a long way home

i know a weary traveler, a young woman of tender heart and tough skin. she spends most of her days walking, never staying in one place for too long:: always the sojourner, one foot ever in front of the other. every now and again, she stops for a while–sometimes because she’s tired, sometimes because she’s lost, sometimes because she’s unsure where she’ll go next. so she will stop, and she’ll shake the dust, and settle in where she’s found herself the very best she can.

once in a while, she will sit and massage the cracked skin of her worn feet. she sits and she talks, telling of her travels, of the roads she has traversed. she speaks of an alcoholic father and parents who were absent, of a little girl with a big burden; and her eyes tell of the steep and narrow path that led to her escape, of how she felt all alone as she walked, of the times she slipped on the rocks and cut up her feet and cradled them as she cried, wishing someone were there to help stop the bleeding. she speaks of a lover who was unfaithful, of a broken heart and shattered dreams, of deep loss and soul ache and the times she had to force herself to crawl through the fog, the walkway shrouded in darkness and storm. and she speaks of the dusty road on which she’s found herself in recent years, long and winding, in a faraway land that keeps calling her back again. she speaks of burning thirst in the hot sun and how often she’s felt like a hagar, a life lived in perpetual exile, sent away to die in the desert; and of secret streams that have refreshed her, like the laughter of her children or a bright blue bird perched on the porch steps.

and after she tells her stories, she will sit in silence for a while with her eyes closed, like she’s thinking about something too sacred to speak aloud. moments pass–maybe just a few, or perhaps many more; and then she rises to her feet, ready to walk again. and it seems so soon, too soon, and some voice their concerns, for wherever could she be off to this time, and after all these years and all these miles, isn’t she tired of walking, of always being on the move?

“you see,” she explains gently, “we’re all on our way somewhere; we’ll all find ourselves home eventually. i would just rather walk away from what’s hurt me and walk towards my destination, than sit and wait for the destination to come to me. for what life is lived in sitting? very little, to be sure. but when i’m walking, i’m moving; there is breath in my lungs and blood through my veins and purpose in my heart. simply put, i’m alive. and yes, the way seems long, and of course, i get tired, and who really knows what to expect along the way? but i know where i’m headed, and every step taken brings me that much closer.”


to my long-lost love

liberia, i have been missing you oh-so-fiercely as of late, missing you so deeply and true that i feel it in my bones, in the way they ache for you. i miss the heaviness of your air, the way it sits on my shoulders and seeps in through my pores. i miss the glare of your noonday sun and the blue of your sky; i miss the lush green of your tall grass, the red of your dusty earth. i miss the sound of waves crashing on sandy shores, of dance music crackling over old, busted-out speakers, of the loud, frequent greetings heard from the road. i miss the feel of your children nestled in my lap as i stroke their heads and run my fingers through their hair. i miss the way you taught me to seek the gift in every moment and showed me how to find Jesus in even the hard places of life, in all the things that don’t make sense, like poverty and war and death.

see, now that i’ve been away from you for some time, i’m able to look back and remember all the good you gave me. five months ago, all i knew about you was that you hurt me; you stretched me, hard, and drained away my strength, my joy. when i left you, i was bitter and confused, heart tender and torn, very much as broken as i was when i came to you all those years ago, just in a different way.

but i’m healing now, and i see that i’ve blamed you for so much that wasn’t your fault. and i’d like to apologize to you and make peace with all the grief and trauma you gave me. it hurt like hell, but i’ve learned and grown from it. and when i think about you these days, i want to dwell on the good, the beautiful, the blessings.

though there are many gifts in the place i find myself now, nothing can compare to you, my sweet liberia. and i don’t think anything is supposed to be able to. i think i was always meant to have a piece of this stretched-wide, bleeding heart that was reserved just for you. no matter what i’m doing or where i find myself in this world, i carry you with me always. and i know also that i’ve left behind so many pieces of myself, in both my tears that have soaked your earth and in all the love i have poured into your people.

i know also that our story isn’t over. because when i walked away from you, from your children that i welcomed into my arms and my heart as my own, i vowed to never forget. i promised i would speak up for those without a voice and fight for those who cannot do it on their own. though i am fearful because i don’t ever want to be emptied like that again, i know it’s my call to be love, to spend myself on behalf of those who are needy.

this morning, as i pray for you, for i, for our future, i carry this verse in my inner-most parts, in the deep well of my soul:
the…heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (proverbs 21.1)

liberia, He has turned my heart ever-towards you. and one day, i know–He’ll turn my feet back also. 

until we meet again…Image

Back to Liberia…

Tomorrow’s the day! After an entire YEAR, the time has finally come for me to get on the plane and return to my beloved ‘Mama Liberia.’ So much has happened in the twelve months that I have been home. I caught up with old friends and made new ones. I traveled. I moved across the country. I switched jobs…and then did it again…and then again. I lost my Papa to cancer. I walked through a time of deep healing in my heart. I prayed, I fought, I learned, I struggled. I changed—was changed. And because of all that, I feel incredibly prepared (emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually) to handle whatever Liberia may throw at me.

I am eager to see the kids again, to hug them close and talk about life with them. I can’t wait for the singing and dancing, rice and fresh plantains, beautiful sunsets, morning porch times with my journal and a cup of coffee, joyful reunions with friends and teammates. A year is a long, long time…but I think it makes the return even sweeter.

I’ve spent the last week or so soaking up everything America, greedily indulging in all that I will miss once I cross the Atlantic. I just had a warm bath, washed my face, brushed my teeth—all the while aware that I will soon be without running water for the next six months. I’ve eaten my fill of Mexican food, ice cream, and fresh fruits and veggies, and I’ve definitely had my fair share of Starbucks. I’ve managed to make a trip to Target pretty much every day for the past ten days, sometimes just to walk around and marvel at the sheer enormity of stuff. I’ve downloaded new music and updates for my laptop, knowing that I’ll soon be saying goodbye to Wi-Fi (and fast internet in general). And I’m just about ready to crawl into my comfy bed and (hopefully) sleep sweetly under fluffy blankets and on soft pillows—for I know that the Liberian heat and noise will often keep me awake at nights and/or wake me up way too early in the morning.

I’m looking forward to sharing stories and photos with you from my life in Liberia in the coming months, so be sure to check the blog and my Facebook for updated posts. Until then, keep your fingers crossed that all my luggage makes it safe and sound, that I get a good seat (i.e.: one without anyone else in the row so I can curl up and sleep) on the plane, that customs goes smoothly, and that I manage to make it through about 24 hours of travel!

Until then,

The time has finally come for me to start preparing for my return to Liberia. I just found out today that I have been given a departure date of March 10th, which means I’ll arrive in Monrovia on the 11th. I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am to know that in just nine weeks, I’ll step foot on Liberian soil again. At that point, I will have been gone AN ENTIRE YEAR. A year. I didn’t expect it to be so long. I didn’t expect to ache for Liberia the way I have. It’ll be a year that I didn’t see my kiddos, didn’t hear their laughter or feel their hands holding mine. A year without my Liberian family, my “ma” Mary, my sidekick Momo, my precious friend Piko. Oh, how my heart leaps within me when I think about seeing them again!

Yes, I know it will be difficult. Life in a nation like Liberia always is. Doing the type of work that I do is often draining—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. But I know that God has used this year to prepare me. To strengthen me. To teach me to live by His daily grace. Will it be hard? Yes. Am I ready? Yes. Let the countdown to Liberia begin!

(And, in other exciting news, I’ll be able to make an eight-day stop on the east coast before heading back to Liberia! I’m scheduled to arrive in Philly on the evening of March 1st, and I plan on spending a few days visiting as many people as I can in that short amount of time. Then, on the 5th or 6th, I’ll be taking a quick road-trip down to Virginia to see my dear friends and spiritual parents. Back up to PA on the 8th, and then I leave out of Newark on the 10th! WHEW. I’m exhausted just thinking about it—but also so. very. excited.

So, if you are in the PA or VA area, and want to hang out during my brief stay at “home”, please let me know as soon as possible. [I have a feeling my schedule is going to fill up quickly!] I’m also looking for someone to pick me up in Philly on the 1st and/or take me to Newark on the 10th. Pretty please?)

Also, if you are interested in perhaps making a financial donation to Orphan Relief and Rescue on my behalf, or signing up to be a monthly supporter, please contact me. I am not able to do the work that I do without amazing people like you behind me, supporting me through finances and prayer.

Much love to each of you, and THANK YOU for joining me on this journey.


“you’ve got that far-away look
in your eyes again,”
they told me.

how do i even respond to that?
of course i do.
so many parts of me
are in so many places,
and my mama never taught me
how to stay put for long. 

my soul
wants to root itself
in fields of stability
and some sense of permanency,

but there’s this other piece of me
that knows
nothing ever stays the same.

they see the sadness in my eyes,
and they don’t seem to listen
when i try to explain what it’s like to be here
while always dreaming
of being somewhere else. 

thankful: fifteen & sixteen

i’m writing this blog in my quiet, quaint little guest room at the LivingStone monastery in Newport News, VA. i arrived yesterday and, though i’ll be leaving the monastery tonight, i’ll be in Virginia until Sunday afternoon.

i have had so much to be thankful for these past two days. here are just a few from my list:

country roads; friendly cashiers; cheap gas (thank you, VA!); authentic worship at LHOP; God speaking to me so clearly…in the prayer room…while i’m journalling…even in my dreams; cherry blossoms; warm rain; the most decadent piece of chocolate cake i think i’ve ever eaten; sweet prayers from sweet friends; new connections and the excitement of meeting a dear friend for the first time; reading by candlelight; hospitality; poetry; cozy cardigans; curling up in the library with my book and a cup of pumpkin coffee.

aww, shoot

Yes, that is a paper plate and yes, there are bullet holes in it. Confused yet? Let me explain.

In keeping with the week-long theme of utter — yet hilarious — ridiculousness, I just knew that my trip to Texas was going to have to go out with a bang (haha!) So, what did I do? I went shooting.

(Now, before I go any further, let me just say that I have never once shot or even held a gun, so this was quite the experience for me. I kept envisioning shooting myself in the foot or, even worse, shooting someone else in the foot. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous.)

So, I got a quick gun lesson (the hardest part is figuring out how to properly hold the darn thing!) and, with Andrew and Joshua’s help, I shot it. It was awkward and hilarious and exhilarating. I kept my target as a souvenir, and I end up bursting into laughter every time I look at it. Andrew took a paper plate and (skillfully) drew some of the things I hate most on it: knives (best line ever: “I love that you’re using a gun right now to combat that fear.” – Andrew), mushrooms (they’re not food, people; they’re fungi), a guitar wearing a cowboy hat (I may have been in Texas, but I still hate country music) and a golf bag (the first time I ever went golfing was in Liberia, and it took us about five hours to finish. Need I say more?)

Anyway, I thought y’all would enjoy the sheer absurdity of it. (And no, I have no idea what kind of gun it was. All I know is that it was a big one, and it made my arms hurt for the next day and a half).