Confessions of a (Recovering) Work-a-church-a-ministry-a-holic

Disclosure: Sometimes when I write, I write for anyone who will read it. And sometimes when I write I have a specific message meant for a specific group. Now certainly anyone is welcome to read this piece, but this is written for folks who might consider themselves one of God’s kids, and specifically someone who is working to serve Him with their lives. Today I am writing with you in mind…

This summer I made a trek out west…the midwest to be exact…desiring to reconnect with my Indiana roots. I drove around the streets and soaked up the delicious slowness. One night I was invited to a friend’s house. When we arrived there was a scampering of little feet running up and down steps, there were giggles and basketballs bouncing on a court out back. The wine flowed freely and the laughter was contagious. The twinkle lights outlining the deck gave a perfect glow. The love communicated through this group of friends was evident. This was not a special night it was their typical Saturday night. It was slow, it was infectious and it spoke directly to my soul.

Funny how I am forty and feeling like I am JUST learning some huge life lessons. Is it is a rite of passage or did I miss the memo being passed down from those older and wiser? I am learning about myself, about priorities, about family and friends, about ministry and relationship…about life. If you’ll hang with me I will share more of these lessons through this channel over the upcoming weeks and months.

Here’s the thing…I wish I would have learned this sooner. My life would have felt different–or at least I could have modeled better behavior for those who followed or were watching. I desire for those I love who are just a few steps behind on this journey to latch on and learn FASTER than I learned…to prevent headache and heartache and confusion.

Most of us have been taught your life IS ministry…and in some ways it is…but maybe not how you are thinking. See, we also have been taught ministry trumps all. Living day to day in this reality means no rest for the weary, ever. You get the call you go. Yet, there will aways be more needs than there is time to fulfill. The busyness box stuffed with good things causes us to trade better for best. (And you will know it, because “better” actually turns you bitter.) Those closest to us feel the effects of this most profoundly. The littles that look to us for their needs and wants have a blurred and confused understanding of service and ministry as we give of ourselves until depleted and leave nothing left for their precious hearts at home. And so it goes, our slow Saturday nights are gobbled up by things we feel obligated to do…or may even find great joy in doing…but at what cost? And here’s the kicker…we act like WE are the victims of the schedule we have created. We are exhausted and over-extended but we were the ones who said yes to all.of.the.things.

When my mind is swirling and cluttered…I find books to center and calm me. Transparent authors have been fantastic guides. Lewis and Lamott, the list runs long…so many welcomed truth tellers. I have found the words ofthis woman extremely timely on some of these subjects…in her book Present Over Perfect  Shauna Niequist declares,

You don’t have to sacrifice your spirit, your joy, your soul, your family, your marriage on the altar of ministry. Just because you have the CAPACITY to do it doesn’t mean you have to. (157)

There is something about the American dream, there is something in the fabric of our culture that has birthed a mantra. A “self-made-ness” mantra that has seeped in to our spiritual culture and the rush and the push and the drive and the DO threatens our very soul.

She goes on,

I have seen a thousand examples of fruit in the churches and starvation in their marriages and families. I would not call that blessed, or whole or healthy, or God’s intent. (158)

To be clear it expands farther than the church proper, it is the western missionary work we saw in Uganda, it is in the para-church organizations, it is in our small groups, our committees/service projects, and it is in our homes. We are human beings not human doings. And to be clear, doing things for God does not equate relationship with God. But internal and external voices tell us we must do more, we must be more. And if you are looking to attract others to faith…I can assure you they are not interested in the rush, the chaotic, the overwhelmed, and the busy life we present in the name of God. Sit in that statement for a moment. I think our friends watching are far more interested in the intentional, in the small, in the meals, in the moments. In the times around the table…or sitting on the deck under the stars. That is where He shines brightest.

When we slow down we see faces. We see hurts and hardships. When we slow down we raise the white flag acknowledging our inadequacies and our inabilities to be all things to all people. This actually become a freeing and refreshing reality. Speed keeps us from truly feeling the feels. And it gives a false sense of worth…so we put our heads down moving forward knowing this can’t be all there is to life…all the while, despite our best intentions, I believe others are watching who are not likely very impressed.

For the past year I have fought for many things…but one is the desire to be authentic…to feel the feels. Giving myself permission to ask, question, doubt, and discover. The search for authenticity required slowness and silence. It required doing wildly unpopular things like saying “no” and “not for this season.” It required questioning the status quo…even the Christian status quo…and the very roots of my theology. I feel as if I am landing on the soft side of this thing with God…more ready than ever to walk with Him. I am ready to feel the safety and security of my tribes’ embrace…and to do this in the comfort of my deck chair out back…sipping on sweet tea or something stronger…knowing that in this slowness I am being more authentically who I was made to be and not doing what I think God is expecting me to do.

For those who find this incredibly obvious…I am thrilled for you. Oh how I wish I could have learned this earlier. This is written with so many and yet no one specifically in mind…if a tiny truth popped off the page then terrific…take it and let it soak in to your soul. But for those who are tired, (exhausted even), I feel you, and there is no way God intends for you to wear your body out for his namesake. He doesn’t love you for what you do…but cause you’re His.

Recently Chris and I have vowed to love the life we live…and he keeps saying, “if we don’t it’s our fault.” So here’s to learning to slow down and stop doing things for God…and working to simply be His kid. Here’s to laying out a life we love…with sweet days and nights around tables and on back porches. No doubt adventures will flow out of that time…but it begins in the slowness and soulfulness of seeing Him and seeing others the way we were designed to live.

Stumbling through the Playground of Life

I remember the day Lela Serapin spit in my face on the playground. We were standing near the metal dome-shaped soccer ball climby-thing. I remember standing there stunned wondering what in the world I had done to receive such treatment and why in the world she was so angry? I think we were talking about our backgrounds…and I shared a bit about my families’ faith…I might have uttered the name of Jesus. What I quickly discovered was her background and the offense she took of his claim to be more than a man. Whatever the words spoken that day…she was cut deep and I was devastated. Not only because my face was covered in humiliation and saliva…but also because I never intended her harm.

The playground of life is full of whimsy…squeals of delight, belly laughs and tender moments where we hand in hand run from activity to activity…seeking pleasure and connection along the way. There are monkey bars where the blood rushes to our head and we penny drop down landing proud and bit light-headed. Boys are chasing girls and strategies are planned and plotted. There is jump ropes and hop-scotch and swings that make us feel like we can touch the sun. The highs felt in these moments are second to none.

Until your friend falls from the top of the splintered bridge of the jungle gym and fractures her wrist. Until Andrew Frank collapses after chasing the girls from an asthma attack and is gasping for air on the grass. When the overweight child is picked last for the kickball team. Or he is called Crusher because he is so big and cannot fit in to a child-sized desk. When a bee stings an allergic child and she goes in to anaphylactic shock. When Lela who has played Cabbage Patch dolls at your house and shared multiple popsicles–spits in your face. The whimsical moments of childhood innocence end. And there is an unsettled sense that everything is not okay. 

From childhood we sense it…even in our safest most magical moments there is a sense of darkness that is near. For some children it started early, their homes were not safe and their innocent lives were interrupted by darkness before they knew Light. For many it was a gradual sense and it has grown in to adulthood where we still run around the playground of life. We do our best to find whimsy, laughter, and tender connection. We fight for the highs where our tummy drops as gravity pulls us back toward the earth.

We are quickly pulled to earth when we receive a devastating diagnosis. When we lose someone we love tragically to death or divorce. When our parent or child struggles with addiction. When there is a car accident, or a shooting, and then another shooting. We look down at our friend on the ground gasping for breath…we wipe the saliva from our face…and we recognize something is not right–and we wonder if there has to be more? If this simply is not the full picture…if this is not actually the life to the fullest we thought it would be. We wonder if there is more to this life than living and dying? We wonder if this side of heaven is only the prelude?

Linking the events of my life together I have so many magical playground moments to point me to the belief that there is an Author of a story that brings together laughter and friendship, connection and love. But I also see a more sinister side to this world that has absolutely no law and suffering is not a respecter of persons. The poor decisions of others have devastating effects on innocent bystanders. There is even a brokenness to our planet where mosquitos bring malaria and people die. This may beg the question: Why would the Author create only to destroy? Or allow His creation to suffer?

In my younger years I grew exhausted from the adults speaking of heaven–I found it boring imagining angels lying around on clouds playing harps all day. I now find myself stumbling through my faith journey needing there to be more. Needing this to not be it. Because this world holds too much pain and heart-ache and anger to fit into my brain as the ending point. My desire is not to live for heaven…sitting by idly counting the days until glory. (You.have.got.to.be.kidding.me.) But I desire to do my best to bring a little bit of heaven to the fractured playground. To bring assurance and and support to those laying flat on their backs staring at the sun wondering if this is their last painful breath. I don’t get to change my circumstances or my personal suffering…but I do get to choose how I respond to the brokenness that happens on the playground. I choose to believe there is more and live with hope despite the devastation. I remember the trouble-makers on the playground, their negativity and their drama. I remember gravitating toward the friends who created adventure each and every time our feet hit the asphalt. The brave ones who were plotting playground plans before we were actually out the door. I want to be the one who brings joy and hope to the adventure…who doesn’t pretend there is no harm or danger–but enters in, loves well, and gets dirty along the way.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

Cause This Day Can Be Hard…

So I see this as a blessing and a curse. And it is probably a combination of nature and nurture generating my hypersensitivity to the feelings of others.  Sometimes I am paralyzed as I don’t want to say something to offend…or do something that might hurt your heart. (I am not perfect at this and am sure I have hurt many–but I can assure you it was not intentional as I have spent the better part of (almost) 40 years doing my best to be very very very sensitive to the hearts of others…especially surrounding delicate topics like this one!) So on a day like today as much as I would like to post a picture of my babies (and there is NOTHING wrong with doing this)…or a picture of my mom (and this is also to be celebrated)…I pause. Because this day can be hard.

This day can be hard for those who have lost a child recently…like the mother I heard about who lost her baby at 19 weeks…this weekend. Or maybe the loss of your child was 15 years ago–but Mother’s Day brings about a sweetness as well as a sting. There are other women with big beautiful mother’s hearts who are painfully watching their friends on facebook but have not birthed a child of their own…a longing that aches the other 364 days of the year–but today her pain is highlighted. I see you sweet pea. I see you.

Another shift of our awareness on this day accompanies a loss of a mother. My mother in law was a beautiful gift to me and someone I miss regularly…especially when I see the wonder in my children’s eyes and know she would have enjoyed teaching them something new. I see my husband continue to grow in to an amazing man and father and I know his mom would have loved to watch this unfold. The loss of a mother whether recent or distant makes this day difficult. An especially painful loss on this day happens to those who who have lost their mothers long ago even though she is still living. You know who you are if this is you, and you endure an especially private pain. You would never speak ill of your mother who is unable to be the mom you had hoped she would/could be. There is likely grace–loads of it–surrounding your relationship…but there is sadness and grief not joy on this day. Daughter…I am so sorry…I see you.

For those whose mom is sick, or absent, or is a woman you never knew. Or for those who are sharing the responsibility of motherhood, maybe you are a stepmom, or a foster mom…I see you. Single mom friends…I see you.

So today on a day full of beautiful pictures and celebrations–of course I celebrate with so many of you! But I want to take a moment and honor those of my friends who are feeling the sting of this day and I want to say your heart is being held. I will hold it in case you thought no one noticed…you are not forgotten. You are allowed to feel a bit hollow even if your house is full.

There is a Love greater than mine that says I see you. I think certainly it is nurture…but stronger is Nature…screaming down from heaven reminding me of the hearts that matter to Him. Remember today on this painfully beautiful day He is especially fond of you.

If you have a precious woman in your life that you SEE and might be encouraged by these words…please pass them on–or send a few words of your own her way!  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!

Jenni

 

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook…

Oh Mark Zuckerberg you lovable little genius you. The thing you predicted would blow up has taken over and altered the way we communicate and connect with the rest of the WORLD. Thank you and darn you all at the same time. I could not be more grateful to follow and keep track of my sweet friends I met and did life with in Uganda. I could not be more grateful for the ways I can keep a “visual eye” on that beloved place and the people who live there. But then I honestly get tangled/trapped in the mind numbing scrolling and sometimes am completely sucked in to a video of a pug pouncing up the stairs or I “need” to know what animal my face looks like!?! Several seconds of my life later THIS pops up.

Completely.unneccesary. But in the “Facebook moment” I NEEDED to know. (Love/hate.)

On the inspirational side of this communication highway–Facebook carries vital messages of hope and encouragement in to my world. This platform is wrapped in relationships with people I love and relationships I hope to continue to cultivate. With a press of a button I am able to stay connected to precious stories of real people I care about and “like” to “follow”! There are inspiring quotes, and passionate pieces of news stated in ways that are humorous and a bit more palatable to consume. Mark has even made a simple way to tell my friends “Happy Birthday” because he somehow knew my brain is too cluttered to keep all of that straight! This is when I feel all the feels and am full of Facebook love.

Then there are the more annoying posts…the I really didn’t want to see that post. You know when your child gashed his head open and received 5 staples post. (For my nerdy doctor and nurse friends out there I know you find those fascinating–but as for me and my eyes–no thank you.)

Oh and let me go ahead and call out right now that little side biz of mine. From the bottom of my heart a big thank you to my Facebook friends who have no interest and will NEVER purchase R+F products. Grateful for your willingness to power through my page–pushing past my business posts to get to the heart of what is going on in my world. You are patient my good people…thanks for not un-friending me, but for exercising a restrained eye roll and quick two fingered flip as you scroll on by. (I try to not to be obnoxious or create white noise–but I understand: if this is not your thing–it is not your thing.) I found my job on Facebook–as well as answers to something I was looking for…so I will always be an “intentional poster”–but I also understand that there is a lot vying for your attention so forgive me for adding to the mental clutter. (Love/hate.)

Then there is the more sinister and serious side that I must address because people behave very badly on Facebook. Especially within this election year we have become downright hateful and aggressive. (I am not super swimmy with our options–but in my humble opinion, Facebook shouldn’t be the platform for us to make up our mind or change the minds of others.) Oh and while on the topic of persuading others–the hateful and embarrassing things Christians say on Facebook…y’all I just want to hide under a rock and throw my laptop away. The cruelty and unkindness does not represent me or my tribe. My lack of words on the subject is absolutely intentional–it is a distancing of sorts between myself and the obnoxious, hurtful words daily spoken in the name of Christ and Christianity.  We feel compelled to “speak truth in love” on our STATUS UPDATE or on the update of another!?! No. Not the platform little lamb…not the platform. The Good Shepherd is calling and begging you to stop doing more damage than the good you think you are doing. My lack of words on this subject in no way expresses my lack of love for my good Shepherd…but I see far more folks standing up for something they believe in while crucifying their “friends” for not having the same preferences or religious/political beliefs. True connection and friendship happens face to face one conversation at a time. Period.

I thank God for my ability to stay in touch with my friends who I met years ago in Indiana, or while doing YL at Apex high school, or via POWER, or Hope, or while traveling the globe…but to be clear…we FIRST met: FACE TO FACE. Only then did Facebook become an important messenger and delivery service. Our purpose in posts matter. Or at least it matters to me. I want to bring far more love and grace in to this space… (Love.)

Because I can assure you that when looking across the kitchen table from said “friend” eye to eye, face to face, the kind of hate we write on Facebook would so very unlikely be spewed in spoken spaces. Yet with written words we shred from the comfort of our couches…hidden behind our screens forgetting the humanity of others. This hate and harm (as well as a few random quizzes and mind-numbing videos that I get sucked in to and spend too many minutes of my precious life completing) have caused me to want to close my account forever.  (Hate.)

But Facebook can be full of light, love and inspirational stories about humanity that bring me back around and cause me to place a stake in the ground. I will be different. My posts will have purpose. My words will be building, kind, and constructive. Life is hard y’all. This world can be brutal. Let’s not pollute this platform. Let’s be better than that. Much better.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

Don’t Call ‘Em as You See ‘Em…

This blog stems from a deep desire in me to not add to the negative voices in the universe. The voices whispering, “You are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, creative enough…simply…you are not enough.” I hope to communicate a strategy I have adopted that has sent me to a different place with my children, friends and family. It has quieted some of the critical voices and shifted my semantics to speak life and love in to those around me.

Recently I was reading about Donald Miller’s tragic past with relationships…specifically with females. He had a broken engagement and a long track record pointing to a negative pattern with women. Each story ending with a crash and burn scenario. He was incredibly discouraged by this pattern but could not do much to fix it.  (Scary Close)**

Enter Bob Goff. Bob began to speak a different truth over Donald…words that almost seemed ludicrous. Regularly and sincerely he would say, “Donald, you are good at relationships.” He would then give examples in their own friendship of how Donald had treated Bob.

The language he used and his intentionality was quite surprising to read…but I was also shocked by Donald’s response. Over time he began to believe this truth about himself. He took serious steps to change in this area of his life– including attending a week long relational rehab of sorts. It was almost as if he wanted to live what Bob already believed to be true.

Stay with me friends…this has been bouncing around in my brain a bit…but we have the power to speak this kind of truth over others and it can create change. I think about my children who do things that are less than stellar: they speak to each other in nasty ways, they cut corners on chores, they may even lie to get out of or away with a certain behavior. I have a SERIOUS choice in how I respond with my words. I can call Kylee rude, and Caleb lazy and Joshua a liar…or I can do something that seems to really be a bit more Bob-like.

Recently when addressing my children about their short-comings I have started with this language, “Kylee, I am surprised by how you are speaking to your brothers…I know you are not a rude little girl–because I have seen you treat your friends with such kindness. You are a kind girl who loves her brothers…but that is certainly not coming out in your interaction today.”

Here’s another example…

“Caleb, I know this is not who you are! You are not a lazy child. I see you helping in the kitchen or cleaning up your room, (or whatever small area I see some effort) but today you really seemed to cut corners and the quality was far below what I know you are capable of.”

I think it is far easier to tell our kids how rude or lazy they are…I know I do this in my head even if it doesn’t come out of my mouth. (And it HAS come out of my mouth to be sure.) But over time I am coming to realize a self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful thing…and if I want a home full of rude, lazy liars I should call ’em as I seem ’em. But if I would like to actually see change and growth I need to call them as I HOPE to see them… someday. (That includes how I speak ABOUT my children to others…even in relaying a story…little ears are listening.)

This translates to spouses, friendships, even co-workers and neighbors. If you believe the worst about that person…or feed the negative they believe about themselves…THEY WILL NEVER CHANGE. If you speak in to the universe (and over their lives) kindness and help them to see something that they are blind to see…they just might begin to embody your language for their lives.

Adults are a little more street savvy. I know Donald Miller rolled his eyes as Bob told him how “good” he was at relationships just days after he ended his engagement. But (secretly) he wanted this to be true…and finally did the work to make this a reality. **

I don’t want to paint our family with the “perfect brush” and have you believe we are all walking around saying the kindest of words and sharing only the good that we see in one another. Please. We are human and we hurt one another and I fail every day. But I have started to make this mental and verbal shift and our family seems to be responding well.

The stakes seem higher with adults…what if they don’t change? What if their patterns have already been set? I would say–it is never too late to speak (and pray) these words over someone you care about.

“A selffulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”     (wikipedia)

Who today can you find who needs a different word? Who might you be bold enough speak kind words over a negative mantra? Word are powerful influencers, they can set the trajectory for our futures. May we be the game-changers in the word world. May we speak truth, love and kindness believing the best over those in our path.

(**All stories and references were pulled from Donald Miller’s Scary Close)

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

 

Update on Caroline and Jonathan

To ask the question, “why?” to some of the deeper, darker questions of life can actually be quite destructive. To ask “what’s next?” might be a better question.

I found myself getting tangled in the “whys” of our story. I found myself wondering in a very western way…if it was something I had done or something someone else had done? Was there a lesson to be learned that I had missed in my early Christian life–a hard lesson He wanted to teach me? Had we misheard or misunderstood the Spirit’s “nudge” to adopt? And the biggest question banging around in my brain: Was God the orchestrator of it all? I found myself longing for my “why” to make sense of something that seemed purely non-sensical. I was tangled in a destructive web that only seemed to harm my relationship with God and my trust of others. I actually resented words and scripture quoted–words that might be contextually true but were missing the heart of Christ when delivered. Just because we have heard someone say, “God always knows best, or all things work together for good. ” Doesn’t mean that He is orchestrating these things (like a grand puppeteer)…nor will we see the good this side of heaven.

Delving in to a delightful read called, Is God to Blame?” (by Gregory Boyd) brought freedom in my search for answers to the unanswerable “why”. The book has helped me to focus on a far more important question of “what’s next?”…because at the end of the day…we are only guaranteed this day, this breath, and I don’t want to stay tangled forever. The book is a must read for anyone who has ever circled and circled around God’s goodness and his infinite power…citing inconsistencies with the evil, and unspeakable brokenness that envelopes our world. I could not unify these two truths: Seeing what I had seen…and continue to see daily on the news…yet still harboring His love in my head. It simply could not land in a safe spiritual spot. “Is God to Blame?” has quenched my sponge-like thirst concerning the faith-altering questions that Chris and I have circled our wagons around for the past year. A “good read” is an understatement. Anyone I know claiming faith in our Heavenly Father would be wise to invest in this researched and scripturally founded book. It might jostle your theology around a bit…but we actually need to do this–I believe it will awaken a fuller understanding of God’s love. The book will help you walk through suffering and help you help others to walk through suffering with far more grace and clarity on what in reality is actually happening.

I want to now take a moment to share what is “actually happening” with Caroline and Jonathan. A dear friend of mine connected in January sharing she planned to visit the hometown of her adoptive children. This same town happens to be near the village I knew Caroline and Jonathan to be currently living. After much deliberation we made the decision to send this faithful friend (who had known and met our children) with letters from our family. I wanted to be so careful not to further do damage to their little hearts…but my more recent reality has been…we never fully heal…we are either transformed or destroyed…so to this end, we realized we would like to share our love and remind the kiddos they are not forgotten.

The text I received from my friend sharing photos of C and J were wrapped with tragedy and beauty. Caroline and Jonathan are in the homes of the family who trafficked them. A home that was (from what we understood) never safe. And yet…the children as best my friend can tell…are okay. They are in school. They are together. They appear relatively healthy…there wore smiles on their faces. They are okay. They sent a video greeting…it is more than I could have asked for…and brought hope to a very dark story.

To think in the future this friend might be able to send our love and our messages, our memories, cherishing them and our short time we had together…is miraculous.

Initially, making peace with and finding contentment over our circumstances left me mostly asking why? This most recent connection  with our kiddos and the helpful guidance of Gregory Boyd has catapulted us forward leaving the unanswerable behind…embracing a new trust and new hope…giving birth to a new question: “what’s next?”

With fists unclenched…palms up… “What’s next?”

God did not cause the chaos that occurred in our lives over the past few years. I believe chaos will continue to reign until Heaven comes down…only then will true restoration occur. For now…we are either transformed or destroyed by the darkness…and we can stay tangled in the why* or we can trust and ask what’s next?

I don’t know where you are–but I hope you never lose hope upon your journey. I pray you will be sustained while enduring the darkest of days. Faith, hope and love do win out in the end.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

*No judgement…I have been tangled in the why for almost a year now…just saying eventually we realize that simply is not a reasonable question. 

Desperate Days and a Divine Collision

I don’t know a stronger word for desperate…so we will go with it…I was desperate. I had spent the past 2.5 months away from my husband…raising 5 children on my own. Feeding, bathing, homeschooling, and hand-washing all the clothes. All.the.clothes. I watched adoptive families come and go. Their stories were never simple, but in one to two months after their arrival, I found myself waving to yet another van full of smiling faces. Driving rapidly toward the airport leaving the country and us wondering when it would be our turn? We were given a 3 year ruling…meaning the children were “ours” legally via guardianship, but they could not be adopted in Uganda until 3 years had passed. We were promised by our lawyers that our case would be overturned by the appellate court. We were told we would have a court date by the first of the year (January 2014)…and it was early February…we had heard nothing. 

Most days I felt strong, courageous, hopeful and thankful. Optimistic, even joyful. I had the honor of spending extra time in the country my Ugandan children had called home…what a gift. I was doing life with, and meeting incredible adoptive families as well  making many Ugandan friends who were teaching me their language and culture. I had a husband with a great job at home who was sustaining and supporting us until we were granted an official court date. Life was good.

But there were days…when I missed my husband desperately. I was lonely and I was tired. I was exhausted from doing the single-parenting gig thousands of miles and a plane ride away from everything I knew as safe and comfortable. No dishwasher, washer and dryer, no car, no libraries, no parks or playgrounds. No “simple” meals were able to be prepared, no drive thrus, no Starbucks, and all the other things I hold on to in America to make it through a long day with children. And on those days I was desperate. 

I prayed a lot. I read my Bible. I read a lot of books that friends had shipped over from America. On a desperate day I found myself reading from a book called, “Love Does,” by Bob Goff.

Halfway through that read, my friend emailed me and said, “Jenni, what about Bob Goff??? He’s super connected to Uganda and loves Young Life…maybe he can help!” And sure enough…Bob Goff put on his “love does” cape and followed through on his super hero promise he makes at the end of his book. He answered my email within 24 hours and put me in touch with a Pepperdine Professor (and attorney) who had actually been a part of an adoption case on the appellate level in UGANDA. And 6 short hours later, Jim Gash emailed me and informed me he would be traveling to Uganda within the next 12 days and would be happy to meet to discuss my case.

Please pause. Did you just read that? Bob Goff connected me with (to my knowledge) the ONLY American lawyer to ever work on an appellate adoption case. Thanks Bob, I owe you one. SERIOUSLY.

But it gets better, because a few weeks later a large football player sized mzungu in a white safari shirt and kakhi shorts climbed out of a taxi style car driven by his favorite driver, Tango. Jim proceeds to have an early dinner with me and my five children at Jaca. Just like that…Jim Gash enters our world and our story. And we were never the same. One might called it a divine collision. 

The details get a little swimmy in my brain from here. What I know and remember best is this:  Jim was warm, kind, and tremendously honest. He had already looked at my paperwork and he was not as optimistic as my Ugandan lawyers for a victory to overturn the verdict. These words hit like lead. My stomached flipped as I began to let the ramifications of this truth penetrate my brain. SO…that means either we go home and come back in 2.5 years…or we settle in to a new life in Uganda until we officially and legally adopt our children through their system. (I couldn’t get on the phone fast enough to share this information with Chris.) Our first meeting and Jim’s findings, (followed by personal research done while in country) were the catalyst for Chris to take a leave of absence from his job and join us in March.

Jim went further than meeting for one dinner though. He spent time speaking privately with appellate court judges and lawyers not about our specific case, but asking questions to learn what the odds were for or against a case like ours coming to trial in the near future. He also shed light on one of the far more important pieces of the appellate court puzzle. Apparently the appellate court cases were backed up as far as 2008, one as far back at 2005. We had entered our case in 2013…we were FAR down the priority list. It was not looking good for us to be seen in 2014 or possibly even the following year. You may be wondering why I would be so grateful to a man who continued to bring me bad news…

Jim’s words were the first true and honest words I could find surrounding our case. His understanding of the judicial system and his willingness to engage on our behalf…while being respectful of boundaries…and just so doggone kind, was refreshing and exactly what I needed. Like a really great big brother, Jim not only shared his best prediction of our odds…but I felt as if he was mightily standing in the gap for us. In the end, he put his proverbial arm around us and gave us the real honest truth concerning our case: it did not look good for anything but a long and “fruitful” stay in Uganda. Jim’s commitment to our family, his excellent work ethic, and his warmth were tangible. And all of this time he spent “working” on our behalf was done out of the kindness of his heart. I saw in action what Bob Goff had been explaining in his book…Jim was living out Love Does before our very eyes.

I realized after reading Divine Collision, Jim intimately knew the confusion, frustration, and cultural differences I encountered on a daily basis. He knew the “time frames” I had been working with. He knew, and his empathy and compassion for our story sent him above and beyond the call.

One phone call, one glance at our case was all I was hoping for and yet multiple calls and visits followed. To this day he has continued to be a friend and resource for so much more than I could have asked or imagined. It brings tears to my eyes to type this.

I know God more because of knowing Jim Gash. 

Which leads me to this blog entry today. You get a chance to now hear more of the behind the scenes story of Jim’s connection to Bob Goff, his encounter with Uganda, and how God has not only transformed his world view; but His life for the better having had the opportunity to be connected to this country and a special young man who lives there…Henry.

Jim’s book took me right back to the dusty red dirt roads of Uganda. I could hear the chickens, and bodas, smell the chapati, and see the sunsets. Jim never thought he would EVER step foot on the continent of Africa and now he is slated to become a Ugandan citizen later this year!

Divine Collision is a powerful story of a boy named Henry and a Pepperdine lawyer…telling the tale of what happens when their worlds’ collide…and how both are changed forever. I highly recommend this page turner; many friends said they read it in only a few short days! So grateful for our divine collision with Jim Gash. You will be grateful when you hear his tale and his heart poured out in every page. We all are looking for those kizmet moments…we are inspired by them. This book reminds us to stay open and receptive to the adventure, you never know who might be waiting at the other end of your “yes”.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni