How To Find Comfort When You Are Drowning (Rwanda #4)


Their faces upturned.

Was this Mzungu (white person) going to impart anything useful? Anything interesting?

A tapestry of beauty and color, these women sat along the work table with expressions as varied as the patchwork quilt covering the end of my bed.

Some gazed curious,
Some dared hope,
Others hid expressionless as life had taught them long ago and depression danced a funeral dirge on their soul.

To survive–they all know the mantra, pounded into their vey beings:
There are no room for feelings,
This is your lot in life.



This is all you get.
This. Is. All. You. Deserve.

But the most upsetting shock to my American mind, was knowing some were illiterate. I have no idea which ones, they all seemed bright and intelligent. I cannot fathom being a grown woman and never knowing the pleasure of diving into a good book on a rainy weekend or never knowing how to read instructions, or signs, or write a love letter.

Another notation on my lengthy mental checklist of “Things I take for granted.”

But I am a “Mzungu”, a rich white person.
No one would call me rich in the states, just an average working woman.
But there, in the exotic Land of a Thousand Hills, amidst more than a thousand pockets of poverty, I am rich beyond their wildest dreams.

I have two cars. I have a garage to put them in. I have more beds than people in my house. And have a refrigerator so full of food, that sometimes those unlabelled plastic containers get shoved to the back of my refrigerator and are growing gross things before I find them.

Then I began to speak instructions as the words flowed through the mouth of the translator.
Over, under, loop and pull.
Over under, loop and pull.
And suddenly to their delight, a macrame bracelet began to emerge.
Like small children begging for affirmation, they held out their knot patterns for inspection.

As I checked their work, smiling nodding and murmuring “Good,” over and over again, the shuttered gaze began to raise, their smiles flashed frequent, and confidence shone over their new accomplishment.

I sat and worked among them, while my lone white hands flashed a pale rhythm along side their dark ones. I couldn’t help but wonder when they last heard that they were good at anything, or received any words of encouragement no matter how small?

So little time, so much to do…

I know there are many places God can use me stateside, but…

I felt like I was needed and wanted and could help make an immediate difference.
And give them a window to a different future.
Give them hope.
Show them an exit route from the streets of prostitution to the road of legal employment.

I want to go back tomorrow.

Yet what tiny offerings I could impart pales with the honeyed words of scripture they are immersed in each morning.
He is the real life-changing element in this story,

Not me.

His compassion knows no bounds of country or race.
He scoops you up, he scoops me up, he scoops up the hopeless and broken women of Rwanda.

Psalm 18:16 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

-Quit trying to navigate life on your own.

-Ask him for his perfect help.

How I Found Thankfulness on the Other Side of the World



( Above are the before and afters of the The Shop)

You know the panicky feeling you get when you face an impossible deadline?

I had it in spades.

Where was all the shelving I sent specifications for from my stateside office? The pieces that were to be built and delivered so that when I arrived in Rwanda we could paint them?

Looming in front of me was a tired, dingy box of a room. A rainbow of merchandise hung sparsely in a vain attempt to liven up the faded yellow walls. An assortment of vivd purses and aprons lay folded on less-than-ample mis-matched shelves.

I knew lurking somewhere lie a potential for cuteness, but it had to be unearthed.

So tape measure in hand I began to lay it out…again.

When the sweet carpenter finally showed up, all was forgiven. I showed him where I wanted the new shelves and told him I needed boards all the way around the room at ceiling height so we could screw in cup hooks for hanging bags and lower boards for hanging jewelry.

And I needed them by tomorrow.

He smiled and nodded. And I said, “No really, I need them by tomorrow.”
When he saw that I was serious, his smile never dimmed. “I can get helpers and we will have them to you by eight o’clock tomorrow night.”

I could have kissed him.

I was sweating the fact that I was half way around the world—with a specific job to do—and worried I wasn’t going to be able to do it.

Now the next question. Was eight o’clock Rwandan time or American time? Rwandan time means the time set, in their eyes, is just a suggestion. Often they show up one to two hours later.

But darling Martin showed up early with our load of new shelving.
He walked proud. We smiled giddy.

Then the fun began. I had the privilege of working alongside Betsie, the gal who runs the handbag workroom, Umucyo, and her friends David and Kelly. We had to paint that evening so it would be dry enough the next day to second coat the shelves and began merchandising them.

But the paint we got was an oil base and the fumes so bad, even with the windows wide and the door open, we began to get dizzy and had to step outside for fresh air at regular intervals. Giggles ensued, as we frantically pushed to finish. By the dim light of one bulb we bonded and got it done.

And as midnight neared, exhausted but happy, I surveyed the results.

Thankfulness washed me clean.

Thankful for a carpenter who worked on “American” time.
Thankful for new friends willing to work hard alongside me through stink and toil.
Thankful for the women who worked long hours to provide beautiful handmade items for The Shop.

Thankful for a patient God who led me steady through my futile worries.

The grand opening of The Shop is today.

I solicit your prayer for it’s success.

Every item sold insures the employment of these women who have mouths to feed and many have little other options other than selling themselves.


(Vendors are Belay Global-jewelry, Umucyo-bags and aprons, More than Sparrows-homegoods. Look them up!)

How to Figure Out What is Really Important (Rwanda #2 2016)

The feelings wash the same.
The thankfulness gushes from my very pores.
The chagrin over the excess in my stateside life overwhelms.

It’s only been a year since I walked the rutted roads of Rwanda.
A year ago I vowed not to forget.
Not to fall into the spoiled American habit of
Whining. About. Everything.

I stand weary in the shower. Rinsing the dust and dirt from my first-day-in-Africa-body. The hot spray revitalizes me behind the makeshift rope-strung curtain. And in the midst of my leisurely enjoyment, the repentant thoughts wash hot.

I’ve slipped back into an American callousness.

I realize I’m doing it again.
A lifetime of habits not easily shed.
From the mind frame of a take-for-granted life.

I become conscious that I am taking an “Americanized” shower. Spending waaaay too long. Wasting water. Making the three other housemates wait. Did I even ask them if they needed in tonight before I monopolized the bath?

What is wrong with me?

I’ve been away from Africa too long.

Birthplace of civilization, areas unchanged for centuries. Other locales clash in brutish contradictions of old ways and modern life.

Kigali, the bustling modern city with skyscrapers of success that belie the poverty hidden in secret pockets. Weary mothers sell fruits from huge platters balanced on their heads. Barefoot children with big-eyed stares, sit quietly at their feet. Many daily trudge the long road to market and back, wares loaded on their heads, babies strapped to their backs.

Reminders everywhere that I am—

And the countryside further unfurls the dire need in an unashamed exhibition of a life lived day to day, hand to mouth.

Yet she smiles with gracious charm and says yes. I take her picture. And we buy the tiny African bananas. Half the size of ours, the bold, sweet taste renders our bananas back home as a bland and tasteless shadow of it’s tantalizing cousin.

A joy eliminates from her dark face. Her shy smile fills me with a desire to help these brave Rwandan women.
To do more.
To be more.
To allow them to feed their families with honor and dignity.

Like the tasteless banana from home, my life seems bland and routine after seeing their struggles. My good life here becomes a great life on that continent. I see what I have in abundance and I am humbled.


So I promise myself again.
I will be thankful.
I will look at my world with eyes fresh from Africa.
I will count my blessing every day.

I WILL give back to the women of Africa–even from my stateside seat.

Let my prayers abound and may I never ever forget.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
-What do you forget to be thankful for?
-Stop now and thank the God of abundance for his gift to you

Finding Courage to Wait For God’s Perfect Timing (Rwanda #1 2016)

(Look above the desert for the stripe in the middle of the picture--The Sea.)
(Look above the desert for the stripe in the middle of the picture–The Sea.)


I never ever get a window seat.

I aways allow The Preacher to hunker there so I can shield him from Chatty Cathy or Talky Tom. In faux-extrovert mode all day at work, to recharge he thrives on silence with his nose in a book.

But today on a trip to the other side of the world, I am all alone with my very own window seat.
And though I had cold feet about enduring two solitary eight-hour plane rides, from Detroit to Amsterdam and on to Rwanda, I found myself giddy as I began to figure out what we were soaring over.

Nose pressed to the window,
Heart thumping with excitement,
I felt like a little kid trying get as close as I could without smudging the window. Well, maybe I did smudge it a time or two…

A white blanket, as if snow, covered the ground as far as my eye could see. Yet snow made no sense for our southerly route. The plane locator map on my tiny TV screen revealed the truth to be– miles and miles of scorching white sand of The Sahara Desert. I scanned for an oasis but I saw no signs of civilization from my birds-eye-view.

So I knew we were close.

Squinting and patiently waiting for the clouds to thin, I gazed with rapt attention.
In the distance it spilled— The Red Sea.
Visions of God parting this water with a frantic Moses ushering his people into the dry sea bed, danced in my mind. Somehow I had the size pictured as similar to the Mississippi River which flows eleven miles in width at it’s widest point. But when I focused on the immensity of this body of water, up to two-hundred-twenty-one miles wide, my breath hitched and I felt a reverent awe encase me.


(The dark line in the lower right is The Nile)

As I changed my sight line I saw it. Snaking beneath us, carving the sand was The Nile River.
The same river that Pharaoh’s daughter bathed in.
The same river that produced the tiny Hebrew baby, later raised in the palace as a prince.
The same river that produced millions of frogs.
The same river that coughed up all life teeming beneath the surface, as our God turned it to blood and filled the land with the dreadful stench of death.

I’d never felt Moses so acutely.
The echoes reverberated of a fearful man, changed by God to save his people.

The once favored son who tried to defend his people with his own hand, became a hunted murderer.
On Pharaoh’s hit list, he fled to the desert to wander in exile for years.

A has-been,



But God was not done with him.

With forty years of toil to vanquish the impulsive brashness of a younger man, time ripened for him to do things God’s way.
And though he balked and whined and begged for help, Gods patience and provision prevailed. Joined by Aaron, he found courage and became the knight in shinning armor God envisioned for his people.

A forgotten man

Remembered by God.
Exodus 4:13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

-What do you need courage to do?
-What do you need to let go of and wait on the perfect timing of God?Finding Cour

What To Remember When You Can’t Seem To Let Go of Stinkin Thinkin (Renovation #6)





If ugly was a deciding point, we would have turned and run.
The house rose before us in a hideous jumble of mismatched parts and overrun vegetation.

As we toured the neglected structure, it was apparent the previous owners had left it pretty much circa 1980 and let the termites run wild. The front door frame had a twelve by four inch termite run etched into the veneer. Ick!

Tentatively inching our way across matted brown carpet, we rounded the corner and stopped with a gasp.
Then an incredulous laugh—

“Are you kidding me?”

The real weirdness showed up in full regalia.
An addition had been put on the back of the house probably twenty years ago, but the exterior windows that were now inside the house were never removed. And still slicing up the view were the exterior sliding glass doors from the “new” dining room to the “new” breakfast room.

Call us crazy—

We bought it anyway.
But you know…
Amazing results happen from a fresh coat of paint, a lot of cleaning supplies and the removal of ancient stained carpet.

The house began to grin.

But still those awful exterior windows and glass doors in the middle of the house mocked us every time we walked by.

So next on our agenda?
Remove those awful windows and sliding glass doors.
Sledge hammers to action.
Open concept here we come.

The old house breathed a sigh of relief, shedding it’s thirty-five years of wear like a well needed face-lift.
I felt it grinning from ear to ear.

No matter how good the rest of my house looks, if I ignore the old eyesores and refuse to remove the blemish, my final product will always be tainted.





An unforgiving heart.

I’m thankful my ugly doesn’t make God turn and run.

Somehow he sticks around and loves me anyway.

Even when I hang on to my stinkin thinkin.
Even when redemption seems impossible.
Even when redemption seems too good to be true.







2 Tim 2:13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

-What are you having a hard time letting go of?
-Write it down then tear it up and pray.

Don’t Forget to Remember–This world is Not My Home (Remodel #5)




“All of life is a coming home.

Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners,

Beekeepers, sword swallowers–all of us.
All the restless hearts of the world…

All trying to find a way home.

It’s hard to describe what I felt like then.
Picture yourself walking for days in a driving snow.

You don’t even know you’re walking in circles–

The heaviness of your legs in the drifts;

Your shouts disappearing into the wind.

How small you can feel.

How far away home can be.

Excerpt from Patch Adams


A new zip code.
A forgotten derelict of a house.
A new place to hang my hat.
Walls deconstructed, reconstructed, cut, expanded, papered, painted,

And so our journey went.

The master bath proved to be the biggest renovation challenge.
We tore down an unnecessary wall to make one large room, ripped out the filthy chipped tub and replaced it with a shower. We treated the mold under the old tile, and any other unpleasant surprises hiding in secret. Finally we tucked the toilet in the corner instead of leaving it front and center since it was not the focal point of the room.

Even with all the renovations done, it was not a home until I made it so. I displayed my precious family photos, placed my favorite chair just so, put out the proverbial welcome mat and let the newly reborn house be a gathering place for others.

What makes a true home?

A welcoming haven? A place of peace and comfort and acceptance for your restless and sometimes tattered soul?

Or in less than optimal circumstances, it looms lonely as a place you return to each evening—never feeling like a true home, just a house.

More than simply a shelter to keep the weather out, it can be the place you live now, your parents place, or even a childhood dwelling place.

Or maybe it’s not even a structure with four walls, maybe it’s your people, your family or your church.

We sometimes yearn for the home we’ve never really had, or a distant memory, or something we mourn because we have it no more.

Sometimes we are determined to create the kind of loving, accepting home we were fortunate enough to be brought up in. Other times we are just as determined to establish a home looking nothing like our dysfunctional home of origin.

After a trying day with well-meaning but gripey church folks, one of my friends said, “I’m not going to let petty things upset me anymore, I’m just going to keep my eyes on heaven.”

She knew how to keep her temporary life on earth in perspective. She knew where her ultimate home resided.

As a child my sister and I loved to roam among the mossy tombstones near my Missouri grandparents’ home, discovering ancient dates on crumbling stone.

I felt drawn to the peaceful setting and my mind raced with imagined stories of their lives—some happy, some tragic. The mother and child buried beside each other sobered me. I envisioned a grieving husband kneeling between them—imagined from tidbits of worn text carved on the cool stone.

Those pioneers knew then what I strive to remember now--when peace escapes me and the walls press in.
Written on headstone after headstone in delicate script or bold block lettering were the words,
“Gone Home”.

Proverbs 27:8 “Like a bird that wanders from its nest, so is a person who wanders from his home.”

-What kind of home did you come from? How do you pattern your current home?

-Write a thanks to God for being with you during the trials of life and for the heavenly home awaiting you.

5 Ways to Steal Back Your Sanity: Become a Peace Pirate (Remodel #4)



Swigging hot beverages, the patrons gazed at laptops, typing like mad or just staring in a mesmerized trance. Some chatted in easy camaraderie with smiling friends. Others settled back on the broken-in-to-perfection leather chairs, devouring the daily news along with a fresh cuppa joe.

The atmosphere gave the illusion of relaxed nonchalance in this local coffee hangout. Maybe the feeling settled in because I’m really not ensconced in the hubbub of the big city but merely in Chicago’s shadow a few miles away.

And then I begin to notice, despite the soothing notes wafting through the speakers, and the obvious effort to set a serene mood, my first impression missed a few telling signs.

Subtle indicators revealed all moods may not be as peaceful as seemed.

The girl on the barstool typed frantically with her foot jiggling in sequence to the frenetic cadence. The suited man glanced at his expensive wristwatch every few seconds. A nervous laugh echoed hollow from the young man being interviewed for a job. And the unhappy guy next to me expounded on and on with loud animation to his squirming companion about his pet peeve—an unwelcome surprise—no paper towels in the bathroom.

A surprise like the curveball we got when we pulled the old powder bath cabinets down in the powder bath, circa 1980 avocado green walls promised an easy fix with a fresh coat of paint—right?

Wrong—the ugly truth revealed itself as the cabinet crashed to the floor. With an appalled gasp and a disgusted shudder, we gazed on the destruction.

Exposed before us and wrought during years and years of silent queens and stealthy workers, remained an abandoned termite colony. Eaten to pulp and carved solid with mud runs, the ruined sheetrock demanded replacement.

And I think of the secrets we hide so well—

Like living so overloaded we feel we are going crazy, or shrouding our shaky faith, or our fight with depression.

We hide clues behind invisible walls,

We hide behind bright smiles,

We hide signs from our friends, our children and often our spouses.


We may paddle against the current because we run afraid of what others will think.

Or as self-protection because previous hurts run deep.

Or because we buy into the lie hissing, “Everyone else seems to be handling life just fine.”

Or just a rooted stubbornness saying,” I don’t need to let God or others in, I can handle it myself, thank you very much.


So we suffer in silence. Carving our own mud runs of destruction beneath our coffee shop facades.

When I feel the mounting pressure and the old familiar grip of tension in my shoulder, I know to return to being a Peace Pirate by stealing back what the world takes away and I:
1.Pray for relief -Steal back quiet time; only God knows my needs and how to give it.

2. Breathe deep-Steal back air to fill my lungs and push out negativity and tension.

3. Exercise-Steal back endorphins; anything to get the blood flowing. From a quick trip to the YMCA, a brisk three minute walk every hour, to a few turns outside during lunchtime.

4. Forgive someone (It may be yourself) Steal back peace of mind. Unforgiveness is a black hole of desolation.

5. Be thankful daily-Steal back a grateful demeanor.
Psalm 29:11  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

-What is stealing your peace and sanity? Commune continually with God, confide in someone else if possible.

-Work through the five steps.

What to Remember In the Face of the World’s Mass Insanity


What is wrong with us?
Where is the goodness
And the patient grace
And the love of our fellowman?

Bullies degrade
Racists divide
Murderers in the name of vengeance,
Slaughterers for a God I don’t know,
Innocent victims slain again
And again
And again.

One side blames,
The other retaliates.
Some spew vile with a hatred of pure evil.

Fear prevails
Slithers quiet and sly.
When the cruel world tips insane.

And the slide toward violence and inequality speeds,
And the widows weep,
And the fatherless children cry themselves to sleep,
And mothers mourn with a grief that knows no bounds,
While the fathers die a little more inside each day.

When the future seems bleak
And numb is normal
Or fear mounts with a whisper that becomes a roar of anxiety in my ear.
And hiding seems the only recourse—
Disappearing into a place of peace and quiet
A place where perfect peace reigns
And the turmoil surging near can be ignored.
I stand before you Lord.
Begging for calm
Gulping ragged breath
Stumbling through the dark chasm to the dawn of you alone.

And I remember
Victory is mine
Because you bled it for me,
The enemy defeated long ago.

This raging-out-of-control world is not my home.

My home resides in your arms Lord,
My refuge and shelter
My peace in this angry storm.

May I never forget that the battle has been won

By the wanton spilling of your

Victory is mine
And I kneel in thanks to a God who promises me peace
And is waiting to deliver every minute of every day.

All I have to do is ask.


Psalm 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Five Ways To Fight Back: Finding Peace in Life’s Chaos (Remodel #3)

IMG_0554IMG_4536A steady flow of strangers swept in and out, like a harried trail of ants.
We were drowning in the throes of demolition.

Our much anticipated anniversary trip to the Dominican Republic speedily approached and The Preacher wondered aloud if we should really go.

My immediate response to his query? “Yes–we are absolutely going.”

We approach life as pretty easy-going folk. Most of the time. But wearing us slick was the day-in-day-out living above a construction zone life. With no kitchen or living areas finished, we lived in the master bed and bath, the only finished refuges. In addition, hovering just below the surface throbbed a secret ongoing grief.

“I don’t want to be snippy and zing this chaos out on you. We need a break from the noise and dust to help restore our frazzled nerves and focus on what is important.”

Our son was our contractor, which gave us a bit of ease that the house rested in caring hands. So without a backward glance, stuffing our fears into our back pockets, we flew away with high hopes of huge strides in progress while we relaxed.

Getting away from it all did 5 wonderful things:

Placed focus on what was important. Not some self-imposed stress, but my relationship with my husband.

Reminded me to count my blessings, for they are many.

-Relaxed in God’s arms so he could restore my soul.

-Allowed me to unplug and recline in his peace, uninterrupted by technology.

-Renewed my determination to close my eyes and pray when life’s trials increase my anxiety. And recall his soft voice telling me to focus on him, so the worries can melt into his words and diminish their power over me.

Result? A bit of a tan, 3 books devoured, renewal gifted in abundance. And I promised myself for the days to come that I would keep that gateway open to his calming spirit.

I do realize trips are nice, but a rare treat. I can’t go running off every time I’m stress-slogged.

I had to remember how to function peaceful in the daily grind.

By the fire at first I sought him.
Winter’s frigid touch soon fell away, so I drug out a rickety lawn chair from the mile-high pile in the overstuffed garage and set it on the back patio. As the sun made itself known, I reveled in the call of the birds and the glimpse of the great blue heron patiently fishing the calm waters below.

And the world melted away.
So I could feel his peace,
My armor for the daily fight with chaos and uncertainty.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-Do you have a place to retreat and find daily peace?
-If not find one. It can be a favorite chair or a bench in your yard or anywhere in between.

How to Not Let Someone Have a Piece of Your Mind When You Really Want to Give Them a Piece of Your Mind (Remodel #2)


We never saw it coming.

High marks dominated the website.

A plethora of positive comments.

They quoted us a reasonable price and assured us they didn’t need to come look first. Congenial and professional when they arrived, they couldn’t help but show a little dismay at the amount of “stuff” we had boxed up in our three bedroom house. I won’t say sentimental hoarding might be a problem?

We told them in all fairness we would pay them more.

Halfway through the day it was apparent they didn’t bring a large enough truck. But since we were only moving a few miles they chirped, “No worries, we will just unload one batch and come back and fill it again.”

By the time we limped over to the new house, darkness descended. Not a problem, except we noticed something strange when we pulled up.

No lights, nada, nowhere in the whole culdesac.

A random power outage meant disaster for us.

Desperate, I eased my car onto the front lawn and pointed my high-beams into the living room.

There were three major problems created that dark night:

Number one—The house was so pitch black it was impossible to put the carefully labeled boxes into the correct room. Every stick of furniture and every box had to be piled sky-high in the living room.

Two—We had no control of what was hap-stacked where and all our clothes ended up smooshed on the back wall under mounds of other boxes and flat inaccessible. (Of course I hadn’t thought to get out more than two days worth of clothes before the move.)

Three—We were going to have to carry box after box and furniture upstairs by ourselves when we could finally sort out the jumble.

The crew offered with hesitation, to fill the truck again that evening or, “If it is ok, could we come back at nine in the morning? And could we go ahead and get our pay for the day?”

Tired and disheartened by the lighting situation, we wrote them a check and agreed morning would be best.

I know, I know, dumb is an understatement.

The morning’s donut peace offering remained untouched when nine-thirty passed and ten, and phone calls and texts weren’t returned.

We called the bank and stopped pay on the check.

Panic squeezed.

We had to be out of our house the next day.

The Preacher stalked every moving company listed. When he found some guys that could come at two, I nearly kissed them when they actually arrived.

When the original crew leader realized he couldn’t cash the check, he then decided to call. It was hard, hard, hard to speak civil words through the anxiety and stress he had imposed on an already stressful day.

He assured us he was making no money on the job, it was all going to the poor guys who did most of the work. ( And they did work hard.) His excuse was that the job was bigger than he expected and he had to cut their losses and go to the next job.


I guess I am naive.

I thought ethical behavior dictated that we would never be left with a house half moved and a looming deadline. Who does that to someone?

So I had to practice what I knew, clamp my mouth shut, and wade through the excuses to give grace.

God didn’t give me what I deserve.

So I gave them what they didn’t deserve, a civil response and the full money owed.


But you know what?

Unmerited favor has an unexpected bonus.

The ability for the giver to move on and sleep peacefully. Till this writing, I never gave him another thought.


2 Corinthians 1:12  Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.

-When have you had to extend grace?

-If there is someone you need to extend grace to now, pray for strength to do it.