in this season of traveling the road of recovery. Even when we are weary we remind each other to learn well. So we wait and look to learn (even when blurry-eyed and muddle-headed from little sleepJ).
 
A little frog hanging out around the water feature in our wooded setting caught our attention. The frog sat so still for long periods of time. It waited. We watched. The frog was active while waiting, positioning itself ever so carefully for the best advantage in food-gathering and self-defense.


During the long dry spell we watched how various plants responded to lack of water. These rhododendrons hung their leaves, drooping them way down as they waited for water. (I didn’t take a picture of them that way, because, well, who wants a picture of wilted rhodies?) Then, when the rain finally came, those leaves were perfectly positioned to channel all the rain drops right down toward their roots. The plants were active while waiting for the rain. After rain, they perked right up and pointed their leaves back toward the sun.


Actively waiting. How could I do the same? How should I best position myself? My mind went to Isaiah 40. “Wait on the Lord.” My mind saw, “Wait on,” and flashed back to days of waiting tables. (No photos available. Didn't want to spend hours sorting through our storage to find some.) Waiting on people seated at the table. Active in that role of waiting, I was attentive to the wishes of those who were eating at “my” tables. I went back to them over and over, engaging with them to find out how I could better wait on them.

“Wait on the Lord.” So I am. I go to his table over and over again. I find as I offer praise, as I listen to his word and talk with him about Jeff’s recovery, I get rightly positioned and find joy in waiting.

We came to the Lord’s Table today and thanked him for reduced fever and for increasing strength. We rejoiced in his companionship on the road of recovery. We gave praise for better sleep. We thanked him for the many people praying for us, encouraging us to rightly position ourselves as we wait on the Lord. We told him of our gratitude for his enabling us to learn in every season. We praised him for the privilege of actively waiting on him.

What do you do in seasons of waiting? I want to learn more!


Christine

26 August, 2015

A Roundabout on the Road of Recovery

We are tired. Jeff is nearly three weeks post-operative and doing well in most aspects, but his sleep pattern is not yet re-established to his normal. Pain isn’t the issue. Being post cardiac surgery is the issue. All systems of his body are going through reset, and we read that sleeping is one behavior that is not quick to reset to normal.

So it feels like we are stuck in a roundabout, not quite getting to where we move forward on this road. But we haven’t stopped! Jeff continues to walk several times a day, adding up to at least 60 minutes of walking. We often drive to town so he can walk on even, flat ground. Sometimes he walks the gravel roads in our wooded setting. It has more ups and downs but he manages them well. The scenery is peaceful, giving rest along the way.

The surgeon’s nurse told Jeff last week he is doing very well. He was released to increase his activity as tolerated, given hints for increasing sleep, encouraged to continued deep breathing and coughing and ideas to try to increase his appetite. His wounds all look great and give every appearance of healing without complication.

Then we hit a bump in the roundabout. Jeff spiked a fever last night. His body temperature reached the number making it a must to let the nurse know. Jeff had a couple of conversations with her today. We all agree. No obvious reason for the spike in temperature, so let’s watch and see where it goes from here. Keep doing all the right things. Stay on the road.

So today we are resting more, reading aloud and looking for shade in which to walk. The environmental heat is too much for our weary bodies. The cool of shade brings refreshment for our pace and our minds. We enjoy leisurely strolling together, adding up steps and minutes as we strive to get through this portion of the road of recovery.


Every night we write out our list of things for which we give thanks. It nearly always includes the many people praying for us. We need it and folks give it. The faithful persevere so we can move forward on this road. We are forever grateful.

17 August, 2015

Another Marker on the Road of Recovery




I brought Jeff home on Friday. How amazing is that?! Open heart surgery, replacement of a valve and the ascending aorta on Monday, 16 hours under the influence of anaesthesia and sedation, and he comes home four days later? Wow! I continue to stand in awe of God’s creative genius in giving the human body such healing ability. Amazing indeed!

And while at home Jeff continues to walk forward on the road of recovery. We are learning a new pace in daily life, somewhat like what we learned whenever we added a child to the family. Sleep—eat—rest—activity—rest—eat—sleep—activity….and so on.

Getting home is a huge marker. Figuring out a new pace, one that varies slightly every day but continues to move Jeff forward is another marker on this road of recovery. There aren’t pre-drawn maps to help navigate this very individualized section of the road. But, as we listen to those “Heroes of the Scar” who have navigated their own versions of this road we glean helpful landmarks that give greater courage in walking this territory unknown to us. We are grateful for these who are heroes to us.

Jeff is doing well. Incredibly well. God gifted Jeff with astounding tolerance of pain and he is getting along well without narcotics. Today he asked for a haircut, so I drove him to town and he had his hair cut. He walks around outside, even up slight inclines and tolerates activity well. He sleeps well in a recliner loaned to us by one of our heroes. His appetite is gradually increasing, as is his knowledge of the new regimen of medications he now follows.  He enjoys visits with friends and family dropping by. Jeff is doing well. We are grateful for every step forward.

Our schedule fills with appointments, beginning with the anticoagulation clinic. Jeff will be taking “blood-thinner” medication to prevent blood clots forming around his artificial heart valve. We will be learning how to monitor his blood level of that medication and make necessary adjustments in his dose to keep his blood appropriately “thinned.” We have a lot to learn and we are grateful for those who will teach us in the process and for those who cheer us on.

Daily several cards arrive in the mail, both digital and physical, bringing cheer and words of encouragement. Many, many folks are walking this journey with us. People from all around the world, in many different time zones, are traversing this trail with us, praying and cheering us onward. We are so, so grateful for our fellow travelers.

Yes, there are many important markers along this road and we celebrate the passing of each one. But among the greatest markers of all is a grateful heart, and today that is what holds our attention. We are so, so grateful for all these things and all these folks. They keep us moving forward and remind us to be grateful all along the way.

Please let us know what fills your heart with gratitude today. We would love to celebrate together!


Christine, for Jeff too

13 August, 2015

Learning is a Continuous Process

Thank you for praying for relief of Jeff's nausea! It was a bit relieved when I went to rest Tuesday night, but it came back in a surge through the night. When I arrived Wednesday morning, Jeff, his nurse and I agreed to try more unconventional dosing to try to get him lasting relief. So, off I went to a grocery store to buy Jeff a Coke. (They had not wanted him to have Coke before, for very valid reasons, but it was time to change course.)

Sure enough, within a few milliliters slowly sipped Jeff began to get relief. Through the morning he completed the Coke and he has not experienced much nausea since. One again Coke proves it worth in my lineup of effective therapeutics. :-)

Through the course of Wednesday Jeff put in three laps around the unit. He went through his paces with a respiratory therapist and a physical therapist, each giving us very helpful information. An occupational therapist helped him practice how to best dress and undress, how to get in and out of the shower at home and how to pace his activity with rest. These are all important things to learn for adequate protection of his severed-now-healing sternum. Jeff also enjoyed visiting with loved ones stopping by to offer prayer and support. What an encouragement!

Today (Thursday) the final tubes and wires used for administration of medication and internal monitoring were removed. He is a free man! Jeff is no longer tethered to any devices (except the mobile heart monitor that fits in a pocket of his hospital gown). This also means he no longer has to have his blood checked every hour, which is a most welcome change .

We have been told we are on target for discharge home tomorrow. Yay! Please pray for keen minds to learn all we need to today as we continue with therapists, nutritionist, and others. It is also vitally important Jeff get adequate rest in between all activities. His stamina is low, which is totally expected and normal at this junction in the road of recovery. We need to learn the right pace to his days.

We say a huge, "THANK YOU," to the people praying for us. We are doing well and we are rejoicing much. It is a great relief to be at this point. It is a privilege to share with Jeff's caregivers that people all over the globe are praying for them and for us. We are grateful for the active participation of prayer warriors!

Christine

12 August, 2015

Lots of Miles Covered

I continue to be astounded at the capabilities of the human body. To see Jeff "coming back" after being under general anaesthesia for many hours and having had open heart surgery is a great testimony of God's creative genius evident in our bodies. Jeff is doing great!

By early afternoon Jeff was off all supplemental oxygen, off all medication to regulate his blood pressure and heart rate. Just like that, after having his heart handled, cut and repaired it just took right back to its work and resumed normal duty without any problem. Thank you God!

Late afternoon he was down to only two IV lines in place and was able to make the big transfer from the Coronary Intensive Care Unit to a "regular" room on the cardiac floor/ward. He is comfortably settled into room 667 of St. Vincent Hospital, Portland. Getting off the elevator on the sixth floor brought back a flood of memories to me....

I saw a nervous new graduate nurse following her nurse mentor off that same elevator and approaching the nurses' station, listening as her mentor introduced her to many as, "This is Christine, our new grad, joining us on 6 East." As we got Jeff into bed in his new room I remembered dozens of patients I had cared for in rooms just like this one and I felt a familiarity in where to place his items, etc. I chuckled to myself.

How like my God to bring me "full circle" in a sense. My very first nursing job after graduation was on the 6th floor of St. Vincent Hospital. I never imagined then it would one day be the cardiac floor (it wasn't when I worked there) and that I would be caring for my husband after open heart surgery in that very space. Had I been able to see behind the veil I would have seen that was just one small piece of all that God was orchestrating and arranging in preparation for all people and things to be in place for Jeff to have his surgery now, there.

Jeff covered amazing mileage on the road of recovery yesterday. For that we are very grateful. The unfortunate part is that he felt miserable all along the way because of prolonged effects of the drugs used during surgery and in the immediate hours afterwards. But by late evening he was finally able to take a bit of nourishment and felt his head was clearing. We prayed for a good sleep and off I went to get my own rest.

We are doing well, thanking the Lord together many times a day for the privilege of being on this holy experience. We rest in God's "healing, holy Presence." We are grateful that people all around the world are lifting us and our needs in prayer, and we take pleasure in telling Jeff's caregivers they are being covered in prayer. We continue to strive to steward this chapter in our lives for God's honor and glory.

Today's goals:

  • get up and moving, steady on his feet and able to walk on his own
  • increase his food and fluid intake
  • get adequate sleep when needed
Again, we thank you for being interested and praying for us. We thank God for you all!

Christine

11 August, 2015

He did it!!

Officially now in Post-op Day 1. He did it! Jeff's heart surgery is done. We are now on the other side of The Day.

Jeff's body endured a great deal yesterday. "The surgery went well and had no surprises", said the surgeon. Jeff slept, as planned by the anesthesiologist, until early this morning. The first goal was for him to breathe well on his own and get the breathing tube out. That took place very well and Jeff was minus the breathing tube by 3:00 a.m. today.

He is still groggy and wishes his head would hurry up and wake up, but he is progressing well. He is talking, taking ice chips, moving around a bit in bed and doing his best to wake up more. His body is maintaining his blood pressure well with no assistance from medication. He is now on the long, hard road of recovery.

Goals for today:
  • wake up more
  • get out of bed
  • start eating more than ice chips
  • be able to do without a couple more monitoring devices
Thank you for praying! We feel the Presence of the Lord, the prayers of his people and we are both strengthened and comforted. Thank you for praying! 

Christine

09 August, 2015

In the Fullness of Time...TOMORROW!

The Day is tomorrow. We are mindful of it and we are ready for this. All is well. God is in control.

My heart never ceases to praise our God. He created Jeff exactly as he is. Just a few short weeks after the conception of Jeff his heart began to form. It followed the inherited genetic coding to form a bicuspid aortic valve and a weak wall of the ascending aorta. God knew that genetic coding would one day lead to surgery for Jeff, and still God allowed it. God set that as part of his fearful and wonderful making of Jeff.

In all of time before and since then God has been orchestrating all things to make it possible for Jeff to have this surgery at this time. He put in the heart/mind of a youth to set his course to become a cardiac surgeon. He arranged the education for many professionals to design mechanical heart valves, Dacron woven tubes to use in place of blood vessels and so much more.

He let us to Tenwek and then to Uganda, then back to Tenwek for a week of training others when Jeff had a brief physical exam that revealed his heart murmur at just the right time. God built all facets of our ministry team, surrounding us with people who love us and pray for us. God provided for our colleagues to be well prepared to unexpectedly add our responsibilities to their own in this season.

Oh yes, God is in control and we thank him. We praise him. We are in awe of him and all of his works, for our good, for just such a time as this. We could never have imagined such a chapter in our story. We had no idea of the magnitude of God’s working out of our sight, in our lives, for our good, for this now.

We are not surprised. We know this of our God. But we are delighted he gives us glimpses through the curtains separating past-present-future, into that space where it is all at once, and lets us see more of him. Oh, the thrill to our souls. The strength to our faith. The peace in our spirits. Blessed be our God!

“In the fullness of time…” is a phrase in Scripture that now means so much more to us. This is God’s fullness of time for Jeff to have his heart repaired. We know that. His intimate care down through the ages is so evident. We love him and come what may, we trust him. All our hope is in him.

In answer to questions, cards can be sent to our Newberg address: P.O. Box 1236, Newberg, OR 97132

I will be doing my best to keep information about Jeff’s condition flowing outward. Jeff is the technological one, but with help from my kids I hope to keep people informed primarily through this blog. Thank you for praying. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being the Body of Christ to us.

Christine


23 July, 2015

HOLDING GOD’S HAND



Our theme for this week comes from Isaiah 41:13. We couldn’t have chosen a better theme for here and now had we been seeking one. Actually, it hasn’t occurred to us to have a theme each week. This one came to us as the theme for our denomination’s annual gathering of churches in the northwest U.S. God knows what we need.


The first corporate activity I attended as part of the annual gathering was the women’s banquet. It was great to be in fellowship with many women from Oregon, Washington and Idaho who have hearts for missions. These representatives of Women’s Missionary Fellowship groups in their local areas brought joy to my heart. Hearing of their projects to raise money to support missionaries and their causes stirred my soul. Singing in worship of our God together lifted my heart in praise. Hearing many tell me they are praying much for Jeff and I in this season of waiting and then surgery bolstered my courage, reminding me the Body of Christ is important in conveying his love to his people.

Sunday-Wednesday the evening services provided insight into Scripture and God’s assurance that as we hold his hand he generously shares himself with us. He is infinitely willing and able to provide all we need. He brings a “knowing” to us as we hold his hand. His perfect love casts our all fear and we can courageously move with him as we hold his hand. We benefitted from these reminders. God spoke into us his truth and our souls know his voice. We are stronger and we are grateful.

In between meetings of the gathering we continued our quest to listen and learn what will benefit us along this journey. We strive to keep a balance, studying medical/surgical information as well as contemplating God’s words and those of his messengers. God is transforming our hearts and renewing our minds. It’s all good.

And for Jeff, it seems God will also use woven dacron and a mechanical valve as part of heart transformation. God uses all things and he is always for our good. We trust him.

What is your weekly theme? What is God using in transforming your heart?


Christine

14 July, 2015

Pressing On...

Throughout the past several days we have had many opportunities to explain why we are in Oregon and not in Uganda. Each telling of the story gives us an opportunity to steward it for God’s honor and glory. It is what we want to do; faithfully steward all our King brings to us.

Preparation for surgery instructions include maintaining aerobic exercise, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting plenty of rest, keeping all appointments and taking medications prescribed. So while we wait for what we now call, The Day, we are finding a new balance that includes all these things. We are doing our best to keep it real and make it fun.

Fresh blackberries at the top of the hill are a great motivator to walk quickly along the winding gravel road. They don’t get any fresher than straight off the wild vine, sun-kissed to sweetness that is unmatched on grocery shelves. We sweat to get there and back a few times but it is so worth it to have fresh berry smoothies, crisps and freezer jam. These are yummy “rewards.”

Today we allowed each other time and space alone to spend as we each chose. I (as always) chose to stay home while Jeff chose (as usual) to go to a local coffee shop and meet friends. We both took time to mentally and emotionally process what lies ahead of us. We included time to worship, listening to God’s spirit infuse us with courage and strength. God’s word speaks clearly and personally to us. We are in awe of our Great Shepherd, gently leading us onward.

Jeff came home in time for us to share lunch and then we decided to walk in a different setting. It was lovely to briskly walk through riparian forest in the wildlife refuge along the Tualatin River. We experienced Sabbath rest in the close presence of our Creator. It was fun to watch water fowl, admire the beauty of a brightly colored garter snake, chuckle at the water acrobatics of nutria and enjoy the beauty of the grasses and flowers waving in the cooling breeze. As we meandered beside the still waters we felt refreshed. God is meeting us deeply and we are grateful.

Christine



09 July, 2015

Another checkpoint completed--Jeff's angiogram

Appointments, visits, diagnostic testing and follow ups. These comprise our current days in preparation for Jeff’s surgery for heart valve replacement and aneurysm repair. In the midst of this busyness we experience peace in the lovely wooded setting of our current dwelling place in the home of dear friends. For now this place is our green pasture and still water. We rest in the care of our Good Shepherd.

Today was Jeff’s pre-surgery angiogram. The intent of this diagnostic test was to find out if any of his coronary arteries have any degree of blockage. If they find any significant coronary artery disease then it might necessitate adding bypass surgery to the open heart surgery scheduled for next month.

So, off to the hospital we went early this morning. Jeff was prepped and the doctor came to talk to us. Soon thereafter Jeff was ushered on into the heart catheterization room. I went to the waiting room. A few moments after I sat down to wait the electricity went off.


I admit to thinking, “This is no different than in Africa!” Later I found out Jeff had the same thought and spoke it out loud to the staff waiting with him in the complete darkness, “This is just like in Africa!” The power outage caused a short delay in getting his procedure started but Jeff’s comment was a conversation starter to the talk that kept him distracted until the power came back on and they could get going with the task at hand.

Jeff came through his procedure well with no complications. The exam revealed Jeff has NO coronary artery disease. The physician pronounced his arteries are “pristine” and without disease. Hooray! This means Jeff will NOT require any bypass procedure added to his surgery. Praise Jesus!


Thank you for praying with us. Thank you for praying for us. We stand in awe of our God and all His good works. His provision is exactly what we need. We rejoice in His care. Tonight, as we lie in this green pasture we will snuggle our backs against our Good Shepherd and sleep in peace.

21 April, 2015

Our chosen reality, no matter what….


Eager to return to Uganda. Reluctant to leave behind in  the U.S.A. the many whom we love. Ready to get settled in at home again. Hesitant to pack up to leave where we are now. Full-of-heart in what we look forward to joining in the lives of those whom we love in Uganda. Sorrowful-of-heart in what we will miss in the lives of loved ones not in Uganda.
Packing for Uganda
 
Yes. This is where we are now. We are actively preparing to return to Uganda.  We look forward to getting back to Uganda. Our hearts are “turning toward home.” In about nine weeks we will be winging across time zones, oceans and continents to where our present joy-in-returning-to will rub out the sorrow-in-leaving we felt as we left Uganda late last year. And somewhere along the flight path our hearts will experience blended emotions while passing through the joy-in-arriving we felt as we winged our way to the U.S.A. a few months ago. We will swallow hard, sigh often and perhaps wipe tears of sorrow-in-leaving the ones we love in the U.S.A. 

We look forward to our visits with friends and groups in our remaining weeks before departure. We look forward to more family celebrations. We are grateful to partake of all these blessings.

We are eager to see our loved ones in Uganda, to listen to their stories and hear their hearts. We are excited to celebrate together God’s faithful provision and His care while we have been apart from each other. It will be good to go on sharing God’s word, being reminded of God’s great love for each of us, connecting others to Jesus.But to get there we must first go through the difficult process of separation. It hurts because we are loved, because we love. We face it straight up, though, knowing there is joy to be found in the process, as is always the case when we walk it with Jesus. We trust Him, and He is faithful.

This is our reality. And we surrender to it willingly. We trust God. We believe Him. We choose Him and His way, no matter what we may perceive to be the cost. No matter how high the mountains. No matter the trials. No matter how often, how much change takes place. Our present reality is good even while it is hard. We choose to follow Jesus wherever He leads us and in Him we find deep joy. We are happy along the way.

This is our chosen reality, and it helps us to often sing, “One Thing Remains.” May your hearts be encouraged too! No matter what….

                                              One Thing Remains
                                         Higher than the mountains that I face
                                         Stronger than the power of the grave
                                         Constant through the trial and the change
                                         One thing remains
                                         One thing remains
                                         Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me (x3)
                                         On and on and on and on it goes
                                         It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
                                         And I never ever have to be afraid
                                         One thing remains
                                         In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power 
                                                of your great love
                                         My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart 
                                               from your great love :)
                                                                                                  
                                                                                Songwriters
                                                                                BRIAN JOHNSON, JEREMY RIDDLE, CHRISTA BLACK
                                                                                Published by Lyrics © MUSIC SERVICES, INC


14 March, 2015

Thoughts in this Third Week of Lent


This year Lent feels harder, somehow. It’s not easy to enter into the sorrow and heaviness of Lent when the sun is shining bright and warm, the flowers and trees are already blooming everywhere we look. Birds are singing and nesting. Folks are mowing their grass and getting pruning and primping done in their yards. The smell of newly laid bark dust around brightly colored blossoms does not remind us of loss and sorrow.

Were our weather like that of many others maybe the cold temperatures and dreary scenery would make it easier to remember that loss and grief precede resurrection and joy. But that is not our environmental scenario so it we find our minds skipping ahead to the hosanna and on to hallelujah, prone to zip right on past the cries for crucifixion and the sobs of sorrow in death.

It isn’t always like this. More often than not it seems the dark of winter is a very slow fade into the light of spring. Illness, loss, looming unknowns, disappointment and fear stand within and all around like dead branches of winter.  Lent is a time to remember we have need of a savior. We ponder our sin and the separation from God we would be doomed to live.

And then! Sunday comes bursting in upon our week like the first sign of blossom and we focus on our Savior Himself.  Celebration rings true from the depths of our being, all within us sighing in utter relief that we are not lost forever. Our God knows our need and He came to save. He is already come.

Celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, reminds us His “withness” is constant even as we ponder our need for Him. He is already here, active and present and living. He knows our every need before we discover it for ourselves. So it feels exactly right that as we go out from our corporate worship gathering we are met with warm sunshine, blue sky, flowering trees and the sweet scents of blossoms. It feels exactly right to hum refrains such as, “up from the grave He arose,” and “He lives!”

It may be Lent all week long, but Sunday celebrations of the One who came to be with us makes it ok to skip on ahead to hosanna and hallelujah. Rejoicing does not negate the sorrow but rather brings it to full completion, placing it in right perspective and making it all worthwhile.

I need a savior, and before I even knew He is already come. Hallelujah, what a Savior!


Christine

25 February, 2015

It Takes a Village


The other day we had occasion to visit with a fine young man. We listened as he shared.  Then we thanked him for being a man of integrity, for guarding his ways and for being a man of truth. He sort of chuckled, gave a big smile and said, “It wasn’t too hard. It was pretty easy.”

Hmmm, really? Pretty easy?  Maybe that choice felt easy, but that is because it sits on the foundation of a thousand-and-more right choices. That foundation was built over generations, one decision at a time, one person at a time, one choice on top of another, all leading to, “It wasn’t too hard. It was pretty easy.”

So here is to God, who gave us His word to be a light to our path and a guide to our feet. Who gave His own Son that we might have the mind of Christ. For listening and hearing, caring and answering. For gifting and enabling and bearing. For all of these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to Christ, who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” and went to the cross to die for us that we might live. For coming, abiding, teaching and modeling. For personifying humility, selflessness and grace. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to the generations of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings; family by blood and family by experience, whose decisions led to what is right. Making decisions to go to church even when it wasn’t easy. Choosing to stand firm even when others were not. Deciding to go the extra mile to be sure moral lessons were rightly learned, guarding as well as guiding hearts. Speaking up, speaking out, speaking into as needed, choosing to convey God’s way as the best way. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to the neighbors whose unconditional love modeled rightness in life. For teaching there is a knowing deeper than language can express and that smiles and handshakes say more than we can know. For teaching that people groups and culture are very important yet create little difference. For helping to learn to be at home in a thatched-roof hut as much as in one’s own bedroom. For being willing to be chosen as friends and neighbors and heroes. For sharing and answering and asking what matters. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to the prayer warriors who answered the call to battle, raising their voices and hearts to the Victor who leads us all. Who willingly awakened to God’s Spirit prompting them to pray for safety and provision. For persisting and enduring, repeatedly reminding and petitioning. For remembering and continuing without ceasing. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to the teachers who believed and challenged and modeled the way into making wise choices. Holding the standard high, taking time to further explain and re-demonstrate, offering yet another suggestion. Applauding successes and forgiving failures, bringing learning at the highest level, ever champions for right-doing in all things. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to dorm parents who set down rules and made it possible to keep them. For pointing out that one can have fun and enjoy life without making it hard on others. Deciding to stay up late and listen, to check dorm rooms and beds, to study and pray and model the way. Giving and going and sharing the journeys. Being there, rightly, in all situations. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to the coaches who gave out game plans and workouts. For challenging and inspiring and motivating when no one else could. Who molded and shaped not only muscles and skills but hearts and minds as well. For expecting the best and training others how to give it.  For reinforcing there is fun in the playing of the game and that the best never forget it. For maintaining good sportsmanship as the wisest of all game choices. For building character that can be trusted and counted on. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to all the friends who became as family, mattering not what passport country their parents called home. For playing and imagining, creating and sharing. For jokes and for tricks, for sharing in fun and in discipline. For being there in joy and equally present in sorrow. For making hellos so sweet and goodbyes so hard. For understanding without words, knowing without being told. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

Here is to all the classmates, roommates, workmates and teammates who shared life on all levels. For being willing to be observed and analyzed, partaking in discussion that ultimately leads to making good choices. For fun and laughter; shared tears, clothes and frustrations; for games and hugs and prayer. For being there, sticking with it, explaining, helping to find a better way, showing alternative routes to good ends. For risking and including and staying. For all these decisions and more, “Thank you!”

It takes a village to raise a child. This is our thanks to all in the international village who helped us raise our children. Standing on the foundation you all helped to construct, now as adults our kids can say, “It wasn’t too hard. It was pretty easy.”

Who in your village influenced you in making right decisions? Who in your village is learning from your decision-making? It takes a village....


Jeff and Christine

27 January, 2015

Flight Hazards, Navigation Challenges and Obedience


The other day we were traveling on an urban freeway. The driver was busy with traffic, off-ramps and road hazards. I was busy observing all I could see in this city-not-my-own. A few low-flying birds caught my attention.

In amazement I watched the birds carefully navigate many dangers to flight. Power lines, fast-moving trucks, various roof-lines and fences were hazards that could have knocked them out but the birds persisted in their flight pattern, dodging every hazard and successfully landed in a small patch of grass between roadways.

Once they were firmly on the ground, the birds stood still and looked around. Then they fixed their gaze on the birds-of-their-feather already there. The new arrivals looked like they weren’t sure what to do after successfully navigating the obstacles and finally arriving at their destination. Just before they went out of my sight I saw two of the already-there-birds walk over to the new arrivals. “Ahh,” I thought, “at least “somebird” (somebody) sees their need and will help them on the ground.”
My thoughts went on to liken this bird scenario to missionaries arriving at their ministry location for the first time, or even the 10th time. Throughout a missionary’s time of preparation we each face many hazards that could knock us out of flight. We must learn to navigate gathering a prayer team, partnering with financial investors, legal requirements for living in the new location, paperwork for accountability, family obligations and desires, schedules and more. It is not for the feint-of-heart!
The enemy of our souls interjects thoughts and skews understanding in so many ways, hoping to keep missionaries from successfully landing where God invites us to join Him. And the enemy doesn’t stop when we do land in the place of God’s invitation. Doubts can quickly arise. Thoughts of inadequacy and reminders of our inexperience can swirl like a dense fog bringing limited visibility.

I am so glad God’s invitation to us to join Him in what He is doing includes being the “somebodies” that see the needs of missionaries just arriving and help them on the ground. We find joy in preparing for the arrival of our teammates, laying the groundwork for the entry into Uganda and preparing for mentorship.  It is a privilege to celebrate God’s faithfulness with each arrival, recounting together God’s navigation guidance that enabled them to reach their destination. Sharing Scripture, praying together, helping folks learn where to shop and how to greet people in the local language begins to lift the fog. Providing meals, assisting with childcare, interpreting cultural norms and introducing them to new friends increases visibility. We are grateful for the privilege of helping missionaries thrive!

Now in the U.S. for a few months of homeland ministry assignment, we are once again navigating the flight pattern that leads back to Uganda. We are gathering prayer warriors and financial partners. We are filling out paperwork, spending all possible time with family and juggling schedule requests.
Our hearts are grateful for those who minister to us along the journey. We are being loved on, fed, hosted lavishly, supported lovingly and cared for in every way. We are prayed over, donated to, hugged and challenged. Through this we are renewed, restored, strengthened and our vision clarity is increasing. We look forward to returning to Uganda mid-summer of this year. We are eager to re-join our team already there. Though there is still much to navigate on the way we are confident our God and His people will get us there to continue doing all that God invites us to do with Him.

What about you? Is there someone in your neighborhood, workplace, school or church that has just “landed” and is hoping somebody will see their need and help them? Is God inviting you to join what He is doing in someone’s life, helping them navigate a difficult flight pattern? Might God be prompting you to extend partnership to a missionary? Our prayer is that we each one listen to God’s voice and be courageous in our obedience. Someone is depending on it!

Christine