Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The man on the book cover.

He stared at me, looked up to me, rather. His hair fine, and wispy, curved over his flat forehead, grazing the tops of his obedient eyebrows. His nose was a bit on the large size, but not so when compared with his fellow Frenchmen. His lips were thin, yes, but brimming with adventurous stories and melancholy history. His chin was the most defined feature, hosting a memorable cleft that might seem to disappear when he smiled. His eye were the most telling of all. Dark and shrouded in mystery. Pain had caused a slight exhaustion and loss contributed to the droopiness, but the rest of his face- cheeks, chin and all- provided relief to the misery felt through eye contact. 

He no sooner looked at me, then I had to look away. Such glances, though brief, caused a vulnerability on my part that I did not ask for nor desire. Secrets and confessions are meant for true love and sisters; yet his observations of me penetrated to my deepest parts. I was scared, yet intrigued. I was paralyzed by his visual embrace, and I wanted to smile, for he lacked his own. 

But then what?

What direction would the tiniest bit of cheer introduce into our awkward communication? Awkward on my part, I suppose, for he had no trouble looking my way, looking at me, looking into me. Does this kind of skill come only with practice? Or is it confidence that strikes a man to do such a thing. I do not have the answers. 

What I do know is that he walked away. He walked away as though I were only a passing glance, but he took with him a bit of my soul. He saw something in me that even I was afraid to confess. 

That I had seen him before.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

For all you dreamers out there.

Nearly two years ago, I was in Nairobi, Kenya visiting schools Ellie's Run for Africa had been supporting from our annual 5K fundraiser. It was an incredible time for me, putting faces and names to the children who have received an education because we wanted to help them so much. The school I really fell in love with during my stay is New Dawn High School. A secondary school located in the slum of Haruma, in Nairobi, was founded by a beautiful Kenyan woman, Irene Tongoi, in 2006.

"I loved New Dawn because it's progress you can see, touch and talk to…The classes did an assembly of sorts with us as their guests. The teachers introduced themselves and the students would cheer! You can tell they are true heroes in the eyes of these kids…Irene's life was changed, and because of what she saw [the need for secondary education], she did something about it. I hope I can be like her."
-Exerpt from my journal, July 20, 2009 (Haruma, Nairobi, Kenya)

Even two years later, Irene continues to inspire me. Her love for the people in Haruma combined with her steely determination to improve the community has given hope to distraught kids and families who believed they had no chance of an education or career path. That fear has been put to rest for students receiving uniforms, books, and shoes, knowing their education will continue.

Today, I talked with Irene; I hugged her, and I told her she is my hero. She is in Nashville this week, speaking with different groups to spread awareness about New Dawn. She will also serve as our guest of honor and emcee at Ellie's Run for Africa this Saturday, May 21st!

As Ellie's Run for Africa approaches, I would love to invite you to be a part of the story of New Dawn. Whether it's by spending some time with Irene this week or financially helping a student through school, you will have the chance to make a difference in the life of that school and the kids who walk through its doors every day!

Support Students by running.
Ellie's Run is happening in Nashville on Saturday, May 21st at 7:30am. You will have the opportunity to run alongside hundreds of others for the same idea: that all kids deserve the chance to dream big! You'll run with the name of a student on your back and finish the race by writing him or a letter of encouragement which will be sent the following week. Nashville Striders will take care of the timing to make sure this is an official race! Register here by May 17th!

Support by volunteering at the race.
We can't make the race happen without volunteers. As co-chair of the Culture/Education side of things, I'm personally looking for 5-8 more volunteers to help kids learn more about Africa and make sure all booths run smoothly during the event. Even if you can only come for a couple hours, we'll take it! Please email me if you don't want to run, but *would* like to support those who are by volunteering!

Support by helping me put kids in school.
I signed up as a Hero for Ellie's Run this year. As a Hero, I have committed to raise $250 to help 10 students financially with their meals, books and other necessities vital to the educational experience. The meal provided at New Dawn is the only one some students will have that day, and there is no education without books. I have donated the first $25. Please match my donation and help me reach my goal! I have met these students and I can tell you, their dreams for their lives are BIG.

Support by spending time with Irene.
If you are in Nashville this week, Irene will be sharing stories about New Dawn, its students and their dreams for the future at the home of Jason and Kim West in Franklin, TN, this Tuesday (5/17), at 7:30pm. Click here for additional information. RSVP here.

Let's make some dreams come true! Let's make a difference, on child at a time.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010


yesterday was unlike any other monday i've ever experienced. i prefer it that way. From 9am-9pm doug sanders took me on a crash course through homelessness in nashville. i met a lot of different kinds of people, from those seeking out ways to get involved in helping the homeless in nashville, to the police commander of the central precinct. i am incredibly inspired by doug, jeannie, and others who know the homeless individuals by name, sleep on the streets with them, find employment opportunities for those looking, and washing countless feet, both literally and figuratively. i felt closer to where i want to be in the company of these faithful, determined world-changers. their challenges are plenty, and their passion is abundant...this day is another small step in the continued journey of discovering out what i should do. what i want to do. what i am created to do.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

new life.

today, all things are made new! i receive this truth with much excitement and anticipation. for those who follow Christ and his teachings, each day brings the promise of possibility, adventure, and peace. there is nothing safe or easy about this path, yet it is a good path to follow.

lately, my schedule consists of scattered odd jobs and part-time gigs that help make the ends meet. this current season provides a lot of time for reading, reflection, and refinement. lots of refinement. i am a sucker for excitement and recent days have felt more like an endless hike in 110 degree weather through the thickest sludge of my messy life. and there are mosquitos. and no water. it's not fun. at the same time, my eternally optimistic personality also sees this hike as its own adventure, the kind of adventure that's miserable to go through but makes a good story 24 hours later. i know and see God's hand guiding me through this necessary process. i am grateful that his love for me refuses to allow me to stay the way i am!

i recently read this book, this book, and this book. in less than a week. now i feel like i can do ANYTHING. not joking. i am insanely inspired, and i am planning on riding this train for a while because the alternative is less than desirable. 

i decided yesterday that i'm not going to say no to anything. now that i put the resolution out there, some totally awkward or embarrassing or immoral opportunity will come my way. but i am unemployed (again). i have lots of time. what do i have to lose? i have the opportunity to learn new things, meet people i've never met before, be creative, write my own story (and stop worrying about others' stories), and enjoy being outside. 

today is day one. day one of new life. day one of possibilities. i am excited and full of hope.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

zenebework: "the gold rain"

there are so many stories and pictures and memories to share, but i'm losing the motivation to blog. i was going to write about the leper village in addis where some of my friends live and minister. i was also thinking about posting the essay i read to middle schoolers in khayelitsha, near cape town, south africa. i think i would just rather tell you about my experiences in person. show you the pictures and the express the emotions that come with them. who knows when i'll write in this again, but for now, a little less time on the computer is welcome.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Taste

This entry was written 8.16.09

I’ve been living on my own here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a week now, and I am quickly learning that the Lord has more confidence in me than I have in myself. Last Sunday I was anxious about being on “my own,” getting around, living by myself and essentially staying here without a team, team leaders or an itinerary that directs me each day. Now, seven days later, I am excited to say that I have done better than I thought I could and am so excited to be experiencing a taste of what it’s like to live here…in Africa.

Let’s start with the basics. Electricity is a treat. So is toilet paper. Running water is more dependable, but there have been days without it. There is no heat or air conditioning, hence the extra blanket on my bed. Bugs are a normal part of home d├ęcor. I have a daily routine of going around my flat and taking care of them. Needless to say, my baseboards are lined with flies. (Even as I have typed this in my bedroom a fly just went in my mouth and I ran to the bathroom thinking I had swallowed it! That is incredibly disgusting! EWWW!) The government blocks blogging, or so I've heard. Mexican food is a rare delicacy. Su asked me what I missed and I said “My family and friends, Mexican food and parks.” He took me to a restaurant here in town that serves tex mex and those nachos were heaven in my mouth (as opposed to that fly I thought I swallowed earlier). Cheese is SO expensive here (Over $6 for a half a kilo!). Islam is one of the biggest religions here (Christian Orthodoxy is most prominent, I think; Evangelical Christianity is also in the top 3), so I hear the call to prayer about 5 times a day, including 5ish in the morning, followed by loud roosters, braying donkeys, rain and radios blaring Ethiopian music. I fall asleep to fighting dogs, fighting cats, more fighting dogs and hyenas, rain and more fighting dogs. My bug bite collection is growing slowly and steadily. I have about 20 on each limb as well as my stomach, neck, and back; I go to bed fully dressed with socks, but I think one of the guest houses I stayed in prior to the one I’m in now had bed bugs. I have my own little apartment/flat in the guest house that has a porch overlooking the neighborhood. People here are like people in the south: super friendly and nice. I ride a scooter/car/thingy from Ayat to Murray which is about a couple miles. It’s 2 birr (less than $.20) and I get excited every time I hop in. I take the taxi from Murray to Hayahulet (that’s Amharic for 22 – a lot of sub-cites are names after numbers) where the Gladney office is, and to meet friends there – I love that I can take the taxi on my own and it’s great for people watching. Yesterday Su and I were on a taxi and the woman sitting next to me had a live chicken in her bag. Tea time is a normal part of the day here and I have absolutely no problem with that. Addis tea is amazing. Everything is very cheap here – I got a full-body, 1 hour back massage for $20. I will say this over and over again, but the people are amazing and you will never meet a stranger. Injera is the main deal in Ethiopian cuisine. It’s like spongy bread and you use it to pick up different meats and vegetables and sauces and you eat with your right hand only (I finally got the hang of that). I had injera before in Nashville and loved it, and I love it here too. If you eat spicy injera, you are a real Ethiopian, so last night I was called a real Ethiopian. To show love for someone, Ethiopians will feed you a handful of injera to your mouth…It took me a while to get there, but the Gladney kids were great. The Italians occupied Ethiopia for a brief time during WWII, so Italian food is pretty big here, too, and fire cooked pizza is common and delicious. Depending on the tribe they are from, women will have tattoos on their faces as a sign of beauty. Scarves are common for women to wear (obviously muslim women wear them all the time). Men don’t wear shorts…except Travis, from Gladney. My friend Tadie has the most amazing dance moves and his mom is hilarious. My friend Sammy is the most talented singer I know here. Teddy Afro just got out of prison. He is a very famous Ethiopian reggae/pop singer who speaks out against the government indirectly through his music. Conspiracy theorists say that’s why he was thrown in prison even though the gov’t says it was for a hit and run. Su works for TOMS and I’m jealous. I think Nati has read more books than I have. My friend Yemamu works for Gladney and does ministry where he lives with his family in the leper colony. Driving here is crazy. It’s like that in Kenya too. People definitely drive relationally here, not by the law. Is your donkey in the road? Maybe your heard of goats? Don’t worry, the cars will drive around them…most of the time. Construction here is like nothing I’ve seen in my western world. It’s about as primitive as you can guess for basic block laying and cement pouring: two people carry a tray with cement piled on top, they walk to the place and dump, go back and get more…repeat a million times. I watch BBC news sometimes and enjoy it thoroughly. Need a pack of gum? Toilet paper? Cigarettes? Shoes shined? Don’t worry, there are a million kids with all these things and more on every street you walk down.

I think this is the latest I’ve stayed up in a long time (it’s midnight and I usually go to bed around 9 or 10). I will get to the more serious things, don’t worry, but I wanted to give a glimpse into my life here. There’s never a dull moment.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

bible stories

Written 8.2.09

"...I also have decided that one of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus heals the blind man by spitting in the dirt and rubbing mud in his eyes. I love that story because it's messy. It's so random, so out of the norm of what a healing was perceived to be. Jesus didn't care what people thought and I admire that about him so much.I love that Jesus never lived according to others' expectations of him, and I desperately want to live the same way."