breathe you in

Inspiration.

1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something – especially creative.
2. The drawing in of breath; inhalation.

One word. Two meanings. One life.

IMG_4076

This week, the Sole Hope Uganda Team has the honor of hosting eight amazing bloggers as they journey alongside Sole Hope and invite their followers to experience Uganda with them as they share stories daily. These ladies are not only inspiring writers, but I can now truly call them all friends. They use their voices to display their hearts so gracefully and elegantly. They inspire their readers. They inspire their followers. They inspire me. They make me want to write more eloquently. They make me want to allow others to peak into my heart instead of closing it off like I so often do. They make me want to slow down and just write.

They are walking through so many “firsts” this week. For some, it is their first time in this beautiful country of Uganda. For most, today was their first jigger removal clinic. It’s almost as if I’m reliving it for the first time through them. The expressions on their faces, their willingness to serve, and the smiles exchanged between them and the sweet ebony faces staring back at them. Inspiration. I need not be so wrapped up in the logistics of the day. I need to smile more freely. I need to remember why I’m doing this. In many ways, the experience I’ve gained after attending many jigger removals is irreplaceable – at the same time, I need to approach each removal with fresh eyes. I need to take in the small moments. I need to connect with those sweet faces staring back at me. I need to be more in awe of the One who allows us to do this week after week.

Inspiration – breathing in and breathing out.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Photo Credit: Asher Collie

The act of being inspired would be nothing without the One who ultimately inspires us. Without His breath in our lungs, we would have no life worth living. His breath is our inspiration.

Inhale.

Inspiration.

Exhale.

Inspiration.

Breathe.

Advertisements

you never fail

It’s been a week for the books.

Highs and lows. Excitement and heartbreak. Love and pain.

I don’t think my brain has actually processed or dealt with much of what this held.

It started as a pretty “standard” week – which, in Uganda, is a very loose description. You never truly know what a day, let alone a week, will look like. As I’ve said many times before, you never know what will come your way, or how it will unfold.

We had someone staying at the guesthouse for the past month that I had met a few times state-side last year. It was nice to have someone here to not only help with the day-to-day tasks, but it was nice to have someone around who I could process things with. I could say something out loud and know that there would be no judgement coming back at me. I was so thankful – especially during this time of adjustment and times of homesickness. She left to head home on monday, but through a series of what I’m sure was God orchestrated events, she missed her flights and was stuck with me an extra four days. Let the week of the unexpected begin – on a good note.

On Tuesday, seven children arrived from Kamuli to stay at the outreach house. I, for the first time, was feeling fairly comfortable with their arrival – I had a general idea of what needed to be done, and I had things under control. I was able to assist our nurse, Teddy, and another jigger digger, Lillian, by taking notes – something I have come to love (more on that later). The day was busy and intense, but I was feeling good and things were on the right track.

Wednesday brought completed cabanas and an afternoon of working outside.

20140209-200853.jpg

Thursday was our normal clinic day in Wakisi. I was able to sit between Teddy (our nurse) and Geoffrey (another remover) and once again take notes. This week the job involved a lot of comforting of scared kiddos. I put one girl on my lap and held her tight as Teddy started removing one small jigger from her foot – she didn’t handle it well. She screamed, pulled her foot away, and I could feel her whole body become tense. It was the first time I have ever had to restrain a child while jiggers were being removed. While it was a quick process – something just hit me in the gut. No child should ever have to experience the pain that a jigger brings, let alone be held down to have it removed. So many times, I just go into adrenaline mode and my brain doesn’t always register the situation. I do what I have to do, but I don’t necessarily think too much into it. A lot of times, this is necessary to be able to properly care for whoever you’re working with. But sometimes, you put up walls and you don’t think about the reality that so many of these kids face. Little did I know that when I uttered the phrase, “this is the first time I’ve and to retrain a kid” – something so much bigger was coming right around the corner.

20140209-200953.jpg

Friday morning welcomed a strong cup of coffee and a much needed Jesus Calling devotional. I was the mood where anything could set me off. I could feel it brewing, and I knew that something had to give. The first paragraph of the daily devotional was:

“Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.”

Well…how fitting. The next part started with:

“Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intended to you to be.”

This slowly became less funny – as if He picked up my hand and said yet again, ‘Do you trust me?’ He hasn’t let me down in the past, but still I live in fear everyday. I need to give up my control – taking each day moment by moment.

Little did I know, in the moments of reading that, how much that would play into the events of the day.

Photo by Asher Collie
Photo by Asher Collie

Meet Joy.

She is pure JOY – through and through – but knowing her past, you would have no idea why.

We were connected to her by a referral from the police through some friends we met recently. Her father is in prison. Her mother’s whereabouts are unknown. So much hurt has plagued her life – yet this is her demeanour. I still don’t fully understand it, but all I can say is that she is an inspiration.

300 jiggers. Half in her hands. Half in her feet.

After several failed attempts to remove jiggers on Friday, the decision was made to take her to a nearby private hospital to have her sedated while we removed the jiggers. Each day her condition would worsen – something needed to be done. Even with several doses of meds to sedate her, she spent an hour and a half crying out while all 300 jiggers were removed. Just two days before I had made a comment about not having to restrain a child up until that point – I had no idea what was coming.

Yesterday ended in complete exhaustion, frustration, and a general lack of JOY. All it took was one look at that little girl – a giggle escaping her lips – and everything else melted away. So much in this world isn’t fair. So much corruption surrounds our every day. Yet, there is still JOY. There is JOY in the small moments. Those smiles make up for all of the hard moments that the day threw at us.

We have to choose JOY.

We need to embrace JOY.

We need to live out JOY.

This girl is doing it so much better than any of us.

She is our JOY.

It’s been a week for the books.

Highs and lows. Excitement and heartbreak. Love and pain. JOY.

face to face

Emotional.

Uplifting.

Exhausting.

Rewarding.

Indescribable.

That, in five words, was my day.

I still don’t completely know what happened. I still don’t understand everything that I witnessed. I still don’t know the impact that these kids have made on my life. But somehow, I know that today was monumental.

Waking up this morning, I had a general “idea” about what the day would look like. I knew that the family staying in the outreach house would be on their way home and an entirely new family would start that same journey that they did just over a week and a half ago. While that’s essentially what happened, that’s just the beginning of the story.

I had a fairly productive morning knocking things off of my to-do list left and right – and I’m quite sure that I was walking tall and proud having done so. At about 11:15 my day flipped. The new children arrived at the outreach house (seven of them – to be exact) and my brain went into panic mode. So many thoughts

whipped across my mind: ‘I don’t know what to do!’ ‘I can’t reach anyone that can help me.’ ‘Do I cry, or just smile and pretend I know what should be happening?’ While my face made the choice to go with the fake smile, my brain was fixing to cry. Through a handful-and-a-half of “fake it ‘till you make it” decisions, I slowly started to own the situation I was put in. I wasn’t sure if I was making all of the right decisions, but I knew that I was doing all that I could. The afternoon continued on as such, support arrived, and things started to level out – and I think I was able to take a shallow breath.

The rest of the afternoon continued to be a whirlwind of activity that never really subsided. I was running on adrenaline – and continued going through the motions like I knew I had to. Then all of a sudden, I was jerked back into the reality of the moment.

We found out this morning, after previous testing that lead us to believe otherwise, one of the sweet boys staying in the outreach house was HIV positive. On one level it was heartbreaking, but on another level it was a relief to have found this out before he left. Since the children are from a village at least three hours away from Jinja, this little boy needed to stay at the house a little longer so they could set up a treatment plan. While this meant that some plans needed to be rearranged, it was doable to have him stay with us until he was able to receive treatment.

His brother had a different reaction.

In his eyes, he had to go home without his brother. He had to leave his brother in an unfamiliar place for a reason that he probably doesn’t fully understand. He had to go home without his other half who arrived with him just a week earlier. He was a wreck. Tears that turned into sobs that turned into a heartbroken group of teenagers witnessing this entire event. I can’t imagine what that little mind was thinking about having to walk away and leave his brother with these somewhat unfamiliar people.

In that moment, I knew I couldn’t just react to the situation, but I needed to respond to what I was unfolding in front of me. I scooped up that sweet boy into my arms and just held him. He tensed up his body when I first picked him up, but as I held him tight he just sunk into my arms. He was still wailing, but I could just tell that in that moment, all he needed was to be comforted.

He slowly started to calm down, only to start back up when it actually came time to leave. He was half fighting being in my arms, but he clung so tightly to my neck that I couldn’t have put him down if I wanted to. I knew that he was opposed to everything going on, but he needed that comforting arm around him.

As I walked him to the gate – still upset, but slowly calming down – I realized what I special moment I was able to share with that precious little boy. It was a moment I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but it was so powerful to be a part of. We hadn’t just treated his jiggers, played soccer with him, and gave him a pair of shoes that were his own, but we were able to love that little guy with everything we had for not only the week and half stay with us, but in those last vulnerable moments. I don’t think I fully realized how much that moment got me through the rest of the day until I sat down – completely exhausted. I didn’t realize how that small piece in time changed the course of my day. It may not have changed the tasks that needed to be accomplished, but it changed how my heart viewed those hurdles.

Those tears made me realize that I only see a glimpse of what these families are going through.

That tight grip on my neck gave me the power to push through the rest of the day.

That little boy gave me a perspective unlike I anything I could have experienced on my own.

I can’t take these moments for granted. Today is going in my forever memory box. I’m not just here to oversee staff, remove jiggers, and put shoes on feet – I’m here to be the hands and feet of Jesus – and the kids are doing a better job of that than me.

IMG_3066

come on my soul

12.30.13

Here I sit – goodness only knows how many feet in the air – somewhere over the Atlantic.

Is this real life? Am I actually sitting on a plane making the twenty-some hour journey to my new home? I think this is happening.

So much anticipation has lead to this moment. So many prayers have been said over my trip and this next season of life. I have been overwhelmed with the support people have provided me with. It doesn’t seem real yet. I think I need a little red dirt on my feet and a kid in my arms before reality will start to sink in. The level of excitement I’m currently feeling is probably equivalent to the excitement felt by so many kiddos on Christmas Eve. My Christmas Eve is just a few days late. (Now if I had a little extra leg room and one less flight, it really would be like Christmas.)

I have no idea what the next few days will look like, let alone the next few months or even year – and I love that I can be okay with that. I’ve allowed myself to be comfortable enough to relinquish control and allow God to place my feet for me. Having said that, I still have many moments where I have to actively give up that control. There are so many times that I would love to change a situation or wish that things could be different – but when it comes down to it, that’s a fantastic recipe for stress and worry. Nothing feeds stress than control. Nothing leads to worry more than unfavorable circumstances. The very minute that you give that control over to the ultimate planner, the stress fades away – the worry subsides. It’s incredible how freeing surrender can feel. I’m still working on it, it’s come a long way – and my time in Uganda played a huge part in that.

I learned so many lessons during my short two months this summer. I was challenged beyond any boundary than I ever had before, but I was empowered in so many ways that allowed me to be successful in what I was doing. I can’t wait to see what happens over the next few months. Who knows where and when my Ugandan journey will end, but right now I’m just excited for it to begin.

Let’s do this. Will you join me?

20131229-232812.jpg

So I’m sitting on my next flight after writing this blog and found myself in a state of complete worry. It was about something stupid that my mind thought up and exploded from there. As I was sitting there trying not to worry about it I realizes how ridiculous I was being having written a blog about that very thing just hours before. Like I said, it’s still a work in progress, but it’s an active decision – and I’m still trying to make the right choice.

20140101-140855.jpg

called me higher

Change: a one word description of my life.

From moving to North Carolina, to an internship in Nashville, to a two-and-a-half month trip to Uganda that turned into something very different than I had planned – change and uncertainty have been in the air through all of it. I’ve never known exactly where I’ll land in the next season, but I’ve grown fairly comfortable with the unknown and the excitement that anticipation brings. Now moving to Nashville for three months was one thing, but this next step is bigger and more unexpected than any of the moves up to this point.

Everyone says that “Africa will change you”. While I didn’t discredit this fact, I just waltzed my way over to Uganda in May expecting it to be an adventure, but not wanting to put much pressure on the situation. Of course, I left Uganda a different person than I arrived there just two months before. I don’t think I can put words together to describe that, and probably never will. I’ve always said that I’d love to do short term missions and couldn’t necessarily see myself committing to living full-time halfway around the world. I knew better than to say “never”, but I cuddled up as close to the word as I could without saying it out loud. I should have known what was coming around the corner.

After two months of praying, discussing, and freaking out later, I have committed to (at least) one year with Sole Hope in Uganda. I know, I’m {insert your preferred word here}. I promise that I’ve told myself that same thing. I still think I’m crazy and there are days when I second guess my choice, but God has so deliberately placed this in front of me that I can do nothing but take his hand and trust where he leads. (I even went as far as tattooing this on my arm as a daily reminder.) A day of baby steps and avoided panic attacks now qualifies as “successful”.

At the end of December, I will be packed up and Jinja bound. To be honest, the living there isn’t my worry at this point. It’s not in the jumble of airport connections, or the long flights. My anxiety lies in the next five weeks. I have approximately five weeks to pack up my life in North Carolina, buy the needed supplies for my move, and say goodbye to some of the people that I love the most. I have so many things spinning through my mind that I don’t even know what to start doing first.

I need to breathe. Sometimes I forget. (Ironically enough, I have another tattoo that reads “God is Breath” as a reminder that when I don’t have breath, He will breathe for me.)

I need to make lists.

I need to take a break from the chaos of life and mentally prepare myself for the biggest jump I’ve ever attempted.

While this time of preparation is filled with stress, it is also filled with unmatched anticipation and unbelievable excitement. I cannot wait to get back and hug all of the people I got to know over the summer. I CANNOT wait to be back causing trouble with the Collie kids and holding that not-so-little Eli. I can’t wait for good cappuccinos, boda rides with accompanying soundtracks, and that beautiful fish room that I’ve been dreaming of since I first laid eyes on it. I can’t believe I get to be a part of something I believe in 100%. I know there will be stressful days, but I know the joy in the small moments will melt all of that away.

Change.

Something different. Something challenging. Something rewarding.

Change.

Live for the unexpected. Respond, don’t react. Be present. Be willing.

Love does.

HOPE for now

I come to you all with a request. It’s not a request that is easy for me, but I’m learning that life isn’t always comfortable, and I know I’ll be learning that even more over the coming months. My trip is approaching much faster than it feels like it should be, with many mixed emotions attached. In less than three weeks I will have my life in North Carolina packed up – bound for Canada and all the snow it has to offer. These next few weeks will be some of the most stressful (thanks to my avoidance of anything packing related) and busy weeks of my life. These times come with great anticipation and unmatched excitement.

While I have a lot to mentally prepare for in the next few weeks, there are also a lot of physical things that are involved with the move. From flights, to visas, to everyday items that I need to bring with me, the numbers add up. While I will be working for Sole Hope while I’m on the ground, there are many things i need before I leave the States. If you are at all able to support me financially through this time, that would take one thing off of my “daily worry list”.

If you are not able to give financially, prayer is not only greatly accepted, but needed through this challenging, but exciting time. Below I have listed more information about how you can donate. I would love to connect with you if you have any questions about my trip, what this money would specifically be going towards, or anything else. Please email me or call me any time and I would be more than happy to chat.
Phone: 828.400.9859
Email: lis@solehope.org

For those living in the States:
All checks can be made payable to Sole Hope (which makes them tax deductible) and please  include a note that it is to go towards “Lis Steckle”. Please don’t write my name on the memo line (for accounting purposes), but please either write a note to include with the check or attach a sticky note with my name on the check itself. Donations can also be made online here. Go to the second option on the page titled “Make a One Time Donation” and include my name in the notes section.

Checks can be mailed to:
Sole Hope
PO Box 1492
Asheville, NC 28802

For those living in the Great White North (aka Canada):
Please make all checks made payable to Elisabeth Steckle (unfortunately, with Sole Hope being an American non-profit, the donations are not tax deductible). You can also make a donation through paypal and can be sent to the email address liz.steckle@gmail.com.

Mail checks to:
Elisabeth Steckle
46 Tara Cres
Kitchener, ON N2E 3K9

I have also set up an Amazon Wish List that I will keep updated until my move, as well as while I’m living in Uganda as I find things that are needed. You can access that list here.

Whether you are able to partner with me financially, or through prayer, know that it means more to me than words can describe. Knowing that I have so many people behind me through this entire process makes me feel more confident in my decision. This move wouldn’t be nearly as seamless (or possible at all) without your support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

One day at a time. One step at a time. You all keep me moving.

forevermore

20131028-231104.jpg

What a weekend.

Thursday started with a rather chilly ride to Asheville, a quick Target run, a drive to Greenville, a bit of procrastinating at Starbucks, and a trip to the Greenville airport – all before 10:30am. We picked up our much anticipated guest Natalie (a blogger and Sole Hope Advocate who can be found at Take the Cannoli) just in time for me to realize that I had forgotten all 200 shoe patterns that we needed for the conference. It was 11am and the weekend was off to a…stressful start. While Nat was ecstatic that she would be able to visit the Sole Hope office in Asheville, Asher and I were trying to crunch the numbers and figure out how we could fix this little mistake of mine. We started our trek up the mountain and found ourselves at one of my favorite overlooks. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the mountains, and Nat was experiencing all this beauty for the first time. We continued to Brevard, said our quick hellos, and sped off to Asheville as fast as our loaded down van would allow. A quick visit to the office, three inhaled crepes, and a walk around the block later – we were on our way to Greenville – again.

After the morning chaos, the stress of setting up our booth, and forgetting to give the van keys to the valet, we settled in for a much anticipated weekend at the Allume Conference. Sole Hope had the honor of sponsoring the conference which allowed us to not only share our mission on stage in front of 450 attendees, but we were able to host an Impact Opportunity on Saturday in the form of a shoe cutting party. It was incredible seeing this group of 45 women coming together with the SOLE purpose of cutting shoe uppers that will eventually be put on the foot of a child in Uganda. I was honored to be a part of the event, and was taken aback by how excited everyone was about being involved with Sole Hope. I loved seeing people as excited about these projects as I am. It was a successful weekend of not only connecting people with Sole Hope, but making personal connections with so many women that attended the conference.

It was three days full of laughter, tears, ridiculous humor, blogging, and friendships. To say the three of us had fun would be just the beginning. To say we got enough sleep would be a joke. To say I’m thankful for new and old heart friends would be an understatement. To say I’m even more passionate about Sole Hope would be nothing but the truth.

77jjk40186

Asher was able to bring back a few of the shoes whose uppers were cut in the States, sent to Uganda, and have returned in the form of the most adorable shoes. While I spent all weekend being a little jealous (okay, unbelievably jealous) that they do not yet come in my size, we had a few pairs that fit Nat like a glove. Clearly, a mini photo shoot in the cold (or freezing cold if your Miss SoCal Natalie) air of Greenville followed. Hopefully these shoes will be available for purchase in the States within the next year.

From the USA to Uganda to South Carolina – these shoes are world travellers.

IMG_2409 IMG_2445 IMG_2458 IMG_2480 IMG_2485 IMG_2491 IMG_2497 IMG_2499 IMG_2513 IMG_2531

The weekend was more of a success than I could have ever imagined. I left with a refreshed passion for Sole Hope and blogging. I can’t wait to share new updates in both of those areas, but we’ll leave that for another post…

The weekend was filled with amazing speakers that made you think about life and art in a completely new way. Refreshed, renewed, and a little sleep deprived, we left the conference excited about not only the future, but where we are right now.

You are where you are for such a time as this; not to make an impression, but to make a difference. – Ann Voskamp