Category Archives: Photography

Planting a Legacy

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It was a single seed planted before I was born by a man I never meet. A simple act, but as I ran my hand over the wood that formed the structure of our home I could not help but be thankful for that simple act that gave us so much.

It is common in my husband’s tribe for fathers to plant trees for their sons. Years later those trees are harvested for wood which are then used for building. On a wet, cold evening my husband grabbed a bush knife and a raincoat and headed out to plant trees for our son. He had just turned six months old. We were about to leave the village, so he made it a priority to finish before we left.

We spent a little over a week sleeping in the house built from that tree. The house has come along way, and I am so thankful. Not only do we now have a permanent house for our little family, but we also have a place for teams to come and stay and a place for family and friends to sleep when they visit.

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I never had a chance to meet my father-in-law. Sadly, he passed away the year before my husband and I met. But, he left a legacy with that simple act of planting a tree for my husband when he was just a boy. I think about him when I walk past that huge tree stump still sitting in the churchyard. He never had the chance to meet his newest grandson, but he left a legacy, and we are all grateful for that.

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Stealing my Joy

As I was hand-washing two large sinks full of laundry the neighbor started burning her trash sending a cloud of smoke billowing into our yard. “Oh joy,” I thought as I rung out a towel. “All this work washing the clothes, and they’re just going to end up smelling like smoke.”

But my mind wasn’t really on the laundry or even on the neighbor’s smoke. My thoughts swirled around a lady I’d never met who thought that my husband should be with her not with me. She took pictures off my facebook page, posted them on her own page and she and her friends proceeded to slam us, our marriage, and even our ministry.

To be honest my heart hurts for her. This particular lady says she wants to be a missionary, but has not yet been able to go. She seems to want what other people have, a happy marriage and an active ministry. Because that hasn’t happened yet in her life, she has allowed bitterness and jealousy seem to take hold of her stealing her joy, so in turn she wants to steal other people’s joy.

I share this story not to put her in a negative light. She is clearly a hurting individual. We have forgiven her written attacks and have prayed that God will bring people into her life to help her work through the pain that she is obviously going through. I share this story as a reminder that it’s so easy to let someone steal your joy. There are times that I have let her steal mine. In frustration over what she has said against my husband, I let her disturb my peace. At the end of the day, the truth is still the truth. God sees my attitude just as he sees hers. That’s what I’m responsible for, my attitude, not hers or anyone else’s.

This doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to get away with hurting others, it means that God is a defender. He is a God of justice. He sees people’s hearts, motives and actions; and He acts.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.” –Psalms 18:25-27

Having God as our defender doesn’t mean that Christians must be passive and let people stomp all over their lives. We can actively face our problems, but knowing that God is fighting for us our focus needs to remain on maintaining our own personal peace remembering that ultimately God is fighting for us. This week a wise friend of mine told me, “when people throw bricks at you to bring you down, collect those bricks and use them to build a firm foundation for yourself.”

Don’t let someone steal your joy. At times I’m tempted to take pictures down from facebook or just delete my account so that I don’t have to see the hateful posts that a small minority of people write, but doing that would be allowing someone to steal my joy. Facebook helps me stay connected to my family and friends even though I’m oceans away from so many people that I cherish. I love seeing my friends’ children growing up. I love hearing about graduations, birthdays, and even the little moments of life. As far as photos go, I love photography. Pictures have a way of bringing a smile to my face and pulling happy memories to mind. I’m not going to let someone I never met take that joy from me.

The smoke cleared just as I finished the last of the clothes. I hung them up in the clear, warm sunshine; and as I folded them later in the afternoon there was no trace of smoke on them. Trials come. Smoke stings your eyes and threatens your happiness, but it doesn’t last forever. The sun comes out, and it’s stronger then the smoke will ever be.

I don’t know who is trying to steal your joy today. Chances are someone is, but don’t let them succeed. It’s a new day, a fresh start and people can only steal your joy if you allow them to do so.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

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Keep Me Safe

IMG_66366 a.m. the sun barely tinting the sky. The more light appeared the more ice appeared. Elsa’s dreamland, but not conducive to carrying overweight suitcase from our little cabin in the woods to where the car was parked. I wouldn’t have been up if the plan hadn’t been to start our trip that morning from my parent’s house to Chicago (which on a sunny day is a 6 to 7 hours drive). The sun had a way to go before it would win over the ice, which left us no choice but to delay our trip until the roads cleared enough for safe driving.

In spite of the ridiculous cold, something in that icy early morning air felt a bit magical. The world lay in a stunned sort of silence. The beauty of winter frozen in time, but just for a moment. The morning sun threatened to melt the spell.

Since the trip was delayed, I grabbed my camera and stole a pair of my dad’s rubber boots. It’s hard to take a bad picture in the middle of so much beauty. As I snapped away, I spotted a tiny nest dripped in icicles tucked safely in the branches above. “That,” I thought, “is a picture of refuge, a picture of resilience.”

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I’ve been reading through Psalms again. Somehow I always seem to come back to reading the Psalms especially when starting a new phase in life or when going through a difficult period. There’s something so raw and honest in the words of the Psalms. Deep cries for justice and honest searching for life’s meaning. There are also tremendous amounts of hope on each page of poetry. Such beauty in word choice, and deep meaning in each line.

As I’ve been reading, the word refuge keeps surfacing. I love the idea of God as the one safe place in the midst of life’s uncertain, icy storms. He is a shelter when challenges seem overwhelming, a rock of hope when injustice overwhelms. There are no promises of an easy life, but like the nest high up in that tree there is always a place to go for shelter. There is always a place to stay until the sun melts the icy night. “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.” –Psalm 16:1

“Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” –Psalm 5:11-12

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Just a Page

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I was still a bit jet lagged, sitting at my sister’s bridal shower party focused on rediscovering the sensation of flavorful food, when a friend of mine turned to me and said, “so what did you bring back from Kenya?”

“Ringworm,” my jet lagged brain replied. We both laughed and then went on to talk about her daughter’s current trip to Honduras and the joys and pains of living outside your home country. What did I bring back from Kenya?—memories of emotional highs and lows, stories that probably wouldn’t make much sense to someone who wasn’t there at the time. I brought back the burden of the hurt that I saw but couldn’t fix. But, I also brought back feelings of unexplainable joy from being a part of a community that loved God and sought Him constantly.

I think the question is more how have I changed as opposed to what did I bring back. Because I have changed—so much sometimes that I don’t know how to explain it. Travel does that to you mostly because of the incredible people that you meet along the way. There is some sort of desperate connection that can take place where two people who have never met suddenly find themselves thrown into circumstances so overwhelming and unfamiliar that fast, almost unexplainable friendships happen.

Maybe it’s the type of people that travel attracts, but I think it has more to do with the layers that are torn off when you leave everything that’s comfortable and enter somewhere where you can barely communicate, break cultural norms on a daily bases, and become completely dependant on people who yesterday were total strangers. It’s completely petrifying at times, and once you live through it you leave changed.

I think that’s why travel is so addicting. Once you find that yes you can survive outside the “safe” the “comfortable” of what you know, so many incredible doors are open to you, so many adventures, so many amazing new people that you never would have met if you’d stayed safely in your own home. Yes, sometimes you come back with ringworm, or other unwelcome side affects, but it’s worth it for the way that you are molded into someone new—someone who sees more then just the familiar.

I’m getting ready to get on a plane again. I’m trying not think too much as it’s a bit scary standing, once again, on the edge of the unknown. What’s it going to be like this time? Is it safe? Will I have enough resources to make it? What will the day to day look like? I have no idea. All I know is that this is where God wants me. He has given me that peace. He has given me this opportunity to travel, and it’s all in His capable hands. So here we go. One more page, one more chapter to a story that I never could have written for myself.

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Filed under Kenya, Photography, Travel

Feeding my Soul

IMG_2564Laying in the sun—palm trees, a pristine pool, tropical flowers. It feels like a different country, almost a different world. The sun feels so rejuvenating and the cold that has refused to go away for the last three weeks has finally started to break up. There’s nothing like a break in the sun after months of working non-stop. Not that I mind. I love my life, the kids at the children’s home, the daily routines. But, with such an emotional job it’s healthy sometimes to get away; and Mombasa is the perfect place to recharge. The food is amazing (yay a break from ugali and beans). The weather is deliciously warm.

For the last three days I haven’t had anyone really need anything thing from me which feels so good after spending the majority of the last nine months constantly on call caring for 17 of the most wonderful kids in the world. Even though I love the kids I work with to death, it’s a physically and emotionally exhausting job. It’s nice to get away from all the pressure, expectations, and endless needs. I’m already feeling so refreshed after just three days, so I know I’ll be able to do a better job when I return.

Travel, new places, cultural, all feed my soul. There is something so incredible about getting to discover or rediscover a new place. Tuesday we spend the day exploring Mombasa’s Old Town. We bartered a price with a great guide who took us all over the city. We saw the spice market, hundred year old buildings, and even ducked our heads into the fish market where we saw everything from dried shark meat to live lobster.

I ate Swahili prawns for lunch fresh shrimp cooked in coconut sauce. It was heavenly. I’m glad I live in such a diverse world. Full of such beauty and flavor. Last night we sat out in the gazebo chatting with our neighbor and new friend from Germany. We talked about life, God, and the challenges and joys of working in ministry. I love those moments. I feel so alive, at peace, full of purpose, and happy in the presence of my creator. He has made such a beautiful world, and I love being able to enjoy different pieces of His work.

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The Only Story I Have

6/23/13

“Tell us a story,” he said. My mind went blank. I thought back to the time when I loved nothing better than sitting in the back of a pick up truck surrounded by my brothers and sisters making up story after story as the truck bounced along the red Congo roads.

A story… now all those make believe tales seemed flat, and the only story I wanted to tell was theirs.

We took a walk today the whole tribe of us minus two. Ruthann took the lead looking her usual confident and beautiful self with two kids clinging to each hand and the rest floating around her.

I brought up the back. A newcomer to the Sunday walk, but loving the feeling of two little hands in mine as we walked along the dirt road jumping mud puddles and enjoying the view. I almost lost a flip flop at one point when I miss judged the depth of a puddle. I managed not to lose it completely, and we went on our way past the kid’s school and down towards town. Ruthann left the kids piled up by the bank of the road while she and I ducked into a shop to buy some batteries. The Duka’s (shops) are barely big enough for five people to fit in and the owner sells his goods through a barred window.

The first shop did not have batteries, but the store keeper directed us two stores down. This time we were successful AA’s for 60 shillings (about 70 cents). Now the boys would be able to finish their haircuts. The razor’s battery had given out halfway through leaving two of the boys with partially shaved heads (a sight I’m sure our guests had wondered about earlier in the day when they dropped in unexpectedly). No one had said anything, but I’m sure they were wondering if some new hair style was going around.

After purchasing batteries, we rejoined the kids and headed back down the road. Once again, Ruthann looked like the pide-piper just without the pipe. We of course got looks from people as we walked along—two girls in their twenties and 15 kids parading down the road. We passed the 2 in 1 butchery, and I had to wonder what the second half of the business entailed.

“Make a hole,” Ruthann would yell back, and the kids would part to make room for a bicycle, piki (motorcycle), or a donkey cart. At this point in the walk the two kids holding my hands had switched to two different kids. We took the scenic route back, and by the time the Children’s home was in sight my group of four of the smaller ones was singing and playing with sticks they had picked up on the side of the road.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell any other stories for awhile Diki, Kevin, Zippi, Jane, Zach, Nicholas, Veronica, Ruth, Samuel, John, George, Little Kevin, Charity, Virginia, Michelle, Esther, and James have completely captured my heart.

The only story I have

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Keep Calm… and Wait

Ireland’s 40 shades of green left me speechless at times. The peaceful hills peppered with sheep, castles that appeared to have popped out of a fairytale book, sandy beaches, impeccable gardens, and spongy grass that made me want to curl up on the side of a hill with a favorite book and never go back to the real word. As my friend Treena fittingly said, “it’s a photographer’s dream.”

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We spent five days in Northern Ireland exploring the coast with friends, eating fish and chips, and walking around Belfast’s city center. People were incredibly friendly, and since my friends had a car we were able to see everything from the Newcastle coast in the south to the Giant’s Causeway in the North.

As beautiful as the land was, my favorite part was getting to spend time with friends from college my friend Lindsey and her husband Cris who live in Northern Ireland and my friend Mandy who is living in Russia but was visiting during the same time Treena and I were there.

It was amazing catching up, making new memories, and experiencing the beauty of Northern Ireland together. Before heading to London to catch a plane to Nairobi we crossed the boarder into Ireland and spent the night in Dublin. At night Dublin is alive with music floating through the air and groups of colorful people packing the streets. Before we caught our plane in the morning we saw the sleepy side of the city with most of the shops closed and relatively deserted streets.

Our flight to London went smoothly with only a small delay. We spent the night at my friend Steph’s flat, and it was great talking travel and journalism with her and her flat mates. In the morning Treena and I got up early to catch the tube headed to the airport. Things seemed to be going smoothly. We made it through security, found our gate, and waited to board the plane. Boarding went well. We were able to get seats together (thank you British Airways) even though we had originally been placed in different rows. We found our seats, stored our luggage, and waited for the plane to take off. Tired from the previous day’s travel and from getting up early I dozed on and off and woke up to an announcement that the plane’s fuel levels were high so the crew had to do additional checks before take off. About an hour later another announcement was made asking everyone to leave the plane, take all of their luggage, and re-board at a later time. They gave us vouchers for lunch and asked us to stay in the terminal and wait for further instructions. Finally at 4pm we boarded the plane again (we were originally supposed to depart at 10:45am).

We got on the plane and waited and then waited some more before the pilot informed us that because one of the passengers had failed to show up (and the passenger’s bags were still on the plane) the plane would not be able to take off unless the crew was able to get the bags off the plane in the next 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later we were still on the plane but then told to get off the plane while they switched us to a different plane. Off we went again, another food voucher, more waiting, a little more waiting, and then back at 8pm to board the plane for the third time. We got to our gate in plenty of time to board just to hear that the plane’s crew had not yet arrived so it would be another hour. By 9pm we were finally on the plane and when the plane finally started to move down the runway we all clapped. Even though we ended up leaving close to the time we should have been landing it just felt good to get to Kenya. Customs and Visas went well. All of our luggage arrived, and friends were waiting to pick us up at the airport.

Kenya has been incredibly amazing, but I’ll have to save that for another post. All I can say is that I’m in love with Africa and especially with the 17 kids who live at the children’s home. The experience has been so rich already to the point where I don’t even know how I will begin to start describing it. God has been so good, and I know He is going to teach me so much during this next year.

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