Playing in Purgatory or Paradise?

A few nights ago we shared dinner with family friends who are in UG for a short time.  They are familiar with the details of our story and just as I started to take my first bite of chapati,  my friend turned to me and asked, “I am not fully sure what this means, but do you feel like are existing in purgatory?”

Chewing slowly, I tried to digest what she was asking.  I wasn’t exactly clear what purgatory was–I assured her we felt stuck and unable to move or change our circumstances.  If that is what purgatory was or represented I indeed believed this was a good analogy for our current state!?!?  

Upon further exploration I found several interesting concepts of what “purgatory” supposedly represents.  One explanation shared purgatory was an intermediary state after death that is meant for those who are destined for heaven, but need to undergo more of a purification process.  (Awesome.)   Another explanation shared it was a time of torment or suffering…but good news:  it is temporary.  (Thanks–not exactly comforting.)   Despite what one might believe about purgatory, apparently it symbolizes a waiting place…usually where one doesn’t want to be…potentially a state filled with torment and suffering.

It is challenging to look at life here on a daily basis and say we are “suffering”…these are some of the images, sights and sounds we take in day after day:

“Down” Our neighborhood
Our road
Precious faces we see along our road
Our gate
“Up top”…Our restaurant

Hardly suffering. 

HOWEVER…we wait…it is not an easy wait…many days it is a challenging painful wait:

We wait estranged thousands of miles from our closest family and friends.  

We wait in a 2 bedroom home with 5 children.  (3 of them being boys who prefer to do life bouncing off the walls.)  

We wait in a hot place with no air conditioning.  

We wait with no washer/dryer or dishwasher and more laundry and dishes than we have ever had before.     

We wait being promised details of dates that come and go and come and go and come and go.  

We wait while new friends enter this place but seem to leave as quickly as they have come. 

We wait living under the tension of being given an order explaining we cannot leave, in a country telling us we must.   

We wait surrounded by heart-breaking life stories where physical suffering, malnourishment, disease and poverty have names and faces…people that we adore.  

We wait to be told we have news that will move us in a forward direction, or even better, news that would allow us to resume life as normal.  But to honest, we would take ANY news over the waiting…the daily waiting.  

Waiting has caused me to do some deep soul searching…seeking great wisdom and help during these moments.   Dr. Suess has proven especially wise.   He gives an excellent description of our waiting world.   I wrote about it here:  The Places We Go.

But unlike “purgatory” or “the waiting places,” our MINDSET and MENTAL PLACE is what makes the difference in our current state and circumstances.

We can wake up and focus on our current discouraging circumstances.  We can be reminded of all the annoying things that exist in the waiting place.  We can wallow in self-pity or general low levels of annoyance. We can loathe the system that has put us in this place.  We can become impatient with the people, process, or the programs that are making the waiting place more miserable.  We can point fingers, blame, and grow more and more discontent.   


We can see each day for what it truly is:  a gift.  We can see that the skies are bluer, clouds whiter, and grounds are greener than we ever imagined.   We can see our surroundings with fresh eyes.   We can see our children for the priceless treasures they are.  We can look at the people who surround us and recognize they have been brought to us as teachers.   Possibly they are teaching us how not to treat others…or they might be extensions of God’s hands and feet:  friends bringing healing and hope to our hearts. 

 (Collin literally teaching me how to make lapena)
We can see the friends that He has provided, friends that share our culture…
(and our chapti)
(and our workouts)
(and the wonders of His creation)
We can see the friends He is using to teach us about another culture…
(and how to speak Luganda)
(and how to love children)
(and how to always serve with a smile)
(and how to be full of integrity and how to endure despite hardship and difficult circumstances)
We can celebrate two beautiful worlds coming together, we can embrace the lessons to be learned from this union… 
 (sisterhood and brotherhood)
 (how to be strong, how to cry, and how to be real)
 (how to cook and humbly serve)

                                       (how to speak Acholi and how to give generously)

 (how to dance and make beautiful music)
(how to bake)
(how to graciously receive)
 (how we all need a hand to hold)
Let me ask again:  Purgatory or paradise??? 

Daily.  We choose.  Where we place our mental energy is where we live.  Not to sound totally Pollyanna, but we choose to focus on the negative or the positive.  From our most discouraging circumstance…we must prayerfully search and ask for a mindset that doesn’t stay discouraged and down.   Six months is a long time to live in a place you never intended to stay.  Others have had an even longer “waiting place;” where one wonders if life circumstances will ever change?  Sometimes we can alter our circumstances…sometimes we cannot.   Will we choose to simply survive or thrive in our waiting place?  I remember the day that my eyes were opened to the breath-taking beauty, the incredible opportunities, and the life-altering relationships available…in the waiting place.   I CHOSE to accept all of the gifts in front of me.  

Today if you are in a waiting place, I pray your “purgatory” would become your paradise.  

May You Be A Blessing and May You Be Blessed,


2 thoughts on “Playing in Purgatory or Paradise?

  1. This is a little long, but relates to what you are talking about:
    The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

    After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

    “Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”

    “That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

    She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

    And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

    1. Free your heart from hatred.
    2. Free your mind from worries.
    3. Live simply.
    4. Give more.
    5. Expect less


  2. Thank you for sharing your heart here! It takes me back in time to 2005 when I lived through a similar 7 1/2 month sojourn in Kenya while trying to extract our daughter from the Kenyan adoption laws. Oh the treasures that accumulated during that time! Many I could only see in retrospect, but I believe without a doubt that Jesus is laying up precious jewels for you and your family, and I pray that He will continue to give you the strength and courage you need for each day. Many blessings to you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s