26 for 26

doublepeak-57

To continue with the tradition after “25 from 25“, I give you 26 things I want to do, experience, or focus on in the year to come. Who even knows what will is to come in the next 365 days, but it is sure to be an unpredictable journey. Here’s to the next year of continued traditions and new experiences.

  1. Travel more. There’s so much of this country and world that I’ve yet to see.
  2. Also, let’s start with the PNW, cause that place looks like the dream.
  3. Buy more coffee brewing equipment. I will get that Chemex this year.
  4. Be more intentional with friendships and connecting with friends who live hundreds of miles away. I think this will be on my list every year.
  5. I would say drink more coffee, but I’m not sure that’s even possible at this point.
  6. I’m going to attempt the surfing and snowboarding goals again this coming year, because I didn’t do so well at those last year…
  7. Continue to explore this city I find myself living in. There are still many unknown and undiscovered areas to find.
  8. You know that big exciting project I was excited for in 2016, let’s move that to the 2017 list.
  9. Also, about taking more pictures…let’s add “get a new lens for my camera so I’m excited to take pictures again” to this list.
  10. Cook more. Gather more people around the table and cook for them and with them. That’s when my heart comes most alive.
  11. Start playing a sport again. I miss the teamwork and comradery that comes with that.
  12. Try more local restaurants. This place has some of the best around and I’ve been to embarrassingly few of them.
  13. Visit Australia. This will be the year. IT HAS TO BE.
  14. Continue to read often. I want to keep up this habit I’ve picked up over the last year.
  15. Go to Stone Brewery more. Because pretzels and brussel sprouts.
  16. Also, learn more low carb options of all the carb filled foods. Because that kind of feels like Christmas to the two T1Ds in the house.
  17. Make it to Fresno more often. How am I so close, yet so far?
  18. Play games more often. The sound of laughter in the midst of competitiveness is the best thing.
  19. Stop overthinking things. And by that I mean try to overthink things less. And by that I mean just start chiseling away at that monumental task.
  20. Explore the options when it comes to grad school. Who knows where that may lead…
  21. Work on hand-letting and graphic design more. I need to spend more time learning what I enjoy.
  22. See snow for more than 12 hours at a time. My soul comes alive in the snow.
  23. Invest more money in quality items and less money on things that aren’t sustainable or needed.
  24. See more of California.
  25. Focus more on my writing. I haven’t done nearly enough of that in the last 12 months.
  26. Enjoy 2017. There’s beauty and pain and redemption everywhere I look. See it, notice it, remember it. The pain makes the redemption that much more beautiful.

So as 2017 comes to be, as new resolutions and goals are set, let us remember that each day is fresh and new – as are His mercies. Treat each day as such, as a blank slate with the beautiful opportunity ahead of us to make Him GREATER.

Photo by Christina Jean Photography.

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.

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.

life keeps moving on

_MG_3807

One month.

Somehow it’s been one month since I left Uganda.

Somehow it’s only been one month since I left Uganda.

What a month it has been. I think I’ve only slept in my own bed just less than two of those weeks, yet it feels like months since I last crawled underneath my cozy mosquito net on the bottom bunk in that white house in Jinja.

Can your heart be completely content where you are, but still wish you could be somewhere thousands of miles away? I think I have that.

These last few weeks have been emotionally exhausting. While I absolutely love catching up with everyone I missed while gone, answering the same questions about my trip is rather challenging when I haven’t really had the time to process what happened while I was there. I apologize for all the short answers, fake smilies, and avoided eye contact. That was probably my not-so-healthy way of trying to communicate that I didn’t have all the answers for the questions being asked. I still don’t. I don’t know if I ever will.

For the first time since being back, I went through most of the pictures I took while I was in Uganda. I put the last of my pictures on my computer, and was able to relive so many memories moving from picture to picture. Some of them made me cringe, some made me incredibly sad, and others made me laughing hysterically. We had fun walking down memory lane while realizing just how many things we desperately miss.

Those beautiful smiles.

That beautiful view.

The wonderful Collie family.

I loved seeing those white smiles, that ebony skin, those sweet little hands. My heart ached to be back, but I was so thankful for the memories made, the relationships built, and the time I did have there. I know I’ll be back holding those precious hands so soon. This journey is no where near finished. I think it’s just starting.

Content in where I am. Thankful for where I’ve been. Excited for where this journey takes me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Phillipains 1:3

_MG_3827 _MG_3810

_MG_3802

_MG_3900

_MG_3914

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.

where feet may fail me

A lack of words and ability to form comprehensible sentences has been the reason for my lack of blog posts and updates.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with down time and processing. The first half of my trip came to a close just as Michael finished his time here. The week leading up to his departure was filled with a great jigger removal in Wakisi and other team activities before the large clinic in Mblumuti. This day proved to be somewhat melancholy for both Michael and myself. I felt completely removed from all the action that was taking place. It was almost as if I was watching myself take part in the clinic. It was an overall confusing day that hopefully I can put words to at some point in the coming weeks.

photo

That weekend brought a few last adventures while we were still three which included (but was not limited to) a ridiculous kayaking adventure that brought to light the fact that it’s easier to paddle upstream on the Nile than downstream, more rope swinging injuries, a couple last visits to Flavours, and a final boda race back from dinner that Sunday night. It was a hard goodbye, especially knowing that life around here would look very different. It definitely took a few tough days to adjust to a new “normal”. What a wonderful month.

So many laughs.

So many adventures.

So many good conversations.

Through transitions, time here in Jinja still seems to pass at an unexplainable rate. Somehow it’s been two weeks since Michael left. Somehow I only have about three weeks left here. My brain isn’t even close to being in a place where I can start processing that upcoming transition. My heart is still very much here in Uganda, and I can’t imagine having to adjust back to life stateside. I’m trying to be very present in my last few weeks here. I’m trying not to wish them away in the anticipation of my departure. Two-and-a-half months seemed like more than an adequate amount of time to be here. I thoroughly expected to be 150% ready to head home after my ten weeks here. Oh, how that has not at all been the case.

Sometimes I just want to cancel my ticket and not leave.

Sometimes all I want to do is be back in America with my friends.

Sometimes I don’t at all know what I want.

While this mess of thoughts has been running through my head, Asher and I have been able to be a part of something that could only be “a God thing”. About two weeks ago when the team was out in a nearby village, a grandfather approached one of the team members who was holding his grandson and asked if she was able to feed the baby. (Wet nurses are still quite common in these parts, so the question was not quite as out in left field as you may be thinking.) After some inquiry throughout the next few days, we found out that this baby (who is a neighbor of Joyce who works here at the Sole Hope house) has lived with his grandparents, as well as five cousins, ever since his mother died in childbirth. They were not able to provide this little one with proper formula and had been feeding him cow’s milk, sugar, and porridge. This completely broke both of our hearts. This little baby, who was just over two months old, wasn’t having one of his basic needs met. His jajja (grandmother), grandfather, and extended family loved and cared for him with everything they had, but they were not able to meet all of his physical needs. This sweet little boy weighed (with our best educated guesses mixed with some loose translation) approximately six pounds.

image_1

Six pounds. Two months old. Heartbreaking.

He was nothing but skin and bones. The first day we saw him he was hardly responsive. He would open his eyes, but would barely move his arms or legs. His fists were completely clenched all of the time. We spent a good few hours with this little one and his jajja, provided them with a can of formula, filtered water, and a thorough explanation of how to prepare the formula properly. We took them back with the promise of checking on him within the next day or so. By this point, that little peanut already held a place in both of our hearts. We stayed true to our promise and checked on him at the end of the week. I still cannot believe the difference we experienced in his demeanor in just those short few days. He was more alert, more responsive, and grinning wide enough to melt your heart. Jajja kept telling Asher and Drü that they were now her children and this little boy’s parents. (At this point we still didn’t really know what his name was. It is a Muslim name that even our African friends could not pronounce). Jjajja was very adamant that Asher would pick out his name since she was his mother now. The name she decided on was Elias, which means “my God is Yahweh”. A meaning that I believe holds even more significance with him being born into a Muslim family. Who knows how God may move in their hearts through this entire process.

Let’s just say we love our Eli time. We have been watching him some days so that Jajja can take care of her other grandchildren, and we can monitor his feedings a little bit closer. As I write this, he is peacefully sleeping two rooms away. I’m still in awe of the fact that God has allowed us to play a part in this little boy’s life. Not only are we able to partner with this family and provide things that will allow them to care for him in the ways he needs, but this little one has been changing my heart. I can’t even begin to think about the day that I have to say goodbye to that little man. I’ve become more and more aware of the fact that I am going to have to put my trust in God to have his tiny life in His hands. He loves Eli more than I could ever dream of. He has a plan for this life beyond what I could even comprehend right now.

IMG_1003

Being removed from this will be heartbreaking. I won’t be involved in his everyday life. I won’t get to see his precious smile. I won’t be here to witness all of the milestones he’ll hit over the first few years.

It’s definitely going to be a lesson in trust. In giving the things that I can’t control over to God. He has a plan far beyond what I can envision. Where my feet may fail me, God still has Eli’s life in His hands. He has my life in His hands. Let me have trust without borders. Let me go wherever you have called me. I’ve been so blessed to be given the opportunity to hold this precious life in my hands. Sleep well little Eli, God’s got both of us in his hands.

take care

Coffee shops.

My third environment. Sometimes my second.

Nothing makes me feel more at home than having a coffee shop to frequently visit. It’s close to a number one requirement within several days of moving to a new city. Let’s just say I discovered Flavours on my first day in Jinja. I should have used that as an indication for how much I would enjoy being here. There’s nothing like walking into the café first thing in the morning, being greeted by name, and asked if you want the usual americano. Some people would take that as a sign that they are too frequent of a visitor (and I should probably be thinking that at this point), but there’s something quite comforting about it.

Comfort.

Something you long for in a country that is entirely foreign to you. In almost every aspect. Whether it be in the form of a familiar face or just a really good burger, you crave something familiar. Although good friends were here to greet me when I arrived, there are still many things that have been completely different than my “normal environment”.

Different sights.

Different surroundings.

Different smells.

Sometimes I find myself going with the flow to such a degree that I don’t even really recognize the things that may be a challenge. While this at some times can be a great asset, I’ve come to realize that I sometimes don’t process things as I should…or at all. I have a tendency to just block things out and move on, when really I should be working through those feelings and emotions. I would much rather make the necessary adjustments and continue on in life showing nothing more than a small hiccup. The moments where I consciously notice and digest the things that happen are few and far between.

It has not been until more recently that I have realized how deliberately God has placed people in my life who force me to face these things and not just nonchalantly pass them by. I love conversation. I love being in relationship with other people who are walking through the same things that I am. I love that these two things are able to overlap. More and more, I am realizing how much I value the relationship I have with people who will ask me the hard questions. Maybe their observant enough to know when there is something I should really talk about, but would never necessarily bring up. Maybe our personalities just fit so well that conversations like that are like second nature. I’ve come to realize that nothing means more to me than someone asking what I’m thinking about, how I’m dealing with a situation, or what my thoughts were about a conversation that took place.

Once again, I’ve been so blessed by something that I didn’t even know that I needed. Slowly the walls I didn’t even know I had are crumbling down. I’m venturing out of my shell more and more.

Two of my favorite things: coffee shops and road trips. Both practically scream, “Great conversations happen here!” In the middle of Uganda, away from everything familiar and “normal”, I still have both of these things. I have amazing friends, wonderful conversations, and delicious coffee. I am blessed beyond what I can even comprehend. Leave it to Him to send me half way around the world, into the unknown, to learn more than I ever could have in the safety of the familiar.

smile

20130616-150947.jpg

Two and a half weeks. how have I already been here for over two weeks?

On one hand, it feels like I’ve already done so much since arriving in Jinja, but on the other hand, it feels like I just pulled up to the Sole Hope house yesterday.

Two weeks to fall in love with this place.

Two weeks to know that I don’t want to leave.

Two weeks to start thinking about a return trip.

It’s such a unique culture. It has it’s own rhythm. The pace has been compared to that of a small beach town back in the states. Replace the surfboards with bodas and the sand with red dirt and it’s a pretty accurate description.

Observations/thoughts so far:

  1. You can make plans, but they probably won’t go as planned. Things will be delayed, things will come up, and sometimes it will just pour rain. You go with the flow and adjust accordingly.
  2. Although I have seen three stop signs, I have never once seen anyone observe them. Instead of “stop” it seems to be “go when you want to go and pray that there is no one in your path”. And by that I mean the boda driver goes when he wants to go and you are at his mercy.
  3. I will probably be ridiculously sick of avocados and mangos when I leave, but I know that I’ll miss them terribly when I get home.
  4. I want nothing more than a hot shower.
  5. Coca-Cola tastes 10x better in Africa. Thank you cane sugar.
  6. Uganda is a beautiful country.
  7. Even if there is wifi available, it probably won’t work. Or you may fall asleep before your Facebook homepage loads.
  8. You can easily have three children holding on to each of your hands at once. Perhaps a few more.
  9. If you wear sandals, your feet will be red by the end of the day.
  10. Everything is better as a chalkboard.

Needless to say, life here continues to be interesting, yet fun. Some days are super relaxed with not much on the agenda but a trip into town for an americano and a few instagram uploads, while some days come with a list of things to accomplish. Somehow, everyday fills up with errands, babysitting, and other Sole Hope tasks. Each day ends with a meal surrounded by friends that tend to include a few good laughs. Although, a few evenings have been graced by uncontrollable laughter with tears to follow.

This change of pace has been a difficult, but needed adjustment. I’ve been forced to slow down and enjoy my time here. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my to-do list may not play out as I intended. I tend to burry myself in the jumping from one task to another. I plan out my time, know exactly what’s coming next, and move from one task to the other without giving it much thought. As much as I still find myself trying to jump right back into that “safe” routine here, that has not been how things have played out at all. Although I find myself getting frustrated at times, dare I say that I’m enjoying every minute of my non-scheduled “routine”.

I’m still trying to find my footing. I’m still determining what the next few months here may look like. I’m still curious to see what happens.

I have to say that one of my favorite things so far has been the time spent in the villages. If you know me at all, you know that I love being around kiddos. Village days bring many “Mzungu!” (meaning white person) screams and enough little smiles to melt your heart several times over. I’ve never experienced something so exhausting, yet so joy filled. Although I have made many attempts to capture those captivating white smiles popping against that beautiful ebony skin, nothing can do that little giggle justice. I wish I could take those precious laughs with me, but each time I must settle with a few waves and the echoing sound of “Mzungu, bye!” while looking forward to our next meeting. The joy that they have is infectious, and I’m trying to bottle up as much of it as I can.

IMG_0594

Lessons learned so far:

  1. Be flexible and go with the flow.
  2. It’s okay to barter with your boda drivers.
  3. People will try to take advantage of you because you are a mzungu.
  4. If a mango smells disgusting, there’s probably a worm in it.
  5. ENOing in Africa is where it’s at.
  6. Sometimes Saturday nights involve boda races.
  7. Ugandans are beautiful people.
  8. Slowing down isn’t a bad thing.
  9. Being here isn’t easy, but it’s worth all the sacrifices.
  10. The next two months are going to fly by far too quickly.

Oh life, what an adventure you’ve become.