Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm Moving!

Or rather, my blog is! Check out my new "home" at Check it out!

Three Day's Pay

Check this out!

I'm so excited! One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson, just started a blog. I've been reading his online journals for years, and he's incredible. Be sure to check him out!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Animated yourself lately?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rate My Airport

Got an interesting airport/travel story? Check out my new blog!

If you have a story to share, just email it to :)
Dappled path

Keep Moving

Breathe deep

Keep Moving

Climbing up

Keep Moving

Finally the view

Keep Looking

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

To Whom It May Concern Part 4

Dear Germ-a-Phobe Coworker,
I love that when you hear someone coughing, you haul out your tub-o-Clorox wipes and and coat your whole cubicle with their germ-killing goodness. I fully expect to see you wearing a mask to work one day like those people in Asia who are scared of catching some kind of flu from birds. But now I have an overwhelming urge to sneeze on your desk every time I walk by.

Your Germy Friend

Dear Car,
I don't normally write letters to my car. But you are the exception. I don't know what I've done to make you hate me so much. Maybe it was because I called you the chariot of satan when you left me stranded for the fourth time. I didn't mean it. I was only joking. So please stop mocking me by working for the mechanic and giving me the proverbial bird every time I try to start you.

Can't we just be friends?
Your Submissive Driver

Dear Mechanic,
Look, I know you and my car are plotting against me. I don't know what you're slipping in her gas tank, but she obviously likes being with you more than she likes being with me. But please know that I will show up at your garage at 7 a.m. every morning until she works like she's supposed to. Because I'm persistent like that.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Can you see me?

I realized something this weekend.

I spent much of my childhood and adolescence trying to be invisible. I didn't want people to notice me. In elementary school, I was painfully shy. When it was my turn to read out loud, I would fly through the words--onefishtwofishredfishbluefish--desperate to just get them out, get it over with. Desperate for all eyes to be trained on someone other than me.

In middle school it became a survival instinct. Like an animal in the wild blends in with its surroundings, I too tried to blend in. Fly under the radar. Not call attention to my clumsiness. My awkwardness. My nerdiness.

And on it went. I was pretty good at it. Too good maybe. Because it was in my teen years I realized I couldn't just turn it off. It wasn't like a light switch--now you see me now you don't. I had spent my life blending in, flying under the radar. And now nobody would notice me. I camped at the same summer camp five summers in a row. Yet nobody knew me. Beyond my close ciricle of friends, people knew nothing about me. Sure, they may know my name, may recognize my face. But that's all.

I feel like I'm still fighting it. It's my natural instinct to sink back, observe, blend in. I was reminded of that at church this Sunday. I went to the late service, which I rarely do, and sat by myself, which I usually do. During the greeting time, a couple introduced themselves, asking if this was my first time. I had to tell them that I had been attending this church for a year. In the foyer after the service, I was chatting with one of the kids from my first grade Sunday school class, which I teach during the school year. Her mother stared at me blankly--How do you know my child? she asked. And I had to tell her that I had taught her daughter for nine months.

So, I don't really know what to do. Or if there's anything I even should do. I don't want to be the center of the party.

I just want you to know my name.

Friday, June 22, 2007

About Something Other Than Us

Don't you hate it when you miss out on something really cool? Well, I don't want you, my loyal reader(s) to miss out on this like I almost did.

If you look to the right, there's a sidebar, called the 40 Day Fast. Each day, someone in that list is going to blog about a cause--something they believe in. I read many of those blogs daily, and I am often moved to tears--and more importantly, moved to action--but the words of these people, most of whom I've never met.

I ask you to take a few minutes and read the daily blog, and pray about how God is moving you to think about something other than yourself.

The fast starts today! So read Kat's entry, linked to the right. And for more details about this fast, just read the "learn more" link just below the 40 Day Fast Banner.

Monday, June 18, 2007

To Whom It May Concern Part 3

Dear Mr. Mechanic,
Seriously? Do you really think that I wouldn't know if had "one of 'dem electric cars"? I know that my car is not electric. I don't care if you've never seen a battery like that before. I'm a girl, but I'm not an idiot. Now put those gosh-darn jumper cables on that "weird" battery and just jump the thing before I attach the positive to your nose and the negative to...your toe.

Cranky Girl with the Broken Down Car

Dear Cute Guy at my Apartment,
Thank you for distracting me when Mr. Mechanic was working on my car. Had it not been for you, we may have learned what happens when jumper cables are attached to a human. And you were friendly, and sympathetic, and nice to look at, to boot. You made my stressful morning just a bit better.

Your Distracted Friend in the Parking Lot

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Wednesday--When I left work, my car wouldn't start. Called roadside assistance, waited 40 minutes, some teenager jumped my car, and I drove home. Thought it was just a fluke.

Thursday--Left work. Car wouldn't start. AGAIN. Some friends jumped it this time. Drove it to the dealership. Got a mini van for a loaner. Lost cool points. See earlier posts.

Friday--Got a call, saying that my car had a bad battery. Took mini van back. Felt inexplicable sadness. Wondered if I should get something pierced or tattooed to balance it all out.

Sunday--Got in my car to meet family for a baseball game. Car wouldn't start. I thought impure thoughts. Said some things that shouldn't be repeated. Called and left a mean message for the dealership.


I'm so stinkin' frustrated right now.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's a small world after all

So for some reason, my blog seems to have gone international today. I had visitors from the US, Spain, Germany, Ireland, India and Canada.

I would just like to say, hello my international friends! I'm sure you were all drawn here by my uber coolness.

Sorry to disappoint you!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

As if I needed help looking uncool

I am currently driving a minivan. Well, not current as in right this second, but you know what I mean. Today my nice cute car decided it wouldn't start. So they gave me a minivan as a loaner.

Just picture it. Me, in my khakis and my sensible shoes. Tearing up the streets of Colorado in a mini van. The 3.6 cool points I had have strunk to a measly 0.01. And I only kept that hundredth of a point because said van has a DVD player.

God is having quite the laugh at my expense today. Along with the rest of the world.

Seriously? A minivan? Perfect.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If I were a college president...

Here goes, my first blog inspired by you, my loyal reader(s).
(I'm skipping the comment about the Cardinals, since I obviously just blogged about them.)

Perhaps the rigors of presidential searches for college or university presidents?
(Just a note...I'm not going to try to think about what was meant by the comments...I'm just going to blog about the first thing that pops in my mind as I read them...which is a dangerous thing to do, I assure you.)

So, I wonder what I would do if I were a college president? As someone who worked at a college for three years (and attended one for four), I feel like I'm an expert on higher education. But of course, I use the term "expert" very loosely.

My experience with college presidents is one of their primary goals is raising money. Since I don't think I'd be very good at that, I think my first order of business would just to rob a bank and get it over with. Or maybe I can pay some of the students at my fictional college to rob a bank. College students will do anything for a pepperoni pizza and a $10 bill.

My second task would be to add some really cool classes. First, would be the obligatory underwater basket-weaving. Then, I would offer some classes that people will use in real life. Bill Paying 101. Fighting Your Slowing Metabolism 200. Cooking a Gourmet Meal with a Box of Macaroni Cheese and a Loaf of Stale Bread 300. You get the idea.

Finally, I would have to launch a building campaign. Because you're just a failure of a college president if you don't have a building campaign. My building would be a multi-level student center. The first floor would have a indoor roller derby ring. Second floor, would have virtual reality study pods. You would pop in a disc, and whatever you were studying would come to life. If you were studying the Civil War, you would feel bullets wizz past your ear. If you were reading Tom Sawyer, you would feel the breeze from the Mississippi. If you were studying math...well, you could see some cool floating numbers or something. I still need to work out some kinks.

So, that's what I would do as a college president. I'd have a way cool college. That I would probably run straight into the ground in about three weeks.

Unless, I can keep bribing students to rob banks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All I need is a lunch hour.

My friend Krissy and I solved all the problems of the world today over our lunch break.

You can thank me later.

Well I Never...

I'm formulating my thoughts to post some blogs inspired by all TWO of the readers who commented on my last blog. But until then, I thought I would post a list of things that I've never done. Because, that's how I roll :)

1-I've never learned how to drive a stick-shift. Which will really hurt me if I'm ever a contestant on The Amazing Race.

2-I've never watched Star Wars. Not one single movie. Shocking, I know.

3-I've never learned how to play a musical instrument. Never took piano lessons. Never played guitar. I did play the juice harp one day, but I don't count that.

4-I've never listened to a U2 album. I've heard random songs, but never listened to a whole album. Actually, I would venture to say I've never even touched a U2 CD. I'm so deprived.

5-I've never been skiing. I live in Colorado. I'm an abnormality.

Wow, this post is boring even me. I'm out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Something to say...

I feel like I have so many thoughts banging around in my head, that I can't even narrow it down to a blog post. That's partially because I haven't been blogging enough, so when I do finally blog, there's just too many thoughts, and not enough time or energy.

So, my goal is to start posting AT LEAST once a week. I think I've set that goal before. But, this time I'm enlisting your help. What should I blog about? Post an idea, a question, a topic, or whatever in the comments, and I'll blog about it. Anything at all.

Good Lord, this could be scary. Or it could be like the time I worked at our college radio station in college, and I had an on-air contest to win a CD. And not one person called.

We'll see what happens!

Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm a traitor

So, last weekend I went to my first professional baseball game. I was meeting my aunt and uncle, who were in town, and the Rockies game. When we got there, I saw a lot of red shirts. And I realized we were playing the Cardinals.

OH, the dilemma! I don't really "pull" for any pro team. I usually just "cheer" (I use that term loosely) for the team closest to where I live. But what to do? Some of my closest friends are rabid Cardinals fans. But I live in Colorado. I didn't know what to do.

So I did what any non-fan would do...I just clapped when the people around me clapped. Which meant I clapped for the whole game. I clapped with the Cardinals fans to my right. I clapped with the Rockies fans seated behind me. I clapped at homeruns. I clapped at strike outs.

I felt bipolar for a good three hours.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

Stealing Blogs Again

Because I'm lazy and can't think of a good blog topic, I thought I'd steal this one from Greta :)

Four jobs I've had: camp counselor, baseball park concessions worker, baby sitter, and feature writer

Four places I have lived: Pamplin, VA; Nashville, TN; Hannibal, MO; Colorado Springs, CO

Four movies I watch over and over: You've Got Mail, White Christmas, Lord of the Rings, The Incredibles (What a weird combination)

Four favorite foods: white chicken chili, pulled pork, apple cake, butter beans

Four favorite TV shows: Lost, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Good Eats, Ugly Betty

Four places I'd rather be right now: Ethiopia, Brazil, hanging out with my family in VA, at home taking a nap

Four things I wonder about: Will I get married and have a family? Where will I get to travel next? How does prayer work? Is it possible for me to finish my to-do list today?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

To whom it may concern...

Dear First-Grader in my Sunday School Class,
I know you kids are all about the honesty. I'm down with that. But please don't ever tell me "You need to get married soon so you can still have babies." That one sentence from you made my fallopian tubes shrivel up from the hopelessness. It ain't cool kid. Ain't cool.

Your Old Maid Sunday School Teacher

Dear Neighbor in #1235,
You seem like a nice guy. Honest. You were even friendly to me one day when I wasn't wearing any make-up. I respect that. But you have to whistle every morning when you leave your apartment? I know, I'm cranky in the morning. And I appreciate that your whistling is the only sound I ever hear from you. Come on, though. Who can be that cheery in the morning.

Your Cranky Pants Neighbor in #1236

Dear Pastor,
I like you. I think you have great sermons. But can't you use one metaphor that doesn't relate to families? I'm not a parent, wife or grandmother. I can't relate to raising children. I can't understand what it's like to fight with my spouse. Could you please, please stop reminding me of the fact that I'm single. Just talk to the First Grader in my Sunday School Class-she knows the drill.

Pouting in the Pew

Dear Hairdresser Lady,
When someone comes to you and says "Do whatever you want with my hair...absolutely whatever," do not give them a bob. A bob is the antithesis of a stylish haircut. My friend in high school who had never cut hair in her life could even give me a decent bob. I want to be cool. I want to be stylish. I do not want a haircut that has the same boring name as half the middle-age men in the world.

Bobbed in Colorado

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Losing my mind...

Can a 27-year-old have Alzheimer's? This weekend I was meeting a friend for lunch. As I drove down the street, I realized I forgot said friend's name. Seriously? I kid you not. Had no clue what her name was. Even after I saw her, still didn't know. Thank goodness someone else eventually said her name.


Losing. My. Mind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I love my job...

So, I love my job. I love the stories I get to write, I love learning about children who have been resuced from poverty, I love feeling like my job matters.

Because of that, I'd like to begin posting periodic stories that I've written about Compassion. At the end of each post will be a link to the story on, and I would encourage you to explore the site, and maybe even sponsor a child.

Is this kind of lazy (repurposing stories for my blog)? Sure. But I think you'll like it.

And here's one to start you off with :)

Jesus Is Passing This Way
Elizabeth Karanja in Kenya, with Brandy Campbell
February 12, 2007

ONGATA RONGAI, Kenya — Sixteen-year-old Josephat remembers what it was like before drought and famine enveloped his village in Ongata Rongai, but the memories are distant and fuzzy. He more clearly recalls lying in bed, his body bloated with hunger while his mother, Eunice, sat by his side and sang a familiar song: "Jesus is passing this way, this way today. Jesus is passing this way, is passing this way today." Her smooth voice brought comfort, and for a moment, he would forget the hunger.

A Pursuit for Survival
But even a mother's love does not fill an empty stomach. Millions of families in Kenya have been affected by drought, and though the government provides some rations for the people, lines are long and the supplies quickly run out.

"I would go around the village and send my four children to see where the government was going to distribute supplies next," says Eunice, her voice cracking with emotion. "I was affected by polio as a child, so I cannot walk as fast as the others. There were many times we didn't have any food to eat."

A Lifesaving Announcement
Just when Eunice had come to the end of her resources, Jesus truly did pass her way. One Sunday as Eunice and her children sat at the morning service at the Deliverance Church, the pastor announced that famine relief food would be distributed to the Compassion-assisted families.

Josephat's eyes widened as he stared at his beaming mother — that meant them! Josephat had been a member of the Deliverance Church Ongata Rongai Child Development Center for 10 years. He had always known the project would help him with school and vocational skills, but now it could literally save his family's life!

In the following weeks, nearly 1,000 families were aided by Compassion's relief efforts. Josephat and his family walked just a few miles from their home to collect their portion of rice and beans
— more food than they had known in months.

While all Compassion-assisted centers offer hot meals and nutritious snacks to registered children, droughts like the one in Kenya call for increased provisions. Compassion's Disaster Relief Fund provides food staples, including rice and beans, for affected children and their families.

"I am happy that Compassion helped us by giving us food," says Josephat. "Many times I did my homework on an empty stomach. Now, I can eat a meal and have energy to finish my work."

Releasing Children From Hunger
The drought in Kenya has devastated the region, and efforts made to meet the needs of even the Compassion-assisted children have been monumental. According to Benedict Omollo, Kenya's Country Director, Compassion has put together a strategy to train caregivers on food security and storage, as well as farming drought-resistant crops and effective livestock rearing.
Instead of leaving a trail of hungry children and hopeless parents, Compassion's famine relief efforts have released many children from the jaws of hunger in Kenya.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I'm going to brag for a minute...

I have lots of things I need to blog about. Recent visits with friends. Emotional thoughts about the VT tragedy.

But those both take thought. And my brain hurts this week. So instead, check out this powerpoint I created for Compassion Sunday. I really like the way it turned out :)

Just go here:
and click on the Compassion Sunday Presentation (#2).

Hopefully I'll be back to posting regularly soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So much stuff...

Last week, I almost had a panic attack in Target.

My cupboards were COMPLETELY bare, and eating stale potato chips for breakfast was getting old, so I decided to run to Target to pick up some groceries. As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized it was the first time I had gone shopping since I returned from Ethiopia. As I stood in the crowded aisles, I felt compeltely overwhelmed by all of the stuff. Sodas stacked ten rows deep. Wracks of sparkling jewelry. Enough food to feed entire villages in Africa. As I held a pack of Easter candy in my hand, contemplating that the cost equalled an Ethiopian farmer's pay for a week, I just wanted to run away. How do I find that balance between poverty and gluttony? How can people starve there while we gorge ourselves here? How do I reconcile those differences? How?

I pushed my squeaky cart down the shiny-tiled aisles, my head aching. I signed my credit card slip without looking at it. I willed the hot, angry tears not to fall from my eyes. Because I don't understand it. I don't know the answer. Children are starving, but that doesn't mean I should starve. Because they have no money for medical care doesn't mean I should not go to the doctor. Where is the inbetween?

God has blessed me so I can bless others. When I break that cycle, the truth about my heart is revealed. When I break that cycle, the scales tip crazily. When I break that cycle, I find myself crying at Target.

I mustn't break the cycle.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Summary of Ethiopia :)

Below are my journal entries from Ethiopia. They are backwards, so I numbered them so you can read them in order (1-9). I've also posted my photos on my Flickr website, in addition to the ones you can find below. That address is

Things I Learned in Ethiopia
-When you visit a country where the meanings of names are important, and your name essentially means a type of alcohol, you will be picked on.
-A simple breakfast of barley bread and hibiscus tea with my new Ethiopian friends is the perfect way to start a day.
-Even an Ethiopian personal trainer at the gym can spot me as a “beginner”—especially when I’m sitting backwards at the machine.
-Dehydration means not peeing for 12 hours.
-The only things granted right-of-way on the streets of Addis Ababa are cows and goats.
-Highway lanes are merely suggestions.
-When fruit is marinated, always ask what it’s marinated in. Or suffer the consequences.
-Sticking your head in an Ethiopian toilet is both humbling and disgusting.

Ethiopia Trip #9

March 31, 2007
Today I vomited in three countries. Today I realized that you haven’t truly lived until you’ve had stuck your head in the toilet at the Addis Ababa International airport. Today I christened Ethiopia, Egypt and London in a most unusual way.

I woke up at 2 a.m., a mere three hours before we were to leave for the airport. Before I was even fully awake I was leaning over the toilet. “This cannot be happening,” I thought. But my body insisted otherwise.

I won’t go into the details. I’ll just summarize the experience with the fact that I thought I would die. Or I wished I would die. The details are fuzzy. I insisted that we go to the airport at our appointed time. Our airline only made this flight once a day, and I just wanted to be home.

Seven trips to the bathroom later, I lay curled up on the plane, wondering if my body could somehow survive the nearly 17-hours it would have to spend in the air. My body answered with a definitive “NO!”

But it did survive. And by the time we landed in New York I felt like I just might live. Maybe.

Ethiopia Trip #8

March 30, 2007
Today I left Ethiopia. The streets were once again dark, and the city was quiet. No blaring horns. No children begging at my window. A few hours later I sat on a plane and bumped down the runway, my face pressed against the window. The same streetlights flickered, and cars had begun to fill the streets below. I left Ethiopia in a cloud of dust as our plane lifted into the air.

Now, a long day of travel is finally behind me. A little while ago, our plane descended on New York, and we were herded through customs. I was surprised at the reverse culture shock. I had taken for granted the kindness of the people of Ethiopia. The humble spirits. The kindness to strangers. In New York, I felt none of that. My thank you’s were met with glares instead of quiet nods and whispered you’re welcome’s.

I already miss the musical sound of Amharic voices. The English tongue sounds too loud to me, almost crude. I miss holding the warm hand of a child who has been rescued from poverty. I miss sipping hot bitter coffee as a display of friendship. I miss glass bottles of coke drank together in a cool office. I miss awakening to the sound of birds chirping and dogs barking and the morning prayers of the Orthodox church down the street. I miss the people of Ethiopia. How do you miss something you barely knew?

In a few minutes, I will shower and the last bit of Ethiopian dust will swirl down the drain. When I wash my face, the last Ethiopian kiss will disappear from my cheeks. It saddens me to know that the hibiscus tea that I spilled on my jacket will only be a faint stain after I do my laundry. That when I clean off my shoes, the dried Ethiopian mud will be swept away. I will only be left with a few framed photos, my stories, and a different heart. May it never be the same again.

Ethiopia Trip #7

March 29, 2007
Tonight I sat by the pool, bugs nibbling my ankles, and talked with a brilliant doctor about the reality of AIDS in Ethiopia. Dr. A is passionate and articulate, and his knowledge about this terrible epidemic was more than I could have researched on the web or read in a textbook. Because to Dr. A, AIDS is not just a topic, it is a reality.

Our conversation began the day before as we rode back from Walliso. Dr. A was visibly agitated by some things he learned on the trip, specifically the two mothers at one of the projects who had recently given birth to their babies without telling anybody that they had AIDS.

“It’s like they killed them,” he said sadly, shaking his head. By keeping their secret, they had more than tripled the chances that their infant children would contract this deadly disease. If they had breastfed, the chances tripled again.

“They still believe in this stigma, but it shouldn’t be. Every home has been touched by AIDS,” says Dr. A, his voice tinged with bitterness. “Everyone knows someone with AIDS. Everyone has attended a funeral of a family member or neighbor who died of AIDS. A stigma means it is something rare. I’m sorry to say, AIDS is not rare in Ethiopia anymore.”

We continued our conversation in the moonlight tonight, and Dr. A’s passion had not waned. AIDS is magnified by the poverty of Ethiopia. Malnutrition kills more quickly when a body is already weakened by AIDS. What’s the point of purchasing medicine when there is no money for food? Will a mother choose medical care for one of her children while letting the others starve? Should she?

Dr. A also shared with me that poverty means that the very people who try to stop AIDS are often put in danger. When he was doing his pediatric residency, he was assisting with the labor of a woman whose child would need immediate intervention after he was born. Dr. A asked for gloves, and was told there were none. The mother was HIV-positive. The child would die without his help. What choice did he have? So a few moments later, he held that bloody child in his bare hands and focused on bringing life—while trying to ignore the possibility of his own death.

He told us of a catholic nurse who cut the umbilical cord of a birthing mother with AIDS. A blood vessel ruptured, sending blood spraying, and hitting the nurse in the eye. When Dr. A met her, she was in the very same hospital where she once saved lives, fighting for her own. A simple pair of plastic glasses would have saved her life.

Ethiopia Trip #6

March 28, 2007
Today, I was able to visit a project where we work with school-age children. (As a side note, this was my second visit to this project—the first time my camera refused to work.) The ride to the project was over bone-rattling roads with deep ruts and narrow passageways.

It seemed that some of the children recognized me (I mean seriously, how often do they see a white person with big hair twice in one week!) The older children came up to me boldly, shaking my hand, asking my name.

God, they were beautiful! I don’t even know how to explain it. Such smiles! Such bright eyes! My heart hurt with all of it.

The kindergartners made me laugh. Since most of their eyes were at waist level or below, it took them a moment to get to my face. I could tell the instant the color of my skin dawned on them. Eyes grew wide. Mouths fell open. Some ran away. Others giggled. Three brave ones became my shadow. Each time I turned to look behind me, one would run away, one would cover her eyes and the other froze in his tracks. When I held out my hand to the paralyzed one, he took it shyly and walked with me a few steps. Soon he ran off, probably to tell his friends he had touched the white person!

As we left, a tiny girl approached me. Her face was freshly scrubbed, and as I knelt down to say hello, she kissed my cheek. I returned the gesture on her still damp one. How I wish time would have stopped. Even now, only a few hours later, the memory is already fading. To write it down is to hold it for a few moments longer.

Ethiopia Trip #5

March 27, 2007
Today I met four of the most strong, resilient women I’ve ever had the privilege of talking to.* Four women who raise the standards of mothers. I can only hope their children will one day understand how amazing their mothers are.

After two hours, we arrived in Walliso, a rural community 110 kms from Addis. As soon as we arrived in town, children ran alongside the truck, pointing at the white people inside. They giggled when we waved, even more when we spoke to them in English.

The first mother I would meet was Elech, and her daughter, Sig. While I waited for my questions and her answers to be translated, I made faces at Sig, who rewarded me with wide, toothless grins. She waved her arms in the air and made thwacking sounds on the smooth wooden desk in front of her. When Elech caught as at our game, she smiled shyly.

Elech summed up her need for help simply: “I am poor.” She rarely looked at me when she spoke, but rather she kept her eyes on Sig, who wriggled in a stained sling wrapped around her mother’s body. But despite her shyness, Elech looked regal. Her strong face displayed her will to survive. She was not giving up. She was humbly plowing forward, inspired by the grins and laughs of her child.

Nesh was the second mother I met. Her daughter, Bec, was a blur of activity, exploring the small office where we sat. When she discovered no toys or food, she climbed back in her mother’s lap, tugging impatiently at her blouse.

Nesh seemed tired. More than just raising an active 18-month-old tired, but something deeper, harder. I soon learned that she has a heart defect that drained her energy and left her weak. But still, even through her exhaustion, her love for her child broke through. As she waited for the translations to finish, she looked tenderly at her feeding daughter, gently smoothing her hair and kissing her forehead.

As I took the pictures of Elech and Nesh, I knew those flat images couldn’t capture what I saw. The fierce determination. The humble power. The weary love. The beauty. But I took them anyway, a memory burned to photo paper, saved to a hard-drive, emailed and posted and printed. Their stories must be told.

After a brief lunch, we went on to the next project. I was excited that this time I would be visiting two mothers in their homes.

Kesh greeted us at the fence that surrounded her home. A latrine leaned to the side near a water pump. By her community’s standards, life was not too bad. Len, her 17-mongh-old son stood in the front yard, naked from the waist down. He waved to us, then ran around, chattering in either Amharic or his own invented language. I couldn’t tell the difference.

As we began talking, rain fell outside, thunderous on the metal roof. I leaned so close that I could brush away the large flies that lit on the scab that covered Len's knee.

I quickly learned that Kesh has AIDS. Like Nesh, she has little energy to care for her active, headstrong son. Even wrestling an item out of his hand visibly tires her. But Kesh has retained her sense of humor. When I asked her what her hopes for her son’s future were, her answer inspired laughter to fill the room—“I hope he will go abroad.”

It saddens me that Kesh takes a 3-hour bus ride to the city each week to receive medical treatment. It saddens me because a hospital is a close walk away, but the stigma of her disease is too great to risk being seen by her neighbors.

The stigma she’s afraid of shouldn’t exist anymore. It is her own silence that holds her prisoner. The likelihood is each person in her community has teen touched by AIDS. Perhaps her next-door neighbor suffers from AIDS. Perhaps the woman she boys vegetables from in the market. Her best friend. Surely someone she loves has AIDS. Why hasn’t she learned yet that AIDS is not a punishment? When will her neighbors understand that they can’t catch this disease by shaking her hand or giving her a kiss on the cheek?

The last home we visited was tiny, surrounded by narrow strips of muddy ground. Here, Mara shared the 2-room home with her mother, two sisters, and her 11-month-old daughter, Helena.

Mara left home when she was in the 8th grade. She worked at a bar, and her days were filled with leering men who quickly stole her innocence. When she was 21, one of those men left her pregnant and alone. With no money, no husband and no way of supporting her child, Mara returned home.

When Helena was born, Mara was poised to flee again. Raising a child was hard. The newspapered walls of her home seemed to close in on her. Most days, Helena lay on a stained pillow until her grandmother would comfort the crying child.

But when Mara joined our program, she began to learn how to enjoy Helena. She felt less restless as she spent her days learning about nutrition and hygiene. She began to have coffee with other mothers, and together they brag about their growing children. And when Helena smiles with her chubby cheeks, Mara feels her heart tug. She’s still young. She’s still inexperienced. But finally, she‘s a mother.

As we left Mara’s home she stood shyly, her young face serious. When I took her photo, I had to convince her to smile. I wonder what keeps away her smile. The tiny, dark house? The responsibilities of motherhood? The hunger in her stomach?

But finally, the smile comes. Maybe it is from the warm, wriggling body of Helena. Maybe our conversation had served as a reminder of the hope she’s found. Perhaps she is recalling her answer to my last question that I asked a moment ago, when I inquired about her daughter’s future—“I want her to be a doctor,” she said with a wide smile.

As we pulled away onto the freshly muddy streets, we are surrounded by children. I hang my arm out the window, and they eagerly reach for it, shaking my hand, touching my skin. I can still feel their fingers, even as we pull onto the paved road miles away. Still hear their shouts. Still see their eyes.

Ethiopia is inside me.

(*The names of the people in this story have been changed.)

Ethiopia Trip #4

March 26, 2007
Today softened my view of Ethiopia. In the center of this busy city, I found beauty. Beauty in the faces of dozens of students who piled out of their classroom to smile for my camera. Beauty in the young boy who tugged at my shirt. As I bent low he asked me “How are you today?” then grinned widely at my words of praise. Beauty in the parade of children who followed me around the playground, shouting to all of their friends “Look, she’s white!” Beauty in the squeals and giggles that erupted each time I touched the top of one of the small heads at my waist. Beauty in the sweet little girls who swung on the gate as I walked back to the van, blowing me kisses each time I turned to wave.

What a blessing those precious little ones were. They couldn’t possibly understand that just one hour with them was enough to get me through the trip back to the hotel. Because for each child who knocked at my window, I knew there were a dozen more who had been provided an escape.

Ethiopia Trip #3

March 25, 2007
I’ve never been this close to poverty. I’ve read about it, I’ve written about it, I’ve seen it on television and in glossy pictures in magazines.

But today, it stood inches from me, separated only by a smudged window in the van I rode in. I didn’t know what to do when a child’s eyes peered into mine, her dirt-caked fingernails scratching at the window. I looked in my lap, at my own clean fingernails, listening to her beg in words that I couldn’t understand. But the message was all too clear.

It appeared again as we waited at a red light on a crowded street This time, as a mother. Her wrinkled brown breast hung out of her blouse, and the baby in her arms reached for it hungrily, his pink tongue bright against her skin. She held out her hands while I stared at the floor.

Over and over, at every stop, one or two would leave their spot in the shade to investigate the rich American. “Begging is bad—you should work for your money,” our Ethiopian friends say as the light turns green and we roll away in a cloud of gray exhaust.

I don’t even know how to close this entry. For the past ten minutes, I have stared out of my window at the darkening sky, waiting for rain. It hasn’t come yet, but when it does, I wonder what all of those people I saw today will do. Will the child play in puddles, allowing the rain to turn the dust on her body to mud?

Will the mother run for cover, shielding her child from the fat raindrops? Will the shade protect the others from the rain the same way it protects them from the sun?

What will I do? Will I stand in the rain, if only for a moment, my hands cupped, catching the rain in them, then letting it trickle to the ground? Or will I hide from the thunder and wind, averting my eyes again?

Ethiopia Trip #2

March 24, 2007
Ethiopia snuck up on me. As our plane landed at two this morning, all I could see were straight lines of streetlights. It didn’t look like Africa. It looked like any number of cities I’ve flown into in the United States.

The drive to the hotel was quick, and the dark streets were empty. My sleep-deprived mind processed little. Dark buildings. Road signs. Flickering orange lights lined the sidewalks.

But this morning, Ethiopia woke up, long before I opened my gauzy hotel curtains. A slum spread out below me. It must have been asleep last night—sleeping off the day of hunger, disease and poverty.

On the drive to lunch, I said little, my eyes trained on the streets teeming with people. I tried not to stare. I averted my eyes as people peered into our van—ashamed at my comfortable clothes, wallet full of wrinkled cash, even the color of my skin. But the sights kept drawing me back. The old men, their bodies twisted, dragging themselves along the sidewalks. The women, regal in their colorful dresses, heads held high. The children—so many children! They darted in front of cars, their dusty bodies gray in the bright sunshine.

I couldn’t shake the images. As I sat with my two new Ethiopian friends, the sound of their foreign words bouncing off my still tired brain, the city spread out below us, my mind continued to feebly process.

“You’re too quiet,” my friends teased. I just smiled at their observation. I couldn’t process it all.

Gradually, the initial—not shock, but lack of understanding—begin to clear. “Pace yourself,” I told myself as I sipped thick papaya juice. “It’s just your first day.”

So here I sit, at the pool at my hotel. Naked children scream and splash. My white skin stands out less here. But I know that just on the other side of the dense green trees and shrubs that shield me, there is another world. One rife with poverty.

A country of people whose story I am to tell.

A country of people who have already crept into my heart.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ethiopia Trip #1

March 22, 2007
10:30 a.m.
Denver International Airport

I could get used to traveling first-class. Hanging out at the Admiral’s Club. Reading the Wall Street Journal.

Our flight to Chicago is already delayed, but thankfully we had a three-hour layover, so hopefully we’ll be fine. Missing the flight to London would royally suck (get it, London, royally. You know I’m funny.)

It’s funny to me that 36 hours ago, I wasn’t even sure if this trip was going to happen. Some issues came up, some doubts were cast, and I was left in limbo, my emotions protesting at the yanking around they had dealt with. I don’t think they’ll stop complaining until our plane touches down in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!

I always like to process before a trip…try to figure out what my expectations are, preparing myself emotionally and spiritually. This trip encompasses so many firsts for me. My first time to Africa. My first trip with Compassion. My first encounter with unbelievable poverty. I’ve seen poverty before. I saw it in the tiny cinderblock houses in Brazil, in the long extension cords that shared electricity from the house of the most “wealthy” to the least.

But I didn’t see poverty like expect to see in Ethiopia. I didn’t see children whose stomachs were bloated with hunger. I didn’t see mothers dying of AIDS. I didn’t see houses of cardboard and dung.

Part of me is scared that my heart is hard, that this poverty will just bounce off of it. But then, the other part of me is scared that I won’t be able to handle it. That my heart will implode under the weight of what I will see.

When I shared those fears with my prayer group, the most succinct way I could think to pray was that God will break my heart while keeping me together enough to do what He’s called me there to do. To tell the stories of these beautiful mothers who are doing all they can to raise their children. To serve with dedicated Compassion workers who spend countless hours traveling to distant villages and patiently teaching mothers how to keep their children healthy, their homes clean and their stomachs full. To open my eyes to the ministry of Compassion, and see first-hand the lives that are being changed, even saved.

Well, that’s entry number one. I’m curious to see how this will compare to the entry I will surely write when I return to Denver. Maybe I’ll sit in this very same chair, with the people of Ethiopia embedded firmly in my heart and their stories flowing through my fingers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nobody knows

Nobody here knows about March 5. Nobody knows that's the day that changed my life forever. The day that I lost the man who raised me as his own daughter. The day a part of me died.

I keep thinking that it will get easier. And perhaps it has. The pain is less sharp. The grief less crippling. But it's still there. And every year, I try to fight it. But at the end of the day, it's like I've worn a rain jacket into the ocean. There's just too much of it. It washes over me, cold waves that leave me gasping for breath. I surface only for a moment, bobbing on the next crest before being sucked under again.

But nobody here knows. They didn't know that it took every single ounce of energy I had to get off my couch tonight and be around other people. They don't know that the worship songs I sang felt like gravel in my mouth--hard and gritty. They don't know that as I drove home I sobbed, waiting for the clock to turn to midnight, so I could say the day was officially over.

They don't know because I don't tell them. How does that just come up in conversation? "Hey, did you know that my stepdad died five years ago today?" I hate the uncomfortable looks that come with that conversation. The mixture of pity and surprise that I'm not "over it" yet. What does that even mean? Will I ever be over it? Should I be?

Thirty-nine minutes ago, March 6 came. March 5 faded away, until next year. But this grief I feel has little respect for the calendar. It cannot be confined to this one day a year. On that day, though, it gains strength. For a day, I can't forget.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The body and the blood

I've always grown up taking communion once a quarter. Four times a year we would pass the silver plates through the pews, four times a year I would chew on a dry square of bread, four times a year my hands would shake as I pulled a plastic cup filled with juice from its slot--not because I was emotional, but because I was afraid I would spill it. I heard the familar words--"Do this in remembrance of me"--but my mind was usually on what was for lunch, or how much longer the service would last.

I don't blame my church for my poor attitude. I just never fully grasped the importance of what I was doing. It took me years to get to a place where I viewed the Lord's Supper with any kind of reverence. And my heart's still not where it should be.

But this Sunday, I had a moment of clarity. The church I attend now takes communion much more frequently, maybe even once a month, but it's a little different each time. Sometimes we stay in our seats and pass the sacraments. Other times we walk to the front. Once we walked to the back. I've knelt below a cross, stood in praise, sat in silence. This Sunday, as I walked back to my seat, a bit of cracker in one hand, a thimble-full of juice in the other, I felt broken. I prayed fitfully, but my words felt jumbled. So finally I silenced my tongue by placing the breaad in my mouth. And I felt like the Lord was just telling me "Be quiet. Take of my body." So I did. I chewed and quieted my mind. The bread was dry, scratching my throat, making me thirst. "Drink." The cool, sweet liquid filled my mouth as tears pooled in my eyes.

This Do In Remembrance of Me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Could it be?

Is it possible to become a bad writer overnight? As in, yesterday, I thought I was a pretty good writer. Today, everything I write is crap. Even this blog. All crap.

I knew I should have had a back-up occupation plan. Do you think I can get a job at a bookstore? Or will my crappy writing rub off on the books? Could I possibly have the power to turn good books into bad ones just by being in the same room?

Maybe McDonalds is hiring.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Good concerts, great friends, grand weekends

(I acknowledge, that's a cheezy title!)

I've been going through a concert dry spell. A drought if you will. Most of my favorite artists just don't get out to Colorado that often...maybe it's the distance, maybe it's my rotten luck of moving from a state at the exact moment said state discovers what great taste I have in music.

So imagine my delight, when I discovered that one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson, was doing not one, but two concerts, but within 30 minutes of where I live. I invited two friends, one could go to the Friday show, the other to the Saturday show, so I made the sacrifice (ha) of going to both! And although the set lists were similar, the experiences were night and day!

Friday night, I met my friend Kristin for the show. She wasn't familiar with Andrew, but was excited about the show. As we drove to the show, a thick heavy snow fell, turning the lawns and fields white, and coating our eyelashes with ice.

As the show progressed, I kept sneaking glances at Kristin, and was thrilled by the wide smile that never left her face. After the show, she turned to me and said, with tears in her eyes, that the show had filled a hole-one that she didn't even know was there.

As we drove back to my car, we chatted, not about the concert, but about those deep emotions and thoughts the songs had brought to the surface. We pulled into the parking lot and kept talking, even as the snow blocked out the streetlights.

(As an aside, this was the only mistake of the evening. Because the drive home was horrible. And I thought I was going to die. And I almost called my mom and reminded her of the song I want played at my funeral...which just so happens to be an Andrew Peterson song!)

The concert Saturday was entirely different for me. Before the show, I headed to a park near the venue, and hiked for a few hours. As I wandered the trails, I did a lot of prayer and reflecting on some things God's been teaching me lately. By the time I got to the concert, I felt pretty raw, emotionally. My friend who was going to the show with me had ended up having to work, so I sat there alone before the show began, sorting through thoughts, chatting with some people I met at the show.

And when the show began, my softened heart felt the words of each song. Songs that I had heard a thousand times before had me on the edge of my chair. Words and prayers and music all rattled around inside of my head. A lump formed in my throat. Hot tears brimmed under my eyelids. Truth, inspired by God, delivered through a man, spoken from a stage, filled my heart until it was fairly bursting.

I chatted with Andrew and the Captains Courageous after the show, and it was nice to see familiar faces from the past. They were kind and gracious as usual, and as I drove home, I thanked God for the way He had gifted Andrew, Ben and Andy...and that they had each chosen to glorify God with those gifts. And that I got to be a part of it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My deep dark secret...

I hate to exercise. There, I said it. I may now get deported from Colorado.

But I really do hate exercising. I hate running on a treadmill for an hour, and never changing my actual location. I hate that most gyms have a huge wall of mirrors. What, is that supposed to encourage me? To watch myself turn all red in the face and jiggle in all the wrong places?

Of course, exercising outside is better. But with the 8 billion feet of snow we've had, that just hasn't been possible. And when it has warmed up, I've either been sitting in my cube at work, or have had other plans that can't be broken.

But today, I had some free time. So I decided to exercise. And you know what, it was great. When I started, I could feel the muscles in hips tightening, straining with each step. My knees protested-but it was a weak protest, like children who protest against something everyone knows they will end up liking. When I stomped the heavy mud off of my shoes, the nerves in my legs tingled. It was like my body was waking up from a long hibernation, testing the waters, and deciding that, yes, I do still know how to walk.

Maybe Colorado won't deport me after-all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sometimes, I don't understand...

I work for a ministry that serves children in poverty all around the world. More than 800,000 children in 24 countries. It's an incredible ministry, and I love what I do.

But sometimes, it's hard. Despite all that we do, children in our program still die. Every week, all the employees are given a prayer guide. We pray for our staff overseas, and those who sponsor our children. And every week, on the back of this small brochure, is a list of children who died in the past week.






Statistically, it's a small number. But they're not a number. They're children. Children shouldn't die. But they do. Every single day, 30,000 children under the age of 5 die. And each week, I see the names of a dozen or so of them. And a lump forms in my throat. And I know that for every ten I see on the list, there are hundreds of thousands who are making it--who are overcoming this poverty that tries to crush them.

But until the day when all of God's children are safe, I will mourn.

It's been a while...again!

I really have had a lot of posts bouncing around in my head for a while. And then I get busy. Or I just don't feel like writing. But tonight, I'm making myself write.

Writing hasn't been coming easily lately. My brain feels slow and sluggish. My fingers feel clumsy on the keyboard. At work, the words don't materialize. At home, it's even worse. So I'm going to post tonight. And it will be great. And people will read it, and love it, and comment, and my writer's block will end.

Prepare to witness a miracle.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I talk to myself...a lot

So yeah, I talk to myself all the time. It's usually internal conversations, but it's not just thoughts. I'm literally having a conversation with myself. I didn't realize how bad it was until I had the following conversation today:

(walking past a co-worker's desk, where she had an orchid)
Wow, what a pretty orchid.
I should get an orchid like that.
Yeah right, you don't have the money for that.
But then I could tell people, look, I bought a $50 orchid.
You'd just kill it in a week.
You're right.
Then you'd buy a fake silk one at Target.
And people would come over and admire your beautiful orchid.
And I'd have to lie and tell them it was real.
I would say look at my beautiful $50 orchid.
But what if they tried to touch it?
I would say, "Don't touch that orchid. You'll kill it."
And then they would think I had a delicate, expensive orchid.
Who are you kidding, you can't afford that orchid.

Geez, I'm a weirdo.