Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Reign of Mouse Terror

I was sharing rodent stories with a friend and realized that I had never blogged about the infamous mouse infestation we had in Kampala. I seriously can’t believe it. In April of 2010, this was my LIFE (slight exaggeration…but only slight). Although in ways I can. Life in Uganda was so busy that I failed to blog much of life there. This time in the States is a good time for me to catch you all up on what happened in the past two years. So, enjoy…

My roommate Kate was the killer of the house. By that I mean she would kill any insect or bug for me. I would cook her dinner. She would kill cockroaches in my room. And reach tall things for me. It was a great deal. She was my hero. However, Kate left for the States to visit her family in the month of April leaving my roommate Kacie and I. I can’t remember if we knew we had a mouse when Kate left but oh, the evidence became clear.

At first we thought we had one mouse but soon we were pretty sure there was more than one. These were no ordinary mice. They had super human powers. They had acrobatic abilities that made me think that they had worked in a traveling circus.  You think I’m exaggerating? The mice would run along the gas line to our stove, jump to a small ledge behind the stove and then leap ON TOP OF OUR COUNTERTOPS. Once on our counters, they had access to the WORLD. We would open our cupboards and out would jump a mouse. There were mouse droppings EVERYWHERE: on our silverware, on our newly washed dishes, etc. These mice literally controlled our kitchen for an entire month.

Don’t think we were sitting back waiting for them to die of old age. We tried everything to kill these super powered rodents. There were mouse traps…that would be licked clean of peanut butter with no dead mouse.  There were sticky glue traps…that I literally watched one mouse land into and get out of it.  Super. Human. Powers.

The mice would hide in the area behind the stove, making it impossible to get to them.


The mice weren’t scared of us. Obviously. They were brave. And one day, one of them got an extra dose of confidence.

I was sitting at the kitchen table facing the kitchen.  I saw the mouse inch his way toward the door. This happened a couple times and he would scurry back to his haven. I got a broom out for the next time. The next time came and I ran at the mouse with my broom, slamming the broom at the mouse while screaming hysterically the entire time (please, visualize this. I’m sure I looked ridiculous). The mouse ran under our refrigerator and I knew that this was our only chance to rid our house of this mouse. Kacie and I boarded up the area under the oven with bags of flour and cutting boards so that he couldn’t hide there. And then we called reinforcements.

I had Kacie watch the fridge while I went to get our night guard Michael. Michael came in, looked under the fridge and requested a stick. Michael poked the mouse under the fridge, trying to get him to come out. Kacie and I were holding mixing bowls and colanders, clearly ready to help by um, throwing them at the mouse? 

And then…he came.

All of a sudden, the mouse was running rampant all over the kitchen. Within seconds, Kacie ran screaming out of the kitchen, closing the door. Inside of the kitchen was me, screaming while holding my colander, and Michael, chasing the mouse with the stick. Michael cornered the mouse, stepped on it and used his stick to kill it. 

Within 60 seconds, our month long hellacious mouse infestation ended…

…until the next day when we realized that there was indeed more than one mouse.

The problems continued until the night Kate came back from the States, fancy new mouse trap in hand.  Kate set the trap the night she returned. The next morning I came out to the kitchen, checked the trap and…there it was. The second mouse.


Kate had been home for less than 12 hours and the second mouse was dead.

Like, I said, Kate was the killer of the house…and we were forever grateful.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Gifts

As my mom and I were planning our Christmas dinner, I couldn’t help but think of some of my loved ones across the ocean.

We had a Christmas party for our kids. I always loved seeing them perform. You can check out one of the songs they sang:

Aren't they great? I keep watching it on repeat. I miss those little faces so much.

After the kids came back from their Christmas holiday, they would all be bursting with excitement to tell us everything. There were no talks of toys. No one exclaiming about the latest gadget they received. Instead, it was excited cries of …“chicken!!”. Meat is such a delicacy in Uganda and too expensive for many to buy. For Christmas, it is a treat to have chicken.

As I would catch up with each of the kids, I always noted the quiet ones. When I would ask them about Christmas, there would be a hesitance. I would ask them if they had also eaten chicken for Christmas. Eyes cast down, they would shake their heads “no”. For some, Christmas was just another day where even the daily rice and beans was too much to pay for.

I’ve mentioned before how I feel like I live two lives. I see this world here: full of Christmas decorations, the holiday hustle and bustle and shopping for the latest must-have item. But I know of a different world; the one where my heart remains. A world full of beautiful dark skin, big brown eyes and the whitest smiles you’ve ever seen. A world where luxury is considered to be a bite of chicken.  

Ah, but the most luxurious gift of all is the one that baffles me the most.

When I try to visualize God, I picture a big throne; an intimidating scene, really. In my mind, I can never make out what He looks like…just big. He is All-Powerful. He is Almighty God.

Christmas is a time that takes my visual and changes it into something almost unbelievable:

The All-Powerful Almighty God fitting inside the womb of a woman. The Creator God, the One who created the world in seven days, becoming one of His creations. It’s just unreal. It doesn’t make sense. It’s counter cultural in so many ways. Why would someone powerful ever become lower than even those that serve them? Even more, why would the Almighty God lower Himself to not only be with us but to become one of us?

Oh, but He knew.  He knew that in order for the greatest gift of all to be given that the ultimate sacrifice had to be made. The most luxurious gift of all would cost Him a fortune but would be freely given.

“But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (Rom 6:23b)

Our faults are many. We are undeserving. Our sins have earned us death.  The most expensive gift can’t be bought. It can’t be earned. I can’t work hard enough. I can’t be “good enough”.  This gift doesn’t care where you were born. It doesn’t care how much money you have.

Let us all stop and remember what we are celebrating. Let us worship our King, our Creator, our Savior. Let us be thankful for the gift that He has given us.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Miracles: Big and Small - No Charges

I was finishing a good run when I noticed my knee starting to hurt. I pushed through and finished but the next day, the pain was stronger. That was a month and a half ago. I went to a clinic in Lynchburg where they told me to brace it and if it was still hurting two weeks later, I was to call and get referred to an orthopedic doctor. Due to my crazy schedule, it was almost a month later that I called.

Side note: my mom asked her friend who would be a good orthopedic doctor in Iowa to go to since she would know. She gave me three options and I got the one with the first opening. When I told her which one I was going to, she said, “oh we just LOVE saying his name!”. I totally understood. His last name? Fabiano. Say that ten times. I get more dramatic each time. Fabiaaaaannnnoo. Insert a dramatic Italian shake of the fist. Even. Better.

I made an appointment with a doctor here in Iowa and was immediately nervous. Would it be a serious problem? Would I need surgery? And, above all, how would I afford it?

I won’t go into all the details of how my insurance works with my missions agency but when I go to a doctor, I pay the full cost of the visit right then. So, needless to say, I was a bit nervous about this appointment. When I talked with them on the phone, they mentioned that I would most likely need x-rays. All I could think of was how much this was all going to cost in the end.

I arrived early to my appointment today, finished paperwork in hand. It all went rather quickly. I expected to wait awhile but I was moved from place to place. It was determined that I needed x-rays and in no time, those were done and I was waiting for the doctor to come in. He looked over my x-rays, checked out my knee and determined that he didn’t think that surgery was necessary (PRAISE GOD!) He gave me a cortisone shot (which, by the way, made my knee feel numb and it's still numbish) and said he’d be back with a sheet on knee exercises that would help.

He walked back in the room, handed me the sheet as well as another form and told me to take it to check out. He pointed to a part of the form, said, “Merry Christmas!” and walked out. As he walked out, I looked on the form and it was written, “NO CHARGES”.



It clicked in and I can’t even remember the exact words that came out of my mouth. I think it was a mix of “oh my gosh!” and “are you serious?” and “thank you!” so good chance it came out as, “Oh my serious YOU!”.

He left me alone in the room. Tears sprung in my eyes and I choked back sobs. Tears are still coming to my eyes as I think of it. As I drove to my next appointment, I kept tearing up, still trying to choke back sobs as I praised God. On that note, I probably shouldn’t have driven right after that...

I have no idea why he did that. Maybe he saw that I didn’t have insurance? Maybe he saw that my occupation was a missionary? It was nothing that we talked about. I have no clue. I’m still amazed.

What do I know?

Jehovah Jireh. He is my Provider.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Learning From Scars

What do you think of when you hear the word "scar"?  
Maybe you think of this:
I think of something different (although, clearly, The Lion King's scary villain will never be forgotten).   
I was in second grade. My two friends, Bethany and Daniel, and I were bored out of our MINDS waiting for our parents after church. We decided to play tag in the nursery room with various things being “base”. We had probably played at least ten rounds (seriously, our parents were talking FOREVER) when one of them suggested that we use the window as base. At one point, Daniel was guarding Bethany for what seemed like forever (apparently I wasn’t good at assessing time at that age…or just really impatient) and I was getting bored. I decided to bust it from where I was and to head towards the window. Daniel was close and if I didn’t run fast then I’d for sure be caught. The problem with getting caught? Hellooo, I’d get cooties ALL OVER ME. We couldn’t have that. So, fists clenched, I ran as fast as I could. I reached the window, flung my right hand towards it for safety and instead of releasing my fist, I kept it going…through the window.   
I was in shock from that moment on.  
I remember walking out of the room and standing in the doorway watching the blood drip. I remember the pastor’s 4 year old son asking me if I had a “boo boo” and if he could kiss it. Still in shock, my lack of response had him scampering off. It felt like forever that I was standing there (seriously, what were those two doing in there besides NOT coming to my rescue?)…until it all kicked in and I screamed bloody murder. An ambulance had to be called as I was losing quite a bit of blood. I remember riding in the back of the ambulance. I remember everything going fuzzy as I went into surgery. I remember the dryness of my throat as I woke up. I remember those few days in the hospital. I ESPECIALLY remember the utter and ridiculous pain of them taking out my stitches a few weeks later (still bitter about that).     
Growing up, I learned a lot through that experience. I learned my left and right by looking at my wrists (scar = right. No scar = left. Confession: I still do that to this day). I learned that playing with glass is a big no-no, especially when the game involves running full force towards glass (how was I not a child prodigy?).    
Every day, I see those scars and remember. It’s a reminder of a traumatic experience. It’s a reminder of pain.  
I have more than physical scars from my life. We all do.  And we can all choose what those scars mean. They can be something we learn from (ie. don’t run towards glass) or we can keep repeating them. We can choose to heal from them or we can keep ripping off the scabs.
As cheesy as it sounds, when I walked to the ambulance that night, I remember this feeling of peace and calm come over me. I knew at that moment that God was in control and that everything would be ok.  And that truth hasn’t changed. In all of my scarring moments throughout my life, He’s been there.
He’s there in the hurt.  He’s there in the pain.  He doesn’t leave.