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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after the storm

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Fear & anxiety. I can finally put words to it.

I spent years & years experiencing feelings that I couldn’t place, that I couldn’t name. I couldn’t understand these emotions I was feeling.

It wasn’t until I moved overseas and struggled with this on a more regular basis, that I was able to put a name to what I was feeling. Living in a developing country brings out both rational and irrational fears in the best of people, not to mention someone who has an [over] active imagination and desires safety more than most (I was also introduced to the Enneagram and my #6 personality type). Being there gave me permission, in some way, to validate the feelings that I was experiencing in not only a physical sense, but in many different aspects of my life in general. Suddenly, I was able to admit what I was feeling – to myself & those closest to me.

But let me tell you, saying these things out loud did not make them disappear from my life, nor were they easier to deal with. In fact, they became more prevalent. Because I knew what I was looking for in myself, I could easily spot them and drag them out to unrealistic lengths. It’s like when you notice a little detail that you never have before, and suddenly that’s all you can see – everywhere.

However, this also put the power to change my reactions and thoughts back into my own hands. I was aware of what was going on, and could make the concious effort to combat this fear & anxiety at the source. I suddenly realized that these thoughts were being put in my head to play games with my mind & throw barriers in my way. Knowing this, I was able to develop methods that allowed me to not only acknowledge what was happening inside of me, but confront it and allow myself to walk through it.

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Because I knew the devil was using this weakness in me, I also knew I needed to turn to Someone who is infinitely more powerful – Someone who has already fought and won my battle. I started memorizing scripture to throw in the devils face whenever he thought he could get a hold of my heart and mind. I found that simply speaking these truths out loud made him shake in his boots.

So I came up with a list of 10 bible verses to combat fear & anxiety:

  1. ISAIAH 41:10,12&13: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
  2. PSALM 125:1&2: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
  3. ROMANS 8:37-39: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  4. EPHESIANS 6:10-13: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark works and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
  5. 1 PETER 1:3-5: “In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  6. JAMES 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  7. 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3&4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
  8. JOSHUA 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  9. 2 CHRONICLES 20:15b&17b: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
  10. PROVERBS 30:5: “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

I’ll be honest, I still struggle with this daily. Sometimes these lies & fears sink themselves into my heart, allowing anxiety to yet again win. But still I try to fight this upward battle – losing more days than not. But the ultimate journey is one of PERSEVERANCE – consciously choosing each day to still turn to Him no matter what you face or what battles you lose.

Press on.

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 Photos by Grace & Salt.

even when it hurts

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Coming home from living over seas sounds like the greatest thing. It’s nothing but sushi, and cheese, and the best of friends – day in and day out. You can go to Target whenever you please (unless you live in Canada, where they took away that liberty) and have a million different options available at your fingertips when visiting the grocery store. It sounds like a dream. And then you get home.

I will admit, the first few days back are as close as one can get to walking on clouds. You get to drive on paved roads, stop for a quick coffee, or even go through a drive thru. Your internet finally works at a normal speed, and you can call your friends and family whenever you want AND be in a similar time zone. You get to sleep in your own bed and take a hot shower that you very likely will never want to get out of. But then real life starts.

Suddenly, everything is overwhelming. The various choices at the grocery store now seem like too many options. A simple decision of where to go soon seems like having to make a major life choice. You frustrate people with your indecisiveness and you are paralyzed with the anxiety of having to make the choice or disappoint those around you. Even the smallest things seem bigger than anything you’ve ever experienced, and you feel as though you won’t ever be able to chose between two options ever again. And even worse, no one understands.

Not only that, but all those friends that you’re SO excited to see have moved on with their lives. Shocker, the world didn’t stop while you were gone. This place you called home for a significant amount of time is apparently not Narnia, and life does not simple pause when you get on an intercontinental flight. You are suddenly without the support system you have come to know, and you feel like everyone is nearing the finish-line of the race and you’ve barely left the starting blocks.

Everyone will tell you your adventures have been so exciting and they can’t wait to hear more stories. But really, that just makes you want to crawl back into a hole. While you absolutely adore them [and their supportive words are invaluable], you suddenly don’t know what to do with all of it. How do you share the stories that were your life for such a long time, knowing that you won’t be able to do them justice? How do you explain a different country and culture and society that has become your home with only words and a few pictures?

Now friends, this is not to say you should stop asking. Please don’t take this to mean that we don’t want to share what has been our life for so long with you. Just please be patient with us if we change the subject or stumble over our words or ramble about things that seem rather irrelevant. We will probably reach a time where these stories will flow more easily and we will feel at a place where we can properly convey our feelings – that time might just not be quite yet. But please, keep asking us these questions and showing us that you care. Somehow in the mess of our brain that still means the world to us.

All of a sudden, your days are unproductive, you procrastinate more than normal, and you bury yourself into an unnecessary amount of Netflix, because honestly, it requires little thinking. You’re still slightly amazed by the fast internet speed, and you sequester yourself in your room and only venture out if you know no one is around. You beat yourself up because you felt infinitely more productive and useful living across the ocean and suddenly you feel like you have no purpose. Each day is Groundhog Day, and wake up each morning hoping that coffee will make life seem normal again. And it kind of does.

But this, too, shall pass. Somehow we will continue to get up each day, drink that cup of coffee, and try again. At some time these decisions will become easier, or possibly just doable. I, personally, don’t know when that day will come. I wish I had the magic formula that made me feel just an ounce of normal in these now foreign “home”. I don’t even really know what steps it will take to get there, so for now I distract myself with school, and travel, and lots of Netflix, hoping that I’ll feel normal again. Like I’m productive, or useful, or needed here.

I wish I had answers. I wish I could explain how I’m feeling to the people around me who so desperately want to break into the shell I’ve constructed. All I can say is: please be patient. Give us a little time and space, but don’t give up on us. One day we can meet at Starbucks and we won’t feel overwhelmed by the infinite choices of lattes and frappacinos and iced coffee and… To be honest, we’d probably be fine if you showed up at our door with a bottle of wine and a plan to watch too many episodes of Suits on Netflix.

One day we’ll understand what it means to live life far away from the place that holds our heart. But that day is not today, so for now life simply looks like, “Play Next Episode”.

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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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ever be

It is already April & I have somehow been back in Uganda for over a month. And what a month it has been.

I hit the ground running that first week in March & haven’t had time to slow down or look back since. It’s been an amazing month, a crazy month, an encouraging month, a draining month, & an emotional month. I don’t even really know how to begin putting words to the things that I have experience, thought, or seen since I arrived back on these red dirt roads.

Until now, I haven’t really had the words to form coherent sentences to share with anyone. And to be honest, I’m not sure that I do now. But in order to stop these thoughts from spinning around my mind, I need to arrange them in some form outside of my head.

So here goes.

My first week in country was spent preparing for the StoryTeller team to arrive (also check out #SoleStories on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter) and a week that I won’t soon forget. I had no idea what to expect when these 10 souls stepped out of the matatu that Sunday afternoon, but what a beautiful week it turned into. Now, let me be honest, teams are a lot of work. A lot goes into planning, organizing, and executing a week full of activities with a large team in a country that doesn’t keep time well on the best of days. However, we ended the week more refreshed, more encouraged, and more understood than we ever expected. This team poured into Sole Hope with everything they had. It was a beautiful thing to witness and be involved in. I don’t think they will ever truly understand how big of an impact they made on Sole Hope – both here in Uganda, and through the words they shared.

In the middle of that week, we took the team to see the new Sole Hope land. And by that I mean Asher took all of us, I had only heard things about it & had never actually laid eyes on it before I drove our Land Cruiser on top of the hill that day.

It was a moment that I will never forget. I’ve had the honor of watching Sole Hope grow over the past two-and-a-half years. From volunteering stateside – watching the Collies get ready to set off on this new journey, to travelling to Jinja in the summer of 2013, to moving and working alongside Sole Hope Uganda starting at the beginning of last year. I’ve truly witnessed this organization, our founders, and our staff grow and change in miraculous ways since Drü & Asher moved their life here at the beginning of 2013. All of this lead up to this one moment, this one piece of land, this one God orchestrated dream.

The emotions took some time to sink in. Asher briefly explained the plans for building, for the well, & for the HOPE filled future that lies on that very land. We climbed on the Land Cruiser, taking in the vastness of this new land that God provided.

Okay, and let’s be honest, it included some shenanigans. It wouldn’t be a true moment with Asher & Lis without a little bit of crazy.

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But then, we took some time to walk around the land, dream about the future, pray over the lives that will be touched, the feet that will be washed, and the HOPE that will be restored in so many families on the very spot that we placed our feet. We came back together to share what the Lord had been saying to us individually, to speak words over the future of the land, and to pray as a community of believers who were on board with this God inspired dream.

And I just about lost it. Okay, I did lose it.

I stood there, surrounded by so many people experiencing Uganda and Sole Hope for the first time, and realized that I wouldn’t be in Uganda for so much of the progress from this point on. I’m here for such a short time this trip, and that’s starting to feel so real. This is the first time that I don’t have a return date – I don’t know when the next time I will step off a plane in this beautiful country will be. And all of it hit at once. My life for the past [almost] two years has been focused around Sole Hope, my feet have been planted in this country, and these people are my family. And now, I have to give it all back to the Lord, knowing that this is all done to make Him GREATER.

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And then I stopped for a moment – this isn’t about me. This isn’t about Sole Hope. This isn’t about what our human hands are able to do. This is completely, from beginning to end, about what the Lord is doing – we are but only the vessels. It is for me to determine whether I will trust him in that promise, or if I will struggle to put pieces together with my broken, selfish, human hands.

So here I stand, wrestling with how I let go, and let God. This is his vision, and has been since the very moment it was a thought in Asher’s mind, and that’s how it remains to this day. He only asks us to go, to be, to live – but to do these through Him. It is possibly the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do, but I am leaving it in the hands of the one who holds every pain & every joy in the palm of His hand.

So as I move through this next month, I pray that it is Him, through me, who moves – who places words in my mouth, and extends HOPE and grace to all those around me. I pray that His presence is felt in such tangible ways, that there is no denying is presence. I pray that he guides me as start each day focusing on the #nexttwofeet.

This life I give to Him. May He use it for his glory – living to only to make Him GREATER.

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If you want to find out how you can be apart of this next step for Sole Hope, you can visit our Pure Charity page for more info.

 

All photos by the amazingly talented Gary Chapman.

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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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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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