In Wonder, Love, and Praise

We are safe and warm and well-fed in Kigali. Before I surrender to jet lag, I want to share a prayer I read somewhere over the Atlantic from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers For A Privileged People:

…We pray for good departures,
In the way our ancestors left Egypt,
That we may leave the grind of productivity, and the hunger of ambition, that we may leave for a place of wondrous promise,
Visited en route by
bread from heaven
and water from rocks.

We pray for big departures,
Like those of our ancient parents,
That we may leave where we have been and
How we have been and
Who we have been.
To follow your better lead for us,
You who gives new place,
New mode,
New self.

We pray, each of us to travel in mercy,
That we be on our way rejoicing, arriving in wonder, love, and praise.


Over and Out!

Several people mentioned wanting to follow along throughout the year, so I wanted to offer several ways to stay in touch:

1. We will be writing for a free online magazine called “World Next Door, Inc.”  You can find this magazine by going to the app store on your smart device (iphone, ipad, kindle fire, android, etc.) and searching for “World Next Door” in the app store. When you find it, click “install” and it will automatically download into your news stand once per month as the issues are released. Once the magazine is in your newsstand, you’ll download it to the device to read it by clicking “download” next to the icon. You only have to do this once, and once it downloads you can read it anytime you want. Our first full-length issue is released today! It is about the Romaniv Orphanage in the Ukraine, and the organization working with them called Mission to Ukraine. As far as we know, April’s issue will be on Urban Poverty, and May’s will be on India. Jeff and I will be writing the June issue from Rwanda and July or August from Cambodia. Here is a link to explain more about how to download the magazine and what will be in each issue:

2. If you don’t have a smart device, all of the articles are available within the archives of the blog on the organization’s website. We will also be keeping real-time blogs on this website about different cultural experiences and incidental stories, like eating tarantula legs (never in my life) or articles that for whatever reason we will not put into the magazine. The link to the website is:  The website has a ton of info, so the easiest way to find our articles (or others that interest you) is to click “browse” along the top, and then click “browse by author” or “browse by country”.  If you would like to receive email updates any time a blog is posted, you can subscribe by clicking “subscribe” on the right hand side of the screen once you’re on the browse page and type in your email address.

3. I will also be keeping a personal blog as I have always done, and the things I post will be on behalf of Jeff and I in real-time regarding our experiences as we work and travel. The things on this blog will not necessarily reflect the thoughts or views of  World Next Door, and I frequently make fun of myself here. The link to that blog is:  On the right side of the page is a column of categories. For things written exclusively about World Next Door, you can scroll down and click the category “World Next Door”.  If you would like to receive email updates whenever a new blog posts, you can click “sign me up” in the upper right corner of the page and type in your email address.

4. We will have access to internet and will be keeping in touch via email and social media (Facebook) for ourselves and for World Next Door, as we will have wifi connections but not cellular connections. We will check our emails as frequently as we have internet :)

Into the Beautiful

We leave for Rwanda in four days, and still up to this very second I am scratching my head at how it all came to be. The entire arrangement was one grace-filled miraculous event after another, and I haven’t had the time or emotional clarity to lay it all out for anyone. In fact, this confusing thing kept happening in December whenever I tried to talk about it: I would start crying. It was non-consensual. My writing group can attest to this, also the entire board of CFI, and a co-worker or two. So embarrassing.

But here’s why: Jeff was listening to an online sermon from Grace in October on parenting right about the time I began to lose it. You may remember this post from May, which was a beautiful snapshot of God catching a person mid-fall. Unfortunately growth is not linear, and if I had seen in May what our life would look like in October after thousands of dollars of infertility treatments and irritating stories about Women of The Bible who were miraculously healed when God had compassion on them, I don’t know that I would have been up for such a claim of contentment long-term. Evidently my limit for faith-in-adversity is about 17 months, because in October I remember thinking that if someone were writing a book about me, the next chapter would begin: And in their 18th month of infertility, she lost her faith.

I would never have lasted as an Israelite.

Because I believed in God’s goodness and sovereignty and ability to heal, and because I had not experienced a miraculous healing or heart change, I began to doubt his compassion and concern for my life personally, which spread tiny little roots of resentfulness and bitterness. I said to J in November, right about the time he recalled that sermon and looked up the organization mentioned (World Next Door), that I didn’t think my faith could withstand any more months of failure. We could continue as was, each unsuccessful month widening the gap between me and God due to my limited knowledge and inability to separate emotions from truth, or we could stop treatment and preserve my faith, trusting God would sustain us even through the loss.

I phoned my good friend and the pastor who married us for some clarity and truth-telling, and J and I decided mid-November to discontinue medical intervention. The exact moment the decision was made, optimism and joy and the general ability to breathe deeply and peacefully returned. I’m not exaggerating. It was that quick. (Although we still have a fridge full of hormone injections, right next to the milk and mayo, which has made for some awkward dinner parties.)

J, in the meantime, sent me the link to the World Next Door Fellowship, and we agreed this would be a pretty spectacular opportunity if our most recent round of treatment was unsuccessful. We crossed our fingers, prayed for whichever option was best for us, and waited. We applied for the Fellowship and visualized all the details, each day wavering between the two possibilities. One day, we’d pick names for kids. The next day, we’d discuss countries and social issues that would be cool to write about. We stood on the cusp of two entirely different lives.

As you might have gathered, World Next Door won, and we were so pumped! This is why I was confused by all the involuntary crying. I found that as I explained our new purpose and direction for the coming year to others, I was actively closing the door to traditional and evidence-based fertility treatments, because we’d be losing our health insurance and incomes, and so, for the foreseeable future, losing our ability to have biological kids. Additionally, I understood over time that it was hard for me to grasp this opportunity with both hands, because I thought God might be offering this as a consolation prize for not fulfilling our initial desires, which He himself placed in us. Why would he do that? (Yes, I realize I am giving God totally limited human qualities, which is silly. But I have a totally limited human mind doing all my computing, here.)

So here God was, opening a literal door to the world through writing and photography, the only things in time and space that could generate as much excitement as passing down our gene pool, and I was half saying, Thanks God! with one hand, and half saying, You know this doesn’t make up for the other thing, pal with the other hand. Here’s the face-palm moment: I was questioning God’s ability to know our hearts and care about our desires while He was actively fulfilling them in better ways than we could’ve imagined.

Miraculous things followed. For starters, we had to raise $40,000 in two months. Forty. Thousand. Dollars. Can you even conceive of that? We never believed it would be possible, but then it was- in excess, with no stress! God used 62 people as instruments to move a giant mountain necessary to implement His plan to ease the suffering of hungry widows and disabled orphans and trafficked kids. Do you know what this means?

Not only is God compassionate, but he hears the cries of people suffering right now, today, just like he did thousands of years ago, and he is sending help via 62 of you, and me and J, and World Next Door, and tons of other people and organizations, to restore hope!

…Which led to a total paradigm shift. Instead of the resentful thoughts about bartering my opportunities in life with God, another thought crept in: I can’t believe we get to do this. How could God pick us to do something so special? Which ultimately led to, in the words of Moses: Who am I?

Seriously, who are we that we would get to do this?

To quote Barry, the Founder and Director of World Next Door, who preached at church last Sunday on this very topic (get your little coffee or hot tea and your snuggly blanket and watch this, it’s good: We- the people of God, the church- we are God’s plan A for the restoration of this world. So. Now. Go.

And so, now, we go. Into the Beautiful:

50 days of oatmeal and 10 face wipes

Today the AT&T guy asked for my address, and I was totally stumped. I couldn’t remember the address to my dad’s attic.  AT&T had a Fort Wayne address in the system and a New Orleans address in the system, and there I was in Indianapolis trying to suspend my plan while I go to Belize.  He squinted at me with that you’re-an-identity-thief-look, then asked for my license and the last 4 digits of my social security number. I started to explain the situation, but he was bored by the fifth word, so I just sighed and waited while he dialed customer care.  He told customer care I was going to Guatemala.

Some people do displacement well. I do it kind of complainy and neurotic-like.  I feel like my life is totally out of control when I can’t put together a good outfit, and when doing so includes a trip to the attic, a trip to the trunk and rummaging through 4 suitcases. Is it in the Belize bag? Is it in the Thanksgiving bag? Is it in the New Orleans bag? Is it in the Madison bag? Nope. It must be in the trunk. Nope. It’s gotta be in the attic. Oh. There it is. Right there in the 4th box from the back labeled dishes. My black sweater!

Yesterday I purchased 50 days worth of Instant oatmeal and Fiber One bars- both items of comfort and ease that are simple to make, quick to fill and parasite free- and spent 2 hours rearranging and weighing suitcases to get them to fit. Also $80 worth of bug spray, sunscreen, tee trea oil, wet wipes… and a jump rope. For exercise. I remember doing this last year with Steph at the target- should I get washcloths or face wipes? The kind that’s already wet, or the kind where I have to add water? Which takes up less space? Which one is heavier? What I have found is: little luxuries go a long way.  I can’t bring 90 days of face wipes. But I can bring a washcloth and know that 10 Olay face wipes will feel like gold on ten special days when the water is off and I really just want to wash my face.

And you should have seen Elaine helping with my clothes… There were mountains and mountains. Then piles and piles. Then stacks of three.

  • Please can I bring my blue and white striped pants?
  • Will you even wear those pants?
  • I think so. I don’t know. Maybe.
  • But you already have the khaki and white striped ones.
  • I know but I like the blue ones.
  • You can’t have both. You already have 8 other pants. Pick one.

And on and on and on: please can I bring my 10th green tank top… please can I bring my 8th pink Nike shorts… please can I bring my 4th white sweatshirt… It felt like last year’s Gustav evacuation. It was a careful selection process, and in the end, I always wanted the thing I dind’t bring.  Sigh.  As of tonight, my clothes for 3 monts fit into one moderately sized suitcase. My supplies fit into an second, and my sheets/towels/bathroom/bugstuff/meds/snacks/etc. fit into a third. Whew. I’d like to share a picture sequence of my life in relation to this topic.

My apartment at the beginning of the school year:

Apartment 1

My apartment at Finals:

Apartment Finals

My apartment in the middle of selling furniture and hosting guests:

Apartment guests

Apartment during packing phase:

Apartment packing

Post Packing:

Post Packing 1

Post packing 2

All the lipgloss I found while packing up the apartment:


What happened to SJP- kickball. Home run if you hit her in the face:

SJP kickball

Getting home:

Packed car

My mover: Note the basket he’s holding. It wouldn’t fit into the car, so we dropped it off under the I-10 overpass where the homeless hang…


My life now:


The end:

Empty apartment

In case you wonder about me, you can find me according to the following itinerary:

  • August 29th Madison
  • September 1st Indianapolis
  • September 5th Belize
  • November 25th Dallas
  • November 29th Madison
  • November 30th Indianapolis
  • December 1st New Orleans
  • December 11th- GRADUATE!

Goodbye. Post you in a couple days.

Good Morning, August. Who let you in?

I don’t even know how to start this one. Apparently life moves slowly while you’re waiting for it to boil, and then one day you wake up and it’s over. Not life, just your time in New Orleans.

Sprinky asked me yesterday if I was sad yet about leaving. I had meant to already be sad by now, but I am just way behind schedule. In the midst of all the violence papers and statistics labs and policy analysis and client terminations and closing summaries and furniture selling and Belize packing and friend hosting, I hadn’t really thought about it. The end-of-the-semester glow in my eyes had failed to consider that at the end of the semester a) assignments must be finished and b) I have to leave. What?!

Per a), I cannot possibly finish in time. Here is how homework has gone for me lately:
8:40- arrive
8:45- arrange table
8:47- dig for change
8:50- Buy tea
8:51- mess around on Facebook
8:52- open the document
8:53- go to the bathroom
8:55- check my phone
8:57- write a sentence
9:01- check my email
9:03- stretch
9:05- check my phone
9:07- mess around on Facebook
9:10- make sure the document is still there
9:15- save the document
9:18- pack up
9:20- leave

Per b), But I just got here! I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact one year ago today I packed up everything I owned and moved to New Orleans. We poured sugar on Sprinky. We sang with the Hattiesburg Applebees singers. We dumped my stuff into a storage closet and took the city by storm. What I mean is, I flipped out. New Orleans just seemed so new and scary and impossible then. But things settled, I took a few deep breaths and couple thousand beignets and recovered. I really thought I had arrived, you know? And I thought I’d be here for a while. I had no idea that, behind its back, life held a bunch of other crazy ideas: an opportunity to do my last semester in Belize, a brand new adorable Maycie to love in Indianapolis, along with a delicious old Lil, a best-ever Jeff (don’t start!) in Wisconsin, and the impossible task of graduating into the non-profit world during the worst possible job-finding time ever… with a special expertise in an area that doesn’t really exist outside of New Orleans. Sigh.

But it will be okay.

Two weeks from today I’ll blow a kiss to New Orleans & thank her for her hospitality, then head north. I am drooling at the thought of getting my hands on all those cute winter coats… but only for a second. Three weeks from then, I’ll leave for Belize.

August equals change. I have to tell myself every 25 minutes that everything will be just fine. I also have to keep myself from stockpiling Bee Sweet cupcakes in my cheeks…

New Orleans, you’re crazy and I like you. Don’t forget about me.

NOLA sunrise

Over and Out (again)

The cars are loaded.

My things and Sarah Jessica are packed.
I have a nice coupon for McDonalds coffee in the morning.
See you in the central time zone.




Over and Out

I moved out of Fort Wayne today.

By and far the best good-bye gift I received:
A life size 7ft cardboard cutout of Sarah Jessica Parker from Sofia.


She will be my first and only friend in New Orleans and will hang out with me in my living room at night or while I am brushing my teeth in the morning. We had a long talk on my way to Indy about how much things are about to change for us.


About New Orleans. I have gotten into this awful habit of checking all the crime alerts on campus by the hour. It has been integrated into my daily routine: check e-mail, check facebook, check crime alerts. Statistically, I’m sure to get shot, mugged, carjacked or burglarized within the first ten minutes.

People have encouraged me to take a self-defense class. The thing is, self-defense classes are in the recreation center, which is far away, which means I’ll have to drive. I am most concerned about getting from cars to buildings and back into cars. I will be doing it as little as possible, and most often with hand-held shrubbery to disguise me as I scurry between buildings. This makes something as dangerous as a self-defense class more risky than helpful since it will involve a parking lot and all. I mean, how would I get from my car to the building, or from the building to my car? Especially if the class is after 6pm or something?

A person has to think about these things.

Also, the fact that there is no Taco Bell in the city. My diet consists of mostly fast food and $3 champagne. While local fried food is available, I am worried about the effect this lack of Taco Bell will have on my body. Don’t even get me started on the prospect of having to introduce fruits and vegetables at some point. I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Happenings of note.

I had to drink Sprite out of a bowl this week because there were no other dishes.


Saturday we had birthday mimosas at Spyros—our favorite breakfast joint. BYOCAOJ- Bring your own champagne and orange juice. Classy.



Favorite goodbye party moments of yore:





The box of sweaters in the closet that let me know I was definitely home at my dad’s



Good morning, fort wayne.
We only have a few more days together.
Maybe that’s why you’ve kept me up…

Three months ago:


You’ve held me well.
I’ll miss you.