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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shine like a star

So here’s a little story.

A story about one of my favorite families and their HUGE hearts for adoption. After too many failed adoptions and too many broken hearts, they have welcomed the sweetest girl into their family! Within the first week of arriving back in Uganda at the beginning of the year, I went to Asher to visit the orphanage where Stella was living. From the very first moment I saw her radiant smile, I knew this little girl was special. The interactions between Ash and Stella were something that can only be described by the linking of souls.

Though they have legal guardianship of Stell-Bell, they will have to wait several years in country to fully & legally adopt her as an official Collie. All of these steps and procedures require a great deal of money. Would you consider partnering with them as they continue in this journey? Below I have posted their latest blog post – a beautiful description of their adoption story so far. You can also see the original post here. This family holds a special place in my heart – they are doing BIG things for the Kingdom. 

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It is funny to me that I would ever seriously think that my family’s life would go according to my plans. And really, thank God for that! My plans are far less than what God has planned for us.

Dru and I always knew adoption was something God called our family to. It really wasn’t even a question. So in 2010 we started pursuing the adoption of a child from Ethiopia, Africa. We journeyed that way for about a year, lost thousands of dollars and came to the realization that although it seems wonderful, everyone in the adoption world is not ethical. But, through that struggle and loss Sole Hope was birthed! In 2013, after moving to Uganda for Sole Hope we found out about two children who needed a home. These children called us “mommy” and “daddy” and were with us on and off for six months. In the end we came to know the truth that these two children had families that were looking for them. Again we lost thousands of dollars and ended up heartbroken. In 2013 we also met a tiny and sick little boy we named Eli. He stole the hearts (in a major way) of every person in our family. And he too was taken from us after living under our care for over a year.

But, on Christmas day in 2013 I went to visit my soon to be niece at a local orphanage. She had malaria and was in bed the entire time I was there so I ventured out and started interacting with the other children. A special little girl caught my attention. She seemed so joyful & content. I asked my friend who knew the children to tell me about this little girl. Her name was Stella and I needed to know nothing more. My heart fell in love with her immediately and I experienced nothing like I have ever felt before, I knew she was mine but it scared everything living out of me! My soul pursued her in an unimaginable and uncontrollable way. One day I broke my hearts silence and asked Dru if he would ever consider adopting a child with a physical/mental disability like Stella. And in true Dru fashion he said, “Of course. She needs a family too.” (Love that man!) And so the journey began of bringing Stella into our family.

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Jumping back to July 22, 2014, Eli was taken from our family and it felt like the death of a child. I didn’t know how I would parent any more children; I wasn’t sure how my heart could grow to love another child that wasn’t already a part of our family. I was hurt, broken, torn up, depressed and yet I still had this strange hope that could have only been from the Lord. Only a few weeks after Eli was taken I was sent an email at what felt like a horrible time from the orphanage. “Everything is ready for you to adopt Stella. Just submit your paperwork to your lawyer and we will get a court date.”

WHAT!?

Horrible timing I thought. But my heart still ached for Stella. And because I know that God is the author of all things that have to do with time we pressed in and allowed him to open and close whatever doors he wanted-but, with very cautious hearts. After all, we didn’t want to “lose” another child and we didn’t want to have to tell our kids again that this girl would not be their sister. Stella stayed at the orphanage to guard our hearts and I would go visit her a couple times a week. I finished all of our paperwork like a robot, not really attaching any emotional energy to what I was doing. On October 23, 2014 we went to court and in a quick, matter of fact way the judge granted our family legal guardianship of Stella. What does this mean? SHE IS OURS! We can’t legally change her name for three years because we are waiting to finish the adoption in Uganda, but they can’t take her from us…and that feels Oh! So good.

Now for the cool God story that I didn’t even realize until after she came to live with us…

In 2010 when I was pregnant with Asa, Dru and I said that if the baby was a boy we were going to name him Asa, and if the baby was a girl we were going to name her Stella. Stella was born only 6 days before Asa, in the same year. So little did we know that while our Asa was in our arms in America, our Stella was being born in a little village three hours outside of Jinja, Uganda in the same week!

Let me tell you about our little star, Stella. She is six years old and has the most infectious laugh! Like, more infectious than Ebola. She is happy all the time…unless of course she thinks you are withholding food from her. She is so motivated to move and groove like any six year old, but her little body was made just a little bit different. Stella has cerebral palsy and microcephaly. She can’t walk, YET, but she is in physical therapy and is working hard. She can however get around very well with some amazing upper body strength. She also can’t talk, at least not like you and I can. She can say a few words and we are teaching her American sign language. She is SO smart and picks new things up very quickly. She also has unbelievable rhythm and loves music. Stella has extra needs that will require extra strength, extra stamina from our family and extra faith and we cannot wait to watch her grow and change and rejoice with her in what the Lord does in her life.

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God writes amazing stories. He has taught and is teaching our family astounding things through a tiny human being named Stella who is extra special. If you want to join our story, please do. Unfortunately it comes with a high price (in dollars). Just like any other adoptive family we have lawyer bills, paperwork fees and many other costs that we have to pay to make this little girl a part of our family. If you would like to either help us raise money, or make a donation we would be so thankful.

You can make your donations to:

Online: http://www.gofundme.com/i0m2qk

Paper check: Andrew and Asher Collie
605 East Innis Street
# 3263
Salisbury, NC 28145

PayPal: dru@solehope.com

Or email us at asher@solehope.org to let us know your creative idea for helping us raise money! (We need to raise $16,000)

To read more about Eli’s story on Instagram search ‪#‎ChocolateDropEli‬ and to learn more about Stella’s story on Instagram search ‪#‎SweetStellaBella‬.

Facebook photos from the day Stella and I met by @wanderingwithmary.

[Please feel free to share]

take the world

My sweet camera doesn’t see enough daylight. I feel like I take the same pictures over and over again at our removals/clinics, so I tend to not think about taking more pictures of the same things. But I need to stop that thinking. I’m determined to master the “capture each moment” philosophy and see the beauty in this. Each moment is unique – I want to capture that. So here is my little attempt at that from this week. Also, BIG thanks to my dear friend Lindsey who let me borrow her Canon 35mm 1.4 lens. I am in love – and she may never get it back.

Here’s to the little moments and capturing each memory.

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keep on keeping on

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The big stuff. I tend to blog the big stuff.

I blog the hard times, the transitions, the times I feel the most joy. I blog the pictures, the song lyrics, the inspirational quotes. I blog the smiles, the tears, and the heartbreak. But I’m not very good at blogging life.

The peaks and pits are what often stop us in our tracks, but the days in between define us. It’s not always the big hills and valleys that determine who we are, but the everyday steps that move us towards Him. It’s responding, not reacting. It’s choosing joy, not wandering lost in the heartbreak. It’s taking small steps forward when you want to turn around and run. It’s the little things, the moments that seem insignificant, the day-to-day mundane that forces us to look towards the One who determines our steps.

I want to get better at documenting the typical, the mundane, the insignificant moments. I want to value the daily life that He allows us to live each and everyday.

Now, I also want to watch less Grey’s Anatomy and do my laundry more often, so small steps will be key. One episode less, one load to get me started, and a few words here and there to remember these days. Seasons end so quickly (both in the land of Seattle Grace and the land of real life and red dirt), they move on to the next with just a hint of change and a gust of wind. I want to savour these moments, and I want to remember them.

So, here’s to the everyday, the joy, the sorrow, the small baby steps. Here’s to the boring, the mundane, the daily routine. Here’s to not being afraid of what others think, or say, or how they react. Here’s to sharing the little moments and the big moments alike – moving forward on the path He chose us to walk. Here’s to tripping and falling and making a mess. Here’s to coming together – mess and all, to choosing each and everyday to live everyday for Him.

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I’ve been missing our sweet outreach kiddos this week. I miss their shy smiles, the sound of the razor scooter whipping around the compound, and how smart they looked with their new Sole Hope shoes on. They helped me choose JOY – each and everyday. On some level, I think the memory of them being here is tied to other emotions. The #blogHOPE team was here when they first arrived, and how I miss them so. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don’t even think that’s enough to describe these sweet littles.

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I need to send a quick shoutout to @wanderingwithmary. She gave me the best LightRoom tutorial, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. Editing of all future pictures are in some way thanks to her. #editingwithmary

it is well with my soul

Refreshing. Rejuvenating. Restoring.

There is nothing more refreshing than a beautiful, God painted sunset on the Nile River.

There is nothing more rejuvenating than time spent with a group of inspiring women.

There is nothing more restoring than the start of new friendships.

Sunday night was a much needed time of rest. As it was @wanderingwithmary‘s last night in Jinja Town, she arranged for us all to go on a sunset boat ride – oh the beauty. Nothing can top a sunset along the Nile river – unless you’re on the river. The whole evening was filled with sweet conversations, uncontrollable laughter, new friends, old friends, and His creation – it was good for the soul. Living here is exhausting, straining, and overall challenging – these moments fill you up. They remind you that you serve a God who is big enough to paint beautiful colors in the sky, and small enough to whisper in your ear that he painted that for you. We’re here for a reason – and these moments help bring us back to that.

It is well with my soul.

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climb

It all started with a song.

Late October in Jacksonville, Florida – a perfect coffee shop afternoon.

A sun-dried Ethiopian pour-over sitting on the table in front of me.

Twelve hours earlier, an emotional waterfall cascaded down my cheeks and onto the pillow – my best friend taking in every word and spilling encouragement back onto me.

I had a heart for a place I’d never been – the stress of next steps was overwhelming.

I felt lost in my everyday life – I was enjoying the comfort of the familiar.

A soundtrack kept me company as the coffee started to disappear.

Will Reagan – one of the best encouragers I’ve never met.

The sweet sounds echoed in my ear, “I lean not on my own understanding”.

Something I desperately needed to hear, but was not about to accept.

Uganda – a whisper from my sister, without knowledge of present situations.

Unexplained comfort came with this word – the beginning of an answer I’d been searching for.

“Listen to the love song that I am continually singing to you. I love to reveal Myself to you, and your seeking heart opens you up to receive more of My disclosure.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

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It all started with a song.

Two chords in – something stirring inside of me.

Unexplained tears rolled down my face – searching for the triggering emotions.

Jacksonville. October. Pour-over coffee. Uganda. Comfort.

A flood of memories I had stored somewhere for a rainy day.

It had poured all day – the tears came with the rain.

Uncountable steps taken between that first day and now.

The unexpected turned into everyday life – everyday life turned into the unexpected.

Will Reagan – binding together then and now.

A whisper of encouragement – a confirmation of trust.

Comfort again came with the whisper of a song – “I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open”.

A reminder of days past, present struggles, and future hope.

“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17

breathe you in

Inspiration.

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

One word. Two meanings. One life.

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

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

Inspiration – breathing in and breathing out.

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Photo Credit: Asher Collie

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

Inhale.

Inspiration.

Exhale.

Inspiration.

Breathe.

time moves quickly

I don’t even think I could sum up the emotions I’ve felt this last few weeks – even if I tried. It’s been one of the most emotionally draining times of my life. Despite that, God is still good – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

When I don’t have the right words, pictures speak for me. Here’s a peak into the moments of JOY that shine through in the darkest days.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” – James 1:2&3

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