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The Resurrection and the Life

I am the resurrection and the life.”
JOHN 11:25-

Grief- something that expands beyond the confines of languages and cultures. A feeling that every soul on this earth feels at some point in their existence. We all may deal with it differently depending on our culture and who we are. But…Every. One. Grieves. And almost all of us are grieving someone or something right now.

The unexpected loss of my grandaddy this past week has opened my heart more to those grieving and mourning all over the world right now and how hard it is and will be.

How do you grieve from a socially acceptable six feet or in an empty room with a casket and only a handful of the ones you love? How do you decide who can come and who must stay home? What is grief like when a graveside is adorned with flowers and signs that read: Please keep 6 feet apart. We ask that you refrain from hugging and shaking hands. How do you grieve in a pocket of the US where grief is best eased by a spread of food (preferably fried chicken) and all the ones you love (close and distant) together hugging and holding hands?

How do my friends grieve in a relational culture where human contact and togetherness are so much more a part of the fabric of their being than here? How do you grieve the loss of jobs, weddings, graduations, etc when you feel guilty because others have lost so much more than you?

How do we grieve so much at one time in this weird season we are experiencing? How do I grieve the loss of someone I love when nothing in this time seems real or normal? The answer to all of these questions is: I don’t know. But there are so many things I am thankful for in this hard, yet very real time.

Thankful that my grandaddy didn’t die alone. That the two who mattered most to him were there when he drew his last breaths. That he was surrounded in love as he entered into rest. Which is a huge blessing in times like these.  That while we must wait to celebrate his life fully with all who loved him at some unknown date, a handful of the ones who mattered most to him were there as he was lowered into the earth. Thankful for the ones who have surrounded me in love holding me up this time. I am thankful to be the granddaughter of a man whose faith and love flowed out of him as naturally as his breath did.

In the midst of Holy Week, I have been comforted and reminded in the depths of this pain and grief I feel that his death was not the end. It was the beginning. That all we are experiencing may batter and beat us, but will never defeat us. My favorite story in the New Testament is found in John 11. I love this story for so many reasons: Martha’s changed heart, Jesus’s humanity as He weeps over the loss of His friend, the hope this story brings for us all.

Everywhere Jesus went He was showing us more of Himself and more of God. I can only imagine what was going through His mind, as He comforted Martha with the news that her brother would rise again. You just wait Martha, you think you have seen what I am capable of now. My glory is about to get even bigger. He tells her “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will never die-ever. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25). Then later he says to her, right before He does what no man has ever done before nor could ever do unless He was fully man and fully God, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

Then He shows her and everybody watching exactly what He meant. Proving that He is the Son of the Living God, He raises a man back to life with HIS MERE WORDS…HIS WORDS. Proving that it is possible. Proving that He too will defeat death soon. Proving that, if we believe in Him, our life does not end when we are put in the ground.

You see while we are aching at this loss of my grandaddy, who meant so much to so many. There is true beauty in that while his body maybe in the ground, he is not. His faith has been turned to sight and oh how I’m a little jealous.

In these weeks, I have been reminded of a beautiful Acholi custom. The Last Burial Rites. Following a burial, when the family is done mourning and grieving everyone gathers together again, but this time in celebration of their love of the individual and the true gift their life was. There is no longer sadness but joy, singing, dancing, praises, and lots of food. We are all grieving something right now. The loss of our grandaddys and grandmamas, mothers and fathers, children and friends. The loss of jobs, weddings, graduations, life as we know it. But one day when this passes, we will celebrate. Celebrate the lives of our loved ones, the ones who stood on the front lines, all of the life events we’ve put off. Celebrate the faithfulness of the Lord, the strength we’ve found together during these trying times, and that we did not give in. One day full celebration will come.

But while we wait to celebrate fully, we can begin celebrating this Holy week. Celebrate our Savior and the fact that veil has been torn in two. Celebrate a God who is bigger than the grief and whatever else we are feeling in these hard times. A God who raises men from the ground with the sound of His voice. Who gently says, “I am the resurrection and the life” and who is inviting us to see and be a part of His glory every single day.

So who really was James Maryland Hall. He was a man who held fast to love, love of the Lord and love of family. A man who knew who held Him and wasn’t afraid to die. Who captured your heart from the moment you met him with his sweet kindness. That kind sweet spirit knew no stranger and gathered love everywhere he went. A man who slightly whistled when he talked and the cadence of his voice was kind of melodic like the true southern man he was. A man whose fashion sense was sharper than mine and even went to the grave dressed to the nines. A man who our hearts will deeply miss.

In these hard hard times for us all, I’ll leave you with these words from a song my granddaddy loved. They are something we can all cling to in these times:

I have journeyed through the long dark night
Out on the open sea, by faith alone
Sight unknown; and yet His eyes were watching me
The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas
The anchor holds in spite of the storm

We are ships battered in the night right now; but the anchor,
whose steadfast love is better than life itself (Psalm 63:3), is as strong as ever. And He is gently, quietly whispering in these hard times, “I am the resurrection and the life…”

Kuc Obed Kedi. We need it now more than ever.

Stay With Me

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
– John 11:40

Yet another year has passed and I have wondered what this birthday would feel like not spending it in the land that I love. I look at this last year of my life as the months draw on and my life moves from being in less of a transition phase to this is my new normal. If you would have asked me a year ago where I would be standing today, what I would have imagined is nothing like how my life looks now: working part-time at Banana Republic, volunteering part-time for a mission organization, and living in my childhood bedroom isn’t quite where I thought God would lead. I would be lying to you if I said I did not feel like I have failed in many ways, and by the world’s standards I largely have.

But I look back at my heart before I stepped on that plane in 2018 (which seems like a lifetime ago), I look at it when I stepped off that plane last July, and I look at it now as I sit on my bed typing this and I realize how much my heart has changed over these last two years. The world seems so much dimmer now and the things that used to matter (a decent paying job, my own apartment, even a family) don’t really have the same appeal they once did.  All my heart seems to long for these days is the love and light of the Lord and the continent I love.

I think back to my birthday last year. I knew I would be leaving Uganda in June and I prayed to God asking Him where He would send me next. His answer was simple, Stay with me.” I still had no answer to that question when I came home last July and again I kept pleading, “Where will we go, Lord?” Still He softly whispered, “Do you trust me?”

I had no plans to put down roots here. I only expected to be here a month or two. I had already fully counted the costs of what it would mean to leave again and I prayed night after night “Lord I will leave everything behind again for you…Send me!” Instead He gently said, “You are with me and you trust me…now you must surrender your heart to me.” I have tried to control almost every aspect of my life since coming home. At times I have had my hands so tight on the wheel my knuckles were white. But that is the thing about God, He is God and we are not. He will do what He will do; we cannot force His hand. I have had to surrender all of my pride and most of my independence in these last eight months. And I have been reminded each and every day of how much I so desperately need the Lord.

He has not given me many answers in this season. He has shut more doors than He has opened. The only thing He has made clear for now is: I must stay. I assumed because I was so willing He would send me, but sadly He isn’t calling me to go. I have been so willing to lay the things it would cost to leave at the cross, but not once have I wanted to surrender what it would cost to stay here for now: setting foot back on the continent of Africa, fighting for justice for women, the job or career I think I should have. You see, I thought I was owed all of these things because I packed up my life and left everything behind to move to Acholiland, and then left the land that had become a part of my soul in obedience to God. But as the Lord has continued to transform my heart and surrender it to His will, He has brought me to the humble realization that none of this is about me.

Lying at the foot of the cross is hard and painful some days. It costs us everything. But this is how we are called to live. And as I have slowly surrendered to Him, while my circumstances have not changed, my heart sure has. Those things that I thought I was owed, that I so desperately longed for no longer seem fulfilling. The things I thought would be emptying in these months have given nothing but life and light. But that is the paradox of the Gospel. Life in Uganda and during re-entry has been hard, exhausting, and heartbreaking some days. But as I have died to self and lived for the Lord and others, fullness, joy, light, and peace have overflowed. Even in the pain. Even in the exhaustion. Even in the heartbreak.

People here often ask if I miss Uganda. Not a day goes by where I do not miss Acholiland and the ones I love. The way God’s glory manifested itself at that time, in that work, with those people will never appear again in that same way as long as I walk this earth. Which has left a deep longing in my soul. But the beauty of it is: my life there and the fullness I experienced was just a glimpse of what will be and is to come. One day we will all stand in the full glory of God, eyes wide open, looking at His very face. This longing deep within my soul is a present reminder that our time on this earth isn’t ultimately what we were made for. And one day that longing will be fulfilled, I will stand in God’s glory with the ones I love and it will be perfect and beautiful and we all will be complete. I cannot wait for that day.

I am often reminded of the mornings with our staff where we sat singing praises and worshipping God. We sang for the Lord and we sang for each other. You could see God’s glory everywhere you looked in that room. One song we sang has stuck with me in these months. It lyrics are simple, yet powerful: an abino ite yatariya ni, ila malo wek alubi (I come under your cross, lift me up so I can follow you). Words I want to live by. My heart in these moments only wants to go, but I will, regardless of my desires, come under the cross and will follow Him always…even if it means for now I must surrender and stay.

So what is next you may be wondering? I still really don’t know. But I do know I will stay where I am for now and wait and see what the Lord will weave into the fabric of my story. Whatever it may be, will be just as beautiful as Acholiland, and one day God willing my feet will again touch the red dust of the continent I love. But until that day comes, I will chose to glory in the Lord, and will cling to His unending light and love because they are the only things in this life that truly matter.

Kuc Obed Kedi!


Now Approaching…Unknown Territory

“It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men…Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever.” –A.W. Tozer

“I don’t know what I will do next or where I will go.” “I don’t know what is right. All I want to do is good.” The thoughts that have been running through my heart these last few weeks. Right. Good. Perfection. Enough. Words I have lived by (or been a slave to) my entire life. Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to do the “right” thing. Seriously, I almost never did anything I wasn’t supposed to because the thought of disappointing the ones I love, of being seen as a bad person, put the fear of God in me (as we say in the south) enough to always stay on the straight and narrow.

There has been so much anxiety and fear in this season. For the first time in my life I have no idea where I’m called to be or go. I have been forever changed by this experience and since leaving Uganda I have had this sense of not belonging anywhere anymore. I have prayed and searched for what is the right choice about what is next and God’s response in this season has been silent and simple…just stay with me. Which you can image for someone who likes to know and have a minimum five year plan, has been frustrating some days, defeating others, and just down right hard.

But in searching for answers from God, He has led me to realize how often I trade the good portion of Jesus Christ for right, good, known, and perfect. Because what is good or right or perfect outside of God? My entire life has been characterized by decisions based on thoughtful calculations of what I perceive to be right or wrong, good or bad, enough or inadequate…and I am so tired.

Since leaving Uganda, re-entry has been so incredibly sweet but so so hard at the same time. I am not the person I was a year and a half ago, sometimes I don’t recognize my own self when I look in the mirror. The things that mattered, that I placed value in, before I left have changed leading me to not know what I am called to anymore. It’s a weird sensation to have…almost as if you’re floating a foot above the earth just moving through life day by day.

But in this new and uncertain season, God has continued to reveal himself to me. And what I’ve come to realize is:

The more of God’s love and light I experience, the less I worry about what is next, where I will work, who I will marry…if life will ever be as fulfilling as it was in Acholiland.

The more God transforms my heart, the less I focus on the here and now, the temporary, the seen.

The more I chose to stay with Him, the more I look to Him, eternity, and the unseen.

The more of His light I see, the less I am consumed with being good, right, or perfect. The dimmer the things of this earth grow.

In these last few months, I’ve had to begin to release control and trust God more than I did when I packed up my life to sojourn to a foreign land, more than when I was navigating that foreign land, more than ever before in my life. Which has brought freedom and much needed rest, but has been so very hard. There are days where I’ve simply thrown my hands up (more frustrated than I would like to admit) and said, “Fine God, I don’t what lies ahead today, but I will continue to press toward your never ending light.”

But I have found so much peace and comfort in that light, even when the world around me seems to be spinning out of control. In that light, I have found the perfect love I so long to give and receive. I have found that God’s love for me isn’t dependent upon my ability to do right or seek goodness, nor is my worth, because that rests in a man who stood in the gap for me. I have found a God who, for reasons unknown to any of us, loves us so much He has freely chosen to bind His heart to us. A heart more pure, holy, and full of wonder than ours could ever be. I have found much needed peace and rest. In this season, He has continued to remind me: He does not change (Malachi 3:6). He is same in SC as He was in Uganda, and he is oh so faithful.

“For I the LORD do not change…” 

Reentry has been hard, but not in the ways I expected at all. I’ve had to trust God in new and different ways as I mourn the loss of my former life and friends and celebrate all the love, joy, warmth, and sweetness I’ve had the privilege to experience and know. But God has whispered one thing through it all, “Just stay with me in this love and light and rest your weary heart.” What is next…I wish I knew. I’ll let you know in God’s perfect timing. Until then…you can find me resting in that unending light.

Love in a New Light

After a year and half here, is it finally time to say goodbye to my home and family here. When I stepped on the plane so many months ago, I had no idea. I had no idea that I would meet a group of women who would inspire me every day with their strength, wisdom, and grace. That the 5 men I would work with would become my fiercest champions and most caring friends. That I would be loved beyond all reason and find a family that would refuse to let me go no matter where on this earth I roam. I had no idea how much I would be changed forever. I cannot even begin to describe what this season has meant to me. All words fall short. I will carry the lessons the ones I love have taught me until I draw my last breath. After the things I have witnessed and heard, I will never look at life or love the same. I have had the immense privilege to witness a love unlike any other. To stand in the Glory of God every day getting a true glimpse of what heaven will look like.

In this year, I have been loved so well. And in turn I cannot express to you how much I’ve grown to love God. And have found that the more I love Him, the more I love those around me. The more I find joy in the hard and challenging things. The more of His face and wonder I see. The less I want of what this world has to offer. I used to define success in life as a career, a house, a family. But those things seem so much less appealing now. When I think about what I want most in this world, it’s not a corner office or two-story house with a picket fence…it’s to love God and others well. It’s for His light and love to be so bright that it’s all others see when they look at me. For everyone to know I’m a follower of Jesus simply by my love for others (John 13:35). In this year, this has become the truest desire of my heart.

I recently read the beautiful thought that the idea of a stranger is a complete construction of man. If the same God creates us all in His Image, then does a stranger really exist? Does culture or skin-color or language make anyone a stranger? When you think about this for a moment, it truly is a beautiful thought that in love there is no stranger. We are all created, loved, and called by the same God. And when we truly take that to heart, it changes the way we look at ourselves, those we care for, and “strangers”. We all become people worthy of love simply because we are loved and valued by the same God.

I will be the first to admit though that loving others is hard. The human heart is deceitful, sick, and so so hard to understand (Jeremiah 17:9). And there are some days when I want to do anything but love others. I so wish matters of the heart could be black-and-white, with not a single bit of gray in between. But as my sweet mama recently told me, “love isn’t black and white”. While the human heart isn’t capable of loving in a way that is simple, often leaving me unfulfilled, heartbroken at times, and longing for things that may never come, there is beauty in the truth that God loves in black and white. Even when we don’t. His love is unconditional, overwhelming, and unfathomable. It’s dependent on nothing we do. It isn’t earned or given with the expectation that He will receive something in return. It moved heaven and earth to come and save us by nailing itself to the cross. And it’s this love I long for and strive to give every day.

The biggest lesson I have learned in this season of goodbyes is this: love never ends.

It didn’t end with the cross; it tore the fold in two.
It didn’t end when I uprooted my life and moved to an entirely different hemisphere; my love only grew for those back home.
And it doesn’t end when I leave here, I will always be loved and belong to a family.

It is so easy to default to fear in this next season that seems to hold so much doubt and uncertainty. But God invites us to stay and make ourselves at home in His love (John 15:9). And if and when we truly believe what the Bible says about God’s perfect love, then we come to realize that the more we chose to stay in His love, the less fear we have, for the opposite of love is fear (1 John 4:18).

Make yourself at home in My love

Words will never be able to properly describe the love I hold for God, Acholiland, and the ones who have meant so much to me here. These lessons that have broken me in this year have forever changed the way I look at love. I now see it in a beautiful new light. We are loved by our God beyond all reason. And I want to love others in that same way! Here I found a home. I was invited with warmth into a culture and people not my own, and loved despite my many mistakes and imperfections. It may be my time to say goodbye, but this love I have experienced will go with me. I will stay in this love and choose to give it freely every day no matter where the Lord calls me next. A piece of my heart will always lay here with the ones who have loved me so well. As one of my dearest friends here says…Kacel Watek Matek (Together we are very strong). Together in Christ we are strong. Together in love we are strong. My heart is forever changed!

Apwoyo Matek Acholiland! (Thank you very much) Kuc Obed Kedi! (Peace be with you) Until we meet again someday!




A Quarter of a Century… And Still 90 at Heart

“God is not a man who lies, or the son of a man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act? Or promise and not fulfill?”
– Numbers 23:19

I turned 25 this past weekend…. Closer to 30, halfway to 50, and a quarter of a century. But forever still 90 at heart. I’ve never really liked birthdays. I kind of dread them actually. I’ve always seemed to use them as a benchmark. A measure of success. What have you achieved in the last 365 days? Are you closer to your dreams? I usually end up in a moment of panic frantically listing all my achievements and something I am less proud to confess…all the ways in which I have fallen short. Which no matter how I seem to cut it, the failures always outnumber the successes. Now before you tell me all the things wrong with everything I just said…stop right there! Believe me; I know! While Uganda has taught me so much about self-compassion, grace, and that voice inside my head, I am still human and a work in progress. Much more than I would ever like to admit sometimes.

Since traveling home for Christmas, I have been hit hard recently with all my shortcomings. While it was good to see family and friends after almost a year, it didn’t take long for that anxiousness that seems to be ever present in me in the U.S. to settle back in. Comparing myself to others, looking at all the things I didn’t have: a paying job, my own apartment, a significant other. Measuring success by the world’s standards. The list goes on and on. I was scared, anxious, and overwhelmed. I felt this longing to get back to the slow rhythm that was my life in Uganda. To a place that made sense. To a place I didn’t feel like an outsider, because money or success or marriage wasn’t my top priority.

But, in those moments of anxiety and comparing myself to the world, I heard God whisper “Those ways are not My ways. Those thoughts are not My thoughts.” I began to look at my life. While I don’t have a house or husband or anything that remotely looks like success in America, I look at what I do have. I am surrounded by a community of people who boldly love others in the ways of God, all while yelling the status quo must not remain the same. They fight for women, children, and those society refuses to look at. I am privileged to stand in the Glory of God each and every day. If you ask me, what I have is so much better than money or consistent electricity or a fancy house.


If you would have asked me what my dream was when I was 19 years old, I would have told you, “Fighting against VAW in an African post-conflict society”. At 23, I packed up my life and moved to Northern Uganda to do exactly that. I’m lucky that God gave me my dream this early. I recognize some wait years for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Sarah waited 14 years from the time God promised her a child to when Isaac was born. David waited 15 years to become king. The Israelites waited for centuries in silence for the Messiah.

But honestly, I’m afraid of what is to come. This was my goal; this was my prayer for years. I’ve feared in these last few months, knowing my time here will soon come to an end, what God could possibly have next for me. What could be better or more fulfilling than this?  I have feared what happens when I return to the U.S.. When I am again confronted with the things the world will try to tell me matter. I’ve found God in everything here; will I find him in the hustle and bustle of the states? I panicked sitting at my desk last week. I thought I have no clue what I want to do next, where I want to go, or who I want to be with. This is the only place I want to be.

In all of this fear about what is to come, God has slowly revealed Himself to me. He has said, “Yes this dream is nearing the end, but in this year I have put new dreams in your heart.” Since being here I am not the same person I was a year ago when I stepped on that plane with my heart racing and a look of excitement in my eyes. I cannot unsee the things I’ve seen or unhear the things I’ve heard. I’ve been stretched and broken and loved and comforted. My eyes have been opened more to God’s heart, power, and glory than ever before. He has turned my heart from one of stone to one of flesh. And in this year God has placed new dreams in my heart. Big ones! So scary I get excited and overwhelmed just thinking about them. Dreams that make me step back and stand in awe and wonder of the things God could do.

In this year, He has taught me so much about His character and His goodness. I am scared about the change that is to come. But that’s the thing about God, our lives and the world around us are constantly changing, but He’s not. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. And neither do His promises. Where I am and who I am with may change, but His plans and promises for me do not. No matter my success or failure or what the world says. I do not know what I am going home to or what 25 will bring. I have no job, house, or husband, but none of those things really matter do they. Jobs will end, houses will eventually fall away, and one day, the one we tie ourselves to will leave this earth and so will we. God is and will be the only thing that remains.

I am 25 now. I have evaluated my success in this life so far and I have come to realize I have very little of what the world says I’m supposed to have and you know… that’s ok! Because what I do have is so much better. I have the dreams the Lord has written on my heart and the promise that wherever He sends me next, He will be the one that fills and sustains me. I have had the immense privilege to see God’s unchanging heart and wonder here almost every day, and I’ve seen and learned more at the age of 25 than some will in their entire lives. So, here’s to the next 25 years of dreams, of God’s promises and lessons, and of refusing to conform to the ways of the world. Because at the end of it all, I would rather have “the light of heaven and lover of the lost” than anything else this world has to offer.


Trust and Obey: Lessons from Dr. Johnson

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

The more time I spend here, the more this place becomes my home. I truly love my life here, and am so grateful I get to do the work I do. I have found God here more than at any other point in my life. In these nine months, He has revealed Himself to me, challenged me, and broken me, all in the midst of still pouring out His unconditional love for me. If I am being completely honest, these months have been some of the hardest, yet most beautiful, in my entire walk with God. Before I came here, I would have told you I had God figured out, but now I know I am only beginning to truly understand God’s character and the relationship He wants with me.

Since I first became a Christian so many years ago, I have been trying to somehow make myself worthy to stand in God’s presence. I thought if I read my Bible daily, went to church regularly, prayed everyday, insert any other spiritual discipline here, that I could please God. The achiever in me looked at all the things I had “accomplished” for Him and thought “God, do you see all that I am doing for you. Are you pleased with me?” In the midst of always trying to achieve, I always seemed to still feel restless, unworthy, and unfulfilled.  Even here in the first few months when my work was slow, I struggled with God, wondering why He brought me all the way to Uganda if I wasn’t going to accomplish anything of value.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to truly follow God. I have come to realize how selfish I have been. In trying to please God and make myself worthy by doing things for Him, I have made our relationship about me, rather than Him. I have been so focused on doings things for His kingdom, I have missed possibly one of the sweetest truths about God’s nature: He first and foremost wants a relationship with us. It’s so simple at times it doesn’t even make sense in my brain.

But Jesus’s commandment is that simple: Follow Me.

Jesus didn’t initially say to the disciples come build my kingdom, heal people, and cast out demons. Yes the disciples were eventually called to do all of those things, but first Jesus wanted a relationship with them. He wanted to be with them, teaching and allowing them to come to know Him. It isn’t until later that he sends them out into the world to begin to build His kingdom by proclaiming the good news and healing the sick.

These sweet truths from the Gospel have been echoed in the book I’ve been studying. In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby talks about the importance of loving and knowing God first, saying, “Your relationship with God must come first. Out of your walk with God, He accomplishes His plans for our world.” My relationship with God has been completely backwards. In trying to twist myself into worthiness for Him, I have missed the sweet freedom that comes with truly knowing and being with Him.

Over these last few months my friend, Dr. Johnson, has been on my mind. When I think of what it looks like to know and love God well, he immediately comes to mind. I only had the privilege of knowing him for about a year, but I am only just beginning to realize all He taught me in those days I spent with him. I consider every moment we spent together a gift.  He lived a life of immense faith and service to the Lord. A WWII veteran, he served his country well. A missionary doctor in Kenya for 14 years, we connected over our love for this continent and our desire to serve God here. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he was loved and admired by many. He had one of the sweetest and kindest voices I have ever heard. His prayers were eloquent and beautiful, filled with so much love and passion for the Lord, you at times felt almost as if you were interrupting a personal moment between the two of them. I consider it a great honor and blessing to have been mentioned in his prayers each night, and cherish the evenings I sat with him and my grandmother at the fish camp in our town talking about God, Africa, and life.  Dr. Johnson went home to be with the Lord after 99 full and beautiful years on this earth just weeks before I moved here.

After spending five minutes with Dr. Johnson, you knew one thing…he truly loved the Lord. It was out of that relationship with Him that he did everything in his life.  His life was characterized by strong trust and quiet obedience. I want my relationship with God to look like that, I want to know God so deeply, love Him so much, that nothing else matters. Lauren Daigle’s song “Rebel Heart” so beautifully puts all the things I have been feeling recently into words:

Help me lay the renegade to rest
Turn the stone inside me back to flesh
And hold me ’til my best defenses fall
And watch this rebel heart surrender all

My prayer is that I reach a point, like my sweet friend, where I have no will of my own. Strong trust and quiet obedience, not achievements…that’s what I want. My stubborn heart still has a long way to go, but how beautiful and fulfilling would it be to be so completely surrendered to God, to have such a strong relationship with Him, that He and His will is all that I desire. Can you imagine…

May We Never Lose Our Wonder

“Know this well, then. Take it to heart right now: God is in Heaven above; God is on Earth below. He’s the only God there is.”  -Deuteronomy 4:39

Wooh…it’s been a while. Life hit and it hit hard. I’ve had the idea for this blog post for a few months, but I have struggled to find the time to describe everything I have felt and experienced over these last few months. I have sat down multiple times and stared at my computer trying to find the words that capture and do justice to my friends and the work they are doing here. Every time I have come up empty. So here is this post, far from worthy of the love, joy, sadness, heartbreak and everything in between I have experienced here.

God is AMAZING, and the only thing I can really say is that here I’ve found I seem to remain in a constant state of awe and wonder of Him. I’ve had family and friends ask me on many occasions what life is like here. I usually just end up responding with “It’s great.” It’s hard to describe how guilty this answer makes me feel. I wish so very much that I could show all the ones I love back at home why this place has such a tight hold on my heart. Why I am so privileged to stand in wonder of God each and every day. If they knew my friends here, if they heard my coworkers sing, if they saw the breathtaking landscape that stretches from one end of the country to the other, they’d understand it too. I have found God’s unending goodness here more than ever before in my life…even in the moments of pure heartbreak.

I am awed by the perseverance of every Ugandan I have come in contact with. By the beauty God so perfectly created in the landscape of Uganda. By the relentlessness, fearlessness, kindness, and child-like faith of our staff. I know I am not doing my friends and this place justice in describing how truly incredible it all is. I feel like I am downplaying the transformative work our staff is doing. They are changing Uganda each and every day. They constantly share the love of God by fighting for justice and change in our community, reminding me of the stars I witnessed in Kidepo…so many points of light shining in the darkness, you can’t help but marvel at their brightness. I see God in every single one of them. They love Him and each other with the same love that hung His son on the cross: freely, unconditionally, overwhelmingly. I am in awe of them every single day.

The longer I am here, the more normal life becomes. But that is just it…I don’t ever want the things I am experiencing or feeling to ever become normal. I realized this one morning in devotions. I looked around the room at our staff singing; up until that point it felt like another morning. I walked to work, greeted staff, fixed my coffee, spent time in stillness, and then came downstairs for devotions. As the room began to be filled with the sweet sound of their voices singing out in passionate and loving praise to Him, I realized:

 Nothing about my life here is normal. Nothing about the work we do is ordinary. And nothing about the God we serve is plain.

And I would never want it to be.

I have stood in wonder of Him so many times in the 7 months I have spent here. Whether it’s watching our team engage with our clients, where so much love and hope can fill the room it flows over everything in reach. Or the picturesque beauty of the landscape at Kidepo National Park, so beautiful only God could have created something that perfect. Or the hearts of my expat friends here, so selfless, kind, and faithful. They do everything from church planting, to educational training, to community empowerment. I have seen His goodness a thousand times over, despite the heartbreak and violence our clients have endured, despite the loss our staff has experienced, despite how difficult life can be here sometimes. There is so much hope here, as our staff sings: Lubanga wani gin ma loyo pe (There is nothing that defeats our God.)…and this is why I am not ready to leave just yet. If you met the ones I love here, you would see why too. So for now, I will stay in this awe and wonder of God for just a little while longer (at least until June 2019 or until He tells me otherwise).

Kuc obed kedi! (Peace be with you!)

Come January…

April has been month of fullness…Full of love, light, joy, challenges, and heartbreak. It is hard to believe I have been here 3 months already. I wish time would slow down just a little. I finally feel settled into my life here, and am beginning to love and appreciate the slow rhythm that is life in Uganda. Time isn’t the most important thing here, which has been refreshing, but also a little frustrating at times.

Coming from America, I find it is often hard to just sit still for a moment. We are hard wired to always be working toward something. Achievement equates value. My brain has been conditioned to think this way, and it has been hard to step away from that mentality, and adjust to a culture where relationships are put above everything else. This, by far, is the biggest challenge I have met in my time here. The achiever in me constantly wants to be given a task to complete, and I have worried that at the end of this year I will walk away from my job not having accomplished anything of value. That I will return home to the emptiness I felt in that first year after graduating college.

I was talking to Rachel, one of my sweetest friends, recently about my time here and the challenges I have been facing, as well as the worries I have about the future. I told her I worry if I will have a job when I return home, if I will ever get married, if I will have a family, where I will live…the list goes on and on. My mind sometimes races until this overwhelming fear wells up inside me, “what if my dreams don’t align with God’s will”. During our conversation she told me, “You’re an achiever. You’re so used to doing…In college you researched two capstones at the same time, you were the president of multiple clubs. You did so much. Maybe instead of doing this year, God is telling you to just be.” Just be here in these moments with Him and the people He is surrounding you with, and not worrying about accomplishing a list of tasks or what your life will look like come January or five years from now.

Because the reality of it is, He already knows all the answers to these questions that have consumed me for the past few weeks. And the truth is, as scary as it is to say, I may not achieve all I thought I was going to in this year, I may not have a job when I return home, and I may never get married and have a family. In the midst of all this fear, I have been asking myself some hard questions about what it means to love God. Will I praise Him even if His will doesn’t match up with mine? Do I trust that His plans are ultimately what is best and the most fulfilling for me? Do I have faith in Him even when His promises have not yet been received? The decision to follow God here was an easy one, because it was what I also wanted. Will I follow Him even if it’s not where I want to go? I love the lines Shadrach, Meshach, and AbendNego utter to King Nebuchadnezzar when he threatens to throw them in a blazing furnace:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17-18

Even in the midst of uncertainty and death they still said, “Not my will, but yours Lord”. I want a faith like this. I want to grow so close to God, that I know even in the midst of my uncertain future I can trust that His plan will always work out for the glory of His kingdom, and that if I follow that plan I will be fulfilled no matter if it aligns with everything I want in life.

Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself, each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). These words couldn’t be truer. Ultimately I don’t know if I will have a job come January, I don’t know if I will get married or have kids. But I do know that God’s in every one of these moments I am experiencing here, and I don’t want to miss the sweetness He has planned for me in this year because my mind is worrying about what is going to happen eight months from now. For now I just want to be with Him, taking in everything He has to teach me, building relationships with my new friends here, and learning from our office staff. I want to trust that He holds where I will be come January, and because of that I don’t have to worry about anything.

One of my favorite songs our staff sings is “Nearer My God to Thee.” Here it’s considered a funeral song, so they don’t sing it very often. But when they do, they sing it so beautifully and with such passion; you know they truly want every word they say. The words are simple, yet so beautiful:

Though things go well with me
Comfort in life
Friends, Food , and Property, Money and all
Still all I want shall be,
Nearer My God to Thee, Nearer to thee

I may not know where I will be eight months or five years from now. My life may look exactly like I picture it or God’s plans may look nothing like mine, but I do know in this year “still all I want shall be, nearer my God to thee.” And I will keep singing those words every time my mind slips to worrying about January, for January can worry about itself.



What Love is This?

I have been in Uganda a little over two months now. As the weeks go by it is slowly starting to feel more and more like home. I had the privilege of celebrating Easter here this past weekend and it was the first of many holidays I will celebrate on the other side of the world. It was a wonderful day spent in fellowship and worship with both new Ugandan and American friends. Easter is always one of my favorite times of year, and before coming here I was so excited to get to experience it in another culture. It is the culmination of the Gospel; everything we have ever hoped and longed for is found in the picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. At its core Easter is simply about love. But not just any kind of love; love in its purest and rarest form.

Before coming to Uganda, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant to love another human being. I thought I knew what selfless, fierce, unconditional, sacrificial love was supposed to look like. Now that I have spent two months here, I realize I have no idea how to really love someone. In my time here so far, I have discovered love like nothing I have ever seen before. A love that begins to touch the very heart of God. Every day in some way or another, I have witnessed the love that we celebrate every Easter. There are so many moments of light I have experienced in my short time here that a part of me is already sad knowing that at the end of this year I will have to leave this love. But, we will try not to think about that right now. For now, I just want to experience this love as much as I can in hopes that when I leave I can love others like my friends here love.

I have often wondered how people here love so much. Life is so much more fragile in Northern Uganda. War raged for years here. People were uprooted; they lost their lives, loved ones, and land: everything. People sometimes lose children; loved ones get sick and sadly do not make it. Car accidents take the lives of many. The people here are so well acquainted with loss. Yet they love abundantly, overwhelmingly, and warmly to everyone they come in contact with.

I have learned that because life is so much more fragile here, it is all the more precious. The funny thing is, you would think that when sickness and death are more common, you might be less likely to give love freely because you are afraid to lose all that you love. But the fragileness of life has had the opposite effect. Instead of loving less they love God and each other even more fiercely, more sacrificially, and more freely than anything I have ever experienced in the US. Ugandan culture, and African culture in general, are much more relational. The way you treat others and the time you spend with them matter much more here than in the western part of the world. Relationships mean everything, and are put above everything else. Growing up in a culture like this, it is no wonder that people here seem to know a little more about what it really means to love.

They truly exhibit agape love. The kind of love that gives and expects nothing in return. That denies oneself for the sake of another. It loves even the most unlovable and never thinks twice about it, because it only sees the heart and nothing else. It’s the same kind of love that would allow its perfect self to be nailed to a tree to save even those that would reject its sacrificial love. The kind of love that we should all be seeking as followers of Christ. There are so many moments of this love I have witnessed, I could not even begin to tell you them all, but for now here are just a few of these moments:

It’s a love that charges boldly ahead, taking on powerful men who think they can take advantage of the powerless despite the danger it brings to yourself; a love that acts no matter the consequences.

It’s dropping everything you’re working on and piling into a van with your song books to visit a friend who just lost a loved one, because when one grieves; you all grieve.

It’s going away for a weekend only to be greeted in the office when you return as if you have been away for a year, and life is now complete once again only because you are back.

It’s coming to the office sick and being chastised (in the most caring way) because you should be at home resting and getting well.

It’s inviting your friends over for dinner so they can meet your children, working all day to prepare a traditional meal for them, then calling when they get home to make sure they arrived safely. Not only did you open your home to them, but your heart as well.

Since being here, I have had quite a few friends ask me what my hopes and dreams are in life. At first I would respond with the typical answers most would give: I want a family one day, to have a job that makes a difference even if it’s only in one person’s life, to be a better person every morning when I wake up than when I went to bed the night before. But as my time here goes by, I think more about that question. Yes, I still want all those things. But now I realize that what I truly want in life is to be able to love others with a fraction of the love that hung Jesus on the cross. To be so full of love for God that it just flows out of me covering anyone within reach. To inspire others to love like I want to love.

The love I have received from our office staff and others I have met here continuously encourages me. My heart has been challenged in new ways to love more abundantly and selflessly every day, and I know it will continue to be challenged the longer I live here. It truly is a beautiful thing to be in the presence of a love that resembles the sacrificial, selfless, unconditional love God demands of us. I have begun to look at love in a new way and I hope to continue to be inspired to give this love that has been so freely given to me long after I leave here.

In the Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis illustrates beautifully the love I have witnessed in Uganda. Towards the end of the book, a parade in heaven emerges with a beautiful woman clothed in light at its center. You might think this woman was someone famous on earth, but fame on earth and fame in heaven are two very different things. She was ordinary on earth, just Sarah Smith from Golders Green, but she is great in heaven because of the love she exhibited to all the people that now parade around her. She gave them love that made them better people, that inspired them to love others more. When her husband tries to convince her to leave heaven she simply replies, “I am in love and out of it I will not go.” Sarah Smith loved like our office staff loves, and I want to love like them. She said it best, I may have to leave Uganda in December, but you can be sure I will not go out of this love I have found here. I will take it with me and give it where ever I go until the day I stand before God.

Lessons and Ladybugs from My Grandmother


“For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” -Romans 14:8

Today is never a day I look forward to. It has been five years since the death of my grandmother, and this year is a little tougher being on the other side of the world. I look back on that day that still seems to replay in slow motion. While those wounds that cut so deep in the first year after her death have healed, I still find that the anniversary of her death along with birthdays, holidays and big life events open those wounds in a way that make them seem so raw and fresh. Honestly, it still affects me in a way that I never thought it would five years removed from that sad day. While, this day always brings sorrow, it is also a day to celebrate a life that was filled with laughter, love, and joy. Looking back today, I realize that my grandmother’s death taught me many lessons in love, loss, faith, and regret.

Love. I learned a lot about what it truly means to love someone from my grandmother. Fierce. Overwhelming. Unconditional. That’s how she loved. She had these hugs that were so warm and full of love that it filled you to your core, and there was no way you were walking away from them without a smile on your face. She taught me that love is best shown in the way you treat others. Everyone has their own way of showing their affection; hers was cooking. We have a running joke in our family that she had this sixth sense for telling when someone was getting sick. Her remedy: chicken bog. It never failed. She would show up at the door unannounced holding a Tupperware container, and if you weren’t already sick then there was a good chance you were going to be in a few days. Pinwheels, Watergate salad, “flat bacon”. She made everything well. I could list all her best dishes, but that would take all day. She put so much time and effort into cooking, because for her love was when everyone sat around the dinner table and left with a full heart and stomach. Her love through service has always inspired me. For her it was the little things you did for others that showed them how much they meant to you.

While there are many memories of happiness, there were times our relationship was far from perfect. Like every family there were moments when we felt like doing anything but loving each other. We did and said hurtful things; relationships became broken. But the beautiful thing about family is it is the closest love we will ever find that resembles the unconditional love of God. It really is a beautiful kind of love. A love that looks at the other person’s faults, mistakes and imperfections and says, “I love you anyway. All the time. No matter what”. No matter how bad things got that love in our family (even if strained) still remained. She gave love unconditionally, because that’s how we are all called by God to love one another. I want to give love like she gave love.

Loss. Up until the death of my grandmother, I had never dealt with the loss of anyone close to me. At 19, I thought that experiencing that first loss was still a long way off.  She would see me graduate college, get married, and maybe even become a great-grandmother. Losing the ones you love is hard. It is even harder when you watch them die right before your very eyes. It’s difficult to describe the grief and helplessness you feel when you can see the life leaving their body, knowing there is no bargain you can make with God to stop it. A little piece of your soul goes with them, and in its place a hole is left that never truly seems to heal. I learned a lot about loss in those first few months after her death.

She died while I was home on spring break. At the end of the week I had to go back to school, when all I really wanted was to be surrounded by the family that knew and loved her most. That semester was hard. There were times when I felt utterly and completely empty and alone. But what her death taught me was that as time goes on, those wounds do heal. I have found that while those moments of immense sorrow that surround her death still exist, there are so many more moments of incredible joy that surround her life. I look back now on those memories that once caused me pain to think about, and they now bring a smile to my face. While losing someone cuts you in a way that never truly heals, it does get easier with time, and I am so grateful for the blessing she was to my life. Loss is a part of life; no one escapes it. But there is also something strangely beautiful about death. It signals the end of our time here on earth, but it is the beginning of something so much better: an eternity spent looking at the very face of God.


Faith. At the time of her death, I had been struggling with some serious questions about God and who He was for almost two years. I questioned if He was really there at all, if He had a plan for me and if He truly cared about me? I kept my doubts and fears to myself, afraid to tell anyone around me what I was struggling with because I felt guilty and ashamed for having these doubts. I tried to push these questions out of my mind, afraid to answer them because I knew the implications if the answer was no. So instead, I spent the next few years running from them. I pretended like everything was ok, while inside I felt hopeless and afraid. Her death, however, changed all of this.

While those first few months back at school were some of the hardest of my life. My relationship with God slowly began to change. I was angry with Him at first, how could He take her so suddenly and deny me the right to say goodbye? I cried out to Him in those moments of anger and desperation begging Him to help me feel whole again. Eventually, those moments of loneliness and anger faded as I prayed for God to get me through the days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed or the classes where I felt like bursting into tears. I leaned on God because in those moments He was all I had. In reality, He was all I truly needed. As the weeks went by, my life began to slowly feel somewhat normal again. The thought of my grandmother some days made me smile, instead of cry. My faith and relationship with God also became stronger in those months. At first I began to spend time with God each day because it was what I needed to fill the void in my heart that seemed so big. But as the weeks went by, I began to look forward to the time I set aside for Him each day. I no longer doubted if He was there or if He really cared for me. I knew He did, because He gave me the strength to get through my pain and grief. I found in those months, that if we truly put our faith in Him and trust that nothing happens outside of His perfect will, then nothing, not even death, can separate us from Him.

Regret.  When someone dies, regret is usually not far behind. We always wish we had told our loved ones we loved them more. My grandmother called me on my birthday, just days before her death. I meant to call her back, but was busy and kept pushing it off. She died before I could thank her and tell her I loved her. I still keep that voicemail on my phone (although even after five years I still can’t bring myself to listen to it). It serves as a reminder that our time with the ones we love is fleeting. The Lord could call us home at any moment. Therefore, we should never hold in how much we love someone. Although, words could never describe how much I loved that woman, there were so many things I wished she knew as I stood there in the hospital that day. I would have given anything in that moment just to be able to tell her everything that was on my heart.  I know she knew that I loved her, but something about not saying those words out loud seemed inadequate in that moment.

There are some days when I still feel incredibly guilty for not taking just a few moments to call and talk to her. It would have cost me nothing at the time, instead it cost me so much more. I was selfish and shortsighted; I took her life for granted in those moments, thinking she would always be around. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We should always tell the ones we love what they mean to us, not putting it off; because neither one of us may very well be here tomorrow.

I look back today on my grandmother’s life and all the memories and joy she gave me through those 19 wonderful years. I think about Christmas Eve’s at her house where I sat with my face pressed against the window waiting for my uncle to arrive so we could open presents. Or weekend long sleepovers that were never complete without a two hour-long bath in her giant tub. There was water EVERYWHERE…and she never said a word. I remember how she always gave me things with ladybugs on them, because according to her they were “lucky”. Ladybugs still find their way to me on the toughest days reminding me everything is going to be alright. Then there was the time she tried to ask a dummy in a cop car for directions. It took her 15 minutes to realize he wasn’t real. Her response “I don’t know who the dummy was…him or me!” All of these memories, and so many more warm my heart and remind me that while there is sorrow in death; there is so much more joy in life. Today she wouldn’t want me to be sad, instead she would want me to spend the day in laughter, loving the ones close to me like she did…and that is exactly what I am going to do! Miss you always! Love you forever!