Coming Home

I dropped off of the face of the blogging planet. Because really what do you say after your heart changes so much in two short weeks. Then what do you say when just a short time later everything changes with the news of a baby. I, who have never been short on words, have been at a total loss.

In the past 7 months God has been breaking and reshaping my heart in so many ways. It’s a process I would love to say I have embraced with grace and gratitude, but instead I have kicked and fought my way through the process. It has not been pretty, but death isn’t pretty.

In Africa God whispered Revelation 21:5 to my heart over and over again. When I returned home the church sign at the entrance of our subdivision brought me to tears, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Over and over again he has whispered to my heart, I am making you new. I am creating new life in you. I am giving you new opportunities. I am giving you a new heart. (Ezekiel 36:26)

All of this to say, if we were to sit down and have lunch, other than you witnessing my absurd appetite, I would tell you all about what God has been doing. I would tell you how it has been painful, and I haven’t liked it. I would tell you about the isolation I have felt in the experience. I would inevitably tell you I have the greatest husband in the world. And then, I would blow your mind with what God has done most recently. About how He is for us. About how He cares for our hearts, our desires, and even the tiny details.  

Not long ago Jason got a call from a boat company in TN, minutes from where we grew up, they wanted to know if he would be interested in a job. About the same time we decided to put our house up for sale. We met with a realtor. We got depressed. I asked a friend to pray for us and the process. The next day that friend said, “Hey, you know, I’ve been praying for months, I feel like it’s time for me to buy a home, I’d love to come and look at yours.” 3 days later she made an offer. We started the process, without a realtor. Lots of waiting followed, and yesterday we received a formal offer from the boat company in TN, and today, exactly 2 weeks before we are to close on our house, we were able to turn in our notices.

We have enjoyed our time in Pooler. I will forever be so grateful for the opportunity to move away as newlyweds and really learn to depend on and work together with my husband. The past two and a half years have been about the foundation of our marriage, and I am grateful.

That being said, our hearts are in East TN, we miss the lake we grew up and fell in love on, we miss those Smoky Mountains, and we miss our family and friends. It's the place we want to raise our babies. It’s the place I always wanted to get out of, and then having accomplished that, the place I realized was part of the fabric of who I am.

God knew our hearts, and even when we weren’t actively pursuing it, he made going home a possibility. Then he blew us away with the details and left us with hearts full of gratitude!

Since early in college the following passage has been on of my favorites, and I have loved watching the story of our lives take some of these turns. I am glad that I am not the author of our lives, and I am grateful for the chance to be returning home- changed.

“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.” 


Let it break your heart...

“If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love. If it doesn’t break your heart, it’s not enough.” –Switchfoot

I have something I’ve been wanting to say.

It’s about action and inaction.

It’s about criticism and self-boasting.

It’s about choosing love over hate.

Last week as social media exploded with the Invisible Children campaign, Kony 2012, I saw a funny thing begin to happen on my newsfeed: division. It seems that the IC campaign has three camps: the supporter, the critic, and the indifferent. Soon articles and blogs had been written, friends had been unfriended, Wonka jokes had ensued, and somewhere in the midst of it all the children became invisible again.

While some supporters were flawed and some critics were justified, while some sat idly by, injustice reigned.

To the supporter: you were moved, you want change, good. Now do something about it. Sacrifice, spend yourselves (Isaiah 58:10), seek justice, love mercy (Micah 6:8), educate yourself, find an organization that does the most good, and pour yourself into it. Go to Africa, go to Mississippi, go visit your neighbor, just DO something, act beyond clicking share or buying a cool shirt, and cause change.

To the critic: you’re passionate, you’re sick of campaigns without action, I like it. Now do something about it. You disagree with Invisible Children? You think we should act here first? You’re sick of people acting like activists but not acting? Show them how, lead the way. Find your passion, your niche, and fight for it. Fight for justice. Build people up, that takes far more patience and courage than sarcasm or criticism.

To the indifferent: wake up. This life is fleeting and when it’s over, as you’re drawing your last breath, you’re going to wish that you had woken up before you were dying. We belong to one another, we need one another, we need to fight for what’s important, this world needs people that have woken up, not more warm bodies.

This life, no matter what you’ve been told, is not about us. It’s not about our comfort, our feelings, or our financial lot in life. It’s about love. Our convictions may not be the same, but the commands we live under are, and the greatest of these is love.


This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.- 1 John 3:16-18

“More than my questions about the efficacy of social actions were my questions about my own motives. Do I want social justice for the oppressed or do i just want to be known as a socially active person? I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about myself anyway. I don’t have to watch the evening news to see the world is bad, I only have to look at myself. I am not brow beating here, I am only saying that true charge , true living giving, God honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting. I wanted to make a sign that read “I am the problem” – Donald Miller

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the words and deeds of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” MLK Jr.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” – Elie Wiesel


Building Altars

"I like those scenes in the Bible where God stops people and asks them to build altars. You'd think he was making them do that for himself, but I don't think God really gets much from looking at a pile of rocks. Instead, I think God wanted people to build altars for their sake, something that would help them remember, something they could look back on and remember the time they were rescued, or were given grace." -Donald Miller

The Lord knew that M1 would break our hearts. He knew that leaving that place would take away our joy. So in his goodness God sent us from M1 directly to Canaan Children’s Home, and it is in this place that my heart still resides.

Canaan Children’s Home is located in the small village of Jinja, Uganda and is nestled close to beautiful Lake Victoria. On our drive to Jinja my team went on and on about the beautiful scenery of the Ugandan countryside, and I could not help but smile because it was beautiful, it looked just like East Tennessee. I felt like I had come home.

When we arrived at Canaan all of the children and staff came running, laughing and smiling towards our bus. Pastor Isaac, the director of the home, stood at the door of our bus and hugged every one of us and welcomed us home.

This warm welcome was followed by dozens and dozens more hugs and welcomes. Soon both of my hands were occupied with little brown hands and my heart was being filled back up again.

Shortly after we arrived it began to get dark and we were reluctantly pulled away from our new young friends to have dinner. Throughout dinner and our discussion following, a chorus of voices could be heard ringing out in the night. At times these voices were singing and at times they were beautifully speaking in Luganda. As many of our team members went to bed I found myself wanting to join these voices, being drawn to them.

My dear, sweet friends Nancy, Carla, and I followed the voices and came to the church on the campus of Canaan, and in this church dozens and dozens of citizens from Jinja had come to pray all night. for twelve hours.. for their community, their children, to their God.

We walked into the church and settled into the back row. It is on that hard wooden bench that my God reminded me of His love. It is on that cold concrete floor, between two friends who love me, that I wept. It is there in that small wooden church, surrounded by the forgotten, abandoned, and alone, in a country that I long for everyday, that God reminded me of the beautiful simplicity of it all. I am loved. I am to love.

I sat there and I thanked my God over and over again that he was writing the story of my life. That in this story I was able to fly halfway around the world and be encouraged by a chorus of voices I did not understand.

I was able to fly halfway around the world to meet two beautiful women, who each live a state away from me in America, and whose hearts are so aligned with mine. To be a broken mess at their feet in that church and to be prayed over, to pray over Carla’s baby boy in the Congo, to know that he will come home to his family soon.

I was able to fly halfway around the world and be a part of the church, the beautiful bride of Christ.

My heart and spirit were broken in a beautiful way in that church. I begged God over and over again to only let that brokenness be mended by him, for my heart to be shaped by his heart.

I walked out the door of that church, I breathed in that cool African night air, and I exhaled thankfulness. As I turned the corner of that church that will always stand as an altar in my life, I saw the sweet face that would help reshape my heart.

There was my sweet Hellen, sitting at the base of an open window to the church, holding a hymnal, and singing it is well with my soul.

When she saw me she lit up and said, “You come, you sit with us.” I smiled and I said, “Of course.”

I sat between Hellen and Gloria, they held my hands, and we just listened to the beautiful voices pouring out of that window. Soon we built a pallet on the grass, I laid down in the middle of it, Hellen tucked my feet in, and then the girls laid on each side, wrapped their arms around me, put their heads on my shoulders and promptly went to sleep.

I laid their, full heart bursting, and looked at that beautiful night sky, (occasionally looking over my shoulder for black mambas, king cobras, or anacondas), I prayed for those beautiful girls resting, safely, on my chest, and knew that the day I had just experienced, the injustice I saw, the joy flowing despite that injustice, the freedom given me in the back of that church, and the innocence and love surrounding me on that dusty African ground would forever be an altar in my life.

Then I breathed in deeply, closed my eyes, and let beautiful Ugandan voices sing me to sleep.


Sixty Feet

“Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” – Hebrews 13:3

I would like for you to meet my dear friend Sam. Sam is 9 years old. He likes to play soccer, dance, and do flips. Sam wants to be a doctor when he gets older.

Sam is in prison.

Not a detention center, or a juvenile facility. Prison.

A children’s prison.

Sam did not commit a crime. He did not steal. He did not hurt anyone.

Sam was stubborn.

So his dad drove him hours into the countryside, put him out at M1, and drove away.

The hardest day of ministry that we did in Africa was the day we spent with the children of M1 rehabilitation center. It was the only day when we arrived somewhere and the kids did not come running and singing. It was the only day when I questioned what we were doing, why we were there, and if the kids even wanted us there.

I questioned that for about fifteen minutes. I questioned it until we were led, past children in cells, to a common area, in between barred areas where the boys slept. I questioned it until an amazing young man named Aaron stood before our group and began to sing.

I need to pause and tell you it’s hard to express anything I experienced in Africa, it’s nearly impossible to convey to you what I saw and felt that day in that prison, and it is impossible to share with you the joy that filled that dark, barred cell, the moment that those children opened their mouths and began to sing.

I stood there, crammed between kids who have experienced so much injustice and so much hurt in such a short period of time, and I watched them raise their hands and their voices, and as the tears flowed down my face, and my voice choked, I knew that they weren’t alone, they had never been alone a day in their lives, Jesus lives at M1.

I want to tell you everything. I want to tell you how those kids taught me more in an hour than any pastor ever has. I want to tell you that the stories their hearts told me in that moment changed my heart forever. I want to take you back with me to that moment, when a conga line broke out in the middle of worship, and those guarded faces broke out in smiles. I want you to feel the joy of the Lord in that prison and I want for your heart to be changed.

What I want most though, is for you to know.

I want you to know that there are children in prison. I want you to be bothered, to be affected, to be hurt by that. I want for that knowledge to get inside of you and fester until you have no choice, but to do something about it. Be changed, cause change.

When worship was over, those children who had been too guarded and broken to even look at us, grabbed our hands, and walked us out of that dark cell into the daylight.

For the next 3 hours those prisoners were just children.

They ran, jumped rope, kicked footballs, and tossed frisbee.

They smiled and laughed.

They told us their stories.

When the time came for us to leave that place we took a moment and we prayed with our new friends. I sat down beside my brother Sam, I held his hand, and I prayed over him.

Then I hugged him and I got back on a bus and rode away. I rode away from that prison, but my friend Sam stayed. If his dad doesn’t come back for him, Sam could stay there eight more years.

Sam is one of a 100.

M1 is one of a dozen.

The people that started M1 put the prisons in the middle of the country, at the back of a dirt road, where those kid's small voices could not be heard. Where they would be forgotten.

What those people did not account for is God. They did not account for the furious longing that the God of the universe has for those kids.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love: I have drawn you with lovingkindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.” – Jeremiah 31:3

I have brothers and sisters who are sleeping behind bars, in a prison, in Uganda at this very moment. They have been abused, they have been abandoned, they have been forsaken and forgotten- by most.

They are not alone.
I know that my Jesus is in that place.
I know my God has not forgotten them.

Neither will I.

If you want to learn more about M1, the children there, and how you can help please go to sixtyfeet.org and learn about the amazing organization that is serving these children in these prisons. It really is a story of redemption, and God is all over it and in it.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." - Romans 8:18

"He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free." - Psalm 146:7

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearts, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Isaiah 61:1

"Higher than the mountains that I face. Stronger than the power of the grave. Constant through the trial and the change. One thing remains. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. It overwhelms and satisfies my soul. And I never ever have to be afraid. In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love. My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart from your great love."

- Jeremy Riddle


I have stories to tell. They're not all my stories, but I have been entrusted to tell them. To speak up and to tell you of the beauty that I have seen. I just can't do it yet. I've been wrecked.

I read recently in Luke 17 of the 10 healed of Leprosy:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

I feel like Jesus cleansed me in Africa, but I want to COME BACK. I want to be the one. I want to be grateful. I want to praise God. I have been cleansed, but I am still not well. I need some time at Jesus's feet. I need to give him my brokenness. I need for him to make me well.

Please pray for my new friends, my brothers and sisters in Africa. Pray for Hellen and Marvin. Pray for Brad. Pray for Danson. For Esther, Sylvia, Daniel, Hector. Pray for them by name. You haven't met them, but I want you to love them.

They are beautiful, joyful children. With all the hurt in their lives they still love. They still dance. We have much to learn from them.

Hellen, my beautiful friend, put me to shame. No music needed to break it
down in Africa!