28 reasons to celebrate!

#28- I have made it to 28!!

#27- I have gray hairs. Not just one or two but many. I am choosing to be thankful.

#26- A cup of coffee every morning. A time in my day I really look forward to. And so many of conversations have taken place with coffee in hand. 

#25- George. 

#24- My mom had a stroke and graciously spared her any major side effects! So thankful!!

#23- I was able to CELEBRATE and wear a Gomezi!

#22- I have conquered driving on the wrong side of the road and the other side of the car! I haven’t “knocked” anyone yet!

#21- Chick-fil-A nuggets….reason enough to celebrate 🙂

#20- I came back to see my sweet Marvin walking!! After being told he would not walk more less talk!

#19-HE MADE THE WAY FOR ME TO COME AND FULFILL MY HEART’S DESIRE!!

#18-  Every morning I get to drink deeply of His grace and mercy. Every day is a new day for me to see just how HUGE He is. And I am from West Texas, so I get the best sunrises/sunsets

#17- I was able to celebrate another best friend the day before I boarded a plane! So honored to be there!

#16- I have celebrated many years with these girls. Celebrating that after all these years, they now tell me how awful my hair was

#15- OUR SECONDARY SCHOOL!!!! I came to plant a tree in 2009 and that was all we had, a tree. Today I step foot onto a beautiful campus with 135 of the most amazing students! Amazed.

#14- Douglas!! A boy that was brought to us with cancer that had spread throughout his body and had a massive tumor on his stomach is now walking around with his tumor GONE!!

#13- The journey that has led me to more than friendships…

#14 From This….

To This…

And the JOY of being her Auntie Dacia

#13- Celebrating Tomi Calmes. She has mentored me and poured herself into my journey over the last decade. Today I stand with her and know that we will celebrate her being cancer free. He is already shown Himself to be big in the midst of her pain and sickness. He is above all things, and in Him all things hold together. I love you Tomi!

#12- That I have two amazing parents that have taught me how to serve. So thankful to have parents that are still married and continue to support me no matter the cost for them. I love my parents so much!!

#11- Esther, Marvin, and Gift- all came to us malnourished and no laughter. Today they are my joy to walk into our home and be greeted by chubby, running, and laughing balls of joy!

#10- My family here in Uganda, who has made this home. Truly, love knows no boundaries, this is my family.

#9- The community that God has given me here. He knows how much I desire friendships and He has been so faithful to send me the sweetest friends that now walk this road with me.

#8- Elijah. As we prayed over his bed for God to sustain His life…we now get to see these eyes sparkle and a giggle that will melt your heart. If our God is for us….

#7- We were able to raise enough money to buy Susan her car!! Which now I am blessed by as well!

#6- I do NOT deserve the friends that He has given me. So thankful for each and every one who has made me who I am today.

#5- My evening walks look like this

#4- I get to love these like they are my own. One of the greatest privileges in the world. I do not take it for granted. I celebrate that years from now, I will see the beautiful story and life that He has destined for them. It truly is the most exciting thing I can imagine.

#3- FOR ALL HE IS DOING IN AND THROUGH ARISE AFRICA!! Every day He does new things. Every day we see more answered prayers. I celebrate because HE had done GREAT things for us!

#2- My Hero, Russell Hudson. Who for 28 years loved me as his granddaughter and taught me to be a strong woman. We weren’t expecting him to leave us but Jesus knew that I would not want to be any other place but by his side during his last days. I celebrate that I got to hear him tell me he loved me, and I was able to sing my precious Granddad into the presence of Jesus. I am waiting for the Day..Thank you Jesus for letting me be with my hero in his last days!

#1- Looking back over the last 28 years of my life, I am in awe of how He has orchestrated all the details. I have tasted and I have seen, there is nothing sweeter than being in the center of His will. I celebrate today because He chose me. He didn’t have to choose me but He did. I celebrate that His story for me is not over, but if it was over today…I have seen His goodness. My desire in life is that others will look at this sinful, simple Texas gal and know that He can use anyone. That His joy would truly radiate from me and that one day, with all that I love, dance around the throne. I pray that I am a city on a hill burning brightly, a light to the world shining His glory.

I do not deserve the last 28 years of blessings…so for the next 28, I will sing His praises.

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My Sermon Today

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Church in the village. It is always a different experience. Some weeks if I am honest it is hard for me to truly get fed because of different reasons. I can’t really understand the interpreter, I am so tired that being in a hot confined area I begin to fight sleeping instead of engaging in the service, or just plain and simple different cultures. Other times my soul is fed and I am taught so much by sitting either under a tree, in an open church with iron sheets as their roof, or a mud room, and I love worshipping with believers that worship so freely.

Today I was headed out to church with a team and it had been raining. I am now driving and I must say I have been owning the roads 🙂 I have even gotten stuck in mud and have successfully gotten myself out. I have been pretty impressed with my “mudding” skills. Today it had been raining and we were headed to Buwenda Church which is pretty deep down a so-called road. I made it to the turn off and after 10 attempts the car I was driving was refusing to let me maneuver without 4 wheel drive. I was just about to say, ” I don’t think we are going to be able to make it” when a guy from the village came up to my car and said, “you let me help”. What the heck? Let’s try…

We arrived at the church and I knew that there was a reason for us to make it through the impossible roads to be gathering with these people today. As we are worshipping I look outside and see a very old woman bent over trying to get the mud that was caked on her feet off with a piece of grass. She had a walking stick and she caught my eye because of how old she was, which is very rare here, and the fact that she couldn’t walk due to what seemed to be the mud that had weighed down her feet.

At this time I see some of the young children come into the church with a mat and place it in the corner of the church. I didn’t really think anything of it at that time. Then I look back over to the woman and she has finished cleaning her feet and was walking, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Her back was bent completely over still and I realized that she never was bending down, this was the way her back was. My heart broke into pieces as I watched her struggle into the church.

When she entered the church she found the mat. She got down on all fours and prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. Then she sat back against the wall and worshiped.

As we moved into prayer time I captured a picture of a young girl praying with the sweet elderly women on the floor. From one generation to another-I felt the sermon spoken over me.

I had come into church walked in with no health issues, clean clothes, a full stomach, clean shoes because I had a car to travel in, and I didn’t fall to my knees and pray like the elderly woman who couldn’t stand up straight. I was humbled from a generation younger than me to a generation older than me.

It reminded me of one of the first blogs I wrote last summer and it took me back to the place of surrender.https://thisismyjoy.org/2011/06/14/learning-to-bend-low/

My sermon for the day- Humbled and convicted. I need to find myself bent low.

I do not take for granted

I do not take for granted the friendships the Lord has given me. Some go back as far as I can remember and others have just come within the last few months, all of them have shaped me in some form or another.

I have met so many incredible people and made great friends since I have been living in Jinja. It is not very often that people who live here go home. All have different reasons but one I have heard more than once is this, ” I really have no reason to go back. Friendships have changed and my life is now here”. To be honest this always scares me. It goes back to the core of my biggest fear when I said a simple, “yes” to come…I didn’t want to leave behind my friendships. I knew that everyone’s life would continue on at home and I fully expected it to and desired for it to. At the same time, I desire to go back home and pick up where I left off in some way. I want to find my friends doing what they do daily and join them in that because I love where He has placed each of them and I want to encourage them in where He has placed them.

Community looks the same no matter what culture you are in. Community that is found in Jesus Christ is one that encourages, protects, loves no matter the costs, forgives the unforgivable, celebrates, mourns and when one leaves the welcome home is so sweet. I think about my community at home from my family, to those who are a wiser generation who pour into me, to those who have been walking this journey with me since I was a child, to those who He has brought into my life recently, and I am overwhelmed with His goodness to me. I know that when I return home things will be different, even His word says “there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven” and I am thankful for the different seasons. It is what sanctification is all about…we are forever changing. I do know though that I have been blessed with a community that will embrace me and love me no matter how long I have been gone and no matter if the Dacia they knew when she left is not the Dacia that returns.

Every single person I have met along my journey of life has played a part in this story. Before He created the World He foreknew every detail of my life and He knew who I would sit next to in class, who would walk up in my teller line, who would be in my life for a brief time, be my neighbor, my teacher, my best friend, every encounter, every friendship has an eternal weight. It has purpose in something bigger than myself…if I let it.

Here I sit in Uganda. A new community is being formed, one with those who face the same trials I face daily, ones who have stained feet like myself, and those who know the highs and lows of saying “Yes” to something greater than yourself. It is sweet. I am so thankful.

Still, deep in my heart I cannot wait to sit over coffee, with home around me, Texas stars, cowboy boots, familiar faces, familiar laughs and share what He has done in all of us over this past year.

Dear brothers and sisters, I love you and long to see you, for you are my Joy and the reward of my work. So please stay true to the Lord, my dear friends. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Jesus Christ. I pray that your love for one another will overflow more and more, and you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding.

I love each and every one of you.

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Not Important

We have been going non-stop for the last two months. I have to look at the calendar every few days to see what day it is. Life goes so fast here. Days can be overwhelming but so full of His grace.

I tend to not process my emotions very often because I never want to let them control me. So I suppress. I keep going. Then I break.

Today I broke. My flesh was raw and every emotion from anger, self pity, selfishness, exhaustion, and sadness flooded over me. It started with a good-bye. The last few months the Lord has been so sweet to me and sent friends that have been walking their own journey here but we have all seen how He has purposefully placed us all here together to remind us that He never leaves us alone. He has sealed our hearts together as we have faced bends in the roads that we did not foresee. We have fasted, we have prayed, laughed, cried and felt even in the storm, He has been here. I have found that this place brings more good-byes than I have ever experienced. Good-bye to visitors, good-bye to children that have become like my own as they begin with their new families, good-bye as our friends see His face for the first time with true Healing…it prunes my heart. As I have said good-bye to two women that have been rocks for me here, I have one left standing with me as we waved good-bye to our precious friends who paths only crossed due to this place.

Another great challenge has been discovering that it is very hard for me to be my “true self” here. Even though my Ugandan friends and those I serve with have told me countless times, “Dacia, we want you to be yourself” I have struggled through days wondering what was wrong with me? I felt like I could not be 100% Dacia, the Dacia that everyone knows at home. Through many days of grappling with frustration and emotion, I have realized that I will never be able to truly be myself here. The Dacia in America cannot be the Dacia in Uganda…I am being transformed. There are times frustration rises up in me and I just want to be in a place that is familiar, where I am understood, where I don’t have to work at putting off my culture to embrace another. To speak my heart and know it will be fully understood. That was yesterday.

Two precious little girls are found in the village by the team and brought back home. Miriam is 8 years old and her father has two wives so the head wife was not feeding the child. She looks similar to what I have seen in my history books while studying the Holocaust yet she had a smile that said her heart could be mended with His love that only flows through us, His vessels. No matter how many times your eyes see it, your heart is pained just the same every time.

I was at the end of myself. I was done. Exhuasted physically and emotionally. I just wanted to sleep and be alone but just as He would plan it, I needed to go get some work done at the Babies Home. I get in the car with a smile on my face but my heart was not so pleasant. I placed my headphones in and I was just ready to drown it all out on the 45 minute ride to Bukaleba…wallow a bit. Amen? I though felt drawn to pick up my Bible. I really didn’t want to because I knew He would speak and I honestly just wanted to sit in my frustrations and own frame of mind just for another song. I couldn’t. I opened up the Bible in what I would call a random spot but not at all random to what He was going to speak to my heart.

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In Matthew 20:20, a mother asked Jesus what her two sons had to do in order to be seated next to Him in Heaven. Jesus responded with this; “You do not know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” The mother said, “Oh yes, of course they can drink from the cup.” I love how we are so quick to respond with “of course we can do this”…when we cannot fathom what suffering He is speaking of. The Disciples also inquired about this question and when I read this passage this morning, driving to Bukaleba it was spoken over me into my tired heart. “You know that the rulers of this world lord it over their people, and official flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to become a leader among you must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must first become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many.”

Once again, He speaks into my situation. He reveals to me that there is no way I can possibly know what His suffering looked like, unless He revealed it to me and let me just get a tiny taste of what it means to be in a place that is not your “home”, to be called out for a higher purpose. I don’t believe the hard times are as much about shaping my character as it is about Him revealing His heart to me. How can we know what it means to take up the cross, if we have never tasted suffering? How can I know what it means to be called to come over and serve the people of this country, if I don’t first grasp that my Savior, my Redeemer, the Creator of all things didn’t come to this foreign place to be served but to serve those who mocked and rejected Him? Give me a picture of your grace, show me the measure of your grace.

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But to serve others. To serve others. I hear His words flooding over my heart as I am driving down the roads of Africa, surrounded by families who have never seen what my eyes have seen and have not tasted of my tangible material blessings. I look to my left and a little girl who is dressed in rags, barefoot, comes running towards me and I see what is being spoken over me in her face. She doesn’t have to be from America or a privileged country, she has joy. A few feet down the road I see a mother bathing her littles in a bucket, He is the same for her as well, He has come to serve her. As I look over this lush land, I am reminded that He is ALL to us. His suffering, His Redemption, His saving Grace, His joy…He came to wash all of our feet.

If we are enduring suffering, could it be possibly that He is revealing His heart to us so we can grasp what He went through to rescue us? How quickly I lose focus and appreciation sometimes. If we are overwhelmed and feel like we deserve more credit, an easier road, better circumstances could we remember that not even the Lord God Almighty needed those things….He came not to be served but to serve. And lay down His life as our Ransom.

These Orange Roads keep leading me to Him.

Sometime it looks different…

Over the last few weeks I have struggled to sit down and write. There are many reasons why I have sat down and words do not come easily. A lot of it is the effort to write, sometimes it is the lack of time, sometimes it’s too hard to even try to write out what is going on in my heart, but lately it has been fear of man.

Fear of man. It hinders me more than I realize. Galatians 1:10 Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of God. 

Some of it may be my own perception but when I moved over to Uganda I envisioned how it would roughly look. I would spend days with the babies; changing diapers, nurturing those who have no one to nurture, kissing boo-boos and tucking mosquito nets in every night. I would be going into the villages, I would be spending time at our Secondary School. Instead I have found myself working on Excel spreadsheets, doing renovations on our Guesthouse, cooking in the kitchen for guests, creating budgets, waking up to serve breakfast early, going to bed late, sitting up late into the night with friends who are facing trials no one saw coming.

There is nothing romantic or risky about painting the dining room a new color, I could do that at home. There is nothing makes you go “awe” that I sit and work on spreadsheets and running into the market to get food. There are some days where I am not doing the typical “missionary” living but every day I wake up and the Lord reminds me, “This is where I have called you. I have called you not to impress others by your radical living but to be radical in serving. Serving not for your image but for Mine.”

If I wasn’t here doing this I wouldn’t have the late night talks sitting in the still African nights with tea in hand talking about life. I wouldn’t get to mourn with those mourning. I would have missed hugging my friend as she walked in our compound not understanding the verdict. I wouldn’t get to watch Jesus move through strangers that quickly become friends as they come in and out of our house daily from the field. I get to hear stories of what He is doing through first timers eyes, through veterans and through children. I get to serve those from my home and my new home. I have always loved hosting and having people come into my own home. If you know me well you know that I love my house full. How sweet is it of Jesus that He has allowed me to play that same role here? I get to welcome those who have come to serve into my home, feed them, take care of them and listen to them in the evenings as they process the beautiful yet the difficult roads here in this country. But the best part is I am doing this alongside the people who I love and who are so gentle and loving. Our skin might never change to blend us together but our hearts are blending and together we are learning. Learning more about each other, how to overcome cultural difference and work together as the body of Christ. It is quite beautiful.

Relationships here are rooted deep. Routed in a raw faith. At this particular time I am not doing what I thought my day-to-day would look like but sometimes it looks different. He is showing Himself to me through His creative ways of placement-knowing my heart and allowing me to flourish in hospitality in a place where everything is so foreign I know how to welcome and get in the trenches with others. So I may not out in the village every day but I am in the dining hall listening and building lasting relationships of both Ugandans and others from all over the world. Everyone has always laughed, including me, that relationships are the only thing I am gifted in..not sports, not books, not singing…just the girl with a 100 best friends. Maybe He was just preparing me for this day. 

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So my blogs might not be full of stories that bring tears of heartbreak or stories that you might read when browsing other blogs or even stories like I encountered last summer but I am still encountering a piece of the Gospel daily. It is still stripping me. I can’t let the fear of what others think keep me from experiencing where He has placed me now.

Sometimes it looks different. Everything looks different here. He is transforming my eyes to see like His. I see that even though I wouldn’t see myself in this very place, He did and for that I say, “Thank you that it looks different”.

M.I.A.

A little update.

This morning I am rising to a house full of people! Coffee is brewing, the fog is heavy, and young missionaries are scattering all over our grounds to begin their day with the Lord. I have sweet Marvin sitting on the table next to me smiling at me as he eats his bread. In just a few minutes I will serve the ones that came to serve.

I am quickly realizing that I will not have much time to sit and write for awhile. Our sweet Manager Sarah of the guesthouse is about to have her little girl, so I will be stepping in for her as she stays home with her newborn for a few months. I keep telling her she planned her due date on purpose, during the busiest season of the year. 🙂

So I am learning how to run a Guest House. Once again, He most definitely has to equip the called. Once again, learning that I had a plan but He has a greater one. So this morning my heart is at peace. I love being able to serve my friends from home and then all the while get to sit here with Marvin as he eats his breakfast. He collides my two worlds.

My sweet friend Katrenna is also facing her own trial. Her and her family have been here for over a month going through the adoption process. We have seen the two siblings they are adopting become their own little selfs. They became a family in such a short time, because that is how Jesus intended it to be. As they prepared for court we were all shocked when the judge did not grant the children to them. I am heartbroken as I stand and watch my friends in the middle of the questions, “why?” But we know that God can change the hearts of Kings and that is exactly what we are praying as they prepare to go back to appeal. We know that sometimes in the middle of the storm, His hand is ever present and He never forsakes us in our weakness. Through this He will remind all of us just exactly who He is once again. He is the father of adoption. To adopt us, He gave everything. I am so thankful to watch them walk this and to walk beside them. So as Katrenna waits to see what will happen the Lord is so sweet to send me help. So together we will serve. As a team and as a family…we will all continue to get up each day expecting Him to show us what He wants for us each day.

We ask for your prayers as we prepare to serve the teams that are coming in. We ask that you would pray for our sick babies. We ask you plead before the Father that through every trial, He would be lifted high through our hearts that desire to give Him the glory. I ask that you keep praying for me as I might not have time to sit and write but that the Lord would quicken hearts to pray as we minister to those who minister.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you; whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:3