he knew we needed gangnam style

"What have I gotten myself into?" 
This has become the all-too-familiar question in my job, traveling from place to place, meeting people who speak Swahili too quickly, or use slang I just don’t, or speak a more tribal language, or just a language I altogether don’t know and trying to figure out how I am supposed to interview/design/photograph/use the bathroom in each place.
I know, my job sounds glamorous, I’m sure you envy my jet-setting from Zanzibar to Nairobi to Addis and smiling with the locals or telling the exciting story or showing the lovely new item, but please know that each journey starts with, “What have I gotten myself into?”

We sat on what we would later hear described as a “prison bus”, three to a seat. Myself, that handsome husband of I, and my stranger-artisan to his side. The stranger spoke no English and mostly sat, staring forward, as we waited for the bus to leave the dark Addis bus station. Soon, the sun rose, and we were still not in motion. Finally, about an hour longer, we were ready to take off. My tailbone already hurt, but this was nothing compared to the experience of sitting.
The screaming of passengers in Amharic to one another, the vendors on-and-off the bus with cookies and tissues and phone vouchers, the jarring of the engine beneath us, and the chill of the breeze outside, mixed with the begging man by our seat, crying, saying things we could not comprehend, a tired mind, and the reality that we had no idea what to expect was enough to bring us both to the end before we even left the station.
As we took off from the city, we bounced around and Ethiopian music blared over our heads. I looked over at my travel companion, who was obviously weary and wondering what I had gotten him into. Normally I have no one to answer to, so the response, “…this is just something I have to do…" is enough. Not this morning. We had no idea where we were going, or how long it would take to get there. We knew maybe two words in the language our guide spoke. We didn’t know where we would stay, or how much it would cost, or how safe the journey was. My attitude turned pretty sour as we tumbled down streets I’d never seen before and began to climb a mountain to lead us away from Addis Ababa. I looked to my right and saw a very tired, very unhappy, very ready-to-be-back-home-in-Dar-or-maybe-just-America man.
That’s when it happened.
The beat was unmistakeable. The Korean words, neither of us knew. But the song began and my laughter was uncontrollable. Neither were our dance moves. I’m sure we were the only people looking like us riding a bus like that on that day. We both smiled like kids who had just received pillowcases filled with only the best Halloween candy.

God knew we needed Gangnam Style. Right at that very moment.
And He was merciful to deliver it to us.

It’s funny to me, because in all honesty, it’s not just within my job that I ask the all-too-familiar question, but it’s pretty much everything. Where I am physically, where I am emotionally, where I am spiritually. My marriage. My friendships. What I am making for dinner. And more deeply, just me in general.
"What on earth have I gotten myself into?"

I want to be on to what’s next, what ever what’s next is, because this couldn’t possibly be where/who/what I should be.
It creates a pretty silly, sad, unsatisfied me.
I will spare you a lengthy description of the ugliness, because I think you may have an inkling of what it looks like (hint: you’ve seen it in yourself…well, maybe not you, but perhaps you have a “friend” who is like this…).

Let’s get to the good part.
I am so thankful that my God, my Father, has a sense of humor, and he shares it often.

Let me be real.
The bus ride did not stop, and really, nothing changed. In fact, it lasted seven more hours. Two of them on very harsh, extremely bumpy roads.
I didn’t magically learn Amharic.
The stranger didn’t magically learn English.
The music only got louder.
The bus only got hotter.

But we had Gangnam style and a beautiful view.

Our minds about the whole day were being changed, moment by moment.

Sometimes in our waiting, it is hard not feel sadness/anger/confusion for why we aren’t on to the next one. And sometimes we wait a really long time, just searching our way through the dark. But I am convinced that the Creator of this big and beautiful world, who also knows the number of hairs on my (and your) head, just loves us even tenaciously through the stage. It’s hard for me to think He just lets us enter these parts of our journey for nothing.
Doesn’t mean he changes it. But maybe, sometimes, in the waiting, He gives us a familiar song to sing or a new view to keep our attention for the main event- the lesson He is teaching. Because, ultimately, He wants to change us.

{And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
+isaiah 58.11}

It is difficult to be teachable (and I need desperately to be teachable). It is easy to become frustrated. God is merciful.
Our needs, and even our dreams and desires are not foreign to Him, and He does not see them as hassles or hurdles. Instead, he gives us just what we need at the right time. Sometimes we don’t even know what that is.
Sometimes what we need is money.
Sometimes its a good old-fashioned bear hug.
Sometimes its silence.
And sometimes, it’s a laugh.

On that Wednesday morning, that was it for us.
God knew we needed Gangnam style. We got it.

He got us.
Not by our own decision or a change in the circumstance, but just by God being God. Funny-generous-loving God.

I suppose that’s just how it works.

{About the rest of our trip…it was AMAZING! (spoiler alert: they ALWAYS end this way) For more travel stories, check out www.karamagifts.com}

you know better.

I have lived long enough to pray for things, get exactly what I asked for, and see it turn into a huge disaster. So I learned that my prayers need to go like this: ‘Lord here is what I want, I want it so bad can’t even stand it. I want it, I want it, I want it. But, you know better than I do.’
—Unka Glen Fitzjerrell 
This describes my (past,) present(, and future) prayers more adequately than my own words can right now. It is oh, so true, and He is oh, so good. Better than my plans, bigger than my dreams, more present and powerful than any fear.

happy new year


There’s a rhythm in rush these days
Where the lights don’t move and the colors don’t fade
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow 
In a world gone lean

Sometimes there’s things a man cannot know
Gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow
There’s no place to run and no gasoline
Engine won’t turn
And the train won’t leave

Engines won’t turn and the train won’t leave

I will stay with you tonight
Hold you close ‘til the morning light
In the morning watch a new day rise
We’ll do whatever just to stay alive
We’ll do whatever just to stay alive

Well the way I feel is the way I write
It isn’t like the thoughts of the man who lies
There is a truth and it’s on our side
Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes
Look into the sun as the new days rise

And I will wait for you tonight
You’re here forever and you’re by my side
I’ve been waiting all my life
To feel your heart as it’s keeping time
We’ll do whatever just to stay alive

Dawn is coming 
Open your eyes
Dawn is coming
Open your eyes
Dawn is coming
Open your eyes
Dawn is coming
Open your eyes

Look into the sun as the new days rise
There’s a rhythm in rush these days
Where the lights don’t move and the colors don’t fade
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow
In a world gone lean

But there is a truth and it’s on our side
Dawn is coming open your eyes
Look into the sun as a new days rise

{stay alive by jose gonzalez}

"now…anything is possible for me…"

in coaching and cheering on our incredible athletes from haven of peace academy at an international school sports weekend the past two years, i have had the privilege to watch and enjoy as a group of young women and men from a school situated in a majority-tribal area compete and delight in athletic competition. i could go on and on about how quick these kids are, how hard they play, not to mention their outstanding sportsmanship and ability to play each sport humbly. it doesn’t go unnoticed by my friends at hopac, or anyone else, as this school went away with fourteen trophies at the end of this weekend.

here is one of the students’ stories…

there is so much good happening in this country, yall.
oh Lord, teach me never to take school or sport or supportive family or shelter for granted. i have been truly blessed.

the plan.

this is the plan. other than this, i don’t really have one.

Tags: sketchbook

lots of little things

it’s november already?
the rains keep falling, and all the red dirt cools down for a moment, but only a moment, and then the humidity rises and the ants and mosquitoes invade our home and we know that soon enough the little fan in out bedroom will be a laughable attempt to keep us from sweating through our clothing.

but while the rain falls for five or ten minutes, i enjoy its tapping and coolness. i enjoy the breezes before and the brief cool that follows.

its the little things.
here are loads of little things i’m loving lately… 

on being high maintenance … i read this and was so relieved to read someone else saying what i feel so deeply so often.

keller blue’s sketchbook … i thoroughly enjoy her monday section on hellogiggles, and love her gem of a sketchbook. lovely through and through.

the five pound bag of pecans that we brought with us from america to make this…
image my first pecan pie (ever!). winston’s favorite. a (healthy) recipe- it. was. delicious.

the harvest scarf by sabahar, sold by karama. gorgeous colors, amazingly soft ethiopian cotton and silk, providing women and men with fair paying jobs and the opportunity to save money, and sending african teenagers to YoungLife camp. (yes, i love this scarf, and i love my job!)

every day with these kiddos is a day i love…

the fact that less than a year ago, this boy with a burned face and a scratched up body was throwing sand in the others’ eyes and kicking and screaming. he spent the better part of his days pushing away any love or affection given him. and now he is welcoming others into the orphanage he calls home, and running into my arms with laughter.
image (i know, redemption is no small thing.)

marriage is not for me … real. good. stuff.

the encouragement that comes when people give so i can travel and live here and do the work that i love…

{and now for little things i don’t love…

image this little scorpion guy right here…}

i guess i’ll take that with all the lovely little things the good Lord gives me every day…
its the little things.
and there’s thousands of em each day to give thanks for. 

this song and its lyrics keep making their way through my brain…
some things never change…there are still days when it’d be really nice to just hug my mama, drink almond milk, run at midnight, call my best friend on the phone just to say hello, and eat pho with my husband.
but every day, i’m grateful because i am walking with my Creator and Love…and there’s so much growing to do. so much to see. and the adventure doesn’t depend on where i am or even who i am, only whose i am. (and the great I AM.)

"…as long as we’re together, does it matter where we go?"

zanzibar + iringa : thousands of words














a picture says a thousand words, and there are plenty of stories to go with these… a ferry ride to a gorgeous island filled with five groups of delighted and hard-working artisans, eating lunch on the floor of a workshop with new girlfriends, pursuing new products, loving time with zanzibari YoungLife staff and leaders, relishing stories of dignity being shared… and an adventure with winston, a night market, and enjoying my job togther. only to leave the next day on a ten hour bus trip to a land of beautiful hills, big farms, metal workers, and proud masai mamas… hearing about how making ornaments from scrap metal paid for one young man’s college education, and how making ornaments from beads is paying for masai babies to go to school and widowed women to make their homes and buy food.
along the way, i got my hands on a thought-provoking book, and couldn’t stop turning the pages. toxic charity by robert d. lupton is a must-read for anyone who spends any time concerning themselves with poverty, disease, community development, economic freedom, and freedom in general.

here’s a little snippet that got me going…
"little affirms human dignity more than honest work. one of the surest ways to destroy self-worth is subsidizing human responsibility. and the creation of productive, meaningful employment fulfills one of the Creator’s highest designs." -robert d. upton

can i get an amen?
…so today, as i rest, i am filled with gratefulness work i’ve had and the work i get to do now, as well as the work i’ve seen over the past two weeks- of visionaries, daughters, mamas, teachers, and friends…all fulfilling one of God’s greatest plans for us.