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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sweet tennessee

Saturdays just feel different around here.

Maybe it’s because there’s a coffee shop with a solid cup of coffee and just enough noise for you to drown out the stress of every other day.

Or maybe it takes me back to sweet spring memories.

Or maybe I feel removed from everyday life.

Maybe it’s just Tennessee.

Life over the past two months has been insane. I don’t mean in the way that work is kinda busy or it would be helpful to have anywhere from 2-8 extra hours in each day. It has been more of an – I barely remember the last two months and feel like I have haven’t taken a breath or left my car – kind of insane. Don’t get me wrong, I have LOVED every moment of it. I wouldn’t take it back, or trade it, or breathe an ill word about it. (Except for the fit my car has been pitching. I’ll probably breathe several ill words about that. I just wouldn’t ask.)

Being back in Brevard has done the heart good. I missed my friends. A lot. I missed the mountains. I missed the familiar.

At the same time, I crave adventure. Moving from place-to-place keeps life interesting. I love connecting with different friends, meeting new ones, and exploring familiar places with a different perspective.

Loving home, but having a wandering spirit makes for a restless heart. I’m constantly wishing to be where I’m not. My heart is split in about 5 parts, and I don’t know how to feel whole in any of those places. Being completely present in one means that the other four are lacking. It’s a vicious cycle of not being content. Let me tell you, living like that is exhausting. It’s bound to end with a burnout.

Having said that, I love where my life right now. It’s a life of jumping from adventure to adventure, just waiting to see where God takes me next. It’s thrilling and most times I feel like I’m floating through some life that don’t seem to resemble mine. Somehow, a balance of all these places and people who have a bit of my heart is needed. It’s going to be a matter of enjoying each piece while I’m present there, and not compare one piece to another. They are completely different and comparing them is asking for disappointment. I need to start enjoying every minute, in the present, because soon it will be gone and I’ll be on to the next.

Now if you’re as confused as I am at this point, high-five. Somehow writing down words, as incomprehensible as they are, makes me deal with the thoughts that I tuck away hoping that will somehow keep them from surfacing again. I still have no idea what I’m doing in this life. I still feel consistently lost, but somehow completely peaceful in that. I’m learning as I go, continuing to make mistakes, and will probably start making even less sense.

Maybe Saturdays here give me the space to process, to enjoy good coffee, and just be. Whatever it is, my arms are open wide.

living proof

It’s been five days since I left Jinja and I already want to go back. Actually, by the time I reached the compound gate on Monday night, I already wanted to jump out of the car and “accidentally” miss my flight.

All I can say is that I’ve never experienced a shorter two months. There is no way that I was there for 70+ days. It must have just been a week, maybe two. While the time went by far too quickly, so much happened during my short time on the ground.

I was able to learn so much about Ugandan culture.

I was able to explore just a piece of that beautiful country.

I was able to build relationships that I’m certain will last a lifetime.

I was somehow able to leave the country without a small child stashed in my luggage.

While I’m currently sitting in my favourite coffee shop in Nashville and I’m loving every minute of it, a piece of me didn’t make the journey to Tennessee with me. In fact, I don’t think it made the 48 hour trek home from Uganda with me. I’m quite certain that it’s still at that white house on Wilson Road.

I already miss those Collie kiddos. I miss arguing with Quinn about having to finish her school. I miss Asa’s ridiculous giggle when he thinks something is truly funny. I miss hearing Silas scream in the middle of the night, but then seeing him wake up the next morning with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.

I cannot fully describe in words how thankful I am for Drü and Asher. To think that when I arrived I only planned on staying with them a short two weeks. Somehow two weeks turned into two-and-a-half months, and I’m so glad it did. While it was a crazy, busy, emotionally and physically draining two months, I had more fun than I have in a while. They introduced me to the Ugandan culture, they showed me how to interact with Ugandans, and how to show them the utmost respect. I couldn’t have asked for better role models to set an example of how to love like Jesus does. They are acting as the hands and feet of Christ through their personal lives as well as through Sole Hope. I seriously cannot say enough good things about them. Instead, maybe I’ll just sing a line or two of “Thrift Shop” or maybe some Celine Dion and call it even.

I’m sure I’ll have more words to describe the second half of my trip in the coming weeks. It’s been a lot to process and I haven’t been able to find words to describe how my heart is feeling. I don’t think it’s really even clicked that I’m actually back here. I think my brain is expecting to walk out of this coffee shop, hop on a boda, and direct them to Wilson Road – just past Arise Africa. Instead, I’ll leave this coffee shop, get into my car (which I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road all week), and continue my weekend in Nashville, half a world away from where I sat exactly a week ago.

I miss my dirty red feet. I miss bad wifi (okay, that one may not be 100% true). I miss my Uganda family. Don’t you worry, I’ll be back.

happiness

Another city, another transition, the same heartache.

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Another trip to North Carolina, another hard transition back into everyday life at home.

The idea of this trip was to surprise my dear friend Sarah for her birthday last Friday. Let me just say: mission accomplished. There is nothing I love more than a good surprise. When it comes to a successful surprise, I say go big or go home. In this case, I went big and I went home. This trip solidified the fact that Brevard is right where I’m supposed to be. It feels more like home than anywhere I have ever been. When I first arrived in Brevard last week, the anticipation and excitement was too much to handle. Within minutes of being with everyone again, it just seemed like it was normal for me to be there and be a part of it all. It is still such a strange feeling for me. Don’t get…

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last goodbye

And break!

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the top of my list.

In all capital letters.

Underlined…twice.

You win Nashville. You’ve got me.

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

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

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

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

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

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out of my head

Well Nashville, you’ve stollen my heart…yet again.

I don’t know what it is about this city. It got ahold of me oh so many years ago and it’s refusing to let go.

I cannot believe that I only have less than three weeks of my internship left. I refuse to believe it. I can’t begin to describe how amazing this entire internship has been.

I’ve learned more throughout this internship than I ever could have hoped to. I’ve discovered more about myself and my passions far more than I ever dreamed. I’ve developed more solid friendships than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. My heart has healed even more than I even thought it needed to be.

I’m so trying to enjoy these last few weeks and not allow myself to get caught up in the anticipation of an abrupt ending to my time here. I keep reminding myself that I have so much to look forward to over the next few months, but I just can’t help but think about all the things I’ll be leaving behind…for now.

For now. That’s what I need to keep reminding myself.

I know that nothing will compare to what I’ll experience in Uganda. I know it’s going to be a more wonderful and stretching experience than I can even imagine at this point. That alone is terrifying in itself. I’ve come to realize that I’m doing a really horrible job at balancing preparing for a trip that I know is going to be harder than I can even start to understand, and being completely excited for the entire experience. I realized that I’ve been leaning much more to the side of preparing for a difficult trip. I’ve lost a lot of the excitement that I once had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m unbelievably excited for my upcoming trip, but at the same time the knowledge of having so many unexpected things in the near future is psyching me out. I need to work on balancing these things better. I think it’s been even harder knowing that soon something that I love so much is ending just as something even more challenging is starting up. I think at this point, I just have so many thoughts running around like maniacs in my brain, and I have no idea how to sort through them, let alone process them all.

In slightly other news, I recently decided to jump into the world of hammocks. Yes ladies and gents, Elisabeth bought an ENO. I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to realize how amazing they are. How I lived for a year in the mountains of North Carolina without one is completely beyond me. (I promise these thoughts will connect with rest of this blog post. Just give me a moment.) Anyways, for the last week I’ve been spending every free moment hanging in a tree somewhere. Those moments have become my quite times. Even if there are other people around, I constantly find myself lost in thought, processing life. Is there a coincidence between the time that I purchase a ENO and the time that my brain is most unsettled? I think not. I’ve decided that I’m going to set aside time to just be still. Right now, that stillness comes with the rocking of a hammock.

Tomorrow we head out on our last run of multiple tour dates. I can’t wait to spend time on these campuses connecting with students. There’s nothing that I love more than being on the road. Pray that our dear bus stays put together and runs well all week. She’s such a sweet girl, but sometimes she gives us some trouble. Pray that our team has the strength to be push through all three dates and can finish with energy left at the end. I love this group of people that I have the honor of traveling with. I can’t wait for the conversations for years to come where we will be able to say “remember when…?” The anticipation of those days is what keeps me moving forward.

And off we go. Red Bus on three!

on top of the world

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

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

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

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Photo Cred: Willy Kroeker

Photo Cred: Willy Kroeker

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Photo Cred: Anna Kroeker

Photo Cred: Anna Kroeker

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keep your head up

Oh, the life of a Red Bus Project intern.

Never predictable. Normally exciting. Always fun.

Last week started out with preparing for a long trek back to North Carolina. This was the week that I would be visiting friends, showing off Brevard, and sleeping in my own bed. Two days, a broken down bus, and three hours on the side of I-40 changed all that.

It was a hard adjustment.

I went from being so excited about being able to share what I love with all my friends back home, to driving back to Franklin in a rental car knowing that the rest of the week would be spent in the office, 5.5 hours away from home.

Luckily, I work with amazing people who made having to stay here completely enjoyable. As much as being in the office isn’t quite as fun as road life, there’s enough singing, dancing, joking and laughing to help you forget how many hours you still have in the office on any given day.

It turned into a week full of processing donations, brainstorming, and preparing to leave the next week (praying that the bus would be fixed in time for our next school stop). Thursday came and all of a sudden it was Easter weekend. Easter? How is it Easter already? I had all intentions of staying in Franklin for Easter weekend, but after some pretty easy convincing, I found myself North Carolina bound on Friday morning. Man, I didn’t realize how much I missed my friends until I got home that Friday afternoon. It was a great weekend filled with Bracken Mountain Bakery scones, Mela, “tresbonfires”, and time spent with some of my favorite people.

I’m beyond glad that I made the decision to go home, but I found myself sitting in North Carolina missing my new Tennessee family. I’ve spent so much time with these people over the last few months, that it was weird being completely removed from it. By the end of the weekend, I started to get more and more excited to head back to Franklin and see everyone on Monday morning at work. I wish I could somehow merge these two worlds into one. I’m so thankful that I have both of these amazing groups of people in my life.

Monday arrived and we were back in the office getting ready to leave for tour again the next day. We still weren’t 100% sure if the bus would be fixed in time, but we packed the Penske in hope that we would be back on the road the next afternoon. Tuesday morning brought disappointing news of a bus that wouldn’t be ready quite in time to leave for Atlanta that day. It was definitely disappointing to once again be in town when we were planning on being back on the road. I randomly decided to pop into the office and hang out working on some social media stuff there, when suddenly it was decided that we would in fact be heading to Atlanta for the first ever Red Bus Project stop…without a bus. We decided it was important enough to go, even if it meant busting our butts Tuesday afternoon and figuring out how create a slightly completely modified set up. Tuesday afternoon consisted of running around from place to place gathering supplies, and making sure everything was ready for a 4am departure for ATL. It turned out to be a crazy busy, but completely fun day. Finally, we were going to be back to tour life. Even if it was just for a day this week.

Yesterday we left crazy early for the long trek to Atlanta. We arrived, set up, and prayed that everything would go well. It turned into an amazing day. It was completely worth the crazy day on Tuesday, the long morning drive, and the modified set up. We had a great turn out and got to have some great conversations with students and visitors in downtown Atalanta.

You know it’s a long tour day when you see the sunrise and sunset all in one workday. We arrived back in Franklin shortly before eleven last night exhausted, but it was completely worth it.

We have an amazing team. I still can’t believe this team that only God could assemble. We arrived at the internship, most of us not knowing each other, and somehow we came together to create such a close knit team. I love this team. I can’t believe how quickly this internship is going. Slow down April! Please slow down!

Needless to say, you never know what a week may bring.

It’s an adventure. It’s exhausting. It’s energizing. It’s rewarding. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I got on the roller coaster a little apprehensive and nervous, but I’m loving the ride more than I ever expected I would.

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Days like today are good for the soul. I think my mind has subconsciously been asking for a day like today for a while now.

It’s a sandal wearing, coffee drinking, book reading, ZZ Ward listening, life reflecting kind of day.

My life has been moving at a ridiculous bullet speed since I arrived in Franklin.

It’s been five weeks.

In one respect, it feels like I just arrived at the Show Hope office as a nervous intern that first Monday in February.

On the other hand, I’ve already developed relationships that make if feel like I’ve been here for at least ten times as long as reality depicts.

Two months ago I was living what I would call a pretty comfortable life. I had a job that paid well, a great house to live in, friends that most could only dream of having, and I was okay with it all. Never did the thought cross my mind that three short weeks later I would be moving five-and-a-half hours west to be apart of an internship that I never in a million years expected to be blessed with.

I have never been more convinced that the “man upstairs” has a fantastic sense of humour.

Here I sit, balancing somewhere between reality and what I am sure could only be a dream.

Let me explain the last month in a nutshell. (Although at this point, it may be a pretty long nutshell.) I arrived the evening before my internship started and although I felt completely unprepared, I felt this excitement that I still can’t fully explain. There is always an amount of uncertainty that comes with meeting a new group of people that you know you will be spending a significant amount of time with. I don’t think I can fully communicate how AMAZING this team is. It’s so clear to me that only God could assemble a group so diverse, but so like minded. I can honestly say that in the short time that I’ve spent with them, that I have been blessed with relationships that I know will make an impact in my life. I’ve never been a part of such a solid team that still has more fun than anyone could describe in words. I’ve laughed harder in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years combined. I pray these relationships only grow stronger over the next few months and will continue for years to come.

These interns are world changers. I cannot wait to see where the Lord takes each one of them. I’m so honoured to call them my friends. They’re rockstars and I love that I get to work alongside them everyday.

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Jill – Her one-liners will get you every single time…and you won’t see them coming. Ever.

Alexis – A fellow sarcastic soul. No further explanation needed.

Ericha (or Eric-ha if you will) – Fellow intern-hopper, grandma, and go-getter. (Check out Becoming Fools – a documentary she worked on for seven months in Guatemala.)

Will – The one who understands my musical taste, Instagrams as much as I do, and keeps things fun.

Wheeler – Dancer, singer, joker, leader, and great role model.

Believe me when I say this team is solid EPIC! I love every one of them.

The first few weeks consisted of processing donations, brainstorming new ideas, shooting promo videos, writing email bodies, and trying to prepare for a tour that most of us had never experienced. It was a great time to learn where we fit in the team. It was a great preparation for the first week of tour.

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March 3rd. First bus call of tour. 7pm departure from Franklin, TN.

March 4th. 5am arrival at hotel in Asheville, NC. 2 hours of sleep. 7:30am breakfast. 8am departure. 9am set up at UNCA. First day of Spring 2013 Tour. And here we go.

We lacked an adequate amount of sleep. We had never set up the bus as a team.

Somehow we rallied, set up and opened the bus, and had a fantastic day. I’m still not entirely sure how we pulled it off so well. The day involved a cold start, some dancing, a little bit of limbo, tree climbing, and multiple cornhole competitions. It was a great start to what turned into a challenging but successful first week of tour.

Three days, a monsoon, a mountain trek, a snowfall, amazing volunteers, and a broken bus later, we completed our first week of tour. It’s a week I don’t think any of us will forget. We arrived back in Franklin as a colder, but stronger team. The broken bus could be explained by nothing else other than a God thing.

This brings us to sometime around today. We’re all digesting everything that happened last week, tweaking things for the next tour leg, and preparing to hit the road again next Monday. I think all of us are thankful for the week off from tour, but at the same time we’re completely anxious to get back out on the road with the Red Bus Project as we journey to Indiana for a five days.

Keep this team in your prayers. While we adore what we are doing, we are quickly discovering that we aren’t as invincible as we thought. We leave a lot on the road, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Follow the Red Bus Project’s journey through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our website. We hope to see you on the road!

Franklin, so far you’ve been good to me. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks bring. Knowing my life, it will include some excitement. Bring it on.

pursuit

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s about that time when Elisabeth has become far too comfortable with her life and all of a sudden plans change. Yes, you heard it here folks, yet again my life is not going in the direction I oh so carefully thought out. How silly of me to think that I could plan out the next year of my life and expect it to go according to those plans.

It’s like I’ve been through this before or something.

So here it goes… This girl and her cowboy boots are picking up and moving to Nashville, Tennessee for three months.

You probably ready that sentence correctly the first time. This kid is picking up and moving (yet again) to her homeland for a spring internship with The Red Bus Project. To say I’m slightly excited about this opportunity may be a slight understatement. It’s as if someone wrapped up the city that I love, a cause I’m passionate about, and a fantastic organization into an internship and handed it to me with a bow on top.

I gave my two weeks on Wednesday.

I move in twelve days.

This is actually happening.

So much has happened in the last 7 days. I’ve experienced a range of emotions from excitement to complete disbelief to panic. I now have less than two short weeks to arrange everything I need to here in Brevard, pack what I will be taking with me, find a place to stay while I’m in Nashville, and get ready to take yet another leap into the unknown.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity, but it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’m leaving this place for three months. I love it here. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and explore new places, but this place has become my home. These people have become my family. It’s so hard to think about just picking up and moving away from that.

I’m going to miss the mountains. I’m going to miss this little town. I’m going to miss Asheville’s quirkiness. Let’s be honest, I’m really going to miss the bakery. All jokes aside, I’m going to miss the people here more than anything. I’m going to miss our game nights and movie nights. I’m going to miss the arguing, the sarcasm, and laughs. It’s the little things that I’m going to miss the most. It’s those nights where we all just sit on the kitchen floor talking when we could be sitting on a perfectly comfy couch in the living room. It’s the times I times where I fail miserably playing Xbox with the guys. Those are the things I don’t want to miss out on.

I’m sure Nashville will take good care of me. I’m sure there are some who think it will take such good care of me that I won’t not come back. At this point, I’ve learned to never say never, but I do know that Brevard will always be my home, everyone here will always be my family, and I will never cheer for UT.

My life is getting ready to shift, yet again. I’m ready for this new adventure, but I’m not wanting this one to come to a close quite yet. I’m definitely learning to appreciate the time that I do have and is forcing me to take the time to enjoy the small things.

It’s a good thing I learned to love country music years ago. I think that skill may come in handy over the next few months. Nashville, let’s do this.