{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 18~How I Found Myself in Uganda ~ Part 1: Don't Be a Frog

If you've been around here for some time, you may know that I am a worship pastor's wife. Brad and I met while involved in youth ministry. We married and continued to pastor students for another 5 years before moving to worship ministry. We've been in the worship world for 8 years now.

My first role in ministry was with youth. It seemed a natural fit and it was the area all my friends were participating in. After Brad and I married, I continued to participate as he did...to youth while he did youth. To adults when he took the position in the worship department. It never really occurred to me that God might call me to something different until I found myself surrounded by Ugandan orphans years later.

The trip to Uganda came about so suddenly. I knew in my heart I had always wanted to go, but going was so stretching and uncomfortable. I started having panic attacks about a week before we left. Whenever I would think about leaving Brad and the kids, I would be filled with panic and anxiety. My heart would start racing and I would have a hard time breathing. One of the symptoms of a panic attack is:

"nervousness about the possibility of losing control and doing something embarrassing"

That's exactly what I was fearing. I was scared to leave my kids for 2 weeks. I was nervous about the possibility of little, or no, communication while I was gone. On the other side, I was really nervous about traveling to the other side of the world with a group of people I didn't know very well. What if they didn't like me?

The first night there, I couldn't sleep. Every time I would lay down, I couldn't breathe. I spent the entire night praying and planning an escape plan. I felt I had made a mistake and I desperately needed to get home to my family.

I made it through the night and made sure to not make a sound at breakfast the next morning. I kept my mouth closed for fear that if I opened it, I would say all the things I was actually thinking and our team would then know that I had lost my mind.

I found a way to call home that day and heard about all the fun the kids were having with their daddy. Everyone was happy and Brad told me exactly what I needed to hear. He was so encouraging and told me to take advantage of every minute. It would be such a waste to spend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity being homesick. It felt like he was giving his blessing. I realized it was okay to enjoy my time away and that loving these orphan children was not a betrayal of my love for my family.

Although it was not immediate, I gave myself fully to the purpose for which I had come half way around the world. I worked hard, painting and cleaning orphan homes. I climbed ladders and hung mosquito nets, just feet away from chirping bats. I sat on the porch of Farida and Hanifah and learned all about their lives. They sang songs to me and I to them. I visited the home of sweet Marvin. I played with Desire. I met Sarah who had left 4 of her children in order to make money to send back to them. We took an excursion to the source of the Nile River, so sleek and calm. I laughed and laughed with my team. We worshiped together. I watched the sunsets fill the sky with colors like I had never seen before. I danced around and sang songs with the orphan children.

I felt so alive. I fell in love with those people. And I knew that I had found an avenue of ministry...a God-given ministry...that belonged to me. I realized I have gifts that go beyond serving my husband and children.

I was also so overcome with gratitude. So thankful to my God who awoke these dreams at just the right time. Who had planned this trip with me in mind...knowing that it would change me forever. So thankful to my husband who gave me permission to explore...to pursue dreams...to change.

I came home with a new confidence. I finally knew that God intends to use me, in ways that are unique to me. There should be no striving to be someone else. No hiding in the shadow of my husband. I now know that God has brought me to this place, this time, for a specific purpose and that it is not to the exclusion or the limitation of my role as wife and mother. If I follow His leading, it all works together. For His purpose.

This realization is so empowering. It's so freeing. I am wholeheartedly chasing this God of ours...chasing His purposes. After experiencing the pouring out of myself in such a way, I don't ever want to go back to the small-minded, complacent place of my past. It's like the analogy of the frog. If you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump right out. If you put it in cold water and slowly warm it to boiling, the frog will stay in the gradually warming water, happily swimming around, not realizing it will soon be dead. This is how complacency works in our lives. We don't suddenly become complacent. But we can stay still too long, not realizing that by resisting to move, we are closer and closer to dying.

We have to move. We have to continue to grow. I gave of myself to these people in really hard ways, but the reward is mine. It really is true that we can find ourselves, the true God-created self, through the pouring out of our lives.

This should come as no surprise. Jesus said it many years ago:

"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." 
~ Matt. 10:39 NIV

The Message says it this way:

"If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me."
~Matt. 10:39 MSG

And that's exactly what happened. I found myself and Him!

Now, before you think I'm going to run off, leave my family, and become a full time missionary to Uganda...let me assure you that's not going to happen. Come back on Monday for Part 2 where I'll explain how it all works together....


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.

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