show me

Well, the procrastination has set in again. Aren’t we all just shocked…

I finished up my last semester of full-time classes at the beginning of August, and technically graduated with my BA in Social Development Studies. However, I’m back this semester and next, taking one class at a time, to upgrade my degree. It’s a long story, but in a nutshell, I now have something to spur on this ever-present spirit of procrastination.

I’ve set down the basket weaving and dub-step producing (my true callings in life) to throw together a few prints from designs I’ve done throughout the years. I’ve had them scanned on my computer, stored on my iPad, and floating around my room for long enough. I haven’t been working on them much lately, but I go through seasons where this simple activity calms me down and gives me something creative to focus on. I’ll likely add more randomly as I find them or find time to design them, but until then, I have a few digital downloads up in my Etsy shop!

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If you click on the photo, it will take you right to the Etsy listing.

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where feet may fail me

A lack of words and ability to form comprehensible sentences has been the reason for my lack of blog posts and updates.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with down time and processing. The first half of my trip came to a close just as Michael finished his time here. The week leading up to his departure was filled with a great jigger removal in Wakisi and other team activities before the large clinic in Mblumuti. This day proved to be somewhat melancholy for both Michael and myself. I felt completely removed from all the action that was taking place. It was almost as if I was watching myself take part in the clinic. It was an overall confusing day that hopefully I can put words to at some point in the coming weeks.

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That weekend brought a few last adventures while we were still three which included (but was not limited to) a ridiculous kayaking adventure that brought to light the fact that it’s easier to paddle upstream on the Nile than downstream, more rope swinging injuries, a couple last visits to Flavours, and a final boda race back from dinner that Sunday night. It was a hard goodbye, especially knowing that life around here would look very different. It definitely took a few tough days to adjust to a new “normal”. What a wonderful month.

So many laughs.

So many adventures.

So many good conversations.

Through transitions, time here in Jinja still seems to pass at an unexplainable rate. Somehow it’s been two weeks since Michael left. Somehow I only have about three weeks left here. My brain isn’t even close to being in a place where I can start processing that upcoming transition. My heart is still very much here in Uganda, and I can’t imagine having to adjust back to life stateside. I’m trying to be very present in my last few weeks here. I’m trying not to wish them away in the anticipation of my departure. Two-and-a-half months seemed like more than an adequate amount of time to be here. I thoroughly expected to be 150% ready to head home after my ten weeks here. Oh, how that has not at all been the case.

Sometimes I just want to cancel my ticket and not leave.

Sometimes all I want to do is be back in America with my friends.

Sometimes I don’t at all know what I want.

While this mess of thoughts has been running through my head, Asher and I have been able to be a part of something that could only be “a God thing”. About two weeks ago when the team was out in a nearby village, a grandfather approached one of the team members who was holding his grandson and asked if she was able to feed the baby. (Wet nurses are still quite common in these parts, so the question was not quite as out in left field as you may be thinking.) After some inquiry throughout the next few days, we found out that this baby (who is a neighbor of Joyce who works here at the Sole Hope house) has lived with his grandparents, as well as five cousins, ever since his mother died in childbirth. They were not able to provide this little one with proper formula and had been feeding him cow’s milk, sugar, and porridge. This completely broke both of our hearts. This little baby, who was just over two months old, wasn’t having one of his basic needs met. His jajja (grandmother), grandfather, and extended family loved and cared for him with everything they had, but they were not able to meet all of his physical needs. This sweet little boy weighed (with our best educated guesses mixed with some loose translation) approximately six pounds.

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Six pounds. Two months old. Heartbreaking.

He was nothing but skin and bones. The first day we saw him he was hardly responsive. He would open his eyes, but would barely move his arms or legs. His fists were completely clenched all of the time. We spent a good few hours with this little one and his jajja, provided them with a can of formula, filtered water, and a thorough explanation of how to prepare the formula properly. We took them back with the promise of checking on him within the next day or so. By this point, that little peanut already held a place in both of our hearts. We stayed true to our promise and checked on him at the end of the week. I still cannot believe the difference we experienced in his demeanor in just those short few days. He was more alert, more responsive, and grinning wide enough to melt your heart. Jajja kept telling Asher and Drü that they were now her children and this little boy’s parents. (At this point we still didn’t really know what his name was. It is a Muslim name that even our African friends could not pronounce). Jjajja was very adamant that Asher would pick out his name since she was his mother now. The name she decided on was Elias, which means “my God is Yahweh”. A meaning that I believe holds even more significance with him being born into a Muslim family. Who knows how God may move in their hearts through this entire process.

Let’s just say we love our Eli time. We have been watching him some days so that Jajja can take care of her other grandchildren, and we can monitor his feedings a little bit closer. As I write this, he is peacefully sleeping two rooms away. I’m still in awe of the fact that God has allowed us to play a part in this little boy’s life. Not only are we able to partner with this family and provide things that will allow them to care for him in the ways he needs, but this little one has been changing my heart. I can’t even begin to think about the day that I have to say goodbye to that little man. I’ve become more and more aware of the fact that I am going to have to put my trust in God to have his tiny life in His hands. He loves Eli more than I could ever dream of. He has a plan for this life beyond what I could even comprehend right now.

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Being removed from this will be heartbreaking. I won’t be involved in his everyday life. I won’t get to see his precious smile. I won’t be here to witness all of the milestones he’ll hit over the first few years.

It’s definitely going to be a lesson in trust. In giving the things that I can’t control over to God. He has a plan far beyond what I can envision. Where my feet may fail me, God still has Eli’s life in His hands. He has my life in His hands. Let me have trust without borders. Let me go wherever you have called me. I’ve been so blessed to be given the opportunity to hold this precious life in my hands. Sleep well little Eli, God’s got both of us in his hands.

make us ready

Uganda has been good to me. Here I sit on the top bunk (I have about six to choose from) with Gregory Alan Isakov playing in one ear and the sound of falling rain in the other. This music makes me feel like I’m somehow sitting back in Nashville, but the smell of the rain and the sticky heat I’m sitting in quickly remind me that I’m halfway around the world in a country that is still very foreign to me. Sometimes being surrounded by familiar people creates the feeling of normalcy, when really just beyond the gate is a whole culture that is completely different than anything I have ever experienced.

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Saturday proved to be a very quick reminder that I am completely out of my normal surroundings. We made the fairly short drive to a surrounding village where Drü and Asher have previous connections. This was the location where most of us would experience our first jigger removal clinic. (Go to http://www.solehope.com/who-we-are/our-story/ for more information about jiggers and the importance of prevention/removal.) It was thought that this would be a fairly short clinic day where we would visit several families who were known to be suffering from jiggers. About three hours after our anticipated completion time, we found ourselves having to call it quits. While I’m sure we could have found many more hours of work, we had to finish somewhere. However, it did allow the Sole Hope team to determine that this area was more affected by jiggers than previously thought, and will allow them to plan more clinics in the area.

That, in a very tiny nutshell, was my first jigger removal clinic. It was one of the best experiences that I’ve had so far in Uganda, but it was one of the most challenging. While the living conditions and smell brought me right back to my time in Cambodia, this experience was completely different and overwhelming. The sights, the smell, the people, and the consistent flood of children wanting to hold your hand lead to a sensory overload. While I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, there were too many things going on for my brain to even begin processing pieces of it. While the medical aspect of it was not completely foreign to me, the nature of the issue was hard to grasp. These tiny children, some less than a year old, were so severely affected by something that can be easily prevented and treated. These little kiddos are being put through such pain and can have so many health issues stemming from something that can be removed and treated in a matter of minutes. It was heartbreaking.

Photo Cred: Tiffany N.

Photo Cred: Tiffany N.

It is completely different hearing about the “jigger issue” in Africa, knowing that it’s such a large problem, encouraging people to be a part of the Sole Hope mission, and then physically being able to see how people are so personally affected by such a little bug. Everything completely changes when you see the face that is paired with that infected foot, which cries tears of pain, but does not pull away the foot that is being poked and prodded. It suddenly goes from being a statistic or picture, to being a person.

A person with a story.

A person with a family.

A person whose life is valued by our Creator.

This person who was so beautifully and wonderfully made is suffering. They’re suffering and there is something I can do about it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt completely helpless, yet incredibly motivated. There is something I can do.

I’m here.

I’m available.

I’m willing.

I know that I was put in this situation for a specific reason. At this point, I still don’t completely know what that reason is. However, this is something I can do while I’m here. This may be one of the reasons that I’m here. This may be the reason that I’m here. This may be a small step in my journey to something leading in an entirely different direction. Right now, I can only be here. I can use the resources and situations I am given to make Him greater. That is my goal. Being a broken human, I know it won’t turn out as perfectly as I would like it to. It probably won’t be efficient. It probably won’t be pretty to watch. I’m trying to “be” right where He has me placed. I’m physically here and I’m trying to align my mind with my physical presence. He knows what He’s doing, and I hope to SEE even a glimpse of what that vision is.

last goodbye

And break!

Well, another chapter has come to an end. Friday marked the end of my Red Bus Project internship, and Sunday brought unwanted goodbyes and a sad drive back to North Carolina.

I don’t even know how to sum up these last three months into a blog post. Actually, I don’t even know how to describe these last three months in words. Or at least words that make some kind sense or could even possibly form legible sentences.

So much happened
So much life was lived.
So many lessons were learned.
So many friendships were formed.

Let me just start out by saying that I like LOVE Nashville. I think I fall in love with that city every time I visit. Somehow I have Nashville in my blood. Sure, I was born there to two Canadian parents, but I am almost positive that they snuck a little Nashville in my veins. Visit after visit, I knew there was something special about that city, but it wasn’t until I ended up back there (more grown up than thirteen year old me was) this semester that I really saw myself in the city itself. I love the culture, the coffee, the people, the architecture, the boots, the atmosphere, and did I mention the people? I don’t understand the magnetic pull that Nashville has on my heart, but it’s doing something right.

When I first arrived at the beginning of February, I had no intentions of being there long term. I was strictly there for a three month internship and then I’d be off to Uganda and back to North Carolina. It wasn’t until a few friends started planting a bug in my ear that maybe I should think about coming back to Tennessee after my trip. I remember the moment when we were talking and it finally clicked…this might just be a possibility. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what will happen through and after my trip to Uganda. Who knows where I’ll be when I get back.

I don’t know what plans God has for me in the next few months, but I do know that Nashville is on my list.

At the top of my list.

In all capital letters.

Underlined…twice.

You win Nashville. You’ve got me.

Will it be work? Will it be school? Will it be an internship? Will it be all three? I’d love to know the answer to that more than anyone. Time will tell. Plans will form. Connections will be made. God will provide. I cannot wait to see what comes of this.

As evidence by the rambling directly above, leaving Nashville last weekend was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had a great last couple of weeks there trying to fit in as many “Nashville” things as possible. We did a pretty darn good job. But it wasn’t until I said my last goodbye, got in my car, and made my way to the interstate that I truly realized what was happening. I was closing a chapter in this crazy book of life. Sure, I’ll be back and those relationships will continue, but that part of my life was over. Never again will I be in the same spot. I am so grateful for the people and experiences He placed before me throughout this internship. I could not have imagined anything better. It had it’s ups and downs, but somehow my heart was healed in ways that I didn’t even know it needed healing. It repaired things in my life that I didn’t even know were broken. I left Franklin, TN last Sunday a different person than I arrived three and a half months ago. I have Red Bus to thank. I have my fellow interns to thank. I’m just so in awe of what God has done through this Red Bus Project journey.

Now I’m home in North Carolina. I’m back with some of my best friends in the world. I’m back in one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen. I’m trying to process the last three months. I’m trying to think about packing for the next three months. I’m trying to be in a spot where I’m ready to experience and learn everything that will be thrown my way throughout this next chapter of my crazy story. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a hard adjustment coming back. It’s been a lot to process. It’s been a lot to wrap my mind around. It’s been a little overwhelming. Somehow God will show up. He’ll calm my nerves. He’ll take my hand and yet again ask me if I trust Him. At this point in my life, I don’t know why I still doubt that.

Like I said, there is no way that I can completely sum up my time in Nashville into words. To be honest, I’m not sure I did a great job of attempting to put words down here at all. All I know is that God is good. His hand is on all of this. I don’t understand the half of it, but I’m trying to reach out my hand and simply say, “Okay, I trust you.”

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. – Proverbs 14:13.

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on top of the world

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Nothing can top a weekend full of sunshine and good friends. We have finally been able to catch a glimpse of the summer weather that we’ve all been praying for since right around last October. It definitely required breaking out the shorts and Rainbows. Nothing can improve a day quite like warmth and sunshine.

Not only did this weekend consist of catching a few rays, but it was filled with adventures with new, but great friends. I’ve been so blessed by the people that I have met since moving here two months ago. The Kroekers have been no exception to this. I’m so thankful for the relationships that are being built with them and the craziness that occurs when we are together. I end up in complete stitches, laughing at goodness only knows what comment someone made. Yesterday was a day with the Kroekers. Crepes, a beautiful farm, and a few 646 pictures later, I was more thankful than ever for these wonderful people.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday’s adventure. These kids are something else.

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Photo Cred: Willy Kroeker

Photo Cred: Willy Kroeker

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Photo Cred: Anna Kroeker

Photo Cred: Anna Kroeker

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set a fire

Sole Hope.

I first heard this name over a year ago from a good friend in North Carolina. As she started telling me about what they were doing in the United States and Uganda, I don’t think I could make it to their website fast enough. I started reading about how the idea for Sole Hope came to be and all that they were doing at that point. After reading through the website and watching some of their YouTube videos, I knew that I somehow wanted to be a part of what they were doing.

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Check out the Sole Hope website. (They explain everything that they do much more eloquently than I ever could.)

I had first contacted Drü early last spring wanting to find out more about how I could specifically get involved with what they were doing. At that point, I knew that I was moving to North Carolina, but I really didn’t have a single detail past that. With the craziness of moving and all that came along with it, I never ended up meeting with Drü and those emails got lost in the chaos of moving from one country to another.

Now let’s rewind to October. I finally decided that I needed to contact them again with the intention of making sure that I followed through with it this time. I sent Drü a message and a quick few emails later, I was signed up to help with their annual Art of HOPE event in Asheville.

This may surprise some of you, but I may be one of the shyest people you will ever meet. I know, I know…that’s now how I come across. I’ve worked many years to get to the point of coming across and confident and comfortable. I’ll let you in on a little secret – there’s a good chance that if I’m put in a new situation, I’m freaking out on the inside. I’ve made a point to not let that feeling hold me back, but that does not make things easier…at all.

I showed up for the Art of HOPE event not knowing who I was really looking for or what I was doing. The funny thing is, the minute I met everyone at the Altamont Theatre that afternoon, all my nerves disappeared. Working with Holly and Jessica that afternoon really solidified the fact that this was an organization that I really wanted to be a part of. I was also able meet Drü and Asher that night and had the privilege of hanging Asher’s wonderful photographs. That night was not only a great introduction to Sole Hope, but it was a wonderful event that involved so many amazing artists and photographers.

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Two weeks later I started what would develop into an internship at Sole Hope. I have loved every moment that I’ve been at the office and it has been a pleasure working with everyone there. (Okay, so counting hundreds of bead necklaces that ended up sprawled all over the floor may not have been the most fun I’ve ever had, but it does make for a good laugh now and again.) I’ve so enjoyed getting to know Jessica, Holly, Drü and Asher more, and this internship has truly turned out to be a blessing for me. It’s really solidified the fact that this is something that I could really see myself doing long term. I’ve even found myself putting more effort into my other job, just because I so look forward to heading over to Asheville and the Sole Hope office in “that building behind the iron”.

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Next week Drü and Asher make the move to Uganda where they will be running the Jinja side of Sole Hope. It will be sad to see them go, but I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through them over there. Hopefully I’ll be able to say “hi” in person this summer when I journey over there myself (and maybe listen to a little bit of Celine with Asher, just because we can).

Dear Sole Hope, you guys are awesome. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you’ve given me to join in the fun and gain so much experience that no textbook could ever begin to teach me. Y’all are great and I promise to try my best to keep your supply of Nibs at an acceptable level.

Head over to the Sole Hope Website and take a look at what these guys are all about. Check out their shoe cutting parties and feel free to order lots of merch. I’ll even write you a nice little note to send with it. Also, say a prayer for the Collie’s as they prepare to make the HUGE move to Uganda.

“Only those who risk going too far can possible find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot