To Save The World…

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For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of saving the world. I would devour books about missionaries, read up on everything I could I about Mercy Ships, and you better believe if someone came home on furlough, I was the only kid in the first row hanging on their every word. I still remember being enthralled as a young child as missionaries from my church came home and talked about their work in Papa New Guinea. I couldn’t get enough.

Combine my childhood enthusiasm for missions with my StrengthsFinder highest attribute being empathy, the fact that Mother Teresa is my heroine, and my experience as an oncology nurse, and you pretty much have a bleeding heart. There are times that I have been convinced that I feel enough for everyone in the whole world.

In part, I love that about myself. I like the ability I have to relate, to feel and to love. I love being able to empathize with other people and to meet them in a place of compassion. Other times, though, it is so overwhelming. There have been times I literally felt I could die of a broken heart. When it comes to emotions, I really feel.

Being new to the DC area we are looking for a new church. The other day we visited one, and the message hit me right where I am. It was like she was speaking right to me. Her message focused on goodness, but one of her points stuck with me, in fact it has been resonating with me every since. She talked about how it is not our job to save the whole world, but it is our job to be faithful with the little piece that we have been given, our corner of the world.

Boom. Right at me. It hit my heart.

Over the years through my experiences and passions I have developed a bit of a savior complex. A need to fix everything and everyone and to try to carry the weight of it all. It’s what wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. Making a difference in the world.

I cannot do it all, and I would never be able to do it all alone. Every single time I hear of a cause, see a new project, or come across a new campaign I feel like I immediately need to give, join, advocate etc. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am one person. I cannot fix every problem or save the whole world. In fact, if I tried, I would find myself frustrated and burnt out. Just ask Mwita. Daily I have a new plan or idea or cause to join. Daily I decide I know just what we need to do to save the world. And daily my heart breaks and I become overwhelmed with the great need of it all. What is better, more important, and more likely to be successful, is if I take my passions, my skills, those things that burn on my heart and those things that I am good at, if I take those things, pursue them without abandon, and follow after them.

So many of us are walking around with burdened hearts, all we can see is the pain and we are overwhelmed by the scale. But what the world needs is not a few more people dabbling in this or that, what it needs are hearts ablaze, ready to do the work they are passionate about, people ready to use the skills that are God-given to change their piece, their corner of the world. When I think of the world in that way, it seems doable. Each person doing their part. Each pursuing their passions to help others. Each person on fire for what God put on their hearts to do.

Alone we can do so little, but together we can do it all. Piece by piece, person by person. Each person taking their corner of the world and setting their goal to make a difference. I am excited for the real and lasting change that my life and passions can bring. I am even more excited to see what can be accomplished when each one of us finds a light within their own heart and follows after it. Thank you to those that have inspired me with their life’s work, for those that have encouraged me to find my own, and especially to Heather at National Community Church for speaking right to my heart.

For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of saving the world. I’ll do my part and you do yours and together we can do just that.

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If you want to find out more about how you can help or get involved in something you are passionate about, please let me know. Whether your passion is anti-trafficking or orphan care, education or medicine, I know someone doing good in just about every sphere and I would love to connect you. There are so many people doing great work around the world, I believe if we partner together we can do so much!

 

My heart. My home.

I love to travel. I love seeing new places, trying new food, and love experiencing new culture.

There is something that always strikes me when I go to a new place- hospitality. From Haiti to Honduras, Argentina to Uganda, I have seen it everywhere. And it challenges me.

I have so much, but often I am willing to give so little. Mwita loves inviting people over, but I often feel reluctant. Well wait until I get new dishes, until we have a bigger table (or in our current case, a table at all). In Lynchburg I would think, when I get a bigger house I’ll have people over more…well guess what, I moved to NoVa and now our home is smaller than ever and right now, we eat dinner on the couch! That one didn’t work out. But yet my excuses are unfounded.

Sitting in a small mud hut in a village of Tanzania, I was given a spread of chicken, chapati, rice, greens and chai. Many of these things they only have on special occasions. In Argentina, friends opened up their homes to us (a whole YWAM team of us) with a spread of grilled meat, bread, dulce de leche, and mate. They did this night after night. The same story in Uganda, Kenya, and Honduras. Arms wide open, they received me in.

Mwita and I decided a long time ago that we wanted our home not to be only a blessing for us, but for others. A place of ministry. A place where we can show friendship and kindness to those that need it most. A place of rest and peace and comfort. But when life gets busy, I forget our long ago goal.

But when I think about it, really stop and consider, I realize that people do not want to come in to see our new dishes and color coordinated scheme, they want to come to be in one another’s presence. To linger for a moment, to know and to be known. Not for a world renowned four course meal, but for a cup of coffee and deep conversation. Not because they want to see a handmade kitchen table, but because they need to open up their heart.

I want my home to be full of happy hearts. A place where laughter is welcome, joy is encouraged, and peace is a covering. A place of love and warmth and friendship. Where life is celebrated and memories are made. Where photos of Lake Victoria on the day I smiled the most sit beside soapstone carvings that make me long for East Africa. Where pictures of me and Mwita dressed in our best on the scorching hot July day almost four years ago are lined up beside precious china dishes from my Grandma. Where well-worn books from my favorite minds maintain space with stained recipes that brought comfort and nourishment. It’s home. It’s where my favorite things are and my heart resides.

This year is a year of freedom for me. Freedom from expectations of others and myself, and freedom to enjoy all that life has to offer. This is the year I open up myself and my home. My coffee might not be gourmet, my couch isn’t designer, but my heart is sincere and this is the place I call home.

Moments like these.

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Do you ever have those times in your life…when you know that everything is changing and history is in the making!?

I just had one of those moments.

Change has become inevitable in my life. I’m not saying I necessary love it, or that I am good at being flexible, but I am getting better.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that we don’t deserve. Favor. It does not depend on outside circumstances, it’s divine. I had a divine moment.

Just after Mwita and I decided to return from our East African rendezvous, I was asked  by my mother-in-law, Regina, to represent Teamwork City of Hope with her at a nursing conference in Tanzania, all expenses paid. A chance to come back to my favorite land and talk about one of my favorite things!? Sign me up! I gladly accepted! I had no idea what it really entailed, I just knew I wanted to be a part.

The first weekend in February I boarded a plane solo and headed back to my land, East Africa. And meanwhile my loving husband was packing up our things and moving to the DC suburbs. (Yes, I am a terrible wife, no I did not plan that on purpose! I give him so much credit for moving without me!!!)

The conference was about potentially utilizing the nurse practitioner role in Tanzania to get healthcare where it is needed most, in rural Tanzania. In an area where 11% of the world population live with 24% of the global disease burden and just 3% of the world’s health workers, something has to be done!

I was so privileged to be a part of the conversation that was going on. So honored to be a piece in the history of healthcare in Tanzania. So excited because I consider them my people. I love that country like it is my own. I was sitting in the room full of amazing people and knowing that this country would never be the same.

I believe so strongly in Tanzania, in nursing, and in the ability that providing healthcare has to change a nation. I believe in the dreams of youth, in the strength of women, and in the compassion of those that dedicate their lives to helping others! I met fascinating people, sat in a conference with the deputy minister of health, and was awe inspired as I saw Tanzanians fight for the health and wellbeing of their people. It was a beautiful sight.

I am having trouble even putting into words what this week meant to me. Members of parliament, local government authorities, Tanzanian nurses who have dedicated their lives to their communities, Ghanian and Botswana nurse practitioners traveling half way across the world to make positive impact on the health and lives of Tanzanians. It was powerful and so amazing to see!

To this day I still do not know why I was so privileged to be a part, but I know I will always carry it as an honor. As we sat under the shadow of Mt. Meru the excitement was almost tangible. The Tanzanian sun shining down on us and smiling as we set our course to change a nation.

Regina and I traveled back by bus from Arusha to Nairobi. From the hills of Mt. Meru to the roaming lands of the Massai. I actually really enjoy traveling by bus, the sun beating on my back and the wind in my hair as I sip coke and nibble on fresh cashews from the border stop. It’s a great way to meet locals and adventure hungry travelers, like me! And it is never a dull ride. The views breathtaking as I gazed upon wildebeest, zebras, and hundreds upon hundreds of the Maasai’s precious cows. It never fails that I get a lot of questions about my last name as I receive a new stamp on my passport. “How did you get that last name? You aren’t African!?” And then I speak up in my best Swahili and tell them the story behind it all, they are surprised and usually delighted. The American speaks Swahili and married a Kuria man….well half Kuria man, anyway 🙂

As we entered back into Nairobi after the conference was finished, I had so many emotions going through me. Excitement about the conference, joy for being in East Africa again, and a twinge of sadness because I knew I would be saying goodbye to this land once again. Nairobi is so familiar to me, I know the roads, the different parts of the city, and I am beginning to understand the traffic, as well. There are few places in Nairobi that don’t bring back a memory… getting lost in the rough part of town with Chase and Audrey while Mwita was running around trying to find us after his phone died, a delicious nyama choma place we ate with friends, the restaurant where Mwita and I had our first real date many years ago, making new friends just about everywhere we went, Wilson airport where I boarded the little plane as I ventured to the bush of Tanzania for the first time, or the countless roads Mwita and I walked or rode down (via bus, car, matatu, or motorbike) with camera gear in hand as we explored.

I got to the airport last Saturday feeling so happy and so sad. Airports are always a hard place for me. Already saying goodbye to those I love in one place, but not yet able to greet those waiting in the other. It’s like a gateway between two worlds, and sometimes those worlds are hard to choose between.

I am happy to be home, though. Reunited with my husband and settled into our little apartment. It’s a whole new adventure here. Though the lands of East Africa are far away, now our adventure begins in a new home, new city, with new friends and opportunities just waiting to be found. I have a few ideas taking form in my heart, and we look forward to what this next step will hold!

Do you ever have those times in your life…when you know that everything is changing and history is in the making!?

I just had one of those moments and I’m not going back 🙂

We fly…

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I have tried to live my life with a certain amount of adventure, it is something I promised myself long ago. Not to always play it safe, but to also take chances and to embrace change. I am not saying it has always, or really ever, been easy, but it certainly has not been boring either.

There is a lot of risk that comes with living life in that way. Loss of security, so many unknowns, always meeting new people, and often having to leave things behind. Several times I have found myself walking down untraveled paths in life and wondering where to turn.

There is a quote that I keep seeing popping up, you have probably seen it too. I love it though, it is so exactly how I am feeling right now.

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky. And you ask, ‘What if I fall?’ Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?’” Erin Hanson

What if we fly!?

I have learned a great but difficult lesson this past year. It may seem a bit gloomy at first, but hear me out. The lesson is that dreams do not always come true and that life is sometimes not what you expected. Sometimes, life is just hard. That is so against what my heart tells me, so against what I have ingrained in my soul. But also, so very true. In that same time, though, I learned another even more valuable lesson. It is that I would rather live with the disappointment of a dream that did not come true than, than to live with the questions of “what if I would have tried?” I thought about this for a long time the other night as I was talking to my family and I considered some things in my life that did not turn out the way I had hoped, and circumstances in others lives that ended the same way. Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes things we have planned do not pan out, but oh darling what if we fly!?

As I pondered those things, though, I felt so thankful because I, and countless others, have stepped out. We threw caution to the wind and tried our very best. We put our hearts out on the line. I have to admit, that all of my great dreams and attempts have not worked out. I have to say that a time or two I went on the breezes of the sky and I have fallen. I also have to say that sometimes I have flown and there is nothing in the world that feels like that. Nothing in the world like standing in the face of fear. Nothing like taking a step of faith.

Disappointments come and go. They hurt, they break your heart, sometimes they seem to take over your every thought, sometimes they seem so big, but you deal with them the best you can and then you move on. I believe those things eventually ease away. It’s the “what ifs” that haunt your dreams at night.

At times I may have lived life with a bit of naiveté, I have let my dreams lead the way. That has not always worked out perfectly. Sometimes cars break at the worst times even when I hope they won’t, sometimes bills add up even when I dream that they aren’t there, sometimes connections don’t come through even though all my plans are riding on them. Life doesn’t always work out, I know that, but sometimes, just sometimes dreams do come true,  we stare fear in the face and take action, the stars seem to perfectly align, and those are the times that we step out…

and then, my darling, those are the times we fly!

Hey girl, let’s be free.

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I love the new year. A time of reflection, newness, and clarity. It is as if every year we get a chance to reset and realign. Christmas is so busy, so colorful, and so fun! But as January rolls around things begin to slow down and I gain clarity once again Every year Mwita and I make a point to sit down and reflect on our past year, what we enjoyed, what we learned, and what we can do better. We set our goals for the year, the things we want to accomplish, the dreams we want to realize, and the goals we hope to achieve. I love that time to consider the person I want to be and to list the things I hope to do in the new year.

This year as I was reflecting on my main theme or goal for the year, I clearly had the idea of freedom rolling around in my head. Be free.

I think in this world of constant social media updates and the details of just about everyone’s lives right at our fingertips, it is so easy to compare and to focus on what other people are doing. Oh, on their Instagram they go out for coffee more than me, their hair looks nicer than mine, their kids look happier, they pin healthier food on Pinterest, and she uses more essential oils than I even knew existed. Are we tired of that? She must have a poverty mentality, well she spends too much on shoes, all she ever does is exercise, she never gets off the couch, I can’t believe she ate TWO cookies, all she ever eats is salad. Are these the things that define us and the standards we measure one another on? Then none of us win.

Whatever. Be free.

As I I think on this upcoming year, I long for freedom. That is why Mwita and I embarked on our crazy adventure anyway, to free ourselves of expectations, commitments, and the need to do what everyone else is doing. And even in all that, it didn’t come easily. Freedom is something that is deliberate and sought after. Believe it or not, it takes work to be free.

I encourage us all to do what brings freedom, what brings joy! Do what makes your heart come alive! There are too many good things, to many adventures to find, things to create, people to love than to spend our time comparing ourselves to one another! Let us find freedom in the connection, not comparison. I think women are the worst at this. It is so easy to look at someone else’s life, but what we post or say in public is only a fraction of what is really going on. We all have our own things. Even I was posting some gorgeous photos of African sunsets, all the while going through one of the toughest seasons in my life. But unless someone actually asked me, they never would have known.

I think as women we need to call each other to life! We all have insecurities and doubts, hard days and worries. We all wonder if we are the only one that doesn’t have it completely together. Who better to share those things with than with people are are dealing with the same things! I love nothing more than to see real and true friendship. I have a few of those kinds of friends and I cherish them. A friend that I could call after a horrible day at work, she would commiserate and then we would also talk about the awesome things, the life-bringing things and then talk about how we would change the world. We need those people in our lives- we all do. People to go with us to the depths and then help carry us back out again.

To be able to be open and vulnerable and real, to pursue the things you truly love and let the things you do merely out of obligation fall to the side. To be comfortable in your own skin and and to love those around you for doing the same. That sounds like freedom.

That’s what I love about the world- everyone is different. We all have our thing, our dream, our bit of creativity. That makes us beautiful, unique, and free. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t focus on your flaws. Don’t measure yourself to the next person you see. Please, just be comfortable being you. There is no one else that can do it. My true longing in life is to see women, free and confident that are able to call forth life in one another. Comparison is done, judgement -gone. What is left for us is passion, kindness, and the ability to be free.

I came across a quote from the lovely Lupita Nyong’o that resonated within me.

“You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion, for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

Freedom. Beauty. Enchantment of the soul.

Whoever we want to be.

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You can be anything you want to be.

Sounds nice, but I’m not actually sure if I believe that or not. Trust me, I believe in wild aspirations and following the craziest of dreams, but try as I might I would never be a world renowned artist or show-stopping singer. Those gifts are not mine.

I do believe, however, that we can put ourselves into boxes and put aside much of the potential within us. We chose one job or one career track and decide that is all we will ever be. Because of that, I think many of us have sold ourselves short. Maybe there is more.

I love nursing, it is inspiring, challenging, at times heart-wrenching, and brings me so much joy. It encompasses many of my talents and passions. But not all of them. Though I got a lot of fulfillment from it, I felt somewhat frustrated in my job, a little put into a box. But I told myself, this is what I studied, this is what I know, this is what I have to do. I do not, in fact, think that is necessarily the case.

My husband asked me if I wanted to go on an adventure, if I would walk alongside him for a few months and do something together. I absolutely agreed. Our last few years were full of me working full-time and being a full-time student and him putting his energy into starting and growing a business. We loved it, but it was crazy and at the end of the day we had little energy left for each other. This adventure would be an opportunity for us to spend time together, to work together, do everything together. And so we did and spent a beautiful six months in East Africa. I did not spend much time at all in hospitals or clinics, but I felt so fulfilled and felt I was sharing a piece of myself with others in a way I never had before.

It was wonderful. And even more than learning to know more about my husband, I learned about myself. I learned that I love video. The feeling of capturing a moment in time, a moment that will never happen again. There is something so magical and beautiful about it! I learned that I like editing. Being able to create a meaningful story that can touch literally thousands is so compelling. It was thrilling to write story lines about world-changers, video gorgeous Tanzanian sunsets just before the rain fell, and set up interviews with men who were building wells and schools and saving their communities. It was hard, fascinating, and so rewarding, too! I learned that I enjoy business. Making something out of nothing. I learned that I love writing. The ability to put thoughts and ideas into words and being able to share them with someone else. I also learned that I have a passion for justice and for empowering other women and that I want to make a difference in the world. I did not know these things about myself, because I never gave myself the chance. But now they are things that are truly a part of me. Do they have anything to do with nursing? Not really. But they are me. I am more than a profession and so much more than a career.

Will I return to nursing, yes, I am good at it, and I love it, but I do not know exactly how that will look yet. I have learned a whole other side to me, a whole new piece of my heart. It is a side that I love and I desire to cultivate. So don’t be surprised if you find me caring for your family member in the hospital, but also don’t be surprised if you see me filming your daughter’s wedding, or traipsing around Africa looking for a great story, video gear in hand.

I believe there is a lot out there for me, for all of us. So much to learn, see, and discover. No matter who we are or what we do, we are not defined by one thing. Not just a mom, teacher, manager, or lawyer. We are more, we are called and destined and are full of gifts and abilities. The things we are passionate about are not a mistake, I believe that God puts them on our hearts and they are our calling.

All the world is waiting for each of us to come into our own. To discover that our worth has nothing to do with one job that we chose long ago and for us to realize that we have so much to add to society.

We are fiery hearts, brave spirits, and wise minds. Let us not forget it. Let us all come into who we are deep down, not defined by outside standards, the thoughts and opinions of others, or by what society has pegged us into. Let’s be our true creative and passionate selves. After all, my husband is always telling me that God is the real creative, and we are simply fashioned after Him.

I have heard it said that life begins at the end of our comfort zones. I’m about to take the next step.

I stand for women.

I am a woman. I am proud to be a woman. My goal is to help other women to feel that same way. That they are beautiful, smart, strong, and worthy. That they are destined for greatness.

I am proud to be a woman. I am proud of the strong and courageous women that have gone before me and paved the way for me to be who I am today. I am thankful to be a woman in this time period, in the country that I grew up in. For me there have been opportunities upon opportunities. In a house with three daughters, we were told we could be whoever we wanted to be. We were taught that beauty did not define us, but our character and our heart are what defined us. We knew that in our hearts and we went after it. We were never held down and never put into a box. The world was our playground and knowledge our toys. Books in our hands and courage in our hearts, we followed our dreams.

For the past several months I have been traveling throughout East Africa. It was such an eye opening trip for me and I met some incredible people, many of them women. Ugandan, American, Kenyan, or Tanzanian, all of them had one thing in common. Strength. It is something I have seen in the hearts and eyes of so many women, sometimes they have been called unfeminine or harsh, but I see them as beautiful. These women I met have become my heroes. Strength in their eyes and perseverance their hearts, they follow their dreams.

A few weeks ago I came across a quote from Ann Voskamp and it has been on my mind ever since.

“Please hear me, Girl: The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do the hard and holy things.”

Women to do the hard and holy things. Those are the women I know. My friend Maranie wrote a post about how girls compete with one another, but women empower one another. That is so, so true.

I have been amazed by the women I have met. Women dedicating their lives to orphan care, women ostracized from their communities, but standing up for the rights of their disabled children. I have met artisans, teachers, and journalists all making a stand for human rights and loving on people all along the way. Teachers taking a stand against the cultural norms that hold girls in bondage. Mothers spending their last cent to give their daughters and education. Nurses giving their last bit of energy to help a mama in need. One of my dearest friends is a mother of seven. Her husband is not around and she works from morning until night, but a smile is never absent from her lips. She is the epitome of beauty, joy, and strength. Her children are blessed to have her and she gives her all to them.

I have seen strong women taking a stand in their communities. I have met a photographer using her skill to show the stories of the women she meets. I have seen women that refuse to be defined by the life they were dealt, women, though dealing with HIV, that run businesses and provide for their children, even though they are all alone. I met a woman used and abused by the LRA as a sex slave, but she does not let her past dictate her future. She is bright and courageous. She loves learning and has dedicated her life to help those that have been in her same situation.

I met a woman that left her successful career to become a mother to over 60 vulnerable children. She dedicated her life to them. Rescuing orphaned children from displaced peoples camps and taking in abandoned children left on her doorstep became an everyday thing for her.

I have met women that have dedicated their lives to helping women continents away. Women fighting for the rights of other women they do not even know. It is incredible and it is humbling. We are all humans and we all want to right to have our basic needs met. It should not have to be a fight. But still they fight, with a smile on their face along the way.

Because of this, I stand for women. As long as women are looked on as second class citizens, as long as rape is used as a weapon in war, as long as female genital mutilation still exists, as long as the belief that women should not be educated prevails, as long as women are ostracized for giving birth to disabled children, as long as a woman’s worth is measured upon her ability to produce sons, as long as girls have to drop out of school because they are menstruating, as long as these ideas and stereotypes exist, I will stand for the rights of women. I stand for women, and I stand for change.

If you would like to find out more, there are some fantastic organizations fighting for the rights of women all over the world! Let’s all do what we can to make a difference in the lives of women.

http://www.girleffect.org/
https://www.ijm.org/
http://www.endhumantrafficking.org/

A place called home.

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There is a wonderful place where the wind rustles in the trees, where the train whistles can be heard echoing from the distance, and where the candles flicker in the windows. A place that is always warm and smells of apples, hazelnuts, or freshly baked cookies. A place so beautiful and comforting, it could only be called home.

The more I travel and perhaps the older I get, the more keenly aware I am of my desire to have a home. Home is more than a place, but it is a feeling of safety and security. A place where you can let your guard down and relax, a place to call your own. A place where the chaos of the outside world is quieted. A place for peace and rest.

We have been on the move for several months now, and though it has been wonderful exhilarating and adventurous, it can also become draining. I miss that feeling of familiarity. That feeling of a place called home. It’s the feeling that you are surrounded by love, and life, and memories. Childhood photographs adorn the walls, the rocking chair that Grandpa built in the corner, and the beautiful dishes that were given to you as a wedding present on the shelves. At home each thing is a representation of your life and the lives of those that you love.

Home is a part of you. More than all of those things, though, home is a place where those you love are gathered. Sipping coffee with Dad in the early morning when we are the only ones awake, playing with my nieces and nephews in the backyard in the warm summer sun, roasting marshmallows with the whole family on cool falls nights, and chatting with my mom and sisters around the fire on a Sunday afternoon. I miss those things so much.

Home is a funny thing. You don’t know exactly how much it means until it is so many miles behind. I have traveled those many miles and have fallen in love with many places, but yet my heart always longs for home. So today as I sit here reflecting on the place I love so much, I am thankful that such a place exists for me. Thankful there is always a place for me to return to with welcoming arms. I am thankful that for me home is a place of peace and refuge and thankful that it will be there when I return. And return to it I will.

There is a wonderful place where the wind rustles through the leaves, where the doves sing their early morning song, and I place that always welcomes me with open arms. There is a place I love called home.