love will be enough for us

Oh Florida, while your beaches are beautiful, your humidity is fairly unnecessary.

As the sun lowered & the humidity became bearable, I ventured outside with my good friends, Duncan + Christina, to shoot a few engagement pictures. While this trip is the first time I’ve met Duncan, it feels as though we’ve known each other for years. And it doesn’t hurt that the two of them make quite a cute couple.

I was dreading these photos, nervous that I wouldn’t get a good shot worth anything at all. I tend to lean more towards snapping candid photos, opposed to posed shots. However, it turns out that you can still capture the candid moments within them all.

So here’s to being bold & trying new things, and life, love, & other mysteries.

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sailboats

Sundays are for sailing – or at least every Sunday should be for sailing.

Last weekend, I spent a beautiful afternoon on the water in the Toronto Harbour, on the most gorgeous sailboat. My Sperrys finally felt at home, and the views weren’t too bad either.

This girl used to be terrified of boats. I mean, cry in the middle of the boat that goes around the outside of Magic Kingdom for the whole ride, kind of terrified. In fact, you couldn’t find me in or near much water that was outside of a swimming pool and in its natural habitat. However, I have thankfully overcome that ridiculous fear & now find water to be the most calming & relaxing places in the world.

So here’s to resting, slowing down, and dusting the dirt off of my camera for a beautiful day on Lake Ontario.

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here now

This blog was [mostly] written while I was still on the ground in Uganda just a few months ago. Leaving was a lot to process, and I’m still learning what it looks like to live on this side of the Atlantic each day. I’ve stared at this blog countless nights, trying to find the words to finish it, but I just haven’t been able to. It brings up a lot of feelings that I don’t really know how to deal with. But at some point, I just have to figure out how to take the next step in moving forward. So here it is. I miss that red dirt, my #thereddirttribe kiddos, their parents, and all of the beautiful people of Uganda. One day I’ll be back – and I hope that day is soon. 

Be still my heart.

Today was just what I needed before a weekend full packing & saying goodbye.

We set off this morning, in typical African time, about an hour or so late. This girl who was always [too] early for events or appointments, is now the one who shows up late – because here, late is on time. But this morning I was anxious to leave on time. I was so excited for what the day was going to bring, and I just wanted to get on the road already.

We finally left, all loaded into the Land Cruiser – me behind the wheel for one last Ugandan driving adventure and the new Mumford & Sons album booming through the speakers. I fumbled my way through the back red-dirt roads with inconsistent directions, taking in every bit of the driving knowing it would be my last long drive in this country for a long time.

We finally pulled up to where they told me was our final destination and my heart skipped a beat. There, walking on the side of the road, were two very special kiddos – finally catching site of our big green car as they started waving uncontrollably. I couldn’t help but smile as we slowed down to pick them up before driving around the block to their home.

You may know these kids from stories here and on the Sole Hope blog over the past year. They arrived, unexpectedly, at the Sole Hope Outreach House late one afternoon at the end of July. At the time, they were the worst cases of jiggers our staff had ever seen. Their bodies were infested with parasites, their frail frames could barely walk, and the despair was palpable.

The littles one who arrived that day won a special place in my heart. He was struggling through issues associated with neglect, and was often left on his own. Many mornings, he ended up sitting with me under the cabana as I replied to emails with him sleeping on my chest. But this little one wasn’t little for long. Slowly, his mother and grandmother learned how to care for him, he gained strength each day, and soon was crawling and walking around the compound, throwing side-glances and cheeky smiles as he went.

These kiddos and their parents stayed at the Sole Hope Outreach house for over 7 months as they recovered and got back up on their feet. While most of the family returned home at the beginning of March, their father remained at Sole Hope, earning money to support his family.

So this brings us back to today, the first day I was able to see these four since they left the Outreach House and for the last time before I travel back stateside for an unknown amount of time. These kids all have such unique and precious personalities.

To say I miss them everyday would be an understatement, but their smiles will stay with me for years to come.

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This boy. He has the biggest smile. And by that I mean, he NEVER stopped smiling. He would be the first to run to the gate whenever he saw my mzungu foot step onto the compound. He held my hand and we played games, pretending that we could understand each other – which normally just ended in ridiculous giggles. He is joy personified.

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Oh, this boy’s smile melts my heart. It’s the most sweet & shy smile that you’ve ever seen. He cared for his siblings and nephews so well – his heart was built to care for others. He is the definition of a servant heart & makes sure everyone is taken care of before he worries about himself.

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This one is a goof ball. He’s the perfect mix of mischievous & feisty. You could normally find him on the razor scooter, whipping around the Sole Hope Guest House compound – yet he always stopped to say hello to whatever visitors were stopping by that day. He is a firecracker and has some serious dance moves.

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Yasin-y. Oh boy, how I miss your little face. From the moment he arrived, he had a squawk-like cry that would put a sea lion to shame. He had the biggest personality for a little body, and could often be found giving me ridiculous side glances as I walked by chanting his name. He has a cheeky grin that forces everyone around him to smile – surprised by the sense of humor that could be housed in his two-year-old frame. He was my little buddy, and I miss our morning work meetings (AKA me trying to send out emails while distracting him with anything and everything so he would stop squawking for maybe 30 seconds). Oh, and this is the face he made whenever I tried to take a picture of him when we visited. Stinker.

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Their stories made an impact on me in a way that I’ll never forget. I remember the afternoon they arrived like it happened tonight. They were so scared that first day that they arrived, but to see them come out of their shells and grow into their personalities was a complete honor. I miss these four each and everyday. I long for the day when we’re all running around in the red-dirt, as if we didn’t have a care in the entire world. Whether that will be on this side of heaven, I don’t yet know. But I hope that the next time I’m in the Pearl of Africa, we can be reunited once again.

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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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