american oxygen

Oh Greenville, you stole our hearts. Your downtown shops, your restaurants, your beautiful parks, and your coffee shops – they all roped us in and wouldn’t let us go.

We spent far too much lots of time at Methodical Coffee – looking like idiots taking pictures, walked many a mile, and spent cherished moments with some wonderful friends. I only had a few short days, but don’t worry Greenville, I’ll be back.

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Photo by Christina.

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I had the honor of second shooting engagement pictures for our good friends Abby & Abe with this beauty who is behind Christina Jean Photography. We finished that shoot and quickly ran around taking some pictures of our own. It was the perfect golden hour & we decided time didn’t matter as much as good light did.

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Oh, what a beautiful weekend it was. We walked, we shot, we drank, we coffee’d, we wedding’d, & we drove more hours than anyone should in 3 short days. But it was all worth it to see our dear friends (#stmarried) commit their lives to each other & spend a few days pretending we aren’t usually separated by hundreds of miles. Here’s to #nationalbestfriendday & more coffee.

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one year later

This is a post that I wrote for the Sole Hope blog about my year(+) of working in Uganda as their International Coordinator. There are still a lot of words to come as I prepare to say goodbye in just over a month. The words aren’t coming as easily these days – circling around in my head, leaving my mind and heart with little rest. However, the words will come. Until then, here’s a little piece of my time here over the past year. It’s been one of the biggest [if not the biggest] learning experiences of my life – one that I would not trade for anything. One that was full of heartache and trials, but so full of JOY & HOPE. Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey to Uganda, to those who have read the countless words written as I worked through what life looked like here. Here’s to the next journey, the next lesson, and the #nexttwofeet.

It has been over one full year since I stepped off the plane in Uganda as Sole Hope’s new International Coordinator. I had no idea what the coming year would look like, or even what my daily life would look like. It was everything & nothing like what I expected. So much has happened throughout this past year. Sole Hope Uganda almost looks like a completely different place. There were many milestones that I was able to be present for and a constant journey that I have had the honor of walking with Asher, Drü, and the rest of the Sole Hope Team. It is a year that has impacted my life more than any before & one that I have learned more through than I could have even imagined.

At the beginning of the year, the Sole Hope Outreach House was still relatively new & the Sole Hope Guest House was just starting to gain traction with local travellers, NGOs, and mission teams. We were small, but mighty – working hard each day towards the mission of #ZEROjiggers. As I settled into life on the ground in Uganda, I came to love this country even more. Days were long & hard, but there was so much joy in each and every day. The joy & HOPE allowed you to push through each hard moment and each long day, allowing you to come out the other side even more in awe of the Creator & his people.

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In January, the outreach house had a capacity of 6 or 7 children. We had a pretty consistent turnover, however, the need was always greater than our capacity. At this point, we had a very limited number of staff assigned to the Outreach House and we all shared the duties and responsibilities that came along with caring for children & providing them and their caregivers with the proper education. We were able to bring in 1-2 families at a time & and we were so full of HOPE and joy for each family that walked through our gate. The Sole Hope Outreach House was created to address a need that crossed our path – and this small but busy house was making a way for us to met that need.

Fast-forward three months and through our partnership with Allume and the Weisburg Foundation, we were able to expand our Outreach House to have a total capacity of 12 children, as well as create an educational space where we were able to teach each child and caregiver the importance of hygiene, wearing proper shoes, & other preventative measures for remaining jigger free. We were slowly able to reach more people, meeting the needs of more families in the community and journeying with them towards #ZEROjiggers.

Before long, we knew that we needed to expand again. As people in the community became more aware of what Sole Hope was doing, we were receiving more and more referrals from local leaders and other community members. We were yet again always running over capacity, trying to meet what seemed like the never-ending need in front of us. In September, we were able to open the Sole Hope Outreach Clinic with a capacity of 30 children! It was a very exciting time for us as we were able to hire more staff to serve at the Outreach Clinic. It is so amazing to see our Ugandan employees serve the people of their country – one pair of feet at a time. While there will always be more feet to wash and jiggers to remove, we focus on the #nexttwofeet, serving each child and family with dignity & respect, working towards a life of #ZEROjiggers.

Since the beginning of 2014, Sole Hope has hired over 15 Sole Hope Uganda staff members and we are so excited by the team that has been built here. We couldn’t do so much of what we are able to now without these hardworking, genuine, caring souls who have come along Sole Hope, treating it as if it’s their own. It has been such a beautiful journey to witness.

Journeying alongside Sole Hope through all of these changes and progressions, all of the hard & fearful times, all the JOYFUL moments filled with HOPE. And those are the moments that keep propelling you forward. The problem of jiggers can at feel overwhelming, but then you focus on the next two feet – that one soul sitting in front of you, who you can serve with love and HOPE. In that, you are able to continue on, pushing forward into the next season of this journey.

I’ve included some of my favorite pictures and moments from throughout this last year. I loved capturing the little moments & big moments alike. This is a year I will never forget & will hold closely to my heart.

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There are some exciting opportunities & plans for 2015 – and we cannot wait to share those with you and allow you to partner with us as we move forward into a new year full of possibilities. As for now, I leave you with a message of HOPE. A message that I don’t fully understand many times, but that I see lived out each day. I am so thankful for the people I work with, for the kiddos who giggle when I make a funny face at them, for a God that has plans so much bigger than my own. Our HOPE is anchored in him, and with that HOPE we move forward starting with the #nexttwofeet.

 

home

I haven’t had many words to share these past few months, but I’ve had pictures.

As I got ready to travel back to Uganda for 10 weeks (my ploy to escape the record low temperatures Ontario has been experiencing), the sister and I decided to go on a wee adventure. This plan not only reinforced my need for warmer weather, but only lasted about 15 minutes before our fingers were freezing and our boots were filled with snow.

But alas, pictures were taken, laughs were had, and woods were explored. In fact, we chose Steckle Woods, which our family owned 5 generations back. It’s as though the roots beneath our feet held years of rich history & untold stories. And that’s the best feeling.

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heartbeats

Oh Nashville, you were good to me.

Each time I go back, I worry about the city losing its sparkle. I’m scared that the beauty will fade and my love will fade with it. And while I would be lying if I said it hasn’t come with its struggles, the beauty & excitement outweigh it – tenfold.

The city itself is full of charisma & charm – the community there has roots deeper than anyone could comprehend just skimming the surface. It’s full of coffee shop conversations, balsam fir lattes, library puppet theater & hot chicken.

One of my most absolute favorite parts of my most recent trip was just doing life with my dear friend Nat and her two beautiful kiddos. It was the most I felt “at home” since returning from Uganda. While dealing with sickness and all that it brings, Nat extended the most gracious and hospitable hand, opening her home and life to me.

In between the moments of coffee shop hopping and naps, we stole away to the stream in their backyard, snapping a few pictures of them in their “home” environment. I had completely forgotten about those pictures until today. I loved reliving those moments as I went through each picture, smiling along the way.

Here are a few snapshots of our quick adventure.

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And because this is real life.

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look out

I’ve come to love the unexpected.

Whether it’s a last minute coffee date or an unexpected life change – I love the anticipation and the unknown that comes with it.

A few weeks ago, this unexpected came in the form of a 36 hour road trip to Florida for a few days of fun in the sun. While it did, in fact, come with fun – the sun was…lacking. It ran, far away from this vitamin D deficient [partly Ugandan] soul. But still, it was Florida – and there was no snow.

We saw manatees, drank coffee, froze our tails off walking around downtown Disney, and listened to one too many – high school years – mixed CDs. However, we did stop to take a few pictures during our manatee adventures. Having a model for a best-friend doesn’t hurt during impromptu photo shoots.

Here’s to the unexpected. To road trips and photoshoots, and adventure.

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give thanks

Oh, my heart is full.

Today was my first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner – it was also my first Thanksgiving in Uganda. Holidays here are different – not bad, just different. You are away from family, the comforts of “home” (no matter what Drü says, this “Canadian” still gets to celebrate Thanksgiving), the temperature is completely wrong, and you can’t buy 75% of what you would need for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Have no fear, we snuck (okay, not so exciting) people brought us those foods that we are missing here (Hello French’s Fried Onions) & helped us make this day even more special.

This morning started off a little different than most. Instead of putting the finishing touches on my assigned dish and heading to the farm to shoot skeet, I walked down the street to watch Asher kill our dinner. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, our turkey was happy as a clam, running around the outreach house this morning. Some might think that is the most disgusting things that you could do the morning of Thanksgiving, but honestly, it was a perfect start. There was lots of laughter, turkey chasing, & just being with friends. So our sweet Mr. Turkey that tasted oh so good this evening, started our morning out in a unique and ridiculous way.

This afternoon was filled with laughter, cooking, pumpkin, cheese (because the aforementioned friends brought good REAL cheese from America – bless them), & fighting with the oven for more space than it could offer. Creativity was at its peak this afternoon as we tried to find enough pots to cook in, enough pans to bake in, and a make-shift pie plate to bake my pecan pie in. But have no fear, the puzzle was completed and everything turned out just beautifully.

We sat around the table, sharing a meal, just enjoying the different relationships that were around us. (Not to mention it was #SweetStellaBella’s first Thanksgiving as apart of the Collie family – such a special time.) It was definitely different than any Thanksgiving that I’ve experienced (I mean we imported half of our food), but it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever experienced. For one night, we could put our work aside, and truly be thankful for the beautiful country that we are in, the delicious food before us, the community around us, & our Creator above us.

But enough of my rambling – clearly you are all waiting for the turkey killing pictures. Well, don’t you worry, they are here. Here’s to Thanksgiving – to traditions in an untraditional place.

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take the world

My sweet camera doesn’t see enough daylight. I feel like I take the same pictures over and over again at our removals/clinics, so I tend to not think about taking more pictures of the same things. But I need to stop that thinking. I’m determined to master the “capture each moment” philosophy and see the beauty in this. Each moment is unique – I want to capture that. So here is my little attempt at that from this week. Also, BIG thanks to my dear friend Lindsey who let me borrow her Canon 35mm 1.4 lens. I am in love – and she may never get it back.

Here’s to the little moments and capturing each memory.

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time moves quickly

I don’t even think I could sum up the emotions I’ve felt this last few weeks – even if I tried. It’s been one of the most emotionally draining times of my life. Despite that, God is still good – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

When I don’t have the right words, pictures speak for me. Here’s a peak into the moments of JOY that shine through in the darkest days.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” – James 1:2&3

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love life

I don’t have many words to describe my time in Ontario these past few weeks, but I have tried to make a point of bringing my camera with me and actually taking pictures. My camera has been pretty cooped up since I got back from Uganda in August.

Snow, friends, and adventures have fairly sufficiently filled my time here. Yesterday afternoon may have been the peak. There’s nothing like a good nature walk with a some of your best friends and a crazy dog to fill your emotional tank.

These two are something else.

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I love them dearly and they are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They live and breathe love and laughter – and it’s infectious.

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Kristin – Ridiculous, loud, hilarious, caring. I have so much fun with this girl. Whether we’re walking in the rain, running over curbs in Dundas, or drinking coffee – it’s always met with laughter and sarcasm. We make fun of horrible art galleries, drink mediocre coffee, and quite often start conversations with ‘Can I ask you something?’. She is open with how she’s feeling, genuinely cares about how you’re doing, and somehow makes you feel better in the midst of crappy life situations. This girl is joy through and through.

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Riley – This girl is something else. We bonded over rugby and it’s just gone from there. She’s my fellow wandering spirit and understands my heart on more levels than anyone else. All filters are lost when we’re together – this tends to be the best entertainment. Her smile and laugh are infectious. We can be separated by distance for years – reunite us and you’ll wonder if time passed at all. I’m making bets on whether we’ll ever live on the same continent again, but I love seeing where we are now and cannot wait to see where we end up years from now. She loves well – even if it’s in the form of picking on me. We may be crazy, but at least we can be crazy together.

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I’m so excited for these girls next adventures together in Australia. Hopefully I’ll be able to join them for a few weeks to cause some ruckus on the other side of the globe. I’m so thankful for who they are and their intentional friendships. These girls are going places – they’re on their way.

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